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The First Epistle of Paul to Timothy, usually referred to simply as First Timothy and often written 1 Timothy, is one of three letters in the New Testament of the Bible often grouped together as the Pastoral Epistles, along with Second Timothy and Titus. The letter, traditionally attributed to the Apostle Paul, consists mainly of counsels to his younger colleague and delegate Timothy regarding his ministry in Ephesus (1:3). These counsels include instructions on the organization of the Church and the responsibilities resting on certain groups of leaders therein as well as exhortations to faithfulness in maintaining the truth amid surrounding errors, but, as Gealy points out "What is most baffling in the letters is that they do not adequately define either the orthodoxy which they champion or the heterodoxy which they combat."
The author of First Timothy has been traditionally identified as the Apostle Paul. He is named as the author of the letter in the text (1:1). Nineteenth and twentieth century scholarship questioned the authenticity of the letter, with many scholars suggesting that First Timothy, along with Second Timothy and Titus, are not original to Paul, but rather an unknown Christian writing some time in the late-first-to-mid-2nd century. Most scholars now affirm this view.
The genuineness of Pauline authorship was accepted by Church orthodoxy as early as c. 180 AD, as evidenced by the surviving testimony of Irenaeus and the author of the Muratorian. Possible allusions are found in the letters from Clement of Rome to the Corinthians (c. 95), Ignatius of Antioch to the Ephesians (c. 110) and Polycarp to the Philippians (c. 130), though it is difficult to determine the nature of any such literary relationships. Modern scholars who support Pauline authorship nevertheless stress their importance regarding the question of authenticity: I.H. Marshall and P.H. Towner wrote that 'the key witness is Polycarp, where there is a high probability that 1 and 2 Tim were known to him'. Similarly M.W. Holmes argued that it is 'virtually certain or highly probable' that Polycarp used 1 and 2 Timothy.
Late in the 2nd century there are a number of quotations from all three Pastoral Epistles in Irenaeus' work Against Heresies. The Muratorian Canon (c. 170-180) lists the books of the NT and ascribes all three Pastoral Epistles to Paul. Eusebius (c. 330) calls it, along with the other thirteen canonical Pauline Epistles, "undisputed", despite the fact that Eusebius wrote in the 4th century with little to no knowledge of the complex social structures which line the books of the New Testament. Exceptions to this positive witness include Tatian, a disciple of Justin Martyr turned heretic, as well as the Gnostic Basilides.
Marcion, an orthodox Bishop later excommunicated for heresy, formed a Gnostic canon of Scripture c. 140 around ten of the canonical Pauline epistles, excluding 1-2 Timothy, Titus and Hebrews. The reasons for these exclusions are unknown, and so speculation abounds, including the hypotheses that they were not written until after Marcion's time, or that he knew of them, but regarded them as inauthentic. Proponents of Pauline authorship argue that he had theological grounds for rejecting the Pastorals, namely their teaching about the goodness of creation (cf. 1 Tim 4:1 ff.). A probable reason for his rejecting them is their strong teaching against Gnostic beliefs.
The question is indeed curious whether Marcion knew these three letters and rejected them as Tertullian says, since in 1 Timothy 6:20 "false opposing arguments" are referred to, with the word for "opposing arguments" being "antithesis", the name of Marcion's work, and so whether it is a subtle hint of Marcion's heresy. However, the structure of the Church presupposed which is less developed than the one Ignatius presupposes (who wrote c.110), as well as the fact that not only is "antithesis" itself a Greek word which simply means "opposing arguments" but as it has been noted, the attack on the heretics is not central to the three letters.
The dating of 1 Timothy depends very much on the question of authorship. Those who accept the epistle's authenticity believe it was most likely written toward the end of Paul's ministry, c.62-67 CE. Other historians generally place its composition some time in the late 1st century or first half of the 2nd century CE, with a wide margin of uncertainty. The text seems to be contending against nascent Gnosticism(1 Tim 1:4, 1 Tim 4:3)(see Encratism), which would suggest a later date due to Gnosticism developing primarily in the latter 1st century. The term Gnosis("knowledge") itself occurs in 1 Timothy 6:20. If the parallels between 1 Timothy and Polycarp's epistle are understood as a literary dependence by the latter on the former, as is generally accepted, this would constitute a terminus ante quem of 130-155 CE. However, Irenaeus (writing c. 180 CE) is the earliest author to clearly and unequivocally describe the Pastorals.
This historical relationship between Paul and Timothy is one of mentorship. Timothy is first mentioned in Acts 16:1. His mother Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, are mentioned in 2 Tim. 1:5. All that we know of his father is that he was a Greek not a Jew (Acts 16:1).
