Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Sunday School Lesson #41

Posted by Jim F. on October 14, 2007

Lesson 41: 1 and 2 Timothy; Titus

I’ve selected a few passages here and there for my questions.

1 Timothy 3:15-16

What does Paul mean when he says “without controversy”? When he speaks of “the house of God”? Does he mean the church as a whole or individual congregations? Why does Paul think it is important to emphasize that God is the living God? How is the Church “the pillar and ground of truth”? What metaphor is Paul using? How does that metaphor help us understand what the Church does? To what is Paul referring with the word “mystery”? Why is the word “mystery” an appropriate reference for that case? (Verse 16 seems to be another quotation from a hymn.) How is Jesus’ justification in the Spirit different than ours? What is Paul talking about when he says that Christ was seen by angels? How does Paul think what he says in these two verses will be a comfort to the Ephesians if he cannot soon come to them? (I am assuming that Timothy was in Ephesus when Paul wrote this letter to him.)

1 Timothy 4:1-3

Paul has just finished speaking (1 Timothy 3:1-13) of the qualifications of bishops and of deacons. How is that topic related to the one that he takes up now, apostasy? When did Paul and Timothy think the “latter times” would be (verse 1)? What does it teach us that they seem to have been mistaken? What does it mean to give heed to seducing spirits or doctrines of devils? Can you think of specific examples of doing so? Why is it tempting to do so? Do we ever do so? The practice of the time was to brand criminals and fugitive slaves. How is that practice related to what Paul says in verse 2? In verse 3, the Greek word translated “meat” means “food.” (The word “meat” was a general term for food in King James English.) How do you square Paul’s teaching here, that apostates insist that we abstain from certain foods, with the Word of Wisdom? Are the people Paul describes here honestly mistaken or are they actively rebelling? What evidence do you have for your answer to that question? Compare these verses to passages such as Matthew 24:10-12, Acts 20:29-30, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12, 1 John 2:18 and 4:1-3, and 2 John 7. Why is apostasy an important New Testament theme? Why does that theme matter to us today?

1 Timothy 4:12-16

The word “conversation” (verse 12) meant something quite different at the time of the King James translation than it means today. It meant “how a person lives with others.” Does that change your understanding of the verse? In Paul’s time almost no one could read silently. The ability to do so was considered to be an amazing gift. Does that suggest anything by what Paul might mean by “reading” (verse 13)? What does “exhortation” mean? The word “doctrine” has a much more verbal sense in Greek than it has in English; it means “teaching” rather than “belief.” (Does that change your understanding of 1 Timothy 4:1 or 2 Timothy 4:3?) What is Paul telling Timothy he must do for the congregation at Ephesus? (Paul had ordained Timothy bishop of Ephesus.) How does doing that set an example? What gift is Paul speaking of (verse 14)? What does Paul mean when he says that Timothy received that gift by prophecy? What might the laying on of hands signify? In other words, is there anything about the act of laying on hands that helps us understand what we do in the ordinances that require it? The basic meaning of the word translated “meditate” in verse 15 is “care for.” What things is Timothy to meditate on or care for? What would it mean to give himself wholly to them? Why is it important that others see Timothy’s profiting (progress)? Does this conflict with Paul’s advice in Colossians 3:22 (and other places) that we not do what we do in order to please others? How would Timothy take heed unto (i.e., watch) himself? How would he watch the doctrine or teaching? What is Paul telling him to continue (to persevere in)? How will persevering in watching his life and the teaching save both himself and those who hear him?

2 Timothy 2:22-26

What does Paul mean by “unlearned questions” (verse 22)? Can you give examples of “foolish and unlearned questions” that we take up today? What is wrong with dealing with questions that start quarrels? Notice that the word “strifes” in verse 22 and the word “strive” in verse 23 are variations of the same root, both in English and in Paul’s Greek. What does it mean to say that the Lord’s servant must be gentle to everyone? How do we preach gently? How can we rebuke gently or exhort gently? Verse 25 will make more sense if you put “to him” after the phrase “oppose themselves.” What do the last part of verse 25 and verse 26 say is the point of preaching and exhortation? Paul seems to be using “repentance” and “recover themselves” as parallel terms. In what way is repentance a recovery of self? Why does Satan take us captive? How does he do so? How does the gentleness that Paul recommends to Timothy differ from Satan’s method? How do the results of the two methods differ?

