Lecture 41: 1 Timothy
Lecture: 1 Timothy
Let’s move forward with some comments on this letter in general. It’s interesting that Paul talks about Timothy as his true child in the faith. Timothy is probably 35-40 years old. And later on, he’ll say (4:12), “Let no one despise your youth”. The older you get, the larger is the age permitted for being “young”. So, he’s not talking to someone who’s just graduated from high school or college or seminary, at 21 years of age, but Timothy will always be his child in the faith.
In vv. 9-10, he talks about the law being good if anyone uses it lawfully. And he says that you have to understand that the law “… is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane ….” Those three pairs of adjectives seem to allude to what we would call the ‘vow commandments’ or the ‘God commandments’ in the Law (the first four of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt have no other god before me”, etc.). After that, we have specific commandments that deal with the second table of the Law, and we have “for murders of fathers and murderers of mothers” (the fifth commandment is about honoring your father and mother). Then he goes on and says “for manslayers” (the sixth commandment is “Thou shalt not kill”). Then he goes on to “immoral persons and sodomites” (the seventh commandment is “Thou shalt not commit adultery”). Then he talks about “kidnappers, liars, perjurers”. As far as kidnapping, which could be equated with taking something that doesn’t belong to you, we have the eighth commandment: “Thou shalt not steal”. The liars and perjurers of the latter part of that segment line up with the ninth commandment “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” So he has a listing here of sins, and we might not see them along these lines, but a Jewish man would think very much that way. Of course, Paul is a Jew.
He goes on and remarks about his blasphemy and persecution of the church (v. 13), and how he received mercy because he acted ignorantly. The Bible doesn’t make a distinction here about sinning deliberately and sinning not-deliberately (in other words, in ignorance). And Paul seems to be saying here that it was not that he was resisting the truth. Some people when try to explain Paul’s conversion say that he had all sorts of doubts, but he was really in ignorance of all this. And when he met the Lord on the Road to Damascus, he was totally amazed by this experience, because he was so completely ignorant of what he was doing. And that was why God was able to forgive him, because he didn’t consciously resist the truth in that regard.
Then he goes on, and in 2:4, he says, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior ….” My translation is the RSV, which continues, “… who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” The NIV reads “… who desires all men to be saved ….” The ESV reads “… who desires all people to be saved ….” The word here is “men” in Greek, but the word is being used generically, for “people” in general, or “humans”. When you translate, what do you do? It’s an interesting problem. If you translate it “men”, you’re doing a literal word-for-word translation, but words are not always identical. You can’t find exact English words that always correspond to the exact Greek word. There are a range of possibilities for the English word, and there are a range of possibilities for the Greek word, and they’re not perfectly identical. They overlap, otherwise you couldn’t use them. But they’re not identical. Now, do you translate the word “men” as “men” here in this instance, or is the sense of the word “people”, so that you would translate it “people”? That’s the debate that’s going on today. Why can’t you just translate it “men” in the understanding that everyone will know that it’s being used generically? I don’t know if everybody DOES understand that it’s being used generically any longer. The word “man” had a much more understandable generic range in 1611, with the King James Version. But now we come to this verse here, and some people might question whether women are included. So the ESV translates it “all people”, and I’m sure that the new NIV when it comes out will also have “all people”, which is what the meaning is. The question is: “What is the best term that we have available to translate that meaning?” I know that there’s a lot of debate on those kinds of issues, but you need to make your own decision on that, and not just read some popular writings that express a single opinion.
The section in 2:5-6, in my Greek New Testament, is broken down into a poetic rendering, “There is one God and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given in the proper time.” This looks like a confession that was memorized and passed on – a kind of a creedal formula. And we’ll find some more like this later on.
