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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

1 Timothy

- 1 Timothy

by Editor - Joseph Exell

1 Timothy



The genuineness of these Epistles

As we read the Epistle to the Philippians, we feel that the apostle in his Roman prison was looking for speedy martyrdom. In many respects he regarded his work as finished. At the same time he felt that his “abiding in the flesh” was a help to the Churches which he had founded, and would fain visit once again (Philippians 1:24). In this aspect there seemed still a work for him to do. We are not told in the Ac which of the two possibilities was realized. In its closing verses it refers to the two years of Paul’s captivity in Rome, but does not tell us to what issue they led. We are inclined to accept as the more probable, the idea that the apostle was set free, and was thus enabled to renew his labours for the good of the Church either in the East or West. We know that his plan, when in the year 59 he left Corinth to repair to Jerusalem and thence to Rome, was not to take up his abode in Rome, but simply to pass through it on his way into Spain, that he might fulfil the ministry which he had received of the Lord, to carry to the very end of the earth the testimony of the gospel of His grace. Was it given him to fulfil this purpose? Thirty years after the death of St. Paul, Clement, bishop of Rome, writing to the Corinthians, says that “Paul, after preaching the gospel from the rising to the setting sun, and teaching righteousness throughout the whole world, arrived at the extremity of the West; and after suffering martyrdom in the presence of the rulers, he was set free from this earth and reached the holy place prepared for him.” Now it does not seem to me possible to suppose, as so many critics do, that by this expression, “the extremity of the West,” Rome is meant: especially after the words going before, “from the rising to the setting sun,” and “throughout the whole world.” Rome, so far from being the “extremity” of the world, was rather regarded as its centre. We are confirmed in the idea that this is not Clement’s true meaning by another passage also written at Rome, and bearing testimony to the tradition then current in that Church. It occurs in the Fragment of Muratori, where the writer refers to the “passion of Peter and the departure of Paul from Rome for Spain.” We are not so much concerned at present with the question whether Paul went into Spain, as whether, in the event of his liberation, he again visited the Churches of Macedonia, the Church at Philippi, and the Churches in Asia, according to the hope expressed by him in the Epistle to Philemon. This question is inseparable from that of the authenticity of the Pastoral Epistles. It is impossible to find, during Paul’s active ministry in Greece and in Asia Minor, or during the two years of his first captivity in Rome, circumstances corresponding to the biographical details contained in them. Either the Pastoral Epistles are genuine, and in that case, they date from the time between the liberation of the apostle and his martyrdom, and are the latest monument we have of his apostolic work; or they are spurious productions. On the latter supposition, criticism must find some explanation of the purpose of such a forgery. The majority of the critics at the present day incline to the view last given, though the evidence of tradition is as strong in favour of the authenticity of the Pastoral as of any of the other Epistles. There is a correspondence scarcely to be mistaken between certain expressions in the Epistle to Titus and the First Epistle to Timothy, and the Epistle of Clement of Rome; while it is impossible to deny the allusions to the Pastoral Epistles in the letters of Ignatius and Polycarp. The ancient Syriac Bible, as well as the Latin, in the second half of the second century, contained the Pastoral Epistles with all the others, and the Fragment of Muratori expressly records their admission into the canon, notwithstanding their originally private character. The Fathers at the close of the second century quote them as unanimously accepted. The two Gnostics, Basilides and Marcion, seem indeed to have rejected them, but this is not to be wondered at. If then in modern times the majority of critics coincide in denying the authenticity of all three, or of one or other of them, it must be on account of their contents. One thing is clear: these Epistles do differ from all the rest in certain very marked particulars. The apostle seems in them to be more occupied than was his wont with the future of the Church, and attaches greater importance to the various ecclesiastical offices on which that future might largely depend. He has before him dangerous teaching, which is spreading among the Churches, and which, if it became prevalent, would gravely undermine true piety. This teaching is of an altogether different character from the Pharisaic, Judaizing doctrine, against which he had protested in his earlier Epistles. Lastly, there is an evident want of cohesion in the ideas expressed and in the subjects treated, and a frequent repetition of certain forms of speech, which do not occur in the earlier Epistles. What conclusion must we draw from these various indications? Is it true that there never was a period in the life of the apostle when new considerations, of which there is no trace in his earlier Epistles, may have come to occupy his mind? Is it true that there is no reason to suppose that towards the close of his life, his teaching may have taken a new direction, and may have found expression in new modes of speech appropriate to the changed conditions? Is it true that the unsound teaching against which he charges his colleagues to contend earnestly, can be no other than the Gnostic heresies of the second century, which would necessarily imply that these Epistles are the work of some forger assuming the name of St. Paul? Is it true, lastly, that the ecclesiastical organization, to which the writer distinctly refers, belongs to a time long subsequent to the life of St. Paul?

1. The teaching of the apostle, both as to form and substance. It is asserted that the conception of the gospel presented in these letters differs notably from the well-known teaching of Paul. The great fundamental doctrines of the apostle of the Gentiles, justification by faith and regeneration by the Holy Spirit, are scarcely touched upon. The great theme in these Epistles is the application of the gospel to outward conduct. For the most part the practical side of the Christian virtues is alone brought into prominence. We shall see presently what particular reasons the apostle may have had for insisting on this aspect of Christian truth. But independently of such considerations, it is easy to understand that the gospel teaching having been once clearly formulated, and thoroughly established by the earlier labours of the apostle in the Churches founded by him, as well as in the minds of his colleagues, he might now feel it opportune to insist rather on the practical application of the truths learned to daily life. The present writer has personally known preachers, who, after being foremost among their brethren in re-discovering, so to speak, the foundation-truths of the gospel, took a no less prominent part when the preaching again assumed a decidedly practical character. If such a change as this has been traceable in our own day, why may we not suppose a similar modification in the apostolic teaching of St. Paul, especially if the circumstances of the time seemed to demand it? Criticism exacts, however, that the mode of speech at any rate should not change, and that the style of the apostle in these Epistles should not differ markedly from that of his other Epistles recognized as genuine. But we are told that such a strongly marked difference does exist. It is shown that a number of words are used in these three Epistles which do not occur in any of the earlier letters. Several expressions also occur repeatedly, which are not found in any of the earlier writings, and some entirely new terms descriptive of the unsound teaching leavening the Church at this time. To this we reply that diversity of verbiage is a marked feature throughout the literary career of the apostle. It results partly no doubt from the wealth and creative fulness of his genius, partly from the ever varying experiences through which he passed in his intercourse with the Churches. Other indirect influences may be added; as for instance, the natural wealth of the Greek language and the fruitfulness of Christian thought. We conclude then that the teaching of these letters furnishes no proof, either in form or in substance, that they are not from the pen of St. Paul. It only shows that they belong to a particular period--the closing period of his apostolic labours. This conclusion is confirmed by the analysis we are about to make of the teaching against which he contends, and which presented itself to his two fellow-labourers in the Churches where they were at work.

