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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 2

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and CollegesCambridge Greek Testament Commentary

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Verses 1-99

Ch. 2. Apostolic Zeal and Purity

1 7 . Personal and Ministerial Zeal enforced by Parables from the life of the Soldier, the Athlete and the Farmer

The Apostle resumes the main thread of exhortation to Christian courage. After its enforcements by Timothy’s inherited grace (1:5) and the grace of his ‘laying on of hands’ (1:6), by the free gift of the Saviour’s own life with all its love and light (1:9, 10), by his own apostleship (1:11 13), the defection of false friends (1:15), the refreshing zeal of Onesiphorus (1:16 18), he plies his scholar with new illustrations yet of the old lesson. Courage to hold the torch up and hand the torch on (2:1, 2) is to be drawn from the soldier’s life (2:3, 4), the athlete’s (2:5), the farmer’s (2:6); and our Lord Himself, the Great Teacher by parables, will point their moral for him (2:7).

1 . Thou therefore, my son, be strong ] Rather render my child , as in 1 Timothy 1:2 where the difference is explained, and be strengthened , ‘be emboldened,’ because the verb is of the same class in Greek as our English verbs with the ending -en. It occurs again in the active 4:17 ‘the Lord stood by me and strengthened me.’ So the Vulg. here has the Low Latin ‘confortare,’ whence our own ‘comfort’ and ‘comforter.’

in the grace that is in Christ Jesus ] ‘Christ Jesus’ here and in ver. 3 according to the order of the words as they framed themselves on the aged Apostle’s lips in these last years. See note on 1 Timothy 1:1 . ‘In the grace,’ strengthened, that is, in those virtues and spiritual powers which in their fulness are in Christ. ‘The grace that is in Christ Jesus,’ as distinguished from ‘the Grace of Christ’ appears to be used only here. We have had ‘life that is in Christ Jesus’ 2 Timothy 1:1 ; then ‘faith and love that are in Christ Jesus,’ the first two movements and powers of that life, 1:13; and now the full ‘grace,’ all the developed activities of strong life. As a matter of language the prepositional phrase ‘that is in Christ Jesus’ may mark progress towards the adjectival phrase which we should use now, ‘the Christian life,’ ‘the Christian graces’; see note on 1 Timothy 1:2 . But we may rejoice that the changing phrase was (as it were) crystallised for us here at a stage that shews so plainly how inward sanctification is nothing but continued and increased vital personal union with Christ.

2 . the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses ] ‘Of’ in the sense of from as in 1:13; ‘ among ,’ i.e. ‘in the presence of according to the well-known use of the same preposition in Galatians 3:19 ‘(the law) ordained through angels,’ i.e. ‘in the presence of,’ ‘amid the pomp of.’ Cf. Winer iii. § 47 i., ‘intervenientibus multis testibus.’ We are most probably to understand the presbyters who assisted at Timothy’s ordination. See 1 Timothy 4:14 ; and note the similar form of the statement there ‘amid the pomp of prophesying’ with the similar use of the preposition.

the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able ] Lit., ‘who are of such a class that they will be able,’ as 1 Timothy 1:4 , &c. St Clement of Rome, St Paul’s contemporary, thus further defines the rule of this apostolic succession, ad Cor . c. 44. ‘The Apostles appointed the above-named priests and deacons, permanence being afterwards given by them to the office in order that oh the death of the first-appointed other reputed men should succeed to their ministry. Those then who were appointed either directly by the Apostles or in the second generation by other approved heads with the consent of the whole Church … we do not think can be rightly ejected from office.’ See Lightfoot’s emended text, p. 136.

3 6 . The three illustrations follow of the soldier, the athlete, the farmer, with the common point of persevering pains . They are all familiar to St Paul. That of the soldier has occurred already, 1 Timothy 1:18 , where see references.

3 . Thou therefore endure hardness ] The best mss. give one compound verb instead of pronoun conjunction and simple verb, take-part in-suffering-hardship . As our A.V. stands, the words may seem hard and severe, with little allowance for difficulty and weakness. But the phrase in the Greek is a volume of tenderness and yearning confidence, of a father’s claim to loyal imitation. ‘Take your share in the enduring of hardness. Take up my mantle. I say not go and brave hard fighting in the trench, hard words, hard deeds, for Christ your Master. I rather say being such an one as Paul the aged come with me, come after me, be one with us all who war the good warfare. My own son in the faith, I crave (strange though it seem), to nerve me for my last crowning effort, the sight of your young heroism. The standard that must fall from my failing hands you will grasp will you not?’

4 . No man that warreth ] More literally no one on service , as in Luke 3:18 ‘men on march’ came to St John Baptist. Carr, however, there quotes instances from the classics for the absence of the article, Eur. Ion 639, Med . 68, as shewing that possibly it may be used irregularly as a substantive, ‘no fighting man.’

entangleth himself with the affairs of this life ] The verb occurs only here and in 2 Peter 2:20 ; the noun only here: ‘affairs,’ in the sense in which we speak of a ‘man of affairs’ skilled in public business; the word has been debased and generalised since the writing of A.V. and of Shakespeare’s

‘There is a tide in the affairs of men

Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune.’

