1 Timothy

A verse-by-verse exegetical commentary on the New Testament Greek text

Introduction

In the fourth century Thomas Aquinas referred to first Timothy as a "pastoral textbook." The description stuck, particularly as first and second Timothy and Titus give practical advice on running a church. So, these three letters, purportedly from the hand of Paul the apostle, came to be called the Pastoral Epistles. They are different from Paul's other letters in that they are addressed to individual church leaders, rather than the church as a whole. They are more practical, rather than theological, devoid of the powerful emotion that drove Paul's earlier letters. None-the-less, these three letters have had a mighty impact on the shaping of Christian ministry. Just a glance at the Ordinal in the Prayer Book of the Church of England / Anglican Church shows how the Pastoral epistles have guided ministry expectations. So, Paul's advice to bishops and elders became the church's advice to bishops, priests and deacons. Of course, Paul's "bishop" is not necessarily a diocesan bishop but the chief minister in a congregation of believers. Either way, the advice still applies. Sound advice for a Christian minister is also sound advice for all.

 
The structure of 1 Timothy

As a letter that seeks to address error and build up the reader, there is no neat scheme to what is but a miscellaneous flow of information. None-the-less Marshall presents a nice interpretive arrangement of the material and the following structure reflects his offering, as well as the offering of Hanson and others.

1. Instruction to avoid false doctrine, 1:1-20

i] Salutation and opening commission, 1:1-11

ii] The source of Paul's power and commission, 1:12-17

iii] Renewal of the commission to Timothy, 1:18-20

2. Instruction on Prayer, 2:1-15

Directions for public prayer and the place of women in public worship.

i] Prayer for all people, 2:1-7

ii] Men and women at prayer in a church meeting, 2:8-15

3. Qualifications for church leaders, 3:1-13

i] Bishops / Overseers, 3:1-7

ii] Deacons, 3:8-13

4. The church and the mystery of the faith, 3:14-16

The character of church, 3:14-16

5. Ministerial duties in the face of heresy, 4:1-16

i] False asceticism, 4:1-5

ii] How to fight false teachers, 4:6-10

iii] Timothy's own conduct as a teacher, 4:11-16

6. Directions for ruling a church, 5:1-6:2

i] Dealing with widows, 5:1-16

ii] Dealing with elders, diet, discipline and slaves, 5:17-6:2a

7. Final instructions, 6:2b-21

i] Advice concerning true teaching and the dangers of false teaching and wealth, 6:2b-19

ii] The closing commission, 6:20-21

 
Authorship

The authorship of these letters remains a matter of dispute. Although these notes proceed on the assumption that the Pastoral Epistles are composed by Paul the apostle, such is by no means proven.

Many scholars take these letters to be Pauline, but vocabulary, style, tone and even theological issues have caused some to question Pauline authorship. Paul, for example, is somewhat antinomian in his early letters, but in Timothy 1:8-11 the Law serves a useful function, condemning evildoers. Of course, context probably explains the difference. The differences have prompted the suggestion that the letters were written by a church leader well after Paul's execution, possibly early in the second centaury. This person needs to address leadership problems in the Christian church and so produces a textbook of sorts under Paul's authority. Producing a work in the name of a famous person was a convention of the time, and certainly not viewed as fraud. Identifying this person is next to impossible, but it has been suggested that he is the same person as the author of Luke / Acts. Some scholars suggest that the author of the Pastoral epistles is more an editor than an author. It is argued that this person had at hand a number of Paul's personal letters and he used fragments of these to construct his ministry manual. Of course, debate rages as to which parts were originally Pauline.

Those who support Pauline authorship argue that the differences between the Pastorals and Paul's earlier letters can be explained by his age, the nature of the letter (personal advice to a young minister rather than epideictic rhetoric) and the use of an amanuensis (the person transcribing Paul's words) who seemingly operates with a degree of freedom.

 
Dating

If originally at the hand of Paul, the Pastoral Epistles of I Timothy, Titus and II Timothy are probably composed at a later stage in his ministry. Although it is not possible to be sure of what happened at the point where the book of Acts finishes with Paul imprisoned in Rome in 61AD. Tradition has it that Paul was released, presumably around 63AD. He then continued with his ministry of building up his existing churches, and some believe that he even journeyed to Spain to establish the Christian church there. Whether he did, or did not, visit Spain, it is most likely that he was able to continue his ministry before being executed during the reign of Nero, around 67AD. I Timothy and Titus would then be written some time in this latter part of his ministry, and II Timothy while in prison awaiting his execution.

 
Purpose

The purpose of these letters was to encourage two student ministers. Timothy was a Pastor at Ephesus, and it was to him that Paul penned two personal letters of encouragement. The letters do not have the same power as Paul's earlier works, they are not as theological, rather they deal with church discipline, order and the role of ministry. Many of those who question Pauline authorship suggest that Timothy and Titus are fictional characters who represent the ideal minister. These men serve as model ministers for what are handbooks on ministry; they are what a church leader should be like. Either way, all three letters serve to encourage sound Christian ministry, providing practical advice to that end, cf., 3:14,15.

