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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

2 Timothy 4

Verse 1

IV. ST. PAUL’S CLOSING CHARGE TO TIMOTHY SALUTATIONS AND BENEDICTIONS, 2 Timothy 4:1-55.4.22.

1. Charge to firmness against errorists, 2 Timothy 4:1-55.4.5.

1. This charge has the nature of an oath, by which the imposer assumes to bind his disciple before God by the solemnities and penalties of the final judgment to do certain things which are specified in 2 Timothy 4:2.

Therefore Is to be omitted as a spurious reading; so also at before appearing.

Quick and the dead Both those that live and those deceased.

Appearing Governed as the objective of an oath by understood. I charge thee… before… Christ, by his appearing.

Verse 2

2. What he is charged to do.

Preach Proclaim as a herald, the word which, as herald, thou bearest from God to man.

Be instant Or urgent and pressing, as becomes God’s herald, to force thy message on men’s attention.

Out of season As they may esteem it; yet it will be in season if its very abruptness makes it effectual. Methods of the message. Men are entangled in sophisms, therefore reprove, that is, refute, convince them: they are persistent in known wickedness, therefore rebuke: they are slow to good, therefore exhort, incite, encourage, urge them. Tempers longsuffering, for they will be long-trying; and doctrine for they will need teaching, a continual inculcation of truth.

Verse 3

3. For Reason for this urgent charge. The falling away, predicted. 2 Timothy 3:1-55.3.9; 1 Timothy 4:1-54.4.3.

Sound words, 2 Timothy 1:13.

Itching ears Ears that itch for pleasant doctrines, rather than severe truth.

Verse 4

4. From the truth Which does not soothe the above itch; they turn away their ears towards the fables which do.

Verse 5

5. Watch Literally, wake; be wide awake.

An evangelist An evangelizer, who imbues the people with the gospel.

Full proof Literally, fill the full measure of thy ministry.

Verse 6

2. Triumphal anticipation of martyrdom, 2 Timothy 4:6-55.4.8.

6. For St. Paul now furnishes the reason for this urgent charge just given, and for the solemnity of the charge of this entire epistle. He was about exchanging labour for reward. His place in the Church below will soon be vacant; and O that Timothy might fill the blank as a second Paul!

Ready to be offered The elder biblical scholars literally translated the words, I am already poured upon with the libation. The allusion was to the ancient sacrificial custom of pouring a libation of wine upon the living victim the moment before his slaughter. Hence Paul’s meaning would then be, as in the English version, I am ready to be offered. But later critics maintain that the accurate rendering of σπενδομαι is not to be poured upon, but to be poured. What St. Paul, then, literally says is: “I am already poured as a libation.” He was not then the victim moistened with the drink offering, but the drink offering itself. And then the allusion is to his own blood poured forth under the Roman axe. Yet as this event seems not to have taken place until after the ensuing winter, the word already appears hardly fulfilled.

The answer is, that he viewed his present sufferings as part of his martyrdom. Nor must the words be viewed as an exact prophecy, but as a personal anticipation.

Departure An allusion, perhaps, to a ship’s loosening for sailing forth.

Verse 7

7. Fought… fight The words include not merely allusion to real battle but palestric combats. I have contested the noble contest. Not a good fight, but the good fight, namely, the maintenance of the Christian faith.

Course An allusion to the prize runner.

The faith The doctrine of the cross.

Verse 8

8. Henceforth Paul speaks as from the moment of his martyrdom. It is to be noted that he looks for his crown, not as bestowed in the intermediate and disembodied state, but as at the judgment. In the happiness of that intermediate state he fully believes, (Philippians 1:23,) but his thought glances to the advent as the time of his coronation.

Crown of righteousness So James 1:12, the crown of life. 1 Peter 5:4, the crown of glory; that crown so glorious as to be made of glory; a crown so living as to be made up of life; a crown so holy as to be made up of righteousness. In all these cases the blessedness bestowed upon the man is idealized into a crown.

Love his appearing For fearful as is that day to the wicked, so fearful that the righteous may well tremble, it is still to the latter the day of his vindication and his crown.

