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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

1 Timothy

- 1 Timothy

by Daniel Whedon



THE so-called Pastoral Epistles (from their being pastoral instructions from a pastor to a pastor) of Timothy and Titus were received as authentic and canonical by the primitive Church with perfect unanimity. Eusebius, in his catalogue, classifies them among the entirely unquestioned books. They are contained in the Peshito, the Syriac translation, made in the second century; and in the Muratorian catalogue of New Testament books, made about the same time. They are also quoted by name by Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian. They are apparently alluded to by Clement of Rome, Ignatius, and Polycarp.

The only dispute in ancient times came from the semi-christian Gnostics outside the Church, who found their own heresies therein predicted and portrayed with an unwelcome clearness and accuracy. In modern times, also, the question comes from a semi-christian class of scholars, occupying a position in relation to the Church quite analogous to the old Gnostic, such as Baur and Renan. The criticisms of such men have had the beneficial effect to call forth very thorough investigations by Christian scholars, and very conclusive answers. It is essentially a past discussion. There is nothing in the formidable array of hostile criticism that need disturb our calmest faith. Our limits do not admit a review of the grounds, which may be amply found in the pages of Alford, Dr. Gloag, and Fairbairn on the Pastoral Epistles.


The entire authority of the ancient writers affirms that St. Paul was twice imprisoned at Rome, and that his second imprisonment was closed by martyrdom. If this be true, we have no difficulty in fixing the approximate time of the writing of Second Timothy; for 1 Timothy 4:6-8 shows that it was but a brief period previous to his martyrdom, which, according to the best authors, took place about A.D. 68. And the similar character of the three Pastoral Epistles indicates that First Timothy and Titus could not have been written much earlier than Second Timothy. The fact of this second imprisonment is mentioned or implied by Clement of Rome, by the Muratorian document, and by Eusebius. St. Paul himself, writing during his first imprisonment, Philippians 1:26, and Philemon 1:22, implies an expectation of an early release; whereas the second epistle to Timothy anticipates an early execution.

A number of able Christian scholars have endeavoured to show that this second imprisonment is superfluous, and that all the demands of the Pastoral Epistles may be brought within the period of the first. Their learning and ingenuity are hardly crowned with success. Very few English or American writers have endorsed the theory. Our limits permit only general statements of the reasons. 1. The unanimous voice of antiquity, affirming the second imprisonment, lays upon their theory a heavy burden of disproof. The obvious meaning of the testimony of Clement of Rome, (some years a contemporary of Paul,) though subjected to very ingenious criticism, proves a second imprisonment. So also the Muratorian fragment. The testimony of Eusebius is, that such was the uncontradicted account, logos, of the Church in his day. 2. The state of the Church and spirit of the times implied in these epistles indicates a later age, and places them obviously in the later group of epistles, with First and Second Peter, and John and Jude. Heresies seem to have attained an advancing development, and the polity of the Church has crystallized into its fixed forms. 3. There are many passages expressing facts, or a state of things for which no room can be found in the life of Paul previous to or during his first imprisonment. See notes on 1 Timothy 1:3; 2 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:20. The apostle’s history, after his first imprisonment, as conjecturally gathered from his epistles, Dr. Gloag thus summarizes from Howson: “Immediately on his liberation, Paul left Rome by the usual route, crossing the Adriatic from Brundusium to Dyrrachium, and then by the Egnatian road to Philippi, (Philippians 2:24;) he then journeyed to Proconsular Asia, and visited Colosse, (Philemon 1:22,) Laodicea, and Ephesus. From Ephesus he undertook his long-premeditated journey to Spain, where he remained two years, returning in A.D. 66. Departing again from Ephesus, he went to Macedonia, (1 Timothy 1:3,) where he wrote the first Epistle to Timothy. From that he went to Crete, (Titus 1:5,) returned to Ephesus, and wrote the Epistle to Titus. Leaving Ephesus for the last time, he journeyed by Miletum, where Trophimus was left sick, (2 Timothy 4:20,) by Troas, where he left his parchments, (2 Timothy 4:13,) and by Corinth, where Erastus remained behind, (2 Timothy 4:20,) to Nicopolis in Epirus, where he remained to winter. (Titus 3:12.) Here it is supposed that he was arrested and sent for trial to Rome, where he wrote the Second Epistle to Timothy.” In regard to his martyrdom see note, Acts 28:30.


Early in his second missionary tour St. Paul found at Lystra a young man, converted probably on his former visit, who was “well reported of by the brethren.” His father was a Greek; but his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, had been pious Jewesses, and were now faithful Christians. This youth, Timothy, he adopted as his young attendant, in place of John Mark; as he had Silas as coequal minister in the place of Barnabas. Timothy attended him, thence, into Europe. His youth and subordinate position exempted him apparently from the sufferings of Paul and Silas at Philippi, as well as from being even mentioned by Luke in the narrative. Yet when Paul departed from Berea to Athens, Timothy was by him sent back to Thessalonica. When Paul passed on from Athens to Corinth he was rejoined by Timothy there. So rapidly had Timothy matured in the holy ministry that St. Paul joins his name with that of himself and Sylvanus in both his epistles to the Thessalonians. This may be considered as the close of the first period of his life, which we may call his novitiate.

