Eunice and Lois—Exemplary Educators
As Jehovah’s servants, we know that providing an effective religious education for our children is a serious responsibility. Even in the best of times, this task may be fraught with all kinds of obstacles and difficulties. this is all the more so when a Christian parent is facing that challenge in a religiously divided household. Such a situation is not new. The Scriptures tell us about one parent who found herself in a similar position in the first century C.E.
The family of a woman named Eunice lived in Lystra, a city in the region of Lycaonia in south-central Asia Minor. Lystra was a small provincial city of no great importance. It was a Roman colony called Julia Felix Gemina Lustra, founded by Augustus Caesar to counteract the activities of brigands in surrounding areas. Eunice was a Jewish Christian who lived in a religiously divided household with her Greek husband, her son Timothy, and her mother Lois.—Acts 16:1-3.
Likely, there were few Jews in Lystra, since the Bible makes no mention of a synagogue there, though there was a Jewish presence in Iconium, some 20 miles [30 km] away. (Acts 14:19) So it must not have been easy for Eunice to practice her faith. The fact that Timothy was not circumcised after he was born has led some scholars to surmise that Eunice’s husband had opposed that idea.
Eunice was not alone in her beliefs, however. It appears that Timothy received his instruction in “the holy writings” both from his mother and from his maternal grandmother, Lois.* The apostle Paul exhorted Timothy: “Continue in the things that you learned and were persuaded to believe, knowing from what persons you learned them and that from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through the faith in connection with Christ Jesus.”—2 Timothy 3:14, 15.
Education “From Infancy”
When Paul said that Timothy’s education in “the holy writings” had been imparted “from infancy,” this evidently meant from babyhood. This is in keeping with his use of a Greek word (breʹphos) that generally refers to a newborn. (Compare Luke 2:12, 16.) Eunice thus took her God-given obligation seriously, wasting no time in beginning to give Timothy training that would help him grow into a devoted servant of God.—Deuteronomy 6:6-9; Proverbs 1:8.
Timothy had been “persuaded to believe” Scriptural truths. According to one Greek lexicon, the word Paul used here means “to be firmly persuaded of; to be assured of” something. No doubt, considerable time and effort were needed to root such firm conviction in Timothy’s heart, helping him to reason on God’s Word and exercise faith in it. Apparently, then, both Eunice and Lois worked hard to teach Timothy from the Scriptures. And what a reward those godly women reaped! Paul could write of Timothy: “I recollect the faith which is in you without any hypocrisy, and which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, but which I am confident is also in you.”—2 Timothy 1:5.
What a vital role Eunice and Lois played in Timothy’s life! In this regard, writer David Read states: “If the apostle believed that nothing mattered but Timothy’s own personal experience of conversion, he would have reminded him of it right away. But the first thing he has to say about Timothy’s faith was that it was already ‘alive in Lois . . . and Eunice.’” Paul’s statement regarding the faith of Lois, Eunice, and Timothy shows that often the early Scriptural education given at home by parents and even grandparents is fundamental in determining a young one’s future spiritual prospects. Should that not make family members think seriously about what they are doing to fulfill this responsibility toward both God and their children?
Perhaps Paul was also thinking about the kind of home environment Lois and Eunice had created. The apostle may have visited their home during his first stay in Lystra, about 47/48 C.E. The two women probably converted to Christianity at that time. (Acts 14:8-20) Perhaps warm, happy relations enjoyed in that household influenced Paul’s choice of words when referring to Lois as Timothy’s “grandmother.” According to scholar Ceslas Spicq, the Greek term he used (mamʹme, in contrast with the classical and respectful teʹthe) is “a child’s word of endearment” for his grandmother, which in this context conveys a “nuance of familiarity and affection.”
Just what Eunice’s marital status was when Paul visited Lystra a second time (about 50 C.E.) is not clear. Many scholars assume that she was a widow. In any case, under the guidance of his mother and grandmother, Timothy had grown into a fine young man, perhaps about 20 years old by that time. He was “well reported on by the brothers in Lystra and Iconium.” (Acts 16:2) Evidently, a desire to spread the good news of the Kingdom had been implanted in Timothy’s heart, for he accepted Paul’s invitation to travel with him and Silas on their missionary journey.
Imagine how Eunice and Lois felt when Timothy was about to leave! They knew that on Paul’s first visit to their city, the apostle had been stoned and left for dead. (Acts 14:19) So it must not have been easy for them to let young Timothy go. Likely, they wondered how long he would be away and whether he would return safely. Despite such probable anxieties, his mother and grandmother undoubtedly encouraged him to accept this special privilege that would enable him to serve Jehovah more fully.
Much can be learned from careful consideration of Eunice and Lois. Faith motivated them to give Timothy a spiritually sound upbringing. The mature, stable example of godly devotion that grandparents set for their grandchildren and others can certainly be beneficial to the entire Christian congregation. (Titus 2:3-5) Eunice’s example likewise reminds mothers with unbelieving husbands of the responsibility and rewards of imparting spiritual instruction to their children. Doing this may require great courage at times, especially if the father is not well-disposed toward the religious beliefs of his spouse. It also calls for tact, since the Christian wife must respect her husband’s headship.
The faith, effort, and self-denial of Lois and Eunice were rewarded by their seeing Timothy make spiritual progress to the point of becoming an excellent missionary and overseer. (Philippians 2:19-22) Likewise today, teaching Scriptural truths to our children demands time, patience, and determination, but a fine outcome makes all the effort truly worthwhile. Many exemplary Christian youths who have been taught ‘the holy writings from infancy’ in a religiously divided household bring great joy to their godly parent. And how true the proverb that says: ‘She who gives birth to a wise one will be joyful’!—Proverbs 23:23-25.
The apostle John said of his spiritual children: “No greater cause for thankfulness do I have than these things, that I should be hearing that my children go on walking in the truth.” (3 John 4) Surely, the sentiment expressed in those words is shared by many who have proved to be like Eunice and Lois, two exemplary educators.
That Lois was not Timothy’s paternal grandmother is indicated by the Syriac rendering “thy mother’s mother” at 2 Timothy 1:5.