And now we use the word chiefly of ‘the affairs of every-day life’ and the like. The Vulg. has well ‘implicat se negotiis secularibus.’

who hath chosen him] Rather, who enrolled him ; the word is only here in N.T., a later Greek word.

5 . And if a man also strive for masteries ] The ‘also’ is placed by R.V. before ‘a man’ instead of after as A.V.; correctly, though awkwardly; as implying not that a man may perhaps beside soldiering also contend in the games, which is the proper inference from the position of ‘also’ in A.V., but that ‘there is first the case of a soldier, and there is also the case of an athlete.’ The verb, from which comes our ‘athlete,’ occurs here only in N.T., though the substantive in the derived sense of ‘conflict’ occurs in Hebrews 10:32 , ‘a great conflict of sufferings.’ Render, and if again a man contend in the games . We have had the illustration from the race-course and its ‘games’ in 1 Timothy 6:12 , and shall have it again lower down, ch. 4:7. As Ephesians 6:0 is the chief soldier’s illustration, so 1 Corinthians 9:25 sqq. is the chief athlete’s, in St Paul. The foot-race is used very strikingly also, Hebrews 12:1 . Cf. Appendix, K.

except he strive lawfully ] Except he have kept the rules of the contest . ‘The six statues of Jupiter at Olympia were made from the fines levied on athletes who had not contended lawfully.’ Pausan. v. 21. (Bp Wordsworth.) Among the rules of the Olympic games were the following; competitors had to prove to the judges that they were freemen, of pure Hellenic blood, not disfranchised, or convicted of sacrilege, and that they had gone through the ten months’ preparatory training; they, their fathers, brothers, and trainers had to take oath that they would be guilty of no misconduct in the contests; and they had then a month’s preliminary exercises in the gymnasium at Elis under the superintendence of the judges. The ‘games’ included longer and shorter foot-races for men and for boys, chariot-races, horse-races, wrestling, boxing; the pentathlon , a combination of leaping, flat-racing, discus-throwing, spear-throwing, and wrestling; and the pancration , a union of boxing and wrestling. ‘Without interruption for upwards of a thousand years the full moon after the summer solstice every fourth year witnessed the celebration of these games. b.c. 776 a.d. 394.’ Wordsworth, Greece , p. 315.

6 . The husbandman that laboureth ] This third illustration is well known from St Paul’s use, 1 Corinthians 3:6-9 , where the substantive corresponding to ‘farmer’ or ‘husbandman’ occurs. ‘Ye are God’s husbandry’; lit., ‘God’s farmed, tilled, land.’ The stress of meaning lies on the participle ‘that laboureth’ and we must give the old full sense to the English word; as the Vulgate putting the participle in the emphatic first place in the sentence ‘laborantem agricolam oportet primum de fructibus percipere.’ See the bearing of the same word, 1 Timothy 4:10 , and especially 5:17 where see note. It is true, as the Wise man says, ‘the profit of the earth is for all,’ Ecclesiastes 5:9 , and the laziest vagabond can claim from the Poor-law his ‘right to live.’ But the husbandman who has ‘toiled with honest sweat,’ putting sinews, brains, and conscience into his work, must be the first to partake of the fruits , as the R.V. rightly renders, more clearly shewing the point. If the Christian knight wishes for any prize worth having, the farmer’s, as well as the athlete’s and the soldier’s life, will say ‘no pains no gains’:

‘For more of wisdom, health, or wealth,

We’ll trust and labour on;

They come to neither life by stealth,

No cross no crown.’

7 . Consider what I say ] ‘Apply the parable’; for our Lord the Great Teacher of parables shall give thee understanding . The ms. authority requires the future indicative instead of aorist optative. The verb belonging to our substantive here ‘understanding’ is used by our Lord in Matthew 13:51 , after all His parables of the kingdom of heaven, ‘Have ye understood all these things?’ and the corresponding adjective in Matthew 15:16 ‘And Peter answered and said unto Him, Declare unto us the parable. And He said, Are ye also even yet without understanding?’

8 13 . A yet higher illustration from God’s own plan of salvation the Cross before the Crown

Just as in the first chapter St Paul appeals first to Timothy’s sympathies and experiences of an earthly kind to brace him up his own strong feelings moved even to tears, his mother’s and grandmother’s faith and piety, the touch of the vanished hand in the solemn rite of ordination ( vv . 4 7), and then paints for him ‘the power of God ,’ ‘the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus who abolished death,’ as the chief and strongest motive for keeping up heart and hope, since His must be the winning side, He must be able to keep that which is committed to Him ( vv . 8 12): so now, after the appeal to earthly analogies and common human experiences as to the necessity and the reward of pains and perseverance, he rises from the earthly to the heavenly, from the human to the Divine. ‘Remember, God’s plan even the old, old promise to “the seed of the woman” came out complete in the fulness of time. Jesus Christ of the seed of David bruised the, old serpent’s head when He rose “victor over the tomb.” True, I, or any one of us His humble servants, may for a time seem trodden under, but ’tis only for a time; the salvation, the eternal glory, is assured in His power; if we endure we shall also reign with Him. This is the motive of motives to play the man; this is indeed being strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus .’

