Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Timothy: of Value to God (Part 1 of 3)

     The name Τιμόθεος (Timothy) is a combination of τιμή (“value”) + θεός (“God”), meaning “of value to God.” He was a mixed-race (Jewish-Greek) native of the Lycaonian city of Lystra in the southern Galatia province of eastern Asia Minor (modern-day central Turkey). While Timothy’s father was Greek, his mother Eunice was Jewish, as was his grandmother Lois (Acts 16:1; 2 Tim. 1:5). Even though he had learned the holy scriptures from childhood (2 Tim. 3:15), he was not circumcised presumably because of his father.
     Timothy was converted to Christ probably during the first missionary campaign of Barnabas and Paul in southern Galatia, as reference is made to “the disciples” in Lystra (Acts 14:20, 22), one of whom is later identified as Timothy (Acts 16:1).1 The young man’s faithfulness to the Lord and competence in the Lord’s work were observable enough for the brethren in the area to speak well of him (Acts 16:2). When Paul returned to Lystra early in the year 50, he was so impressed with Timothy that he invited the young man to join his mission team (Acts 16:3a). However, at least three requisites served as potential obstacles: (a) Timothy’s willingness; (b) his family’s support; and (c) circumcision.
     As new converts, Timothy and his mother witnessed first-hand the severe maltreatment of those proclaiming the gospel in an anti-Christian world (Acts 14:19-20) and had even been assured, “through many afflictions we must enter the kingdom of God” (v. 22; cf. 2 Tim. 3:10-12).2 Nevertheless, Timothy readily joined Paul’s mission team and submitted to the painful surgery (Acts 16:3b), with no reported resistance from his family.
     Since Timothy was half-Jewish, it was culturally expedient for him to be circumcised, thereby enhancing his effectiveness in advancing the gospel among fellow ethnic Jews (cf. 1 Cor. 7:19; 9:19-23). Titus, on the other hand, was a full-blooded Greek whose concession to this Jewish rite would have compromised the Christian faith and set a dangerous precedent (see Gal. 2:3-5).
     How old was Timothy at this time? Later described as Paul’s “child” [τέκνον] (1 Cor. 4:17; Phil. 2:22; 1 Tim. 1:2, 18; 2 Tim. 1:2; 2:1), he was obviously younger than the apostle. About thirteen or fourteen years after the partnership began, mention is made of Timothy’s “youth” [νεότης] (1 Tim. 4:12). While this descriptive term does not indicate an actual age, it was applied to young men of military age (ca. 20-45),3 and the comparable expression “young man” [νεανίας] (cf. Acts 7:58) referred to one between the ages of about 24 and 40 (BAGD 534). Therefore, when Timothy became Paul’s missionary apprentice, he was probably in his 20s.4

Of Value to Paul

     Timothy became one of Paul’s closest companions and is mentioned by name in the openings of more Pauline letters than any of the apostle’s other coworkers (2 Cor. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1; Philem. 1). Timothy appears to have played a prominent role in the production of 2 Corinthians, Colossians, and the Thessalonian letters. However, even though he is named with Paul in the opening verses of Philippians and Philemon, the prolific use of the “I” form of address throughout the letters argues against any substantial contribution Timothy may have made, though he could have served as amanuensis.5 Two of Paul’s letters are addressed to Timothy, and the only writings in the Pauline corpus wherein Timothy is not named are the letters to the Galatians, the Ephesians, and Titus.6 He is also mentioned by name in Heb. 13:23.
     Timothy worked with Paul in southern Galatia (Acts 16:1-6), in the Macedonian cities of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea (Acts 16:7–17:14), in the Achaian cities of Athens and Corinth (Acts 17:15–18:5; Rom. 16:21; 2 Cor. 1:19; 1 Thess. 3:1-2), and in the Asian cities of Ephesus (Acts 19:22; 1 Cor. 4:17) and Troas (Acts 16:8-11; 20:4-5). He also journeyed with Paul from Corinth to Jerusalem with financial assistance for needy saints (Acts 20:4).
     Timothy served as a dependable representative of the apostle to the churches of Macedonia (Acts 19:22), including the cities of Philippi (Phil. 2:19) and Thessalonica (1 Thess. 3:2); also to Corinth (1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10). He was with Paul in Rome (Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:1; Philem. 1), served as an evangelist in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:2-3; 2 Tim. 4:5), and at some point was imprisoned but later released (Heb. 13:23).

