Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Timothy: of Value to God (Part 2 of 3)

Commendation of Timothy to the Thessalonians

     A few months prior to writing 1 Thessalonians, having been driven out of Thessalonica (1 Thess. 2:17), the three-man mission team worked together in nearby Berea until Paul was forced to leave, while “both Silas and Timothy remained there” (Acts 17:10-14).1 Arriving in Athens, the apostle immediately sent for his partners (Acts 17:15-16), who left Berea to join him at this new mission point (1 Thess. 3:1). Due to the grief of separation and nagging concern (1 Thess. 2:17-29), Timothy was sent back to Thessalonica, while Paul and Silas were “left in Athens alone” (1 Thess. 3:1-2). Why was Timothy sent rather than Silas, and why did Paul not make the journey himself? As noted in 1 Thess. 2:18, Paul and Silas were “hindered” from returning, most likely due to “the security [bond]” that had been paid to city officials (Acts 17:6-9), banishing the accused troublemakers from the city. Accordingly, “both Paul and Silas” were sent away (Acts 17:10), with no mention of Timothy, suggesting that Paul and Silas were the only ones implicated.2
     Timothy is described as “our brother [and servant of God and our coworker] in the gospel of Christ,” sent to Thessalonica “in order to strengthen and encourage you concerning your faith” (1 Thess. 3:1-2).3 Reference to “our brother” [ἀδελφός] is almost certainly in the familial sense and indicative of the tight bond these missionaries shared in God’s family and work (cf. 2 Cor. 1:1; Col. 1:1; Philem. 1).
     Textual evidence is divided over the next description, whether the reading is “coworker” [συνεργὸν], “servant” [διάκονον], or both. B. M. Metzger acknowledges, “on the basis of external evidence it may appear that the reading καὶ διάκονον τοῦ θεοῦ … should be adopted,” but he then opines, “the reading that best accounts for the origin of the others is καὶ συνεργὸν τοῦ θεοῦ …” (Textual Commentary [2nd ed.] 563). However, the vast majority of manuscripts support the inclusion of both descriptive terms: καὶ διάκονον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ συνεργὸν ἡμῶν (“and servant of God and our coworker,” BMT).4
     A διάκονος is simply a “servant” or “helper” (cf. 1 Tim. 4:6), who renders διακονία [“service” or “ministry”] (BAGD 184).5 The compound συνεργός is a combination of σύν [“with”] + ἔργον [“work”], used frequently in Paul’s writings in reference to his own coworkers,6 particularly Timothy (Rom. 16:21; 2 Cor. 1:24; 1 Thess. 3:2; cf. 1 Cor. 16:10). This faithful service and work are “in the gospel of Christ” (cf. Rom. 1:9; Phil. 4:3).
     The reason for sending Timothy was “in order to strengthen and encourage you concerning your faith.” The verb στηρίζω literally means to “fix firmly” or “prop up,” and metaphorically to “strengthen” or “establish.” Contrary to popular misconceptions, the Pauline approach to missionary work did not merely involve making converts and starting churches. Sufficient resources were invested for adequate instruction and edification, requiring extended periods of time (cf. Acts 14:3; 18:11; 20:27, 31).7 When this luxury was not afforded, as at every mission point in Macedonia (including Thessalonica), ample follow-up work was necessary in order to establish these churches.8
     Timothy’s return to Thessalonica shortly after the missionaries’ departure, and again a few years later with Erastus (Acts 19:22), was also meant to “encourage” [παρακαλέω], an expression conveying multiple nuances, including to “exhort” or “admonish” (Rom. 12:8; 2 Cor. 5:20; 1 Tim. 2:1; 2 Tim. 4:2), “entreat” (2 Cor. 9:5; 12:18; Philem. 9, 10), “console” or “comfort” (2 Cor. 1:4, 6; 2:7; 7:6-7, 13), “strengthen” (Eph. 6:22; Col. 2:2; 4:8; 2 Thess. 2:17), and “teach” (Tit. 1:9). The specified target of this strengthening and encouraging was “your faith” [πίστις], naturally something still frail and volatile in these young Christians (see 1 Thess. 3:10).

