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the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 5

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and CollegesCambridge Greek Testament Commentary

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Verses 1-99

Ch. 5. Apostolic Government in regard to Discipline

1, 2 . Timothy’s demeanour generally towards his flock

1 . Rebuke not an elder ] The Greek for ‘rebuke’ occurring only here in N. T. is a strong word implying roughness and sharpness. Timothy was not to go so far as St Paul went in his rebuke of St Peter, Galatians 2:11 , ‘I resisted him to the face because he stood condemned;’ much less to copy his rebuke of Ananias, Acts 23:3 , ‘God shall smite thee, thou whited wail.’ See in the Prayer-Book Order for the Consecration of Bishops, the prayer that the new bishop may be ‘earnest to reprove, beseech and rebuke, with all patience and doctrine.’ This seems exactly to cover the ground held by the next word ‘intreat,’ again (as in 1:3, 2:1) to be rendered exhort . The word ‘elder’ is here used of age , ‘your seniors,’ and later of office , ‘your presbyters,’ as the contexts shew.

the younger men as brethren ] Supply a general verb recalling both the previous verbal notions, such as ‘treat,’ ‘admonish;’ cf. Mark 12:5 , ‘and many others (they ill-treated), beating some and killing some,’ Romans 14:21 , ‘It is good not to eat flesh nor to drink wine, nor (to do anything) whereby thy brother stumbleth,’ Winer, § 64, 1. 1. c.

2 . with all purity ] Accurately in ; the R.V. shews the connexion of the phrase with ‘the younger’ by a colon instead of comma after ‘mothers.’ Jerome’s rule is well quoted here ‘omnes puellas et virgines Christi aut aequaliter ignora aut aequaliter dilige.’ There is no simpler safeguard against illnatured remark and gossip than to maintain an even level of careful courteous intercourse, and what old George Herbert calls ‘grave liveliness.’

3 16 . Timothy’s duties in regard to widows

Counsel on alms and charities for widows. The natural and obvious view of this passage studied in itself is to present the Church charities of this period as having reached an intermediate stage between the common purse or daily ministration of Acts 2:45 , Acts 6:1 , and the order of widows publicly appointed and maintained with specified duties of education, superintendence and the like, which seems to have arisen later, perhaps from a strained interpretation of this passage itself, and which was abolished by the 11th Canon of the Council of Laodicea. ‘The women who are called by the Greeks “presbyters,” and by us “senior widows,” “once-wives,” and “churchmothers” ought not to have a position as an ordained body in the Church.’ Such a view is exactly parallel with that of the Church polity in these Epistles as ‘intermediate between the presbyterian episcopacy of the earlier apostolic period and the post-apostolic episcopacy.’

If this is correct, we shall not distinguish, with Bp Ellicott, ‘the desolate and destitute widow’ of vv . 3 8 from ‘the ecclesiastical or presbyteral widow’ of vv . 9 16. More distinct and definite direction is given in verse 10 for the selection of the widows who are described in general terms in verse 5. A generation of Christian life has passed now since the loving undiscriminating ‘ministration’ of the first days. The very numbers of ‘Christian widows’ with varying character and circumstances, as well as the reasonableness of the thing itself, require the test of the past conduct, v . 10, and the present life, v . 5. ‘Charity organisation’ is the pastor’s duty.

3 . Honour widows ] The honour implied is further referred to in v . 9; as the honour of v . 17 is defined by v . 18. So in Acts 28:10 the Melitans ‘honoured us with many honours, and when we sailed they put on board such things as we needed.’ Cf. Lewin’s note there. ‘The honours probably included pecuniary aid. Honor was often used for money; whence honorarium a fee.’

that are widows indeed ] So v . 16; and in the true text 6:19, ‘the life which is life indeed:’ a usage of the article with this adverb peculiar to this Epistle.

4 . children or nephews ] Rather, grandchildren , ‘nephews’ no longer having this meaning as in the time of Jeremy Taylor, who says, ‘If naturalists say true, that nephews are often liker to their grandfathers than to their fathers.’

to shew piety ] The deeper meaning given to this word above, 2:2, 3:8, &c., is not lost here, though it be practical godliness. Our Lord’s own teaching on this very subject, Matthew 15:3-6 , is just this word, ‘writ large.’

to shew piety at home ] More accurately towards their own house . If it is a little strained to speak of the children learning to shew piety towards their own house when the care of parents or grandparents is meant, it is much more strained to speak of aged widows requiting their parents by the care of their own children or grandchildren. ‘Let the children learn,’ then it should run. In answer to Bp Wordsworth’s objections to this, notice (1) that the Apostle’s whole subject is Christian duty towards widows, (2) that the repetition in v . 16 is only in keeping with other repetitions of the passage, (3) that the word ‘learn’ here has a clause dependent upon it and so differs in sense from v . 13, 2:11, and 2 Timothy 3:7 , where it is absolute. The plural verb is used, although the subject to be supplied is in the neuter, according to the common N.T. use in the case of persons: e.g. Matthew 10:21 , ‘children shall rise up.’ So the plural verb should be read, 2 Timothy 4:17 , ‘that all the Gentiles might hear.’ Winer, § 58, 3.

to requite their parents ] Lit., ‘to give due returns to their forbears,’ using the old Scotch word, which, as Fairbairn says, exactly corresponds in its including parents and grandparents.

