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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
1 Timothy 5



Verse 1

1. πρεσβύτερος here means any elder man (cp. John 8:9 and πρεσβύτας, Titus 2:2), as is plain from the context; there is no idea of ecclesiastical office. The LXX. use both πρεσβύτερος and πρεσβύτης as renderings of וָקֵו, the former being generally employed where an ‘elder’ in an official sense is meant. But, like πρεσβύτης, it often means no more than ‘an old man,’ as here. The injunction is the necessary complement of 1 Timothy 4:12, and is perhaps suggested by the thought of Timothy’s νεότης.

ἐπιπλήξῃς. This is ἄπ. λεγ. in the Greek Bible (ἐπίπληξις is found in 2 Maccabees 7:33 only), though common in classical writers. It is stronger than ἐπιτιμᾶν (2 Timothy 4:2), the usual N.T. word, and signifies to rebuke severely. Field cites from Hierocles (Stob. Flor. T. LXXIX. 53) a good parallel for this injunction. κἀν εἴ τί που γένοιντο παραμαρτάνοντεςἐπανορθωτέον μέν, ἀλλʼ οὐ μετʼ ἐπιπλήξεως, μὰ Δία, καθάπερ ἓθος πρὸς τοὺς ἐλάττονας ἠ ἴσους ποιεῖν, ἀλλʼ ὡς μετὰ παρακλήσεως. That is, ἐπίπληξις is rebuke addressed to one’s juniors; παράκλησις is entreaty addressed to one’s equals.

ἀλλὰ παρακάλει ὡς πατέρα, but exhort him as a father; παρακαλεῖν being used (as always in the Pastorals) in the sense of grave exhortation.

νεωτέρους ὡς ἀδελφούς. We must understand παρακάλει or some such verb before νεωτέρους. Timothy is to address his counsels to the younger men as brothers; he was himself, comparatively speaking, ‘young’ (see on 1 Timothy 4:12 above), and the form of his exhortations must be in accordance with this. It will be observed that there is no corresponding caution given to Titus (see Titus 2:6), of whose age we are not told anything; the inference that he was an older man than Timothy, though somewhat precarious, is nevertheless plausible.

Verse 1-2



Verse 2

2. πρεσβυτέρας ὡς μητέρας κ.τ.λ. The elder women as mothers, the younger as sisters, in all purity. ἐν πάσῃ ἀγνείᾳ (see on 1 Timothy 4:12) has special reference to the νεωτέρας. Ellicott appositely quotes Jerome’s prudent advice (Epist. lii. 5): ‘omnes puellas et virgines Christi aut aequaliter ignora aut aequaliter dilige.’ Cp. the corresponding passage in the Ep. to Titus (Titus 2:4), where the discipline of the younger women is to be delegated to the elders of their own sex; here the thought is not so much of the training and directing of the νεωτέραι as of Timothy’s personal relations to them.


Verse 3

3. χήρας τίμα κ.τ.λ. Honour as widows those that are widows indeed.

ἡ ὄντως χήρα is a bona fide widow, i.e. one who is alone in the world without husband or grown-up children to support her. This is apparent from the next verse. The force of τίμα has been disputed; but although τιμᾷν does not as a rule carry the idea of material support, it does not exclude it (cp. διπλῆς τιμῆς in 1 Timothy 5:17 and St Matthew 15:5 ff.), and it is plain that to an ὄντως χήρα due honour and respect would necessarily involve such assistance. In the earliest days of the Church the support of widows was counted a Christian duty, as the narrative of Acts 6:1 ff. shews. Cp. Ignat. Polyc. 4 χῆραι μὴ ἀμελείσθωσαν.

Verses 3-8


Verse 4

4. This verse is parenthetical. If a widow has children or grandchildren, pious care for her needs is their duty.

The nominative to μανθανέτωσαν has been understood variously by commentators; e.g. the Vulgate has discat and Chrysostom makes χῆραι the subject, ‘If any widows have offspring, their first duty is to their own households.’ But this introduces an idea foreign to the context and does not afford a good sense for ἀμοιβὰς ἀποδιδόναι τοῖς προγόνοις; also εὐσεβεῖν is more appropriate of children than of parents. We therefore take τέκνα ἢ ἔκγονα as the subject of μανθανέτωσαν.

ἔκγονα is not found elsewhere in the N.T., nor is ἀμοιβή; but ἔκγονος occurs often in the LXX. (cp. Sirach 40:15) and ἀμοιβή is a common word (though not in LXX. yet in Aq.). πρόγονοι is only found in N.T. here and at 2 Timothy 1:3, but we have it in Sirach 8:5; 2 Maccabees 8:19; 2 Maccabees 11:25, in its usual sense of dead ancestors. Plato, however (Laws XI. 931 E), applies it, as here, to living parents: it is perhaps used by the writer in this verse to balance ἔκγονα. The A.V. nephews now conveys a wrong meaning for ἔκγονα, but in 1611 the word nephew signified grandchild.