In 2:8, “I desire that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.” What is permanent in that, and what is cultural? What’s the universal, and what’s the cultural aspect of that sentence? If you look at Ephesians 3:14, Paul says, “For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you ….” In other words, he bows his knees before God that he may pray; but in 1 Timothy, he lifts hands to pray. What is the cultural, and what is the permanent? I think what is universal is that he desires everywhere that everybody should pray without anger or quarreling. The custom of how to do that may vary. Lifting hands is popular, and something that the psalmist talks about (Psalms 141:2, “lifting up of hands as an evening sacrifice”), but you don’t want to make the cultural aspect what is binding on us, but the universal.
And in the next verse, you have the same kind of thing again, “… women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, modestly and sensibly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire ….” Well, my assumption is that “modestly and sensibly” is what is the universal here, and that in Paul’s day because pearls and gold and braided hair were a particular kind of lavish display of wealth, he argues against that. But it could be in some cultures that braided hair is very modest, and unbraided hair would be immodest. But what’s universal is what’s important.
Now when you get to 2:11-15, here’s where a lot of discussion is going on today, “Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness …” By the way, that is not a put-down of women in Paul’s day, because in rabbinic understanding, women shouldn’t learn anything. You don’t bother teaching them. But here, women are to learn, which is an advance (needless to say). Then he says, though, “I permit no women to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” And then he has this very difficult verse in v. 15, “Yet women shall be saved through bearing children – if they continue in faith and love and holiness, and modesty.” Does v. 15 say that women are only saved if they have children? That’s strange. I don’t think anybody would argue that. Does it refer to the fact that women will be saved through the “birth of a child” (in other words, the birth of the Son of God)? There’s some allusion to that.
But in the preceding verses, the one thing that I’m impressed with in v. 13 is that the argument for v. 12 seems to be based on something that is not cultural, but universal. In some ways, it seems that a teaching ministry is not permitted by Paul in that situation. The argument in v. 13 doesn’t seem cultural; it looks like it’s based on creation in some ways. And therefore, my own understanding is that there’s one position which I cannot see women holding, and that is the head pastor of a church. I have no problems with ordaining women, and I know that with Southern Baptists ordination has a different understanding, but my background and my understanding is that ordination is something in which you recognize in some way that God has chosen this person for this task, and you recognize this in the ordination service. And we recognize people who are ordained to work with young people, when there’s no way in the world that you’d ordain them to be the head pastor of a church. Well, certainly there are women who are called to do certain tasks that I would accept for ordination. But again, in the Southern Baptist Convention, I think ordination of any sort means that you’re ordained for anything from youth pastor to pope, or something like that. It doesn’t make any difference. I just have a different understanding. So when you talk about ordination, you have to define what you mean by that. And certainly, there’s something like that when we send out missionaries and we recognize the calling of the husband and the wife in that regard. So, if the question is raised as to whether women should be ordained, it always depends on how the person asking defines ordination. Don’t answer questions without clear definitions, or you’ll get into debates. I have no problems in that regard at all.
Furthermore, there’s this area of teaching. Among the Presbyterians, there’s a distinction often made between teaching and ruling (in other words, administratively). I must confess that there are some really wonderful women teachers that I’ve learned from. I think that’s a difference also in being the leader of a church in the sense of a head pastor. Paul seems to combine the notion of teaching and having authority, and my understanding of those is that it’s that teaching, authoritative position that Paul is talking about – not whether a woman can teach Greek, or something like that. Why not? Because they have authority over men? I’ve never sensed a fear that if a woman was my Greek teacher and graded my exam that my manhood was at stake in some way. It’s a matter of whether I knew my Greek, that’s all. So I think that in this particular instance teaching and ruling ministry is what’s at stake, and they go together.
Now that I’ve got everybody angry at me, I’ll go on.