2. The teaching protested against in the Pastoral Epistles. It has been said that this heretical teaching cannot be of an earlier date than the second century; that the different Gnostic systems of that advanced period are clearly described, particularly those of Valentinus and Marcion. Other critics dispute this, and suppose the heresies referred to to be those of Cerinthus and the Ophites, at the beginning of the second or the close of the first century. This theory is equally opposed to the authorship of St. Paul. But two features of the heresies indicated by the apostle are incompatible with either of these suppositions. The first is that they do not appear to contain elements directly opposed to the gospel, as do the systems of Marcion and Valentinus. Had the writer been a Christian of the second century trying, under the name of Paul, to stigmatize the Gnostic systems, he would certainly have used much stronger expressions to describe their character and influence. He would have found in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians a model of the Pauline polemics with regard to teachings subversive of the gospel. The second characteristic of the heresies referred to in the Pastoral Epistles is their Jewish origin. The doctors who propagate them are called “teachers of the law, though they understand neither what they say nor whereof they confidently affirm.” They are Judaizing Christians (“they of the circumcision,” Titus 1:10), raising foolish contentions about the law (Titus 3:9, and teaching “Jewish fables” (Titus 1:14), to which they add “endless genealogies,” evidently also Jewish, for they are classed by the writer with “fightings about the law” (Titus 3:9; 1 Timothy 1:4), and form part of the teaching of those who call themselves “teachers of the law” (1 Timothy 1:7). The natural solution presents itself, if we accept the Pastoral Epistles as closely connected with the Epistle to the Colossians. There we read of teachers who were trying to bring the Church into legal bondage, advocating the law as a higher means of sanctification and illumination; making distinctions between days and meats, like the weak Christians spoken of in Romans 14:1-23., and taking up the worship of angels, in order to obtain from them revelations as to the celestial world (Colossians 2:16-18). One step further in the same direction will put us in touch with the false teachers of the Pastoral Epistles, who only represent a further stage of degeneracy in the direction of Judaism. They are the precursors of the Cabbala, which is a natural outgrowth of their doctrine.

3. Church organization. Several modern critics, following Baur, have assumed that the ecclesiastical offices referred to in the Pastoral Epistles indicate much later date than the apostolic age. The functions of presbyter and deacon seem much more strictly defined than is likely to have been the case in the first century. The position of Titus and of Timothy in relation to the eiders or presbyters, seems suggestive rather of the monarchical episcopate of the second century, The ministry of widows, as described (1 Timothy 5:1-25.), can hardly be anything else than the office of deaconess-sisters, spoken of in ecclesiastical writings of a later date; as, for instance, when Ignatius says to the Christians at Smyrna, “I salute the virgins, called widows.” But there are two insuperable difficulties in the way of this theory:

(1) the plurality of presbyters in each Church (Titus 1:5; 1 Timothy 4:14), and

(2) their complete equality of position. These are the distinctive marks of the presbytery or episcopate of apostolic times, in opposition to that of a later period, when the bishopric was entrusted to one man, who was set over the college of presbyters. Undoubtedly reference is made in 1 Timothy 4:14 to a council of presbyters as an organized body, which had concurred with Paul in setting Timothy apart for his office, by the laying on of hands. But, in the first place, that which was thus conferred on Timothy was not the office of bishop, but simply a call to evangelistic work (2 Timothy 4:5). And this rite of the laying on of hands to set apart to some work of ministry was practised in the Church from the earliest times, as for example, at Antioch, where the prophets and teachers laid hands on Barnabus and Saul to designate them for their missionary journey among the Gentiles. Even earlier than this the same practice is referred to in the Church at Jerusalem, when the apostles laid hands on the “seven men of good report” chosen to administer the alms of the Church to the poor. It is, indeed, an Old Testament usage, for Moses laid his hands on Joshua to transmit to him his office; and the same practice was observed when the heads of an Israelite household transferred to the Levites the duty properly devolving on their eldest sons, to serve in the sanctuary. It is then perfectly natural, that when Timothy departed from Lycaonia with Paul and Silas for a new mission among the Gentiles, the elders of the Church should have united with Paul in imploring for him the unction of the Holy One to qualify him for his evangelistic work, to which he was thus set apart. It is no matter of surprise then if, in 1 Timothy 3:1-16., Paul speaks of the diaconate as a recognized office, especially in a large Church like that of Ephesus. The opening words of the Epistle to the Philippians show that in another and probably much smaller Church, this office was already existing side by side with that of the bishop. If the Epistles before us had been written in the second century, by some one assuming the name of Paul, why should he have omitted the deacons in the Epistle to Titus? On the other hand, it is quite natural that if the Church of Crete had been only recently founded, this second office should not yet have been required. In the passage referring to widows in 1 Timothy 5:1-25., careful attention should be paid to the transition in 1 Timothy 5:9 from those who are widows in the ordinary sense to those who may be enrolled as such for the service of the Church, in the care of orphans and strangers and the poor. Whatever Weizsacker may say on this point, it seems to us perfectly clear that it is in this sense of a recognized servant of the Church, that the title of deaconess is given to Phoebe, in Romans 12:1,

