Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

1 Timothy 3

Verse 1

1. πιστὸς ὁ λόγος. This formula (see on 1 Timothy 1:15) has been referred (e.g. by Chrysostom) to the words which precede, but it seems better to take it with the terse sentence which follows, viz.: If any man aspires to the episcopate, he desires a noble work. On the force of καλός see on 1 Timothy 1:8, 1 Timothy 2:10 above; it is, however, the word ἔργον upon which stress is laid, not the dignity or the honour of the episcopate, but its proper duties (negotium not otium). There is nothing in the maxim inconsistent with the spirit expressed by Nolo episcopari; unwillingness to undertake so heavy a burden may coexist with a full sense of the gravity and importance of the episcopal function. It is to be borne in mind that at this stage of the Church’s existence, the duties of the ἐπίσκοπος would be rather hazardous than honourable in the sight of men; and a maxim like this might well have arisen from the unwillingness of Christian converts to be raised to so conspicuous a position as that which the official representatives of the Church would necessarily occupy.

ὀρέγεται. Outside 1 Tim. the word is only found in the Greek Bible in Hebrews 11:16; but it is common in profane authors. It conveys no bad sense of ‘grasping,’ and is a true vox media. Aspires to gives its proper force.

Verses 1-7


1–7. i. BISHOPS

Having spoken of the conduct of public worship, the Apostle proceeds to expound the qualifications requisite for those who hold office in the Church, the ἐπίσκοποι (1 Timothy 3:1-7) and the διάκονοι (1 Timothy 3:8-13). The significance of these terms, as used in the Pastoral Epistles, has been dealt with in the Introduction, chap. V. It seems clear that they are used here in an official sense, and further, from the manner in which the qualifications of the ἐπίσκοποι and διάκονοι are discussed, that the instructions relate to officials whose existence in the Church is well established and of considerable standing.

Verse 2

2. δεῖ οὖν. Therefore is it necessary &c. The ἔργον is καλόν, and demands therefore men of high moral character no less than of ability in affairs. Bonum negotium bonis committendum says Bengel.

τὸν ἐπίσκοπον. Stress is perhaps not to be laid on the singular number (see Introd. p. lxxii.), since it may be used generically. Yet it is remarkable that both here and at Titus 1:7 the singular is found, while the διάκονοι are mentioned (1 Timothy 3:8) in the plural[523]. And the presence of the definite article, which is so sparingly used in the Pastorals, seems to be significant.

ἀνεπίλημπτον. The bishop must be without reproach. This is a classical word, not found outside this Epistle (cp. 1 Timothy 5:7, 1 Timothy 6:14) in N.T. or LXX.; it is stronger than ἄμεμπτος or ἀνέγκλητος, for it implies not only that the man is of good report, but that he deserves it: μὴ παρέχων κατηγορίας ἀφορμήν is the Scholiast’s comment on the word, Thuc. v. 17. “The rule that a defectus bonae famae is a canonical impediment to Ordination is based upon this, although the Apostolic language is in reality more exacting.… The si quis before Ordination, and the confirmation before Episcopal Consecration, at the present day, are designed to secure what this word prescribes.” Liddon in loc.)

The qualifications now given are not, it will be observed, descriptive of the actual functions of Church officers; they have reference to spiritual and moral, not to official, requirements, and are not to be regarded as exhaustive. The list of a bishop’s qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 should be compared with that in the parallel passage Titus 1:6-9. There are some differences, although on the whole there is a marked similarity. Here e.g. we have κόσμιον, ἐπιεικῆ, ἄμαχον (but see Titus 3:2), μὴ νεόφυτον, and δεῖ μαρτυρίαν καλὴν ἔχειν ἀπὸ τῶν ἔξωθεν, which are not found in Titus; while μὴ αὐθάδη, μὴ ὀργίλον, φιλάγαθον, δίκαιον, ὅσιον, ἐγκρατῆ, ἀντεχόμενον τοῦ κατὰ τὴν διδαχὴν πιστοῦ λόγου of the later Epistle have no place here. It is not necessary to invent a theory (such as that each list was drawn up in view of the needs of the local Church) to account for these differences. They are neither more nor greater than might be expected in two letters written during the same period by the same man to two friends under somewhat similar circumstances. Neither list, as has been said, can be regarded as exhaustive.

μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα. The sense is fixed by the parallel clause in ch. 1 Timothy 5:9 (see note) ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή which cannot possibly mean anything but a woman who has not re-married after the death or divorce of her husband. It excludes from ecclesiastical position those who have been married more than once. For ordinary Christians second marriages are not forbidden: see esp. Romans 7:3; 1 Corinthians 7:9; 1 Corinthians 7:39; and 1 Timothy 5:14. But they are forbidden to the ἐπίσκοπος, to the διάκονοι (1 Timothy 3:12), and to the χήραι who are put on the Church’s list, inasmuch as it is all important that they should be ἀνεπίλημπτοι[524]. For these persons is prescribed περὶ τὸν ἔνα γάμον σεμνότης (Clem. Alex. Strom. III. 1). Clement (l.c.) goes on to explain that second marriages, though not forbidden by the law, are a breaking in upon the Christian ideal of faithful union between one man and one woman. But, whatever truth there be in this view (see Matthew 19:4; Ephesians 5:32) it is not expressed here by St Paul, whose injunction μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα is directly suggested by the statement that the bishop is to be ἀνεπίλημ πτος. The point is that he must not lay himself open to charges like that of ἀκρατεία.

How far such a prohibition is binding in the present condition of the world and of the Church is another question. It must be remembered that St Paul is not enumerating here the essential characteristics of a bishop; he is dwelling upon certain moral and personal qualities which, in the Church of that day, it was desirable that he should possess. And it has been argued with considerable force that regulations of this sort cannot be regarded as of universal and permanent obligation, for circumstances may so change as to render them unwise or unnecessary. The Roman, the Greek, and the Anglican Communions have, as a matter of history, all departed from the letter of this rule; the Roman in forbidding the marriage of the clergy in general; the Greek in requiring celibacy of bishops; and the Anglican in permitting their re-marriage. The sense of the Church plainly is that this regulation, at least, may be modified by circumstances. See below on διδακτικός.

Other interpretations of these disputed words are (a) that they forbid polygamy. But, although polygamy is said to have been not unknown among the Jews of the Apostolic age (Joseph. Antt. xvii. 12; Just. Mart. Trypho 134), it was quite an exceptional thing; and it was never countenanced by Christians. Polygamy would not have been lawful for any Christian convert, whether from Judaism or from heathendom; and therefore the special prohibition in the case of a bishop would have been without point. Such an interpretation is indeed absolutely excluded by the parallel clause ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή of ch. 1 Timothy 5:9. (b) That they forbid any deviation from the ordinary laws of Christian purity of life. But this is not a satisfactory or precise interpretation of the words. (c) That the ἐπίσκοπος must be a married man, not a celibate. This would not only be inconsistent with 1 Corinthians 7:17, but does not represent the force of μιᾶς, the emphatic word in the sentence. No explanation is adequate save that which lies on the surface, viz. the ἐπίσκοπος must be married only once, if at all.

νηφάλιον. The word does not occur in the Greek Bible outside the Pastoral Epp.; but νήφειν is a Pauline word (see 1 These. 1 Timothy 5:6 &c.). Primarily having reference to sobriety in the case of wine, it has here the more extended sense of temperate.

σώφρονα. see on 1 Timothy 2:9 above, σώφρων is a word of higher meaning and wider use than νηφάλιος. Compare the juxtaposition in 1 Peter 4:7 : σωφρονήσατε οὗν καὶ νήψατε.

κόσμιον, orderly. This expresses the outward manifestation of the spirit of σωφροσύνη. The ‘wise man’ of the Stoics was to be κόσμιος (Stob. II. 240); and the idea is also found, though in an absurd and exaggerated form, in Aristotle’s description of the μεγαλόψυχος: καὶ κίνησις δὲ βραδεῖα τοῦ μεγαλοψύχου δοκεῖ εἷναι, καὶ φωνὴ βαρεῖα, καὶ λέξις στάσιμοςοὐ γὰρ σπευστικὸς ὁ περὶ ὀλίγα σπουδάζων κ.τ.λ. (Nic. Eth. IV. iii. 34). The ἐπίσκοπος, at least, must be vir compositus et ordinatus (Seneca, de vita beata 8).

φιλόξενον. The duty of hospitality was especially incumbent on the ἐπίσκοπος as the persona ecclesiae; but it is also recommended to widows (ch. 1 Timothy 5:10), and to all Christians (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9; 3 John 1:5). The duty was of even greater moment in the Apostolic age than now; a Christian e.g. might readily find cause of offence in the meat set before him in any heathen household (see 1 Corinthians 10:28 &c.), and it was therefore specially incumbent on Christians to minister hospitality to their brethren.

διδακτικόν. So 2 Timothy 2:24 and Titus 1:9, where this qualification is more fully expressed. Cp. also Ephesians 4:11. This was, perhaps, not part of the formal duty of the ἐπίσκοπος (see Introd. p. lxxii.); it was a desirable qualification in view of the special circumstances of Ephesus and Crete. That it should be mentioned at all as pertaining to the ἐπίσκοπος is an argument in favour of the comparatively early date of the Pastoral Epistles.

Verse 3

3. μὴ πάροινον. πάροινος. expresses more than φίλοινος or than the μὴ οἴνῳ πολλῷ προσέχοντας of 1 Timothy 3:8; it means a man given over to wine. It is generally rendered quarrelsome over wine (cp. Isaiah 41:12), a brawler, but there does not seem sufficient reason for importing this into it, as the idea is brought out in the next mentioned attribute.