πρῶτον. Respect to parents is the first duty of children; if it is in their power they are bound further to requite them (ἀμοιβὰς ἀποδ.) for their care.

τὸν ἵδιον οἶκον εὐσεβεῖν, to shew piety towards their own household. The peculiar obligation of the duty is marked by the use of ἴδιον; the support of widowed parents should not be left to the charity of the Church where the children are old enough to undertake the responsibility. see on 2 Timothy 1:5.

For ἀπόδεκτος see on 1 Timothy 2:3.

Verse 5

5. We now come to the characteristics of the true widow. Bereft of her natural supporters, she has fixed her hopes on God, who is her strength, and is given to continual prayer. Liddon aptly quotes Jerome (ad Ageruch. cxxiii. 6) “quibus Deus spes est et omne opus oratio.”

μεμονωμένη is explanatory of the preceding ἡ ὅντως χήρα: μονοῦσθαι is ἅπ. λεγ. in N.T., but is a common Greek word.

ἢλπικεν ἐπὶ τὸν θεόν. Cp. 1 Peter 3:5 αἱ ἅγιαι γυναῖκες αἱ ἐλπίζουσαι εἰς θεόν, and 2 Corinthians 1:10 εἰς ὃν ἠλπίκαμεν ὅτι καὶ ἕτι ῥύσεται. ἐπί (like εἰς) with the acc. expresses the direction towards which hope looks; ἐπί with the dat. (as at 1 Timothy 4:10) indicates the ground of hope and points to that in which hope rests. The reading κύριον (adopted by Weiss) may be right (see crit. note), but more probably it has replaced θεόν through a reminiscence of Psalms 4:6 ἐλπίσατε ἐπὶ Κύριον, or some similar passage.

προσμένει, abides in. The πρός seems to intensify the sense; cp. τῇ προσευχῇ προσκαρτεροῦντες (Romans 12:12). The compound verb is only used by St Paul here and at 1 Timothy 1:3; it occurs in Judges 3:25; Wisdom of Solomon 3:9.

ταῖς δεήσεσιν καὶ ταῖς προσευχαῖς. see on 1 Timothy 2:1.

νυκτὸς καὶ ἡμέρας. This is always the order in St Paul (not ἡμ. καὶ νυκτ.); cp. 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 2 Timothy 1:3. The whole clause recalls the description of the widow Anna (Luke 2:37) νηστείαις καὶ δεήσεσιν λατρεύουσα νύκτα καὶ ἡμέραν.

Verse 6

6. ἡ δὲ σπαταλῶσα κ.τ.λ., but she (i.e. the widow) that liveth riotously is dead while she liveth. σπαταλᾷν only occurs in N.T. here and at James 5:5; cp. Ezekiel 16:49 (where it is used of one of the sins of Sodom and her daughters) and Sirach 21:15.

The conception of spiritual death, of death in life, is frequent in St Paul; see Romans 7:10; Romans 7:24; Ephesians 4:18, and cp. Revelation 3:1 where it is said of the Church of Sardis … ὅτι ζῇς καὶ νεκρὸς εἶ.

Verse 7

7. καὶ ταῦτα παράγγελλε. καί carries us back to a former injunction at 1 Timothy 4:11; ταῦτα must refer to some counsel or warning about widows (and not about widows and their children), for plainly those who are to be ἀνεπίλημπτοι (on which word see 1 Timothy 3:2) are the χήραι alone. Hence the things in question (ταῦτα) would seem to be contained in 1 Timothy 5:5-6 which describe respectively the marks of ‘the widow indeed’ and of her who through her dissipated life has forfeited all claim to the title, which otherwise would naturally belong to her. It will be a duty for Timothy to reiterate these, ἴνα ἀνεπίλημπτοι ὦσιν.

Verse 8

8. εἰ δέ τις κ.τ.λ. A formal enunciation of the principle of which the duty set forth in 1 Timothy 5:4 is an illustration; τις stands for any of the τέκνα ἢ ἔκγονα there spoken of, who are here also the subject of the sentence.

τῶν ἰδίων καὶ μάλιστα οἰκείων. ἴδιοι are relatives; οἰκεῖοι those near relatives who form part of the family. The latter have peculiar claims to the regard of a Christian man.

τὴν πίστιν ἥρνηται κ.τ.λ. If any one neglect this plain duty he has (a) practically denied the Christian faith, considered as a rule of life (see Matthew 15:5), and (b) is, thus, worse than an unbeliever, for even heathen recognise duty to parents as of primary obligation. ἄπιστος is used here, as in 1 Corinthians 7:15, of a heathen, one who has not the faith. That this natural duty was emphasised by prae-Christian teachers hardly needs proof; cp. Anaxim. apud Stob. LXXIX. 37 τί γάρ ἐστι δικαιότερον ἤ τοὺς γενέσεως καὶ παιδείας αἰτίους ὅντας ἀντευεργετεῖν; It is worthy of notice, however, that “the Essenes were not permitted to give relief to their relatives without leave from their ἐπίτροποι, though they might freely do so to others in need; see Joseph. Bell. Jud. II. 8. 6” (Ellicott).