Paul's second visit to Lystra is when Timothy first connected with Paul (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 3:11). Paul not only brought Timothy into the faith but he was Timothy’s main mentor in Christian leadership (Acts 16:3), having done church planting and missionary journeys together. Timothy would have received his authority to preach in churches directly from Paul who of course was the greater known and accepted of the two and an apostle. Timothy’s official position in the church was one of an evangelist (1 Timothy 4:14) and he worked with Paul in Phrygia, Galatia, and Mysia, Troa, Philippi and Berea (Acts 17:14) and continued on to do even more work in Athens, and Thessalonica for the church (Acts 17:15; 1 Thessalonians 3:2) not to mention his work in Corinth, Macedonia, Ephesus and greater Asia. Timothy was also noted for coming to Paul’s aid when Paul fell into prison (Philippians 1:1, 2 Timothy 4:13). It is noteworthy that despite not being required due the ruling of the Jerusalem council; Timothy took circumcision himself to be a better witness among the Jews. According to church tradition he was loyal to Paul’s wishes and stayed and worked in Ephesus until he finally suffered the Martyr's death himself.
If, however, "… the pastorals are best understood against the background of the second century, the evidence in the letters relative to church order ... clearly reflect a time when apostle and prophet have been succeeded by bishop (and archbishop?) and/or elder in a stabilized church organization fully committed to an authorized succession of ordained ministers. The local churches are no longer lay churches, nor are their needs now taken care of simply by itinerant missionaries. There is obviously hierarchical organization both in the local and ecumenical church. The chief function of the bishop (or archbishop?) is to transmit and maintain the true faith" TIB 1955 XI p. 346
Regardless of whether this epistle is seen as a 4th missionary journey not recorded in Acts or as being written at some other point of Paul’s life, its intent seems clear that Paul is writing to encourage Timothy on his own ministry. Timothy is now pastoring in the Ephesus Church and Paul writes him to tell him to stay there and continue his good work there. Paul had planted the Ephesus church himself, working there for over three years (Acts 19:10; 20:31), and he is pleased that his former student is currently taking the post there. This is most likely a letter written in Paul’s late life and can be seen as being among his departing advice to his former student who has risen up in the ranks of church leadership himself. As Paul becomes more aware of his impending end, soon to be at the hands of Nero, he is setting things in order for the next generation.
If, however, I Timothy is post Paul, then Timothy represents all the "Timothies" of the church whom the writer is exhorting to preserve Pauline Christianity against incipient heresies.
|This section is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (February 2010)|
The author of this epistle writes to Timothy concerning the organization of the church and Timothy's own leadership within the body. Paul alternates in instructing Timothy personally and the church corporately, yet in both cases his major goal is to call believers to behave with a recognition that they are living within the household of God. Other major themes include the use of The Law (1Timothy 1:7-11), warnings against false doctrine such as Encratism, instructions for prayer (1Timothy 2:1-8), roles of women in the church (1Timothy 2:9-15; see below), and qualifications for leaders of the church (1Timothy 3:1-13), among others.
The structure for the role of women in the Church at Ephesus is laid out as well as a detailed list of qualifications for who can and cannot serve as Elders and Deacons in the church. It is a notably a hotly debated issue in the church as to what Paul meant in this book in regard to the women’s role in the church. What provoked this reversion from Paul’s revelation, in Galatians, that in Christ Jesus there is no male or female, to this banal legalism? Had the women, having been led to expect an imminent end of the world, begun to abandon their “wifely duties”? "Some feel he clearly teaches that women are not to have authority over men in the church structure (1 Timothy 2:12) and that this is why he clearly excludes them from the roles of Elder/Bishop and Deacon in chapter three. People who hold to this stance point out that Paul’s use of the phrase “Husband of one wife” is gender specific and excludes women from that role. They would point out that in the Greek text it literally reads "Man of one woman". "μιασ γυναικοσ ανδρα"(1 Timothy 3:2) However, more liberal scholars debate this, arguing that this is a product of the time in which Paul lived and it is a cultural reference not meant to be eternally binding on the church. Many churches have now embraced the ordination of women based on this modern outlook. The treatment of this issue has also been pointed to as evidence that I Timothy is not Pauline, noting "the freedom granted [women] in the aspostolic age to exercise the gifts of the Spirit, [and] Paul's insistence that in Christ there is neither male nor female, [which] had brought them into quick and widespread public activity." TIB 1955 XI p. 349. TNJBC also points out that the reasoning in I Timothy (the fall was Eve's fault) is non-Pauline: “Paul himself prefers to assign blame to Adam (as a counterpart to Christ – see Rom [Romans] 5:12-21; I Cor [Corinthians] 15: 45-49…)” TNJBC 1990 p. 897 In fact, 1 Timothy 2:14 states, not that Eve disobeyed, but that she was tricked, holding true to Paul's assertion that Adam alone was the transgressor.
The treatment of widows, elders, masters, youth, and church members are spelled out; as well as a healthy warning against greed being given to the rich.
Key words and phrases in this book include; “fight the good fight”, “This is a faithful saying”,” let no one despise your youth”, doctrine, elder/bishop, deacon, fables, guard.
I. Salutation (1:1-2)
II. Negative Instructions: Stop the False Teachers (1:3-20)
III. Positive Instructions: Repair the Church (2:1–6:10)
IV. Personal Instructions: Pursue Godliness (6:11-21)
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First Epistle to Timothy
Books of the Bible