μὴ πλήκτην, no striker; this vice is a common outcome of παροινία. πάροινος and πλήκτης are to be taken in their literal sense, and not in any refined meaning. The absence of such vices would not now be regarded as necessary to mention in a list of episcopal qualifications; but each age has its own special sins to guard against. A Regula solitariorum founded on the Benedictine Rule has a quaint comment on the words, which shews how necessary such an injunction remained many generations after St Paul’s day. “Non percussorem, … sed non ita dictum est ut si discipulum habuerit, et facultas permiserit, non pie uerberetur,” with a reference to Proverbs 23:13[525].

ἐπιεικῆ. Forbearing perhaps best expresses this word; in the N.T. it is found outside the Pastorals in Philippians 4:5 only. Cp. 2 Corinthians 10:1. Aristotle devotes a chapter (Nic. Eth. 1 Timothy 3:10) to the ἐπιεικῆς, the ‘equitable’ man, who does not press for the last farthing of his legal rights. We are not to emphasise ἀλλά, so as to point any sharp contrast between πάροινος and ἐπιειής, although no doubt they indicate very different characters. Cp. Titus 3:2.

ἄμαχον, not contentious; in the Greek Bible only found in Pastorals, as also πάροινος and πλήκτης.

ἀφιλάργυρον. This word is only found here and in Hebrews 13:5 (φιλαργυρία is denounced again in ch. 1 Timothy 6:10). It is replaced in Titus 1:7 by μὴ αἰσχροκερδῆ, which has thence got into the received text in this verse. See on 1 Timothy 3:8 and the note on φιλαργυρία (1 Timothy 6:10).

Verse 4

4. ἰδίου. Repeated again in 1 Timothy 3:5, in contrast to θεοῦ.

καλῶς. A characteristic word of the Pastorals (see on 1 Timothy 1:8, 1 Timothy 2:10 above).

προϊστάμενον. We find this verb applied to the officers of the Church also in Romans 12:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:12, and to πρεσβύτεροι in ch. 1 Timothy 5:17 (see Introd. p. lxix.).

τέκνα κ.τ.λ. The parallel clause in Titus 1:6 is: τέκνα ἔχων πιστά, μὴ ἐν κατηγορίᾳ ἀσωτίας ἢ ἀνυπότακτα.

ἔχοντα. This is to be taken in subordination to προϊστάμενον: having his children in subjection. For ἐν ὑποταγῇ see 1 Timothy 2:11. This verse, like 1 Timothy 3:2, certainly seems to contemplate as the normal, and not merely a permissible, state of things that the ἐπίσκοπος should be a married man whose wife has borne him children.

μετὰ πάσης σεμνότητος. For the form of the phrase see note on 1 Timothy 2:11. Both the order of the words and the natural sense lead us to connect this clause with ἔχοντα, rather than with τὰ τέκνα. σεμνότης (see note on 1 Timothy 2:2) is hardly a grace of childhood; we approve it in the προϊστάμενος, but its presence in those over whom his rule is exercised does not afford any convincing proof of his fitness for rule; see on Titus 1:7.

Verse 5

5. The verse is parenthetical, and the argument is a minori ad maius. Tacitus has almost the same idea: “A se suisque orsus primum domum suam coercuit (sc. Agricola) quod plerisque haud minus arduum est quam provinciam regere” (Agr. 19). The conception of the ἐπίσκοπος as the οἰκονόμος, and of the Church as οἷκος θεοῦ, the familia or household of which the Master is God, is touched on by St Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:1; Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 3:9; and has its roots in the O.T. (Cp. Numbers 12:7 and Hosea 8:1.) Ability to rule is here represented as an indispensable qualification for the due discharge of the office of an ἐπίσκοπος. See below on 1 Timothy 3:15.

πῶς ἐπιμελήσεται. We find πῶς followed by a future of moral capacity, as here, in 1 Corinthians 14:7; 1 Corinthians 14:9; 1 Corinthians 14:16. The verb ἐπιμελεῖσθαι occurs elsewhere in the N.T. only in Luke 10:34-35; the presidents of the Essene communities were called ἐπιμεληταί (Josephus B. J. II. 8. 6). The ἐκκλησία in question is the local Christian community over which the ἐπίσκοπος is placed. See on 1 Timothy 3:12 and on 1 Timothy 3:15.

Verse 6

6. μὴ νεόφυτον. Not a recent convert. The word (in the N.T. only found here) is used in the LXX. of newly planted trees (Psalms 144:12), and thus is used by St Paul (cp. 1 Corinthians 3:6) of one who has been recently baptized. Christianity was long enough established at Ephesus to make such a rule practicable; and, in itself, it is highly reasonable. In Titus 1:6 this condition is omitted; it might have been inconvenient, as the Church there was of recent foundation. The ordination of recent converts from heathenism is forbidden in Can. Apost. 80.