The words χείρων and ἀρνεῖσθαι, which occur in this verse, are not found in St Paul outside the Pastorals; but they are LXX. words and quite common elsewhere.

Verse 9

9. We read in the Gospels of the ministry of women (Luke 8:3; Matthew 27:55), and also in the Acts (Acts 9:36). In Romans 16:1 Phoebe, a διάκονος of the Church at Corinth, is mentioned. When we come to the Pastoral Epistles, we find that χῆραι are an organised body, of whose names a register is kept; and in the verses before us (1 Timothy 5:9 ff.) their qualifications are enumerated. Let no one be enrolled as a widow who is less than sixty years of age &c. χῆρα is to be taken as predicate, not as subject; and καταλέγειν (ἄπ. λεγ. in N.T.) means ‘to place on a list.’ Now it is plain that χήρα here cannot stand simply for the desolate and destitute widow, whose maintenance has been the subject of the preceding verses; for the Church would not limit her charity to the needy by strict conditions like those of 1 Timothy 5:9-10. Again these χῆραι can hardly be the same as διακόνισσαι, for the limit of age would be unreasonable in the case of all active workers (although it is true that the Theodosian Code (xvi. 2. 27) at a later period speaks of sixty as the age for a deaconess). They are here πρεσβύτιδες rather than διακόνισσαι. And thus we conclude that we have in this verse the earliest notice of the ordo viduarum, which is often mentioned in sub-Apostolic and early patristic literature. They had a claim to maintenance, and in return were entrusted with certain duties, such as the care of orphans, and were expected to be diligent in intercessory prayer. For instance, Polycarp (Philippians 4) after speaking of priests and deacons, goes on to widows … “an altar of God,” because from their age and comparative leisure they were supposed to give special attention to prayer. A form of prayer for the use of ‘widows’ is found in the Apostolical Constitutions (iii. 13). A notice of them in Lucian (de morte Peregrini 12) in connexion with orphans suggests that they were in his time quite an established institution. The order was at first restricted to αἱ ὄντως χῆραι, but after a time virgins and even young virgins seem to have been admitted, a practice which Tertullian deprecates. Ignatius (Smyrn. 13) speaks of τὰς παρθένους τὰς λεγόμενας χήρας; but this may only mean that from the purity of their lives the enrolled widows might be counted virgins. In any case at this early stage of the Church’s life only αἱ ὅντως χῆραι, desolate widows, were admissible into the order, and the conditions of admission are before us—first, they must be at least sixty years old, and secondly, they must be univirae.

ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή. Polyandry was condemned alike by heathen and Jew, and such a reference is here out of the question. The expression plainly means a widow, who has not remarried after her husband’s death, or divorce. Even in Roman society nuptiae secundae were looked on with disfavour, and a univira was highly esteemed. To have married only once was an indication of ἐγκράτεια, and so is required by the Apostle of ecclesiastical persons, women as well as men (see 1 Timothy 3:2 and notes), who should be ‘above suspicion.’ See Luke 2:36. Tertullian’s words ad Uxor. i. 7 explain the passage well: “Praescriptio apostoli declarat … cum viduam adlegi in ordinationem nisi univiram non concedit.” Cp. also Const. Apost. vi. 17, and the passage from Philo de Profugis quoted below on Titus 2:5.

Verse 9-10


Verse 10

10. A widow to be placed on the Church’s list must be ἐν ἔργοις καλοῖς μαρτυρουμένη, well reported of in the matter of good works. The emphasis laid on ἔργα καλά in the Pastoral Epistles has been already remarked (see on 1 Timothy 2:10 above): of the good works which would especially come within the widow’s province a few are enumerated.

εἰ ἐτεκνοτρόφησεν, if she hath brought up children, whether her own or the children of others. χῆραι are frequently mentioned in connexion with orphans of the Church (e.g. Hermas Mand. 8 and Lucian de morte Peregr. 12); but it would be quite as unreasonable to confine the reference to these, as to exclude it, and so to forbid a barren widow a place on the list. τεκνοτροφέω occurs only here in the Greek Bible.

εἰ ἐξενοδόχησεν, if (sc. at any time) she hath used hospitality to strangers. The word ξενοδοχέω is not found again in N.T. or LXX.; but cp. Matthew 25:35 ξένος ἥμην καὶ συνηγάγετέ με. Like the ‘bishop’ (1 Timothy 3:2, on which see note) the ‘widow’ will be φιλόξενος. although from her circumstances it may be on a more humble scale. This qualification, however, suggests (what is reasonable in itself) that the widow who is placed on the Church’s list need not necessarily be destitute of worldly wealth or dependent for her maintenance on the Church’s alms.