Commendations of Timothy

     Whenever Timothy was sent as Paul’s emissary, he was afforded elaborate commendations (1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10-11; Phil. 2:19-24; 1 Thess. 3:2). Seeing that he was already known by the churches to whom these letters were written, why were these extensive acclamations given? In view of his comparative youth and apparent timidity and reserve (cf. 1 Cor. 16:10-11; 1 Tim. 4:12; 2 Tim. 1:7-8), it would help bolster his confidence and promote acceptance and respect. It would further justify Paul’s absence and remind these readers that Timothy is an authoritative representative in his own right, whose admonitions should be heeded. Titus, on the other hand, did not need such hefty commendations (2 Cor. 7:15; 8:17; 12:18).
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Timothy was regarded as Paul’s “child” [τέκνον] (1 Cor. 4:17; Phil. 2:22; 1 Tim. 1:2, 18; 2 Tim. 1:2; 2:1), not only emphasizing the closeness of their relationship but perhaps identifying Timothy as one of the apostle’s early converts (compare 1 Cor. 3:1-2; 4:14-17; Phil. 2:22; Philem. 10).
     2 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.
     3 Herodotus, The Histories 4.3.1; 9.12.2; Thucydides, The Peloponnesian Way 2.8.1. The minimum age of military service in ancient Israel was 20 years old (Num. 1:3, 20, 22, 24, etc.). In the Roman army, the youngest recruits were around 18-20 years of age, serving at least twenty years plus five more as reservists (see James Lloyd, “Roman Army,” Ancient History Encyclopedia [30 April 2013], <web>).
     4 According to a 5th-century tradition (Acts of Timothy), Timothy was killed in the year 97 at the age of 80. If true, this means Timothy was about 33 years old when his partnership with Paul began, and he was in his late 40s when Paul refers to his “youth” (1 Tim. 4:12).
     5 See K. L. Moore, A Critical Introduction to the NT 246-53. Of all the Pauline writings, the letters to Philemon and the Philippians have the fewest first person plurals.
     6 In the letter to the Galatians, Timothy may have been included among “all the brothers with” Paul (Gal. 1:2). When Ephesians was written, Timothy had probably been sent away to Philippi (Phil. 2:19-23), and when the letter to Titus was written, Timothy would have been left behind to work with the saints in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3).

Related PostsTitus

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Wednesday, 14 June 2017

What is the difference between not given [addicted] to wine and not given [addicted] to much wine (1 Timothy 3:3, 8), and does the latter justify social drinking?

