TIMOTHY, LETTERS TO
Two inspired letters of the Christian Greek Scriptures composed by the apostle Paul, who identifies himself as the writer in the opening words of each letter. (1 Tim. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:1) The first letter was evidently written from Macedonia. A basis for assigning an approximate date for the composition of this letter is found in the first chapter, verse 3, which reads: “Just as I encouraged you to stay in Ephesus when I was about to go my way into Macedonia, so I do now.” There is no mention of this in the book of Acts, which covers a period from the time of Jesus’ ascension to heaven in 33 C.E. until the second year of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, about 61 C.E. Accordingly, it seems that it was sometime after his being released that Paul encouraged Timothy to stay in Ephesus, and then he apparently departed for Macedonia. This would place the time for the writing of First Timothy between the date of the apostle’s release from his first imprisonment at Rome and his final imprisonment there, or sometime between about 61 and 64 C.E. The second letter was composed at Rome during Paul’s final imprisonment (likely about 65 C.E.) and not long before his death.—2 Tim. 1:8, 17; 4:6-9.
The authenticity of First and Second Timothy is well established. All outstanding ancient catalogs, starting with the Muratorian Fragment of the second century C.E., list both letters as canonical. Most importantly, these letters are in complete agreement with the rest of the Scriptures and quote from them. They contain quotations from or allusions to Numbers (16:5; 2 Tim. 2:19), Deuteronomy (19:15; 25:4; 1 Tim. 5:18, 19), Isaiah (26:13; 2 Tim. 2:19) and the words of Jesus Christ. (Matt. 10:10; Luke 10:7; 1 Tim. 5:18) Noteworthy are the frequent mention of faith (1 Tim. 1:2, 4, 5, 14, 19; 2:7, 15; 3:9, 13; 4:1, 6, 12; 5:8, 12; 6:10, 11, 12, 21; 2 Tim. 1:5, 13; 2:18, 22; 3:8, 10, 15; 4:7), the emphasis on right doctrine (1 Tim. 1:3, 4; 4:1-3, 6, 7; 6:3, 4, 20, 21; 2 Tim. 1:13; 3:14, 15; 4:3, 5), conduct (1 Tim. 2:8-11, 15; 3:2-13; 4:12; 5:1-21; 6:1, 2, 11-14; 2 Tim. 2:22), prayer (1 Tim. 2:1, 2, 8; 4:5; 5:5; 2 Tim. 1:3), and faithful endurance through suffering.—2 Tim. 1:8, 12; 2:3, 8-13.
BACKGROUND FOR FIRST TIMOTHY
In 56 C.E., when meeting at Miletus with the older men of the Ephesus congregation, the apostle Paul said to them: “I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:29, 30) Within a few years thereafter the situation regarding the teaching of false doctrines had become so serious that Paul encouraged Timothy to stay in Ephesus, that he “might command certain ones not to teach different doctrine, nor to pay attention to false stories and to genealogies.” (1 Tim. 1:3, 4) Timothy, therefore, had to wage spiritual warfare inside the Christian congregation to preserve its purity and to aid its members to remain in the faith. (1 Tim. 1:18, 19) His applying the things mentioned in the apostle’s letter would serve to protect members of the congregation from falling away.
For the congregation to prosper, prayer could not be overlooked. So that Christians might go on leading a calm and quiet life, without interference, it was proper for them to pray concerning kings and men in high governmental station. Regarding those representing the congregation in prayer, Paul wrote: “I desire that in every place the men carry on prayer, lifting up loyal hands, apart from wrath and debates.” This meant approaching God in a pure way, without any feelings of animosity or anger toward others.—1 Tim. 2:1-8.
Timothy also had to be alert that women kept their God-assigned place (1 Tim. 2:9-15), that only qualified men served as overseers and ministerial servants, for such would serve as a strong bulwark against apostasy (1 Tim. 3:1-13; 5:22), that deserving widows received assistance from the congregation (1 Tim. 5:3-16), that due consideration was given to the older men presiding in a fine manner (1 Tim. 5:17-19), that slaves conducted themselves aright toward their owners (1 Tim. 6:1, 2), that all were content with what they had, not seeking to be rich (1 Tim. 6:6-10), and that the rich did not rest their hopes on material things, being instead rich in fine works and manifesting generosity. (1 Tim. 6:17-19) Timothy himself had to be “an example to the faithful ones in speaking, in conduct, in love, in faith, in chasteness” and also had to be concerned about continuing to make advancement.—1 Tim. 4:12, 15, 16; 6:11-14.