τυφωθείς. Beclouded, sc. with pride at his elevation. τῦφος is smoke or steam, and the underlying idea is the bewildering and confusing effect of self-conceit. τυφοῦσθαι only occurs in the Greek Bible here, 1 Timothy 4:4 and 2 Timothy 3:4; but it is common in Greek literature.

εἰς κρίμα κ.τ.λ. The difficulty in this clause is resident in the words τοῦ διαβόλου. We observe, first, that the general structure of the sentence is parallel to the final clause of 1 Timothy 3:7; and hence that τοῦ διαβόλου should be taken similarly in both cases. It must, therefore, in 1 Timothy 3:6, as in 1 Timothy 3:7, be a gen. subjecti, not a gen. objecti; it is the κρίμα passed by the διάβολος, not the κρίμα pronounced on him (as in 1 Timothy 3:7 the παγίς is laid by him and not for him), that is here in question. Who then is ὁ διάβολος? It means the devil in 2 Timothy 2:26, as in Ephesians 4:27; Ephesians 6:11, these being the only places where the word is found in St Paul’s writings with the definite article prefixed. But διάβολος, without the article, occurs three times in the Pastoral Epistles (ch. 1 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 3:3 and Titus 2:3) in the sense of slanderer or accuser; and we have Ἁμὰν ὁ διάβολος in Esther 8:1 (cp. Esther 7:4). It seems therefore, despite the general usage of the N.T. according to which ὁ διάβολος = the devil, legitimate to take it here as equivalent to the accuser. This rendering alone preserves the parallelism of clauses in 1 Timothy 3:6-7, and alone gives sequence to the thought of the writer. The accuser or slanderer is one of those people, to be found in every community, whose delight is to find fault with the demeanour and conduct of anyone professing a strict rule of life; that such opponents were known in the Apostolic Churches, the language of the Epistles repeatedly indicates. If the words be thus taken, there is no allusion to the fall of the devil through pride, or to the judgement passed on him (Judges 1:6); and we translate: no novice, lest being puffed up he fall into the judgement passed by the slanderer. The phrase ἑμπίπτειν εἰς occurs again ch. 1 Timothy 6:9.

Verse 7

7. δὲ καί The καί serves to connect this with 1 Timothy 3:6; but he must also &c.

μαρτυρίαν. Not μαρτύριον as in 1 Timothy 2:6; there the reference is to the witness to the truth of facts and doctrines, here to the character of persons.

ἀπὸ τε͂ν ἔξωθεν. οἱ ἔξω is St Paul’s regular description (1 Corinthians 5:12; Colossians 4:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:12) for those who are not Christians and so οἰκεῖοι τῆς πίστεως (Galatians 6:10). Far from being a new convert, it is desirable that a bishop should be a Christian of standing and repute among his heathen neighbours.

εἰς ὀνειδισμὸν κ.τ.λ. Again, the important words are τοῦ διαβόλου, which are evidently here gen. subjecti, not gen. objecti. The context of παγὶς τοῦ διαβόλου in 2 Timothy 2:26 determines τοῦ δ. to refer there to the devil; but here as plainly the context requires us to take it in the more general sense of the slanderer or accuser. 1 Timothy 3:6-7 refer to the reputation of the ἐπίσκοπος, an important matter, for he must be ἀνεπίλημπτος (1 Timothy 3:2), and not to the snares set for him by Satan. We thus take both ὀνειδισμός and παγίς with τοῦ διαβόλου, and translate … the reproaches and snares prepared by slanderers. An ὀνειδισμός from οἱ ἔξω is a thought familiar to St Paul: cp. Romans 15:3 (Psalms 69:9) οἱ ὀνειδισμοὶ τῶν ὀνειδιζόντων σὲ ἐπέπεσαν ἐπʼ ἐμέ, and also Romans 11:9 (Psalms 69:22).

A comparison of the qualifications of ἐπίσκοποι enumerated above with the characteristics of the Stoic σοφός (Diog. Laert. VII. 116 ff.) is interesting. We cannot think it impossible that the Apostle was acquainted with the latter list, which was one of the commonplaces of Stoic teaching of the day. And, although there are wide divergences, as might be anticipated, between the teaching of Zeno and of St Paul (cp. for instance the Stoic thesis that the σοφός should be pitiless (§ 123)), yet the coincidences are striking. The ἐπίσκοπος is to be a married man and his family is spoken of as an object of his affection (1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Timothy 3:4-5); so too with the σοφός (§§120, 121). The ἐπίσκοπος is not to be a novice ἵνα μὴ τυφωθείς &c. (1 Timothy 3:6); the σοφός is to be ἄτυφος. The ἐπίσκοπος is not to be πάροινος (1 Timothy 3:3) and yet Timothy is advised (1 Timothy 5:23) to use wine in moderation; for the σοφός it is prescribed καὶ οἰνωθήσεσθαι μέν, οὐ μεθυσθήσεσθαι δέ (§ 118). Two attributes of the ἐπίσκοπος are given in the order σώφρονα, κόσμιον (1 Timothy 3:2); in connexion with the virtues of the σοφός it is said τῇ δὲ σωφροσύνῃ [ἕπεται] κοσμιότης (§ 126). And lastly the instructions to Timothy about bodily exercise (1 Timothy 4:8) recall the practice of the σοφός in the same matter: τὴν ἄσκησιν ἀποδέξεται ὑπὲρ τῆς τοῦ σώματος ὑπομονῆς (§ 123).