      One of the qualifications of an overseer is “not given to wine” (NKJV), “not addicted to wine” (NASB), “not a drunkard” (ESV) (1 Tim. 3:3; Tit. 1:7). The word Paul uses is pároinos (from para [near, beside] and oinos [wine]), which means pertaining to wine; given to wine, prone to intemperance, drunken.1 
     For a man to qualify as a deacon he is “not given to much wine” (NKJV), “not addicted to much wine” (ESV) (1 Tim. 3:8). The operable word here is proséchō, meaning to bring near to, be attentive, apply oneself to, be given or addicted to.2 A comparable admonition is stated in Titus 2:3 concerning older women, who are “not given to much wine” (NKJV), “not enslaved to much wine” (NASB), “not … slaves to much wine” (ESV). The verb doulóō simply means to be enslaved or in bondage.
     In the very same epistles Paul gives stern warnings against being proséchō [given to] the leavening influence of false teachers and false doctrines (1 Tim. 1:4; 4:1; Tit. 1:14; cf. Matt. 7:15; 16:6, 11), yet few would suggest that moderate involvement with these is being encouraged. The Bible also alludes to the non-Christian life as being doulóō [enslaved] under the sinful elements of the world (Gal. 4:3) and doulóō [enslaved] to corruption or depravity (2 Pet. 2:19), but does this implicitly support a moderate amount of worldliness and depravity in a person’s life?
      The present controversy is over Paul’s use of the word “much” [polus]. Some have inferred from these passages that deacons, older women, and all other Christians are given permission to drink alcoholic beverages in moderation as long as “much is not consumed at one time. But is this inference necessary or even valid? Is it reasonable to conclude that a Christian must not be addicted or enslaved to much wine, but to be addicted or enslaved to a moderate amount of wine is permissible? The word “much” is an appropriate descriptive term in the context of addiction, obsession, or distraction, but it does not automatically suggest the acceptability of a little.3
     Later Paul mentions Alexander who had done him much [polus] harm (2 Tim. 4:14). Is it reasonable to suggest that Alexander would have been justified in only doing a little harm to Paul? When the LORD told Israel that their sins could not be washed away with much soap (Jer. 2:22), would it be valid to infer that they could have been spiritually cleansed with a moderate amount of soap? When the Bible says that a mighty man is not delivered by much strength (Psa. 33:16), does this imply that he is delivered by a little strength? Was Ahab exonerated because he only served Baal a little in comparison to Jehu who served him much (2 Kings 10:18)? Since Manasseh was condemned for shedding much innocent blood (2 Kings 21:16), would it have been okay for him to shed a moderate amount of innocent blood? Manasseh also did much evil in the sight of the LORD (2 Chron. 33:6), but would a smaller amount of evil have been permissible?4
     The bottom line is, what is the intent of the respective passages? A man addicted to or distracted by much wine is not to be a public servant in the church, and a woman enslaved to much wine cannot be a teacher of good things. Surely it was not Pauls purpose in 1 Tim. 3:3, 8 and Titus 1:7; 2:2 to legitimize alcohol consumption, and to appeal to these prohibitions in an attempt to draw out a positive affirmation is to go beyond what the texts actually say.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 H. K Moulton, Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised 310. Some have suggested that it might be permissible for an overseer to drink wine moderately as long as he is not addicted to it. However, he is also required to be temperate (1 Tim. 3:2), something expected of other Christians as well (1 Tim. 3:11; Tit. 2:2). This word is translated from nēphalios, which means temperate in the use of alcoholic beverages, sober, clear-headed, self controlled (BAGD 538); … abstinent in respect to wine … (H. K. Moulton 277). Josephus (Antiquities 3,12,2) and Philo (De Specialibus Legibus 4,183) used this word for abstaining from wine entirely. Since elders are to be examples to the flock (1 Pet. 5:3) and have a good testimony among those who are outside (1 Tim. 3:7), surely this would be sufficient reason for total abstinence. Furthermore, Christians are called upon to be sober or watchful [nēphō] (1 Thess. 5:6, 8; 2 Tim. 4:5; 1 Pet. 1:13; 4:7; 5:8), which literally means to abstain from wine (The New Englishmans Greek Concordance and Lexicon 592); to be free from the influence of intoxicants (Vines Expository Dictionary of NT Words 1067).
     2 H. K. Moulton, Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised 349.
     3 If cocaine had been a problem in the first century and Paul had made similar statements concerning it, would it be sensible to assume that a casual or recreational use of this drug is proper for the child of God?
     4 An additional consideration is that Paul may have been warning against the prevalent vice of his day of drinking excessive amounts of unfermented oinos a vice corresponding to gluttony. In Smith’s Greek and Roman Antiquities, it is stated: The use of the saccus (filter), it was believed, diminished the strength of the liquor. For this reason it was employed by the dissipated in order that they might be able to swallow a greater quantity without becoming intoxicated” (cf. Patton, Bible Wines 30). Pliny [b. AD 61] affirms that various incentives were practiced to increase thirst and that wines were filtered to break their spirit so that more could be consumed (ibid.).