2. All the references then in the Pastoral Epistles to offices in the Church seem to be closely connected with the elements of Church organization which we find mentioned in the earlier Epistles. The apostle is indeed more occupied than formerly with the duties and responsibilities of these servants of the Church. This arises no doubt partly from the ever-increasing gravity of the danger to the Churches from these unsound doctrines, and from the yet more deadly errors which he forecasts in the future. Then the apostle has a prevision of his own approaching end; and to these two causes of anxiety on the Church’s account, a third is to be added, of which we must now speak more at length. In the early days of the Church at Jerusalem, reference is made to presbyters or elders, in whose hands Barnabas and Paul placed the moneys collected at Antioch for the poor of the flock at Jerusalem (Acts 11:30). These same elders are spoken of again as taking part in the assembly which decided the conditions of the admission of the Gentiles into the Church (Acts 15:2; Acts 15:6; Acts 15:22). But it does not appear that these elders, as such, were preachers. Their office seems rather to have been administrative. Paul and Barnabas, in their first mission into Asia Minor, before leaving the Churches which they had founded there, appointed elders whom they set apart with fasting and prayer. It is probable that the ministry of these elders was of a spiritual as well as administrative character. For the apostles, not being themselves present in the Churches, the oversight and spiritual guidance of them would naturally devolve on these elders. This could not be the case to the same degree in Jerusalem, where the apostles themselves still resided. Somewhat later, at Thessalonica, there were in the Church leaders or overseers, who carried on the work among the faithful. The reference here is clearly to a ministry of a spiritual nature, but only under the form of the cure of souls (1 Timothy 5:12-14), not under that of preaching. This is spoken of as the gift of prophecy, and was doubtless bestowed on those who filled the post of teachers in the Church (1 Timothy 5:19-20). At Corinth, the spontaneous manifestation of the Spirit under the three forms of prophecy, the gift of tongues, and teaching, seems exceptionally abundant. Yet the regular officers could not be dispensed with. Why should not Paul have instituted them here as well as in Lycaonia and at Thessalonica? They are indeed mentioned in the long enumeration of the various gifts, under the name of “helps “ and “governments,” ἀντιλήψεις κυβερνήσεις (1 Corinthians 12:28). Both are spoken of in the plural, because these two functions had their various spheres of duty; but both offices were certainly recognized. For if they had no existence, why does the apostle say at the commencement of this passage, “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are diversities of ministrations, but the same Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:4-5)? Certain gifts then were to be freely exercised: those, namely, which the apostle describes by the special name of “gifts” (χαρίσματα). But there were others which were to be exercised by regular functionaries appointed by the Church itself, as in the ease of the gifts of “helps and governments,” which belonged to the presbyters and deacons. In the Epistle to the Romans, instead of the twelve gifts which flourished at Corinth, we find only seven (Romans 12:8); prophecy, ministry (διακονία)--which includes no doubt the two offices of which we have just spoken--teaching, and a series of other gifts appertaining to the individual life. We feel that the extraordinary outpouring of gifts at Corinth was a local and temporary fact. The tongues disappeared, and teaching took their place; the gift of prophecy was directly perpetuated in the offices of the Church. Everything tends to settle down into a calmer and more settled state. Strong confirmation is given to this view by the Epistle to the Ephesians. Here Paul embraces the ministry in all its breadth, as concerning not only the particular Church, but the Church universal. He sees the gifts bestowed by the risen and glorified Lord, and the functions arising out of them taking three forms. First, there is the foundation ministry, represented by the apostles and prophets. Secondly, a ministry of extension carried on by the evangelists or missionaries. Thirdly, a ministry of edification entrusted to the pastors and teachers (1 Timothy 4:11). And this is all. The rich abundance of gifts enumerated in the Epistle to the Corinthians, seems to have vanished; or at any rate their place in the Church is a subordinate one. Of all the gifts and offices belonging to the Corinthian Church, there remain only two--those of pastors and teachers--the pastorate as an office, the teaching as a free gift. The first of these terms clearly includes presbyters and deacons; the second refers to public teaching. But it must be observed that the way in which the apostle expresses himself (using a singular article for the two names) implies a very close connection between the functions of pastor and teacher. Very much the same state of things is suggested by the superscription of the Epistle to the Philippians, “To all the saints which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” Doubtless it is natural, that in addressing a letter, only the offices should be mentioned, the gifts being too uncertain an element to be enumerated. But the absence of any allusion to these gifts in the course of the Epistle, shows how far we are receding from the early Corinthian phase of Church life. If now we turn again to the Pastoral Epistles, we shall naturally expect to find a continuance of the same tendency to blend the gift of teaching with the office of elder. And so it is. According to Titus 1:9, the choice of a presbyter or bishop must only fall on a man who “is able both to exhort in the sound doctrine and to convict the gainsayers.” According to 1 Timothy 3:2, the bishop must be a man “apt to teach” (see also 2 Timothy 2:24). Lastly, according to 1 Timothy 5:17, there are two classes of elders--those who confine themselves to administering the affairs of the Church, and those who in addition to this “labour in word and in teaching. “The latter are to be” counted worthy of double honour.” We see that in proportion as the extraordinary gifts of primitive times cease, the offices in the Church increase in importance and in influence, and that the principal gift--that of teaching--which survived all the rest, came to be more and more closely identified with the office of the regular ministry. (Prof. F. Godet.)

1. The first of the difficulties, around which the others revolve, is the chronological puzzle. If Luke had told us that Paul was beheaded at the close of the imprisonment of which he records the commencement, and if he had thus forced us to intercalate the narrative of the “Acts” with otherwise unrecorded biographical detail, even then, we should feel convinced that a forger would have been more careful in his mention of names, persons, places, and seasons, and would not have courted immediate detection by the fabrication of a series of journeys and missionary labours which clashed with universally-accredited documents. But Luke is silent about the conclusion of Paul’s life; and the possibility thus granted of the hypothesis of a second imprisonment becomes the salvation of the Epistles from this irreverent handling. Baur is fully aware of this, and endeavours to show that the statement made by Clement of Rome throws no weight into the balance of probability in favour of a second imprisonment. Granting, however, that the Epistles to the Philippians and Colossians give no hint of any continued expectation of a visit to Spain, and that Luke’s narrative leaves no space for Paul’s intended journey from Rome to Spain (Romans 15:24), yet the hint given by Clement lends high probability to such a visit having been paid; and so, from the time of Eusebius to our own day, this solution of the difficulties has been thought by a long catena of competent scholars to be satisfactory.

2. A second class of difficulties arises from the use of a number of words and phrases which are peculiar to one or more of these Epistles, and are not found in other portions of the Pauline writings. This argument appears very convincing to some writers, but investigation into the circumstances under which these letters were written, the persons to whom they were addressed, and the purposes for which they were composed, is more than sufficient to account for the occurrence of these peculiarities. If a group of Bishop Berkeley’s letters about his intended college at Bermuda were compared with several chapters of his “New Theory of Vision, very similar phenomena would appear. Each class of composition would have, to some extent, its own vocabulary. To say that certain expressions, like “doctrines of devils,” are not apostolic because not found in the earlier Epistles, is reasoning in a vicious circle. We cannot know that this and other terms and phrases are not Pauline until, on other grounds and by irrefragable evidence, it is shown that these Epistles were not written by the apostle. Many of these expressions, such as “healthy,” or “sound doctrine,” which in some form occurs six times in the Pastoral Epistles, are perfectly comprehensible if we reflect on the growth of dogmatic ideas and ecclesiastical discipline, on the diffusion of poisonous doctrine, and the prevalence of diseased forms of thought during the course of the four to six years which must have elapsed between writing the Epistle to the Philippians and the Epistles before us. Take, again, a fresh and beautiful form of expression which repeatedly occurs: “This is a faithful saying.” It reveals a new but indubitable characteristic of the early Church. Holy, trustworthy, Divine words had begun to pass from lip to lip and from land to land. They were sacred coins stamped in the mint of religious experience, and passing current as pledges and symbols of new and supernatural fellowship. Who can wonder if such watchwords as, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” or as “If we die with Him we shall also live with Him”--words expressive of the very centre and scope of the whole gospel--had already become the recognized bonds of mutual understanding; that the rise of a custom, which developed ultimately into creeds and liturgical forms, should have received Paul’s imprimatur? Psalms, hymns, spiritual and responsive songs, had, as we may judge from 1 Corinthians 14:16, Colossians 3:16, been growing into customary use in the early Church. These Divine “proverbs,” created we know not by whom, polished by deep emotion, tested in the furnace of sorrow, proved in the hour of conflict, were among the sacred possessions of the martyr Church, and we need not suppose that a reference to the habit is post-apostolic. There are many approximations to the same conception in the undoubted Epistles of Paul. Again, why should Paul not use the word epiphaneia, instead of parousia, to denote the coming of our Lord? Had not earlier Epistles shown that the feverish expectation of a visible parousia was requiring modification, and that the apostle himself anticipated a “manifestation,” which was even more than the old notion of a “coming,” and might prove to be the final revelation and unveiling of the fact that He had already come? It is true that the verb (arnoumai) “deny” is frequently used in these Epistles of those who repudiated the Lord Jesus, and it is also used in Jude, 2 Peter, and 1 John--a circumstance vindicated by the subversive character of the later developments of heretical feeling which came under Paul’s observation after his deliverance from his first imprisonment. One of the most striking peculiarities to which adverse critics call attention is the use, thirteen times, of either eusebeia, eusebein, eusebos, for godliness or piety towards God in Christ. Some equivalent form occurs five times in the Acts, but hardly anywhere else in the New Testament. This may have arisen from Paul having contrasted the great Christian” mystery of godliness” with the heathen conception of relation to the gods. Paul, by his long residence in Rome, came upon this grand definition, and then, having once used it, he found the various derivatives of the word embrace for him the whole circumference of Christian experience and conduct. Another phrase is used in both Epistles to Timothy characteristic of the position and duties of the evangelist, but borrowed from the style of the Old Testament, and never elsewhere adopted in the New. I refer to the expression, “O man of God” (1 Timothy 6:11), and “The man of God” (2 Timothy 3:17). This peculiarity is in harmony with the apostolic idea of the Christian ministry, and it corresponded with the prophetic rather than with the priestly order of the old covenant. If it were necessary to follow these terms and phrases in detail, it would be far more just to the materials before us to imagine a more or less sufficient reason why the apostle should have adopted them, than, on account of their presence, to perform the rough and sweeping process of handing these Epistles over to a falsarius. Surely a writer who was anxious to make his compositions pass for those of the apostle Paul, could easily have kept scrupulously within the vocabulary of his undoubted Epistles.

