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All About Timothy

Timothy was the first, and in the Bible the most important, of the second generation of apostles, i.e. those who had not known Christ directly. He was Paul’s greatest and most trusted protégé.

Paul met him on his second missionary journey [map]. Remember, Paul had a rather short first journey and then set out on his great second journey; he began by revisiting the towns of Derbe and Lystra, where he met “a young disciple named Timothy,” whose father was Greek but whose mother was a Jewish “believer”, that is, a Jewish Christian. Because Timothy was highly regarded by the Christians in the area, Paul wanted to bring him along; however, “in deference to the Jews of the area, he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left, for everyone knew that his father was a Greek.” (Acts 16:1-5.)

And yes, it seems odd that Paul would have Timothy go through this painful and unnecessary ritual, given Paul’s active resistance to the Judaizers. The Jerusalem Council had already declared it unnecessary (Acts 15:27-29) Also, Paul did not require another major protégé, Titus, to be circumcised (see Galatians 2:3). Perhaps Paul feared that Timothy’s mixed parentage would give intolerable offense to Jews and present an unnecessary barrier to his work — certainly Paul had had enough problems even with his gilt-edged credentials to the Jews of Anatolia and Macedonia. (See for example Acts 17:5-7.)

Had Paul met Timothy on his first journey? It is possible. This passage strongly implies that Timothy lived in Lystra (which Paul had visited). Acts 16:1-2. We also see in 1 Timothy 1:18 that there had been prophetic words spoken about Timothy at some previous time. This prophecy would seem to be the same prophetic utterences made when the local elders laid their hands on him (1 Tim 4:14.)

Timothy had gotten early religious instruction from his mother (Eunice) and his grandmother (Lois) (2 Tim 1:5). There is an interesting point of Greek on this rather minute point of who gave Timothy his instruction. Definitely his mother, but the Greek word “from whom” in 2 Tim 3:14 is plural. Unfortunately, the masculine plural genitive (tinōn) is identical to the feminine! So this could refer to the two women, or the elders, or some of each.

Well Paul might try to ease Timothy’s burden, for he must have been very young when Paul recruited him. Fifteen years later, in 1 Timothy, Pauls advises him not to let anyone “despise his youth”!

Paul ceases to mention Timothy after his departure from Lystra and in all the tumultuous events of his first trip to Macedonia. But then, Luke is not mentioned, either, and he certainly joined Paul and Silas before they left from Anatolia. (Because the Book of Acts shifts at that point from third to first person. “So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once . . . .”) (Acts 16:10.)

Timothy is not mentioned in connection with the experiences and imprisonment of Paul and Silas in Philippi (Acts 16:12-40). Possibly because of his youth Timothy was not imprisoned. Likewise, he is not mentioned in the account of Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica (17:1-9). However, Acts 17:14 indicates that Silas and Timothy remained in Berea after Paul’s departure, although Paul requested that they join him as soon as possible (17:15).

According to Acts 18:5, they rejoined Paul at Corinth.

In 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20, we get a somewhat vague picture of a heavy suppression of Christianity in Thessalonika, akin to the situation in Judea, and it seems that Paul and Silar were

1 Thessalonians 3:1-3 indicates that Timothy at least was with Paul in Athens and that Paul, being anxious about the believers at Thessalonica, sent Timothy to Thessalonica: “Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, . . . ”

This suggests that, during Paul’s ministry at Thessalonica, Timothy (who seemingly was present) was not directly involved in the work, so that the “ban” placed on Paul and Silas (“security,” “bail,” ἱκανόν [Acts 17:10]; cf. 1 Thess 2:18) did not apply to Timothy. Upon his return to Corinth where Paul was (1 Thess 3:6 and Acts 18:5), he informed him about the situation in Thessalonica. In response Paul, with Silas and Timothy as co-writers, sent 1 Thessalonians. Shortly thereafter, while still at Corinth, these three men sent 2 Thessalonians.