8 . Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised ] The force of the participle and the true order of the phrases require the rendering Remember Jesus Christ risen from the dead, of the seed of David . In the other N.T. places where the accusative follows this verb ‘remember,’ it is of a thing not a person, Matthew 16:9 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:9 ; Revelation 18:5 . And this use is really followed here; it is ‘Jesus risen a historic fact’ which is set before Timothy. ‘ Risen ,’ not ‘raised,’ according to the ordinary usage of the passive, as e.g. Matthew 11:11 , Mark 16:14 , and suiting best the idea prominent here of Christ’s own power. The force of the clause ‘of the seed of David’ is seen in the paraphrase above.

according to my gospel ] The gospel entrusted to me to teach, as in 1 Timothy 1:11 ; ‘a solemn way of speaking, identifying these truths with the preaching which had been the source of Timotheus’s belief.’ Alford.

9 . wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer ] Hardship rather than ‘trouble,’ the same word as in v . 3; malefactor rather than ‘evil doer,’ the same word as of the thieves on the cross, Luke 23:32 , these being the only N.T. occurrences.

even unto bonds ] ‘Even’ need not have been italicised in A.V., much less omitted by R.V.; for the force of the preposition is more fully given with than without it. In the similar passage, Philippians 2:8 , the ‘obedient unto death’ of A.V. has actually been altered by R.V. into ‘obedient even unto death.’ Vulg. ‘usque ad.’

‘Over the blackened ruins of the city (the firing of which had been falsely set down to the Christians) amid the squalid misery of its inhabitants, perhaps with many a fierce scowl turned on “the malefactor” he passed to his gloomy dungeon. There as the gate clanged upon him, he sat down, chained night and day, without further hope, a doomed man. His case was far more miserable than it had been in his first imprisonment, two or three years earlier. He was no longer permitted to reside “in his own hired room.” He was in the custody, not as before of an honourable soldier like Burrus, but of the foul Tigellinus, whose hands were still dripping with Christian blood.’ Farrar, Messages of the Books , p. 388.

but the word of God is not bound ] Not his own preaching power, but the power of the Gospel at large. The Church is more than the individual, however eminent. The perfect passive tense here represents the state, ‘is not in a bound state,’ is not ‘cribbed, cabin’d and confined’; according to the proper force of the perfect, as in 1 Timothy 6:17 , nor have their hope set on,’ 2 Timothy 4:8 , ‘who have their love set on his appearing.’

10 . Therefore I endure all things] Therefore, because ‘pains bring gains’; therefore, because ( vv . 3 9) as with Christ, so with His Church;

‘If the cross we meekly bear,

Then the crown we shall wear.’

Bengel and others do not go far back enough, trying wrongly to find the reason in the last clause alone. Alford seeing this turns ‘therefore’ into ‘for this reason,’ and joins it to what follows ‘that they may obtain,’ alleging the Apostle’s usage of the phrase in favour of this. But the passages he quotes, 1 Timothy 1:16 , and Philemon 1:15 , have both got other particles connecting with the preceding. And here we have none except ‘therefore’ itself. And St Paul just as frequently uses ‘therefore’ for the past; cf. Ephesians 5:17 ‘wherefore be ye not foolish,’ 6:13 ‘wherefore take up the whole armour of God.’

The Greek word rendered ‘endure’ is our Lord’s word in His charge to the Seventy, Matthew 10:22 , and in His discourse of the last things, Matthew 24:13 ; Mark 13:13 ‘He that endureth to the end the same shall be saved.’ St Paul has used the verb before twice only, cf. Romans 12:12 ‘rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation,’ 1 Corinthians 13:7 ‘Charity … hopeth all things, endureth all things’; both which noble passages fully bear out the significance assigned to the word by Ellicott on 1 Thess. 1:13 ‘It does not mark merely the endurance , the “sustinentiam” Vulg., or even the “patientiam” (Clarom.), but the “perseverantiam” the brave patience with which the Christian contends against the various hindrances, persecutions and temptations that befall him in his conflict with the inward and outward world.’ It occurs again 3:10.

for the elects’ sakes ] For the sake of the Church; see note on Titus 1:1 , where the words used at first for ‘Christians’ are discussed. The general purport is as in Colossians 1:24 , where Lightfoot paraphrases’ I cannot choose but rejoice in my sufferings. Yes, I Paul the persecutor, I Paul the feeble and sinful, am permitted to supplement I do not shrink from the word to supplement the afflictions of Christ. My flesh is privileged to suffer for His body His spiritual body, the Church’; and explains that this supplementing of Christ’s sufferings is ‘not in their sacrificial efficacy but their ministerial utility.’ ‘The Church is built up by repeated acts of self-denial in successive individuals and successive generations.’ So we see the old fire of the first captivity is burning up still more ardently as the end draws near. ‘The salvation which is in Christ Jesus’ is for him at hand; the faith is kept. What still he can, that he will, do and bear, that their salvation also may be assured; and that Timothy his son will surely also both practise and preach.

sakes ] R.V. gives ‘sake,’ perhaps better as the interest of the whole Church ‘the one body’ was one and the same. Otherwise, the plural may still be used, as e.g. in ‘for all your sakes.’ ‘Sake’ is the same as the German ‘sache,’ ‘res,’ ‘thing,’ ‘account,’ ‘cause at law.’ Cf. the phrase ‘for old sake’s sake.’

