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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

- 1 Timothy

by Philip Schaff


(1) THE two Epistles to Timothy or Timotheus and that to Titus are commonly grouped together, as giving counsels for the right exercise of the office of a shepherd of the flock of Christ, under the title of the Pastoral Epistles. The words ‘shepherd,’ ‘flock,’ feed’ it is true, do not occur in them as they occur in John 21:16; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 5:2; but the accepted term rightly describes their character. They deal more fully than any other Epistle of the New Testament with the duties of the pastoral office. They bring before us in greater detail the organization of the Apostolic Church over which the chief shepherds had to watch. They are addressed, not like most of the other Epistles of St. Paul, to whole communities, but to individual disciples; but he writes to those disciples, not, as in the letter to Philemon, as to private friends on private business, but as his delegates and representatives.

(2) The Pastoral Epistles have also this in common, that, on almost any tenable view of their date, they add materially to our knowledge of St. Paul’s life. Without them that knowledge would end, as far as the New Testament is concerned, with the group of Epistles which (assuming for the present the solution of a question hereafter to be discussed) we may speak of as the Epistles of the First Imprisonment at Rome those to the Philippians, the Ephesians, the Colossians, and Philemon. It will be seen that both in relation to the outward facts of the apostle’s life, and, we may add, the growth of his character and the manifestation of new excellences called for by new emergencies, the group of Epistles now before us complete a narrative which would otherwise have been left unfinished, and in the freedom with which he writes to those who were his disciples and personal friends, open to us new aspects of his mind and heart. We cannot ignore the fact that these Epistles stand in other respects also by themselves. Their authorship has been more questioned in the light of modern criticism than that of any others that bear St. Paul’s name. Their phraseology, it is said, is different. They refer to the controversies and imply the tendencies of the second century rather than the first, and so take their right place among the pseudonymous apocryphal books in which that second century was unhappily but too fertile, and which, however valuable as materials for history, are therefore without any apostolical authority. The objections thus urged call for a discussion, but that discussion will, it is believed, be best entered on after we have treated them in the first instance as if they were what they claim to be. Primâ facie that claim is strong enough. They were never placed by the boldest criticism of the early Church among the Antilegomena, or disputable books; among which they placed, e.g., the Epistle of St. James, the Second Epistle of St. Peter, the Second and Third Epistles of St. John. They held their ground against the investigations of the scholars of the Renaissance, of Erasmus, and Calvin, and Grotius. We may fairly let them tell their own tale in the witness-box before they are subjected to a cross-examination. If that tale is clear and connected, in harmony with other acknowledged records of the apostolic age, throwing light on what would otherwise be obscure, supplying the undesigned coincidences which are almost in themselves an evidence of truthfulness, we may venture to demand that the case on the other side should be at least as weighty. If we have to balance evidence, it is not well to begin by stating objections.

(3) Life of Timothy.

We are able to trace the life of the disciple to whom two of the Pastoral Epistles were addressed from a comparatively early period. He was the son of one of the mixed marriages which were at this period not uncommon (Acts 16:1-3). His father was a Greek, and lived apparently at Lystra. [1] His mother Eunice, and her mother Lois, were devout Jewesses (2 Timothy 1:5). His father’s name has not come down to us. From the fact that Eunice accepted him as a husband, we may infer that he had risen above his inherited idolatry. It is almost as certain an inference from the fact that he left his son to grow up without the outward sign of circumcision, that he had not become a ‘proselyte of righteousness,’ accepting, that is, the law of Moses in its completeness. The name which he gave his son, though not an uncommon one among Greeks ( 1Ma 5:6 ; 1Ma 5:11 ; 2Ma 8:30 , 2Ma 9:3 ), is perhaps suggestive, in the absence of any distinctively heathen element, and in its significance as meaning ‘one who honours God,’ of the grounds of faith which were common to both the parents. In other respects his early education was after the pattern of that which prevailed in devout Jewish families. He was taught to read the Holy Scriptures daily (2 Timothy 3:15), and it may well have been that from these Scriptures of his mother’s race, and from her personal teaching, he learnt to take his place among those who at this period were waiting for the consolation of Israel’ (Luke 2:25). The piety of the household was all the more remarkable, from the fact that there is no trace of the existence of a synagogue in either of the cities with which his name is connected (Acts 14:6-21). It seems probable, from the absence of any mention of his father as living, that he had been early left an orphan, and that his mother and grandmother were the sole guardians and teachers of his youth. To the training thus received, working upon a constitution naturally far from robust (1 Timothy 5:23), we may perhaps look as having left on him the stamp of a piety feminine rather than manly in its chief features a morbid shrinking from opposition and responsibility (1 Timothy 4:12-16; 1 Timothy 5:20-21, 1 Timothy 6:11-14; 2 Timothy 2:1-7), a sensitiveness that readily melted into tears (2 Timothy 1:4), a tendency on the one hand to the softer emotions (1 Timothy 5:2), such as might easily pass on into the desires of youth which war against the soul’s purity (2 Timothy 2:22); and, on the other, to an over-rigorous asceticism to which, it may be, he had recourse as a discipline against those temptations (1 Timothy 5:23).

[1] This seems the natural inference from Acts 16:1. On the other hand, a possible construction of Acts xx, 4 would attach the description ‘of Derbe’ to his name, and not to that of Gaius.