Verse 8

8. διακόνους. The plural number is, perhaps, significant, in contrast to τὸν ἐπίσκοπον of 1 Timothy 3:2. See on διάκονοι Introd. p. lxvii.

ὡσαύτως. In like manner; the δει εἷναι of the preceding verses is, of course, to be supplied.

σεμνούς. See note on 1 Timothy 2:2.

μὴ διλόγους. This word is only found here in the Greek Bible; διλογεῖν, διλογία occur in Xenophon in the sense of repetition, and thus δίλογοι here may be equivalent to (a) talebearers. But (b) the meaning is probably akin to that of δίγλωσσος (Proverbs 11:13; Sirach 5:9), viz. double-tongued. Ad alios alia loquentes is Bengel’s paraphrase, excellent as usual. Such a habit would be fatal to the usefulness of an official whose duties would necessarily bring him into close and frequent association with all classes. Polycarp (§ 5) notes that the deacons are not to be δίλογοι, an obvious reminiscence of this passage.

προσέχοντας. St Paul only uses this verb in the Pastorals (but cp. Acts 20:28); addicted to gives the sense here. Again, the appropriateness of such a caution is plain, when the house-to-house visitation entailed by the office of the διάκονος is remembered.

μὴ αἰσχροκερδεῖς. Not greedy of base gains, as at Titus 1:7; Titus 1:11; cp. also 1 Peter 5:2. The reference is plainly to the illicit disposal of Church funds, a temptation which would specially press upon those concerned with the distribution of alms. See also on Titus 1:11.

Verse 8-9

8, 9. ii. DEACONS

Verse 9

9. ἔχοντας. Holding, as contrasted with teaching, which did not come within the province of the διάκονος.

τὸ μυστήριον τῆς πίστεως. The genitive might be either (a) appositional, descriptive of the substance of the μυστήριον, the Mystery of the Faith, or (b) subjective, ‘the mystery on which faith rests and which it has embraced.’ Either would give good sense, but the analogy of τὸ μυστήριον τῆς εὐσεβείας in 1 Timothy 3:16 and of τὸ μυστήριον τῆς ἀνομίας in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 suggest that the subjective sense is preferable here. The other meaning would be, however, quite admissible and is favoured by the presence of the definite article. See note on 1 Timothy 1:19.

μυστήριον is a secret, concealed from the mass of mankind, but revealed to the initiated; and the Christian μυστήριον is thus (Matthew 13:11; Ephesians 1:9; Romans 16:25) the secret of salvation in Christ revealed to the faithful through the Divine Spirit. Cp. 1 Timothy 3:16.

ἐν καθαρᾷ συνειδήσει. Cp. 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Timothy 1:19 and the notes thereon, and note the close connexion all through this Epistle between a good conscience and a sound faith; it is hard to divorce creed from life.

It will be observed that the qualification given in this verse is one which is required of all Christians, and not only of διάκονοι. As in the case of ἐπίσκοποι (see note on 1 Timothy 3:2), the writer is not giving a complete list of the specific duties and qualities of the deacons, but suggesting certain conditions to which it was indispensable that candidates for the diaconate should conform. And it is instructive that this spiritual qualification of faith and a good conscience is explicitly mentioned in the case of the lower rather than the higher order of the ministry of service.

Verse 10

10. καὶδέ. And … also; i.e. the διάκονοι no less than the ἐπίσκοποι.

δοκιμαζέσθωσαν πρῶτον. Let them first be proved. This does not refer to any formal examination of the candidates for the diaconate, either by Timothy or by the officers of the Church, so much as to the general verdict of the community concerning their life and conversation. The qualities enumerated in 1 Timothy 3:8-9 are such as would be patent to observation. So Clem. Rom. (§ 42) has δοκιμάσαντες τῷ πνεύματι and (§ 44) διαδέξωνται ἕτεροι δεδοκιμασμένοι ἄνδρες.

εἶτα διακονείτωσαν ἀνέγκλητοι ὅντες. Then let them serve as deacons, if no charge is brought against them.