that they may also obtain ] The ‘also’ is intended in the English of a.d. 1611 to qualify ‘they’ as well as the verb; in the more precise English of a.d. 1881 R.V. writes ‘they also.’ So the looser use of ‘also’ has been altered Matthew 26:71 , ‘this fellow was also with Jesus,’ into ‘this man also was with Jesus.’ The more exact use two verses later ‘thou also art one of them,’ shews that the A.V. translators exercised a literary freedom in the matter. The O.T. revisers have left Zechariah 8:21 ‘I will go also.’ The N.T. revisers who have altered Mark 2:28 , John 5:19 , 1 Corinthians 9:8 have not ventured to alter John 12:26 , John 14:3 .

with eternal glory ] The thought is the same as in 2 Corinthians 4:17 ; the affliction , light and for the moment , worketh glory , an eternal weight of glory.

11 . It is a faithful saying ] Literally, Faithful is the saying , as in 1 Timothy 1:15 , 1 Timothy 1:3 :1, 1 Timothy 1:4 :9; Titus 3:8 . See note on the first passage and Appendix, E. To close the argument, this rhythmical, perhaps liturgical, strain is quoted. It is introduced by ‘for,’ as is the quotation in Acts 17:28 . The R.V. by printing ‘For’ in the text and ‘for’ in the margin thus incline to regarding the conjunction as part of the quotation. If it be not part, it will still have quite a fitting sense, as often in classical Greek ‘indeed’ or ‘in fact’ gives a better translation than ‘for’; cf. Donaldson’s Greek Grammar , p. 605.

For if we be dead with him] Read, For if we died with him . It is most natural to refer this to the dying with Christ in Baptism, Colossians 2:20 , Colossians 3:3 , where the aorists are equally to be observed. This would be the thought in the original framing of such a Christian hymn as this may have been. But St Paul’s baptism was no old ceremony and out of date; he was ‘always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus’ 2 Corinthians 4:10 ; just as the English Prayer Book Service bids Christians after their baptism ‘die from sin, continually mortifying all evil and corrupt affections.’ Hence he can well use the phrase so as to cover his ‘hardship even unto bonds,’ and his ‘daily dying’ to ‘fill up the sufferings of Christ.’

we shall … live with him] in the ‘eternal glory.’

12 . if we suffer ] Rather endure with brave and manly submission; ver. 10. The submission is followed by sovereignty, as death by life. Cf. Matthew 19:28 ‘ye which have followed me … shall sit on twelve thrones.’

if we deny him] The ms. authority requires the future if we shall deny him , cf. Matthew 10:32 , Matthew 10:33 . The future there and here indicates ‘ethical possibility,’ i.e. what can and may take place, viewed speculatively. Is it not possible that this very phrase of the ‘Oral Gospel’ embodied in Matthew 10:33 may have already found a place in this earliest of hymns?

13 . if we believe not ] R.V. if we are faithless giving both the play of words in the contrast ‘he abideth faithful’ and the stronger force required for the climax; as ‘sovereignty’ is better than ‘life,’ so a ‘faithless rejection’ is worse than ‘the denials of our weaker moments,’ a Judas than a Peter. The word ‘seems always in the N.T. to imply not ‘untrueness,’ ‘unfaithfulness,’ but definitely ‘unbelief.’ Ellicott Cf. Mark 16:11 , Mark 16:16 .

he abideth faithful ] To His covenant and promise, cf. Romans 3:3 . We should insert with mss. the conjunction, to connect the final clause with this; for he cannot deny himself . The balance of probability is strongly in favour of this clause being part of the quotation, if only from the rhetorical weakness of adding such a tail piece, however true and weighty. The aorist infinitive represents the idea of the verb in itself simply and absolutely, free from any limit or condition of time; ‘for deny Himself He cannot.’ So in Mark 15:31 ‘save Himself He cannot.’

We may render the passage thus, to shew its balanced force and rhythm:

‘If with Him we died,

Life with Him we shall have won;

If we suffer at His side,

We shall share His throne;

With Him Yes, here and ever.

If we Him deny,

We shall be by Him denied;

If we leave Him faithlessly,

Faithful doth He bide;

Deny Himself No, never.’

14 26 . The Especial Sphere of both Personal and Ministerial Zeal is (1) Pure Doctrine, (2) a Pure Life

The proper connexion is to be sought in the earlier part of the previous passage, particularly ver. 2. For the whole of the paragraph now opening has reference to Timothy’s dealing with the teachers he is to appoint and train, and to his own bearing as an example for them. The ‘striving about words’ is clearly opposed to ‘ teaching the truth,’ as in the similar use of the word 1 Timothy 6:3 , 1 Timothy 6:4 , where it is he ‘that teacheth a different doctrine’ who is ‘doting about disputes of words.’ ‘These things’ then will take up the same word ‘these’ of ver. 2, and the object after the verb will be the ‘faithful teachers’ ‘able to teach others.’ And the train of thought in chaps. 1 and 2 is this: ‘Be brave and true yourself like me; be faithful to the truth as I have been; suffer for the truth’s sake as I have done; choose teachers too with the same pure doctrine, the same pure life; twin seals these are of God’s firm foundation; false doctrine leads to vicious life; the pastor’s holy living goes far to draw men off from Satan.’

