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Bible Commentaries

International Critical Commentary NT

1 Timothy 3

Verses 1-99

3:1-13. The officials of the Church: (a) the overseer, the bishop (1-7); (b) ministers, deacons (8-10); (c) deaconesses, (11); (d) the deacons as possible candidates for higher office (12, 13).


The transition is abrupt in form (cf. 5:1, 6:17), but the writer’s mind passes naturally from the members of the community to those who act as officials and either as leaders or assistants regulate their worship and their life. In each case little is said of their duties, a knowledge of which is assumed; but, as in c. 2, the whole stress is on character, on the moral and intellectual qualifications for office. καλός (1, 4, 7, 12, 13) strikes the note of the whole section.

Paraphrase. A third point on which I wish to lay stress is the character of those who hold any official position: and, first, for the leader of the worship, the bishop. You know the common saying:


“He who would play a leader’s part

On noble task has set his heart.”

It is right, then, to wish for such a post; but such a noble task requires a character above reproach. So the bishop must not fall behind a high Christian morality in respect of marriage or sobriety, or self-control and dignity; and he must have special qualifications: he must be ready to welcome guests from other Churches, and able to teach in the assemblies: in dealing with members of the Church he must not be overbearing or hasty, but large-hearted, ready to make allowances, peace-loving: he must have no love of riches, as he has to control the finances: his power of ruling must be tested by his power of ruling his own household. Has that been a “noble task” with him? has he kept his own children obedient to discipline with true dignity? if not, how will he be able to take charge of a Church of God’s? Moreover, he must not be a recent convert; for, if so, his head may quickly be turned and the devil be able to bring accusations against him. Lastly, he must be well thought of by those outside the Christian body: otherwise he will easily cause scandal, and the devil will snare him to his ruin.

Then for assistants, deacons: they must have a character that inspires respect: their word must be trustworthy: they must not say one thing to one person, another to another: they must not be given to excess in wine: they must be above making money in unworthy ways: they must hold the truths of the gospel with a conscience free from stain. Yes, and like the leaders, they must be tested first, and only be admitted as deacons if no charge can be sustained against them.

Much the same has to be said about deaconesses: their character must inspire respect: they must not be gossips and scandal-mongers: they must be sober: entirely trustworthy.

There is another point about assistants (deacons), they may come to be leaders (bishops): so in choosing them, see that they have the same qualifications about marriage and the discipline over their own families which are required for bishops. For those who have treated the diaconate as a noble task win for themselves another noble position and preach with full assurance in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. Cf. Titus 1:5-9; St. Chrysostom, De Sacerdotio, ed. Nairn, pp. xxvi-xxviii.

1. πιστὸς ὁ λόγος] cf. 2:15 note. If these words apply to the following paragraph, the variant�B. St., p. 230), shows that ἐπίσκοπος was used as a pre-Christian religious title.

ὀρέγεται] “Aspires to,” in no bad sense; but Clem. Rom. i. c. 44 shows how early a wrong ambition set in and was foreseen by the Apostles.

καλοῦ] “præclarum” (Calvin): which ought to attract the world to Christ; and therefore difficult, χαλεπὰ τὰ καλά.

ἔργον] “negotium, non otium,” Bengel, Cf. 2 Timothy 4:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:13 διὰ τὸ ἔργον αὐτῶν, and for failure in such a task, Acts 15:38 μὴ συνελθόιτα αὐτοῖς εἰς τὸ ἔργον.

2-8. Qualifications for the ἐπίσκοπος. For the relation of the ἐπίσκοπος to the presbyters, v. Introd., p. xix. The singular here may imply that there was only one in the community, or it may be limited by the context—the ἐπίσκοπος who is leading the worship. No definition is given of his duties, but the following are implied: (a) Presiding (προΐστασθαι, ἐπιμελεῖσθαι) i.e. (i) exercising discipline, cf. the analogy of the family (5); (ii) (arising from the context) presiding at worship. (b) Teaching, διδακτικόν (2). (c) Control of the finances,�d) Representing the community to Christians elsewhere (φιλόξενον (2)) and to the world outside (7).

These qualifications form guidance for “the scrutiny of candidates” who desire the office (Ramsay): they are partly the ordinary moral qualities which would be respected in a layman, and failure in which would imply censure; partly those which would be required for his special position. “To St. Paul the representative character of those who had oversight in the Ecclesia, their conspicuous embodiment of what the Ecclesia itself was meant to show itself, was more important than any acts or teachings by which their oversight could be exercised” (Hort). Hence it scarcely gives the ideal of a bishop, but the necessary requirements (so Chrys. συμμετρηένην εἶπεν�Titus 1:5-9 shows how the list of moral qualifications was getting stereotyped: Bernard compares the requirements for the Stoic wise man, who was to be a married man (2), ἄτυφος (6), temperate in wine (2), and to combine σωφροσύνη with κοσμιότης Diog. Laert. vii. 116-26. Wetstein and Dibelius (q.v.) quote the close analogy of the requirements for the choice of a general, who was to be σώφρονα, ἐγκρατῆ, νήπτην . . .�De Imperatorum Officio, c. 1 (fl. c. 55 b.c.). Either of such lists may have been known to our writer, but they are all probably independent.