In his second, which we may perhaps call his presbyterial, period, we find him at Ephesus, (whither Paul passed from Corinth,) where he was doubtless Paul’s coadjutor during his long ministry in founding the Ephesian Church. When at its close the apostle projected another tour into Greece, he sent Timothy and Erastus, as his harbingers, into Macedonia and Corinth. When Paul himself had arrived at Macedonia, we find Timothy with him, his name being associated in the greeting in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. He was Paul’s co-labourer at the next brief stay at Corinth; and we trace him as Paul’s co-traveller from Corinth back through Macedonia into Asia, as far as Troas.

For a period of two years, during which Paul’s arrest at Jerusalem and confinement at Cesarea take place, we find no mention of Timothy. But his loyalty to Christianity and to St. Paul is amply attested. In three of those voices from the Roman prison, namely, the epistles to Philippi, Colosse, and Philemon, Timothy’s name is found added to Paul’s in the opening address. From his prison Paul writes to Philippi that he hopes soon to send Timothy to them, “for,” says he, “I have no man likeminded.” Titus we are authorized by Paul to place Timothy highest in his estimation among all by whom he was attended.

The third may conveniently be called his episcopal period, in which he is placed by the apostle as presbyter-president over the Church at Ephesus. Somewhere about this time it was that he suffered imprisonment and was set at liberty. To him was addressed by Paul a first epistle, containing a most solemn charge, enjoining faithfulness and various directions as to method in the discharge of his responsible office. Finally, a second epistle contains the apostle’s dying charge, with an earnest request that Timothy would hasten to visit him in the loneliness of his prison. No record informs us whether he accomplished that visit. Eusebius tells us that “Timothy is historically narrated to have first received the episcopate in the Church at Ephesus.” But whether he has any other authority for that statement than these two epistles is more than we know.

We know Timothy only during his youth and earlier manhood, and while he was under the direction of the most eminent of the apostles. The high demands of that apostle he met and satisfied with unparalleled success. The apostle’s love and confidence in him seemed to increase to the last moment. Aged Luke and youthful Timothy were his final reliance. Our young evangelist seemed to unite the most perfect obedience to his superior with a marked executive ability in managing the interests placed under his charge. In youth he manifested the discreetness of maturity; in spite of nervous diffidence he possessed administrative firmness. Unselfishness, purity, abstinence, were the traits of his piety. Yet such, through the whole period of our acquaintance with him, is his subordinate position, that we are left in doubt whether he did not succeed best under a director; and whether he was not, (in words applied by Wendell Phillips to a very different character,) “a first-rate second-rate man.”



The Apostolic Charge 1 Timothy 1:1-20

1. The sacred charge is the safe-keeping of a pure gospel doctrine1 Timothy 1:3-11; 1 Timothy 1:3-11

2. God’s commitment of this charge to Paul gratefully recognised 1 Timothy 1:12-17

3. And by Paul solemnly committed to Timothy 1 Timothy 1:18-20


The Church Order as prescribed by the Gospel Doctrine 1 Timothy 2:1 to 1 Timothy 4:16

1. In worship 1 Timothy 2:1-15

a. Public prayer universally to be offered by men1 Timothy 2:1-8; 1 Timothy 2:1-8

b. With orderly array and deportment of women1 Timothy 2:9-15; 1 Timothy 2:9-15

2. In officiary1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Timothy 3:1-13

a. Presbyter-bishops, their qualifications 1 Timothy 3:1-7

b. Deacons and deaconesses 1 Timothy 3:8-13

3. In doctrine1 Timothy 3:14; 1 Timothy 3:14 -1 Timothy 4:16

a. The incarnation, its predicted opposers soon to appear1 Timothy 3:14; 1 Timothy 3:14 to1 Timothy 4:10; 1 Timothy 4:10

b. Timothy’s self-preparation against them1 Timothy 4:11-16; 1 Timothy 4:11-16


Apostolic Precepts 1 Timothy 5:1 to 1 Timothy 6:21

1. Supervisory duties to different classes 1 Timothy 5:1 to 1 Timothy 6:10

a. To different ages, 1 Timothy 5:1-2; 1 Timothy 5:1-2, and to beneficiary widows, 3-161 Timothy 5:1-16; 1 Timothy 5:1-16

b. To elders, their stipend, trial, ordination, and purity 1 Timothy 5:17-25

c. To servants, 1 Timothy 6:1-2; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; to mercenary counter-teachers, 3-101 Timothy 6:1-10; 1 Timothy 6:1-10

2. Final charge 1 Timothy 6:11-21