April 16, 2018

Situating 1st Timothy at Troas (Acts 20:6)

In my well received post on Pauline Chronology, nine years ago, I suggested the provenance of 1st Timothy as such:
1st Timothy - 57 AD - handed off in person, in Troas, giving Timothy one week to appoint the Ephesian Elders Paul met at Miletus. This most natural conclusion has been frequently put off without justifiable cause, and only requires 2nd Corinthians to be written in late 56 AD. (Look again at the discussion of Illyricum, Timothy and 2nd Corinthians, above.
That discussion ("above") included these points:
2nd Corinthians - 56 AD, around November... This must be at the end of Paul's Macedonian trip, for two reasons. First, the trip to the Adriatic and back (Acts 20:1-2 & Romans 15:19) must have taken over a year, and second, Timothy must have intercepted Paul in Thessalonica on Paul's way back from Dyrrachium, before Paul headed to Corinth. Timothy, of course, had been struggling in Ephesus since Paul left him there to go into Macedonia, and must have spent the winter of 54/55 building up enough angst & frustration to make Timothy, desperately, flee Ephesus to go seek out Paul's help (just as Timothy had done at least twice before, in Thessalonica). All of this means 2nd Corinthians cannot have been written until after Paul's trip to Illyricum, probably only a month or two before Paul himself returned to Achaia. Timothy simply had to leave Ephesus in time to be in Macedonia with Paul, in time to co-sign this epistle.
One year ago, on Facebook, Jonathan Bernier challenged me to write up a better explanation of how this scenario works. After I did, he further challenged me to address the potential objection that Acts 19:22 puts Timothy in Macedonia before Paul, rather than after Paul. Again, there on Facebook, I did.

Rather than attempt to revise my words from that day, here follows a transcription of our exchange.

First, Jonathan posted on my wall, linking to my 2009 post and saying:
I was just rereading this post. I am continually intrigued by your suggestion that Paul handed 1 Timothy off to Timothy in person in Troas. There is one thing that bothers me however: Paul explicitly says that he urged Timothy to remain in Ephesus when he was setting off for Macedonia. It's not entirely clear to me exactly where in Acts 20 you are situating this hand off, as I don't see any instance in which 1) they are together in Troas, and 2) Paul is setting off for Macedonia, and 3) Timothy proceeds to Ephesus. Help!
To this, I replied at length:

Bless you, sir! There's a version of this answer that's two hours long, and I'm tempted to do a blog post on this... but for starters, here's a quick outline. 

Acts 20:1 -- Paul leaves Ephesus for Macedonia. This is where I suggest he told Timothy "st
ay in Ephesus..." (1Tim.1:3)

Acts 20:2 -- This one verse covers an awful lot of time and travel... including the mission to Illyricum (Rom.15:19; an inscription places the earliest church in Dyrrachium, exactly where it should be, on the crossing between the Egnatian and Appian ways)... and also including the writing of 2nd Corinthians, which must have taken place at Thessalonica (probably not Berea), from which point Paul proceeds down to Achaia (Acts 20:2, still!).

Note 1: At the occasion of writing 2Cor, Timothy was present, because he's named as a co-signer. Ergo, Timothy has left Ephesus and come to wait for Paul in Thessalonica, because he knew Paul was planning to run the length of the Egnatian and then head back to Corinth. Thessaonica is the perfectly most logical place to catch up with Paul, if you knew that was Paul's plan. 

Note2: The reason Timothy needs to find Paul is the same reason he needs Paul's written authorization and documented reiteration of the aforementioned assignment. Evidently, Timothy has been having so much trouble maintaining his position that he left to get help.

Note3: The extended time Paul would have spent planting a new church on the Adriatic is more than enough time for Timothy to face challenges to his authority, get stymied, decide to leave, and make his way to Thessalonica. 

Note4: We are still in the time period covered by Acts 20:2.

Acts 20:3-4 -- Having just sent the Corinthians a letter, and following in person soon after, Paul now spends three months in Corinth, where he writes Romans. Apparently, Timothy has stayed with Paul, perhaps because there's enough else going on that Paul was wise enough to be patient about the Ephesus situation, and probably also because Paul had become skittish about sea travel by now even in the Agean, and he wanted to wait before sending Timothy from Corinth to Asia. 

Acts 20:4 -- Three men from Macedonia travel with Paul by land, while four men from Asia sail directly to Troas. This is where Timothy reaches Troas. 

Acts 20:6 -- Paul (with Luke and Paul's three Macedonian companions) takes a slow boat near the coastline from Philippi to Troas. This is when I believe Paul finally has time to focus on writing 1 Timothy. Paul arrives in Troas, hands Timothy his "letter" and Timothy immediately departs. 

Acts 20:6-16 -- The seven days Paul spends in Troas, and the four (3-4?) days sailing to Miletus, gives Timothy just enough time to gather the church, lay down Paul's written requirements, and help everyone recognize who the rightful elders ought to be. 

Acts 20:17 -- From Miletus, Paul sends for the newly appointed Elders. 

Ta da!

At this point, Dr. Bernier very astutely added:
Re: 20:1: isn't Timothy already in Macedonia when Paul sets out? Certainly, that's the last location we can place him (cf. 19:22), and as noted he returns with Paul when the latter comes back from Macedonia (cf. 20:4). That's the detail that is tripping me up here. It also pertains to your Note 1.
And to this I responded:

Right. Well, after 19:22, what happened to Erastus? Luke doesn't mention him again. Is he still in Macedonia? Likewise Aristarchus in 19:29. How does he get to Greece by the time of 20:4? I'm going beyond simple anti-positivism here. There's an evident randomness to Luke's mention of travel companions. There's also specific times when we know he leaves something out. In 1&2 Thess we learn about Silas and Timothy going back and forth to Corinth, and in Galatians we learn Paul returned to Damascus. We don't know why Luke keeps doing this, but it's an evident pattern. 

I suppose some would say the weak spot in my argument is that my use of acts requires stretching the end of 19:22 (αὐτὸς ἐπέσχεν χρόνον εἰς τὴν Ἀσίαν) and I'd have to agree, except I don't think it's very weak. 

Either Timothy cane back to Ephesus after 19:22 or he stayed in Macedonia. We have good reasons to think Luke's silence tells us nothing, and (imho) our need to explain 1st Timothy is a substantial reason to "stretch" the end of 19:22 as I do. 

If there were a better explanation for 1Tim, I'd have no need to propose any of this.


For now, I can happily leave it at that.

Philosophically and methodologically, this rough sketch could probably be worked up more carefully into an historical reconstruction, but it could also be kept merely as an imaginatively contextualized reading of Acts. In terms of a formal argument, I haven't even remotely begun to think about laying out any defensibly academic treatment of all the various layers of presuppositions and methods. Nevertheless, it remains, as Jonathan said, an intriguing suggestion.

If I never circle back to working on Paul again, I hope someone else will pick up this flag and carry it further uphill.


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