Monday, April 02, 2007

2 Timothy: Introductory matters

From the outset, I’m going to assume that Paul wrote 2 Timothy. However, you should be aware that authorship of the pastoral epistles (1-2 Tim, Titus) has been disputed. I’m not going to bother wading into more technical waters here, but I’m sure most commentaries would cover this and my guess is evangelicals on the whole would defend Pauline authorship.

This is Paul’s final letter. He is in prison, and he senses that his time on Earth is drawing to a close. He has already been in court once, and the outcome is not likely to be favourable. It is suggested that this letter was possibly written mere weeks before his death! In any case, there is no doubt that he was suffering.

Paul and Timothy have known each other for a long time and evidently had much affection for each other. The younger Timothy (1 Tim. 4:12) is Paul’s “brother and God’s servant in the gospel” (1 Thess. 3:2) and “fellow worker” (Romans 16:21). “I have no one else like him” he says of Timothy in his letter to the Philippians. You could say that Paul was Timothy’s mentor, or godfather even.

So set the scene! Picture an elderly sifu lying on his deathbed, his quiet, anxious apprentice hovering over him, hanging onto every faltering word his master utters, even as their enemies close in on the outside. The dying elder, mindful of his charge’s self-deprecating manner, wants to encourage him even as he gets ready to pass the torch. Think Obi-Wan and Luke Skywalker here. Not quite the same thing, but close enough. "Timothy was exceedingly reluctant to accept [increased responsibilities in the church]...The emperor Nero, bent on suppressing all secret societies, and misunderstanding the nature of the Christian church, seemed determined to destroy it. Heretics appeared to be on the increase." (Stott, p.20).

For anyone who might be reading 2 Timothy along with me, for the next post, I’ll be reading through the whole letter just to get a feel for it and also for the main gist. A whistlestop tour, in other words. So I won’t be stopping to scrutinise anything in too much detail. I think what I’ll be doing in subsequent posts is to then look at it section by section a little more closely, before maybe coming back to the letter as a whole again. Something along those lines anyway.

So some questions to think about for the next 2 Tim post. What are the main themes? The concerns? How would you divide up the letter? And so on and so forth. I really do value your input! :->

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