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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
2 Timothy 3

 

 

Verse 1

III. PREDICTION OF THE APOSTASY AT THE CLOSE OF THE APOSTOLIC AGE, AND CONFIRMATION OF TIMOTHY AGAINST IT, 2 Timothy 3:1-17.

1. False and demoralized character of the coming heretics, 2 Timothy 3:1-9.

1. This know—Of this prediction we may note, 1. That 2 Timothy 3:5 shows that the apostasy described was to be in the Church; and, 2. That it should be in Timothy’s time. 3. 2 Timothy 3:9 shows that the apostasy would be exposed (not cut off) by the second advent of Christ. 4. The whole, with 2 Timothy 4:6, shows that it is to take place after St. Paul’s departure, (as in Acts 20:29, uttered to this same Ephesus,) and so at the close of the apostolic age.

Last days—Note, 1 Timothy 4:1.

PerilousDifficult times for a Timothy to deal with.

Shall come—Shall gradually set in.


Verse 2

2. Men—The men with the article; the people, that is, of the Church and professedly religious community, (and much worse as in Romans 1:25-32.) This catalogue of qualities belonged, of course, to the paganism of the age, as the history of the times plentifully and sadly shows.

Lovers of their own selves—Not merely possessing rational self-love but selfishness.

Covetous—Silver-loving. Note on Luke 16:14.

Boasters— Braggarts of qualities superior to others.

Proud—With a reserved sense of their own excellence.

Blasphemers—Reproachers not only of God, but of man also.

Unholy—Unjust and irreligious.


Verse 3

3. Truce-breakers—Who would seldom form any treaty, and disregard it if formed.

Incontinent—Uncontrolling of themselves.

Fierce—The reverse of mild, passionate and cruel.

Despisers… good—With no sympathy or respect for the pious and excellent.


Verse 4

4. Traitors—Ready to sacrifice a friend for self-interest.

Heady— Headstrong, impetuous, rushing heedless in their own course.

Highminded—Puffed up and swelling with self-conceit.

Lovers of pleasures… God—A clear and striking antithesis, but too descriptive of most of the world.


Verse 5

5. Over these vices these men would contrive to throw a form of piety, but the power by which piety removes actual wrong conduct and character they would be ever practically denying. It would be an age of antinomianism, in which doctrine and profession would be contradicted by immorality of heart and life.

Turn away—Have no fellowship with a piety devoid of honesty.


Verse 6

6. St. Paul now shows one of the arts by which these antinomians gain adherents, namely, by appealing to the weaknesses of weak women. St.

Paul more than once found noble women who were converted by his public preaching. Acts 17:4. But these proselytes crept, like serpents, into the women’s apartments to suit their doctrines to their tempers.

Creep— Metaphor, perhaps, from serpents.

Silly women—The Greek diminutive, womanlings, females of a smaller intellectual magnitude than the average.

Laden with sins—With remorseful views of past courses, and so looking for some method of absolution. So the Jesuits have, during their whole history, held the secrets of families in possession through means of the female confessional. Women laden with a life of sins found the convent their last resource.

Led… lusts—The word lusts, same as 2 Timothy 2:22, where see note. Here the strong impulses and passions of the feminine sex are meant, by which the proselytes gained them over.


Verse 7

7. Ever learning—Being continually poring over the doctrines of their visionary teachers, and trying to obtain satisfactory discoveries.

Never able to come to the knowledge of the truth—Forever led on with the expectation of firm result, yet forever tantalized that no sure result, no firm foundation, is attained.


Verse 8

8. Jannes and Jambres—The traditional names of the magicians who at Memphis withstood Moses with their false miracles opposed to the true.

Exodus 7:11; Exodus 7:22. Origen says, that the account was preserved in a secret, or apocryphal, Jewish volume entitled “Jannes and Jambres.” The names are found, variously spelled, in the Targum of Jonathan on Exodus 7:11, and Numbers 21:22. Says Alford:— “They were the sons of Balaam—prophesied to Pharaoh the birth of Moses, in consequence of which he gave the order for the destruction of the Jewish children—and thenceforward appear as the counsellors of much of the evil—in Egypt, and in the desert after the Exodus—which happened to Israel. They were variously reported to have perished in the Red Sea, or to have been killed in the tumult consequent on the making the golden calf, which they had advised. Origen (‘Contra Cels., 4:51, vol. i, p. 543’) mentions the Pythagorean Noumenius as relating the history of Jannes and Jambres; so also Euseb., (Praep. Evang., 9:8, vol. iii, [Migne,] p. 412.)” Pliny (“H. Nat., 30:1”) says: “There is another performance of magic, namely, by Moses, and Jannez and Jotapez, among the Jews, but many thousands of years after Zoroaster.”

Reprobate—Rejected, not able to stand the test when tried by the true doctrine of Christ as summarized in 2 Timothy 2:8-13.


Verse 8-9

8, 9. St. Paul here seems to describe a future, the type of which occurs at this same Ephesus in Acts 19:13-20, where see notes, including the notes on the remainder of that chapter.


Verse 9

9. Proceed—In success and ascendency no further than Jannes and Jambres did, who came to total overthrow. The similar words in 2 Timothy 2:16, described their increase or advance, not in success, but in ungodliness. Strange that Alford should find “an apparent inconsistency between the two assertions.”

For—Showing how their overthrow would be accomplished, not by destruction (as at the advent) but by exposure.

Theirs—Jannes and Jambres. Exodus 8:18; Exodus 9:11.