The conversion of Timotheus to the faith of Christ must be assigned to the first visit of the Apostles Paul and Barnabas to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia. If we think of him as belonging to the former city, he must have looked on the half-finished sacrifice, the half-completed martyrdom of Acts 14:8-20. The appeal of St. Paul to his knowledge of the sufferings which the apostle had endured in the cause of Christ (2 Timothy 3:11) may have been an appeal to an eye-witness. The preaching of the apostle enforced the lesson that he had thus taught, and prepared the young disciple for a life of suffering (Acts 14:22). During the interval, probably about seven years, between St. Paul’s first and second visits, Timotheus must have been under the care of the elders of the new community whom the apostle had appointed, and had distinguished himself by his zeal and devotion (Acts 16:2). The fact that he was known to the brethren of Iconium as well as to those of Lystra, suggests the thought that he had been employed as a messenger between the two churches, and so had given proof that he possessed the qualities that fitted him for the work of an evangelist or mission preacher. The apostle, with his keen insight into character, saw in him one who could take the place of John, surnamed Mark, as Silas had taken that of Barnabas. The utterances of prophets appear to have pointed to him as likely to prove a brave and faithful soldier in the great army of Christ (1 Timothy 1:18). It was probably at this time, and at Iconium, that he was set apart, the whole assembly of the eiders of the Church, as well as the apostle himself, joining in the laying on of hands, to do the work and to bear the title of an evangelist (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; 2 Timothy 4:5). One serious difficulty, however, presented itself. The mere fact that his father was a Greek, and that he was thus in Jewish eyes as a Mamzer or ‘bastard,’ the name given to the children of a mixed marriage, might have been outweighed by his personal piety and knowledge of the law; but a Mamzer who had grown up uncircumcised, who had thus taken his position as outside the covenant of Abraham, was hardly likely to be listened to by the children of Abraham who gloried in its distinctive badge. In his case, accordingly, St. Paul, who had refused to admit the principle of the necessity of circumcision in the case of Titus, [1] acted on the rule of becoming ‘all things to all men’ (1 Corinthians 9:22), and ‘took and circumcised’ Timotheus, to avoid this occasion of offence (Acts 16:3). Doing this, on the one hand, and, on the other, distributing the decrees of the Council of Jerusalem which were as the great charter of the freedom of the Gentiles, the preachers were able to address themselves to Jew and Gentile alike with a sympathizing tenderness for the position and prepossessions of each.

[1] I leave the question whether Titus was or was not circumcised, an open one. The latter alternative seems, I think, the most probable; but the words of Galatians 2:3 admit the meaning that, though Titus was circumcised, it was not under compulsion, but as a free act of concession for the sake of peace. Dr. Farrar in his Life of St. Paul (c. 22) argues strongly in favour of the latter interpretation.

In the new companion and fellow-worker whom the apostle thus gained, he found one whom he could claim as a true son by spiritual parentage, like-minded with himself, ‘faithful in the Lord,’ caring with a genuine affection for those for whom the apostle cared (1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2). He journeyed with him, accompanied by Silvanus, and probably by Luke also, to Philippi (Acts 16:12), and there the young disciple was distinguished for the activity of his service (Philippians 2:22). As he is not mentioned in the record of St. Paul’s work at Thessalonica, it is probable that he remained with St. Luke at Philippi, and was the bearer of the contributions which the Christians of that city sent to the apostle (Philippians 4:15). He was with him, however, at Berœa (Acts 17:14), and stayed there when Paul was obliged to leave, joining his master again at Athens (1 Thessalonians 3:2), from whence he was sent back again to Thessalonica. He returns to him not at Athens but at Corinth, and his name is joined with those of Paul and Silvanus in the salutations of both the Epistles written from that city to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1). Here also he was conspicuous for his work as a preacher of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 1:19), and doubtless took the office, with the exception of the few special cases which the apostle names, of baptizing the new converts (1 Corinthians 1:14-16). Of the five years that followed we have no distinct trace, and can infer nothing but a continuance of his labours as St. Paul’s companion, and an ever-growing increase of sympathy and affection between them. He next appears, after having been with the apostle in Ephesus, with which his name was afterwards to be so closely connected, as sent on in advance through Macedonia to Achaia, to bring the churches into remembrance of what the apostle taught and preached (Acts 19:22; 1 Corinthians 4:17). Still comparatively young for such an office, and not free from a nervous consciousness of his youth, St. Paul sought to prepare the way for him by calling on the Corinthians to receive him with all respect (1 Corinthians 16:10), as working the work of the Lord.’ It would appear from the presence of his name in the salutation of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:1), that the arrangement of which St. Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 16:11 had been carried into effect, and that Timothy after visiting Corinth had returned to him and was with him at Philippi, or elsewhere, when he wrote that Epistle. He went with him to Corinth, and his name is joined with that of the apostle in the salutation to the Roman Christians, with many of whom he had become personally acquainted at Corinth (Romans 16:21). He was one of the company of friends who accompanied him in his last journey to Philippi, sailed on in advance to Troas, and then went with him to Miletus, Tyre, Cæsarea, and Jerusalem (Acts 20:3-6). Here again we lose sight of him. We have no trace of his having been with St. Paul during his two years’ imprisonment at Cæsarea nor on the voyage to Italy, and we may probably think of him as occupied at this period in his labours as an evangelist. He must have joined St. Paul at Rome, however, soon after his arrival, and was with him when he wrote the group of Epistles known as those of the first imprisonment (Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; Philemon 1:1). He may have been sent to Philippi and back in the course of that imprisonment (Philippians 2:19). The special messages sent to him from Rome at a later period (2 Timothy 4:21) show that there also he had won the warm affection of the disciples, and among the friends there formed, we note with interest, according to a probable hypothesis, the names of a future bishop of Rome, of a centurion of the Roman army, and of the daughter of a British king (see notes on 2 Timothy 4:21). To this period of his life we may perhaps refer (the exact time and place being left undetermined) the imprisonment referred to in Hebrews 13:23, and the trial in which he witnessed ‘a good profession’ (1 Timothy 6:12). Assuming the genuineness of the Epistles addressed to him, and that they were written in the later years of St. Paul’s life, we are able to put together a few facts as to the subsequent career of Timotheus. He journeyed with his master, it would appear, from Rome to the proconsular province of Asia, and when the apostle continued his journey to Macedonia, was left behind in Ephesus to watch over the discipline and doctrine of the church which he had helped to found there (1 Timothy 1:3). The parting was a sad one, even to tears (2 Timothy 1:4), and it is possible that the two never met again, and that neither the intention which St. Paul expressed of returning to him shortly, nor his own purpose to go to Rome in compliance with the apostle’s wish, was ever carried into effect (1 Timothy 3:14; 2 Timothy 4:9).