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Wednesday, 7 June 2017

To what extent should Christians allow themselves to be wronged?

     “Indeed, therefore, it is already a failure for you altogether, that you have lawsuits among one another. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be deprived?” (1 Cor. 6:7).1 What is Paul admonishing his readers to do? To what extent should a Christian allow him/herself to be wronged?
     The church in mid-first-century Corinth was inconsistent in the extreme. In the case of an immoral brother in their midst, they should have made a reasoned judgment and implemented church discipline but took no action at all (1 Cor. 5:1-2). In cases of petty disputes, they should have judged among themselves but took too much action and went to pagan courts (6:1-9). In both cases, they neglected their God-given responsibility to make their own judgments and settle matters among themselves (cf. 5:11-12). In the latter case, they were airing the church’s dirty laundry in public and bringing reproach upon the church.
     In the opening verses of chap. 6, Paul is not addressing criminal or sinful behavior but petty disputes that left the church susceptible to unnecessary ridicule from outsiders. While the verb aposteréō is rendered “cheat” or “defraud” in many English translations, in the very next chapter it is used in the sense of “deprive” (7:5). Paul is addressing the selfish and arrogant attitudes of those demanding their perceived “rights” at the expense of fellow believers (cf. 4:6, 18, 19; 5:2; 8:1; etc.). This is in stark contrast to the noble conduct of the apostles (4:12-13), the opposite of selfless concern for others (8:13; 10:24), and contrary to Christian love (13:5). God’s design for the church is not a utopian environment void of conflict but a place where inevitable disputes are resolved through love (cf. 8:1; 16:14).
     The key is what’s in the best interest of others. Paul affirms that it would be better to suffer personal wrong than to damage the reputation of the church (1 Cor. 6:7-8; 10:24). This does not suggest, however, that anyone should simply allow him/herself to be victimized, which would ultimately benefit neither the victim nor the offender (cf. Phil. 2:4). Nor does it suggest it is inappropriate to avail oneself of basic human rights (cf. Acts 25:10-12).
     If, for example, a brother in Christ embezzles funds from my bank account, to say and do nothing would be contrary to Christian principles. Sin cannot be tolerated in the church (1 Cor. 5:7; 15:33), it would hamper my God-given responsibility to give to the Lord’s work and provide for my family (1 Cor. 16:2; 1 Tim. 5:8), and the brother’s soul is jeopardized (Gal. 6:1; Jas. 5:19-20). If, however, my brother merely says something in anger that hurts my feelings, then hiring a lawyer and suing for defamation and psychological distress is not a Christ-like response. Between these extremes are plethoric scenarios that may require the collective wisdom of the church to help discern what is necessary for appropriate resolution (cf. 1 Cor. 2:15; 5:3, 12; 1 Tim. 5:20).
     Followers of Jesus have been “sanctified,” i.e., set apart from the sinful world in their thinking and behavior.2 Christians are expected to refrain from retaliation (Matt. 5:38-48; Rom. 12:17-21; 1 Thess. 5:15) and be peacemakers (Matt. 5:9; Rom. 12:18). The point of 1 Cor. 6:1-11, which is an extension of chap. 5, is that discord in the church is to be addressed from within (cf. Matt. 18:15-20; 2 Thess. 3:6-15).
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.
     2 Note “saints” [hagioi] (1 Cor. 1:2; 6:1, 2; 14:33; 16:1, 15) = “sanctified ones” or “holy ones” (cf. 1:2; 3:17; 6:11).

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