εἰ ἁγίων πόδας ἔνιψεν, if she hath washed the saints’ feet. This was a not unfamiliar feature of Eastern hospitality; it was a service of humility (1 Samuel 25:41), as of love (Luke 7:38), and was commended to the Apostles by the Lord Himself (John 13:14). But this last command does not seem to have been understood literally by those to whom it was addressed; and so in the case of the Church’s widows it was the spirit of their hospitality, rather than any such detail, which would enter into consideration. Note ἁγίων; this humility of service is only due to fellow Christians, who are the most welcome guests of all.

εἰ θλιβομένοις ἐπήρκεσεν, if she hath relieved the afflicted, whether “in mind, body or estate.” ἐπαρκέω is only found in N.T. here and at 1 Timothy 5:16; but it occurs in 1 Maccabees 8:26; 1 Maccabees 11:35 and is a common Greek word.

εἰ παντὶ ἔργῳ ἀγαθῷ ἐπηκολούθησεν, if she hath followed every good work. see on 1 Timothy 2:10 above. The A.V. and R.V. have “diligently followed”; but ἐπί seems here (as in 1 Peter 2:21) to mark direction rather than intensity, the pursuit of good works whether initiated by others or by oneself.

(c) 11–16. YOUNG WIDOWS

Verse 11

11. νεωτέρας δὲ κ.τ.λ., but younger widows refuse, sc. to put on the roll of χῆραι. νεωτέρας is used generally, as in 1 Timothy 5:2, and not merely of set reference to the age limit of 60: for the force of παραιτοῦ see on 1 Timothy 4:7. These young widows are not, of course, ineligible for relief; but they are to be refused admission to the ordo viduarum, and that for two reasons: (a) from the risk to which they are exposed of unfaithfulness to religious engagements (1 Timothy 5:11-12), and (b) because of the danger for them in the duties of the ecclesiastical χήρα (1 Timothy 5:13).

ὅταν γὰρ καταστρηνιάσωσιν τοῦ Χριστοῦ κ.τ.λ., for when they have come to wax wanton against Christ, they desire to marry. ὅταν with the aor. subj. (see crit. note and 1 Corinthians 15:24; 1 Corinthians 15:27; Titus 3:12 &c.) has reference to a particular, but undetermined, point of time. καταστρηνιᾷν is not found elsewhere; it may have been formed by St Paul on the analogy of κατακαυχᾶσθαί τινος (Romans 11:18) to direct attention to the yoke which imposes the restraint. The simple verb στρηνιᾷν ‘to wax wanton’ occurs in Revelation 18:7; Revelation 18:9; the metaphor is that of a young animal trying to free itself from the yoke, and becoming restive through its fulness of life.

τοῦ Χριστοῦ. Christ is the Heavenly Bridegroom, against whom the desire of remarriage (lawful in ordinary cases in the absence of religious engagements, 1 Corinthians 7:39) is an unfaithfulness; even the wish to marry another is to be false to the συνθήκη with Christ, which they made when they undertook the widow’s office as ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυναῖκες.

Verse 12

12. ἔχουσαι κρίμα, having judgement; i.e. they are self-condemned, ἔχουσαι being almost equivalent to ἑαυταῖς παρέχουσαι. Cp. 1 Timothy 5:20 and Romans 13:2.

ὅτι τὴν πρώτην πίστιν ἠθέτησαν, because they have made void their first faith, sc. with the heavenly Bridegroom. πίστις is not Christian faith, but the pledge which they undertook on being enrolled in the χηρικόν (cp. Revelation 2:4). There is no thought, of course, of the pledge of faithfulness to the first husband; he is not in question. πρώτην is used, as commonly in N.T. Greek, for προτέραν (e.g. Acts 1:1).

Verse 13

13. ἅμα δὲ καί, introducing the second reason for the exclusion of young women from the order of ‘widows.’

ἀργαὶ μανθάνουσιν κ.τ.λ. The translation is doubtful. We may construe (a) being idle, they pick up information, as they go about from house to house &c.; or, ‘in idleness, they are always learning,’ but nothing comes of it. This would be comparable to the γυναικάριαπάντοτε μανθάνοντα of 2 Timothy 3:6-7. But (i.) this is to take μανθάνειν in a somewhat forced way, and (ii.) the antithesis in the next clause is spoilt, οὐ μόνον δὲ ἀργαὶ ἀλλὰ καὶ κ.τ.λ. It is better to render with the A.V. and R.V., (b) they learn to be idle, going about from house to house, sc. in the discharge of their allotted ministrations. Their want of sobriety and steadiness may lead them to use their opportunities of usefulness as an excuse for idleness and gossip. This construction of μανθάνειν is not without parallel, although unusual; e.g. Field cites Chrys. IX. 259 B εἰ ἰατρὸς μέλλοις μανθάνειν.

ἀργός is not found in St Paul save here and at Titus 1:12 (in a quotation), but it is a LXX. word.

οὐ μόνον δὲἀλλὰ καί.… This is a regular Pauline construction; cf. 2 Corinthians 7:7.

φλύαροι, garrulous, tattlers. We have φλυαρεῖν in 3 John 1:10, but φλύαρος (once in LXX. at 4 Maccabees 5:10) does not occur elsewhere in the N.T.