3. A third class of difficulties has arisen from the numerous digressions of the author of these Epistles. It is stated that, without warning, he departs from the matter in hand to introduce broad statements of Christian principle or compendiums of truth; and 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 2:4-6; 1 Timothy 3:16, are cited in illustration. This peculiarity is sufficiently marked, but not more so than it is in the Epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, and Corinthians. Thus in Galatians 2:1-21., Paul digresses to recount portions of his own life; and in stating what he said to “Peter before them all,” he unfolds the whole doctrine of justification by faith. In the Epistles to the Corinthians, the digressions run into whole chapters, and it becomes difficult in consequence to follow the argument. Compare also Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 4:1, for a similar idiosyncrasy of style.

4. De Wette has urged the author’s exaggeration of the moral and doctrinal elements in the Epistles in a manner said to be un-Pauline. But though we may admit a more concise and clearly-cut phrase for certain theological conceptions, and discover the use of the word “hairetikos” in Titus 3:10 in a sense which savours of a later signification of the word “hairesis,” yet it is clear that “hairesis” in Paul’s undoubted Epistles did mean faction or sect, and that “heretick” might mean a person who fomented and agitated for sects and with a party spirit. But since such a spirit always arose from some strongly-held idea, some truth, or half-truth, or untruth pertinaciously maintained, the word probably had always carried with it an antithetic reference to the faith of Christ; and now, when opposition had crystallized itself into definite shape, “heresy” was an appropriate term for Paul, at the end of his life, to use when writing to a Church officer concerning the root principle of dissension and schism.

5. The most formidable agreement among the impugners of the authenticity of the Epistles turns upon the indications afforded by them of an ecclesiastical constitution which was not developed until after the supposed date of Paul’s death. In our opinion, there is nothing more than may be safely gathered from the Epistle to the Philippians 1:1-2, where the only Church officers referred to are “the bishops and deacons.” “The elders” to be appointed in every city in Crete are clearly identical in person with the bishops, whose qualifications are immediately recorded (Titus 1:5-7; Comp. Acts 20:17; Acts 28:1-31). Even in the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 12:8) there is special advice given to the ruler in the Church, and the same word is used that describes the ruling functions of the elder in the Pastoral Epistles. See 1 Timothy 3:4; comp. also 1 Thessalonians 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 12:28, where the charism of government is reckoned as one among the many gifts of the Spirit. (H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)

1. The external evidence of their reception by the universal Church is conclusive. They are distinctly quoted by Irenaeus, and some of their peculiar expressions are employed in the same sense by Clement, Paul’s disciple. They are included in the Canon of Muratori and in the Peschito, and are reckoned by Eusebius among the canonical Scriptures universally acknowledged. Their authenticity was never disputed in the early Church, except by Marcion; and that single exception counts for nothing, because it is well known that he rejected other portions of Scripture, not on grounds of critical evidence, but because he was dissatisfied with their contents.

2. The opponents of the genuineness of these Epistles have never been able to suggest any sufficient motive for their forgery. Had they been forged with a view to refute the later form of the Gnostic heresy, this design would have been more clearly apparent. As it is, the Epistles to the Colossians and Corinthians might have been quoted against Marcion or Yalentinus with as much effect as the Pastoral Epistles.

3. Their very early date is proved by the synonymous use of the words πρεσβύτερος and ἐπίσκοπος.

4. Their early date also appears by the expectation of our Lord’s immediate coming (1 Timothy 6:14), which was not entertained beyond the close of the apostolic age. (See 2 Peter 3:4.)

5. Their genuineness seems proved by the manner in which Timotheus is addressed. How can we imagine a forger of a subsequent age speaking in so disparaging a tone of so eminent a saint?

6. In the Epistle to Titus, four persons are mentioned (Artemas, Tychicus, Zenas, Apollos); in 1 Timothy two are mentioned (Hymenaeus and Alexander); in 2 Timothy sixteen are mentioned (Erastus, Trophimus, Demas, Crescens, Titus, Mark, Tychicus, Carpus, Onesiphorus, Prisca, Aquila, Luke, Eubulus, Claudia, Pudens, Linus). Now, supposing these Epistles forged at the time De Wette supposes--viz., about a.d. 90--is it not certain that some of these numerous persons must have been still alive? Or, at any rate, many of their friends must have been living. How, then, could the forgery by possibility escape detection? If it be said that some of the names occur only in the Pastoral Epistles, and may have been imaginary, that does not diminish the difficulty; for would it not have much surprised the Church to find a number of persons mentioned in an Epistle of Paul from Rome whose very names had never been heard of?

7. De Wette himself discards Baur’s hypothesis that they were written in the middle of the second century, and acknowledges that they cannot have been written later than about the close of the first century--i.e., about a.d. 80 or 90. Now, surely, it must be acknowledged that if they could not have been later than a.d. 80 or 90, they may well have been as early as a.d. 70 or 68. And this is all which is required to establish their genuineness. (Conybeare and Howson.)

“It is an established fact,” as Bernhard Weiss rightly points out, “that the essential fundamental features of the Pauline doctrine of salvation are, even in their specific expression, reproduced in our Epistles with a clearness such as we do not find in any Pauline disciples, excepting, perhaps, Luke, or the Roman Clement. Whoever composed them had at his command, not only St. Paul’s forms of doctrine and expression, but large funds of apostolic zeal and discretion, such as have proved capable of warming the hearts and guiding the judgments of a long line of successors. Those who are conscious of these effects upon them selves will probably find it easier to believe that they have derived these benefits from the great apostle himself, rather than from one who, with however good intentions, assumed his name and disguised himself in his mantle. (Alfred Plummer, D. D.)

