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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL TO TIMOTHY - Chapter 1 - Verse 1
THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL TO TIMOTHY.
I. NOTICES OF THE LIFE OF TIMOTHY.
NEARLY all that can now be known of Timothy is to be learned from the New Testament. He was a native of either Derbe or Lystra, but it is not certainly known which, Ac 16:1. Paul found him there on his visit to those places, and does not appear to have been acquainted with him before. His mother, whose name was Eunice, was a Jewess, and was pious, as was also his grandmother, Lois, 2 Ti 1:5. His father was a Greek, but was evidently not unfriendly to the Jewish religion, for Timothy had been carefully trained in the Scriptures, 2 Ti 3:15. Paul came to Derbe and Lystra, and became acquainted with him about A.D. 51 or 52; but there is no method now of ascertaining the exact age of Timothy at that time, though there is reason to think that he was then a youth, 1 Ti 4:12. It would seem, also, that he was a youth of uncommon hope and promise, and that there had been some special indications that he would rise to distinction as a religious man, and would exert an extended influence in favour of religion, 1 Ti 1:18. At the time when Paul first met with him, he was a "disciple," or a Christian convert; but the means which had been used for his conversion are unknown. His mother had been before converted to the Christian faith, (Ac 16:1) and Timothy was well known to the Christians in the neighbouring towns of Lystra and Iconium. The gospel had been preached by Paul and Barnabas, in Iconium, Derbe, and Lystra, some six or seven years before it is said that Paul met with Timothy, (Ac 16:1,) and it is not improbable that this youth had been converted in the interval.
Several things appear to have combined to induce the apostle to introduce him into the ministry, and to make him a travelling companion. His youth; his acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures; the "prophecies which went before on him;" his talents; his general reputation in the church; and, it would seem also, his amiableness of manners, fitting him to be an agreeable companion, attracted the attention of the apostle, and led him to desire that he might be a fellow-labourer with him. To satisfy the prejudices of the Jews, and to prevent any possible objection which might be made against his qualifications for the ministerial office, Paul circumcised him, (Ac 16:3) and he was ordained to the office of the ministry by "the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery," 1 Ti 4:14. When this ordination occurred is not known; but it is most probable that it was before he went on his travels with Paul, as it is known that Paul was present on the occasion, and took a leading part in the transaction, 2 Ti 1:6.
Timothy having joined Paul and Silas, accompanied them on a visit to the churches of Phrygia and Galatia, in which they delivered them the decrees to keep which had been ordained at Jerusalem, Ac 16:4, seq. Having done this, they endeavoured to go together into Bithynia, a province of Asia Minor, on the north-west, but were prevented; and they then went into Mysia, and to the town of Troas, Ac 16:8. Here Luke appears to have joined them; and from this place, in obedience to a vision which appeared to Paul, they went into Macedonia, and preached the gospel first at Philippi, where they established a church. In this city Paul and Silas were imprisoned; but it is remarkable that nothing is said of Timothy and Luke, and it is not known whether they shared in the sufferings of the persecution there or not. Everything, however, renders it probable that Timothy was with them at Philippi; as he is mentioned as having started with them to go on the journey, (Ac 16:3, seq.;) and as we find him at Berea, after the apostle had been released from prison, and had preached at Thessalonica and Berea, Ac 17:14. From this place Paul was conducted to Athens, but left an injunction for Silas and Timothy to join him there as soon as possible. This was done; but when Timothy had come to Athens, Paul felt it to be important that the church at Thessalonica should be visited and comforted in its afflictions, and being prevented from doing it himself, he sent Timothy, at great personal inconvenience, back to that church. Having discharged the duty there, he rejoined the apostle at Corinth, (Ac 18:5,) from which place the First Epistle to the Thessalonians was written. See Intro. to 1 Thess., and See Barnes "1 Th 1:1"; See Barnes "1 Th 3:2".
These transactions occurred about A.D. 52.
Paul remained at Corinth a year and a half, (Ac 18:11,) and it is probable that Timothy and Silas continued with him. See 2 Th 1:1. From Corinth he sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila, whom he appears to have left on his way at Ephesus, Ac 18:18,19,26.
