New Testament Lesson 41 (KD): 1 and 2 Timothy
Posted by Karl D. on October 26, 2011
Lesson: 1 & 2 Timothy
Reading: 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus
These represent the notes I made during my reading of the scriptural text for this lesson. It is not a lesson outline or a lesson plan but really notes about issues and questions that struck me as interesting during my reading. Consequently, the notes do not have a conclusion and very little mention of application. I like to let those things arise while I teach.
2 The Pastoral Epistles
The three letters of Paul addressed to Timothy and Titus have been referred to as the Pastoral Epistles since the 18th century.1 The grouping is pretty natural given the overlap and similarities and themes of the three letters.
Authorship. The authorship of all three letters is debated by scholars. All three begin with a greeting that identifies Paul as the author of each letter. However, the majority of scholars doubt Paul is the author on literary, historical, and theological grounds. For example, the Pastoral epistles “share a common Greek vocabulary which diverges in many ways from the rest of the Pauline epistles.”2 On the other hand, the differences in vocabulary could be explained by Paul’s use of scribes to produce his letters. NT Wright offers some perspective on the issue of authorship:[Wright, NT, Paul for Everyone: The Pastoral Letters, 5.]
Equally, we should remember that Paul himself is an example, even in the letters everybody agrees really do come from him, of how the same person can write in very different styles from one situation to another. A good example is his two letters to Corinth. They are so different in style and tone that if they were the only pieces of his work we possessed we might well imagine that he could only have written on of the them, and that someone else must have written the other. But it’s certain that he wrote both. The difference between the Paul of Romans and the Paul of the Pastorals is not much greater than the difference between the Paul of 1 Corinthians and the Paul of 2 Corinthians. For the purposes of this book I’m going to leave this question ope, but will continue referring to the author as ‘Paul’ sake of ease.
- Is it possible non-Pauline authorship a big deal? I tend to think it is not.
- I like Robert A. Wild’s reflections on the issue of authorship:3
Although written by someone else under Paul’s name, the Pastorals are not “forgeries.” Within the Greco-Roman philosophical tradition, the writing of pseudonymous epistles was a long standing tradition. In such cases the writer sought to extend the thought of his or her intellectual master to problems of a later day. The writer said in effect, “The master would have surely have said this if faced with this set of problems or issues.” It is quite likely that the original readers of the Pastorals knew very well that Paul himself was not the “actual” author and that the letters represented an effort to extend his heritage to a later generation.
Date Written. A wide range of possible dates have been proposed: 60 to 160. If Paul wrote the letter then the letter would have been written in the 60s. If Paul is not the author then a date around 100 seems reasonable.4
3 Themes in First Timothy
How would you describe 1 Timothy? What do you see as the most important themes? NT Wright calls 1 and 2 Timothy the “The Teacher’s manual” for Christians leaders.[Wright, NT, Paul for Everyone: The Pastoral Letters, 5.] Do you agree? Is viewing it that way helpful? Is it potentially limiting?
3.1 Purpose of the Letter
Read 1 Timothy 3:14-16
(14) These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: (15) But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (16) And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifest in the flesh,
justified in the Spirit,
seen of angels,
preached unto the Gentiles,
believed on in the world,
received up into glory.
Is the central purpose and underlying metaphor that drives the content of the letter, “the household of God?”
- Do you like the metaphor?
- What does it emphasize?
- Is it clear what Paul means by the household of God? Does Paul use similar metaphors to describe the church? (see 1 Cor 3:10-17 and Paul’s use of the temple as a metaphor).
- Does the poem/hymn in verse 16 give us any clues about what Paul means by God’s household? More generally how does the poem fit with these verses?
- Do you notice in patterns to the poem? Does it have parallelism? What things are parallelism?
- Does the parallelism affect how we should approach, read, and interpret this letter? Does the parallelism lead to potential problems?
- What does the phrase “mystery of Godliness” mean in this context? How is related to the metaphor of the “God’s household?”