The position which he thus occupied, that, in modern phrase, of a vicar-apostolic, exercising an authority over bishop - presbyters and deacons, was arduous and responsible enough for one who was still comparatively young (1 Timothy 4:12). He had to sit in judgment on men who were older than himself (1 Timothy 5:1; 1 Timothy 5:19-20); to appoint the bishop-elders and deacons of the church (1 Timothy 3:1-13); to regulate its almsgiving and the support of its widows, as a sisterhood partly maintained by the church and partly working for its support (1 Timothy 5:3-10). And the members of the church had fallen from their first love. Covetousness and sensuality were undermining its purity (1 Timothy 6:9-10). Leaders of parties Hymenæus, Alexander, and Philetus were corrupting the truth of Christ by Judaizing or Gnostic speculations, and drawing away disciples after them, so as to fulfil but too abundantly the anticipations to which the apostle had given utterance in his last recorded address to the elders of the Ephesian Church at Miletus (Acts 20:29-30; 1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 2:17; 2 Timothy 3:6-9; 2 Timothy 4:14-15). The name of his beloved master was no longer held in honour, and all, with the exception of a faithful few, had turned away from him (2 Timothy 1:15). The whole tone even of the First Epistle is one of grave anxiety, and warnings, exhortations, counsels, follow rapidly on each other ( 1Ti 1:18 ; 1 Timothy 3:15; 1Ti 4:14 ; 1 Timothy 5:21; 1 Timothy 6:11). He is above all things anxious that his disciple, his true son in the common faith, should keep the depositum fidei, the good thing committed to his trust,’ free from the admixture of a dreamy and fantastic gnosis (1 Timothy 1:4-10; 1 Timothy 1:18-20; 1 Timothy 6:20-21). Mingling with that anxiety there is the fear of a fatherly affection lest his health should be injured by an over-rigorous abstinence (1 Timothy 5:23).

The Second Epistle, written probably about a year later, and but a short time before the apostle’s martyrdom, may be taken as at least presumptive evidence that there had been no meeting since the previous letter, and that his intentions of returning to Ephesus had been frustrated. The disciple appears to have remained there, encountering the same dangers, thwarted by the same heretical teachers (2 Timothy 2:17), but St. Paul wishes much to see him before the ‘time of his departure’ comes (2 Timothy 4:6; 2 Timothy 4:9). He is to bring with him the cloak, the books, and the parchments, which, in the haste of travel, the apostle had left at Troas, and which he now needed for his comfort, his studies, or his defence (2 Timothy 4:13). It was natural at such a time that the thoughts of past years should come back upon the old man’s mind, that he should remember the tears at parting, the holy household at Lystra, the devout and studious youth, the day of his solemn ordination by the presbytery of Iconium (2 Timothy 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 3:15). We may, perhaps, hazard the conjecture though we cannot attain to certainty that by starting at once he reached Rome, as St. Paul desired, before winter, and was with him at the last Possibly, as said above, we may refer the imprisonment of Hebrews 13:2-3 to this period of his life.

Beyond this we have no distinct trace of Timotheus, as mentioned by name, in the New Testament. Eusebius (H. E. iii. 4) relates that he continued to act as Bishop of the Church of Ephesus, and he is represented in later traditions (Niceph. H. E. iii. 11). as having died a martyr’s death at the hands of an Ephesian mob, who, at one of the great festivals held in honour of Artemis, were roused to fury by his preaching (comp. Henschen’s Acta Sanctorum; Butler’s Lives of the Saints, Jan. 24th). His relics were brought to Constantinople by Constantius A.D. 356, and interred in the Church of the Apostles in that city.

It may be added, as at least a probable conjecture, that Timotheus has been identified by not a few writers with the ‘Angel’ or Bishop of the Church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7 (Calmet, Cornelius à Lapide, Grotius, and others, in Butler, ut supra). If we assume the Apocalypse to have been written in the time of Nero, it is all but certain that he must then have been in charge of the church of that city. And even on the assumption of the later date under Domitian, he may well have been still exercising his office there. It may be urged as confirming this view, that the message to the angel of the Church at Ephesus presents many points of parallelism with the impressions we derive from St. Paul’s Epistles as to the character of Timotheus. In the testimony borne to his work and patience, to his refusal to acknowledge the authority of false apostles, we trace the ‘unfeigned faith’ (2 Timothy 1:5), the man ‘like-minded’ with St. Paul (Philippians 2:20), the man of God (1 Timothy 6:11) of the Pastoral Epistles. And in the words of blame addressed to the Ephesian angel, the rebuke for having left his first love and his first works (Revelation 2:4-5,), we find, with hardly less certainty, the tendencies which we have already noticed, the shrinking from conflict and the exercise of authority, which led the apostle to press on Timotheus the duty of ‘rekindling’ the grace which he had received (2 Timothy 1:6), of enduring hardness as ‘a good soldier of Jesus Christ’ (2 Timothy 2:3), of studying to show himself approved unto God as ‘a workman that needeth not to be ashamed’ (2 Timothy 2:15).

