Much historical-critical work on the opponents in the Pastoral Epistles has resulted in sweeping generalizations concerning their Jewish and/or Gnostic nature. Literary analyses have been somewhat more promising in focusing on the stereotypical nature of the polemic, but either fail to do justice to the urgency of the language in the Pastorals or do not provide a convincing description of the opponents. Here Pietersen approaches the problem of the opponents from a socio-scientific perspective. Utilizing labeling theory and social control theory from the sociology of deviance, he argues that the Pastorals function as a literary version of a status degradation ceremony whereby previously influential insiders within the community are transformed into outsiders.
Lloyd K. Pietersen is Senior Lecturer and Research Coordinator in New Testament Studies for the University of Gloucestershire.