14 . Of these things put them in remembrance ] See note on Titus 3:1 for this verb, and on 1:5 for its noun.

charging them before the Lord ] Or in the sight of . The ms. authority for ‘God’ instead of ‘the Lord’ is insufficient to justify the change.

The verb to ‘charge’ is properly ‘to bear solemn witness,’ the preposition giving intensity; hence the two meanings to ‘preach’ and to ‘charge.’ St Paul uses it in the latter sense three times with ‘in the sight of’ in these Epistles, 1 Timothy 5:21 , 2 Timothy 4:1 and here; and in 1 Thessalonians 4:6 in the former. It occurs eight times in the Acts, and in Luke 16:28 , where the construction is the same as here, and where we may equally well render ‘that he may charge them not to come also themselves into this place of torment.’

that they strive not about words ] The infinitive; the ms. authority is now known to be against the imperative which was the reading of the Vulgate ‘Noli contendere verbis.’ The original is one word, occurring only here; its noun only in 1 Timothy 6:4 , from which our own ‘logomachy’ has come.

to no profit ] Lit. ‘a course useful for nothing,’ a neuter accusative in apposition to the sentence, somewhat as in 1 Timothy 2:6 ‘the testimony to be borne.’

but to the subverting of the hearers ] Omit ‘but’; this clause expresses the result of the word wrangling, viz. subversion, lit. catastrophe; a turning upside down of all right reason and sound morality. The word only occurs besides in 2 Peter 2:6 ‘condemned them (Sodom and Gomorrah) with an overthrow .’

15 . ‘Let your own example back your precepts to your teachers.’ The stress therefore is to be laid on ‘thyself.’

Study to shew thyself ] Take pains to present thyself ; both verbs are aorists, because that tense gives the verbal idea always, and the force intended here is ‘Have for your ideal in work and aim “thorough.” ’

approved unto God ] Or ‘one who has stood God’s testing’; so the substantive in Philippians 2:22 ‘ye know the proof,’ i.e. the approved character ‘of Timothy.’ In one respect, that is, the Philippians had themselves tested Timothy, viz. how he had served with St Paul in furtherance of the Gospel. The opposite word, ‘unable to stand the test’ occurs Titus 1:16 where see note; and ch. 3:8.

a workman ] Implying zeal and activity, as, in a bad cause, Philippians 3:2 .

that needeth not to be ashamed ] Only here in N.T.; in Joseph. Antt . xviii. 7. 1 in the same sense ‘nor think that one should-not-be-ashamed to be inferior.’ In classical Greek ‘shameless’ ‘impudent’ is the force of the cognate word. Both senses come from the proper meaning of the verbal ending ‘that which cannot be made ashamed.’ Vulg. ‘operarium inconfusibilem.’

rightly dividing ] This is the literal meaning, whether we refer the dividing to the sacrificial division of victims or to the distributing of bread or to the cutting of a road; or better, with R.V. apparently, take Theodoret’s interpretation ‘we praise those husbandmen who cut their furrows straight,’ and so get for our second rendering ‘holding a straight course in the word of truth’ (R.V. margin) and for our third (R.V. text) handling aright the word of truth . The word does not occur again in N.T. or classical Greek; but in LXX. Proverbs 3:6 , Proverbs 3:11 :5, ‘he shall direct thy paths,’ ‘the righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way.’ Vulg. ‘recte tractantem.’

the word of truth ] The facts, the doctrines, the creeds, through which God’s true work and will for man are revealed.

16 . shun ] The word is the same as in Titus 3:9 where reasons are given for rendering it avoid . The present tense here and in ver. 14 are all the more forcible for the aorists which come in between. ‘Be ever putting in remembrance’ ‘ever avoiding.’ The article before ‘profane babblings’ points to a well-known theme, ‘these false teachers and their talk.’ ‘Let your teachers and yourself handle truth aright; but the false teachers and their profane babblings avoid.’ Hence there is no real ambiguity about the subject to the next clause; though R.V. leaves us in doubt. ‘For these false teachers will only proceed further in ungodliness.’ The pronoun in the next verse refers back to them.

profane and vain babblings ] Profane babblings ; ‘babblings’ is sufficient rendering of the word without the addition of ‘vain’: the word only occurs here and 1 Timothy 6:20 ; see note there.

they will increase unto more ungodliness ] Lit. they will proceed further on . The verb corresponds to the word for ‘progress’ in 1 Timothy 4:15 where its usage is noted. As Bp Ellicott points out, the future shews that the error of the false teachers had not yet ‘appeared in its most developed state.’