2.� (5:7, 6:14; cf. M.M. s.v.) perhaps slightly stronger than�Titus 1:6. That would imply more definite charges (κατηγορία, ib.): this, any criticism or censure. It is explained by the following words: Not liable to criticism as he would be if he failed in any of these qualities.


μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα . . . κόσμιον, general moral qualifications, in relation to his own life: φιλόξενον, διδακτικόν, qualifications for his special office.

μὴ πάροινον . . . ἄμαξον, qualifications in relation to other members of the community.

ἀφιλάργυρον, qualification in relation to the finance of the community.

τοῦ ἰδίου οἴκου, in relation to his own family.

μὴ νεοφύτον, in relation to his standing in the community.

δεῖ δέ, in relation to the world outside.

μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα] In interpreting this difficult phrase, two facts guide us. (a) The standard is not the highest (v. supra); it must be something, failure in which would incur reproach; (b) but the standard is that of a Christian community; contrast 7. It presupposes a knowledge of the teaching of Our Lord and of St. Paul.


(i) The phrase might imply that the bishop must be a married man (so Wordsworth, The Ministry of Grace, pp. 215-20; Lindsay, The Church and the Ministry, p. 145), and the writer might well prefer a man with the experience of the head of a family (cf. 4) for the overseership of a church, and might wish to guard against any depreciation of marriage (cf. 4:3); but to be unmarried would incur no reproach: such a requirement would be scarcely consistent with the teaching of Our Lord (Matthew 19:12) and of St. Paul (1 Corinthians 7:7, 1 Corinthians 7:8): so the writer is only thinking of the true character of a bishop, if married; as in 4 he deals only with his relation to his children, if he has children.


(ii) It certainly implies—not a polygamist. Such a rule would still be necessary, as polygamy might still be found among Jews; cf. Justin Martyr, Tryph. c. 134, οἵτινες καὶ μέχρι νῦν καὶ τέσσαρας καὶ πέντε ἔχειν ὑμᾶς γυναῖκας ἕκαστον συγχωροῦσι: Joseph. Ant. xvii. 1, 2, πάτριον γὰρ πλείοσιν ἡμῖν συνοικεῖν: cf. Schürer, i. 1, p. 455 note. Schechter, Documents of jewish Sectaries, i. 17.


(iii) It also certainly implies “a faithful husband,” married to one woman and loyal to her, having no mistress or concubine; cf. Tertull. Apol. 46, “Christianus uxori soli suæ masculus nascitur.” Canones Apost. xvii. ὁ δυσὶ γάμοις συμπλακεὶς μετὰ τὸ βάπτισμα ἢ παλλακὴν κτησάμενος οὑ δυνάται εἶναι ἐπίσκοπος: cf. ib. lxi. A similar provision is found in heathen marriage contracts; cf. Tebt. Pap. 104, μὴ ἐξέστω Φιλίσκῳ γυναῖκα ἄλλην ἐπαγάγεσθαι�


(iv) It also implies, and was probably meant to imply, not divorcing one wife and marrying another. This would be a Christian rule, based both on Our Lord’s teaching and on St. Paul’s (cf. Hermas, M. iv. 1, which forms a good commentary on this phrase), and very necessary in view of the laxity of divorce both among Jews (Schechter, u.s.; Abrahams, Studies in Pharisaism, § 9) and among heathen; cf. Friedländer (Eng. tr.), pp. 242-43; Fowler, Social Life in Rome, c. 5. Dill, Roman Society from Nero to M. Aurelius, pp. 76-79, though he points out that the heathen standard was rising: “The ideal of purity, both in men and women, in some circles was actually rising … there were not only the most spotless and high-minded women, there were also men with a rare conception of temperance and mutual love. … Plutarch’s ideal of marriage, at once severe and tender, would have satisfied St. Paul. … Seneca and Musonius, who lived through the reign of Nero, are equally peremptory in demanding a like continence from men and from women.”