περίεργοι, busybodies. Cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:11 μηδὲν ἑργαζομένους ἀλλὰ περιεργαζομένους. For περίεργος (which is not a LXX. word, and is not used elsewhere in St Paul) cp. Acts 19:19.

λαλοῦσαι τὰ μὴ δέοντα, speaking things which they ought not. That is, they are likely to make mischief, carrying from house to house private matters which have come to their knowledge in the course of their official visits.

Verse 14

14. βούλομαι οὖν, I desire therefore: more definite than θέλω, as expressive of a special exertion of will. see on 1 Timothy 2:8. The οὖν refers to both the reasons assigned (1 Timothy 5:11-13) for the unfitness of young widows for the ordo viduarum.

νεωτέρας γαμεῖν, that the younger widows marry. The context suggests that it is especially young widows that are in the thought of the writer; but no doubt the advice would apply to young women in general, as the A.V. seems to take it. γαμεῖν may be used either of first or of second marriages; cp. 1 Corinthians 7:9.

τεκνογονεῖν, οἰκοδεσποτεῖν, bear children, rule their household. Neither of these words is found again in the Greek Bible, but we have τεκνογονία in 1 Timothy 2:15 and οἰκοδεσπότης in the Gospels. The right ordering of the household is a very important duty in the view of the writer; cp. 1 Timothy 3:4; 1 Timothy 3:12.

μηδεμίαν ἀφορμὴν διδόναι, give no occasion; cp. 2 Corinthians 5:12.

τῷ ἀντικειμένῳ, to the adversary, sc. not Satan, but human adversaries (ἀντικείμενοι, of whom there are all too many, 1 Corinthians 16:9; Philippians 1:28; cp. Titus 2:8) who are very ready to find fault. Cp. 1 Timothy 3:6.

λοιδορίας χάριν, for reviling; cp. Titus 2:5. λοιδορία does not occur again in St Paul, but it is a LXX. word; cp. 1 Peter 3:9. We have λοιδορεῖν, 1 Corinthians 4:12, and λοίδορος, 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 6:10.

Verse 15

15. ἤδη γάρ τινες ἐξετράπησαν ὀπίσω τοῦ σατανᾶ, for already some are turned aside after Satan. To support his advice (βούλομαι κ.τ.λ.) St Paul adduces the weighty argument of past experience (γάρ). Some ecclesiastical widows have already proved unfaithful to their pledges to the heavenly Bridegroom and have followed the seducer, Satan. It has been argued that this indicates that the ordo viduarum had been in existence for a considerable time, and that thus the date of the Epistle must be postponed to a period subsequent to St Paul’s labours; but (a) it must be remembered that the experience to which appeal is made is not necessarily confined to the Church at Ephesus, but extends over all the Christian communities known to St Paul, and (b) ἥδη, ‘already,’ seems to indicate that the order had not been long established, for disorders had arisen before they might naturally have been expected.

ἐξετράπησαν, i.e. swerved from the path of virtue. See note on 1 Timothy 1:5.

ὀπίσω τοῦ σατανᾶ. Cp. Acts 20:30 (in the speech of St Paul to the Ephesian elders) ἀποσπᾷν τοὺς μαθητὰς ὀπίσω ἑαυτῶν.

Verse 16

16. εἴ τις πιστὴ κ.τ.λ. This may be either (a) a repetition of the injunction of 1 Timothy 5:4; 1 Timothy 5:8, the duty being now described as incumbent on all relatives, and not merely on children and grandchildren; or (b) a direction as to the maintenance of those younger widows who do not remarry and who are, in virtue of their age (1 Timothy 5:11-13), ineligible for admission to the χηρικὸν τάγμα. It appears from the context that (b) is more probable; but in any case there is a difficulty in πιστή. There seems no reason why female relatives should be mentioned to the exclusion of male; and yet (see critical note) the evidence for the omission of πιστὸς ἤ is too weighty to be set aside.

ἐπαρκείσθω. See critical note, and for the word see on 1 Timothy 5:10.

βαρείσθω. The classical form is βαρύνειν. Cp. 2 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:9 &c.


Verse 17

17. The πρεσβύτεροι here are not the elder men (as in 1 Timothy 5:1), but the Church officials who bear that honourable name. Their duties and their relation to the ἐπίσκοποι have already been discussed in the Introduction, chap. V., and it is unnecessary to repeat what was there said.

οἱ καλῶς προεστῶτες κ.τ.λ. The emphasis is on καλῶς: the presbyters who preside well are to be counted worthy of double honour. There is no distinction suggested between two classes of presbyters, some who rule and some who do not rule; rule is the normal duty of the πρεσβύτεροι in the society where they are placed. Thus in 1 Thessalonians 5:12 they are called προϊστάμενοι and a similar injunction to the Church is given: εἰδέναι τοὺς κοπιῶντας ἐν ὑμῖν καὶ προϊσταμένους ὑμῶν ἐν κυρίῳ κ.τ.λ.

