Mark Yarbrough assesses the question of whether traditional ‘preformed’ material contributes to the message and understanding of Paul’s first letter to Timothy. The issue is addressed in three sections. Part one evaluates previous works interacting with ‘traditional’ material in the New Testament. Through a critique of historically proposed criteria, Yarbrough identifies eight criteria as the primary tools by which to discern units of preformed material.
In the second part of the book Yarbrough evaluates 19 passages in 1 Timothy according to the criteria previously determined. From this base he embraces 12 of the 19 passages as preformed material. These passages are subsequently examined in depth according to the author’s distinct methodology. Part three demonstrates four functions of the preformed traditions in 1 Timothy. First, they strengthen the literary cohesion of the letter. Second, that the traditional units afford the author rhetorical leverage which may be best identified as the provision of authority, the establishment of an instant rapport with the primary audience, and the assistance conferred in addressing this implied audience. Thirdly, they present theological directives that confront the character and belief of the false teachers.
Finally, Yarbrough asserts that the preformed traditions exist as a combatant against counter-mission doctrine. This study concludes that the traditional material which may be discerned within the letter contributes significantly to the overall message and understanding of 1 Timothy.
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Yarbrough’s work enhances the impression that the author of 1 Timothy is a writer of some skill: he has judiciously combined material from early Christian worship, creeds, and stories along with a wide array of (Pauline) sayings, letters, and biographical accounts in order to increase the authoritative force of the letter.
—Journal of Religion
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