Together with the epistle to Titus, these letters are called ‘Pastoral’ because they deal primarily with the concerns of members of the Churches. Traditionally, it has been held that after Paul was released from prison in Rome he continued his evangelistic ministry in Crete, where he was rearrested (cf. Titus 1: 5). In this event, Paul’s theology and ethical teaching had developed since writing to the Corinthians. But is this plausible? Fathers from the time of Irenaeus regard the epistles as authentically Pauline, it is true, but arguments against this view are strong: the heresy denounced is more Gnostic than anything otherwise known in Paul’s lifetime, but early in the 2nd cent. such teaching was common. The organization of the Church had become a dominant issue, requiring much advice in the epistles. The vocabulary and literary style of the epistles seem, even in translation, to be different from Paul’s. However, the majority view is that the epistles were written later in the 1st or early in the 2nd cent. by a pseudonymous author, who sincerely believed that he was writing what would have been Paul’s own words in the new situation.

The letters consist of a charge to Timothy (2: 1–6: 19) outlining the essential qualities for Church leadership and deploring excessive asceticism, as proposed by heretics. The second epistle commends the experience of suffering as being evidence of true vocation (2 Tim. 1: 8–2: 26).