- Is the “mystery of Godliness” the poem at the end of these verses?
- Suppose the mystery of Godliness is really described in the poem. How is Paul using the word mystery and what is Paul’s point here?
3.2 Living in the World
Read 1 Timothy 2:1-7
1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
5 For there is one God,
and one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus;
6 Who gave himself a ransom for all,
to be testified in due time.
7 Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.
- What are verses 1 and 2 about? Why is Paul telling timothy to pray for those in authority?
- NT Wright explains some of the historical context for these verses:5 The Romans made all their subject peoples pray to the emperor, invoking him as lord and saviour. But they realized that this wouldn’t work with the Jews, who believed that there was only one God; so they allowed them to pray to their own God on behalf of the emperor. This the background to the early Christian attitude to praying for those in authority.
And notice how Paul puts it. Pray for all those in authority — because this is acceptable to ‘God our saviour’! There is only one saviour, and it isn’t Caesar, or any other human being, no matter how powerful they are. However surprising it may seem to use, praying for those in authority, even if they are pagan rulers, will become part of God’s plan to spread the gospel to all the word.
- How does the preceding quote about the historical context change your understanding of this pericope and Paul’s message in these verses?
- Are you surprised that the quiet and peaceable life is mentioned?
- What is meant be godliness here in this context?
- Are you surprised that godliness and honesty are paired together in verse 2? Does it makes sense giving the historical context?
- How are the first few verses related to the hymn/poem in verses 5-6? What does the poem emphasize or remind us of as a reader?
- Do you think the message of this pericope is timely and relevant or do you think the advice really only applies to first or second century Christians?
Read 1 Timothy 2:8-15
8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. 9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. 11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
- These verses certainly make most modern readers uncomfortable. On the other hand, How should we understand them given the themes of the household of God and godliness?
- Is the advice in these verse a natural consequence of adopting a metaphor of the church as the “household of God?”
- If the church is aptly described as the household of God, does this suggest the church will reflect the culture of the time in how it operates it?
- Does it mean that we should now reject view the church as the “household of God?”
- How should we understand verses 13-15? These verses are often cited as evidence of the non-Pauline nature of 1 Timothy. Do you agree?
- Can we read this pericope in a positive way?
- Is the important point in this pericope that women must be allowed to study and learn along side the men (and this learning and study could only be accomplished by honoring some important cultural considerations)? Is the principle (of the importance of women learning and studying) woven through other writings of Paul and the New Testament in general?
- NT Wright raise the possibility that there is a very specific context for this pericope that may have affected Paul’s language and approach in these verses:6
There are some signs in the letter that is was originally sent to Timothy while he was in Ephesus. And one of the main things we know about religion in Ephesus is that the main religion – the biggest temple, the most famous shrine – was a female-only cult. The Temple of Artemis (that’s her Greek name; the Romans called her Diana) was a massive structure which dominated the area. As befitted worshippers of a female deity, the priests were all women. They ruled the show and kept the men in their place.
- Suppose this is correct. Does this change how you understand advise not to usurp authority and to be silent? Does it change how you understand the pericope in general?
Read 1 Timothy 1:3-7
3 I urge you, as I did when I was on my way to Macedonia, to remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach any different doctrine, 4 and not to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies that promote speculations rather than the divine training that is known by faith. 5 But the aim of such instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith. 6 Some people have deviated from these and turned to meaningless talk, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make assertions.
- How would you summarize these verses?
- How does Paul feel about correct doctrine? What result does it achieve?
- Does this help us explain or shed light on the verses involving women?
4 Rekindle the Divine Gift
Read 2 Timothy 1:2-7:
(2) To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (3) I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; (4) Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy; (5) When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also. (6) Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. (7) For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
- What gift does Paul want to stir up in Timothy? Is it Faith? Why does Paul mention the putting on (or laying on) of hands?