The Authorship of the Epistles to Timothy.

Of this it may be said that it stands, as far as external evidence is concerned, on as firm a basis as that of any of the books of the New Testament. They appear in the Peshito, or early Syriac Version (A.D. 150-200), and in the list of the Muratorian Fragment (A.D. 170). They are placed by Eusebius (H. E. iii. 25) among the generally-received books, as contrasted with the seven Antilegomena or disputable books. They are cited as authoritative by Tertullian (de prœser, c. 25 ; ad Uxorem, i. 7 ), Clement of Alexandria (Strom. ii. 11 ), and Irenæus (Adv. Har. ii. 14 , p. 8 ; iv. 16 , p. 3 ). Parallelisms, implying quotation, in some cases with close verbal agreement, are found in Clement of Rome (1 Cor. c. 29; 1 Timothy 2:8); in Ignatius (ad Magn. c. 8; 1 Timothy 1:4); in Polycarp (Epist. c. 4; 1 Timothy 6:7-8); and in Theophilus of Antioch (ad Autol. i. 126). The only exceptions to this general recognition were found in heretical teachers of various schools of Gnostic thought, such as Marcion (Tertull. adv. Marc. v. 21; Iren. i. 29) and Basilides (Hieron. Prof, in Titum). Tatian, while maintaining the Pauline authorship of the Epistle to Titus, rejected that of the Epistles to Timothy (Hieron. ibid). Origen mentions the fact (Comm. in Matt. 117) that there were some who excluded 2 Timothy from the canon of the New Testament because it contained the names of Jannes and Jambres, which were not found in the records of the Old Testament.

The later criticism of the schools of Germany has, however, questioned the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles with a more formidable array of objections. Schleiermacher (Sendschreiben), assuming the genuineness of 2 Timothy and Titus, looked on 1 Timothy as pseudonymous. Eichhorn (Einleit.) and De Wette (Einleit.) came to the same conclusion as to all the three. Baur, here as elsewhere, bolder than his predecessors, assigned their composition to the latter half of the second century (Die sogenannien Pastoral-briefe, p. 138), probably after the death of Polycarp in A.D. 169. On this hypothesis they grew out of the state of parties in the Roman Church, and, like the Gospel of St. Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, were intended to mediate between the extreme Pauline and Petrine sections in it (p. 58). Starting from the data supplied by the Epistle to the Philippians, the writers first of 2 Timothy (which, in his view, is the earliest of the three Epistles), then of Titus, and lastly, of 1 Timothy, aimed, by the insertion of personal incidents, messages, and the like, at giving to their compilations an air of verisimilitude. The very features which, as we read the Epistles, strike us as full of the most living interest, the apparent traces of the faith, affection, tenderness of the old apostle, become, on this supposition, only so many proofs of the fraudulent skill of the composer. We have to deal not with a case of personated authorship like that, e.g., of the Wisdom of Solomon, where we recognise at once a legitimate form of art, but with the animus decipiendi in its most flagrant and offensive form.

It remains for us to inquire, dismissing the hypotheses which take an intermediate line, and reject one or two of the Epistles, while they accept, as the case may be, the other two or one, as drawing an untenable distinction, how far the evidence before us supports the conclusions which have thus been drawn from it.

I. Language. It has been urged by all the writers who question the authorship of the Pastoral Epistles, that they are written in a different style from the recognised Pauline Epistles. There is less logical continuity; order and plan are wanting; subjects are brought up one after another, abruptly. Not less than fifty words and phrases, most of them striking and characteristic, are found in these Epistles which are not in the Epistles recognised as St. Paul’s. Thirty-three of these are not found elsewhere in the New Testament. The formula of salutation, ‘Grace, mercy, peace;’ half-technical words like θεοσέβεια (godliness) and its cognates (thirteen times in the Pastoral Epistles and not elsewhere), παρακαταθήκη (deposit, or thing committed, 1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:12-14), ἑ πι ϕ ανεία , the appearance or manifestation of Christ, instead of the more usual παρουσια (coming) (1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 1:10; 2 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:8); the frequently recurring πιστο ̀ ς ο ̔ λο ́ γος (this is a faithful saying, 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:3. i, 1 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8); the use of ύγιαίνουσα and its cognates as applied to sound and healthy doctrine (1 Timothy 1:10; 1 Timothy 6:3; 2 Timothy 1:13; 2 Timothy 4:3; Titus 1:9; Titus 1:13; Titus 2:1-2), these, it is said, form a group of peculiarities that make the language of the Pastoral Epistles so different from that of the Pauline Epistles as a body, that the natural conclusion is that they are by a different writer. On the other side, it may be said that this very diversity of diction is a feature which a spurious writer, skilfully personating St. Paul, would probably have been careful to avoid, but about which St. Paul himself, if he wrote or dictated them, would naturally have been indifferent. And, in any case, it must be remembered that the test of identity of style or phraseology is a very uncertain one. All men vary in their style as they advance in life, pick up new phrases which may for a time become almost the catchwords of their writings, adopt a different tone in their private and official correspondence. In proportion as they are men who travel much, come into contact with many minds and varied characters, throw themselves with the strong power of sympathy into the thoughts and feelings of others, are they likely to show these variations in their writings. In proportion as we recognise these features in St. Paul’s life and character, we might expect to find such variations. As a matter of fact, we find them in his other Epistles. The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians have much in common that is peculiar to them; so also have those to the Romans and Galatians; and again those to the Ephesians and Colossians. And in this case it must be remembered that the circumstances of authorship were different. The apostle was not writing letters to be read publicly in the churches, but speaking in full freedom to one who was as his own true son. It is not strange that we should meet with phrases of unusual vehemence, such e.g. as ‘a conscience cauterized’ (1 Timothy 4:2); ‘perverse disputings of men corrupted in mind’ (1 Timothy 6:5); ‘women-creatures laden with lusts’ (2 Timothy 3:6); ‘old wives’ fables’ (1 Timothy 4:7); ‘tattlers and busybodies’ (1 Timothy 5:13); ‘puffed up,’ or ‘fevered’ (1 Timothy 6:4); ‘slow bellies’ (Titus 1:12). In not a few of these cases, where the figurative language has points of contact with medical terminology, we may legitimately trace the influence of St. Paul’s friendship with St. Luke. Such e.g. are the use of ‘sound’ or ‘healthy,’ as applied to teaching (ut supra) the ‘cauterized conscience’ (1 Timothy 4:2); the advice to take wine ‘for thy stomach’s sake’ (1 Timothy 5:23); the use of a word (τετυ ϕ ώται) which was applied by Hippocrates to a type of fe ver (the word is identical with our modern ‘typhus’) that caused delirium (1 Timothy 6:4). Lastly, there is the fact that these differences, such as they are, are counterbalanced by the large common element both of words and thoughts, shared by these Epistles with the others. The object of the writer’s faith; the law of conscience as regulating his life; the tendency to digressions and ‘going off at a word;’ the personal, individualizing affection; the free reference to his own labours and sufferings for the truth (2 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 3:11; 2 Corinthians 11:21-28; 2 Corinthians 11:11-12) all these are found alike in both groups; and by them, the coincidences being manifestly unstudied, we recognise the identity of the writer.

