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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

2 Timothy 4

Verse 1

2 Timothy 4:1. I charge thee therefore. As the apostle is conscious that he is drawing near the end of his letter, he passes, as in 1 Timothy 5:21, into a more solemn strain of exhortation. Better, ‘ I adjure.’

At his appearing and his kingdom. A better supported reading gives ‘ by His appearing,’ as a formula of adjuration following naturally on the opening words.

Verse 2

2 Timothy 4:2. Preach the word. Better, ‘ proclaim,’ do a herald’s work. The entreaty or command connects itself with what had just been said as to the right use of Scripture. Not that ‘the word of God’ is identified with Scripture, but that the one gives the right training and the best appliances for the due utterance of the other.

Be instant. In the old English sense, ‘ press on ‘be urgent,’ with special reference to the work of proclaiming the word of God.

In season, out of season. The sharply - expressed contrast has sometimes proved misleading, and men have thought themselves bound to drag in sacred counsels in the strict sense of the word ‘unseasonably,’ even when they were casting pearls before swine. What is meant is ‘with or without what seems to men a special opportunity.’ We may, perhaps, trace a recollection of what had once happened in St. Paul’s experience, in the case of one who waited ‘for a more convenient season’ (Acts 24:25).

Reprove, rebuke, exhort. The words, strictly speaking, are in a descending scale of severity, and each act is to be not only ‘with,’ but in the temper of long-suffering. The unusual connexion of that ‘temper’ with the ‘doctrine’ or ‘ teaching seems to imply a fear lest the long-suffering should lead to toning down the teaching and so to a sacrifice of the truth.

Verse 3

2 Timothy 4:3. The time shall come. Better, ‘ there shall be a season.’ The Greek is the same word as ‘in season, out of season,’ and gives the reason for that command. Make the most of any season, whether good or bad, now, for before long you will find none willing to listen.

Sound doctrine. Better, as in previous passages, ‘healthy teaching’

Heap to themselves. The word is the same as the ‘laden’ of 2 Timothy 3:6, and was probably suggested by it.

Having itching ears. Another example of St. Paul’s medical phraseology. Those of whom he speaks are, as it were, suffering mentally from a pruritus aurium, which is soothed by external applications of fantastic myths and high-flown phrases.

Verse 4

2 Timothy 4:4. Unto fables. The Greek has the article, which, though it cannot well be given in English, implies that the ‘ fables’ will be such as have been named before.

Verse 5

2 Timothy 4:5. Watch thou. There is a special emphasis on the pronoun. ‘ Thou, whatever others may do, shouldst watch.’

Endure afflictions. The same word as in 2 Timothy 2:9.

Do the work of an evangelist. It is probable that the word was the formal designation of Timothy’s usual work, as it was of that of Philip (Acts 21:8). His present work at Ephesus was that of a Vicar-Apostolic on a special mission, but that was not to make him forgetful of his more normal duties.

Make full proof of. The English is expressive, but not more so than the literal ‘fill up the measure of thy ministry.’

Verse 6

2 Timothy 4:6. For I am ready to be offered. There is a pathetic tenderness in the reason thus given. ‘Do thy work thoroughly, for mine is all but over.’ The Greek is, however, even more emphatic, ‘ I am being offered. My life is being poured out as a libation.’ That which in Philippians 2:17 was thought of as probable, had, after many chances and changes, come to be a reality.

The time of my departure, The Greek word is used here only in the New Testament, and was probably suggested by the way in which it was commonly applied to the ‘breaking up’ or ‘dispersion’ of those who had been gathered together for a sacrifice or ft libation.

Verse 7

2 Timothy 4:7. I have fought the good fight. The Greek is wider in its range, and takes in every kind of contest ‘I have striven a good strife’ would perhaps be nearer. The words that follow show that St. Paul, as in 1 Corinthians 9:24, is thinking specially of the Greek games.

I have kept the faith. What had been expressed before figuratively is now stated simply. So far he has not failed; he has kept the faith (in its objective sense) which had been committed to him.

Verse 8

2 Timothy 4:8. A crown of righteousness. Better, ‘ the crown.’ The force of the genitive may be either that perfect righteousness constitutes the crown, as ‘glory’ in 1 Peter 5:4, and ‘life’ in James 1:12; or else, and perhaps preferably, that it is the crown belonging to righteousness. In any case it may be noted that, as in 1 Corinthians 9:25, it is the wreath of the victor in the games, not the crown or diadem of the king.

The Lord is, of course, the Lord Jesus.

That day. The day of His appearing, as in 2 Timothy 4:12-13.

Not to me only. Confident as he now feels, his great joy is not that there is a special reward for himself, but that it will be given to all like-minded with him.

That love. Better, ‘ that have loved.’

Verse 10

2 Timothy 4:10. The letter comes to a close . The exhortation ends, and with a singular naturalness St. Paul passes to a condensed summary of news.