Time and place of writing

The design with which these Epistles were written--their subject-matter--their very phraseology--all bespeak a date of composition distinct from and later than that of any other Epistle of St. Paul. The apostle’s declining years, the death of so many of his apostolic brethren, the breaking out of the persecution of the Christians under Nero in a.d. 64, the foresight of his own martyrdom not far distant, the anticipation also perhaps of the death of the Apostle of the Circumcision, St. Peter, for which that apostle was looking, as our Lord had showed him (2 Peter 1:14; John 21:18)

, the foreboding of evil days at hand for the Church (Acts 20:29; 2 Timothy 3:1)--these and other considerations would impress themselves on the apostle’s mind with great force and solemnity, after his release from his two years’ detention at Rome, and would inspire him with earnest solicitude, and with a vehement desire to provide for the future spiritual welfare of the Churches, which would soon be bereft of his personal presence and fatherly care. He would, therefore, now bequeath to the Church an apostolic directory for her future guidance in spiritual regimen and polity. This he did by constituting the Churches of Ephesus and of Crete, and by setting Timothy and Titus over them respectively as chief pastors of those Churches, which were thus presented to the eye of Christendom as specimens and models of apostolic Churches; and by addressing to the chief pastors of those Churches these Epistles, which were designed to be to them, and to all bishops and pastors, like a sacred manual and a heavenly oracle for their guidance (1 Timothy 3:15). It may also be remarked, that the form of religious error, against which St. Paul provides an antidote in these Epistles, is of a peculiar character, such as belonged to the last age of the Jewish polity and to the decay of the Jewish ritual at Jerusalem. It is not the rigid Pharisaism and strict legal self-righteousness which had been condemned by St. Paul in the Epistles to the Galatians and Romans. But it was a speculative Gnosticism, a theorizing profession of faith, a spurious religion of words, vaunting, in boastful hypocrisy, its own spiritual illumination, but hollow, barren, heartless, profitless, and dead; not “maintaining good works,” but rather disparaging them: explaining away the doctrine of the resurrection of the body (2 Timothy 2:17-18) by an allegorical process of interpretation, afterwards fraught with so much moral mischief to the world; and deluding its votaries with a specious show and empty shadow of godliness; and puffing them up with presumptuous notions of superior holiness, and tempting them to cauterize their consciences with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:2); and inveigling them to make compromise between God and mammon, and enticing them with earthly allurements to make religion a trade, and to wear away their days in hypocritical unfruitfulness, and to live as liars to themselves, and indulging them in antinomian licentiousness, worldly lusts, carnal concupiscence, and sensual voluptuousness. It was, in fact, that hypocritical form of religion which had incurred the stern censure of St. James, foreboding the coming woes of Jerusalem (James 1:22-27; James 2:14-26); and which is also denounced in the Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude (2 Peter 2:1-8; 2 Peter 2:13; 2 Peter 2:19; Jude 1:4; Jude 1:10-12; Jude 1:16; Jude 1:19); and which afterwards developed itself in the full amplitude of its hideous deformity in the organized systems of the Gnostics, and particularly in the mystical allegories of Valentinus, and the moral oppositions of Marcion, subverting the foundations of faith and practice, and bringing disgrace on the Christian name by its moral profligacy and dissolute enormities. This is the form of Judaizing Gnosticism that is presented to the eye by St. Paul in these Epistles, and evoked from him those solemn denunciations which characterize these Epistles concerning the moral guilt of heresy, and on the necessity of shunning all profitless and barren speculations, and of teaching wholesome and sound doctrine, fruitful in good works. The peculiar phraseology of these Epistles also deserves notice. It has indeed been arbitrarily represented in recent times as an argument against their genuineness. But it may rather be adduced in confirmation of the statement that they belong to a distinct period of their own (and this a late one) in the apostle’s career. Some of the most remarkable features of this phraseology are--

1. πιστὸς ὁ λόγος used to introduce a memorable saying, a formula peculiar to these Epistles (1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 3:1; 1Ti 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8), and very appropriate to a time when the apostle would leave certain memorable sentences as faithful sayings, to be like “nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given by one Shepherd “--even Christ Himself, the Chief Shepherd.

2. ὑγιαίνουσα διδασκαλία λόγοι ὑγιαίνοντες λόγος ὑγιὴς ὑγιαίνειν τῆ πίδτει (1 Timothy 1:10; 1 Timothy 6:8; Titus 1:9; Titus 1:13; Titus 2:1-2; Titus 2:8; 2 Timothy 1:13; 2 Timothy 4:3)--words equally proper to be sounded in the ears at a time when the Church was suffering from such spiritual diseases as the apostle describes under such names of a canker, fables, profitless questions, idle talk.

3. The same observation may be applied to the perpetual inculcation of the terms sound, sober, holiness, and such like. They are like protests against that empty profession of religion, which was like a foul and deadly gangrene preying on the vitals of the Church. (Bp. Chris. Wordsworth.)

Set free from his captivity in the spring of the year 64, Paul departed for the East, as he had said to Philemon and to the Philippian Church. Embarking at Brindisi, the most frequented port of Italy on the eastern side, he arrived at Crete. There he found Titus, who had already preached the gospel there and founded Churches. Here Paul remained some time with Titus. Then, desiring to fulfil his promise to the Philippians, he left there his faithful servant, who was still to carry on the work, and departed into Macedonia. Trophimus, who accompanied him, fell sick as the ship coasted along the shores of Asia Minor, and was left at Miletus. Paul had only a glimpse in passing of Timothy, who was at this time stationed at Ephesus. Paul exhorted him to remain at his difficult post, instead of becoming his companion, as Timothy would doubtless have preferred. As it was Paul’s intention in any case to visit Asia Minor before leaving for the West, he promised Timothy to come back shortly, and continued his voyage. He disembarked at Troas, where he left his cloak and books with Carpus, meaning to take them up again on his return. Arrived in Macedonia, his mind full of anxious thoughts about the grave duties devolving on his two young companions in labour, he wrote to them both--to Timothy with a view to encourage him, to give him fresh counsel, and assure him again of his speedy return; and to Titus to tell him that some one was being sent to take his place, and to beg him to come without delay to join Paul at Nicopolis, probably the town in Thrace, where he proposed to pass the winter, before starting again in the spring for Asia Minor. As far as we can gather, St. Paul seems to have been prevented by some unforeseen circumstance from carrying out this plan. He was not able either to go back to Troas to fetch the things he had left there, or to rejoin Timothy at Ephesus, or to avail himself of Philemon’s hospitality at Colosse. He was compelled suddenly to return west. Either he was carried there as a prisoner, having been arrested in Macedonia, or he went of his own accord into Italy in response to some urgent demand upon him. This sudden call may have been the dispersion and comparative destruction of the Church of Rome under the persecution by Nero. It needed a hand like Paul’s to raise again the building from its ruins. It is possible that after performing this duty, he may, at length, in the course of the year 65, have left for Spain, as says the Fragment of Muratori (perfectionem Pauli ab urbe ad Spaniam proficiscentis)

. There he must soon have been again taken prisoner and brought back to Rome. From his prison he wrote the Second Epistle to Timothy, in which he describes his almost utter loneliness, and begs him to come to him before the winter of 65-66. Notwithstanding the favourable issue of his first appearance at the imperial tribunal, when he was enabled to bear his full testimony before the heads of the State, he was soon condemned and executed (probably beheaded) on the Appian Way, near which his tomb was still shown in the second century. We donor see what valid objection there can be to this hypothetical explanation, which bears out all the allusions contained in the three Epistles before us. Even the prophetic words spoken to the Ephesian elders at Miletus (Acts 20:25) thus find their fulfilment: “Behold, I know that ye also, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, shall see my face no more”; for he was never able to carry out his purpose of again visiting Asia Minor. His presentiment of his coming end (to which, as we see from his words to Philemon, he did not attach the certainty of prophecy) proved truer than at one time he himself supposed. (Prof. F. Godet.)