(v) Did it also imply, “not marrying a second time after his wife’s death”? This is possible, but scarcely likely. No doubt the phrase led to this interpretation and was used to support it, and that by the end of the and century; cf. Tertull. ad Uxor. i. 7; Clem. Alex. Strom. iii. 12; Origen, Hom. xvii. in Luc., and the later Church orders; cf. Apost. Ch. Order, i. καλὸν μὲν εἶναι�Apost. Canons, xvii. (quoted above); Apost. Const. ii. 2, μιᾶς γυναικός ἄνδρα γεγενημένον: ib. vi. 17. Test. Dom. N. J. Christi, c. 20 (where see Cooper-Maclean’s note). There were also tendencies in the heathen world moving in the same direction. There was the feeling for the children of the first wife who might be harmed by the stepmother; cf. Eur. Alc. 301 sqq.; Propert. iv. 11. 81, and the law of Charondas forbidding such a second marriage, quoted in Diod. Sic. xii. 12 (Wetstein): there was also the natural devotion to a loved wife; cf. the Inscr. at Pisa (Orelli, ii. p. 517, No. 4623), “conjugi karissimæ … cum quâ vixit annos xviii. sine querella, cujus desiderio juratus se post eam uxorem non habiturum”; cf. Bigg, The Church’s Task, p. 102: “In the epitaphs two not uncommon words are virginius and virginia: they denote a husband who never had but the one wife, a wife who never had but the one husband.” Such a feeling would be increased by the Christian thought of the eternal relation of husband and wife (cf. Chrys. on Titus 1:6); yet such a standard is always regarded as exceptional, and is too high for this context; and the later writers are influenced by a growing love for celibacy �Leg. 33), which is also alien to the Epistle, 5:14; cf. Suicer, s.v. διγαμία. Dict. Christ. Ant., s.v. Marriage, p. 1097 and p. 1103; and for a strong defence of the stricter view, The Library of the Fathers, Tertullian, vol. i. pp. 420-32.

νηφάλιον] (11, Titus 2:2 only in N.T.), temperate in use of wine; cf. 8, 11, 5:23; perhaps also “sober-minded” or “vigilant” (ἄγρυπνον, Chrys., cf. Hebrews 13:17, and Homer, Il. ii. 24, 25). Cf. 2 Timothy 4:5 σὺ δὲ νῆφε ἐν πᾶσιν: 1 P 1:13 (ubi v. Hort) 5:8, 1 Corinthians 15:34 ἐκνήψατε.

σώφρονα, κόσμιον] (2:9 only in N.T.). “Quod σώφρων est intus, id κόσμιος est extra,” Bengel. καὶ φθέγματι καὶ σχήματι καὶ βλέμματι καὶ βαδίσματι, Thdt.; Inscr. from Magnesia. ζήσαντα σωφρόνως καὶ κοσμίως (Dibelius, and M.M. s.v.). It implies wellordered demeanour, but also the orderly fulfilment of all duties and the ordering of the inner life from which these spring. Cf. Trench, Syn., p. 332. It is the quiet, orderly citizen, the antithesis of ἄτακτος.

φιλόξενον] The duty of individual Christians (5:10) and of the whole Church (Romans 12:13, Romans 12:1 P 4:9, 3 John 1:5), with a special blessing attached to it (Hebrews 13:2 διὰ ταύτης γὰρ ἔλαθόν τινες ξενίσαντες�Romans 1:10-12, a comment on that passage); finding its fullest expression in the ἐπίσκοπος, cf. Herm. S. ix. 27, where ἐπίσκοποι φιλόξενοι, οἵτινες ἡδέως εἰς τοὺς οἴκους ἑαυτῶν πάντοτε ὑπεδέξαντο τοὺς δούλους τοῦ θεοῦ are compared to trees sheltering sheep, and singled out for special praise (Dibelius). For its importance, cf. Harnack, Exp. of Christ. 1. ii, 3.; Ramsay, Pauline Studies, pp. 382-86.

μὴ πάροινον, μὴ πλήκτην] the negative of the positive νηφάλιον, σώφρονα, in relation to others. Cf. Titus 1:8 note.

ἐπιεικῆ, ἄμαχον] the mark of all Christians, Titus 3:2, where see note.

ἀφιλάργυρον] Titus 1:8 note.

4. Cf. Titus 1:6; μετὰ πάσης σεμνότητος: cf. 2:2 of all Christians: here the reference is specially to the father (cf. 8, 11), though it might include the effect on the whole household (πάσης).

5. For the analogy from the family to the Church, cf. Ephesians 2:19 οἰκεῖοι τοῦ θεοῦ, 5:23-6:9, where the family is treated as the nursery in which the virtues characteristic of the Church are trained. The analogy from the family to the State is common in classical writers; cf. Sen. de Clem. i. 9., “quo hoc animo facis? ut ipse sis princeps? … domum tuam tueri non potes,” Tac. Agr. 19, and other instances in Wetstein and Dibelius.

ἐκκλ. θεοῦ] St. Paul only in N.T.: here and 15 only without the article, “a church of God’s.”

