The Pauline Epistles: What They Really Are- 1st and 2nd Timothy

The first letter Shaul wrote to Timothy, one of his protégé’s who had a Greek father and Jewish mother, and apparently was very young to be in the position of authority he was given, was written around 63-65 A.D. The second letter was written a few years later. Timothy was stationed in Ephesus at the time of these writings.

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Shaul’s reason for writing to Timothy was to encourage him to stand firm against false teachings, which were (apparently) rampant within the congregation in Ephesus. The letter Shaul had written to this congregation was only a year or so prior, so it seems to me that the problems he wrote about not only failed to improve… but got worse!

In the first letter, Shaul talked about the rapture and reminded Timothy how Shaul had wanted Timothy to stay in Ephesus. He was concerned about how they were engaged in different activities, such as Elitism (the idea that only a few with special knowledge would be saved, similar to Gnosticism- the same problem the Galatians, Corinthians, and Colossians were dealing with), Idealism (matter is evil), and myths and genealogies. All of these were leading the people further and further away from the path of faith.

Shaul tells Timothy that women are not to teach or speak in services, which sort of goes against what he says in other letters, or his constant praising of women who hold positions of authority in other congregations, such as Euodia and Syntyche (Philippi), Priscilla and Lydia (Corinth), and Phoebe (Corinth), to name a few. So, even though Shaul is here saying that women should be subservient, and not speak in services, he clearly is not a misogynist, only speaking to a specific issue that was happening in Ephesus.

He also states that the women should dress modestly, so the underlying problem might have been that too many of the female congregants were being immodest, and could that include speaking out of turn? We really can’t tell, exactly, what the problem was, but clearly Timothy had to deal with issues regarding some of the women in the congregation.

Another problem Timothy was dealing with, in Chapter 4, was being looked down on by the older members of the congregation (again, remember this: there were no churches at that time, only the pagan temples, Jewish synagogues, and the messianic congregations meeting in people’s homes). Shaul tells him that he must stay away from idle gossip and myths and be a shining example of godliness. He reminds Timothy that he was prophesied to be a leader, so he should be firm and teach that which is correct.

He advises Timothy not to be harsh with anyone, but to exhort them to live correctly: he says to treat older men as fathers, to treat younger men as brothers, treat older women as mothers, and be like a brother to the unmarried women.

There were issues with the widows (most likely the younger ones) being spiritually turned from the truth, which is part of the false teachings going on there, and Shaul tells Timothy to deal with this by administrating to the widows based on their individual need. The ones who the congregation should care for must be over 60 years of age, have been faithful to their husbands, good to children, and shown that during their lives they lived a godly lifestyle. The younger widows should be cared for by their families, not the congregation.

There were also problems with the male leadership, which is why Shaul gives a very detailed set of requirements for anyone who is to be a leader in the congregation (the Hebrew word is Shamash). He states that some sins are easily seen, while others may not be so visible, which is why Timothy has to look at the whole picture, so to speak: the person, the person’s wife, their children, and his public reputation.

Going off topic for a minute, let me share a personal experience. I was on the Council at the messianic synagogue I attended in Philadelphia, and we hired a new rabbi. He seemed to be just what we wanted and gave a really good story about being called to Philadelphia. But it wasn’t until later that we found out he had been sent away from his prior congregation and his actions, more and more, showed that he was not a good choice. Eventually, after the original council members had all left, he destroyed the congregation from inside, not to mention the building interior because his children were uncontrollable. It is very hard to recognize a liar when the liar believes they are telling the truth, but as Shaul tells Timothy, you can get an idea about who a person really is by looking past them and to their family and past.

Shaul’s final issue in this first letter is that Timothy must counteract the false teachings and especially those who are preaching false doctrine and getting paid for it. He quotes from the Tanakh that those doing God’s word are entitled to be paid, but that (here is a well-known but often misquoted adage) the love of money is the root of many evils (1 Timothy 6:10); he warns Timothy that men there have turned from the true faith to preach false doctrine for money.

The second letter to Timothy dealt with what appears to have been a general feeling Shaul had that he had been abandoned by his congregations because he was a prisoner in Rome. He asked Timothy to not be ashamed of him (Shaul) because he is a prisoner and suffering.

He tells Timothy to warn people against arguing about words because it is of no value (2 Timothy 2:14)

{Ed: which would be a good thing for the “Holy Namers” to remember}

and that he should watch out for Hymeneaus and Phileitus, both of whom are spreading false teachings that the resurrection of the dead has already happened, which will destroy the faith of some and be like gangrene within the congregation.

Shaul states in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “all scripture is God-breathed and good for teaching.” This statement has too often been applied to the New Covenant writings: that is a wrong thing to do because the only scripture that existed when Shaul wrote this was the Tanakh. As we can see in the letters Shaul wrote, there isn’t any “God-breathed” scripture here- just good advice, based on the real God-breathed scripture in the Tanakh.

These letters, as with this one to Timothy, are instructing the leadership of the various congregations Shaul created how to handle the all-too-human problems they were having within the congregation.

Shaul’s final words are a request for Timothy to come to him quickly and bring certain items he left behind, how he feels abandoned because friends deserted him in Rome and have gone to other places, leaving him alone to defend himself. Also, Timothy should be careful of Alexander the metalworker who has been speaking out against him, and how despite all this, God will bring Shaul to his heavenly kingdom.

It sounds very much like Shaul doesn’t expect to get out of this one alive, doesn’t it? And he was right to feel that way.

The next letter written by him that is included in the New Covenant is the one to Titus, which is the last of the Pauline Epistles we will talk about.

Until then, l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

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