Paul's Theology of Parent-Child Relationship

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Institution Granting Degree

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Cedarville University School or Department

Biblical and Theological Studies

First Advisor

Murray J. Harris


Philosophy, religion and theology, Social sciences, Paul, Saint


The purpose of this dissertation is to provide a theology of the parent-child relationship as found in the Pauline corpus. This involves the descriptive task of presenting Paul's teaching in its historical setting.

As background for exegesis the author surveys and interacts with previous study of the NT Haustafeln and catalogical parenesis. The parent-child relationship in first-century Greco-Roman and Jewish families is then considered.

The bulk of the dissertation consists of exegesis. The relevant passages are grouped into three categories: chief epistles--1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 7:12-16; 7:36-38; 2 Corinthians 12:14-15; Romans 1:28-32; captivity epistles--Colossians 3:20-21; Ephesians 5:31; 6:1-4; and pastoral epistles--vice lists: 1 Timothy 1:8-11; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; roles of father and child: 1 Timothy 3:4-5, 12; Titus 1:6; roles of mother and child: 1 Timothy 2:15; 5:3-16; Titus 2:1-10; other references: 2 Timothy 1:5; 1:16; 3:15.

The results of exegesis are synthesized according to the following obligations or roles: all parties--love one another and reject incest; children--fulfill the fifth commandment; parents in general--make provision for children and maintain a relationship fostering their salvation; mothers--bear and rear children; fathers--provide distinctively Christian training while not abusing authority; the church--furnish parents with help and encouragement.

The theological bases for Paul's instruction and related motivations for obeying it are also identified. These bases and motivations are grouped under the following headings: the nature and will of God; his created design; the OT, especially the Torah; the gospel, including Christological motivations; and apostolic authority. On the grounds of his use of theological bases and motivations, it is concluded that Paul probably considered his teaching normative.

It is determined that Paul did not base his teaching about the parent-child relationship on popular philosophy or morality, even though similarities exist between contemporary literary forms and standards, and Paul's writings and conclusions. Paul rather operated primarily out of an OT-based, Jewish-Christian background. Moreover, no evidence is found for development in Paul's thinking or for pseudonymity with regard to his instruction on the parent-child relationship. It is concluded, rather, that Paul's theology of the parent-child relationship is both internally consistent and coherent.