6. For later formulation of this rule, cf. Apostol. Canon lxxx. (adding as reason, ἄδικον γὰρ τὸν μηδὲ πρόπειραν ἐπιδειξάμενον ἑτέρων εἶναι διδάσκαλον), Concil. Nic. Canon ii. with Bright’s note.

νεόφυτον] “a recent convert” (for the form, cf. σύμφυτος, Romans 6:5; and for the metaphor, 1 Corinthians 3:6). The word is used literally in the LXX and Inscr. (Deissmann, Bible St. s.v.); as a simile, Psalms 143:12 υἱοὶ ὡς νεόφυτα: here, first as a metaphor; so in Tertullian, Præscr. 41, adv. Marc. i. 20.

τυφωθείς] 6:4, 2 Timothy 3:4 only in N.T., from τῦφος, smoke, with his head dazed and turned “in superbiam elatus,” Vulg.; entêté. It combines the ideas of conceit and folly; he may behave arrogantly to others and teach foolishly. Wetstein aptly quotes the warning of Tiberius, “ne quis mobiles adolescentium animos præmaturis honoribus ad superbiam extolleret,” Tac. Ann. iv. 17. For the harm wrought by τῦφος, cf. an interesting passage in Philo, de Decal. Son_1 and 2, τῦφος … δημιουργός ἐστιν�τύφῳ καὶ τὰ θεῖα ἐξωλιγώρηται.

τοῦ διαβόλου] The parallelism of 7 and 2 Timothy 2:26 makes it certain that this is “the devil,” not (as Weiss) “some human accuser.” But the analogy of 5:14, Titus 2:8 suggest that the devil is thought of as working through some human agent; cf. Ecclus. 51:2 ἐλυτρώσω τὸ σῶμά μου ἐξ�Proverbs 6:24, and perhaps Ephesians 4:27.

κρῖμα τοῦ διαβ.] not (as Chrys. Pelag. Thdt. Calvin, Bengel) “the judgment passed on the devil,” which is not parallel to 7, and would naturally be τὸ κρῖμα, but “some judgment which the devil, the slanderer, the setter at variance, the accuser of the brethren (Rev 12:10, cf. Jude 1:9, Jude 1:2 P 2:11 κρίσιν), passes upon him. Such a novice is arrogant or foolish in teaching. The devil reproaches (7). This is your humble Christian! this your learned teacher! The devil lays snares (7) to draw him on and to discredit the whole community. The man makes shipwreck of his faith by some moral (1:19) or intellectual (6:21) failure; he is handed over to Satan (1:20); and he passes judgment, perhaps some bodily infliction, upon him; cf. Job_1 and 2 and Test. XII. Patr., Reuben 6, εἰς ὄλεθρον Βελίαρ καὶ ὄνειδος αἰώνιον.

7. τῶν ἔξωθεν] For St. Paul’s care for the opinion outside the Church, cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:12, 1 Corinthians 10:32, Colossians 4:5.

εἰς ὀνενιδισμὸν καὶ πάγιδα] cf. 6 note.

8-10. Deacons] For the earlier use of the word, cf. Hort, The Christian Ecclesia, pp. 198-211; a recognized title for an office already existing. No definition of duties is given. The name implies service—assistant ministration—perhaps in the Church services, certainly in administering charity and attending to the needs of the poorer members; and it is implied that they would naturally pass to higher office in the Church. The qualifications are partly central Christian virtues (σεμνούς), partly those needed for their office as they moved from house to house (μὴ διλ. μὴ οἴνῳ π. προς.), handling Church money (μὴ αἰσχροκερδεῖς), speaking of their faith to others (ἔχοντας κ.τ.λ.)


For similar qualifications, cf. Polyc. ad Phil. 5, perhaps based on this passage.

8. διλογους] “tale-bearers,” Lightfoot on Polyc. (u.s.), but probably “double-tongued,” “ad alios alia loquentes” (Bengel); cf. δισσολόγος (Const. Apost. iii. 5), δίλωσσος (Proverbs 11:13, Ecclus 5:10 εἷς ἔστω σου ὁ λόγος), διπόσωποις (Test. XII. Patr., Asher, c. 2); “the parson of our parish, Mr. Two-Tongues” (Pilgrim’s Progress), δίψυχος (James 1:8). The word here only in N.T., and not elsewhere in this sense. For the thought, cf. Test. XII. Patr., Benj. c. 6, ἡ�

9. τὸ μυστήριον τῆς π.] perhaps “the secret truths of the Christian faith”; cf. 16, lay,ng stress on doctrinal correctness, but more probably, as there is no duty of teaching implied, holding their own faith, the secret of their allegiance to Christ, secure under the protection of a good conscience, “a true inward religion and a true inward morality” (Hort., u.s.). The stress is on ἐν καθ. συνειδήσει, the casket in which the jewel is to be kept; cf. 1:9 note.