For the phrase ‘to give due returns’ which only occurs in N. T. here but is thoroughly classical, cf. Eur. Or . 467, where Orestes speaks of Tyndareus ‘who reared me, kissed me, carried me about,’ and then of ‘the base returns that I requited him’ in slaying his reputed daughter Clytemnestra.

good and acceptable ] With R.V. following ms. authority, we should read acceptable alone; the addition has been made from 2:3.

5 . trusteth in God ] The perfect of a continuing settled state, as in 2:14 ‘is found in transgression;’ so here ‘is found with a full hope placed upon God,’ hath her hope set in God . The same perfect is in 4:10, taking there however the dative after the preposition, ‘we have our hope resting on the living God.’

continueth ] The same compound, strong, word as in Acts 13:43 , ‘to continue in the grace of God;’ its strength is seen in its use, Acts 11:23 , ‘that they would cleave unto the Lord.’

in supplications and prayers ] ‘As the words stand, both having the article, prayer is subdivided into its two kinds; if the article were not repeated, prayer and intercession would be taken together as forming one whole,’ Winer, § 19, 5, n. See note on 2:1 for the strict meaning of the two words and for their use in the plural. Compare Acts 2:42 , ‘they continued steadfastly … in the prayers.’

6 . liveth in pleasure ] The word occurs only once besides in N.T., James 5:5 ; where it is coupled with ‘living delicately,’ and is translated by R.V. ‘have taken your pleasure,’ consistently with its rendering here ‘giveth herself to pleasure.’ But surely all the connexion and derivation of the word points to a worse meaning, the rioting of a prodigal; as e.g. its use by the LXX. (as Bp Ellicott points out) in Ezekiel 16:49 , ‘this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters.’ It is reproduced in the cognate ‘wax wanton’ of v . 11. Render perhaps she that liveth a prodigal’s life . Stress is laid on this being brought out, because St Paul is painting the two pictures, for contrast, in the strongest colours, one all saint, one all sinner.

is dead while she liveth ] Has no ‘hold on the life which is life indeed,’ as urged 6:19.

7 . these things give in charge ] As in 4:11 and thrice in chap. 1; note on 1:5. The conjunction is also rather than ‘and’. ‘Include the setting of the true life before the widows also in thy charge.’

blameless ] One of the key-words of this epistle; of a presbyter 3:2, of Timothy 6:14. At the stage reached now by Christianity, the moral life of the believers before the world, ‘such as cannot be laid hold of by anyone,’ is of vital importance for all ranks equally for the bishop-apostolic himself, for the clergy, for the poor widows. ‘Holiness becometh Thine house’ now most especially.

8 . But if any provide not ] The warning is general in form, but taken up v . 4 and is again taken up v . 16. The negative must be taken closely with the verb fail to provide , see note on 3:5.

for his own ] His own relatives and connexions.

According to the best reading there is only one article for the two adjectives, so that it is one phrase rather than two. The R.V. indicates this by omitting the ‘for’ after ‘specially’. By rendering also his own household it indicates the full meaning ‘relatives and dependents dwelling in the same house.’

he hath denied the faith ] The Christian religion based on ‘faith that worketh by love,’ and so here the Christian’s ‘rule of life,’ briefly described in the earliest days as ‘the way,’ Acts 22:4 , &c. There is the same close identification of ‘creed’ and ‘life’ in verse 12, where see note.

worse than an infidel ] Better, as throughout its use so characteristic of the Epistles to the Corinthians (14 times), an unbeliever . It was the technical word for the heathen who had not yet ‘professed the faith,’ just as its opposite ‘faithful’ or ‘believer’ is the term used of all who had been admitted into the Christian body; e.g. Ephesians 1:1 , and here, verse 16. The clause has no sting therefore such as attaches to ‘infidel,’ implying the deliberate rejection of religion. They who refuse to minister to the comfort and sustenance of those belonging to them ‘are not true to the moral instincts of their own nature and fall beneath the standard which has been recognised and acted on by the better class of heathens.’ Fairbairn.