3. St. Paul’s personal relations to his fellows, 9-13.

Of the seven of his fellow labourers here noted, four had left him; one, Demas, voluntarily and blamably; two, Crescens and Titus, voluntarily, but unblamed; a fourth, Tychicus, sent away. One only, Luke, was with him, and two, Timothy and Mark, are requested to come to him.

Verse 10

10. Demas Joined in greeting in Colossians 4:14; Philippians 24.

Loved… world So that he left the dangerous post of fellow ministry with Paul; perhaps abandoned the Christian faith. Thessalonica was probably his home.

Galatia The true reading is, perhaps, Gallia, that is, Gaul, France.

Verse 11

11. Luke See notice of Luke, vol. 2, p. 11, and note Acts 13:1.

Mark According to Colossians 4:10, he is commended to Colosse. Timothy might easily take Mark from there if he received this epistle at Ephesus.

Verse 12

12. Tychicus… sent This verse is the strong proof adduced to show that Timothy was not at Ephesus when this epistle was written to him. To obviate the objection Alford would emphasize sent, and make Paul assure Timothy that Tychicus did not leave him voluntarily, but by command. And we may also suggest the query, How was it certain that in those days of uncertain travel he should arrive where he was sent? Or how should Paul be so sure that he had arrived as to make him omit the mention of the sending? Perhaps he might have written less concisely: “I sent Tychicus to fill your place at Ephesus, and hope you have seen him.” There are, indeed, many suppositions that would explain the case, but, from absence of documents, no one that we know to be the true one.

Verse 13

13. The cloak The Greek term φελονην seems to have been a form of the Latin word paenula, signifying an overcoat, or over wrapper. Cicero argues that Milo could not have come on to the ground for the purpose of murdering Clodius, for he came in a paenula. Many able scholars prefer to interpret the word book-bag, or portmanteau. But as Alford well argues, the form of the sentence opposes such a view: The book-bag bring me which, etc., also the books, etc. Any man would have said, bring me the bag of books. Perhaps Paul needed the books, that is, papyrus rolls, (see note Matthew 1:2,) and parchments, in evidence at his approaching trial, and his cloak, in view of the coming winter, 2 Timothy 4:21.

This passage seems to prove that Paul writes in a second imprisonment. He must have lately been at Troas and left his overcoat and books. But in his first imprisonment it was five years since he had been at Troas, and Timothy had been with him since at Rome. He must, therefore, have been released and have visited Troas, and again have been imprisoned.

Verse 14

4. Reminiscences of his former trial, 2 Timothy 4:14-55.4.18.

14. Alexander the coppersmith Or rather, brazier. See note, Acts 19:33. He was probably a resident of Ephesus, but went to Rome as witness or prosecutor against Paul at his trial.

The Lord reward The best authorities read will reward; making the words a prediction rather than an imprecation. The position of both Alford and Fairbairn is, that the imprecative form presents no greater theological difficulty than the predictive. One of the most solemn, yet approvable, passages of the Apocalypse, Revelation 6:9-66.6.10, is imprecative. An inspired prayer may anticipate and invoke the just judgment that a holy God is about to execute. Yet upon such passages sceptical cavil will always be offered.

Verse 15

15. Be thou ware Do thou beware. The words imply treachery in Alexander, perhaps the use and perversion of facts, documents, or doctrines confidentially intrusted to him. This disclosure of his treason may preserve Timothy from a similar betrayal.

Withstood our words Our doctrines; the doctrines of the gospel; which, as appears by 2 Timothy 4:17, Paul boldly stated and maintained in his defence at his arraignment.

Verse 16

16. My first answer It is plausibly maintained that at his second imprisonment, St. Paul underwent two arraignments. The first has, at this present writing, taken place, and resulted in no conviction; the second, anticipated in 6-8, proved fatal.