II. It has been urged against the reception of the Pastoral Epistles, that they cannot be fitted in with the record of St. Paul’s life as contained in the Acts. The answer to this is, however, not far to seek. These records are, on the face of them, incomplete. The hypothesis of a release from the imprisonment with which the history of the Acts closes removes all difficulties; and this hypothesis, it may fairly be said, is not a theory set up for the purpose of removing them, but has an adequate foundation in the language of the acknowledged Epistles, in which the apostle expresses his expectation of such a release, and his intention of revisiting the churches which he had planted in Macedonia and in the East (Philippians 2:24; Philemon 1:22). The writer of pseudonymous Epistles, it may be further added, would have been likely to make them fit in with the received records of St. Paul’s life.

III. The three Epistles present, it is said, a more highly organized church polity, and a fuller development of doctrine, than that belonging to the lifetime of St. Paul. (1) The rule that the bishop is to be ‘the husband of one wife’ (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6) indicates the strong opposition to second marriages which characterized the second century. (2) The ‘younger widows’ of 1 Timothy 5:11 cannot, it is said, have been literally widows. If they were, St. Paul, in directing them to marry, would be excluding them, according to the rule of 1 Timothy 5:9, from all prospect of sharing in their old age in the church’s bounty. It follows, therefore, that the term ‘widows’ was used, as it was in the second century, in a wider sense, as implying not literal widowhood, but a consecrated life. (3) The rules giving to Timothy and Titus an almost absolute power over the elders of the church indicate a sacerdotal development characteristic of the Petrine element, which became dominant in the Church of Rome in the first apostolic period, but foreign altogether to the genuine Epistles of St. Paul. (4) The term ‘heretic’ is used in its later sense, and a formal procedure against the heretic is recognised (Titus 3:10), which belongs to the second century rather than the first. (5) The upward progress from the office of deacon to that of presbyter implied in 1 Timothy 3:13, belongs also to a later period. Of these objections it may fairly be said that they come under the category of being ‘frivolous and vexatious.’

(1) Admitting the interpretation of 1 Timothy 3:2 to be the right one, the rule which makes deuterogamy a disqualification for the episcopal office is widely removed from the harsh, sweeping condemnation of all second marriages which we find in Athenagoras and Tertullian. (2) There is not the shadow of a proof that the ‘younger widows’ were not literally such. The ‘widows’ of 1 Timothy 5:3-13 were, like those of Acts 6:1; Acts 9:39, women dependent on the alms of the church, not necessarily deaconesses or engaged in active labours. The rule fixing the age of sixty for their admission on the register is all but fatal to the contrary hypothesis. (3) The use of ‘bishops’ and ‘elders.’ as applied to the same persons (Titus 1:5-7), and the absence in 1 Timothy 3:1-8 of any immediate order between the bishops and deacons, are quite unlike what we find in the Epistles of Ignatius and other writings of the second century. They are in exact agreement with the language of St. Paul in Acts 20:17-28 and Philippians 1:1. Few features of these Epistles are indeed more striking than the absence of any high hierarchic system. The authority given to Timothy and Titus was obviously temporary and provisional in its nature, and belonged to them, not as bishops, in the later sense of the term, but as the immediate personal representatives of the apostles. (4) The word ‘heretic’ has its counterpart in the ‘heresies’ of 1 Corinthians 11:19, and the sentence pronounced on Hymenæus and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:20) has a precedent in St. Paul’s action at Corinth (1 Corinthians 5:5). (5) The best interpreters do not find in 1 Timothy 3:13 the transition from one office to another. If it is there, the assumption that such a transition was foreign to the Apostolic Age is altogether arbitrary.