17 . their word ] As opposed to ‘the word of truth’ above, the fictions and heresies in which the Gnostic scheme expressed itself.

will eat ] Lit. ‘will have pasture.’ The word occurs John 10:9 ‘will find pasture.’ Cf. Latimer Serm . p. 525 quoted in the Bible Word Book ‘In another place St Paul compareth their doctrine unto a sickness which is called a canker; which sickness, when she once beginneth at a place of the body, except it be withstood will run over the whole body, and so at length kill.’

as doth a canker ] Or more exactly a gangrene or ‘eating sore,’ the root notion of ‘gangrene’ as of the common word ‘grass’ being ‘to devour’ ‘to eat.’ Galen defines it as a tumour in the state between inflammation and mortification.

of whom is Hymeneus and Philetus ] Or ‘among whom’; the partitive genitive. Hymenæus is probably the same as in 1 Timothy 1:20 ; see note. Philetus is not mentioned elsewhere.

18 . who concerning the truth have erred ] More exactly, men who concerning the truth erred by maintaining . For the compound relative indicating the class see on Titus 1:11 ; for the verb 1 Timothy 1:6 , 1 Timothy 6:21 . The present participle, with the aorist verb, may indicate the repetitions of their ‘saying’ and so their ‘maintaining,’ and leads the way to the following verb being present.

that the resurrection ] The ms. authority for the omission of the article is hardly strong enough to be followed, though R.V. notes the variant in the margin by the rendering ‘a resurrection.’ Curiously, in Acts 17:32 , where there is no article, R.V. still renders ‘when they heard of the resurrection,’ there evidently intending the rule to apply that ‘the article is omitted before many abstract nouns.’ Why not here also? So that the retention or omission of the article will make no difference in translation. Winer has no notice of either passage in his full chapter on this, Pt iii. § xix.

is past already ] Some identified the resurrection with the soul’s spiritual renewal by the doctrine of the Gospel causing it ‘to burst forth from the sepulchre of the old man’; others with the departure of the soul from the body, the world in their view being only the habitation of the dead. See Fairbairn. Irenæus and Tertullian both allude to the former error, which may well have been the view here referred to.

and overthrow ] Better are subverting ; for the word see note on Titus 1:11 .

19 . Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure ] R.V. alters into the less strong ‘howbeit’; the same conjunction, which St Paul does not use elsewhere, occurs five times in St John’s Gospel, and is rendered by R.V. ‘nevertheless,’ in 12:42 (but with another conjunction added), ‘yet’ in 4:27, 20:5, ‘howbeit’ in 7:13, 21:4. The adjective ‘sure’ or ‘firm’ from its position must be attribute not predicate, the firm foundation . What is this ‘firm foundation’? St Paul’s thought is still of Timothy as chief teacher, of his true teachers, and of the false teachers; not (except by the way) of private believers or the whole Church. The passage then is parallel to 1 Timothy 3:14 , 1 Timothy 3:15 , 1 Timothy 3:16 , where we have seen the Church is called the ‘pillar and ground of the truth’ with reference to the way in which office bearers ‘ought to behave themselves,’ ‘holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience,’ and avoiding ‘the snare of the devil.’ The foundation is therefore the Church built on apostolic doctrine, ‘strong in the strength which God supplies through His eternal Son’; cf. ‘on this rock the apostolic confession of a true faith I will build my church,’ Matthew 16:18 . And we may paraphrase, ‘Nevertheless the holy Apostolic church continueth stedfast, having these two marks of a faithful ministry, the Apostles’ teaching and the Apostles’ fellowship, a pure doctrine and a holy life.’

this seal ] The Lord’s acknowledgment of His true ministers; ‘God knoweth His own, not Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, but Moses, the servant of the Lord,’ Numbers 16:5 ; and His warning to unholy teachers; ‘Ye shall knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us; and he shall say to you, I know not whence ye are; depart from me all ye workers of iniquity,’ Luke 13:27 . The former quotation is exact from LXX., with the alteration of ‘the Lord’ for ‘God’; the latter freely turns St Luke’s record into a maxim, adopting precisely the same Greek words for ‘depart’ and for ‘iniquity’. This is the more natural, as we recall the solitary pair of friends the inspired historian and the inspired correspondent, interchanging ‘comfortable words’ in that prison cell at Rome. ‘Only Luke is with me,’ ch. 4:11. Cf. ver. 26 note on ‘taken captive.’

Alford justifies the adding of a ‘seal’ in this metaphor of the ‘foundation’ by regarding it as ‘probably in allusion to the practice of engraving inscriptions over doors (Deuteronomy 6:9 , Deuteronomy 11:20 ) and on pillars and foundation stones (Revelation 21:14 ).’

the name of Christ ] The ms. authority is almost unanimous for the Lord instead of Christ; and this fits in remarkably with the above passage in St Luke.

20 . The connexion is; ‘False teachers may do great damage; but the real truth, the strong main structure, is uninjured and stable, while at the same time there may be some bad work in it as well. And to turn from the structure to the furniture, we must distinguish similarly between the good and the bad portions, the valuable and the worthless.

But in a great house ] Though is better than either ‘but’ A.V. or ‘now’ R.V. Wordsworth explains well of the ‘imperfections and blemishes which exist in the Visible Church on earth,’ and quotes Augustine ‘in congregatione Christiana,’ Serm . 15; where ‘congregatio’ is in the large sense in which St Jerome for example uses it ‘Ecclesia enim congregatio vocatur’ ( in Proverb . c. 30), and in which ‘congregation’ is used in our English version of the XXXIX. Articles ‘Ecclesia Christi visibilis est coetus fidelium.’ Our Lord’s parable of the Drag-net is the best parallel to this description of the ‘mixed and imperfect condition of the Church on earth,’ Matthew 13:47 .