From Ephesus, he sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia, Ac 19:22; but for what purpose, or how long they remained, is unknown. From 1 Co 4:17, it appears that Paul expected that on this journey Timothy would stop at Corinth, and would give the church there instructions adapted to its situation. Paul continued in Ephesus until he was compelled to depart by the tumult caused by Demetrius, when he left and went to Macedonia, Ac 20. Whether Timothy, during the interval, had returned to Ephesus from Macedonia, is not expressly mentioned in the history; but such a supposition is not improbable. Paul, during the early part of his residence in Ephesus, appears to have laboured quietly, (Ac 19:9,10;) and Timothy was sent away before the disturbances caused by Demetrius, Ac 19:22. Paul designed to follow him soon, and then to go to Jerusalem, and then to Rome, Ac 19:21. Paul (Ac 20:31) was in Ephesus in all about three years; and it is not unreasonable to suppose that he remained there after Timothy was sent to Macedonia long enough for him to go and to return to him again. If so, it is possible that when he himself went away, he left Timothy there in his place. Comp. 1 Ti 1:3. It has been the general opinion that the First Epistle to Timothy was written at this time: either when the apostle was on his way to Macedonia, or while in Macedonia. But this opinion has not been unquestioned. The departure of Paul for Macedonia occurred about A.D. 58, or 59. In Ac 20:4, Timothy is again mentioned as accompanying Paul after he had remained in Greece three months, on the route to Syria through Macedonia. He went with him, in company with many others, into "Asia." Going before Paul, they waited for him at Troas, Ac 20:5, and thence doubtless accompanied him on his way to Jerusalem. It was on this occasion that Paul delivered his farewell charge to the elders of the church of Ephesus, at Miletus, Ac 20:17, seq. When in Macedonia, Paul wrote the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, and Timothy was then with him, for he unites in the salutations, 2 Co 1:1. Timothy was also with the apostle on this journey at Corinth, when from that city he wrote his epistle to the Romans, Ro 16:21.
The subsequent events of the life of Timothy are less known. It does not appear from the Acts of the Apostles, that he was with Paul during his two years' imprisonment at Caesarea, nor during his voyage to Rome. It is certain, however, that he was at Rome with the apostle when he wrote the epistles to the Philippians, to the Colossians, and to Philemon, Php 1:1; Col 1:1; Phm 1:1.
From Heb 13:23, it appears, also, that Timothy had been with the apostle there, but that when the epistle was written, he was absent on some important embassy, and that Paul was expecting his speedy return. See Barnes "Heb 13:23.
Between the first and second imprisonment of Paul at Rome, no mention is made of Timothy, nor is it known where he was, or whether he accompanied him in his travels or not. When he was imprisoned there the second time, he wrote the Second Epistle to Timothy, in which he desires him to come to Rome, and bring with him several things which he had left at Troas, 2 Ti 4:9-13,21. If Timothy went to Rome, agreeably to the request of the apostle, it is probable that he was a witness there of his martyrdom.
In regard to the latter part of the life of Timothy, there is nothing which can be depended on. It has been the current opinion, derived from tradition, that he was "bishop" of Ephesus; that he died and was buried there; and that his bones were subsequently removed to Constantinople. The belief that he was "bishop" of Ephesus rests mainly on the "subscription" to the Second Epistle to Timothy, which is no authority whatever. See Notes on that subscription. On the question whether he was an episcopal prelate at Ephesus, the reader may consult my "Inquiry into the Organization and Government of the Apostolic Church," [pp. 91—114, London edition.] The supposition that he died at Ephesus, and was subsequently removed to Constantinople, rests on no certain historical basis.
Timothy was long the companion and the friend of the apostle Paul, and is often mentioned by him with affectionate interest. Indeed, there seems to have been no one of his fellow-labourers, to whom he was so warmly attached. See 1 Ti 1:2,18; 2 Ti 1:2; 2:1; 1 Co 4:17, where he calls him "his own son," and "his beloved son;" 2 Ti 1:4, where he expresses his earnest desire to see him, and makes a reference to the tears which Timothy shed at parting from him; 1 Co 16:10,11, where he bespeaks for him a kind reception among the Corinthians; Ro 16:21; 1 Th 3:2; and especially Php 2:19,20, where he speaks of his fidelity, of his usefulness to him in his labours, and of the interest which he took in the churches which the apostle had established.