IV. It is urged, again, that the false teachers who are referred to in the Pastoral Epistles present characteristics that belonged to the followers of Marcion and other Gnostic teachers in the second century. In the oppositions (antitheses) of the falsely named science (gnosis) of 1 Timothy 6:20, there is, it is said, a manifest reference to the treatise which Marcion wrote under the title of Antitheses, setting forth the alleged contradictions of the Old and New Testament. The ‘genealogies of 1 Timothy 1:4 and Titus 3:9 point, in like manner, to the mystical succession of Æons in the systems of Valentinus and Basilides. The ‘forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from meats’ fit in to Marcion’s system, and not to that of the Judaizing teachers of the Apostolic Age. The apostle’s assertion that ‘the law is good or noble (κάλος)’ implies a denial, like that of Marcion, of its Divine authority. The doctrine that ‘the resurrection was past already,’ was again, it is urged, thoroughly Gnostic in its character. In his eagerness to find tokens of a later date everywhere, Baur sees in the writer of these Epistles not merely an opponent of Gnosticism, but one in part under the influence of their teaching, and appeals to the doxologies of 1 Timothy 1:17; 1 Timothy 6:15, and to their Christology throughout, as having a Gnostic colouring.

Here also it is believed that the objections are altogether frivolous and fantastic in their character. The false teachers of the Pastoral Epistles are, to say the least, predominantly Jewish in their character, ‘teachers of the law’ (1 Timothy 1:7), giving heed to ‘Jewish fables’ (Titus 1:14 ) and ‘disputes connected with the law’ (Titus 3:9). The natural suggestion that in Acts 20:30-31, St. Paul contemplates the rise and progress of a like perverse teaching, and that in Colossians 2:8-23 we have a like combination of an Essene type of Judaism, and a self-styled Gnosis (1 Timothy 6:20), or ‘wisdom’ (Colossians 2:3), is met by the short and easy process of summarily rejecting both the speech and the Epistle as spurious. Even the denial of the resurrection, it may be remarked, belongs as naturally to the mingling of a Sadducean element with an Eastern mysticism as to the teaching of Marcion. The whole line of argument, indeed, first misrepresents the language of St. Paul in these Epistles and elsewhere, and then assumes the entire absence from the first century of even the germs of the teaching that characterized the second.

The Date of the First Epistle to Timothy.

Assuming the two Epistles to have been written by St. Paul, to what period of his life are they to be referred? It will be expedient to discuss the question as regards each Epistle separately. In regard to the first, the data are comparatively few (1) A journey from Ephesus to Macedonia is mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:3. (2) The age of Timothy is described as ‘youth’ (1 Timothy 4:12). Three hypotheses have been maintained as satisfying these conditions.

(A) The journey in question has been looked on as an unrecorded episode in the two years spent in Ephesus, as in Acts 19:10.

(B) It has been identified with the journey of Acts 20:1, after the tumult at Ephesus.

(C) It has been placed in the interval between St. Paul’s first and second imprisonments at Rome.

Of these conjectures A and B have the merit of bringing the Epistle within the limits of the authentic records of St. Paul’s life, but they have scarcely any other. Against A it may be urged (1) that a journey to Macedonia such as is assumed would scarcely have been passed over in silence either by St. Luke in the Acts, or by St. Paul in writing to the Corinthians; and (2) that it is hardly conceivable that the church at Ephesus could have attained so full a development both for good and evil within so short a period as two years. Against B we have the fact that Timothy in the case of that journey had preceded the apostle, journeying to Macedonia (Acts 19:22), and probably to Corinth also (1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 16:10). The hypothesis that he may have returned to Ephesus before St. Paul’s departure, and been left there, is traversed by the fact that he is with St. Paul in Macedonia when the latter writes the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. In favour of C, as compared with A or B, is the internal evidence of the contents of the Epistle. St. Paul clearly contemplates a prolonged absence, though the expectation of his return to Ephesus is not abandoned (1 Timothy 4:13). It is hardly less clear that the Epistle implies a long previous absence. Discipline had become lax, heresies had multiplied, the organization of the church was in confusion. Other churches called for his presence, and he hastens on, leaving the disciple in whom he most confided as his representative.

The language of the Epistle also is not without its weight as supplying internal evidence of date. According to A or B, it would belong to the same group of Epistles as 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Romans, and Galatians, or, at the latest, to that which includes the Epistles to the Ephesians, the Colossians, and the Philippians, and in this case the obvious differences of style and language are not easy to explain. Assume a later date, as in C, and then there is room, as has been urged above, for the influence of new circumstances and new associations on a man of St. Paul’s character, showing itself in new words and phrases. The large element of such words or phrases in the two Epistles, many of them common to both, is, at all events, a reason for believing that they were written with no great interval of time between them. The only objections of any weight to the position thus assigned are (1) those which call in question the fact of any second imprisonment with an interval of travel between it and the first; and (a) the ‘youth’ of Timothy (1 Timothy 4:12) when the Epistle was addressed to him. The former point will be discussed in a separate Excursus. In regard to the latter, it may be urged that, on the assumption of the later date, Timotheus need not have been more than thirty, and that a man of that age might well have been spoken of as relatively ‘young’ for such a task as that which the Epistle assigns to him.