During his extended residence in Ephesus on his third missionary journey, Paul sent Timothy to Corinth to deal with the vexing problems in that church (1 Cor 4:17; 16:10). It appears that he was not successful in this mission and returned to Paul at Ephesus. Prior to Paul’s departure from Ephesus, he sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia (Acts 19:22). Later when Paul joined him in Macedonia, they jointly wrote 2 Corinthians, after Titus seemingly had successfully dealt with the problems in the church (2 Cor 1:1; cf. 1:19). When Paul wrote his letter to the Romans during the following winter while at Corinth, Timothy, identified as a “fellow worker” (συνεργός, G5301), was among those who sent their greetings (Rom 16:21).

Devotional painting of St. TimothyText: Devotional painting of St. Timothy

Timothy accompanied Paul on his last journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4). It is not indicated that Timothy accompanied Paul on his shipwreck voyage to Rome, but Philippians 2:19, 20 (if written from Rome) suggest that Timothy was sharing Paul’s first Rom. imprisonment. Likewise, Timothy was included with Paul as author of Philippians (1:1), Colossians (1:1), and Philemon (v. 1), traditionally considered with Ephesians as the Prison Epistles, written from Rome.

Two of the Pastoral Epistles, written after Paul’s first Rom. imprisonment, were addressed to Timothy. The intimate relationship that existed between Paul and Timothy is very evident from these letters. Paul refers to Timothy as “my true child in the faith” (1 Tim 1:2), “my son” (1:18), “my beloved child” (2 Tim 1:2). In these two epistles Paul uses a special term (found only in these two epistles in the NT) to describe the responsible task or consignment that the preacher has. This term, παραθήκη, G4146, “deposit,” “consignment,” is found in 1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:12, 14. Twice Paul urged Timothy to guard this φυλάσσω, G5875, (1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:14). This is also what had been entrusted or consigned to Paul (2 Tim 1:12—the preferred interpretation of the text). Paul virtually identified his ministry with Timothy’s ministry. This continuation of Paul’s ministry in the work of Timothy underlies the various exhortations of the Pastoral Epistles.

1 Timothy was written from Macedonia while Timothy was at Ephesus. Heterodoxy had infested the church—a kind of legalism (1 Tim 1:6f.) and a kind of speculative theology based on myths and genealogies (1 Tim 1:4). It was also in this period that ecclesiastical organization was developing, and Timothy was enjoined carefully to supervise the appointment of qualified officers. Personal godliness is a necessary qualification of an effective minister (e.g., 1 Tim 6:11-16).

Paul wrote 2 Timothy while he was imprisoned in Rome, apparently for the second time. The future looked very bleak for him and he wrote this letter to Timothy to urge him to come to Rome for these last days. Whether he reached Rome before Paul’s death is not recorded. This epistle has been aptly called Paul’s Swan Song. It is the picture of a man passing the torch to his successor. Paul’s confidence and trust in Timothy as a worthy successor are very evident. It is not indicated where Timothy was—apparently in western Asia, possibly at Ephesus, since he would be passing through Troas (2 Tim 4:13). Although Paul was at the point of death (4:6) and had been abandoned by certain followers, e.g., Phygelus and Hermogenes (1:15), Demas (4:10), Alexander (4:14), nevertheless he expressed an assurance and faith to Timothy which must have made a formative impression on this young minister and have been an enduring inspiration to him.

A study of these epistles addressed to Timothy gives the impression that he was a fairly young man who was somewhat retiring, perhaps even a bit shy. He appears to be sincere and devoted, but at times perhaps frightened by his opponents and their teachings. This perhaps is also reflected in his apparent inability to cope with the problems in the Corinthian church.

The last reference to Timothy in the NT is in Hebrews 13:23, where it is reported that Timothy was recently released from prison. Timothy was known to the recipients of this epistle (whose identity is debated—see [http://biblegateway/wiki/D. Hebrews. HEBREWS]) and the author (obviously not Paul) intends to bring him along on a proposed visit. Timothy’s name does not occur elsewhere in the early Christian lit. See Pastoral Epistles.