9 . More definite direction is now given as to the honour and the qualification, Let not a widow be taken into the number . The position of the word ‘widow’ at the beginning of the sentence makes it probably part of the predicate, as R.V., Let none be enrolled as a widow . A roll or catalogue of widows for whom the alms of the Church were bespoken existed from the very first, Acts 6:0 and has been the care of each Church and each parish to a greater or less extent to the present day under varying forms and conditions: the least satisfactory arrangement on a large scale being the provision made by Christian England of ‘The House’; the most satisfactory being the pleasant almshouses dotted over the country, and the pension moneys from our Church alms taken month by month as from Christ with delicate attention by our deacon curates themselves to the cottage homes. Those who have had to select from such a list in a parish will have found the hints for selection given here very useful and necessary; (1) ascertained impossibility of support from relatives; (2) good moral character as wife and widow; (3) a defined period for ‘old age’; (4) reputation as a good mother, a kind neighbour, a zealous Church worker.

under threescore years old ] Lit. ‘who is found to be less than 60 years old,’ the participle belonging to the previous clause, according to the general usage: cf. Luke 2:42 , ‘when he was twelve years old.’

having been the wife of one man ] ‘Having been,’ if retained should be put as by R.V. in italics, marking it as an English insertion; the phrase ‘wife of one man’ is precisely the same as in 3:2, where see note. The clear and indisputable meaning here of the words is that of having been faithful to one husband all his lifetime instead of leaving him for another or adding another, ‘no bigamist or adulteress.’ She is to be ‘enrolled’ as such. Many of the N.T. exhortations on this point are startling to us as implying even in the circle of Christians very lax principles and habits still. And yet English ministerial knowledge could tell of many startling views and habits that prevail among us now in respect of the sanctity and purity of the married state. It is no ‘counsel of perfection’ but the plain elementary pledge ‘to live together till death’s parting after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony,’ that St Paul here commends. And it still needs much commending.

10 . well reported of ] So the word is used of good testimony, in the appointment of the deacons, Acts 6:3 , ‘seven men of good report;’ of Ananias, ‘a devout man … well reported of by all the Jews,’ Acts 22:12 .

for good works ] Lit. ‘in the matter of good works;’ the preposition expresses ‘the range in which a power acts,’ Winer, § 48, 3, a. Cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:2 , ‘God’s minister in the Gospel of Christ;’ and 1 Timothy 1:18 with note. These good works are not to be limited to such as a widow with means could perform. All were within the reach of the devoted Christian widow, poor as she might be. And pastoral experience can shew similar ‘wonderful works’ still wrought by ‘pious poverty’ for the Saviour. The rhythmical structure of the verse is at least characteristic of St Paul’s rhetoric, fitted now to incorporate some sacred strain, now to suggest one.

if she have brought up children ] R.V. rightly, if she hath brought up ; ‘hath’ not ‘have’ because the moods are indicative, not conditional; ‘hath brought up,’ not ‘brought up,’ because the English idiom, in such a retrospect, uses the definite past, while the Greek uses the indefinite aorist: see Revisers’ Preface. ‘There are numerous cases in which the use of the indefinite past tense in Greek and English is altogether different, and in such instances we have not attempted to violate the idiom of our language by forms of expression which it could not bear.’ The bringing up of children most naturally refers to her own home and family, where she has been a nursing mother. This compound verb occurs only here in N.T.; as does the next.

lodged strangers ] An ordinary daily incident of both rich and poor life then: and in the days of persecution soon to follow a sacred privilege and necessity.

washed the saints’ feet ] This special act of Eastern hospitality is singled out doubtless from our Lord’s taking the humble service upon Himself at the Last Supper, John 13:4-17 . Cf. Abraham’s reception of the ‘three men’ at Mamre, Genesis 28:4 , ‘Let a little water be fetched and wash your feet;’ and the designation of Elijah’s companion and disciple, 2 Kings 3:11 , ‘Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah.’ ‘The saints’ is another word used like ‘faithful’ (v. 8) at the commencement of the Epistles and elsewhere to describe all who have been ‘set apart’ from the heathen as ‘Christ’s people’ by baptism.

relieved the afflicted ] The ‘relief’ is the same word as in ver. 16, exemplifying the promise ‘with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again.’ To give such relief from small means would not then be harder than now; and it is very striking, when one knows the real life of the poor, to see how much they can and do help one another in trouble, especially when there is ‘Christian will’ to ‘find the way.’

diligently followed every good work ] Bp Ellicott rightly seems to point out that the preposition in the compound verb indicates direction rather than diligence , quoting 1 Peter 2:21 , ‘that ye should follow his steps.’ Cf. also Mark 16:20 and verse 24 in this chapter. She might not have been in front rank but she hath humbly followed and ‘hath done what she could’ in every good work.