10. δοκιμαζέσθωσαν.] Probably not by any definite examination or by a time of probation (Ramsay), but only in the same way as the ἐπίσκοπος (καὶ οὗτοι δέ), by the opinion of the Church judging his fitness by the standard just laid down.

11. γυναῖκας. From the context and from the parallelism between the qualities required for them and for the deacons σεμνάς = σεμνούς: μὴ διαβόλους = μὴ διλόγους: νηφαλίους = μὴ οἴνῳ π. προσέχοτντας: πιστὰς ἐν πᾶσι = μὴ αἰσχροκερδεῖς . . . συνειδήσει), these must be “deaconesses” (not “wives of deacons”), women who help; cf. Romans 16:1; Pliny, Ep. x. 96 (written a.d. 112), “ancillis quæ ministræ dicebantur.” Their duties in later times are defined as instructing and attending at the baptism of female catechumens, of looking after them at the services and taking messages from the bishops to them; cf. Dict. Christ. Antiq. s.v.; Nic. Canon xix., with Bright’s note. Apost. Const. ii. 26, iii. 15, εἰς τὰς τῶν γυναικῶν ὑπηρεσίας . . . καὶ γὰρ εἰς πολλὰς χρείας γυναικὸς χρῄζομεν διακόνου.

12. διάκονοι] The writer returns to deacons from a new point of view, as men who may become ἐπίκοποι: so in addition to what they needed as deacons they must have the two external relations—to wife and children—which were required in the ἐπίσκοπος.

13. βαθμόν (here only in N.T.), lit. “a step” (so in LXX, 1 S 5:5, Ecclus 6:36, 2 K 20:9); then “a standing,” “position”. This may be thought of as—


(a) Moral: a vantage ground for influence, analogous to πολλὴν παρρησίαν: cf. Clem. Rom. 1:54, ἑαυτῷ μέγα κλέος ἐν Χριστῷ περιποιήσεται: Herm. M. iv. 4, περισσοτέραν ἑαυτῷ τιμὴν καὶ μεγάλην δόξαν περιποιεῖται πρὸς τὸν Κύριον: Poimandres, p. 343, ὁ βαθμὸς οὗτος, ὦ τέκνον, δικαιοσύνης ἐστιν ἕδρασμα: Inscr. at Mitylene, I.G. ii. 243, τοῖς τὰς�MM. s.v.). Parry quotes Clem. Alex. Str. ii. 9. 45, βαθμὸν τοῦτον πρῶτον τῆς ἐπέκεινα γνωσέως ὑποτιθέμενος.


(b) Ecclesiastical: a higher grade, an honourable rank; cf. Ap. K. O. 22, οἱ γὰρ καλῶς διακονήσαντες τόπον ἑαυτοῖς περιποιοῦνται τὸν ποιμένικον. Apost. Const. viii. 22, ἄξιον μείζονος βαθμοῦ διὰ Χριστοῦ. This is common in later eccles. writers; cf. the prayer for the deacons, ἄσπιλον αὐτῶν τῆν διακονίαν φύλαξον καὶ βαθμοὺς�E. and W. L., p. 55, and is probable here from the use of the aorist διακονήσαντες, and from the analogy of βαθμὸν καλόν to καλοῦ ἔργου 1, and of ἑαυτοῖς περιποιοῦνται to ἐπιθυμεῖ. But such eccles. promotion will include all that was implied in (a). It is used of promotion in the army; cf. Harrison, p. 165, who quotes from Hadriani Sententiæ, ἐὰν καλὸς στρατιώτης γενῇ, τρίτῳ βαθμῷ δυνήσῃ εἰς πραιτώριον μεταβῆναι.

πολλὴν παρῥησίαν] Certainly man-ward, cf. Philemon 1:8; perhaps also God-ward, cf. Ephesians 3:12.


With the whole verse contrast Herm. S. ix. 25, where dishonest deacons are compared to reptiles and wild beasts that destroy men, οἱ μὲν τοὺς σπίλους ἔχοντες διάκονοί εἰσι κακῶς διακονήσαντες καὶ διαρπάσαντες χηρῶν καὶ ὀρφανῶν τὴν ζωὴν καὶ ἑαυτοῖς περιποιησάμενοι ἐκ τῆς διακονίας ἧς ἔλαβον διακονῆσαι, perhaps a conscious parody of this verse.