διπλῆς τιμῆς. ‘Honour to whom honour is due’ is St Paul’s general principle (Romans 13:7), and this τιμή may include material support; cp. τίμα in 1 Timothy 5:3 above, and our use of honorarium for a fee. The connecting link between 1 Timothy 5:3-16 and 1 Timothy 5:17-25 is in this word τιμή. The maintenance of the various classes of a new society is always a matter for most anxious consideration; St Paul first deals with the case of the widows, and then by a natural transition proceeds to mention the provision to be made for the presbyters. He is thus led on to discuss their dignity and their discipline. Double honour, i.e. ample provision, must be ensured for them; διπλῆ is not to be taken as equivalent to ‘double of the sum paid to widows,’ or in any similar way, but without any definite numerical reference. Cp. Apost. Const. ii. 28.

μάλιστα οἱ κοπιῶντες κ.τ.λ. The primary function of presbyters is to bear rule in the society, but those who, in addition, labour in the word and in teaching are especially to be honoured at this stage of the Church’s life. Teaching fell more and more to the πρεσβύτεροι as the office of the Evangelist ceased. But even in Cyprian (Epist. 29) presbyteri doctores are mentioned, which indicates that there were some presbyters in his day who did not belong to the class of teachers.

ἐν λόγῳ καὶ διδασκαλίᾳ, in the word and in teaching. λόγος is the Divine Word which the presbyters, as good pastors, are to deliver to the souls of their flock; διδασκαλία is the instruction, addressed to the reason rather than to the heart, with which their message is to be accompanied. Cp. Barnabas § 19 διὰ λόγου κοπιῶν.

Verse 18

18. λέγει γὰρ ἡ γραφή. This is the ordinary Pauline formula of citation from the O.T.; see Romans 4:3; Romans 11:2; Galatians 4:30.

βοῦν ἀλοῶντα οὐ φιμώσεις. Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn, a citation of Deuteronomy 25:4, applied in a somewhat similar way by St Paul at 1 Corinthians 9:9. Not the letter of the law only, but the broad moral principle behind it is here appealed to by the Apostle.

καί, Ἄξιος ὁ ἐργάτης τοῦ μισθοῦ αὐτοῦ. This maxim occurs nowhere in the O.T., although the principle involved is often enunciated, e.g. at Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:14. It does occur verbally in Luke 10:7 (cp. Matthew 10:10), in the report of our Lord’s charge to the Seventy whom He sent forth; and it has been sometimes thought (a) that the writer of this Epistle here appeals to St Luke’s Gospel as ἡ γραφή. But, even if we place the Epistle outside St Paul’s lifetime, we cannot bring it down to a date late enough to permit us to think of the author citing the Synoptic Gospels as Scripture, in the same breath with the O.T. (b) It has been suggested, again, that St Paul here quotes a well-known saying of the Lord which would for him have all the authority of ἡ γραφή. But true as this may be, we can hardly conceive of him as introducing such a saying by the formula λέγει γὰρ ἡ γραφή, γραφή being reserved by him for the Sacred Canon of the O.T. And therefore (c) we conclude that this opening formula only applies to the quotation from Deuteronomy, and that the words ἄξιος ὁ ἐργάτης τοῦ μισθοῦ αὐτοῦ are added by the writer by way of explanation and confirmation. It may well be that this was a familiar proverb, appealed to here by St Paul as it was appealed to by the Lord in the passage quoted from St Luke. We have, for instance, in Euripides (Rhes. 191) a similar thought: πονοῦντα δʼ ἄξιον μισθὸν φέρεσθαι: and again in Phocylides Fr. 17 μισθὸν μοχθήσαντι δίδου. Such an obvious principle of natural justice may well have taken a proverbial form. St Paul, in short, first quotes from Deuteronomy 25:4, and then adds And [as you know] the labourer is worthy of his hire.

Verse 19

19. κατὰ πρεσβυτέρου κατηγορίαν κ.τ.λ. Against a presbyter receive not an accusation except &c. κατηγορία and παραδέχομαι are not found in St Paul’s writings outside the Pastorals, but they are common words, although the former does not happen to occur in the LXX. We have κατήγορος, κατηγορεῖν frequently in the Greek Bible (e.g. Romans 2:15).

ἐκτὸς εἰ μή. We have this pleonastic form of negation at 1 Corinthians 14:5; 1 Corinthians 15:2; it is fairly common in late writers such as Plutarch[532].

ἐπὶ δύο ἤ τριῶν μαρτύρων. Words taken in substance from Deuteronomy 19:15; cp. Deuteronomy 17:6. The general principle is appealed to by St Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:1, by our Lord in John 8:17, and also in Hebrews 10:28. The force of ἐπὶ is hardly doubtful. The analogy of 2 Corinthians 13:1 confirms the translation of the R.V. at the mouth of, which is the meaning of the precept in its original place in Deuteronomy 19:15 ἐπὶ στόματος δύο μαρτύρων κ.τ.λ. And we adopt this rendering, although στόματος is omitted in the verse before us, and although ἐπὶ with the gen. (as in 1 Corinthians 6:1) gives a good sense, in the presence of, coram. The precept is here interesting, as marking the beginnings of presbyteral discipline. Timothy is directed, in order to avoid any slightest injustice, to follow the precedents of the old law in his supervision of the Church at Ephesus. Two witnesses at least must give evidence if charges against a presbyter are to be entertained.

