Bible Book Number 55—2 Timothy
Place Written: Rome
Writing Completed: c. 65 C.E.
1. What persecution flared up in Rome about 64 C.E., and for what apparent reason?
ONCE again Paul was a prisoner in Rome. However, the circumstances of this second imprisonment were much more severe than those of the first. It was approximately 65 C.E. A great fire had swept through Rome in July 64 C.E., causing extensive damage in 10 of the city’s 14 regions. According to the Roman historian Tacitus, Emperor Nero was unable to “banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. . . . An immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle . . . There arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed.”a
2. Under what circumstances did Paul write Second Timothy, and why does he speak appreciatively of Onesiphorus?
2 It was likely about the time of this wave of violent persecution that Paul again found himself a prisoner in Rome. This time he was in chains. He did not expect to be released but awaited only final judgment and execution. Visitors were few. Indeed, for anyone to identify himself openly as a Christian was to run the risk of arrest and death by torture. Hence Paul could write appreciatively concerning his visitor from Ephesus: “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often brought me refreshment, and he did not become ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he happened to be in Rome, he diligently looked for me and found me.” (2 Tim. 1:16, 17) Writing under the shadow of death, Paul styles himself “an apostle of Christ Jesus through God’s will according to the promise of the life that is in union with Christ Jesus.” (1:1) Paul knew that life in union with Christ awaited him. He had preached in many of the chief cities of the known world, from Jerusalem to Rome, and perhaps even as far as Spain. (Rom. 15:24, 28) He had run the course faithfully to the finish.—2 Tim. 4:6-8.
3. When was Second Timothy written, and how has it benefited Christians through the ages?
3 The letter was probably written about 65 C.E., immediately prior to Paul’s martyrdom. Timothy was probably still at Ephesus, for Paul had encouraged him to stay there. (1 Tim. 1:3) Now, twice Paul urges Timothy to come to him quickly, and he asks him to bring Mark with him, and also the cloak and scrolls that Paul left at Troas. (2 Tim. 4:9, 11, 13, 21) Written at so critical a time, this letter contained powerful encouragement for Timothy, and it has continued to provide beneficial encouragement for true Christians in all ages since.
4. What proves that Second Timothy is authentic and canonical?
4 The book of Second Timothy is authentic and canonical for the reasons already discussed under First Timothy. It was recognized and used by early writers and commentators, including Polycarp in the second century C.E.
CONTENTS OF SECOND TIMOTHY
5. What kind of faith dwells in Timothy, and yet what should he keep doing?
5 “Holding the pattern of healthful words” (1:1–3:17). Paul tells Timothy that he never forgets him in his prayers and that he is longing to see him. He recollects ‘the faith without hypocrisy’ that is in Timothy and that dwelt first in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. Timothy should stir up like a fire the gift within him, ‘for God gave not a spirit of cowardice, but that of power and of love and of soundness of mind.’ Let him therefore be unashamed in witnessing and suffering evil for the good news because God’s undeserved kindness has been made clearly evident through the manifestation of the Savior, Christ Jesus. Timothy should “keep holding the pattern of healthful words” that he heard from Paul, guarding it as a fine trust.—1:5, 7, 13.
6. What counsel does Paul give on teaching, and how can Timothy be an approved workman and an honorable vessel?
6 Timothy is to commit the things he learned from Paul to “faithful men, who, in turn, will be adequately qualified to teach others.” Timothy should prove himself a fine soldier of Christ Jesus. A soldier shuns business entanglements. Moreover, the one crowned at the games contends according to the rules. In order to gain discernment, Timothy should give constant thought to Paul’s words. The important things to remember and to remind others of are that “Jesus Christ was raised up from the dead and was of David’s seed” and that salvation and everlasting glory in union with Christ, reigning as kings with him, are the rewards for the chosen ones who endure. Timothy is to do his utmost to present himself as an approved workman to God, shunning empty speeches that violate what is holy, which spread like gangrene. Just as in a large house an honorable vessel is kept separate from one lacking honor, so Paul admonishes Timothy to “flee from the desires incidental to youth, but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, along with those who call upon the Lord out of a clean heart.” The slave of the Lord needs to be gentle toward all, qualified to teach, instructing with mildness.—2:2, 8, 22.