2 Timothy 3:1-5

Why will the last days, as Timothy understands them, be perilous (difficult, fierce—verse 1)? Here is another translation (that of the New International Version) of the list in verses 2-5, compared to the King James Version:





lovers of their own selves

lovers of self



lovers of money








disobedient to parents

disobedient to their parents








without natural affection

without love





false accusers




without self-control





despisers of those that are good

not lovers of the good











lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God

lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God


Which elements of this list differ significantly from the King James translation? What do you make of those differences? Does this list help you understand the King James translation? Are there any things in this translation with which you disagree? Look at each item in the list and ask yourself why Paul condemns it. Do we condemn all of these things today? If we do not condemn some, why not?2 Timothy 3:14-17

Why should it be important to Timothy whom he has learned things from (verse 14)? Is it important to us? When? When not? With regard to what do the scriptures make us wise (verse 15)? Is imparting that wisdom to us the purpose of scripture? What is the significance of Joseph Smith’s change in verse 16? How is scripture good for doctrine (teaching)? For reproof? For correction? For instruction (training) in righteousness? Look at footnote 17a. What does that tell us about how to understand verse 17? In what sense does scripture make us perfect? If you change “furnished” to “equipped” and “unto” to “for,” the verse will probably be easier to understand. How does scripture equip us for all good works?

2 Timothy 4:1-2

Why does Paul begin this part of his instruction to Timothy with a solemn charge? Why does he use this particular description of Christ, “the judge of the quick and the dead and the Second Coming”? If you read verse 2 as the King James translation has it—“be instant [prepared] in season, [and] out of season”—what does this verse say? If you read it as Joseph Smith changed it, what does it say? What does “reprove” mean? What does “rebuke” mean? Are they different? What does “exhort” mean?

2 Timothy 4:3-4

What does it mean to say that some “will not endure sound doctrine”? Is it significant that the phrase “sound doctrine” literally means “healthy teaching”? What makes a teaching metaphorically healthy? What does “heap to themselves teachers” mean? What does it mean to have itching (i.e., “tickling”) ears? How do their itching ears explain the fact that they have heaped teachers to themselves? What does it mean to say that they heap these teachers to themselves “after their own lusts”? Does this passage describe any in our own day? Does it ever describe us? If so, how so?

How do we know whether we have become one of those described in these passages from 1 and 2 Timothy? What should our response be to those who have become such people? How should we deal with apostasy in our families? In our wards?

13 Responses to “Sunday School Lesson #41”

  1. Lisa F. said

    Thank you very much for these outlines. They have helped me prepare (and, fortunately, we are a week or two behind you). Some questions:
    1)I did not know that silent reading was not common in Paul’s time. Where can I find more about that? Very interesting.
    2) Where do we find that Timothy was ordained a bishop by Paul?

    I have been using the NIV along with the KJV to help me when I get stuck. Do you have other resources that you would recommend?

  2. Jim F. said

    Lisa F.: As for #1: What other kinds of things do you have in mind about silent reading? I don’t know of any books or articles just on that topic, but it is something commonly mentioned in books about the New Testament or about a work like Augustine’s Confessions.

    #2: I don’t know. I don’t know of any New Testament text that says this. Is there something in latter-day revelation about it?

  3. Lisa F. said

    I am currently taking some classes about reading disabilities, and the idea about silent reading being unusual for its time intrigued me. I am trying to imagine why that would be so. I will take a look at the book you mentioned.

    I don’t know either. At the end of 2 Timothy, a note in the KJV says that Timothy was ordained the first bishop of the church of the Ephesians.

  4. Jim F. said

    Lisa F.

    #1: I’m merely guessing, but I assume that silent reading is a skill that must be learned and that, for various reasons, it was not a skill that many had learned. Reading aloud was the norm, so people assumed, without thinking about it, that reading was something to be done with the voice.

    I found this on the internet(http://www.yougotstyle.org/archives/000004.html):

    We also take for granted that most adults read silently. But imagine seeing for the first time someone reading silently rather than orally. That is what Saint Augustine describes in his Confessions when he sees his master, Saint Ambrose of Milan, reading silently. According to Manguel, Augustine’s description is the first definite instance recorded in Western literature. Augustine, a professor of Latin rhetoric, found himself — reportedly in 384 A.D. — unable to ask Ambrose the questions about matters of faith that were troubling him, because, as Augustine explains, when Ambrose was not eating a frugal meal or entertaining one of his many admirers, he was alone in his cell, reading. Augustine describes the strange observation: “When he read, his eyes scanned the page and his heart sought out the meaning, but his voice was silent and his tongue was still.” Manguel explains that not until the tenth century does silent reading become usual in the West.