11 . But the younger widows refuse ] There is no article, ‘younger’ than 60 years; but also more generally, ‘comparatively young.’ ‘Refuse,’ i.e. decline to put on the roll of maintenance.

when they have begun to wax wanton ] Rather, when they have come to wax wanton . The aorist subjunctive which has the support of א should be retained, though Alford follows A in reading future indicative. The verb takes up the ‘prodigal living’ of v . 6, seeming to be connected with strenuus , ‘strong,’ and so like ‘lusty’ and ‘lustful’ having the idea of wanton licence. The simple verb is used in Revelation 18:7 and 9 of Babylon, ‘She glorified herself and waxed wanton,’ ‘the kings of the earth committed fornication and lived wantonly with her.’ With the compound form used here may be compared similar compounds, to laugh against, Matthew 9:24 , ‘and they laughed Him to scorn;’ to witness against, Mark 14:60 , ‘what is it which these witness against thee?’

against Christ ] The only place in the Pastoral Epistles where ‘Christ’ is used alone, ‘Christ Jesus’ being the most common title employed.

they will marry ] Rather, they choose marrying . Their mind is set on husband hunting, with no limitation now of ‘only in the Lord.’

12 . Corruptio optimi fit pessima; Christ, trust in Christ, the life of Christ, were supreme during the former marriage; into the loneliness of widowhood, not safeguarded by age, the flesh and the devil have penetrated, and have dethroned Christ: a rebel’s name only can be hers. Cf. v . 15.

having damnation ] Rather, condemnation ; a present ‘judgment,’ of being self-condemned as rebels, deserters: because they have rejected their first faith : ‘faith’ being most naturally used here as above, v . 8, the phrase ‘their first faith’ may thus best refer to their early Christian life, just as in the Epistle to Ephesus (the same Church to which this letter goes) the condemnation is that they ‘have left their first love,’ and the exhortation is to ‘do the first works.’ The word ‘reject’ is the same as in Jude v . 8, ‘these … defile the flesh and set at nought dominion,’ where the thought and subject are very much the same, ‘turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.’ To make the reference to the breaking of a vow or pledge of widowhood seems both inadequate and misleading.

13 . they learn to be idle ] Insert ‘also’; R.V. they learn also to be idle . The position of ‘idle’ and the stress in the next clause ‘not only idlers but’ point to this construction, making ‘idle’ predicate, though no infinitive ‘to be,’ ‘to become,’ is inserted. The rendering of Bp Wordsworth, Grimm and others, ‘Being idle they are learners running about from house to house,’ gives indeed ‘an oxymoron a common figure of speech with St Paul.’ But the authority for ‘learn’ in so absolute a sense is very doubtful, since everywhere, e.g. in 1 Timothy 2:11 . ‘let a woman learn in silence,’ and 2 Timothy 3:7 , ‘always learning and never able to come to the full knowledge,’ there is much more in the context of connected phrase and subject .

wandering about from house to house ] Lit. ‘the houses’ that made up the Christian settlement: so 2 Timothy 3:6 , ‘they that creep into our houses.’ Compare 3 John 1:14 , ‘our friends salute thee.’

tattlers also and busybodies ] The first word occurs again only as participle in 3 John 1:10 , ‘tattling of us with evil words.’ ‘Its derivation (connected with fluere ) points to a babbling profluent way of talking.’ Bp Ellicott. ‘Busybodies,’ prying round into other people’s business; so 2 Thessalonians 3:11 , ‘not busy, but busybodies.’ Hence its use for ‘magical arts,’ Acts 19:19 . Contrast the epithet of the younger women, Titus 2:5 (best mss.) ‘busy at home,’ which is not found elsewhere.

14 . I will therefore ] Rather, with R.V. ‘I desire;’ the stronger verb, as in 2:8, 6:9; Titus 3:8 : and four other passages of St Paul’s Epistles: while the weaker verb is used by him more than sixty times, of which four only are in the Pastoral Epistles.

younger women] The passage implies a limitation to widows, as R.V. ‘Do not lead the younger widows to expect such help at all as a matter of course. Then those who marry “in the Lord” again will find scope for an active irreproachable Christian life; while,’ as he said before, ‘those who have been misled, in their trouble, by the world and the flesh, and seek a worldly heathen re-marriage, will not compromise the Church by having had a place on the roll of godly almswomen.’

bear children, guide the house ] Compound verbs again, as in verse 10, used only here in N. T., the substantives connected with them however occurring ch. 2:15 and Matthew 10:25 , &c.

to the adversary ] The word occurs in three stages in N. T., (1) still retaining its participial force; in Luke 13:17 governing its pronoun, ‘those who opposed him,’ and 1 Corinthians 16:9 , ‘and many (are) opposing,’ 2 Thessalonians 2:4 , ‘he that opposeth and exalteth himself.’ (2) As abstract adjective in the plural, Philippians 1:28 , ‘in nothing affrighted by the adversaries,’ (3) as abstract adjective in the singular, in this passage. With the use here in the singular, compare Titus 2:8 , ‘That he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed,’ and the fifth question in the Order for the Consecration of Bishops apparently echoing both, ‘an example of good works unto others, that the adversary may be ashamed.’ ‘The hostile party, ready to catch hold of anything in the life of Christians, are personified as one,’ Fairbairn. St John, in his still later Greek, adopts this singular, John 11:22 , where cf. Bp Westcott: ‘the liar, who offers in his own person the sum of all that is false; and not simply a liar who is guilty of a particular sin.’

to speak reproachfully ] Lit. ‘on account of,’ ‘to serve the purpose of abuse,’ so tersely R.V. for reviling . Compare the similar use, Jude 1:16 , ‘shewing respect of persons for the sake of advantage.’