Distinguishing characteristics

The two Epistles of St. Paul to Timothy with the Epistle to Titus form a clearly distinct group in the apostolic writings. They have been designated The Pastoral Epistles; and though the expression, like that of The Synopotic Gospels, has the disadvantage of attributing to them in too great a degree a general design, and of thus diverting attention from their individual peculiarities, it marks with correctness the most important element which they have in common. The First Epistle to Timothy and the Epistle to Titus are, indeed, mainly concerned with instructions and exhortations to those disciples of the apostle respecting their duties as overseers of the two Churches committed to their charge, and with advice and warning in view of the special dangers they would have to meet. But the Second Epistle to Timothy starts from more personal considerations, and is in a far greater degree occupied by them. The apostle writes it while under imprisonment at Rome, and in expectation of imminent martyrdom (2 Timothy 4:6-7). In a tone of deep emotion, natural to such circumstances, St. Paul writes to Timothy, entreating him, if possible, to come to him soon; and occasion is taken to address to him some earnest exhortations that he should be stedfast in the faith, and fulfil his course like the apostle himself. But the duties which Timothy has to discharge in this course are those of a chief pastor; the apostle is thus led to direct his advice in great measure to these special duties; and so far the Epistle resembles the other two. It should, indeed, be borne in mind, since the fact has considerable weight in estimating some of the peculiarities of these Epistles, that they are personal as well as pastoral, differing in this respect from all the other Epistles of St. Paul, except the brief one addressed to Philemon on a special occasion. But so far as they are concerned with the general interests of the Church, it is with the duties of pastors that they deal; and it is impossible to overrate their importance in this respect. The other Epistles afford us all needful instruction respecting the great dogmatic truths of Christianity, and the chief points of Christian morals. But respecting the practical organization and government of the Church, they furnish only incidental hints. The deficiency is supplied by these three Epistles. They were written near the close of the apostle’s career, when it was becoming necessary for him to provide for the due government, after he should have passed away, of the Churches he had founded. Brief as they are, they afford a clear insight into the principles by which he was guided, and they give advice which in all ages of the Church has been accepted as the apostolic standard of pastoral duty. (H. Wace, D. D. , in Speaker’s Commentary.)

These Epistles are marked by peculiarities of their own, which distinguish them from each of the other groups. They were not addressed to Churches, but to individuals--to two younger men, friends and companions of Paul’s travels, who were in perfect sympathy with him--to men who had submitted themselves to his personal influence and were familiar with his methods of thought. To them there was no need to expound the philosophy, whether of law, or of sin, or of redemption. It was unnecessary for him, in these Epistles, to vindicate his apostolic office or to recount either his afflictions or his services. Timothy and Titus had suffered with him. They had difficult duties to discharge, and needed both advice and stimulus. The principles and details of Church discipline, the motives and law of Christian service, were the themes on which he dilated. It is in harmony with these obvious peculiarities of the Epistles that they should abound in phrases suitable to confidential intercourse, and that they should refer to matters which were not included in other and earlier correspondence. (H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)


The ever-deepening sense in St. Paul’s heart of the Divine mercy, of which he was the object, as shown in the insertion of ἔλεος in the salutations of both Epistles to Timothy, and in the ἠλεήθηνof 1 Timothy 1:13.

(2) The greater abruptness of 2 Timothy From first to last there is no plan, no treatment of subjects carefully thought out. All speaks of strong overflowing emotion, memories of the past, anxieties about the future.

(3) The absence, as compared with St. Paul’s other Epistles, of Old Testament references. This may connect itself with the fact that these Epistles are not argumentative, possibly also with the request for the books and parchments which had been left behind (2 Timothy 4:13). He may have been separated for a time from the ἱερὰ γράμματα, which were commonly his companions.

(4) The conspicuous position of the “faithful sayings” as taking the place occupied in other Epistles by the Old Testament Scriptures. The way in which these are cited as authoritative, the variety of subjects which they cover, suggest the thought that in them we have specimens of the prophecies of the apostolic Church which had most impressed themselves on the mind of the apostles and of the disciples generally. 1 Corinthians 14:1-40. shows how deep a reverence he was likely to feel for such spiritual utterances. In 1 Timothy 4:1, we have a distinct reference to them.

(5) The tendency of the apostle’s mind to dwell more on the universality of the redemptive work of Christ (1 Timothy 2:3-6; 1 Timothy 4:10), his strong desire that all the teaching of his disciples should be “sound,” commending itself to minds in a healthy state, his fear of the corruption of that teaching by morbid subleties.

(6) The importance attached by him to the practical details of administration. The gathered experience of a long life had taught him that the life and well-being of the Church required these for its safeguards.

(7) The recurrence of doxologies (1 Timothy 1:17; 1 Timothy 6:15-16; 2 Timothy 4:18) as from one living perpetually in the presence of God, to whom the language of adoration was as his natural speech. (Dean Plumptre in Dict. of Bible.)

Witness of these Epistles to the apostolic ministry. The Pastoral Epistles are the locus elassicus in the New Testament on the subject of the Christian ministry. Elsewhere St. Paul writes to Churches or to a private Christian like Philemon, but here he writes to his own representatives, evangelists, and ministers of Christ like himself, on the duties of their office. And these Epistles themselves supply the answer to the question, what may have prompted the change of method. It was because the circumstances of St. Paul’s last days led him to emphasize the necessity for government in the Church. In the department of doctrine he saw an unpractical profane spirit of speculation springing up on a Jewish basis, but already displaying that sort of false spiritualism, that horror of what is material and actual, which has constantly characterized Oriental thought, and which found such a conspicuous development, in a direction most opposed to Judaism, in the Gnostic movements of the second century (1Ti 1:4-7; 1 Timothy 4:1-5; 1 Timothy 6:20-21; 2 Timothy 2:16-18; Titus 2:10-15; Titus 3:8-9). This speculative tendency was frequently joined to a self-seeking proselytism and a thinly-veiled covetousness (Titus 1:10-11; 2 Timothy 3:6-7; 1 Timothy 6:4-5); and it allied itself with a terrible tendency to lawlessness, which clouded the whole moral atmosphere of the Christian Church, whether in the department of civil authority and secular occupations, or in the relations of master and servant, or in the inner sphere of Church life (1 Timothy 6:1-2; Titus 2:9; Titus 3:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-8). There was a special Heed of government, then, in the circumstances of his last years, and this not only in face of the needs of the moment, but even more in view of the future (2 Timothy 4:6-8; cf 2Ti 3:1-6; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; 1Ti 4:1-5, cf. Acts 20:17-35). St. Paul in these Epistles is emphasizing no new thing. Just as in the Epistle to the Colossians he develops a doctrine of the person of Christ which had been implied in the expressions of his earlier Epistles, and in the Epistle to the Ephesians works out the doctrine of the Church which had been more briefly suggested in his Epistles to the Corinthians, so now he emphasizes that idea of governmental and doctrinal authority in the Church which had been an element in his earlier teaching, especially in his Epistles to the Thessalonians and Corinthians, and consequently lets that gift of government, which in the Corinthian Church had been associated with other more exciting but less permanent and necessary endowments, emerge into greater isolation and distinctness.