In 3:1 Paul talks about the office of bishop, and in Titus 1, he says things that help us to understand how they defined the position in that day. In Titus 1:5, he talks about having left Titus in Crete to appoint elders. Now the word “elder” here is the word “presbyter”, from which we get “Presbyterian”, which has to do with an “elder” kind of leadership. But then, after he says (v. 6) “a man must be blameless …”, he says in v. 7, “for a bishop must be blameless”. Now if they are two different kinds of offices, that’s a really strange kind of switch. I think he’s still talking about this elder, but the word “elder” is the Jewish background term, and the word “bishop” is the Greek equivalent. And so they seem to be the same here. He has Titus appoint elders, and states that a bishop must be blameless, and it seems that they’re used synonymously. Also in 1 Timothy, in 3:5, when he talks about a bishop, he says “He must be able to manage his own household.” Then in 5:17, he says, “Let the elders who rule ….” And he uses the same word there again, with reference to managing God’s people. It seems that he uses the same word interchangeably here as well. So if we talk about elders and bishops, in the Pastorals they seem to be the same office that’s being referred to in that regard.
Now the question is, in practice, how did the bishop/elder function? Again, the word “bishop” as used here doesn’t mean “bishop” as it is now used in certain churches. It has nothing to do with that kind of an understanding. You have to go back and say that this was a term that was used, but in this way [i.e., synonymous with “elder”], not in the way we use the term “bishop” today. A closer equivalent would probably be a pastor in that respect.
In describing this person, a bishop must be (3:2) “above reproach, the husband of one wife ….” That phrase is also referred to in Titus 1:7, having one wife. Does this mean that he can’t have several wives? Is it a statement against polygamy? Does it mean that he could not have re-married if his wife died? Does it mean that he has to be married / that he has to have a wife? Does it mean that he can’t be a divorced man who re-married? And the answer is, we’re not sure. Is Paul arguing against polygamy? I can’t imagine that this would be an issue that he’d have to deal with. But that seems to be too bland. It’s like saying you don’t want a bishop to be a murderer, or something like that. You wouldn’t necessarily write that down. You’d expect it, but you wouldn’t write it down. So polygamy seems to be too bland a specific issue that he’s dealing with. He’s talking about a leadership role, and therefore is he saying that they must be married? Remember, Paul’s writing this, and he’s not married. Does it mean that he could not have divorced and re-married? Or, does it mean that if he had a wife who died that he has to remain single after that? It’s not easy to know, and I don’t think we can be dogmatic. When it’s come up in my experience, I’ve just laid out what the possible interpretations are, without making a decision on it, because I don’t think we can. Notice some of the other requirements, “Temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher,….” When he goes down to deacons, they don’t have to be apt teachers. It seems that the bishop has more of a teaching role than the deacon. We see in v. 3, “no drunkard” – again, we have to remember that maybe the early church was not as sanctified as we want to make it, and that was all downhill from that time on. There was probably a problem in the church and when you talk about a bishop, you say, “not addicted to much wine” in v 8.
“Not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, no lover of money, he must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil [very good advice in many ways]. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”
Now, which of these are most important? Sometimes we’ll argue for what we think is most important, but in some ways, the one about managing his own household seems to get more emphasis than the others. And think carefully about how you raise your children. If there’s one group of people in the world that we need to win to the Lord, it has to be our own children. Make sure that you do everything you can to win them to the Lord. And I know sometimes we get very busy in the church, and I remember when I was in seminary years ago, a professor who was in Pastoral Theology told about an experience in his life. He had always reserved Tuesday night to play with his son. And several Tuesday nights in a row, he had to break that date with his son and do something the church required – some church business that came in. And on another Tuesday night after that, he said to his son, “I can’t play with you tonight. I have to do something at church.” And his son replied, “That damn church!” His behavior was causing his son to have this antagonism toward the church. And I never forgot that. You can, if you’re not careful, cause an animosity towards the church if they see that the church is taking their father away from them.