15 . some are … turned aside ] Some of the younger widows who had been placed upon the roll had thus been led astray; St Paul was not merely theorising in vv . 11 13. The aorist here is rightly rendered ‘are turned’ according to the account given in v . 10.

16 . If any man or woman that believeth ] The balance of authority in mss. requires us to read with R.V., If any woman that believeth .

have widows ] Again, hath widows , dependent on her. In what precise way we are to understand this verse is not very clear; whether (1) as a general summary of the whole passage, or (2) as a summary of the portion respecting younger widows inculcating such oversight as might anticipate sinful leanings, or (3) as an extension of the charge to more distant Christian relatives than in vv . 4 and 8. On the whole, having regard to the way in which the points are put more than once in some fresh aspect, with some degree of repetition, (1) seems best. From 3 to 8 the chief reason given for refusing lavish maintenance is the good of the relatives themselves; from 9 to 15 the good of the widows; in v . 16 the good of the Church. Each section is commenced without any introductory particle; and (it may be noticed) in Scrivener’s edition is marked by a capital letter.

let not the church be charged ] Or, more exactly, burdened ; the verb is the later Hellenistic form of the strong classical verb ‘to weigh down,’ ‘to oppress.’ It is the word used of the apostles’ eyes ‘weighed down with sleep,’ Matthew 26:43 ; of St Paul’s affliction in Asia, 2 Corinthians 1:8 , ‘we were weighed down exceedingly.’ Bp Wordsworth quotes Cornelius, bishop of Rome, a.d. 250 (in Euseb . 6.43), as mentioning the existence in the Church of Rome of ‘widows and afflicted,’ more than 1500 in number. For the N. T. use of ‘the Church,’ see on ch. 3:14.

widows indeed ] See v . 3.

17 25 . Timothy’s duties in regard to Presbyters

Timothy’s official treatment of the presbyters follows, and his personal bearing as requisite for this. The same general subject runs throughout, though (as noticed above on v . 16), the absence of the connecting particles indicates some fresh aspects of it introduced with the more broken style of older age. The dark shading of the picture is dark if it is taken as applying to the permanent state of the Church and its clergy. But if we bear in mind that Timothy was not so much the settled Bishop of Ephesus as the authoritative delegate of the apostle for a specific mission, with ‘temporary functions which would now be called episcopal,’ so far from stumbling at this view as inconsistent with the praise given to Ephesus in this respect, Revelation 2:2 , ‘I know thy works … that thou canst not bear evil men, and didst try them which call themselves apostles, and they are not, and didst find them false,’ we shall rather see in it the proof of Timothy’s faithful and successful efforts to put down laxness and restore the high ideal of the ministerial office to which he is here urged. This will hold good, whether we take the earlier and more probable date (a.d. 69), or the later (a.d. 96), assigned to the Apocalypse. See Introduction, pp. 19, 20, 66.

17 . the elders that rule well ] The perfect part. with present neuter signification. The verb itself is peculiar to these Epistles, except Romans 12:8 , ‘he that ruleth with diligence,’ and 1 Thessalonians 5:12 , ‘that labour among you and are over you; and is used of the management ‘of a house,’ in 3:4 and 5, ‘of children,’ 3:12, and of the mastery ‘of good works,’ Titus 3:8 (where see note) and 14. The word is too general to draw from it the meaning of ruling elders as distinguished from teaching elders. Doubtless ‘government’ was the foremost thought in the selection of an ‘elder’ because someone must give orders ‘for order’s sake.’ But the above passage from the earliest of the Epistles, the 1 Thessalonians, shews us the three chief functions of the ministry already blended: (1) that of the laborious servant , ‘that labour among you,’ the same word as here, ‘who labour;’ (2) that of the leader and head in things spiritual, ‘are over you,’ as here ‘that rule;’ and (3) that of the teacher and counsellor , ‘and admonish you,’ as here ‘in the word and in teaching.’ As Bp Lightfoot puts it in his ‘Christian Ministry’ Ep. Philipp ., ‘The work of teaching seems to be regarded rather as incidental to than as inherent in the office: “double honour shall be paid.… especially to such as labour in word and doctrine,” as though one holding this office might decline the work of instruction.’

double honour ] The word has been defined on v . 3; and includes, though it is not confined to, money payment: this is clear from the next verse.