Verse 11

11. γυναῖκας ὡσαύτως κ.τ.λ. It is difficult to determine who the ‘women’ are, who are thus brought into the middle of the paragraph which deals with the qualifications of deacons. Excluding impossible interpretations, they must be either (a) the wives of the deacons or (b) the deaconesses of the Church. If the former we should have expected τὰς γυναῖκας αὐτῶν, if the latter, τὰς διακόνους; the Greek is quite as ambiguous as the R.V. ‘women.’ That there were deaconesses in the early Church, we know; the case of Phœbe (Romans 16:25) is familiar, and Pliny (Ep. x. 97) has mention of “duabus ancillis quae ministrae dicebantur.” A century later than Pliny we find elaborate rules as to the female diaconate laid down in the Apostolic Constitutions[526]. The ancient interpreters took this view of the passage, and it has been urged by many modern commentators that interpretation (a) is excluded by the absence of any corresponding regulation as to the wives of the ἐπίσκοποι, as well as by the silence of the writer concerning any domestic duties of the women in question. An argument e silentio is, no doubt, always precarious; and, further, it is to be remembered that a deacon’s wife would of necessity share his work which was largely occupied with the sick and needy, and it is thus intelligible that it would be necessary to have an eye to her character in the selection of her husband for the diaconate; whereas the wife of an ἐπίσκοπος is in no way partner of his responsibilities, and should not be permitted to meddle in the administration of the Church. The absence of any regulations for the bishops’ wives might be thus accounted for. But on the whole interpretation (b) seems to be more consonant with the usages of Christian antiquity, as well as with the general structure of the chapter before us, and with the fact that historically the deacons always chose their own wives without any reference to the judgement of the Church. We therefore translate (with Lightfoot[527]) γυναῖκας, deaconesses, and find here the earliest regulations as to the διακονίσσαι who in succeeding ages played an important part in the Church’s life[528].

σεμνάς. See above on 1 Timothy 2:2; this corresponds, of course, to σεμνούς of 1 Timothy 3:8.

μὴ διαβόλους. See note on 1 Timothy 3:6; the phrase corresponds to μὴ διλόγους of 1 Timothy 3:8.

νηφαλίους. See note on 1 Timothy 3:2; the word is here used in its primary sense of sober, and balances μὴ οἴνῳ πολλῷ προσέχοντας, 1 Timothy 3:8.

πιστὰς ἐν πᾶσιν. Faithful in all things. A general statement, but perhaps laid down here with special reference to the virtue of trustworthiness, which, in matters of money, was peculiarly demanded of the διάκονος, whether man or woman. See note on μὴ αἰσχροκερδεῖς of 1 Timothy 3:8.

Verse 12

12. The injunctions of this verse are identical with those laid down before in the case of ἐπίσκοποι; see the notes on 1 Timothy 3:2-3. If a man’s family is disorderly, it constitutes a presumption that there has been something amiss in the methods by which he has governed and ordered his household. It will be remembered that in our Ordinal stress is laid on the due ordering of the family and the home; and candidates for the orders of deacon and priest engage ‘to frame and fashion their own lives and the lives of [their] families, according to the doctrine of Christ.’

Verse 12-13


Verse 13

13. The meaning of βαθυὸν καλόν is the key to this verse. βαθμός (ἅπ. λεγ. in the N.T.) means primarily a ‘step,’ and it has been interpreted often of (a) a step in the ministry, the gradus presbyteratus; the meaning of the verse being, then, that those who have served the office of deacon well are rewarded by being raised to the presbyterate (or the episcopate). But this is not in harmony with the context, and savours of a later period than that of the Epistle. The regular promotion of deacons was, apparently, not known in the Apostolic or sub-Apostolic age. But (b) βαθμός may well mean ‘standing’ or ‘position’; and thus the passage speaks of the ‘vantage-ground’ in respect of the Christian community which will be gained by a deacon who has honourably discharged his duties. The reputation he has acquired may become the means of further and wider usefulness. Another interpretation (c) is that of ‘a good standing’ in respect, not of men, but of God, the reference being to the spiritual growth of the διάκονοι; in this view, ἀποθησαυρίζοντας ἑαυτοῖς θεμέλιον καλὸν εἰς τὸ μέλλον of 1 Timothy 6:19 would be a close parallel. But such an interpretation robs γάρ of its force, and ignores the connexion it implies between 1 Timothy 3:12-13. Bearing in mind the point of the injunction that the διάκονοι should be μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρες, viz. that they should be without reproach in the eyes of the Christian community, we see that a transition to any comment on their spiritual progress here or their final destiny hereafter would be out of place, while an observation in reference to their good repute among the faithful would be entirely apposite. On these grounds we decide in favour of (b); the ‘good standing’ acquired by the διάκονος is his position of greater trust among those to whom he ministers, in itself a great reward, because of the larger opportunities which it gives.

περιποιοῦνται, acquire. The verb περιποιεῖσθαι does not appear elsewhere in St Paul’s Epistles; but cp. Acts 20:28 and 1 Thessalonians 5:9 &c. The translation of the A.V., purchase, has come to suggest an idea of traffic which the word does not contain.