7. Why are the inspired Scriptures to be especially beneficial “in the last days”?
7 “In the last days,” there will be critical times hard to deal with and persons who prove false to their show of godly devotion, “always learning and yet never able to come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” But Timothy has closely followed Paul’s teaching, his course of life, and his persecutions, out of which the Lord delivered him. “In fact,” he adds, “all those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.” Timothy, however, should continue in the things he learned from infancy, which are able to make him wise for salvation, for “all Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial.”—3:1, 7, 12, 16.
8. What does Paul urge Timothy to do, and in this connection how does Paul exult?
8 Fully accomplishing the ministry (4:1-22). Paul charges Timothy to “preach the word” with urgency. (4:2) The time will come when men will not put up with healthful teaching and will turn to false teachers, but let Timothy keep his senses, ‘do the work of an evangelizer, fully accomplish his ministry.’ Recognizing his death to be imminent, Paul exults that he has fought the fine fight, that he has run the course to the finish and observed the faith. Now he looks confidently forward to the reward, “the crown of righteousness.”—4:5, 8.
9. What confidence in the Lord’s power does Paul express?
9 Paul urges Timothy to come to him quickly and gives instructions concerning the journey. When Paul made his first defense everyone forsook him, but the Lord infused power into him that the preaching might be fully accomplished among the nations. Yes, he is confident that the Lord will deliver him from every wicked work and save him for His heavenly Kingdom.
10. (a) What particular benefit of “all Scripture” is emphasized in Second Timothy, and what should Christians strive to become? (b) What influence is to be avoided, and how may this be done? (c) For what does there continue to be an urgent need?
10 “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial.” Beneficial for what? Paul tells us in his second letter to Timothy: “For teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” (3:16, 17) Thus the benefit of “teaching” is emphasized in this letter. All lovers of righteousness today will want to heed the letter’s wise counsel in striving to become teachers of the Word and in doing their utmost to become God’s approved workmen, “handling the word of the truth aright.” As in the Ephesus of Timothy’s day, so in this modern age, there are those who dabble in “foolish and ignorant questionings,” who are “always learning and yet never able to come to an accurate knowledge of truth,” and who reject “healthful teaching” in favor of teachers who tickle their ears the way they selfishly want it. (2:15, 23; 3:7; 4:3, 4) To avoid this contaminating worldly influence, it is necessary to “keep holding the pattern of healthful words” in faith and love. Moreover, there is the urgent need for more and more persons to become “adequately qualified to teach others” both inside and outside the congregation, like Timothy, “the man of God.” Happy are all those who shoulder this responsibility, becoming ‘qualified to teach with mildness,’ and who preach the word “with all long-suffering and art of teaching”!—1:13; 2:2, 24, 25; 4:2.
11. What advice is given with regard to the young?
11 As Paul stated, Timothy had known the holy writings “from infancy” because of the loving instruction of Lois and Eunice. “From infancy” also indicates the time to start Bible instruction for children today. But what if, in later years, early fires of zeal start to die out? Paul’s advice is to stir up that fire again in the spirit of “power and of love and of soundness of mind,” keeping faith without hypocrisy. “In the last days,” he said, there will be critical times, with problems of delinquency and false teachings. That is why it is so necessary for young people especially, and all others, to ‘keep their senses in all things, and fully accomplish their ministry.’—3:15; 1:5-7; 3:1-5; 4:5.
12. (a) How did Paul call attention to the Kingdom Seed, and what hope did he express? (b) How can God’s servants today have the same mental attitude as Paul?
12 The prize is worth contending for. (2:3-7) In this connection, Paul calls attention to the Kingdom Seed, saying: “Remember that Jesus Christ was raised up from the dead and was of David’s seed, according to the good news.” Paul’s hope was to remain in union with that Seed. Farther on he speaks of his approaching execution in words of triumph: “From this time on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me as a reward in that day, yet not only to me, but also to all those who have loved his manifestation.” (2:8; 4:8) How happy are all those who can look back over many years of faithful service and say the same! However, this requires serving now in integrity, with love for the manifestation of Jesus Christ, and demonstrating the same confidence as Paul did when he wrote: “The Lord will deliver me from every wicked work and will save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”—4:18.
a The Complete Works of Tacitus, 1942, edited by Moses Hadas, pages 380-1.