Commendation of Timothy to the Philippians

     About six years later, as a prisoner in Rome, Paul writes to the saints in Philippi: “but I hope in [the] Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also might be encouraged by news concerning you. For I have no one [as] likeminded, who will genuinely care for the things concerning you. For the [others] are all seeking the things of themselves, not the things of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven worth, that as a child [with] a father, he has served with me in the gospel. Truly therefore I hope to send him immediately as soon as I have seen how it goes with me, but I am persuaded in the Lord that I myself will also come soon” (Phil. 2:19-24).
     Despite the potentiality of a death sentence, Paul seems to be confident that he will live long enough for Timothy to revisit the Philippians and bring word back to him, if not make the trip himself. The “hope” expressed here is ἐλπίζω (cf. v. 23), the verbal form of ἐλπίς, which indicates anticipation with assurance. Of course, this confidence is “in the Lord Jesus,” comparable to “if the Lord wills” (1 Cor. 4:19; cf. Acts 18:21; 21:14).
     The adjectival ἰσόψυχος refers to one who is “likeminded,” i.e., “of the same mind or spirit.” This description of Timothy would serve “to avert possible disappointment that Paul himself could not come at once and indicated that he had the fullest confidence in his younger associate” (F. E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary 11:132). Timothy’s past connection with these brethren, coupled with a compassionate heart and the influence of his mentor, made him genuinely concerned for their welfare.
     Others, like those described in Phil. 1:14-18 and 3:2, “are seeking the things of themselves, not the things of Christ Jesus.” The implication is, Timothy puts the interests of the Lord and of others before his own (cf. 1:21, 29; 2:3-4, 20). The Philippians were aware of Timothy’s “proven worth” (cf. 2 Cor. 2:9; 9:13), as he had faithfully served alongside the apostle for about a dozen years by this time and had been with the disciples at Philippi on at least three occasions (Acts 16:1-13; 19:22; 20:3-4).
     Timothy is likened to Paul’s “child” [τέκνον] (cf. 1 Cor. 4:17; 1 Tim. 1:2, 18; 2 Tim. 1:2; 2:1), emphasizing the closeness of this relationship. When the apostle says, “he has served [ἐδούλευσεν] with me in the gospel,” the verb is δουλεύω, connoting service as slaves. The letter opened describing both Paul and Timothy as δοῦλοι Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ (“slaves of Christ Jesus”) (1:1). In the first-century Greco-Roman world, in the context of a Roman colony like Philippi (cf. Acts 16:12, 21), the word δοῦλος would be more humbling than honorific. Adopting such a title challenged societal norms where prestige and advancement were highly valued (cf. Phil. 3:7-8). The difference is that a slave of Christ is one who gives himself up willingly and fully to the will of another (cf. Rom. 6:17-20).
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation. In the biblical record, Silas of Acts is Silvanus of the epistles (cp. Acts 18:5 and 2 Cor. 1:19).
     2 Apparently the Athenians were not as receptive as was hoped, so Silas also returned to Macedonia (cf. Acts 18:5), probably to do follow-up work in Berea, since Timothy was in Thessalonica and Luke was in Philippi (Acts 16:12–17:1). Paul moved on to Corinth around autumn of 50, where he was eventually joined by Silas first and then Timothy, both of whom had traveled “from Macedonia” (Acts 18:5). It was here that Timothy brought good news about the Thessalonian church (1 Thess. 3:6), and 1 Thessalonians was written.
     3 Textual variation complicates the reading, whether Timothy is described here as συνεργὸν (“coworker,” CSB, ESV, NASB, NRSV), διάκονον (“servant” or “minister,” ASV, RSV), or both (N/KJV; cf. NIV).
     4 The prevailing theory assumes that a hypersensitive scribe, offended by the “objectionable” idea of God having a human coworker, replaced συνεργὸν (the supposed original reading) with διάκονον (the supposed secondary reading), and then subsequent copyists conflated the two. But the concept of God having “coworkers” [συνεργοί] in 1 Cor. 3:9 apparently did not offend anyone or result in variations of that text. It is certainly plausible that each word was accidentally omitted in different manuscripts, and that both were present in the original.
     5 On the noun διάκονος, see 1 Cor. 3:5; 2 Cor. 3:6; 6:4; 11:15, 23; Eph. 3:7; Col. 1:23, 25; Tit. 1:9; notwithstanding the special sense in Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8. On the verb διακονία, see 1 Cor. 16:5; 2 Cor. 3:7, 8, 9; 4:1; 5:18; 6:3; 8:4; 9:1, 12, 13; 11:18; Eph. 4:12; 2 Tim. 4:11.
     6 Rom. 16:3, 9; 2 Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:25; 4:3; Col. 4:11; Philem. 1, 24. Also God’s coworkers (1 Cor. 3:9; cf. 2 Cor. 6:1).
     7 See K. L. Moore, “The First Missionary Journey,” Moore Perspective (10 Feb. 2013), <Link>.
     8 When only a brief time was spent in a given location, it was typically because of forced departure rather than by design (cf. Acts 13:50; 14:5-6, 19-20; 16:30; 17:10). Even so, continued follow-up work was done by way of return visits (Acts 14:21-26; 15:36, 41; 16:1-6; 18:23; 20:1-38; 1 Cor. 16:5; Phil. 1:26; 1 Thess. 2:17-18; 1 Tim. 1:3; 3:14; 4:13), fellow-evangelists (Acts 19:22; 1 Cor. 3:6; 4:17; 2 Cor. 8:6, 16-24; 12:17-18; 1 Thess. 3:2-6), and written correspondence (1 Cor. 5:9; 2 Cor. 2:3-8; 2 Thess. 3:17; etc.).
     9 It seems that Paul was expecting a verdict soon (Phil. 2:23), anticipating a positive outcome that would enable him to revisit the Philippians (v. 24). What he says prospectively here appears to have eventuated not long thereafter (cf. 1 Tim. 1:3).

Related PostsSilas/SilvanusTimothy Part 1Part 3

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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 PostsTitusTimothy Part 2Part 3

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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.). “The most useful wine is that which has all its strength broken by the filter [saccus]” (Pliny, Natural History 23.1).

Addendum: Biblically, as Aubrey Johnson notes, there are two things we know for certain about the consumption of inebriants: (a) alcohol is dangerous (Prov. 20:1; 23:29-32), and (b) drunkenness is condemned (1 Cor. 5:11; Gal. 5:21). “If the Bible said nothing else on the subject, these passages provide ample information for a deacon to make an intelligent decision whether to partake or abstain…. an observant person can see plenty of reasons to steer clear…. The minimal benefits are offset by devastating risks” (Dynamic Deacons 22, 23). Johnson also proposes these questions: “Will drinking make me a better deacon? Will it improve my thinking? Will it strengthen my character? Will it expand my influence? Will it add value to my ministry?” (24).

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