Verse 17

17. The Lord stood with me An advocate and coadjutor, better than any man. The charge against Paul probably was the introduction of a new religion, unknown to his ancestors. Rome permitted every conquered people to adhere, each, to its own national faith; but inflicted death on innovators and inventors of new faiths. See note, Acts 26:1. Paul maintained that his faith was no new invention, but the true historical continuity and development of old Hebraism. And here we can see how Alexander, who had, we suppose, been both Jew and Christian, might be able to withstand St. Paul’s words, by maintaining that Christianity was a contradiction of the old faith. This would draw Paul out to a full statement of Christianity. And thereby we can see, first, how the Lord, standing by him, would be a powerful inspirer and confirmer in unfolding the glorious truths of the gospel; and, second, how Paul can jubilantly boast that all the Gentiles would hear his plea for Christ. The trial was probably held in one of the large basilicas, and attended by a vast crowd of Romans.

Mouth of the lion Nero, as all the old writers used to say. Yet it is probable that Nero was at this time absent from Rome. Hence, different commentators have each suggested a different lion. Whitby and others name Helius, the administrator in Nero’s absence; Wieseler, the Jewish prosecutor; others, the lions of the amphitheatre. Huther and Fairbairn take lion’s mouth as a single metaphorical phrase to express danger and death.

Verse 18

18. Preserve me Whether from death, as at his first arraignment, or through death, as at his second. For the real preserve consists in securing his transit unto his heavenly kingdom. And so rich in both arraignments is St. Paul’s triumph, that he finishes his account of this first one with a doxology, as he had (in 2 Timothy 4:6-55.4.8) the second with a pean.

It seems surprising, at first, that while St. Paul is in prison and on trial for life for his Christianity any of his fellow Christian preachers should dare to visit and associate with him, bringing him aid and carrying his letters. But, similarly, Socrates in Athens while condemned as a false teacher was visited by his disciples in his prison and discoursed with them at length upon his philosophy. So Christian martyrs, subsequent to St. Paul, as St. Ignatius and Cyprian, were allowed visits and correspondence. The pagan satirist, Lucian, in the early half of the second century describes the career of a Christian itinerant in his day, named Peregrinus, and narrates the eager zeal of Christians in ministering to his wants in prison. “From early dawn old women, widows, and orphan children might be seen waiting about the doors of his prison; while their eminent men, by feeing the keepers, were allowed to pass the night with him in his prison… Moreover, deputies came from certain cities of Asia from the Christian associations to assist, advise, and console the man. They show, indeed, incredible dispatch in any undertaking which would aid a common interest. Sums of money so large were contributed as to furnish no little revenue to Peregrinus.” The government seemed satisfied with destroying the apparent leader, expecting that his followers would come to nothing; and the immediate jailers were ready to grant privileges for a consideration.

Verse 19

5. Salutations and benedictions, 2 Timothy 4:19-55.4.22.

19. Prisca Notes, Acts 18:2; and Romans 16:4.

Household Note, 2 Timothy 1:16.

Verse 20

20. Erastus Mentioned as city treasurer of Corinth in Romans 16:23; as going by commission from St. Paul to Corinth from Ephesus with Timothy, (Acts 19:22,) and here as being with Timothy at Ephesus. He probably ceased from the treasurership when he took up the gospel.

Trophimus Known only as mentioned in Acts 20:4; Acts 21:29; where see notes. Trophimus could not have been left at Miletus on Paul’s journey to his first imprisonment at Rome, of which we have a full narrative in Acts 28:0. Paul, therefore, writes this from a second and last imprisonment.

Verse 21

21. Before winter When the ancient vessels were mostly laid up, and voyage across sea impossible. Such a delay might postpone Timothy’s coming until after Paul’s martyrdom.

Eubulus Nowhere else mentioned.

Pudens… and Claudia An epigram of the Roman poet, Martial, written not long after this time, celebrates the marriage of Pudens and Claudia. English scholars have found proofs that Martial’s Claudia was daughter of a British prince, and was a Christian lady at Rome. Hence a plausible and pleasing theory identifies Paul’s Pudens and Claudia with Martial’s. See Alford’s Prolegomena, and Conybeare and Howson, vol. ii, pp. 500-502.

Linus Irenaeus says: “The apostles… conferred upon Linus the office of the episcopate [at Rome.] Of this Linus Paul makes mention in his epistles to Timothy.”

All the brethren From which it appears that the Church had not been wholly scattered by persecution. And this was destined soon to become “the Church of the Catacombs.”

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/2-timothy-4.html. 1874-1909.