Comments on the letters to Timothy and Titus

Submitted by admin on Tue, 2010-02-16 13:50.

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After parting ways with Barnabas, Paul, accompanied by Silas as his fellow worker, returned to Asia Minor, visiting groups of believers in the various cities where he had been before, including Derbe and Lystra in the Roman province of Galatia. (Acts 15:36-16:1) According to the wording of Acts 16:1, Timothy may either have lived in Lystra or Derbe. Lystra appears to have been the more likely place. The “brothers” or believers in Lystra and nearby Iconium spoke highly of him, with no mention being made of any believers from Derbe doing so (as one would expect if Timothy’s home had been in Derbe). (Acts 16:2)

Timothy had a Greek father and a Jewish mother named Eunice. Both his mother and his grandmother Lois became believers, likely at the time Paul and Barnabas first began proclaiming the message about Christ in Asia Minor. The Greek father appears not to have objected to his son’s being taught the content of the Jewish holy writings. Thus Timothy had come to know the sacred scriptures from infancy or from what would have been his earliest recollection. (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15) Nevertheless, he was not a fully integrated part of the Jewish community. He had not been circumcised on the eighth day in keeping with the Mosaic law, most likely because his Greek father did not permit it. (Acts 16:3)

Paul expressed the desire for Timothy to accompany him and Silas in their work of making known the message about Jesus Christ and in strengthening fellow believers. The apostle, joined by elders (evidently from Lystra), laid hands on Timothy, designating him for this special service. Jews in the region were fully aware that Timothy’s father was a Greek. Apparently to prevent any problems with fellow Jews about Timothy’s not being identified as sharing his mother’s Jewish heritage, Paul circumcised him. (Acts 16:3; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6)

Over the years a close bond formed between Paul and Timothy, and the apostle had the highest regard for him as a loyal servant of Christ. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul referred to Timothy as having an outstandingly commendable disposition and being genuinely concerned about them. Like a reliable, trustworthy, and diligent son, Timothy had labored shoulder to shoulder with Paul in the advancement of Christ’s cause. (Philippians 2:20-22)

At the time Timothy received the letter known as 1 Timothy, he was in Ephesus, and Paul asked him to remain there to care for essential matters involving the community of believers. The book of Acts does not include any reference to Timothy’s being asked to stay in Ephesus while Paul was on his way to Macedonia. Furthermore, the Acts account does not mention the apostle’s request for Timothy to remain in Ephesus on yet another occasion. If the narration in the book of Acts about Timothy’s activity is sufficiently complete, this would provide a basis for concluding that the letter was written after the end of Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome and his subsequent release. The second letter would then have been written after the apostle had again been arrested and found himself imprisoned in Rome. The apostle’s comments in the second letter indicate that he expected to be executed. (1 Timothy 1:3; 2 Timothy 4:6-8)

While there have been those who claim that Paul could not have written these letters, their arguments contribute nothing of real value to the understanding of the preserved message. Both letters open with the writer identifying himself as “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus,” and the personal comments to Timothy are representative of a very close relationship that is consistent with the apostle’s other letters. Of the fourteen books anciently attributed to Paul, questions were only raised in early centuries about the book of Hebrews.

The radically different style of the book of Hebrews caused some to conclude that Paul may have originally written it in Hebrew and then either Luke or Clement had translated it into Greek. Origen (c.185-c. 254 CE), quoted by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History (Book VI, 25.11) commented that the letter to the Hebrews is closer to Greek usage than were the other letters, as would be acknowledged by anyone able to recognize style differences. Nothing of this nature, though, was ever said about 1 or 2 Timothy, and it should be noted that the book of Hebrews makes no mention of Paul as the writer. Therefore, without unmistakable evidence to the contrary, 1 and 2 Timothy should be accepted as being from the apostle Paul and written to Timothy.