1 Timothy

Exegetical Study Notes on the Greek Text

PDF eBook

These exegetical notes are available for download in the form a 286p A5 PDF eBook Commentary on the Greek text of the Pastoral epistles of Paul. Follow the link at the bottom of the page.


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 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 rather the chief minister in a congregation of believers. None-the-less, the advice still applies. Sound advice for a Christian minister is also sound advice for all.

The structure of 1 Timothy

The danger of false doctrine, 1:1-20

Paul's reason for writing.

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


1. Instruction on Prayer, 2:1-3:1a

Directions for public prayer.

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

ii] Men and women at prayer in at church, 2:8-3:1a

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

i] Bishops / Overseers, 3:1b-7

ii] Deacons, 3:8-13


The church and the mystery of the faith, 3:14-4:5

i] The character of church, 3:14-16

    Creedal Proposition

        The mystery of our faith, v16

ii] False asceticism, 4:1-5


3. Ministerial duties, 4:6-16

i] The training for godliness, 4:6-10

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

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

i] Dealing with widows, 5:1-16

ii] Handling elders, diet, discipline, slaves, 5:17-6:2a


Final instructions, 6:2b-21

Advice on false teaching, the dangers of wealth, an a closing commission. 6:2b-21


In epistolography (letter writing), the opening of a letter aligns with the exordium in rhetoric, and the conclusio of a letter aligns with the peroratio in rhetoric. The Pastoral letters present in the form of a letter, but as Johnson notes, 1 Timothy leans toward a mandate principis, a ruler's commandments - parangeliai, instructions / commandments. 2 Timothy, on the other hand, takes on a more paraenetic, exhortatory, form. 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 structure in these notes reflect his offering.


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 in the condemning evildoers. Of course, context probably explains the difference. The evident differences between the Pastoral epistles and Paul's earlier letters has prompted the suggestion that the letters were written by a church leader well after Paul's execution, possibly early in the second century. 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 are 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 letters (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.


If originally at the hand of Paul, the epistles of I Timothy, Titus and II Timothy may well have been composed at a later stage in his ministry. Although it is not possible to be sure what happened at the point where the book of Acts finishes with Paul imprisoned in Rome in 61AD, tradition has it that he was released, presumably around 63AD. He then continued with his ministry, building up his existing churches. Some believe that he even journeyed to Spain to establish the Christian church there. The lack of further epistles at Paul's hand mitigates against their theory. Whether he did, or did not, visit Spain, he may have continued his ministry through to the reign of Nero, around 67AD, when presumably he died during Nero's pogrom against the Christian church. 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.

J. van Bruggen argues that it is possible to place the Pastoral epistles within the Acts account of Paul's last missionary journey through to his arrest and imprisonment in Rome. It is possible that Acts only summarises Paul's third missionary journey, particularly his time in Macedonia and later in Corinth, Acts 18:23-21:15. In one of his management trips while in Macedonia / Corinth, Paul may well have left Titus in Crete to develop the church there and, returning via Ephesus to Macedonia / Corinth, discovers that the church at Ephesus is in disorder and so leaves Timothy there to restore order. So, both the letters of Titus and First Timothy could well have been written at much the same time, either while he was evangelising in Macedonia, or during the time he resided in Corinth around 55-56AD. It was also during this time that Paul wrote his letter to the Romans. The divergence in style and content between these letters counts against this theory, although purpose always shapes content and style. Romans is a theological treatise, whereas Titus and First Timothy consist of practical instructions to colleagues. Paul's second letter to Timothy would then fit with his imprisonment in Rome, recorded at the end of the book of Acts.

The most likely scenario is that Paul writes 1 Timothy and Titus while under house arrest in Rome, Acts 28:16-31, 61AD. 2 Timothy is likely written soon after, but now Paul is in prison awaiting execution. A traditional view, long held in the Christian church, is that Titus was left in Crete while Paul was on his way to Rome, Acts 27:7ff. With this reconstruction, Paul's letter to Titus was written while Paul was under house arrest in Rome, before his trial before Caesar, ie., Titus, as with the letters to Timothy, is a captivity epistle.The more critical dating for the Pastoral epistles is between 95 and 135 AD. The date 135AD is the top end because Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, when writing a letter to the church in Philippi, likely quotes, 1Tim.6:7.