1. As to the local ministries of bishop and deacon, if we do not gain much new information, on the other hand we have a greater clearness and definiteness given to the picture we can form of their office. Thus the “episcopus” is also called “presbyter,” and though the latter title would naturally suggest a dignity associated with the reverence due to age, and indicate rather a position than (like the first title) a definite office, yet this will not bear being pressed. A word is used for old men (Titus 2:2) distinct from the title of presbyter, and the latter is markedly identified in Titus 1:5-7 with the title of bishop. These ‘“bishops” constituted a college or group of “presidents” in each Church (1Ti 4:14, cf. Titus 1:5), and are spoken of as being really entrusted with the care of the Church (1 Timothy 5:17; 1 Timothy 3:5). They share the apostolic stewardship, and that not only in the sense of administration, but also in the sense of being entrusted, really, though subordinately with the function of teaching (Titus 1:7; Tit 1:9; 1 Timothy 2:2; 1 Timothy 5:17; 2 Timothy 2:2). The proper discharge of their office is secured by their being carefully chosen, after due probation, in view not only of their moral fitness, but also of their capacities as rulers and teachers (1 Timothy 2:1-7; Titus 1:6-9). The lower ministry of the deacons is provided for in the older and more developed Church of Ephesus, not in the newer Churches of Crete, and it too is to be entrusted only after a due scrutiny of the moral fitness of the man who is to hold it (1 Timothy 2:8-13). We gain no light upon the functions of the diaconate, except so far as that the deacons would not be required, by contrast with the presbyters, to teach or to rule.

2. We gain important information as to the extension of the apostolic office. In Timothy and Titus we are presented with apostolic delegates, exercising the apostolic supervision over the Church of Ephesus and the Churches of Crete respectively. They are not, indeed, what St. Paul and the other apostles were, the original proclaimers of a revelation; they stand in this respect in the second rank, as entrusted only with the task of maintaining a tradition, of upholding a pattern of sound words (2Ti 1:18, cf. 1 Timothy 1:8; 1 Timothy 4:11-16; 1 Timothy 6:3). But in this task they exercise the supreme apostolic authority, and not in this respect only. To them belongs the function, in Titus’ case of founding, in both cases of governing, the Churches committed to them. They ordain men to the Church orders, after being duly satisfied of their fitness, and exercise discipline even over the presbyters (Titus 1:5; 1 Timothy 5:22). Again, as it is their function to maintain the truth, so in defence of it they are to oppose false teachers, and when these exhibit the temper of separatists and heretics, and will not “hear the Church,” they are to act in the spirit of Christ’s directions and leave them to their wilful courses, having nothing further to say to them (Titus 3:10-11). We do not, however, gather that they possessed the miraculous power to inflict physical penalties, which St. Paul describes in his phrase “delivering unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh.” As apostolic delegates, then, Timothy and Titus exercise what is essentially the later episcopal office, but it would not appear that their authority, though essentially permanent, is definitely localized like that of the diocesan bishop. Nor do we gather from these Epistles any clear intimation that Timothy and Titus, though they were to provide for a succession of sound teachers (2 Timothy 2:2), were to ordain men to succeed them in their apostolic office in the local Churches. All then we can fairly conclude is that St. Paul, after ordaining, or with a view to ordaining, the local ministers, bishops, and deacons, appointed delegates to exercise the apostolic office of supervision in his place, both before and after his death; and it must be added that the needs which required this extension of the apostolic ministry were not transitory ones. No definite title is assigned to Timothy and Titus, though their function is spoken of as a “ministry,” and as “the work of an evangelist,” and in Timothy’s case at least is distinguished from that of the presbyters by the attribute of comparative youthfulness (1 Timothy 4:6; 2 Timothy 4:5). No doubt the necessity for fixed titles grew greater with lapse of time and increase of controversy.

3. The Pastoral Epistles give us a clearer view of St. Paul’s conception of the ministerial office. Over and above what constitutes the gift of the Christian life, the apostolic “minister” is qualified for his work by a special, ministerial gift or “charisma”--“a spirit of power, and love, and discipline imparted to him after his fitness has been indicated by a prophetic intimation, in a definite and formal manner, by means of the laying-on of the hands of the apostle, by means also of a prophetic utterance, accompanied with the laying-on of the hands of the presbytery” (2 Timothy 1:6-7; 1 Timothy 4:14; 1 Timothy 1:18). In this process there were features which were not destined to be permanent. Thus the prophetic indication of the person to be ordained ceased; and the prophecy, which St. Paul speaks of as the medium through which with the laying-on of his hands the spiritual gift was communicated, passed from being an inspired utterance into an ordinary prayer or formula of ordination. But it is only a very arbitrary criticism which can fail to see here, with slight miraculous and transitory modifications, the permanent process of ordination with which we are familiar in later Church history, and that conception of the bestowal in ordination of a special “charisma,” which at once carries with it the idea of “permanent character,” and that distinction of clergy and laity which is involved in the possession of a definite spiritual grace and power by those who have been ordained. It is also arbitrary to deny that St. Paul, when he appointed Timothy and Titus to ordain other ministers, as we gather, by a similar process (1 Timothy 5:22), would have hesitated to use the same language about the subsequent ordinations made by them or to attach to them the same ideas. (Chas. Gore, M. A.)



Timothy was the son of one of those mixed marriages which, though condemned by stricter Jewish opinion, and placing their offspring on all but the lowest step in the Jewish scale of precedence, were yet not uncommon in the later periods of Jewish history. The father’s name is unknown; he was a Greek, i.e., a Gentile by descent. If in any sense a proselyte, the fact that the issue of the marriage did not receive the sign of the covenant would render it probable that he belonged to the class of half-converts, the so-called Proselytes of the Gate, not those of Righteousness. The absence of any personal allusion to the father in the Acts or Epistles suggests the inference that he must have died or disappeared during his son’s infancy. The care of the boy thus devolved upon his mother, Eunice, and her mother, Lois It would be natural that a character thus fashioned should retain throughout something of a feminine piety. A constitution far from robust (1 Timothy 5:23), 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 even to tears (2 Timothy 1:4), a tendency to an ascetic rigour which he had not strength to bear (1 Timothy 5:23), united, as it often is, with a temperament exposed to some risk from “youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 2:22), and the softer emotions (1 Timothy 5:2)--these we may well think of as characterizing the youth, as afterwards the man. (Dean Plumptre in Dict. of Bible.)

