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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
2 Timothy

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4

Book Overview - 2 Timothy

by Charles John Ellicott

The Epistles to Timothy and Titus.

BY

THE VERY REV. H. D. M. SPENCE, D.D.,

Dean of Gloucester.

INTRODUCTION

TO

THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO TIMOTHY.

I. Contents of the Epistle.—Like the First Epistle, the Second Letter presents no regular plan.

1.—It commences with expression of deep love to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:1-5);

2.—And then passes on to exhortation to a fearless and faithful discharge of his duties (2 Timothy 1:6-14).

3.—These exhortations are interrupted by the Apostle’s memory of many faithless ones, and of one faithful friend (2 Timothy 1:15-18).

4.—The Apostle renews his exhortations to Timothy to a brave endurance, even if suffering come on him. He tells his disciple Timothy what has nerved him, Paul, to endure to the end. Then he renews his pleading, that Timothy should be careful in guarding against a religion of mere words—instancing what such a teaching might end in (2 Timothy 2:1-26).

5.—Again St. Paul interrupts his exhortation by writing down his sad forebodings of evil times (2 Timothy 3:1-9).

6.—Then he encourages his disciple by recounting his own suffering and deliverances. Timothy too must suffer, only let him remain steadfast in the faith (2 Timothy 3:10-17).

7.—The Apostle closes with a solemn command that his disciple should teach earnestly, for he, the old master, was at the end of his course. He would, if possible, see his dear friend once more, so he prays him to come speedily, well nigh all having deserted him. He ends with a touching reminiscence of his first trial in the Roman court of justice, and with a few greetings (2 Timothy 4:1-22).

This Second Epistle to Timothy has been well termed the “will or testament” of the master, addressed to his favourite disciple, and containing his last wishes, written as it was under the shadow of approaching death. It is full of light and shade; the tone of the exhortation, the warning and the encouragement constantly changing. Now the words are sad with a strange parting solemnity, now bright with the glorious sunshine of the Apostle’s immortal hopes. Yet in every line of this most touching of all the Pauline writings we cannot fail to perceive something of the gloom which, owing to desertion of so many friends, had saddened that gallant, loving heart of St. Paul.

He was well-nigh quite alone, almost friendless in the midst of mortal foes, an old man, worn out with toil, weakened by illness and privation, expecting a death of agony; and yet in spite of his surroundings, in spite of his own seeming failure, in spite of his own baffled hopes, he writes to his best-loved disciple in sure confidence, that he, Timothy, will war the same warfare as his master Paul had warred; that he, Timothy, though by nature perhaps timid and shrinking, will, undeterred by dangers, sufferings, and the sad prospect of a painful death, bravely carry on the work he has seen his master do, and for the sake of which he has seen his master die. He writes to him in sure confidence that the teaching respecting the mystery of the atoning blood, the doctrine of Christ, and the life lived by Christ, the sum of the sacred deposit of the Catholic Faith committed to his charge, would be preserved intact and safe by him, and by him then handed down, when his life-work was done, to other faithful hands.

The Epistle, though ringing with a ring of hope, yet paints the future of the Church in sombre colours. The enemies would increase, and the love of many would wax cold, and in coming years the man of God would be exposed to persecution, hatred, and to cruel suffering: and yet though all this is found in this strangely touching little writing, no one who has read these dying words of St. Paul can lay the Letter down without a prayer of thanksgiving for this Epistle of immortal hope.

II. Date of the Epistle.—The Second Epistle to Timothy was written by St. Paul from Rome during his second imprisonment in that city, about the year A.D. 66. We may suppose that shortly after the writing of the First Epistle to Timothy the Apostle had been arrested at Nicopolis, “the city of victory,” in Epirus (see Titus 3:12), probably on the capital charge of being connected with the burning of Rome (A.D. 64), and after a short delay had been conveyed to Italy. The words of 2 Timothy 4:16, refer to the first hearing of his cause, either by Nero himself, or, more probably, by the infamous Tigellinus, the Praetorian Prefect. It was no doubt shortly after this first hearing, that St. Paul, feeling that the end for him was at hand, wrote this Second Epistle to Timothy. The exact date of the martyr’s passing to his rest is unknown. The last hour probably came before he looked for it, for, notwithstanding the urgent summons, no tradition speaks of Timothy again looking on the face of his beloved master.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, January 29th, 2020
the Third Week after Epiphany
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