II. WHEN AND WHERE THE EPISTLE WAS WRITTEN.
THE subscription at the close of the epistle states that it was written from Laodicea. But these subscriptions are of no authority, and many of them are false. See Notes at the end of 1 Corinthians. There has been much diversity of opinion in regard to the time when this epistle was written, and of course in regard to the place where it was composed. All that is certain from the epistle itself is, that it was addressed to Timothy at Ephesus, and that it was soon after Paul had left that city to go into Macedonia, 1 Ti 1:3. Paul is mentioned in the Acts as having been at Ephesus twice, Ac 18:19-23; 19:1-41. After his first visit there, he went directly to Jerusalem, and of course it could not have been written at that time. The only question then is, whether it was written when Paul left the city, having been driven away by the excitement caused by Demetrius, (Ac 20:1;) or whether he visited Ephesus again on some occasion after his first imprisonment at Rome, and of course after the narrative of Luke in the Acts of the Apostles closes. If on the former occasion, it was written about the year 58 or 59; if the latter, about the year 64 or 65. Critics have been divided in reference to this point, and the question is still unsettled, and it may be impossible to determine it with entire certainty.
Those who have maintained the former opinion, among others, are Theodoret, Benson, Zaehariae, Michaelis, Schmidt, Koppe, Planck, Grotius, Lightfoot, Witsius, Lardner, Hug, and Prof. Stuart. The latter opinion, that it was written subsequently to the period of Paul's first imprisonment at Rome, is maintained by Paley, Pearson, L'Enfant, Le Clere, Cave, Mill, Whitby, Macknight, and others.
An examination of the reasons in favour of each of these opinions as to the date of the epistle, may be found in Paley's Hor. Paul.; Macknight; Hug's Intro., and Koppe, Proleg.
The theory of Eienhorn, which is peculiar, and which is supported by some ingenious and plausible, but not conclusive reasoning, may be seen in his Einleitung in das neue Test. 3 B. 314—352.
In the diversity of opinion which prevails about the time when the epistle was written, it is impossible to determine the question in such a manner as to leave no room for doubt. After the most careful examination which I have been able to give to the subject, however, it seems to me that the former opinion is correct, that it was written soon after Paul was driven from Ephesus by the tumult caused by Demetrius, as recorded in Ac 19:1-20:1. The reasons for this opinion are briefly these:—
1. This is the only record that occurs in the New Testament of the apostle's having gone from Ephesus to Macedonia. See above. It is natural, therefore, to suppose that this is referred to in 1 Ti 1:3, unless there is some insuperable difficulty in the way.
2. There is no certain evidence that Paul visited the church at Ephesus after his first imprisonment at Rome. It is certainly possible that he did, but there is no record of any such visit in the New Testament, nor any historical record of it elsewhere. If there had been such a visit after his release, and if this epistle were written then, it is remarkable that the apostle does not make any allusion to his imprisonment in this epistle, and that he does not refer at all to his own escape from this danger of death at Rome. Comp. 2 Ti 4:16,17.
3. The supposition that the epistle was written at the time supposed, agrees better with the character of the epistle, and with the design for which Timothy was left at Ephesus, than the others. It is manifest from the epistle that the church was, in some respects, in an unsettled condition; and it would seem, also, that one part of the duty of Timothy there was to see that it was placed under a proper organization. This Paul had evidently proposed to accomplish himself; but it is clear, from 1 Ti 1:3, that he left his work unfinished, and that he gave what he had proposed to do into the hands of Timothy to be perfected. After the first imprisonment of Paul at Rome, however, there is every reason to suppose that the church was completely organized. Even when Paul went from Macedonia to Jerusalem, Ac 20, there were "elders" placed over the church at Ephesus, whom Paul assembled at Miletus, and to whom he gave his parting charge, and his final instructions in regard to the church.
4. At the time when Paul wrote this epistle, Timothy was a young man—a youth, 1 Ti 4:12. It is true, that if he were somewhere about twenty years of age when he was introduced into the ministry, as has been commonly supposed, this language would not be entirely inappropriate, even after the imprisonment of Paul; but still the language would more properly denote one somewhat younger than Timothy would be at that time.