Verse 10

2. But as Timothy knows the trueness and purity of Paul, 2 Timothy 3:10-13.

10. But—Contrastive; introducing a picture antithetic to the above gloomy portraiture.

Thou—Greek, emphatic, both by insertion and position; in antithesis to the errorists above described.

Hast fully known—With thorough study and acquaintance as of a pattern and lesson. Timothy’s acquaintance with Paul’s example as an eyewitness commenced at Lystra, but the report of his previous endurances at Antioch and Iconium, Acts xiv, must have been perfectly known to him at the time. Lystra—The apostle stops his enumeration in precise accordance with the history in Acts 14:20-21, where see notes.


Verses 10-17

10-17. To the above terrific delineation St. Paul now draws a contrastive picture for and of Timothy himself in that approaching future. Taking the suffering and heroic Paul as his pattern, 10-12, in contrast with these seducers, 13, and in full accordance with his childhood’s training in the Scriptures, 14, 15, which are the inspired guide of his life, 15, 16, he will find himself fully fitted for every demand, for every good work.


Verse 12

12. Yea—What Paul has suffered Timothy must, more or less, expect to suffer. The apostle does not invite his pupil to ease and fortune, but to trial and persecution.

All—Explicity affirmed only of the apostle’s own age, but in a greater or less degree applicable, in fact or in spirit, to all ages. Yet we are not to consider persecution a test of our piety.

Shall suffer—The simple future will suffer.


Verse 13

13. But—In contrast to 10-12, St. Paul makes again a brief reference to the corrupt sorcerers of 2 Timothy 3:8.

Seducers—Literally, sorcerers or jugglers; like the opponents of Moses in Exodus, or Elymas, and the followers of Diana in Acts.

Deceiving, and being deceived—By a perpetual community of error mutually deluding each other, and so wax worse and worse by going deeper and deeper into a series of delusions. Such, in fact, was the history of Gnosticism.


Verse 14

3. So he should also be true, according to the Scriptures, inspired to furnish and qualify the minister of God, 2 Timothy 3:14-17.

14. But—Resuming Timothy’s contrast of character over against the errorists.

Knowing of whom—The whom is plural, referring not (as Alford) to Timothy’s parents, but to Paul and the original apostolic eye and ear witnesses of the doings and teachings of Christ. This perfect preservation of the original type was the bulwark of the Church of St. Paul and Timothy against the Gnostics and all other heretics. And when that doctrine was recorded in the apostolic writings and became the rule of faith, it is the bulwark alike to the present day, against all innovations and variations, whether of Romanism or Rationalism.


Verse 15

15. And—This Christ history derived from the original witnesses was fully in accord with the Old Testament, in which Timothy’s childhood was indoctrinated.

Holy Scriptures—The Old Testament, either in the Hebrew, or in the Septuagint translation thereof into Greek, or both. For although Eunice’s husband was a Greek, the old Bible ruled in her system of education.

Are able—With thy proper use of them.

To make thee wise—Being, as they are, predictive, both by spoken prophecy and by sacrificial ritual, of the true Saviour.

Unto salvation—From Jewish, pagan, and Gnostic error, from sin, condemnation, and death.

Through faith—Since it is only as our faith embraces them that they are powerful in us.


Verse 16

16. The divine suitableness of Scripture to fit the minister for his work.

All Scripture—The Greek word for Scripture, γραφη, simply signifies writing; hence in 2 Timothy 3:15 the adjective holy, and, perhaps, here the adjective God-breathed, (which is the literal Greek of the full phrase given by inspiration of God,) are used to qualify the word as meaning the sacred writings. Yet of the fifty times in which the Greek word γραφη, occurs, it does not once designate any thing else than the sacred canon. Scholars find two interpretations for this passage. One is clearly expressed in our English translation: All scripture is inspired and profitable, etc. But the verb for is, not being in the Greek, can be supplied at a different place; and the Greek for and can be emphatic, also. We, then, may have the rendering, All inspired scripture is also profitable, etc. In the former interpretation the inspiration of Scripture is affirmed, in the latter case assumed. Either interpretation is sustainable by the Greek. Ellicott, Alford, and Huther prefer the latter; in which they are sustained by Origen, Grotius, Erasmus, Whitby, and Hammond; also by the Syriac, Vulgate, and Luther’s version. The latter meaning lies most clearly in the train of thought.

That thought, and, perhaps, words, should be God-breathed into, or on, a human being, is a conception familiar to ancient pagan as well as Hebrew and Christian writers. Josephus says: “The prophets learned the highest and most ancient things by the inspiration (breathing on) that is from God.” Plutarch speaks of “the God-breathed dreams.” Cicero says, “No man was ever great without some divine afflatus, (breathing-on.) Either the thought might be imparted to the man, and then the thought was inspired; or the man might be elevated to a higher tone, and so, speaking spontaneously, his words would have something divine about them. 2 Peter 1:21; Matthew 22:43, seems to describe the latter inspiration.

Scripture, Paul tells Timothy, is profitable, positively for doctrine, or teaching positive truth; negatively for reproof, or rather, refutation of error; disciplinarily for correction of conduct; formatively as a whole for righteousness or rectitude of character.


Verse 17

17. Man of God—The Christian minister. Huther objects that Paul does not here prescribe Scripture as an instrument to use in morally forming others, but in forming one’s self. Very true. But it is for forming one’s self to be a perfect former of others. Yet while addressed to Timothy as pastor in Ephesus, it implies inclusively every man who is zealous unto all good works.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-timothy-3.html. 1874-1909.

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