- Why does Paul mention the faith of Timothy’s mother and grandmother? Do you think Paul mentions them as part of his point in verse 6 about stirring up the gift of God? Does Paul want to emphasize a chain of faith or chain of tradition? Is this a theme of the Pastoral epistles?
- Is it important that Paul mentions the faith of his forefathers?
- Why does Paul mention that God has not given a spirit of fear but of power and love and of a sound mind? How is that verse related to the command to stir or rekindle the gift of God?
- Does Romans 8:15-17 help us understand verse 7 better? Does it help us understand what “gift” Paul wants rekindled?
(15) For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (16) The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: (17) And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
- What do you think it means that God gives a “sound mind?” The Greek is translated as “self-discipline” in most modern translations (see for example, the NRSV and NIV). Does that difference affect how you understand verse 7?
- Doesn’t it seem unlikely that Timothy’s grandmother was a Christian? Is that a reasonable inference? Why isn’t Timothy’s father and grandfather mentioned?
(1) Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: (2) Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium. (3) Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek. –Acts 16:1-3
5 Power and Suffering
Read 2 Timothy 1:8-12:
(8) Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; (9) Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, (10) But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: (11) Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. (12) For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (13) Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. (14) That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.
- Paul seems to draw on or use language that is similar to Romans 1. Once again, it is important to keep in mind what “ashamed” means or implies in this context:7
This somewhat surprising expression has little to do with moral disgrace or with personal pride. In the Septuagint (LXX), “to be put to shame” is to have the hope or expectation disappointed, a confidence proven to be misplaced.
- Why emphasize afflictions? Why is suffering and not being ashamed linked together in these versus?
- Paul refers to himself as a prisoner in these verses? Why? Is the usage ironic in some sense?
- What does it mean to hold fast to the “form of sound words?”
- What is the “good thing that was committed unto thee?” What is Paul referring to? Is it related to verse 11? Could the good thing be the responsibility or calling to teach and preach the gospel (to preach sound words)?
6 Three Metaphors
Read 2 Timothy 2:1-7:
(1) Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2) And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. (3) Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. (4) No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. (5) And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully. (6) The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits. (7) Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.
I think a modern translation is helpful for these verses:
(1) You then, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus; (2) and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well. (3) Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (4) No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier’s aim is to please the enlisting officer. (5) And in the case of an athlete, no one is crowned without competing according to the rules. (6) It is the farmer who does the work who ought to have the first share of the crops. (7) Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things. (NRSV)
- What does it mean to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus?
- Why does Paul use the metaphor of a soldier? What is verse 4 about? Why emphasize not getting entangled in every day affairs? How does this apply to Timothy? Do you think it applies to us in anyway?
- What do all three metaphors have in common?
- Do these verses give more insight into Paul’s view of teaching and watching over a congregation?
- Do you think it is important that Paul doesn’t give Timothy the meaning of the metaphors but instead tells him to think about them?
7 A Faithful Saying
Read 2 Timothy 2:8-13:
(8) Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: (9) Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. (10) Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (11) It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: (12) If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: (13) If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.
- Do you think verses 11-13 might be a hymn? Do you see a poetic structure?
- How is faithful used in these verse? What is meant by a “faithful saying?”
8 Unlearned Questions
Read 2 Timothy 2:22-26:
(22) Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (23) But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. (24) And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, (25) In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; (26) And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
- What is a foolish and unlearned question? Why should we avoid foolish and unlearned questions? Aren’t all questions good? Can you think of an example? How do they cause strife?
- Is Timothy supposed to avoid asking foolish and unlearned questions or answering those questions? Does it matter? Is this advice unique or particular to someone in Timothy’s position?
- What is the goal of teaching and instructing?
- What does it mean to “recover themselves?”
1 The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 349.
2 The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Oxford UniversityPress, 349.
3 The New Jerome Bible Commentary, 892.
4 The New Jerome Bible Commentary, 893.
5 Wright, NT, Paul for Everyone: The Pastoral Epistles
6 Wright, NT, Paul for Everyone: The Pastoral Epistles, 25.
7 Oxford Bible Commentary, 1084.