14-16. The Secret of True Christian Character

Paraphrase. I hope to come to you soon and strengthen your hands by my presence; but in case I should be delayed, I write at once that you may know what is the true Christian life, the true relation of one with another in God’s own family, for it is a Church belonging to God Himself, the living source of all life; and its task is to hold up the truth for the whole world to see and to give it a firm support in the lives of its members. And confessedly the secret of a true religious life is very important; for it centres in a personal relation to a Living Person: to one of whom we sing in our hymns that He was—


“In flesh unveiled to mortals’ sight,

Kept righteous by the Spirit’s might,

While angels watched him from the sky:

His heralds sped from shore to shore,

And men believed, the wide world o’er,

When he in glory passed on high.”

This section primarily gives the reason for the regulations in the preceding chapters, especially Son_2 and 3; but it also leads on to the warning against false teaching and the advice about Timothy’s teaching which follows. It thus becomes the very heart of the Epistle; it should be compared with similar doctrinal conclusions in 1:5, 2:3-5, 6:13-16, Titus 2:12-14, Titus 3:5-7. But this goes deeper than all in its picture of the Incarnate and Glorified Christ as the centre of the true life of the whole world, cf. 2 Timothy 2:8. It is the poetic expression of Galatians 2:20 ζῇ ἐν ἐμοὶ Χριστός.

14. ταῦτα] i.e. mainly Son_2 and 3 (with their constant stress on true character, on the knowledge of truth (2:4, 7, 3:9, 13), and on God’s family); but it may include the whole letter.

ἐλπίζων ἐλθεῖν] Not “although I hope,” but “hoping.” I write and hope to come and strengthen your hands by my personal authority (σοιπρός σε); cf 1 Corinthians 4:17-19, Philippians 2:19-24.

ἐν τάχει] The variant τάχιον will mean much the same, as its comparative sense was dying out; cf. John 13:27, Hebrews 13:23; cf. βέλτιον, II 1:18; σπουδαιότερον, v.l., II 1:17.

15. πῶς δεῖ] Picking up 3:2, 7.

ἐν οἴκῳ θεοῦ] Picking up 3:4, 5, 12, and therefore not “God’s house,” but “God’s family”; cf. Titus 1:11, 2 Timothy 1:16, and Ephesians 2:19 οἰκεῖοι τοῦ θεοῦ: Galatians 6:10 τῆς πιστέως. The reference to 3:5 makes it almost certain that the allusion is not to the universal family, to the Church as a whole, but to the special community at Ephesus.

ἀναστρέφεσθαι (“conversari,” Vulg.) includes the life and character of each individual (cf. Ephesians 2:3, Hebrews 13:18, and�Galatians 1:13, James 3:13, and instances from papyri in M.M. s.v.); but also the intercourse of each member with other members, of men with women (c. 2), of parents with children, of ministers with those to whom they minister (c. 3); cf. Hort on 1 P 1:7. “He wishes Timothy to have before him an outline of the relation which must exist between the various parts of a congregation or household of God” (Ramsay).


The subject of�you ought to behave,” as the οἰκόνομος in the household, but the general character of cc. 2-3 makes it almost certain that it should be wider, “how men ought to behave,” “that you may know the right relation of class to class.” 4:12 shows that it will include Timothy himself as well as those to whom he is to be a model.

ἐκκλησία] Possibly (as in Eph.) the Universal Church throughout the world; but 35 decides that the primary allusion is to the Church at Ephesus as a separate congregation, though thought of as part of the larger whole; cf. Bengel, “Ecclesiam innuit universalem, non universe, sed quatenus pars ejus turn erat Ephesi, commissa Timotheo,” and Hort, The Christian Ecclesia, pp. 172-75. This increases the dignity attached to each Christian Church and therefore a fortiori to the whole Ecclesia which incorporates them.

Θεοῦ ζῶντος] Perhaps with semi-conscious contrast to heathen gods, cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9, 2 Corinthians 6:16; but emphasizing the thought that a God of life can give life and make such intercourse possible, cf. 4:10, 6:13, and perhaps the thought that He is alive to punish those who fail to live the true life, cf. Hebrews 10:31: so “a contrast with the true God made practically a dead Deity by a lifeless and rigid form of religion” (Hort, u.s.).

στύλος] The origin of the metaphor is not quite clear: if στύλος is used of the Universal Church, it would be drawn from some one pillar standing alone and holding up to view a statue (such as was afterwards “Pompey’s pillar” at Alexandria). If, however, it is applied to a local church or an individual (v. next note), the thought will be of one of a row of pillars which support and give strength to the whole fabric, like one of the many pillars in the temple of Artemis at Ephesus: there will be no sharp distinction between it and ἑδραίωμα. This is the more probable, the combination of the two words being common. According to Lightfoot (Horœ Hebr., The Temple, c. 22), it was applied to the great Sanhedrin by the Jews; by R. Levi, to the reference to the Exodus in the Paschal precepts, “quia fundamentum id magnum sit et columna valida legis ac religionis Judaicæ” (Bengel).