Assuming on these grounds the later date of the Epistle as the more probable, we are able to gather some trustworthy conclusions as to the circumstances which led St. Paul to write it. He was released as he expected from his imprisonment at Rome (Philippians 2:24), and carried into effect the resolution which he had then formed of revisiting the churches of Asia Minor. Timotheus, who had joined him at Rome (Colossians 4:1; Philemon 1:1), probably journeyed with him. It would be natural that he should use his freedom to carry out his long-delayed purpose of preaching the Gospel in Spain (Romans 15:24), perhaps revisit Crete (Titus 1:5), make his way, as also he had intended, to Colossæ and the other churches of the valley of the Lycus (Philemon 1:22), and thence on to Ephesus. The Epistle shows us that he found that the sad forebodings which he had expressed in his farewell address to the elders of the Ephesian Church in Acts 20:29-30, had been only too well fulfilled. The First Epistle of St. Peter, which may safely be assigned to this period, shows that the ‘grievous wolves’ of persecution had made havoc of nearly all the Asiatic churches. The Epistle now before us tells of false teachers from among themselves, such as Hymenæus and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:20), who had overthrown the faith of many; and yet darker forms of evil were seen on the horizon (1 Timothy 4:1-4). The organization of the church had fallen into decay, and needed a strong hand and vigorous measures to restore it. One such measure the apostle took himself in a formal excommunication of the two chief heretics (1 Timothy 1:20). But he had to pass on elsewhere, and doubtless wished to pay his promised visit to the Philippian Church, and so he started for Macedonia. What seemed to him the best course in this emergency was to leave the disciple, now perhaps for the first time entrusted with so grave a responsibility, to act as his representative a vicar-apostolic, as it were, clothed with full authority over all subordinate officers, with power to judge and punish offenders, and to enforce rules of discipline that had been neglected. The parting, if we identify it with that of 2 Timothy 1:4, was a sad one. The apostle, at all events, felt that the young disciple needed more definite instructions than those which had been given orally in what was, it may be, a somewhat hurried interview.

The facts thus brought before us make it probable that the Epistle was written somewhere on the journey through Macedonia to Nicopolis, on the western coast of Greece (Titus 3:12). The inscription found in many ancient MSS. and Versions, and reproduced in our English Bibles, which states that it was written from Laodicea, cannot claim any higher authority than that of being a conjecture based, perhaps, upon the supposition that this was the Epistle from Laodicea referred to in Colossians 4:16. It is far more probable, if we are to name any church, that it was written from Philippi or Thessalonica.



THERE cannot be a shadow of doubt that the two titles of Bishop and Presbyter were in the Apostolic Age interchangeable. The ‘elders’ of Acts 20:17 are named as ‘bishops’ in Acts 20:28. Bishops and elders are nowhere named together as distinct from each other. The ‘bishop’ of Titus 1:7 answers to the ‘elders’ of Titus 1:5. ‘Bishops and deacons’ appear as an exhaustive enumeration of the ministers of the church in Philippians 1:1, 1Ti 3:1 ; 1 Timothy 3:8, without the mention of ‘presbyters’ as an intermediate order. It is noticeable that in the Epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians we have the same interchangeable use of the two terms (1 Cor . 13:44, 57) a fact not without weight in its bearing on the date and genuineness of that document; while in the more developed hierarchy of the Epistles of Ignatius, even in their least interpolated or most mutilated forms, the bishop appears as distinct from, and exercising authority over, the presbyters of the church ( ad Smyrn. viii.; ad Trall. ii, iii, viii.; ad Magn. vi.). Each of the two titles has a history not without interest. That of ‘elder’ came naturally from the institutions of the Jewish synagogue (Luke 7:3), which naturally passed, as at first the name ‘synagogue’ itself did (James 2:1), into the polity of the Christian church. It was without doubt the earlier of the two. It is implied in the mention of the ‘younger men’ (νεώτεροι) in the history of Ananias (Acts 5:6. Comp. Luk 12:26 ; 1 Peter 5:1; 1 Peter 5:5). It is recognised as applied to a body of men distinct from the apostles in Acts 11:30; Acts 15:2; Acts 15:4; Acts 15:23. ‘Elders’ are ordained by Paul or Barnabas in every church (Acts 14:23).

In the Gentile churches, on the other hand, the word ‘elder’ would carry with it a less definite connotation, and would require to be associated with some words expressing function as well as rank, a nomen officii as well as a nomen dignitatis. The title of Episcopos presented itself as suitable for this purpose, combining as it did both Greek and Jewish associations. It had been used as early as the time of Pericles for the inspectors or commissioners who were sent by Athens to her subjects (Aristoph. Aues. 1022), and who, like the Harmosts of Sparta, exercised a general superintendence. The title was still current and beginning to be used by the Romans in the later days of the republic (Cic. ad Att. vii. 11). What was, perhaps, more to the purpose, it had been selected by the translators of the Septuagint for some of the officers who exercised authority in the polity of Israel (Numbers 4:16; Numbers 31:14; Psalms 109:8; Isaiah 60:17), and in the first of these passages had been associated, in the case of Eleazar, with the functions of the priesthood. It expressed adequately the watchful inspection which was represented also by the name of ‘shepherd’ or ‘pastor’ (Ephesians 4:11). That pastoral supervision is indeed the dominant thought associated with it in the language of the New Testament. The ‘elders’ of Ephesus are as ‘bishops’ to ‘feed the flock of God’ (Acts 20:18). St. Peter uses the cognate verb ‘taking the oversight,’ doing a bishop’s office, in connexion with the same thought. Christ Himself is, in this association of ideas, ‘the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls’ (1 Peter 2:25). It is not without significance that other titles appear in the Apostolic Epistles, apparently as applied to the same office rs, and distinguishing some from others. There are those who are ‘over men’ (προι ̈ στάμενουι) in the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:12), who ‘rule’ (προϊσταμένους) well, and are worthy therefore of double honour (1 Timothy 5:17); those ‘that have the rule’ (ήγουμένοι), ‘watching on behalf of men’s souls’ (Hebrews 13:17). Possibly also, we may find these ‘bishop-elders in the ‘angels’ of the apocalyptic churches in Revelation 1-3. All these variations of terminology are characteristic of a time when the organization of the church was growing but not yet fixed. As compared with the condition of things represented in 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20, 1 Thessalonians 5:1 Corinthians 12-14, where there appears to be free scope for the exercise of every gift, and no special work of preaching assigned to the elders of the church, the Pastoral Epistles show a manifest advance towards fixity and completeness. The experience through which the Asiatic churches had passed in the apostle’s absence made them feel that an absolute equality among presbyters was productive of disorder; and the appointment of Timotheus was an indication that the body must have a head, the assembly a president, the church a bishop, in the modern sense of that word as implying authority over other elders, with power to ordain, suspend, or deprive those who exercised that office. The desynonymizing tendency which is always at work in the history of language came in here. Reverence for the name of apostle, perhaps also the feeling that it implied an immediate personal mission from the Lord of the churches, hindered its transmission to those who succeeded, in part at least, to the exercise of their controlling authority. The name of ‘angel,’ even if we assume it to be applied to the bishops of the Seven Churches, was obviously open to the charge of ambiguity, and, as a matter of fact, never appears with this connotation elsewhere. Of the two names that had first been equivalent, ‘bishop,’ both etymologically and historically, lent itself most readily to this upward extension of its meaning, and by the close of the- first century, as we see in the Ignatian Epistles, was applied to the presbyter, who by apostolic appointment, or the choice of the Ecclesia, or the laying on of hands of other bishops, was recognised as primus inter pares, with powers not sharply defined, and therefore more or less elastic in their character, varying according to the necessities of the time and the personal energy of those who filled the office. Comp. for a full and exhaustive discussion of the question, Bishop Lightfoot’s ‘Dissertation on the Christian Ministry,’ in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians.