In 3:16, Paul ends that chapter with a creedal formula, “He was manifest in the flesh [and there’s an aeorist passive, and then you have the participle with the preposition ‘in’] was justified in the Spirit [the same kind of thing], was seen by angels [all aeorist passive verbs. Here you don’t have an ‘in’; you just have the instrumental ‘by angels’], was preached in the nations [again, same kind of verbal form with the preposition ‘in’], was believed on in the world [again you have aeorist with the preposition ‘in’] and was taken up [aeorist passive] in glory.” So it seems quite clearly that this was a formulated creed: “He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in this world, and taken up in glory.” There are a lot of these creedal formulas scattered throughout the various letters of Paul. It indicates that many of these formulas were not written by Paul, but were quoted by him. And that, before Paul ever wrote his letters, there was already a very high Christology. And these kinds of creedal formulas indicate that the church was developing them and that it was not Paul who was the “great one” who makes religion of Jesus into a religion about Jesus (the old liberal approach).
There are a few other things. In 5:8, notice something that we in America are especially lax to, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Other cultures have much to teach us on this. In America we’re not good at that at all, I’m afraid.
In 5:18, Paul writes, “For Scripture says you shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ [that comes from Deuteronomy 25:4; he also quotes it in 1 Corinthians 9:9], and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’” That is an exact quote of Luke 10:7. And in Matthew 10:10, it’s a very close quotation, “The laborer deserves his food [instead of ‘wages’].” That raises very interesting questions. Does Paul know the Gospel of Luke? It illustrates the problem of dating these letters. If you date Paul’s letter to Timothy in the AD 60’s, and you date Luke at AD 75-85, that’s not very probable. It is also placed next to the phrase, “Scripture says … [and you have the Old Testament quoted], and [then you have the Luke quotation]”. This second quotation seems to be covered by the scriptural allusion and seems to be seen as Scripture. Does that mean that Luke is very early, and that it was already understood as being part of the Scriptures? It’s impossible to be definitive on that, and so much of what you say depends on your understanding of how the gospels originated. My own understanding is that what he is quoting here, like he quotes in 1 Corinthians 7 about Jesus’ saying on divorce, is the oral tradition about Jesus, just as he quotes (1 Corinthians 11:23), “For I have received from the lord what I also delivered to you …” and he delivers the tradition of the Lord’s Supper. Paul knows some of these traditions, and he quotes the saying of Jesus here, as gospel tradition. I don’t think he had a Gospel of Luke in front of him, but I think he knew this tradition. But, that does mean that he sees the traditions of Jesus as being Scripture. So that, this would be a very early understanding where the sayings of Jesus are definitive, and defined as Scripture.
Earlier, however, in 1 Corinthians 7:10, when Paul says, “Now say I, yet not I but the Lord…” and he quotes Jesus’s saying on divorce, he thinks that’s pretty definitive too. He doesn’t say “This is Scripture,” but he says “This is what the Lord says, and you are to do it,” which essentially means that you treat it just as you do any other Scripture. It’s the word of God to be kept. But here, the placing of this, what I think is an oral tradition, next to the quote from the Old Testament, speaks to how highly the Jesus traditions were understood by the early church. I have a hard time thinking that he’s referring specifically to a written gospel.
Those who have been arguing that these are pseudonymous letters written later, they would not have that trouble; because they would have 1 Timothy being written after the Gospel of Luke, and being able to know the Gospel of Luke and quote it. But if you assume Paul wrote this and that Luke was written later, this looks like it’s an oral tradition, which is being defined as being authoritative just like the Old Testament Scriptures.
Then you have in 6:6 and 8, the concern for contentment, which is a very stoic kind of teaching. Many people talk about Paul having been raised as a youth in the city of Tarsus, which had a great stoic university. Therefore, he was influenced by that. However, if we say that he was raised in Jerusalem, his influence in that might have been far less. I think he could very well have seen some teaching this way that would have been very useful. “I’ve learned in whatever state I am to be content,” (Philippians 4:11). The emphasis on some stoic kinds of teachings are found elsewhere as well.
Finally, just to get straight in 4:10, please note that it is not money that’s the root of all evil, but the love of money. The danger of money is there, but it’s what you do with it and your love for it that becomes the great danger and the root of all kinds of evils.