Demas. From the manner in which his name is joined with Luke’s in Colossians 4:14, Philemon 1:24, and from the mention of Thessalonica, it is probable that he was a Macedonian disciple. He was with St. Paul in his first imprisonment, and is mentioned, though with no special epithet of honour, as a fellow-worker with him at Rome. Now, when persecution was keener, he deserted him. St. Paul is content to record the fact and the motive. The religion of Christ would have interfered with his worldly prospects. The position of his name in Colossians 4:0 seems to imply that he was a Gentile convert.

Crescens. Nothing is, or can be, known of him, and it is doubtful whether the Galatia is the province of that name in Asia Minor, or Gaul. Traditions, of no authority, connect his name now with one, now with the other.

Titus. Assuming this to be the latest of St. Paul’s Epistles, we must assume that Titus, after receiving the Epistle addressed to him, had started from Crete for Nicopolis, had then pressed on to join St. Paul at Rome, and had afterwards started to carry on his work as an evangelist at Dalmatia. It would seem from St. Paul’s mention of Illyricum in Romans 15:19 as if he had already founded churches on the east coast of the Adriatic.

Verse 11

2 Timothy 4:11. Luke only is with me. Aristarchus, who is joined with Demas, Luke, and Mark in Colossians 4:10-14, Philemon 1:24, remains unaccounted for. Mark, it would seem, had been left with Timothy at Ephesus, having probably travelled thither in company with St. Paul. It is pleasant to note in this last mention of him the fullest recantation of the adverse opinion recorded in Acts 15:38. He is now ‘profitable’ (better, ‘ useful ’) for the ministry.

Verse 12

2 Timothy 4:12. Tychicus have I sent. Better , I sent.’ In Ephesians 6:21, we find Tychicus mentioned as the bearer of the Epistle to that Church. What St. Paul says may refer to that journey, but it is also probable that Tychicus had returned to him in Rome, and then been sent once more to Ephesus. The life of these evangelist messengers was one apparently of incessant movement.

Verse 13

2 Timothy 4:13. Cloak. The meaning of the Greek word is doubtful. It may be a Greek form φελόνης of the Latin pænula, and in that case ‘cloak,’ a thick travelling wrapper, is a good equivalent for it. The word seems, however, to have been one of those technical terms that depend on fashion (like ἐξουσίαν in 1 Corinthians 11:10) and soon became obsolete, and in the time of Chrysostom it was thought by many to be a travelling bag. In either case, what we note is the naturalness of the request. Age and infirmities make him wish in his prison at Rome for the cloak that had so often warmed him, or he wanted the material for his defence, or the books that were the companion of his solitude. The idea of its being a special ecclesiastical vestment which he wanted for liturgical uses, may be mentioned as one of the curiosities of interpretation. Troas, we may note, would be a natural route from Ephesus to Europe, as in 2 Corinthians 2:12.

The books, but especially the parchments. Here again we are left to conjecture. The parchments were probably more costly than the books, which may have been on papyrus rolls. The latter may have been the Greek or Hebrew copy of the Old Testament. It may have included some of his own writings, or other records of the Apostolic Age. The former may have included documents proving his Roman citizenship, or other materials for his defence. But we can say nothing certain, and must be content with noting the fact (indicated also in the ‘much learning,’ i.e. the ‘many books of Acts 26:24) that St. Paul habitually travelled as with a portable library among his baggage.

Verse 14

2 Timothy 4:14. Alexander the coppersmith. Possibly identical with the man of the same name in Acts 19:33, and with the false teacher of 1 Timothy 1:20. Enmity against St. Paul is a common element in all three cases. As a coppersmith, there may have been a trade connexion with the craftsmen employed by Demetrius.

Did. Literally ‘ showed,’ but English usage would hardly admit the word in this context

The Lord reward him. The better reading gives the future, ‘ will reward him.’

Verse 15

2 Timothy 4:15. He greatly withstood our words. The words point to some discussion ending (if we assume identity with 1 Timothy 1:20) in St. Paul’s delivering him to Satan.

Verse 16

2 Timothy 4:16. At my first answer. The words point to a formal defence or ‘apology’ before some tribunal, probably at a first hearing of his cause in his second Roman imprisonment.

No one stood with me. The Greek word is more or less technical. No one was with him as an advocate. He could not pay for such help, and there were none to volunteer it. He was allowed to stand before the judge alone, as a man who had no friends.

I pray God. The Greek is simply optative, ‘ May it not be laid.’ The prayer came doubtless from the depth of his soul, but the fact that he uttered it at all shows how deep a wound the desertion had inflicted.

Verse 17

2 Timothy 4:17. The Lord stood by me. The words may imply only, as they would with us, the consciousness of help and comfort coming as from a Divine friend; but, looking to such records as those of the visions of Acts 18:9; Acts 23:11, it is at least possible that they may point to a more immediate intuition.

Fully known. The English explains rather than translates. Literally, ‘ might be carried to its full measure.’

