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1 Timothy 5:1-4

1. Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;

1. Seniorem ne aspere objurges sed hortare ut patrem, juniores ut fratres;

2. The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.

2. Mulieres natu grandiores, ut matres; juniores, ut sorores, cum omni castitate.

3. Honour widows that are widows indeed.

3. Viduas honora, quae vere sunt viduae.

4. But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.

4. Porro si qua vidua liberos aut nepotes habet, discunt primum erga propriam domum pietatem colere, et mutuum rependere progenitoribus; hoc enim bonum et acceptum est coram Deo.

1 Do not harshly rebuke an elder He now recommends to Timothy gentleness and moderation in correcting faults. Correction is a medicine, which has always some bitterness, and consequently is disagreeable. Besides, Timothy being a young man, his severity would have been less tolerable, if it had not been somewhat moderated.

But exhort him as a father The Apostle enjoins him to reprove elder persons as parents; and he even employs the milder term, exhort It is impossible not to be moved with reverence, when we place before our eyes our father or our mother; in consequence of which, instead of harsher vehemence, we are immediately influenced by modesty. Yet it ought to be observed, that he does not wish old men to be spared or indulged in such a manner as to sin with impunity and without correction; he only wishes that some respect should be paid to their age, that they may more patiently bear to be admonished.

The younger as brethren Even towards younger persons he wishes moderation to be used, though not in an equal degree; for the vinegar must always be mingled with oil, but with this difference, that reverence should always be shewn to older persons, and equals should be treated with brotherly gentleness. Hence pastors are taught, that they must not only take into account their office, but must also see particularly what is due to the age of individuals; for the same things are not applicable to all. Let it therefore be remembered, that, if dramatic performers attend to decorum on the stage, it ought not to be neglected by pastors, who occupy so lofty a station.

2 The younger as sisters, with all chastity The phrase, with all chastity, relates to younger women; for at that age they ought always to dread every kind of suspicion. Yet Paul does not forbid Timothy to have any criminal or immodest conduct towards young women, (for there was no need of such a prohibition,) but only enjoins him to beware of giving to wicked men any handle for laughter. For this purpose, he demands a chaste gravity, which shall shine throughout all their intercourse and conversation; so that he may more freely converse with young persons, without any unfavorable reports.

3 Honor widows that are really widows. By the word honor he does not mean any expression of respect, but that special care of them which bishops 8585     “Les Pasteurs et Evesques.” — “Pastors and bishops.” took in the ancient Church; for widows were taken under the protection of the Church, that they might be supported out of the common funds. The meaning of this mode of expression is as if he had said, “For selecting widows that are to be taken under your care and that of the deacons, you ought to consider who they are that are really widows 8686     “From what the Fathers and Greek commentators tell us, it appears that those persons were maintained from the funds of the Church; and from what follows, it is clear that they filled an office; the name χήραι being as much one of office as διάχονες, though the exact nature of its duties has not been determined. That the persons who held it instructed the younger females in the principles of the Christian faith, is pretty certain; but whether they were, as some say, ‘the same as the deaconesses,’ is yet a disputed point. It would seem that they were not necessarily the same; but that, having once been such, during the life of their husbands, they were not removed from that office. Otherwise, it would seem their duties were different from those of the deaconesses; and if we were to call them by such a name as would designate their chief duties, we might call them ‘Female Catechists.’ That these differed from the deaconesses is certain from the positive testimony of Epiphanius. Yet they might occasionally assist them in their duty of visiting the sick. Be that as it may, the existence of such an order as the χήραι requires no very strong testimony from ecclesiastical history; since, from the extremely retired life of the women in Greece and other parts of the East, and their almost total separation from the other sex, they would much need the assistance of such a person, who might either convert them to the Christian faith, or farther instruct them in its doctrines and duties.” — Bloomfield What was their condition we shall afterwards explain more fully. But we must here attend to the reason why Paul does not admit any but those who are absolutely widows, and, at the same time, widows without children; for, in that condition, they dedicated themselves to the Church, that they might withdraw from all the private concerns of a family, and might lay aside every hindrance. Justly, therefore, does Paul forbid to receive the mothers of families, who are already bound by a charge of a different kind. When he calls them “really widows”, he alludes to the Greek word χήρα, which is derived ἀπὸ τοῦ χηροῦσθαι, from a verb which signifies to be “deprived” or “destitute.”