Verse 20

20. τοὺς ἁμαρτάνοντας. Those found sinning, sc. the presbyters, with whose discipline the whole section is taken up. So also ἐνώπιον πάντων does not mean that the whole congregation is to be assembled when a presbyter receives rebuke, but that the sentence shall be delivered in the presence of all his co-presbyters. The case is quite different from such a case as that contemplated in Matthew 18:15; for Timothy will act, not as a private individual, but as the representative of the Church and the official guardian of its discipline.

ἵνα καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ φόβον ἔχωσιν, that the rest also (sc. the other presbyters) may have fear; cp. Deuteronomy 13:11. The sentence is delivered in public for the sake of those who hear it.

Verse 21

21. διαμαρτύρομαι ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ. We have this formula again in 2 Timothy 2:14; 2 Timothy 4:1; the only other place in St Paul where the compound διαμαρτύρεσθαι occurs is 1 Thessalonians 4:6. διά has an intensive force: I solemnly charge thee.

τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ Χρ. Ἰησοῦ. It is plain that here, as in 2 Timothy 4:1, Granville Sharp’s canon as to the non-repetition of the definite article does not hold; for it cannot be doubted that θεός the Eternal Father is invoked as distinct from Χρ. Ἰησοῦς, the Judge of all judges (John 5:27; Acts 17:31, and 2 Corinthians 5:10). But, as has been observed, such quasi-official words as Χριστός are often used without the article, like proper names.

τῶν ἐκλεκτῶν ἀγγέλων. The commentators cite the apposite parallel from Josephus (B. J. II. 16. 4): μαρτύρομαι δʼ ἐγὼ μὲν ὑμῶν τἀ ἅγια, καὶ τοὺς ἱεροὺς ἀγγέλους τοῦ θεοῦ. The force of ἐκλεκτῶν has been variously explained. It is quite unnecessary to bring in the idea of (a) guardian angels of particular churches, as e.g. at Revelation 2:1. Nor (b) can we suppose that ἐκλεκτῶν is introduced to distinguish the angels who are in the thought of the writer from the fallen spirits of evil (2 Peter 2:4; Judges 1:6); ἄγγελος without any qualifying epithet is consistently used throughout the N.T. for the holy angels, and the addition of ἐκλεκτῶν for the purpose of such a distinction would be in this context otiose and gratuitous. It seems better (c) to regard ἐκλεκτῶν as a natural and fitting epithet of angels who are the chosen ministers of God, and who watch with tender interest over the affairs of men (1 Corinthians 4:9; 1 Timothy 3:16).

ἵνα ταῦτα φυλάξῃς, that thou observe these things, sc. the precepts about the trial of presbyters in 1 Timothy 5:19-20.

χωρὶς προκρίματος, μηδὲν ποιῶν κ.τ.λ. πρόκριμα and πρόσκλισις are both ἅπ. λεγ. in the Greek Bible; the former is strictly a vox media, but is here used to express preconceived judgement against the accused or prejudice, as πρόσκλισις indicates undue partiality towards either side. The solemnity of the adjuration with which the verse opens marks the importance which the writer attaches to the jurisdiction that Timothy is to exercise being fulfilled with an open mind and without respect of persons.

Verse 22

22. The thought of πρόσκλισις or partiality in his dealings with the Ephesian presbyters on Timothy’s part suggests the warning χεῖρας ταχέως μηδενὶ ἐπιτίθει. (a) Some modern commentators and a few of the Latin fathers understand this of the reconciling of penitent presbyters who have fallen into sin. Such reconciliation was doubtless attended with χειροθεσία in later ages (see e.g. Cyprian Ep. 74, Eus. H. E. VII. 2), but there is no evidence that it was an accustomed usage in Apostolic times, nor is χειροθεσία or any similar phrase used in such a context elsewhere in the N.T. It is better, then, (b) with the early Greek commentators (e.g. Chrysostom) to interpret the injunction as prohibiting hasty ordinations. ἐπίθεσις τῶν χειρῶν is used of the act of ordination in ch. 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6, as well as at Acts 6:6; Acts 13:3; in Acts 8:17-19 of imparting a special χάρισμα, and in Hebrews 6:2 quite vaguely (though probably of Confirmation). It will be remembered that the Church has sanctioned the interpretation of the words which refers them to ordination, by embodying them in the Ember Collect. The precept is thus in accordance with the rule about deacons (1 Timothy 3:10) οὗτοι δὲ δοκιμαζέσθωσαν πρῶτον. ταχέως is expressive of undue haste, which is much to be deprecated.