21 . If a man therefore purge himself from these ] That is, as Bengel puts it, ‘if any one shall by purifying himself have gone out of their number.’ The compound verb ‘purge out’ only occurs besides in 1 Corinthians 5:7 where the preposition gives the force ‘purge out from your houses the old leaven.’ Wordsworth forcibly notes here; ‘a man may at one time of his life be numbered among vessels to dishonour, and yet may become a vessel to honour, by cleansing himself out from their number and condition. Mark this assertion of Free Will.’ And again, ‘a Christian man may not go out of the great house which is the Visible Church of God: he cannot separate himself wholly from sinners, but he must cleanse himself from them as sinners ; that is, he must not communicate with them in their sins .’

sanctified ] Or perhaps better ‘purified.’ ‘Sanctified’ belongs to metaphor, the implied Christian life and service; but in form the sentence remains a simile to the end. Hence R.V. rightly renders the master’s use , i.e. the master of the house, not with some printed copies of A.V. ‘the Master’s,’ which would imply an immediate reference to God. ‘Meet for use’ is the same word as in 4:11 ‘serviceable,’ and in Philemon 1:11 , where Onesimus formerly ‘unprofitable’ is ‘now profitable.’

prepared ] This word and ‘sanctified’ are both perfect passive participles, and are more expressive than our English can shew of the resulting final state reached. See note on verse 26.

22 . Flee also youthful lusts ] Here, as in ver. 16, and again below ver. 23, the article has a certain emphasis, bringing forward again and again the different parts of the old theme ‘the false teachers, their errors of doctrine, their viciousness of life.’ ‘Be a different man yourself, flee the lusts of the younger men.’ On Timothy’s age see note 1 Timothy 4:12 .

but follow ] Rather and , not because the conjunction does not express an opposite to the preceding clause; but because the verbs are placed so as to have the main emphasis together, and ‘ but ’ here would draw us away from this. We may render: ‘Beware their bad life those lusts of life’s prime flee from them, and follow after righteousness.’

follow ] Add after , in order to give the proper force of active pursuit . The whole passage is a reminiscence of 1 Timothy 6:11 , where see note on the virtues named. ‘Peace’ seems added here to the three selected because the immediate context is different. Here the strife arising from the false teachers’ words and ways is already in St Paul’s mind, and suggests the turn given to what follows. The comma after ‘peace’ of R.V. has been inserted rightly; its omission (as in A.V. of a.d. 1611, though many printed copies have inserted it,) unites ‘peace’ entirely with what follows, and denotes, as Ellicott puts it, ‘not merely “peace” in the ordinary sense but “concordiam illam spiritualem” (Calvin) which unites together all who call upon (1 Corinthians 1:2 ) and love their Lord’; but it makes an unbalanced and ugly sentence; and loses the very significance of the clause as following on ver. 21. It is the whole, life of the man of God, in his pursuit of each virtue, which is to be lived apart from sinners and in the communion of saints. See also notes on 1 Timothy 1:5 ; Titus 1:15 .

23 . But foolish and unlearned questions ] But those foolish and ignorant questionings steadily refuse ; as above ‘beware their bad doctrine; their foolish questioning decline.’

unlearned ] The word occurs nowhere else in N.T., its meaning ‘indoctus’ and then ‘ineptus’ is seen in Proverbs 8:5 , ‘Ye fools , be ye of an understanding heart.’ Hence its appropriate union here with ‘foolish.’ ‘Ignorant’ has a shade of moral fault very frequently, which makes it a better rendering than ‘unlearned.’ Cf. Psalms 49:10 , ‘the ignorant and foolish’ (Pr.-B. V.).

questions ] ‘Questionings,’ see note on 1 Timothy 1:4 .

avoid ] ‘Decline,’ see note on 1 Timothy 4:7 where the form of the sentence is very similar to ver. 22.

knowing ] Seems to require some such addition as ‘as thou dost’ to render the original; ‘knowing that’ being a weak and colloquial phrase by itself.

24 . And the servant of the Lord ] The conjunction here is exactly parallel in its force to ‘and follow after’ in ver. 22. ‘The servant,’ not ‘a servant,’ the emphatic position of ‘servant’ at the beginning is best rendered by the definite article. ‘Servant,’ that is, ‘bondservant’ or ‘slave,’ the title by which St Paul frequently describes himself as ‘a minister of Christ.’ Cf. Titus 1:1 .

gentle ] The word only occurs in N.T. here and 1 Thessalonians 2:7 , denoting ‘an outward mildness and gentleness, especially in bearing with others,’ Ellicott; who connects it with one of the Greek roots for ‘speak,’ so that it would have originally meant ‘kind of speech.’

apt to teach ] See 1 Timothy 3:2 .

patient ] A compound adjective more exactly ‘patient of wrong,’ and so better forbearing . The first part of the word is the same as ‘tolerable’ in Luke 10:14 .