4 If any widow There are various ways of explaining this passage; and the ambiguity arises from this circumstance, that the latter clause may refer either to widows or to their children. Nor is this consistent with the verb (let them learn) being plural, while Paul spoke of a widow in the singular number; for a change of number is very customary in a general discourse, that is, when the writer speaks of a whole class, and not of an individual. They who think that it relates to widows, are of the opinion that the meaning is, “let them learn, by the pious government of their family, to repay to their successors the education that they received from their ancestors.” This is the explanation given by Chrysostom and some others. But others think that it is more natural to interpret it as relating to children and grandchildren. Accordingly, in their opinion, the Apostle teaches that the mother or grandmother is the person towards whom they should exercise their piety; for nothing is more natural than (ἀντιπελαργία) the return of filial for parental affection; and it is very unreasonable that it should be excluded from the Church. Before the Church is burdened with them, let them do their duty.

Hereto I have related the opinion of others. But I wish my readers to consider if it would not agree better with the context in this manner: “Let them learn to conduct themselves in a godly manner at home.” As if he had said, that it would be valuable as a preparatory instruction, that they should train themselves to the worship of God, by performing godly offices at home towards their relatives; for nature commands us to love our parents next to God; that this secondary piety leads to the highest piety. And as Paul saw that the very rights of nature were violated under the pretense of religion, 8787     “C’est a dire, qu’on oublivit l’amour que nature enseigne.” — “That is, that they forgot the love which nature teaches.” in order to correct this fault, he commanded that widows should be trained by domestic apprenticeship to the worship of God.

To shew piety towards their own house Almost all the commentators take the verb εὐσεβεῖν in an active sense, because it is followed by an accusative; but that is not a conclusive argument, for it is customary with the Greek authors to have a preposition understood. And this exposition agrees well with the context, that, by cultivating human piety, they should train themselves in the worship of God; lest a foolish and silly devotion should divest them of human feelings. Again, let widows learn to repay what they owe to their ancestors by educating their own offspring.

For this is good and acceptable before God Not to shew gratitude to our ancestors is universally acknowledged to be monstrous; for that is a lesson taught us by natural reason. And not only is this conviction natural to all, that affection towards our parents is the second degree of piety; but the very storks teach us gratitude by their example; and that is the etymology of the word ἀνιπελαργία 8888     “This word is compounded of ἀντὶ, (‘instead of,’ or, ‘in return for,’) and πελαργὸς, ‘a stork.’ The stork is a bird of passage, and is mentioned, along with the crane and the swallow, as knowing the appointed time, (Jeremiah 8:7.) Its name, in the Hebrew, means Mercy, or Piety; and its English name, taken (indirectly at least) from the Greek στοργὴ, signifying natural affection. This accords with our knowledge of its character, which is remarkable for tenderness, especially in the young towards the old birds. It is not uncommon to see several of the old birds, which are tired and feeble with the long flight, supported at times on the backs of the young; and the peasants (of Jutland) speak of it as well know that such are carefully laid in their old nests, and cherished by the young ones whom they reared the spring before. The stork has long been a peculiar emblem of filial duty.” — Eadie’s Cyclopoedia.
   “The stork’s an emblem of true piety,
Because when age has seized and made its dame
Unfit for flight, the grateful young one takes
His mother on his back, provides her food,
Repaying thus her tender care of him
Ere he was fit to
fly.” — Beaumont.
But Paul, not satisfied with this, declares that God hath sanctioned it; as if he had said, “There is no reason why any one should think that it has its origin in the opinion of men; but God hath so ordained.”


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