πολλὴν παρρησίαν. In accordance with the view taken above of βαθμὸν καλόν, this phrase finds a parallel in 2 Corinthians 7:4; the ‘boldness’ acquired by the καλῶς διακονήσαντες is boldness in respect of men, not in respect of God. This latter is a familiar N.T. idea (e.g. 1 John 3:21), but is not here prominent.

ἐν πίστει τῇ ἐν Χρ. . This is the sphere in which the παρρησία is exhibited, and the source from which it ultimately springs. Cp. Colossians 1:4.

Verse 14

14. ταῦτα, i.e. the foregoing instructions about public worship, and about the officers of the Church, contained in chaps. 2 and 3; cp. ταύτην τὴν παραγγελίαν at the close of ch. 1.

γράφω. The present is used rather than the epistolary aorist; cp. 1 Corinthians 4:14; Galatians 1:20 &c.

πρὸς σέ. These words are enclosed in square brackets by Westcott and Hort; but they are well attested (see crit. note) and are quite in Paul’s manner. Cp. Romans 1:10; Romans 1:13; 2 Corinthians 1:15.

τάχιον, more speedily, sc. than you might suppose from the fact that I am writing to you. The force of the comparative should not be overlooked; cp. Hebrews 13:23. The reading ἐν τάχει (see crit. note) is probably an explanatory gloss.

Verse 14-15


Verse 15

15. πῶς δεῖ ἐν οἴκῳ θεοῦ ἀναστρέφεσθαι, how men ought to behave themselves in God’s household. This is the general subject of chaps. 2 and 3; and the insertion of σε after δεῖ (see crit. note), or the limitation of the words to Timothy (how thou oughtest to behave thyself &c.), is quite misleading. On οἷκος θεοῦ see note on 1 Timothy 3:5 above; cp. also 2 Timothy 2:20. No stress can be laid on the absence of the definite article, which is used but sparingly throughout the Pastorals.

ἥτις, quippe quae, explanatory of οἷκος θεοῦ.

ἐκκλησία θεοῦ ζῶντος. The term ἐκκλησία, representing the קָהָל of the O.T., has, like its Hebrew original, a double meaning, sometimes being used for the local Christian congregation, sometimes in the larger sense of the new Israel in covenant relation with God. Thus God’s household which indeed is the Ecclesia of the living God is the assembly of the faithful, baptized into the Threefold Name. ἡ ἐκκλησία τοῦ θεοῦ is a frequent expression of St Paul’s (cp. 1 Corinthians 10:32; Acts 20:28 &c.).

We have the phrase the living God again in ch. 1 Timothy 4:10; cp. Deuteronomy 5:26; 2 Corinthians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 6:16 &c. It may perhaps point a contrast with the idols of the heathen, such as Artemis of Ephesus; but (more probably) it emphasises the continuous providence of God in the guidance of His Church: He is not to be conceived of merely as the Supreme Being, but as the Heavenly Master Whose care is over all His family.

στῦλος καὶ ἑδραίωμα τῆς ἀλ., a pillar and stay of the Truth. Here, the absence of the definite article seems to be deliberate. The Church is not the pillar of the Truth, for the Truth has other supports in conscience and in Scripture; but the Church, and every local branch of the Church, is a pillar and stay of the Truth. Without such external aids, such permanent witness, the Truth itself might be endangered. And such a conception of the Church justifies the minuteness of the injunctions that have been given in chaps. 2 and 3; whatever contributes to the dignity of the Church’s worship and to the worthiness of the Church’s ministers, in so far is a strengthening of the majesty of the Truth[529].

ἐδραίωμα is not found elsewhere in the Greek Bible, but St Paul has ἑδραῖος several times (1 Corinthians 7:37; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Colossians 1:23). It seems to mean bulwark or stay (Vulg. firmamentum) rather than ground or foundation, the sense usually assigned to it here.

Verse 16

16. καὶ ὁμολογουμένως μέγα And confessedly great &c.: ὁμολογουμένως (ἅπ. λεγ. in N.T.) is to be taken with μέγα. Compare τὸ μυστήριον τοῦτο μέγα ἐστίν of Ephesians 5:32, in both cases μέγα referring to the importance, not to the obscurity, of the μυστήριον. μυστήριον does not necessarily carry with it the idea of mysteriousness, in the modern sense of unintelligibility; it simply means a secret, into which some have been initiated (see on 1 Timothy 3:9).

τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον. τῆς εὐσεβείας, like τῆς πίστεως in 1 Timothy 3:9, is a possessive genitive: the mystery of piety, i.e. the mystery which piety embraces, and on which it feeds. This mystery or secret is not an abstract doctrine; it is the Person of Christ Himself. Cp. Colossians 1:27 τὸ πλοῦτος τῆς δόξης τοῦ μυστηρίου τούτου ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, ὅ ἐστιν Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν, ἡ ἐλπὶς τῆς δόξης; and see the note on εὐσέβεια at 1 Timothy 2:2.