 
Three specific issues that concern the author

i] Church order and ministry: The church is God's house (1Tim.3:5), bound in brotherly love (1Tim.4:6), faithful and holy (1Tim.4:12.). a) The orders of ministry and their qualifications, 3:1-13. The orders are somewhat unclear. The episkopoV, "overseer, bishop", is always referred to in the singular, whereas the presbuteroi, "presbyters, elders", is usually plural. It seems likely that the bishop is the chief elder in a church, although some argue that he rules over a number of individual churches administered by presbyters. This certainly became the pattern of ministry in later years. Then there are the diakonoi, "deacons, servants, ministers", a lower order of ministry, but with similar gifts to the "overseer, bishop", cf., 1Tim.3:8f; b) Prayer and worship, 2:1-8; c) The role of women, 2:9-15.

 

ii] The preservation of the "deposit of faith." For Paul, this received deposit must be guarded and passed on to those who will faithfully teach it: "guard the treasure"; "guard what was entrusted to me"; "guard the good deposit" - Timothy is to guard what was entrusted to him, ITim.6:20, 2Tim.1:14. In Paul's early epistles "faith" refers to the faithfulness of Christ and to a believers faith in the faithfulness of Christ. Here "faith" is more often "the faith", the body of tradition received and preserved by the Christian church. Some see this as another reason why these letters are not from the hand of Paul, but again, time and circumstance easily changes the use of words.

 

iii] The heresy of nomism: It is often argued that Paul addresses a form of Jewish gnosticism in the Pastoral epistles. It does seem though that the same old problem that constantly hounded Paul is still present in the church, namely, nomism, of "whether a program of Law observance such as that forwarded by the would-be teachers (1:7) is efficacious and appropriate", Johnson.

It seems likely that the false teachers are law-bound believers, most being converted Jews, who regard the Law / Torah as a necessary accompaniment to the Christian life, ie., it serves to control sin and progress sanctification = sanctification by obedience = nomism. This seems to explain the scant hints we have in the letter as to the nature of the heresy:

a) Legalist / Nomist: Jewish in nature, 1Tim.1:7, Tit.1:10, 14, 3:9, with an improper use of the Law, 1Tim.1:8, and a concern for "myths and genealogies" (a "speculative treatment of the Old Testament", Barrett). The spec-removal tendencies of a legalist / nomist is always evident in their capacity to tithe mint and cumin but neglect justice and compassion, 1Tim.6:3-10, 2Tim.3:1-7, Tit.3:9f;

b) Platonic. The Pharisees were influenced by Greek philosophy. This is evidenced by their understanding of the resurrection of the dead, of the spirit departing the body at the time of death - spiritualizing of the resurrection, poss. cf., 2Tim.2:18. This body / spirit dichotomy, evident in first century Judaism, obviously influenced early Christianity - marriage discouraged, 1Tim.4:3, food fetishes, 1Tim.4:3, abstinence, 1Tim.5:23. So, it is likely that the heresy is the same heresy confronted by Paul in Romans and Galatians.

Numerous other theories exist, eg., the false teachers promote an early form of Gnosticism, or possibly they are influenced by the heretic Marcion

 
Who was Timothy?

As noted above, some scholars suggest that Timothy, the friend and colleague of the apostle Paul, is chosen in these ministry handbooks to serve as the model of a faithful minister. None-the-less, the Timothy referred to in these letters may well be the Timothy of Acts. This Timothy, and his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois, was converted during Paul's first missionary journey, Acts 16:3, 2Tim.1:5. Timothy is fully involved in Paul's subsequent missionary journeys and ends up in Jerusalem with him. Timothy's involvement in Paul's ministry at Ephesus may account for his presence in Ephesus when Paul writes his first letter to Timothy, 1Tim.1:3. Eusebius, writing in the fourth century, states that Timothy was the first bishop of Ephesus. It is worth nothing that the name Timothy was a very common one at the time.

 
Bibliography: Commentaries - The Pastoral Epistles

Barrett, New Clarendon, 1963. Bernard, CGTSC, 1899. D/C - Dibelius and Conzelmann, Hermeneia. Fee, NIBC. Gromacki, Baker, 1 Timothy, 1982. Guthrie, Tyndale, 1957. Hanson, NCB & CBC. Hendriksen, Banner of Truth. Houlden, Pelican, 1976, reprint TPI 1989. Johnson, Anchor. Kelly, Blacks / Harpers, 1963. Knight, George W. Knight III, NIGTC. Leaney, Torch. Leske, ChiRho. Lock, ICC, 1924/52. MacArthur, Moody. Marshall, ICC, 1999. Milne, FOB. Mounce, Word. Quinn, Titus, Anchor, 1995. Q/W, Quinn and Wacker, ECC. Simpson, Tyndale Press, 1954. Smith, Know your Bible 10. Stott, BST. Towner, NICNT. Wilson, Banner of Truth.

 

1 Timothy: Expositions

Abbreviations

Greek Syntax

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