5. To this may be added the declaration of Paul in 1 Ti 3:14, that he "hoped to come to him shortly." This is an expression which agrees well with the supposition that he had himself been driven away before he had intended to leave; that he had left something unfinished there which he desired to complete, and that he hoped that affairs would soon be in such a state that he would be permitted to return. It may be also suggested, as a circumstance of some importance, though not conclusive, that when Paul met the elders of the church of Ephesus at Miletus, he said that he had no expectation of ever seeing them again: "And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more," Ac 20:25. I do not think that this is to be understood as an inspired prediction, aiming with absolute certainty that he never would see them again, but that he rather expressed his apprehensions that it would be so from the circumstances which then existed, Ac 20:22,23. Still, this passage shows that when he uttered it he did not expect to visit Ephesus again, as he manifestly did when he wrote the epistle to Timothy.
These considerations seem so clear that they would leave no doubt on the mind, were it not for certain things which it seems to many impossible to reconcile with this supposition. The difficulties are the following:—
1. That before Paul went to Macedonia, he had sent Timothy with Erastus before him, (Ac 19:22,) purposing to follow them at no distant period, and to pass through Macedonia and Achaia, and then to go to Jerusalem, and afterwards to visit Rome, Ac 19:21. As he had sent Timothy before him but so short a time before he left Ephesus, it is asked how Timothy could be left at Ephesus when Paul went himself to Macedonia? To this objection we may reply, that it is not improbable by any means that Timothy may have accomplished the object of his journey to Macedonia, and may have returned to the apostle at Ephesus before he was driven away. It does not appear, from the narrative, that Timothy was intrusted with any commission which would require a long time to fulfil it, nor that Paul expected that he would remain in Macedonia until he himself came. The purpose for which he sent Timothy and Erastus is not indeed mentioned, but it seems probable that it was with reference to the collection which he proposed to take up for the poor saints at Jerusalem. See Barnes "Ac 19:21, See Barnes "Ac 19:22".
Comp. 1 Co 16:1-6. If it were the purpose to prepare the churches for such a collection, it could not have required any considerable time, nor was it necessary that Timothy should remain long in a place; and it was natural, also, that he should return to the apostle at Ephesus, and apprize him of what he had done, and what was the prospect in regard to the collection. It has been clearly shown by Hug, (Intro. to the New Test., % 104. 109,) that such a journey could easily have been made during the time which the apostle remained at Ephesus after he had sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia.
2. The next objection—and one which is regarded by Paley as decisive against the supposition that the epistle was written on this occasion—is, that from the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 2 Co 1:1, it is evident that at the time in which this epistle is supposed to have been written, Timothy was with the apostle in Macedonia. The Second Epistle to the Corinthians was undoubtedly written during this visit of Paul to Macedonia, and at that time Timothy was with him. See the Introduction to 2 Co 3. How then can it be supposed that he was at Ephesus? Or how can this fact be reconciled with the supposition that Timothy was left there, and especially with the declaration of Paul to him, 1 Ti 3:14, that he "hoped to come to him shortly?" That Paul expected that Timothy would remain at Ephesus, at least for some time, is evident from 1 Ti 3:15, "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God;" and from 1 Ti 4:13, "Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine." The only solution of this difficulty is, that Timothy had left Ephesus, and had followed the apostle into Macedonia; and the only question here is, whether, since the apostle designed that he should remain at Ephesus, and expected himself to return and meet him there, Timothy would be likely to leave that place and go to Macedonia. It is certain that the history in the Acts does not make this record, but that is no material objection—-since it cannot be supposed that every occurrence in the travels of the apostles was recorded. But there are two or three circumstances which may render the supposition that Timothy, either by the concurrence, or by the direction of Paul, privately communicated to him, may have left Ephesus sooner than was at first contemplated, and may have rejoined him in Macedonia.
(1.) One is, that the main business which Timothy was appointed to perform at Ephesus—to give a solemn charge to certain persons there to teach no other doctrine but that which Paul taught, 1 Ti 1:3 —might have been speedily accomplished. Paul was driven away in haste, and, as he had not the opportunity of doing this himself as he wished, he left Timothy in charge of it. But this did not require, of necessity, any considerable time.