The purpose of these letters is 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 Christian ministry; they define the function of a Christian minister. Either way, all three letters serve to encourage sound Christian ministry, providing practical advice to that end, cf., 3:14,15.

Three specific issues of concern to 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, 1Tim.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, 1Tim.2:1-8;

c) The role of women, 1Tim.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, 1Tim.6:20, 2Tim.1:14. In Paul's early epistles, "faith" refers to a believer's faith in the faith / 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 heresy that constantly hounded Paul in the past, is still present in the church, namely, nomism - the question as to "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. A nomist believes that the law (the law of Moses + NT ethics in general) serves to control sin and progress sanctification; a heresy known as sanctification by obedience. This seems the best explanation of the heresy Paul addresses in the Pastoral Epistles:

So primarily, the heresy Paul addresses in nomism. It is Jewish in nature, 1Tim.1:7, Tit.1:10, 14, 3:9, makes improper use of the Law, 1Tim.1:8, and is concerned with "myths and genealogies" (a "speculative treatment of the Old Testament", Barrett). The spec-removal tendencies of a 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;

It is possible that heresy has a Platonic edge to it. The Pharisees were influenced by Greek philosophy. This is evidenced by their particular understanding of the resurrection of the dead, of the spirit departing the body at the time of death, so spiritualising the resurrection, poss. cf., 2Tim.2:18. This body / spirit dichotomy, evident in first century Judaism, obviously influenced early Christianity, eg., marriage discouraged, 1Tim.4:3, food fetishes, 1Tim.4:3, abstinence, 1Tim.5:23.

So, it is likely that the heresy Paul confronts in the Pastoral Epistles is the same one he confronts in Romans and Galatians. Of course, numerous other theories exist, eg., the false teachers promote an early form of Gnosticism, or possibly they are influenced by the heretic Marcion.behaviour

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. 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 though worth nothing that the name Timothy was a very common one at the time.

English Bible Commentaries on the Pastoral Epistles

Level of complexity:

1, non-technical, to 5, requiring a workable knowledge of Greek.

Deceased: D. For publications no longer in print

Other identifiers: Recommended R; Greek Technical G; Theology T


Barrett, New Clarendon, 1963. 2D

Bernard, CGTSC, 1899. 2GD

D/C - Dibelius and Conzelmann, Hermeneia. 4G

Fee, NIBC, 1989. 3D

Gromacki, Baker, 1 Timothy, 1982. 2

Guthrie, Tyndale, 1957. 2R

Hanson, NCB, 1982, 2D

Hanson, CBC, 1966. 1D

Hendriksen, Baker, 1957. 3D

Houlden, Pelican, 1976, reprint TPI 1989. 1D

Johnson, Anchor, 1 & 2 Timothy, 2001. 4R

Kelly, Blacks / Harpers, 1963. 3

Knight, George W. Knight III, NIGTC, 1992. 5

Leaney, Torch, 1960. 1D

Leske, ChiRho, 1986. 2D

Lock, ICC, 1924/52. 4GD.

MacArthur, Moody, 1 Timothy, 1995, 3.

Marshall, ICC, 1999. 5

Milne, FOB, 1 & 2 Timothy, 1996. 2

Mounce, Word. 5R

Perkins, HGT, 2017. G

Quinn, Anchor, Titus, 1995. 5

Q/W, Quinn and Wacker, ECC. 5R

Simpson, Tyndale Press, 1954. 3GD

Smith, Know your Bible #10, 1972. 1

Stott, BST, 1973. 2

Towner, NICNT. 4

Wilson, Banner of Truth, 1982. 3. Also LABC. 2


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