ἑδραίωμα (“firmamentum,” Vulg.), that which makes steady, stay, buttress, rather than base; cf. Colossians 1:23 τεθεμελιωμένοι καὶ ἑδραῖοι: 1 Corinthians 15:58 ἑδραῖοι γίνεσθε.

στῦλος καὶ ἑδραίωμα] Four views have been held of the construction—(i) In apposition with ἐκκλησία.


(ii) In apposition with the nominative of εἰδῇς.

(iii) In loose ungrammatical apposition with θεοῦ (Holtzmann)

(iv) To be joined with καὶ ὁμολ. μέγα as nominative to ἐστι.

Of these (iii) and (iv) may be put aside. (iii) is unnecessarily artificial, and gives an inadequate description of the living God. (iv) though defended by Bengel, leads to an anticlimax, στ. καὶ ἑδρ. καὶ μέγα, and is tautological, “the secret of godliness” is not the support of the truth, but the truth itself. In favour of (ii) it is to be said that στῦλος is used generally of individuals in the N.T. (Galatians 2:9, Revelation 3:12): that the combination of the same or similar words is also so used (cf. Eus. H.E. v. 1 of Attalus, στῦος καὶ ἑδρ. τῶν ἐνταῦθα; Justin M. Tryph. 5, Πλατῶνα καὶ Πυθαγόραν, οἳ ὥσπερ τεῖχος ἡμῖν καὶ ἔρεισμα φιλοσοφίας ἐγένοντο: Greg. Naz. Ep. 29, of Eusebius, στ. καὶ ἕδρ. τῆς ἐκκλησίας, πατρίδος ἔρεισμα), and it suits the context— “I want you to know, … because you are in position to uphold and support the truth,” cf. 1:18, 6:20. Yet the stress of the preceding chapters has been more on what the Church than on what Timothy is to be, and this is decisive for (i). Each local Church has it in its power to support and strengthen the truth by its witness to the faith and by the lives of its members. A very full note on the usage of the words will be found in Suicer, Thesaurus, s.v. στῦλος.

16. Cf. Ephesians 5:32 τὸ μυστήριον τοῦτο μέγα ἐστίν.

ὁμολογουμένως] “By common agreement” (“manifeste,” Vulg.) i.e. of Christians, perhaps also including the impression made on the pagan world around; or perhaps “by common profession” (“omnium confessione,” Ambros.), hinting that the following words come from some Church hymn, and so equivalent to ὁμολογοῦμεν ὡς found in D* S (pal).

τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον] The revealed secret of true religion, the mystery of Christianity, the Person of Christ: cf. Colossians 1:27 τὸ πλοῦτος τῆς δόξης τοῦ μυστηρίου τούτου ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ὅ ἐστι χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν, ἡ ἐλπὶς τῆς δόξης. The phrase is perhaps a deliberate contrast to τὸ μυστήριον τῆς�2 Thessalonians 2:7, and cf. inf. 4:1, 2; also with implied contrast both to Judaism, cf. 1:8-11 and Ep. Diogn. c. 5, τὸ τῆς ἰδίας αὐτῶν θεοσεβείας μυστήριον (of the Christians as opposed to the Jews); and to the secrets of the heathen mysteries, cf. ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, Colossians 1:27, Colossians 1:2:18, Colossians 1:19.

τῆς εὐσεβείας may perhaps include the thought of doctrine as well as of life, “Christianity,” as it in later ecclesiastical Greek became the equivalent to orthodoxy: but the context here and the use of it as applied to the life of all Christians (2:2) and of Timothy himself (4:7, 8), shows that the main stress is here on moral life; cf. 2 Timothy 3:12 εὐσεβῶς ζῆν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ.

ὅςἐν δόξῃ] Source.—These words may be (i) the writer’s own, or (ii) a quotation. The latter is more likely because of its introduction with ὁμολογουμένως (contrast Ephesians 5:32), of the rhythmical form, of the use of words not found elsewhere in this writer (ἐφανερώθη, ἐπιστεύθη,�), of the fact that it goes beyond the statements required by the context, and of the writer’s fondness for quotation. If this is so, it will be from some well-known Christian hymn (cf. Ephesians 5:19), possibly from the same hymn as that quoted in Ephesians 5:14, in which case ὁ Χριστός will supply the antecedent to ὅς. It implies a wide preaching of Christianity, but such as might fall within St. Paul’s lifetime; cf. Colossians 1:6 ἐν πάντι τῷ κόσμῳ. There are reminiscences of it in Ep. Diogn. 11,�Ep. Barn. §§ 6, 9, 11; § 14, ἐν σαραὶ ἔμελλεν φανεροῦσθαι καὶ ἐν ἡμῖν κατοικεῖν. Resch (Paulinismus, p. 397) thinks that it may have influenced the author of Mark 16:9-19.