(2.) Another is, that the business of appointing suitable officers over the church there, might also have been soon accomplished. In fact, the church there is known to have been supplied with proper officers not long after this, for Paul sent from Miletus for the elders to meet him there on his way to Jerusalem. This remark is made in accordance with the opinion that a part of the work which Timothy was expected to perform there, was to constitute proper officers over the church But there is no proof that that was a part of his business. It is not specified in what Paul mentions, in 1 Ti 1:3, as the design for which he was left there, and it is hardly probable that the apostle would have spent so long a time as he did in Ephesus—nearly three years, Ac 20:31—without having organized the church with proper officers. Besides, the address of Paul to the elders at Miletus, implies that they had received their appointment before he left them. See Ac 20:18-35, particularly Ac 20:35. The instructions to Timothy in this epistle about the proper qualifications of the officers of the church, do not prove that he was then to appoint officers at Ephesus, for they are general instructions, having no particular reference to the church there, and designed to guide him in his work through life. There is, therefore, nothing in the duties which Timothy was to perform at Ephesus which would forbid the supposition that he may have soon followed the apostle into Macedonia.
(3.) It appears, that though Paul may have intended, if possible, to visit Ephesus on his way to Jerusalem, in accordance with 1 Ti 3:14,15; 4:13, yet, if that had been his intention, he subsequently changed his mind, and found it necessary to make other arrangements. Thus it is said, Ac 20:16, that "Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia;" that is, he had resolved to sail past Ephesus without visiting it. It would seem probable, also, that this resolution had been formed before he left Macedonia, for it is said that he `had determined' it, (ekrine;) and if so, there is no improbability in supposing that he had, in some way, caused it to be intimated to Timothy that he wished him to leave Ephesus, and join him before he left Macedonia.
(4.) In fact, and in accordance with this supposition, we find Timothy with Paul when he went on that occasion into "Asia," Ac 20:4,5. These considerations render it probable that the epistle was written to Timothy soon after Paul left Ephesus to go into Macedonia after the tumult excited by Demetrius. As Paul was driven away unexpectedly, and when he had not completed what he designed to do there, nothing is more natural than the supposition that he would embrace the earliest opportunity to give suitable instructions to Timothy, that he might know how to complete the work.
III. THE OCCASION AND DESIGN OF THE EPISTLE
This is specified in 1 Ti 1:3. Paul had gone in Macedonia, having been suddenly driven away from Ephesus, before he had entirely done what he had designed to do there. He left Timothy there to "charge some that they teach no other doctrine:" that is, no other doctrine than that which he had himself taught there. It is clear, from this, that there were certain errors prevailing there which Paul thought it of the highest importance to have corrected. In regard to those errors, see the Introduction to the Epistle to the Ephesians, and the Epistle to the Colossians. some of the circumstances which gave occasion to this epistle, can be gathered from the history in the Acts of the Apostles; others can be derived from the epistle itself. From these sources of information we learn the following things in reference to the state of the church in Ephesus, which made it proper that Timothy should be left there, and that these instructions should be given him to regulate his conduct.
(4.) The Jewish teachers laid great stress on geneologies and traditions, and were much given to debates about various questions connected with the law, 1 Ti 1:4-6.
(5.) There were erroneous views prevailing respecting the rights of women, and the place they ought to occupy in the church, 1 Ti 2:8-15.
(6.) The organization of the officers of the church had not been effected as Paul wished it to be. It is probable that some of the officers had been appointed, and that some instructions had been given to them in regard to their duties, but the whole arrangement had not been completed, 1 Ti 3, 5.
(7.) There were certain questions in regard to the proper treatment of widows, which had not yet been determined, 1 Ti 5.
(8.) The apostle, in his preaching, had inculcated benevolent principles, and had asserted the natural equality of all men; and it would seem that certain persons had taken occasion form this to excite a spirit of discontent and insubordination among those who were servants. The doctrine seems to have been advanced, that, as all men were equal, and all had been redeemed by the same blood, therefore those who had been held in bondage were free from all obligation to serve their masters. There were those evidently who sought to excite them to insurrection; to break down the distinctions in society, and to produce a state of insubordination and disorder,
The remainder of this note is continued in note on 1 Ti 1:2
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