they who labour in the word ] The meaning of the Greek word comes out with especial force in 2 Timothy 2:6 , the husbandman that laboureth , that really toils ‘with honest sweat week in week out.’ So Matthew 11:28 , ‘Come unto Me all ye that labour,’ A.V., where the Prayer-Book in the ‘comfortable words’ renders ‘all that travail.’ Surely our word ‘labour’ has lost some of its strength now since the time when it represented toil and pain like the ‘labour pains’ of ‘a woman in her travail.’ It is right therefore to lay stress on the word here in reading the passage.

in the word and doctrine ] Rather, in speech and in teaching . ‘In speech:’ the exact phrase has occurred 4:12, and seems to describe the ordinary intercourse (cf. Colossians 4:6 ), while ‘in teaching’ describes the sermon, or lecture, or lesson, the word being characteristic of the present stage of the pastoral office; see note on 1:10.

18 . the scripture saith ] The quotation is from Deuteronomy 25:4 , and goes to the end of the clause only, ‘thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn;’ or, as Dr Farrar renders, ‘thou shalt not muzzle a threshing ox.’ The argument from God’s care of oxen has been used by St Paul before, 1 Corinthians 9:9 , where see Mr Lias’s note.

And, The labourer is worthy of his reward ] Bp Wordsworth prints the Greek of these words in such a way that they are to be included under ‘the Scripture saith,’ and a common view both in ancient and modern times considers that our Lord’s words as recorded Luke 10:7 are here quoted as Scripture. The R.V. by its full-stop after ‘corn’ regards the words as the citation only of the proverb, in the same way as it is cited by our Lord ‘as a popular and well-known saying.’ This is quite a sufficient view, especially since it is more than doubtful whether by this time the Gospels could be thus authoritatively quoted. They are not quoted even in the Apostolic Fathers.

reward ] Better, wages or hire .

19 . Against an elder ] A continuation of Timothy’s official duties towards the presbyters, as is indicated by the context. The Mosaic precept here referred to is given in its most general terms, Deuteronomy 19:15 , ‘One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin … at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.’ So the preposition rendered by A.V. here ‘before’ is more exactly given R.V. at the mouth of , the phrase being given thus in full, Matthew 18:16 . Winer’s note , § 47, 9th ed. ‘by, with, on the testimony of … witnesses’ is more exact than the phrase in his text ‘before witnesses.’ The reason for being particular here is that in our idiom ‘to hear a thing only before witnesses’ implies merely sufficient publicity and evidence of its having been heard , an entirely different thing from what the Greek conveys with the context . The preposition by itself would equally well bear either meaning e.g. (1) in 2 Corinthians 7:14 , ‘our glorying which I made before Titus;’ (2) in the common phrase ‘of a truth,’ Luke 4:25 , ‘of a truth,’ i.e. with, on the firm basis of truth, ‘I say unto you.’ Both meanings come from the proper notion of superposition .

but before ] Lit. to give an English colloquial pleonasm, ‘except unless.’ So with more stress than ‘but,’ except it be . The phrase occurs 1 Corinthians 15:2 , where R.V. alters ‘unless’ into ‘except.’ Cf. the old use of ‘but’ according to its derivation, ‘touch not a cat but without a glove,’ and Spenser

‘But this I read that but its remedy

Thou her afford, full shortly I her dead shall see.’

This direction is to be regarded as embodying the sense of what St Paul wished to convey under the form of another quotation from O.T., so that we should paraphrase, ‘except it be,’ in the spirit of the old precept, ‘at the mouth of two or three witnesses,’ and so Drs Westcott and Hort print the words. This is the simplest answer to De Wette’s question whether Timothy is not to observe this judicial rule in all cases as well as merely in the case of an elder. There is no question of the precise observance of this or any other purely ceremonial precepts any longer. The spirit however lives; ‘judge, rebuke, but never on ill-supported accusations.’

20 . Them that sin ] A connecting particle has some authority here but not enough for adoption. The absence need not (see note above) make us think the subject is changed from offending presbyters to sinners generally . This would require more support from the context than is given, the main thought being still Timothy’s official and personal bearing towards presbyters. The article with the present participle is nearly the equivalent of a substantive. Cf. Winer, § 47, 7. The same article and present participle occur in 1 John 3:6 , where the force of the present is of the utmost importance. ‘It describes a character, “a prevailing habit,” and not primarily an act.’ Bp Westcott. So here, ‘those who are living in sin’ among the presbyters. Bp Wordsworth gives a special character to these sins: ‘He is speaking specially of Presbyters whose sins, particularly in doctrine, are public and notorious. And this exposition is confirmed by the application of the word “sins” to them here and in v . 24, and Titus 3:11 , where he says of a heretical teacher that he “sinneth being self-condemned.” St Paul thus declares the moral guilt of false doctrine.’ And he quotes St Paul’s prophecy to the Athenian presbyters of such ‘grievous wolves,’ ‘speaking perverse things’ among them, Acts 20:29 .

rebuke before all ] The word is sometimes ‘convict,’ sometimes ‘condemn.’ In its use in these Epistles, here and 2 Timothy 4:2 ; Titus 1:9 , Titus 1:13 , Titus 1:2 :15, it seems always to have reference to false teaching and its consequent evil living , and to unite the sharp convincing proof of the error and the sharp condemning reproof of the vice.

that others also may fear ] Rather, as R.V., that the rest also may be in fear ; ‘the rest,’ i.e. those who have heard and perhaps approved of the false teaching and its vicious morals; ‘may be in fear,’ the longer expression being used to denote the state of abiding ‘godly fear.’