OUTLINE OF CONTENTS
I. Salutation and pronouncement of blessing (1:1, 2)
II. Encouragement to uphold truth and fight against false doctrine (1:3-20)
A. Those teaching false doctrine to be commanded not to do so; law is fine only when handled lawfully and not by persons lacking understanding (1:3-11)
B. Paul’s assignment to a ministry an expression of the Lord’s undeserved kindness; apostle ascribes honor and glory to God, “King of eternity” (1:12-17)
C. Admonition to wage fine warfare and hold faith and good conscience (1:18-20)
III. Counsel involving prayer and the conduct of women in connection with congregational meetings (2:1-15)
A. Reasons for prayers regarding all sorts of men, including those in high governmental station (God’s purpose for all sorts of men to gain salvation; one God and one Mediator, who gave self as corresponding ransom for all); men to lead in prayer (2:1-8)
B. Women to adorn selves in well-arranged dress with modesty; not to teach or to exercise authority over men (2:9-15)
IV. Qualifications for those appointed to serve as overseers and ministerial servants; Christian congregation a pillar and support of truth; ‘sacred secret of godly devotion’ (3:1-16)
V. Falling away to take place in later periods of time; Timothy’s part in restraining it (4:1-11)
A. Some things that would be taught by those falling away (4:1-5)
B. Timothy to turn down false stories (4:6-11)
VI. Instructions for Timothy concerning self and congregational matters (4:12–6:21)
A. Timothy to set good example and strive to make advancement (4:12-16)
B. Older men to be entreated as fathers, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers and younger women as sisters (5:1, 2)
C. Widows, if meeting requirements, entitled to material assistance (5:3-16)
D. Older men who preside entitled to “double honor”; only on evidence of two or three witnesses is accusation against older man to be admitted (5:17-19)
E. Reproof for persons practicing sin; Timothy not to act according to biased leaning, not to share in sins of others through hasty appointments (5:20-22)
F. Timothy, because of sickness, to use a little wine for stomach’s sake (5:23)
G. Wrongdoing and fine works eventually become manifest (5:24, 25)
H. Slaves to conduct selves properly toward owners, especially if brothers (6:1, 2)
I. Results springing from false teachings, and the importance of godly devotion and self-sufficiency, not desiring to be materially rich (6:3-10)
J. Exhortation for Timothy to conduct self aright, to instruct rich not to be high-minded, and to turn away from empty speeches (6:11-21)
BACKGROUND FOR SECOND TIMOTHY
In 64 C.E. a great fire ravaged Rome, destroying about a fourth of the city. Rumor had it that Caesar Nero was responsible for it. To protect himself Nero placed the blame upon the Christians. This appears to have prompted a wave of violent governmental persecution. It was likely about this time (c. 64 or 65 C.E.) that the apostle Paul was again imprisoned at Rome. Though forsaken by many, suffering in chains and facing imminent death (2 Tim. 1:15, 16; 4:6-8), the apostle wrote an encouraging letter to Timothy, one that prepared his younger fellow worker to resist apostate elements inside the congregation and to stand firm in the face of persecution. (2 Tim. 2:3-7, 14-26; 3:14–4:5) By learning about Paul’s circumstances, Timothy would have been able to draw encouragement from the apostle’s good example of faithful endurance under great tribulation.—2 Tim. 2:8-13.
Fearless in the strength of Jehovah, Paul exhorted Timothy: “Stir up like a fire the gift of God which is in you through the laying of my hands upon you. For God gave us not a spirit of cowardice, but that of power and of love and of soundness of mind. Therefore do not become ashamed of the witness about our Lord, neither of me a prisoner for his sake, but take your part in suffering evil for the good news according to the power of God.”—2 Tim. 1:6-8.
OUTLINE OF CONTENTS
I. Salutation and pronouncement of blessing (1:1, 2)
II. Timothy’s faith provides reason for Paul to give thanks to God (1:3-5)
III. Encouragement for Timothy to remain faithful (1:6–2:13)
A. God gave, not a spirit of cowardice, but of power and love; also salvation an expression of his undeserved kindness (1:6-11)
B. Example of Paul in suffering; those turning away from Paul contrasted with Onesiphorus who assisted the apostle (1:12-18)
C. Admonition to commit things learned to faithful men who would be adequately qualified to teach others; exhortation to take part in suffering evil as fine soldier of Christ Jesus (2:1-7)
D. Reason for Paul’s being able to endure (2:8-13)
IV. Action to be taken regarding false teachings (2:14–4:5)
A. Not to fight about words; handle word of truth aright; shun empty speeches in opposition to truth (2:14-18)
B. False teachers will have no success, as solid foundation of God stays standing; keep clear of unclean vessels, evidently meaning persons like false teachers (2:19-21)
C. Timothy to flee from desires incidental to youth, pursuing righteousness, faith, love and peace; not to fight with those not favorably disposed but instruct with mildness so that they might repent (2:22-26)
D. Description of conditions in “last days,” with admonition for Timothy to continue faithful (adhering to inspired Scriptures and preaching the word) (3:1–4:5)
V. Paul’s personal circumstances as a prisoner; his desire for Timothy to come; final greetings and pronouncement of blessing (4:6-22)