It has been seen above that the phenomena presented by the Pastoral Epistles are best explained by the assumption that St. Paul was released from the libera custodia, which left him, as in Acts 28:30, in the comparative freedom of ‘his own hired house,’ able to receive visitors and carry on his work as an apostle and evangelist. If this were all, however, it might appear as if that hypothesis were made to fit in with the phenomena, and the data on which it rests might legitimately be impugned by those who question the authenticity of these Epistles. It is accordingly desirable to place before the reader whatever independent evidence there may be as to the further travels of the apostle, and his return to Rome for a second period of imprisonment, ending in his martyrdom.

(1) Clement of Rome (1 Corinthians 5:0), in dwelling on the labours of St. Paul, speaks of him as having travelled to the ‘farthest limits of the west’ Whatever interpretation may be put upon these words, whether we suppose them to refer to a voyage to those Britanni to whom the epithet ultimi was commonly applied (Hon Od. i. 35, l. 30; Virg. Æn. viii. 727; Lucan. vii. 541), or to the apostle’s contemplated journey to Spain (Romans 15:23), it is clear that a writer in Rome would not so have spoken of Rome itself; and we have accordingly, in Clement’s vague phrase, the evidence of a contemporary writer as to a mission-journey beyond that city, which it is impossible to bring within the record of St. Paul’s life down to the close of the Acts, and which implies, therefore, his liberation from the imprisonment which that book relates.

(2) The Muratorian Fragment (A.D. 170) at once confirms and interprets the language of Clement. It speaks of St. Paul as ab urbe ad Spaniam proficiscentis. The use of the term urbs implies, as Tregelles has pointed out ( Murat. Fragm. p. 40), the Roman origin of the Fragment; and, looking to the early date assigned to that document by all competent scholars, it may fairly be taken as representing a local and trustworthy tradition.

(3) The tradition is carried on by Jerome (Catal. Script, Illustr., ‘Paulus’), who speaks of the apostle, echoing Clement’s phrase, as having, after he had been set free at Rome, preached the gospel in occidentis quoque partibus; and by Chrysostom, who repeats (Comm. on 2 Timothy 4:0) the Muratorian statement, that, ‘after being in Rome, he went on to Spain.’ The agreement of the Western and Eastern Churches bears witness to the widespread and unquestioned character of the tradition which they report.

(4) It may be mentioned that the fact of the journey into Spain is admitted by writers who, like Ewald (Gesch. Isr. vi. 621, 631) and Renan (L’Anteehrist, p. 106), reject the Pastoral Epistles as not authentic, and are therefore led to this conclusion on grounds independent of them.

(5) A curious combination of facts enables us to conjecture with some probability the occasion of St. Paul’s release. He had appealed from Felix to the Emperor. Two years passed, as we find from Acts 28:30, without his cause coming on for trial. His prosecutors in Judea had taken no steps in the matter, had not appeared themselves, or secured counsel, or sent official information to their own countrymen (Acts 28:21). Their absence was probably the chief cause of the long and wearisome delay. About this time, however, Josephus relates in his autobiography that he came to Rome, after having been, like St. Paul, shipwrecked on his voyage. His main object was to obtain the release of some Jewish priests who had been sent to Rome as prisoners by Felix, and this he obtained at a date which coincides with the close of the second year of St. Paul’s imprisonment, through the influence of Aliturius, a Jewish actor, with the Emperor’s wife, Poppæa (Joseph. Life, c. 3). ‘May we not think it probable that St. Paul reaped the benefit of a general order for the release of Jewish prisoners sent by the Procurator of Palestine, obtained through this instrumentality? The reticence of Josephus in regard to the Christian Church, the Gamaliel-like tone in which he speaks (not to dwell on passages of doubtful genuineness) of John the Baptist and of James the Bishop of Jerusalem ( Ant. xviii. 5, § 2, xx. 9, § 1), and, we may add, of a teacher who has been identified with the Ananias of Acts 9:10 (xx. 2, § 4), his avowed Pharisaism, all make it probable that he would, at least, not be unwilling that the apostle “a Pharisee, and the son of a Pharisee” should share in the freedom which he had obtained for others.’ [1]

[1] The inverted commas indicate a quotation from an ‘Excursus on the later years of St. Paul’s Life’ by the present writer, in Vol. II. of Bishop Ellicott’s New Testament Commentary for English Readers.

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