That all the Gentiles might hear. The words sound like an exaggeration, but the naturalness of such an exaggeration is the best proof of the genuineness of the letter. To the apostle standing before Cæsar or Cæsar’s delegate, in the mother-city of the world, the event seemed, as indeed it was, of infinite importance. Not perhaps as he thought, but beyond his thoughts, strength was given him that all the nations, then, and throughout the centuries that followed, might hear.

From the mouth of the lion. The words admit of many interpretations, between which it is hard to choose, (1) The lion may be Nero, or the judge acting under him. (2) The words may mean that St. Paul, claiming his rights as a Roman citizen, was delivered from the doom which fell on other Christians of being thrown to the lions in the circus. (3) It may be a figure for the jaws of death. (4) The lion may be the devil tempting him through the sense of desertion to despair. In favour of (1) we may appeal to the use of the term ‘lion’ as applied to Artaxerxes in the apocryphal Esther 14:13, while (4) is supported by 1 Peter 5:8. On the whole, (1) commends itself most to me.

Verse 18

2 Timothy 4:18. Shall deliver me from every evil work. That thought, deliverance from evil, whether within or without, is more precious to the apostle than any deliverance from danger. The words in the Greek remind one so strongly of the clause ‘Deliver us from evil’ in the Lord’s Prayer, that we may well think of this as an echo from the familiar form. So far as it is so, it is in favour of the general, rather than the personal, application of that petition. The doxology also, no less than the prayer, may come from the form as it was used liturgically. In any case, it is noticeable that here we have, beyond the shadow of a doubt, a doxology addressed to Christ as the Lord, i.e. the fullest recognition of his Divine nature.

Verse 19

2 Timothy 4:19. Aquila and Priscilla. Partly, perhaps, from their trade as tentmakers, partly from their work as Christian preachers, their life was one of constant change, first at Rome and then at Corinth (Acts 18:2), then at Ephesus (Acts 18:18-19; Acts 18:26; 1 Corinthians 16:19), then at Rome again (Romans 16:3), lastly, as here, once more at Ephesus.

The household of Onesiphorus. Probably thus described as having lost their head and father (2 Timothy 1:16).

Verse 20

2 Timothy 4:20. Erastus. Probably the same as the steward or chamberlain of Corinth mentioned in Romans 16:23, or possibly also, as the messenger sent into Macedonia from Ephesus (Acts 19:22).

Trophismus, One of St. Paul’s companions on the last journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4), and described as an Ephesian.

Miletum ought, of course, to be Miletus. This again indicates St. Paul’s route, from Ephesus to Miletus, from Miletus to Troas, thence to Macedonia.

Verse 21

2 Timothy 4:21. Before winter. The special reason for the urgency was, of course, that after October or November, the navigation of the Mediterranean was suspended, as we see in Acts 27:9; Acts 27:12. The prospect of the winter was doubtless connected also with the wish for the cloak left at Troas.

Eubulus, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia. Two of the names connect themselves with an interesting series of coincidences. Here it will be sufficient to give a brief summary of them. They may be found at length in an Excursus in vol. 3 of Alford’s Greek Testament, and in a paper by the present writer in the Bible Educator (3 p. 245), and in a poem ‘Claudia and Pudens’ in his Master and Scholar. (1) There are several epigrams by Martial in which a Pudens is mentioned as married to a Claudia, a foreigner, and of British desce nt (i. 32 , iv. 13 , v. 48 , vi. 58 ). She is called Rufina as a second name. (2) A Roman inscription was found at Chichester, and is now at Goodwood, in which Pudens is named as giving a site for a temple erected to Neptune and Minerva by a king and chieftain Tiberius Claudius Cogidubnus. The same Cogidubnus is named by Tacitus as ruling over cities in Sussex ( Agricola, c. 14). (3) Pomponia, the wife of Aulus Plautius, who was connected with the Rufi, and had been commander in Britain (A.D. 57), was accused of having adopted an alien superstition (Tacit. Ann. xii. 32), which led her to habits of seclusion and melancholy, The description fits in with the supposition that she was a convert to the new faith, seeking sadly after a higher life. (4) The conclusion drawn from these facts is that Pudens served under Aulus Plautius in Britain, and was stationed in Sussex; that the wife of the commander took the daughter of Claudius Cogidubnus with her to Rome; that under her influence Claudia became a Christian; that St. Paul in his first imprisonment at Rome, through his frequent contact with the soldiers of the Praetorian guards, brought Pudens also to the faith, or found that he was already half convinced; that an affection which ended in marriage sprang up between the two. It is noticeable that Martial speaks with an unusual reverence both of the intellectual and moral character of Claudia.

Linus. The name occurs in the list of Bishops of Rome given by Irenæus (iii. 3, 3) and Eusebius ( H. E. iii. 4) as next in succession to Clement.

Verse 22

2 Timothy 4:22. The only point to be noted is the union of the personal and the general prayers for blessing: The Lord be with thy spirit. Grace be with you.

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Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/scn/2-timothy-4.html. 1879-90.