21 . The solemnity of the adjuration in this verse points to a very definite exercise of the duty imposed, and to expected difficulty in the doing of it, arising perhaps not only from Timothy’s diffidence but from the prominence of the ‘elders’ who are to be ‘rebuked.’ Cf. Acts 20:29 as above. Here again as frequently the ms. authority requires us to read ‘ Christ Jesus ,’ not ‘the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Cf. note on 1:1.

the elect angels ] If we compare (1) Jude 1:6 , ‘angels which kept not their own principality,’ and (2) Jude 1:14 , ‘The Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones ’ coupled with Hebrews 12:22 , ‘ye are come unto … ten thousands of angels ,’ we may interpret the phrase with Chrysostom of the unfallen angels; and though ‘the angels’ alone would, as Alford objects, be sufficient to designate the good angels, yet the added epithet has its force in an adjuration against rebel speech and self-will. We may see too with Bp Bull a further appositeness in the adjuration, ‘because they in the future judgment shall be present as witnesses with their Lord.’ See further on the general meaning of the word ‘elect’ in N.T. on Titus 1:1 , 2 Timothy 2:10 .

without preferring one before another] More precisely as margin and R.V., without prejudice ; the word, only occurring here, is exactly the Latin prae-iudicium, a prejudging the case unfavourably. The next clause, ‘doing nothing by partiality’ or by preference , expresses the opposite error of deciding for a favourite apart from the evidence; the substantive only occurring here, though the verb is found Acts 5:36 , used of the partisans of Theudas, ‘to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves.’ The metaphor is seen clearly in Goldsmith’s description of the country parson:

‘And e’en his failings leaned to Virtue’s side.’ Deserted Village .

22 . Lay hands suddenly on no man] Better perhaps hastily ; the adverb has a similar use in the words of the Unjust Steward, Luke 16:6 , ‘Take thy bond and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Compare the clause in the Litany ‘from battle and murder, and from sudden death,’ i.e. a death into which we are hurried unawares. The passage has by a large preponderance of ancient and modern commentators been referred to the ‘imposition of hands’ in ordination; and so the first Ember-Prayer of the English Prayer-Book, ‘Guide and govern the minds of thy servants the bishops and pastors of thy flock, that they may lay hands suddenly on no man, but faithfully, &c.’ Bp Ellicott’s objection that the context only speaks of men ordained is partly met above ver. 17, and is not of so great force as the objections to his own rendering ‘No penitent is hastily to be absolved by imposition of hands and readmitted to Church fellowship.’ For (1) when the phrase is so brief, it is unnatural to interpret it except in accordance with its clear meaning in the other two places where it occurs in these Epistles, 1 Timothy 4:14 , and 2 Timothy 1:6 ; and (2) there is no certain proof of the other use of the imposition of hands, i.e. in absolution, so early, although Eusebius, Hist . ii. 2, calls it ‘an old custom.’

neither be partaker of other men’s sins ] Nor yet be a partner in . The verb as used in N. T. with a dative implies a fellowship in life and spirit. Compare the simple usage, Luke 5:10 , ‘the sons of Zebedee which were partners with Simon,’ and the derived, 1 Peter 4:13 , ‘ye are partners in Christ’s sufferings,’ and 2 John 1:11 , ‘he that giveth him greeting is partner in his evil works.’ This clause takes up again the dealing truly with the ‘error in religion’ and ‘viciousness in life’ of those already ordained; with this fresh thought perhaps; ‘the solemn laying on of hands connects you inevitably with the character of those whom you will ordain: but neither can you in your position be free from danger to yourself by laxness in regard to those who are already ordained; libera animam tuam ; “use the authority given you, not to hurt but to help” your own account before God as well as theirs, by “driving away erroneous doctrine” and evil-living.’

keep thyself pure ] This thought follows on: ‘there is danger too from your own temptations; see that you “deny all worldly lusts and live soberly” yourself .’ The order in the Greek is thyself keep thou pure . The word here used for ‘pure’ occurs in that locus classicus of ‘personal religion,’ 1 John 3:3 , where Bp Westcott well distinguishes the three separate Greek words for ‘pure,’ ‘holy’ and ‘clean.’

