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Thursday, July 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

- 2 Timothy

by Johann Peter Lange




The second letter to Timothy was written by Paul from Rome, after he was imprisoned the second time, and saw his martyrdom at hand. It plainly shows that the condition of the Apostle is wholly changed since the sending of the first letter; and this, together with his clear view of his approaching end, gives to this writing a wholly unique character; so that it has been not without reason called the testament of the dying Paul to his spiritual son, and to the whole community. The hope with which the Apostle had sent his first letter, viz., that he should soon return to Ephesus (1 Timothy 3:14), was not to be fulfilled; he was now in bonds (see 2 Timothy 1:8; 2 Timothy 1:16). That it is impossible here to think of his first imprisonment, appears directly from this, that Hark is not present (2 Timothy 4:11), who was with him, however, during the first imprisonment (Colossians 4:10), as well as Timothy himself (Philippians 1:1). At present, then, the Apostle no longer has the expectation, as before, of being released. On the contrary, though for the moment he is freed from the rage of the lions (2 Timothy 4:17), Yet he is strongly convinced that the time of his departure is at hand (2 Timothy 4:6). The year of Paul’s death, as is acknowledged, is variously given by the biblical chronologies of all times. The opinion of Wiessler (Chronol. des apostolischen Zeitalters), that he died in the year 64, agrees with his denial of the second imprisonment, and, hence, he places the death of the Apostle somewhat too early. Eichhorn, with greater truth, considers his death to have been between 65 and 68. After a mature reckoning of all the reasons, the last-named year is, however, in our view, hardly probable; and we may accordingly name the year 67 as the ultimus terminus ad quem. At the beginning of this, or toward the close of the previous year, this letter to Timothy must, then, have been sent from Rome. A closer reckoning is superfluous for our purpose, since the difference of a few months has no decisive influence either on the explanation of the language or the view of the facts. The view of Baronius already expressed, and accepted in passing by Bengel, that June 29 of the year 67 was the true day of the Apostle’s death, has no other origin than a tradition, worthy of little confidence.

At this time Timothy was at his post at Ephesus, where the First Epistle likewise had reached him, whilst the condition of the community still caused the Apostle just anxiety. His letter, which fully bean the character of a private communication, is designed to encourage Timothy, to acquaint him with the condition of the Apostle, and urge him, as soon as possible, to come and bring Mark with him (2Ti 4:9; 2 Timothy 4:11; 2 Timothy 4:21). The tone of the whole letter is, if possible, still more natural and affectionate than the first to Timothy; and, while in that the holy indignation of the Apostle against the errorists of the church is more apparent, there speaks in this rather the tender grief of a departing father. The mention of a great number of individual persons and names, which appear here, is an internal evidence of genuineness; and, among the pastoral counsels, there occur many expressions of surpassing worth for the doctrine as well as for the apologetics of Christianity (2 Timothy 2:8-13; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Timothy 4:7-8, and others).


After the usual introduction, together with the apostolic greeting, Paul thankfully calls God to witness, how unceasingly he thinks of Timothy, and heartily desires to see him, who had received so early the unstained faith of his grandmother and mother (2 Timothy 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:6). The admonition, added to this, touches first on the holy gifts (2 Timothy 1:6-18) which he had received though the laying on of hands. Timothy must stir up these gifts in himself (2 Timothy 1:6-7), and rightly employ them (2 Timothy 1:8) through patient suffering (2 Timothy 1:9-12), and through true adherence to the doctrine, which he had heard from Paul (2 Timothy 1:13-14). After a short sketch of the personal experiences of the Apostle (2 Timothy 1:15-18), there follows a second admonition (2 Timothy 2:1-13) to suffer boldly what is appointed him for the cause of the Lord. He must be a true soldier of Jesus Christ, a zealous workman in His great field, remembering the resurrection of Christ, and in view of the example of Paul, confiding in the truth of the Lord. But soon the tone of the admonition begins to grow more polemic, directed against the errorists, whose word and example might mislead Timothy to walk in an opposite path. The third great division of the Epistle (2 Timothy 2:14-26) contains advice, which concerns closely the conduct of Timothy toward these false leaders. He must avoid all strife of words (ver. 14), rightly divide the word of God (2 Timothy 2:15), and, as far as possible, shun idle babblings (2 Timothy 2:16-21); he must flee also youthful lusts, and not only seek to overcome his opponents, but also shame them, and strive to improve them through mild and friendly action (2 Timothy 2:23-26).

The Apostle now passes to the fourth principal division, in which he encourages Timothy to bold fidelity in view of the approaching apostasy of the last times (2 Timothy 3:1-5). He describes the immoral character and the wicked strivings of those, who should soon be made manifest even to that debased generation (2 Timothy 3:1-9); and sets before him the example of patience, which Timothy had seen in him (2 Timothy 3:10-13); and at the same time the task, which he would have to follow (2 Timothy 3:14-17); in which light he points him specially to the inspired Scripture, as the best defence against the overwhelming falsehood. Then, in the most solemn tone, the Apostle sums up with a few words the warning in regard to what lies before him, as well as the remembrance of what he has to do (2 Timothy 4:1-5).

Now the Epistle hastens to its close (2 Timothy 4:6-21). Paul prophesies his approaching martyrdom, and records his joyful hope of eternity (2 Timothy 4:6-8). He adds the prayer, that Timothy will come to him as soon as possible, since otherwise he may never perhaps see him Again in the land of the living. This invitation is yet more strengthened by a brief account of the Apostle’s forsaken state (2 Timothy 4:10-12), which is only relieved by Luke; wherefore he earnestly wishes to see Mark also by his side. Timothy is asked on this occasion to bring with him some necessary things for the Apostle (2 Timothy 4:13). Paul speaks further, before he reaches the close, of a severe opposition which he had experienced (2 Timothy 4:14-15); but also of a mighty aid, when forsaken of all, by which he is strengthened in the hope, that the hour will soon come of his complete deliverance, if not from death, yet through death (2 Timothy 4:16-18). Holy greetings and benedictions, as well as some personal topics, close the letter, which especially in this last part, bears so wholly undeniable a stamp of genuineness and reality, that we cannot enough wonder at the desperate attempts to hunt up another author than Paul. (Compare the General Introduction.)

Without any extended argument, the lasting authority of this second Epistle for the martyrdom of Paul is self-evident. It is a treasure for the Christian church of all ages, a noble crown of his earlier testimonies. “Mortem habebat Paulus ante oculos, quam subire paratus erat pro Evangelii testimonio. Quæcumque igitur hic legimus de Christi regno, de spe vitæ æternæ, de christianâ militiâ, de fiduciâ confessionis, de certitudine doctrinæ, non tanquam atramento scripta, sed ipsius Pauli sanguine accipere convenit; nihil enim asserit, pro quo mortis suæ pignus non opponat. Proinde hæc Epistola quasi solemnis quædam est subscriptio Paulinæ doctrinæ, eaque ex re præsenti;” Calvin.


Besides the writers already named in the first General Introduction, we may compare J. Bröckner, Commentt. de Epist. posteriori Pauli ad Timoth., Copenh., 1829; Programma ad locum apostolicum, 2 Timothy 2:8-13, Tüb. 1820. See further, on the Apostle’s second imprisonment, in reference to the genuineness of the Epistle, the remarks of Wiesinger, in his commentary on this passage, p. 581 et seq. Finally, in reference to the Pastoral Letters as a whole, Dr. C. E. Scharling, “Latest Inquiries as to the so-called Pastoral Epistles of the New Testament, translated from the Danish,” Jena, 1846.

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