25 . in meekness instructing ] Meekness, gentleness of heart, the feeling as separate from the demeanour: still more clearly brought out by the use of the compound word 1 Timothy 6:11 . The corresponding adjective is used by ‘the Lord’ Himself of Himself, ‘I am meek and lowly in heart,’ Matthew 11:29 . See note on Titus 3:2 . A very interesting passage where it occurs is Galatians 5:22 , where Bp Lightfoot divides the nine fruits of the Spirit into three sets of three, and shews how each of the first two triads is arranged in an ascending scale, (1) love, joy, peace, (2) patient endurance, kindly feeling, active beneficence. May not the third triad be similarly arranged thus, (3) a childlike trust, a woman’s meekness, a man’s self-mastery?

instructing ] The word is explained 1 Timothy 1:20 and Titus 2:12 ; in all but two of the thirteen places where it occurs in N.T. the sense of ‘correction,’ ‘discipline’ is clear; and in those two, Acts 7:22 , Acts 22:3 , the instruction is that of school or college, and ‘schooled’ will best express it. So here ‘correcting,’ bringing under discipline .

those that oppose themselves ] Lit. ‘that are becoming contentiously disposed’; the usage of the middle is disponere aliquid , not disponere se ; hence ‘oppose themselves’ must not be taken as at any rate a literal version; the word corresponding to the perfect of this verb is the well known ‘adversaries’ 1 Corinthians 16:9 , used also 1 Timothy 5:14 .

if God peradventure ] Lit. ‘if God might perchance at some time,’ Lat. ‘si forte aliquando.’

will give ] The optative not subjunctive mood has the best authority. The exact force then is ‘You must discipline them, in case God may give them repentance, as we wish and pray.’

repentance ] The word occurs only four times in St Paul’s Epistles, though frequent in St Luke’s Gospel and Acts. Cf. Trench, N. T. Syn . p. 247, who defines it as ‘a change of mind, taking a wiser view of the past, a regret for the ill done in that past, and out of all this a change for the better.’

to the acknowledging of the truth ] Better, unto the full knowledge ; ‘unto’ expresses the state into which repentance is designed to bring them, as Acts 11:18 , ‘hath God granted repentance unto life’; ‘full knowledge’ as in 1 Timothy 2:4 , where see note.

26 . and that they may recover themselves ] Omit ‘that,’ the verb depending on ‘if perchance.’ The verb ‘recover themselves’ is literally ‘return to soberness.’ Constructed with the preposition ‘out of’ it has the pregnant force very frequent in Greek ‘become sober and escape out of.’ Cf. Winer, Gr . § 66, 2, p. 547. The simple verb occurs ch. 4:5 ‘be sober’; another compound in 1 Corinthians 15:34 ‘awake out of’ drunkenness ‘righteously.’ This compound is only here in N.T.

the snare of the devil ] Has occurred 1 Timothy 3:7 , where, as here, it is the snare laid by the devil, a state of proud self-will morally and intellectually, the very opposite to a state of obedience to God’s will.

who are taken captive by him at his will ] The A.V. rendering is a mere enlargement of the idea of ‘snare,’ requires the aorist part. and refers the two different pronouns to the devil. But (1) St Paul’s use of the perfect passive participle, held captive , is very strongly in favour of a reference to the final state of ‘recovery,’ not to the previous state of ‘entanglement.’ The final clause in ver. 21, where this participle ends the sentence, expresses the final state of ‘the vessel unto honour.’ The final clause in 3:5 where the false teachers are described, has the same participle to shew their permanent rejection of vital godliness. The final clause in 3:17, where the man of God is described, is ended in the same weighty form, ‘for every good work in a state of perfect preparedness.’ Hence the force of the perfect participle (as distinguished from the aorist) required here is ‘that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, continuing in the state of willing captivity into which they have been brought,’ ‘held willing captives.’

(2) St Paul’s use of the first pronoun here, rendered ‘by him,’ is strongly in favour of a reference to the ‘servant of the Lord.’ A certain person or thing is in his mind as his chief subject; and he refers to him or it after an interval, short or long, merely with this pronoun. Cf. 1 Timothy 4:16 , ‘continue in them’ the words of the faith and of the good doctrine; Titus 3:1 , ‘Put them in mind’ the aged men and women, the younger men and servants of ch. 2; 2 Timothy 2:17 , ‘their word will eat’ ‘those who strive about words,’ ver. 14.

(3) St Paul’s use of the preposition ‘unto’ for ‘into a state of,’ ‘into conformity with’ is strongly in favour of the last clause being intended to express the resulting state and condition; cf. ‘unto honour,’ ‘unto every good work,’ ver. 21; ‘unto full knowledge,’ ver. 25.

Render, therefore, held willing captives henceforth by their deliverer (the servant of the Lord) to do the will of God . So substantially the R.V. The participle is from a verb to ‘capture alive.’ Cf. Luke 5:10 the only other N.T. passage where the word occurs, and see Farrar’s note, ‘The word seems to imply the contrast between the fish that lay there glittering in dead heaps, and men who should be captured not for death (James 1:14 ) but for life.’ Both places refer to the evangelising work of the ministry.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Timothy 2". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/2-timothy-2.html. 1896.
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