When Paul, on his second missionary journey, came into closer connection with him, he was already a disciple, and possessed a good reputation among the believers in Lystra and Iconium. Paul calls him his τέκνον (1 Timothy 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 1:2; 1 Corinthians 4:17), from which it would appear that he had been converted by the preaching of the apostle, probably during the apostle’s first stay in Lystra (Acts 14:6-7); and according to the reading, παρὰ τίνων, in 2 Timothy 3:14, by means of his mother and grandmother. Paul, after circumcising him, because his father was known in the district to be a Gentile, adopted him as his assistant in the apostleship. From that time forward Timothy was one of those who served the apostle (Acts 19:22), his συνεργός. The service consisted in helping the apostle in the duties of his office, and was therefore not identical with the office of those called evangelists. Timothy accompanied the apostle through Asia Minor to Philippi; but when Paul and Silas left that city (Acts 16:40), he seems to have remained behind there for some time, along with some other companions of the apostle. At Berea they were again together. When Paul afterwards travelled to Athens, Timothy remained behind (with Silas) at Berea; but Paul sent a message for him to come soon (Acts 17:14-15). From Athens Paul sent him to Thessalonica, to inquire into the condition of the Church there and to strengthen it (1 Thessalonians 3:1-5). After completing this task, Timothy joined Paul again in Corinth (Acts 18:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:6). The two Epistles which Paul wrote from that place to the Thessalonians were written in Timothy’s name also (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1). When Paul, on his third missionary journey, remained for some considerable time in Ephesus, Timothy was with him; where he was in the interval is unknown. Before the tumult occasioned by Demetrius, Paul sent him from Ephesus to Macedonia (Acts 19:22). Immediately afterwards the apostle wrote the First Epistle to the Corinthians, from which it would appear that Timothy had been commissioned to go to Corinth, but that the apostle expected him to arrive there after the Epistle (1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 16:10-11). When Paul wrote from Macedonia the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, Timothy was again with him; for Paul composed that Epistle also in Timothy’s name--a very natural act if Timothy had shortly before been in Corinth. He next travelled with the apostle to Corinth; his presence there is proved by the greeting which Paul sent from him to the Church in Rome (Romans 16:21). When Paul, after three months, left Greece, Timothy, besides others of the apostle’s assistants, was in his company. He travelled with him as far as Philippi, from which the passage across to Asia Minor was usually made. From there Timothy and some others went before the apostle to Troas, where they remained till the apostle also arrived (Acts 20:3-6). At this point there is a considerable blank in Timothy’s history, since he is not mentioned again until the apostle’s imprisonment in Rome. He was with the apostle at that time, because Paul put his name also to the Epistles to the Colossians, Philemon, and the Philippians. This fact is at the same time a proof that no other of his assistants in the apostleship stood in such close relations with him as Timothy. When Paul wrote the last Epistle, he intended to send him as soon as possible to Philippi, in order to obtain by him exact intelligence regarding the circumstances of the Churches there (Philippians 2:19, etc.). From the two Epistles to Timothy we learn also the following facts regarding the circumstances of his life:--According to 1 Timothy 1:3, Paul, on a journey to Macedonia, left him behind in Ephesus, that he might counteract the false doctrine which was spreading there more and more. Perhaps on this occasion--if not even earlier--Timothy was solemnly ordained to his office by the laying on of hands on the part of the apostle and the presbytery. At this ordination the fairest hopes of him were expressed in prophetic language (cf. 1 Timothy 1:18; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6)

, and he made a good confession (1 Timothy 6:12). Paul at that time, however, hoped soon to come to him again. Later on, Paul was a prisoner in Rome. When he was expecting his death as near at hand, he wrote to Timothy to come to him soon, before the approach of winter, and to bring him Mark, together with certain belongings left behind in Troas (2 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 4:11; 2 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:21). Timothy is only once mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament (Hebrews 13:23). It is very improbable that the Timothy there mentioned is another person; and from it we learn that when the Epistle was written he was again freed from an imprisonment, and that its author, as soon as he came, wished, along with him, to visit those to whom the Epistle was directed. According to the tradition of the Church, Timothy was the first Bishop of Ephesus. (Joh. Ed. Huther, Th.D., in Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Handbook.)

If he continued, according to the received tradition, to be Bishop of Ephesus, then he, and no other, must have been the “angel” of that Church to whom the message of Revelation 2:1-7 was addressed. It may be urged, as in some degree confirming this view, that both the praise and the blame of that message are such as harmonize with the impressions as to the character of Timotheus derived from the Acts and the Epistles. The refusal to acknowledge the self-styled apostles, the abhorrence of the deeds of the Nicolaitans, the unwearied labour--all this belongs to the “man of God “ of the Pastoral Epistles: And the fault is no less characteristic. The strong language of St. Paul’s entreaty would lead us to expect that the temptation of such a man would be to fall away from the glow of his “first love,” the zeal of his first faith. The promise of the Lord of the Churches is in substance the same as that implied in 2 Timothy 2:4-6. (Dean Plumptre in Dict. of Bible.)


The Epistle consists of two parts.

1. In the first the apostle treats of three subjects--

(1) The true gospel teaching, which must be preserved from any admixture, and especially from any legal element. It was with a view to this that when Paul was departing into Macedonia he desired Timothy to remain at Ephesus. There he would have to contend with persons who, while calling themselves doctors of the law, have no true comprehension of it, and apply it to the faithful, while it is really only given for evil-doers. The gospel which Paul teaches, and which he has himself been taught by deep experience, excludes any such admixture. It was to be Timothy’s task to uphold in its purity this gospel which others were thrusting from-them (chap. 1.).

(2) Worship. It is the duty of the Church to pray for the pagan rulers of the land, and for all men without distinction. In the assemblies of the Church the women are to wear modest attire, and to keep silence. Their sphere is home (chap. 2.).

(3) The ministry. Reference is made to the bishopric and the diaconate--two offices indispensable to the life of the Church, and in regard to which Timothy is enjoined to use special vigilance. The apostle describes the moral qualifications required in bishops and deacons, without which they could not command the respect of the Church (1 Timothy 3:1-13).

2. In the second part of the Epistle (beginning 1 Timothy 3:14) instructions are given to Timothy as to the way in which he ought to conduct himself towards the Church in general, and to its various classes in particular. And first towards the Church as a whole. He must keep before him its high destiny. It is the pillar on which the mystery of salvation is inscribed that all the world may read. Timothy is charged to use the more watchfulness over it, because the spirit of prophecy foretells a time coming when there shall be a great falling away from the faith, when a spirit of false asceticism will creep into the Church under the guise of superior sanctity, but based in truth upon the impious idea that the whole material part of the works of God is to be ascribed to the spirit of evil. Timothy is to put the Church specially on its guard against such teaching, and is himself sedulously to avoid any approach to this error. He is to command the respect of the Church in spite of his youth, and is not to allow anything to quench the gift which is in him, and which has been imparted “by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery” (1 Timothy 3:14-16; 1 Timothy 4:1-16). Then follow counsels as to his behaviour towards the older members of both sexes, and towards the younger sisters and widows. The apostle here adds some injunctions with regard to widows who may be called to a ministry of practical benevolence in the Church. He then gives rules as to the treatment of presbyters, or elders, who are evidently the same as the bishops spoken of in chap.

3. They were there designated bishops or overseers, with reference to their function in the Church; here they are spoken of as presbyters or elders, in recognition of their dignity. Paul adds on this subject a word of counsel to Timothy himself (chap. 5.); and concludes with some further admonitions to slaves who have become “believers and beloved” (1 Timothy 6:1-2); to those who have already been led away from the truth by false teachers; and to the rich in this world’s goods (1 Timothy 6:17-19). A brief salutation, and one final word of warning (1 Timothy 6:20-21), bring the Epistle to a close. (Prof. F. Godet.)