Structure. The arrangement is uncertain: it may be six parallel lines in groups of two, but this gives no clear correspondence of thought in the group: more probably it represents two stanzas of three lines, which balance each other, contrasting the Incarnate Lord with the Ascended Lord.


(i) The Life of the Incarnate


(a) as seen on earth, ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκὶ ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι.


(b) as watched from heaven, ὤφθη�


(ii) The Life of the Ascended Lord


(a) as preached on earth, ἐκηρύχθη ἐν ἔθνεσιν ἐπιστεύθη ἐν κόσμῳ.


(b) as lived in heaven,�


The main thought, then, is that one who has really lived a perfect human life on earth has a message for the whole world, and lives to give his righteouness to all; cf. 1:11 τῆς δόξης: 2:4-7 ὑπὲρ πάντων . . . ἐθνῶν.

ὅς.] What is the antecedent? (a) ὁ Χριστός, either implied in εὐσεβ. μυστήριον (cf. Colossians 1:27, Colossians 2:2), or expressed in some previous verse of the hymn; cf. Ephesians 5:14. It can scarcely be θεός, to which ἐδικαίωθη would not be suitable, but might be θεοῦ υἱός; cf. Ep. Barn. c. 5, which seems reminiscent of the passage, ἐφανέρωσεν ἑαυτὸν εἶναι υἱὸν θεοῦ. (b) οὕτος to be supplied before line 4. He who so lived on earth has now been preached throughout the world (von Soden); but this lays almost too much stress on the last stanza, and is less suited to poetic style.

ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί] Of the human life, as an unveiling of a previous existence, and perhaps including the manifestation after the Resurrection; but the stress on σάρξ is on its weakness, in the weak flesh that we share; cf. Romans 8:3, Galatians 2:20. Neither word is used of Christ in the Pastorals: the first is Johannine, the second, both Johannine and Pauline.

ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνέματι] Either “was made righteous in the spiritual sphere,” was kept sinless through the action of the Spirit upon His Spirit. ἄνθρωπος ὤφθη�: Chrys. “justificatum et immaculatum factum virtute sancti spiritus”; Theod.-Mops.; cf. Herm. S. v. 7, τὴν σάρκα . . . φύλασσε καθαρὰν ἵνα τὸ πνεῦμα το κατοικοῦν ἐν αὐτῇ μαρτυρήσῃ αὐτῇ καὶ δικαιωθῆ σου ἡ σάρξ: or “was justified” in His claims to be the Christ in virtue of the Spirit which dwelt in Him, enabling Him to cast out devils (cf. Matthew 12:28), to conquer all evil, and to rise from the grave; cf. Romans 1:3, Romans 1:4 ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυῒδ κατὰ σάρκα, τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης ἐξ�Matthew 11:19, Luke 7:35, John 16:10.

ὤφθη�] Not (as Hofmann, Wohlenberg, etc.) “was seen by messengers,” i.e. by those who told the message of His Resurrection, though this would lead on naturally to ἐκηρύχθη, and would sum up the repeated ὤφθη of 1 Corinthians 15:5-8: the reference to the Resurrection, though included in ἐδικαιώθη, is scarcely explicit enough for this: but “was seen by angels,” who watched the earthly life, cf. Luke 2:13, Mark 1:3, John 1:51, Luke 24:23, and still watch His working from Heaven, Ephesians 3:10, Ephesians 3:1 P 1:12. Dibelius quotes the Ascension of Isaiah, c. 11, “all the angels of the firmament and Satan saw Him and adored Him.”

ἐκηρύχθη ἐν ἔθενσιν] Cf. 2:7 κήρυξ . . . διδάσκαλος ἐθνῶν.

ἐπιστεύθη ἐν κόσμῳ] The response to ἐκηρύχθη, universally, and perhaps with emphasis on the character of the κόσμος, in a world full of sinners (cf. 1:15) which needed reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19).

ἀνελήφθη (Acts 1:2, Acts 1:11, Acts 1:22, Ps -Sol 4:20 with Ryle and James’ note: Apoc. Baruch, ed. Charles, p. 73) ἐν δόξῃ in an atmosphere of glory in which He remains, and communicates His glory to men; cf. 1:11 note.


For a somewhat similar reminiscence of a hymn about Christ’s Life, cf. 1 P 3:18-22.

M.M. The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, by J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan, 1914-

Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament, by Archbishop Trench, 8th edition, 1876.

Const. Apost. Constitutiones Apostolorum, ed. P. A. de Lagarde, 1862.

I.G. Inscriptiones Græcæ Berlin, 1873-

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Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 3". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/1-timothy-3.html. 1896-1924.