Pastoral Epistles and Ecclesiastical Polity in the New Testament

This course has been cancelled.


This course has been cancelled.

Few topics elicit such simultaneous excitement and boredom as church polity. Debates over elders and bishops, congregationalism and episcopacy, deacons and deaconesses, and such like have long divided Protestants who are like-minded in other areas, and will probably continue to do so. These debates go round in circles often, with everyone able to offer scriptural proof-texts or primitivist church traditions for their respective positions, resulting in an exegetical stalemate. Yet often we are simply producing texts to uphold our prior positions, rather than letting the Bible speak to us on its own terms, and learning humbly from church history.

This course invites students to take a fresh look at the New Testament texts addressing church offices, focussing especially on the pastoral epistles (1-2 Timothy and Titus), along with scholarship from the patristic era through to today. Students will evaluate various polities, the origin of the laying on of hands, the apostolate, Paul’s entourage, jure divino prelacy, synagogal origins, Greco-Roman and Jewish contexts, and women’s ordination. By the end of the course, students should have a firm grasp of the context in which the New Testament’s teaching on church polity was given, and been thoroughly exposed to its teaching on its own terms.

Dr. Matthew Colvin is a presbyter in the Reformed Episcopal Church. From 2012-2017, he served as a missionary teaching ministerial students in the Philippines and Indonesia. He holds a PhD in ancient Greek literature from Cornell University (2004). His published works include articles on Heraclitus (Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 2005 and The Classical Quarterly 2006), a translation from Latin of the 1550 Magdeburg Confession (2011), and The Lost Supper, a study of the Passover and Eucharistic origins (Fortress Academic, 2019). He is currently working on a book on women’s ordination and the origins of ordained office in the early church. He lives on Vancouver Island.

Online only, runs 10 weeks, meeting 2 hr./wk. via Zoom. Students will also have the option to participate in class discussion in the Davenant Common Room Discord server. Register to reserve your spot and schedule will be set after a poll of participating students; if the class time does not fit your schedule, you will be eligible for a full refund.
This is a graduate-level course. Although a BA is not a necessary pre-requisite for this course, students should come prepared to do graduate-level work.