    There is also an interesting discussion of the history of silent reading here: http://www3.iath.virginia.edu/lists_archive/Humanist/v03/1098.html. There are several bibliographic references in it that might be useful to you.

    #2: Are you thinking of the note which appears in small print: “The second epistle unto Timotheus, ordained the first bishop of the church of the Ephesians, . . . “? If so, there is general agreement that this was added by a later scribe and reflects a later tradition in the Christian Church which may or may not have been accurate. Notice also that the note at the end of the letter does not say that Paul ordained Timothy. It says that Timothy was the first bishop of the church in Ephesus and that the letter was written to him by Paul when Paul was in Rome the second time.

  5. s james said

    Jim, ‘the ontogenesis of silent reading’ what a fascinating topic. You might be interested in some work on ‘word spacing’ and the emergence of Christian texts referred to at http://askpang.typepad.com/relevant_history/2003/06/word_spacing_si.html .
    Also its reference to Paul Saenge’s book “Space Between Words: The Origins of Silent Reading” (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997).

    I found myself remembering that Paul’s letters were probably written to be read aloud (as with other scripture) and thinking what that might mean for the way we read them with their rhetorical sense somewhat hidden by their published form. What are we missing?
    I can also understand why some of his contemporaries found him hard to follow. Im not sure how much I would have retained after one or two ‘hearings’.

    That scriptural texts were likely written for oral transmission and not silent reading also brings further clarity to verses like “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth” Joshua 1:8. Books in mouths? Books that whisper from the dust?

    The ‘word space’ article also made me think about the pictures of unspaced BoM characters(reformed egyptian) I’ve seen, paralleling JS’s running unspaced translation, arguably reflecting an oral antiquity.

    Please excuse this thinking out loud but I find this an interesting area of thought given the ‘profound’ impacts that are alleged to have emerged from the practices of word spacing and ultimately silent reading.

  6. cherylem said

    This is all fascinating stuff.

  7. Jim F. said

    s james: Thank you very much for that link. I knew that ancient texts were written without word spacing, but I’d never given any thought either to how the change came about nor what its effects were.

  8. Rebecca L said

    Jim–do you think these epistles were written by Paul?

  9. Jim F. said

    I think they are probably Paul’s letters, though I also think that the evidence is equivocal. The evidence against them being his seems weaker to me.

  10. RuthS said

    I expect that the reason the letters are meant to be read aloud is that not everyone was literate. Since there was no printing press everything would have had to be copied by hand. That would be quite time consuming. So one copy read aloud would make it possible for the entire congregation to receive the word. Remember in the OT that the law was to be read aloud to the whole congregation at various festivals throughout the year.

    With the standardization of spelling and punctuation we now have, it might be possible to be more clear. The importance of the invention of the printing press is difficult to over state. On the other hand nuances that were part of the oral tradition would certainly be lost in translation.

  11. Jim F. said

    RuthS, I agree that the necessity of copying by hand made reading the letters aloud the most practical thing. In addition, it appears that literacy was confined to a few, mostly slaves in Rome though many more in Palestine. If only a few can read for themselves, then someone must read for them.

  12. Steven D. Aird said


    The discussion about silent versus vocal reading are very interesting. They immediately reminded me of a corroborating passage from Acts 8, in which Philip encountered a eunuch who served Candace, the queen of the Ethiopians. Note that in verse 30, Philip heard him reading from Isaiah, which provided a teaching opportunity.

    26 And the aangel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
    27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to aworship,
    28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.
    29 Then the aSpirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
    30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?

  13. robf said

    I ended up subbing and teaching this lesson today. We spent all class time on 1 Timothy 4:12 (“an example of/to the believers”) and then 2 Timothy 3:7 (“ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth”) with a little at the end from 1 Timothy 6:20 (“oppositions of science falsely so called”). Somebody should have stopped me as we were having so much fun we went over 10 minutes!

    I’ve still got a lot of questions about that last verse and need to spend a little more time on it. Anyone have any thoughts about the “antithesis” of “gnosis pseudonumos”?

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