μηδὲ κοινώνει ἁμαρτίαις ἀλλοτρίαις, neither be partaker of other men’s sins, sc. by ordaining unworthy persons. κοινωνεῖν with the dative of the thing shared in is common in the N.T., e.g. Romans 15:27; ἁμαρτίαις recalls and is suggested by ἁμαρτάνοντας of 1 Timothy 5:20. The sequence of thought is easy: Do not lightly entertain accusations against a presbyter (1 Timothy 5:19); Do not spare rebuke if he fall into sinful habits (1 Timothy 5:20); Be not partial (1 Timothy 5:21); Do not admit him to the presbyterate without due enquiry (1 Timothy 5:22 a); If you do, you accept responsibility for his sins, which, in a manner, you have made your own (1 Timothy 5:22 b). And this last grave thought leads on to the personal warning σεαυτὸν ἁγνὸν τήρει, keep thyself pure, sc. pure in the first instance as not being κοινωνός of another man’s sins, and in a more general reference as well. See for ἁγνός note on 1 Timothy 4:14 : with σεαυτὸν τήρει cp. 2 Corinthians 11:9.

Verse 23

23. ἁγνεία does not refer only to bodily purity and discipline; it is rather concerned with purity of intention and singleness of life. This may however be misapprehended, and to avoid any mistaken inference from σεαυτὸν ἁγνὸν τήρει in the direction of undue asceticism the Apostle parenthetically adds Be no longer a water-drinker, but use a little wine &c.

ὑδροποτεῖν (only here in the N.T., but a common word) is not equivalent to ὕδωρ πίνειν; it means to drink water habitually, to be a ‘total abstainer’ from wine (cp. Daniel 1:12 LXX.). This it appears Timothy had been (for such is the force of μηκέτι; cp. Romans 6:6; 2 Corinthians 5:15), possibly under Essene influences (see Philo de Vit. cont. 4), but more probably by way of protest against the sin of drunkenness, which the injunctions in 1 Timothy 3:3; 1 Timothy 3:8 suggest was a crying evil at Ephesus, if the ἐπίσκοποι themselves needed to be warned against it. We have other warnings of a like nature at Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:21; Titus 2:3; 1 Peter 4:3. But what is commended to Timothy is temperance in the use of wine, not total abstinence from it: οἴνῳ ὀλίγῳ χρῶ, in contrast with οἴνῳ πολλῷ deprecated in 1 Timothy 3:8.

διὰ τὸν στόμαχον. στόμαχος does not occur again in the Greek Bible, but is, of course, a common word. Wetstein aptly cites Libanius Epist. 1578, πέπτωκε καὶ ἡμῖν ὁ στόμαχος ταῖς συνεχέσιν ὑδροποσίαις; cp. Pliny Hist. Nat. XXIII. 22.

καὶ τὰς πυκνάς σου ἀσθενείας, and thine oft infirmities. St Paul uses ἀσθενεία of his own bodily infirmity at Galatians 4:13; πυκνός does not occur again in his letters, but cp. Luke 5:33; Acts 24:26; 2 Maccabees 8:8. Timothy is here described as a man of weak health, for whom the ascetic life would be dangerous and unwise.

It is obvious to remark how improbable it is that such a precept as this, and introduced thus parenthetically, should occur in a forged letter. Like 2 Timothy 4:13 it is a little touch of humanity which is a powerful argument for the genuineness of the Epistle in which it is found.

The duty of careful enquiry into the character of ordinands. 1 Timothy 5:23 was parenthetical, and the general subject is now resumed: character is difficult to judge, therefore do not (a) hastily accept (1 Timothy 5:24) or (b) hastily refuse (1 Timothy 5:25).

Verse 24

24. To avoid a falsely favourable estimate, remember that while some men’s sins are notoriously evident (πρόδηλοι) and lead the way to judgement (i.e. they go before like heralds, as it were), the sins of other men are hidden and follow the perpetrators (i.e. their sin will find men out at last, but it does not always proclaim the impending judgement beforehand). The practical inference is that one in Timothy’s position dare not rest satisfied with formal negative evidence as to the character of those upon whom he lays hands; ‘nothing to their discredit’ is not a sufficient guarantee, unless careful and detailed enquiry has been made.

προδήλος only occurs again in N.T. at Hebrews 7:14, and in LXX. at Judith 8:29; 2 Maccabees 3:17; 2 Maccabees 14:39.

Verse 25

25. ὡσαύτως κ.τ.λ. So also (and this is the second maxim to be remembered in the diagnosis of character) while some kinds of good works are notoriously evident, there are also good works which, though not conspicuous, cannot remain hidden, if full investigation is made. This maxim will prohibit hasty rejection or condemnation of any man, on the plea that his good works are not apparent at the first glance, for καλὰ ἔργα are not always done in public, though they cannot be concealed from a careful scrutiny.

τὰ ἄλλως ἔχοντα, those that are otherwise, sc. those that are not πρόδηλα, as explained above.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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Tuesday, May 26th, 2020
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