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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament

2 Timothy

- 2 Timothy

by William Baxter Godbey


This letter is by all the critics located in the Mamertine prison at Rome. It is immediately contiguous to the old judgment-hall, where Nero sat upon the world’s tribunal, and tried the apostle for his life, condemning him to decapitation, the more honorable punishment of a Roman citizen in contradistinction to the ignominious crucifixion inflicted on aliens. The judgment-hall is immediately west of the old Forum, where Cicero spoke and Caesar bled; the Mamertine prison on the north, and the Coliseum on the south. In a former letter Paul speaks of his plan to spend the winter at Nicopolis. This the critics believed to have been interrupted by his arrest “as an evil-doer,” and his transportation to Rome and incarceration in the Mamertine prison, out of which he was led, perhaps, before the ink with which this epistle was written was dry, arraigned before Nero, and led away to the bloody block about one mile out from the western gate of Rome. When I was there in 1895, I visited all these places, following him from the Mamertine prison to the judgment-hall, and thence about two miles through the streets of the city to the west gate, which is still standing, the wall, gate, and stone pyramid on each side being preserved to this day, as mementos in the tragical history of the beloved apostle. From the west gate it is about one mile to the spot where he was beheaded. St. Peter’s Cathedral, built exclusively of the finest marble transported from Africa, and costing fifty-five millions of dollars, now occupies the spot where the ruthless Roman soldier drew the sword and severed from the body the noblest human head that ever moved heaven, earth, and hell. In the altar containing the tomb candles burn incessantly, radiating constantly every tint and hue of the rainbow, resultant from the decomposition of the light by the many valuable diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, and other precious stones encompassing the tomb of that eminent saint. I am satisfied Dean Alford, with other eminent critics, is correct as to the second Roman imprisonment of Paul. On his first arraignment at Nero’s bar, doubtless some time in A.D. 63, he was acquitted, from the simple fact that there was not a solitary allegation against him, recognized as criminal in Roman law. This verdict had been given by Lysias, Felix, and Agrippa in Palestine, and afterward corroborated by the emperor, who, consequently, released him. Pursuant to his promise to the Asiatic saints in Ephesians and Colossians, and to the Europeans in Philippians, after his release he returned to Asia, visiting and establishing the Churches. In 65, crossing the Aegean Sea, he again visits the Churches in Macedonia; meanwhile he dictates to Luke, his faithful amanuensis, the first epistle to Timothy and the epistle to Titus. You see the chronology dates this letter in A.D. 66; doubtless in the beginning of the winter he had expected to spend at Nicopolis in Southern Macedonia, where, having been arrested pursuant to the imperial edict, condemning all the Christians in the world to die for burning Rome, he is again carried in chains a prisoner to the world’s metropolis, no longer charged with trivial allegations of Jewish superstition, but the high crime of burning Rome, the Eternal City, sacred to all the gods. As Paul was not at Rome at the time of the conflagration, of course they could not accuse him of having personal connection with it (Nero himself causing the conflagration that he might lay it on the Christians and have an excuse to kill them all); but, as a prominent leader of the Christians, of course he was implicated, and one of the first to start that river of martyrs’ blood which flowed on three hundred years, finally arrested by the conversion of Constantine.


These epistles to Timothy, Paul’s favorite preacher, are of infinite value to all preachers, especially pastors, defining duty and responsibility in their diversified bearings. They are also of infinite utility to all deacons of Churches (among Methodists called stewards), specifying their qualifications and defining their responsibilities; and, through these offices, the constitution of every local Church relative both to the spiritual and temporal economy.