ὃς ἐφανερώθη κ.τ.λ. The critical note gives a summary of the evidence as to the reading, once much disputed, but now hardly doubtful. It seems probable from the parallelism of the clauses and from the rhythmical arrangement that the words ὂς ἐφανερώθηἀνελήμφθη ἐν δόξη are a quotation from an early hymn on the Incarnation. Writing to the Churches of Asia Minor, St Paul speaks of Christian hymns (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16); and it has even been thought that Ephesians 5:14 is a fragment of one. At all events the familiar witness of Pliny (Ep. x. 97) is explicit; he reports that the Christians of Bithynia were wont “carmen Christo quasi Deo dicere secum invicem”; a description applying well enough to the verse before us, which was probably meant for antiphonal singing. If, then, it be the case that we are here dealing not with St Paul’s own words, but with an apposite quotation introduced by him, the abruptness of ὅς at once disappears. It is the relative to an antecedent not expressed in the quotation, but impossible to mistake.

The clauses fall into three contrasted pairs:

(i.) The revelation and its proofs

(a) ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί. We need not assume any polemical reference to Gnosticism or Docetism, though there are very early traces of these false opinions (see 1 John 4:2-3); a statement of the Incarnation is not necessarily controversial, and the tone of this fragment is one of triumphant thankfulness rather than of argument. Cp. John 1:4; Philippians 2:6; 1 John 1:2. The verb φανερόω is common in St Paul’s writings (see Romans 3:21; 2 Timothy 1:10), as well as in St John, and it is to be observed that when used in the passive it implies the Pre-existence of the Person Who is the subject of the sentence. Thus, whether ὅς or θεός be read, the word ἐφανερώθη involves the superhuman nature of Him Who was manifested in the flesh. The nearest parallel in form in St Paul is Romans 8:3 ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας.

(b) ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι, justified in the spirit. δικαιόω is not, of course, used here in the technical sense familiar in St Paul’s Epistles, but in its ordinary signification, as in Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:35; Romans 3:4 (Psalms 51:6). πνεύματι is in contrast to σαρκί (cf. 1 Peter 3:18 θανατωθεὶς μὲν σαρκί, ζωοποιηθεὶς δὲ πνεύματι); ̔πνεῦμα signifies the higher principle of spiritual life, as distinguished at once from σάρξ, the flesh, and ψυχή, the physical life. The phrase, then, states that, as Christ was manifested in human flesh, so in His spiritual activities, words and works, He was proved to be what He claimed to be, Son of God no less than Son of man; His Personal claims were vindicated. So in Romans 1:3 we have: ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν, where πνεῦμα is to be taken, as here, of the human spirit of the Redeemer.

(ii.) Its extent and mode

ὤφθη ἀγγέλοις, ἐκηρύχθη ἐν ἔθνεσιν. The antithesis between ἄγγελοι and ἔθνη is emphatic. The revelation to angels, the rational creatures nearest to God, is of a different character from the revelation to the Gentiles, the heathen world (as opposed to Israel), and so farthest from God. A revelation which embraces these two extreme classes will take in all rational creation; the blessings of the Incarnation stretch beyond the sphere of human life. The revelation to Gentiles is mediate, by preaching, and it was this with which St Paul was specially entrusted (Ephesians 3:8; cp. Romans 16:26); the revelation to the higher orders of created intelligences is immediate, by vision (ὤφθη; cp. 1 Corinthians 15:6; 1 Corinthians 15:8). We are not to think here of any special manifestation to angels during the Lord’s earthly life, such as are recorded at Matthew 4:11 and at Luke 22:43; but of the fuller knowledge of Christ’s Person which was opened out to the heavenly host by the Incarnation. Such things angels “desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:12); and St Paul declares (Ephesians 3:10) that the preaching to the Gentiles was “to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Cp. also 1 Corinthians 4:9 θέατρον ἐγενήθημεν τῷ κοσμῷ καὶ ἀγγέλοις καὶ ἀνθρώποις.

(iii.) Its consummation on earth and in heaven

(a) ἐπιστεύθη ἐν κόσμῳ. κόσμος has no evil sense here; it is the world which God loved (John 3:16). The prayer of the Lord was ἵνα ὁ κόσμος πιστεύη ὅτι σύ με ἀπέστειλας. This is the consummation on earth of His Redemptive Work; from the heavenly side it is

(b) ἀνελήμφθη ἐν δόξῃ. This the distinctive word used of the Ascension in Mark 16:19, and in Acts 1:2. He was received up [and is now] in glory; ἐν δόξῃ expresses the permanent condition of His being. Cp. 1 Peter 1:11. Thus the sequence all through the verse is from the Incarnation to the Ascension, though it is a logical sequence rather than a historical one.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Timothy 3". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.