Hagnos ‘pure,’ hagios ‘holy,’ and katharos ‘clean:’ ‘ hagnos marks prominently a feeling, the result of an inward effort, and katharos a state, coming by the application of some outward means; hagios that which is holy absolutely, either in itself (as God) or in idea (as man in virtue of his divine destination). It is in respect of our Lord’s human life that He can be spoken of as hagnos , and in respect of His true humanity it can be said of Him that “He is pure” and not only that “He was pure.” The result of the perfection of His earthly discipline (Hebrews 5:7 ff.) still abides in His glorified state.’

23 . Drink no longer water ] The form of the verb and its tense require the fuller rendering of R.V., Be no longer a drinker of water . The connexion seems to be; ‘you have, I know, among other means of training and disciplining yourself in “purity,” been a water-drinker; but have the courage of a sanctified common sense; this is not the only way, nor even for you the right way, to your end; if your stomach is out of order and your health much enfeebled, take a little wine as medicine, not as indulgence.’

thine often infirmities ] ‘Infirmities’ was a stronger word formerly than now: the Greek word is frequently rendered ‘sickness,’ cf. John 11:3 , John 11:4 , ‘He whom thou lovest is sick,’ ‘this sickness is not unto death,’ ‘Lazarus is dead.’ Two observations may be made on this verse with regard to the question, (1) of temperance, (2) of authorship.

(1) According to the principles of the Church of England Temperance Society the resolution of total abstinence is taken (as it was by Timothy) by those who see in it a discipline in Christian life, or a help in Christian love, and is expressly guarded by the reservation ‘except under medical advice;’ and the question whether wine and other alcoholic drinks are generally useful in illness is one quite open among C.E.T.S. total abstainers, as among doctors. On a point of medical science St Paul’s lay experience will not be claimed as a final settlement.

(2) The verse is so casually introduced that, as Dr Farrar remarks, ‘though we see at once how it may have occurred to St Paul’s thoughts since otherwise the former rule might have led to a self-denial still more rigid (Romans 14:2 ), and even injurious to health it is far too natural and spontaneous, too entirely disconnected from all that precedes and follows it, to have occurred to any imitator. An imitator, if capable of introducing the natural play of thought to which the precept “keep thyself pure” is due, would have been far more likely to add and especially in an Epistle which so scrupulously forbids indulgence in wine to all Church officials “and, in order to promote this purity, take as little wine as possible, or avoid it altogether.” ’

24 . It is most natural to regard verses 24 and 25 as a review under a fresh aspect of the two main duties urged upon Timothy in the paragraph; just as in the former paragraph, vv . 3 16, verse 16 is similarly related to its preceding context. The meaning thus will be; ‘I have bidden you in rebuking your presbyters “to be so merciful that you be not too remiss, so to minister discipline that you forget not mercy”; remember how quickly sometimes error stands “self-condemned,” how slow at other times its evil is in working out. Again, in rewarding your presbyters I have bidden you, as a wise and faithful servant, “give to God’s family their portion in due season,” by deserved promotion and preferment; remember how readily some clerical “good work” comes to the front, while yet the more quiet pastoral service cannot be left in the dark and cold.’

are open beforehand ] Better, as R.V., are evident ; the preposition in the compound adjective only signifies ‘at once’ ‘before one’s eyes;’ the word is used just as we use ‘evident’ in geometrical proof, in Hebrews 7:14 , ‘For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda.’

going before to judgment ] The verb is common in the Gospels in its simple sense, e.g. Mark 11:9 , ‘they that went before and they that followed;’ here, somewhat metaphorically, it describes the obtrusive forward character of ‘advanced’ teaching and ‘fast’ living; cf. 2 John 1:9 , ‘every one that goeth forward,’ ‘that advances in bold confidence beyond the limits set to the Christian Faith’ (Bp Westcott). The judgment is that of Timothy and of the Church. The clause seems to recur compressed into one word, Titus 3:11 , ‘such an one sinneth , being self-condemned ’ or ‘self-judged.’ Our metaphors ‘ patent error,’ ‘ rampant vice,’ are modern representatives of the two phrases.

some men they follow after ] More exactly, some men they only follow after ; the evil consequences and evil repute are slow in attaching themselves.

25 . Likewise also the good works of some] R.V. excellently, drawing out the double article with substantive and adjective which has the best authority of mss., in like manner also there are good works that are evident . See the interpretation on the previous verse, according to which the more obvious departments in ‘the ruling well,’ the ‘labouring devotedly in speech and teaching,’ are here meant.

they that are otherwise ] The such as are otherwise of R.V. renders the generalness of the phrase and makes it clear that ‘works’ not ‘men are meant; such part often the best part of the pastor’s work of ‘ruling well,’ and of ‘labouring devotedly in speech and teaching,’ as does not come before the world.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Timothy 5". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/1-timothy-5.html. 1896.
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