1 Timothy 1:4
Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.
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(4) Neither give heed to fables.—These fables ware, no doubt, purely Rabbinical. It was said in the Jewish schools that an oral Law had been given on Sinai, and that this Law, a succession of teachers, from the time of Moses, had handed down. This “Law that is upon the lip,” as it was termed, was further illustrated and enlarged by the sayings and comments of the more famous Jewish Rabbis, and in the time of our Lord constituted a supplement to the written Law in the Pentateuch. For centuries this supplementary code was preserved by memory or in secret rolls, and doubtless was constantly receiving additions. It contained, along with many wild and improbable legendary histories, some wise teachings. This strange collection of tradition and comment was committed to writing in the second century by Rabbi Jehuda, under the general name of the Mishna, or repetition (of the Law). Round this compilation a complement of discussions (the Gemara) was gradually formed, and was completed at Babylon somewhere about the end of the fifth century of our era. These works—the Mishna and the Gemara, together with a second Gemara, formed somewhat earlier in Palestine—are generally known as the Talmud. The influence of some of these traditions is alluded to by our Lord (Matthew 15:3).

Endless genealogies.—Genealogies in their proper sense, as found in the Book of the Pentateuch, and to which wild allegorical interpretations had been assigned. Such purely fanciful meanings had been already developed by Philo, whose religious writings were becoming at this time known and popular in many of the Jewish schools. Such teaching, if allowed in the Christian churches, St. Paul saw would effectually put a stop to the growth of Gentile Christendom. It would inculcate an undue and exaggerated, and, for the ordinary Gentile convert, an impossible reverence for Jewish forms and ceremonies; it would separate the Jewish and Gentile converts into two classes—placing the favoured Jew in an altogether different position from the outcast Gentile.

In the Gentile churches founded by the Apostles, for some years a life and death struggle went on between the pupils of St. Paul and his fellow Apostles and the disciples of the Rabbinical schools. In these earnest warnings of his Pastoral Epistles the great Apostle of Gentile Christianity shows us, how clearly he foresaw that if these Jewish fables and the comments of the older Jewish teachers were allowed to enter into the training of the new-formed congregations, the Church of Christ would shrink, in no long space of time, into the narrow and exclusive limits of a Jewish sect. “Judaism,” writes the anonymous author of Paul of Tarsus, “was the cradle of Christianity, and Judaism very nearly became its grave.”

Which minister questions.—Disputings, questions of mere controversy, inquiries, which could not possibly have any bearing on practical life.

Rather than godly edifying which is in faith.—The rendering of the reading in the more ancient authorities would be: rather than the dispensation of God which is in faith; or, in other words, the introduction into Church teaching of these Jewish myths—these traditions of the elders, these fanciful genealogies—would be much more likely to produce bitter and profitless controversy than to minister to God’s scheme of salvation, designed by God, and proclaimed by His Apostles.

So do.—The Apostle, in 1Timothy 1:3, begins this sentence of earnest exhortation, but in his fervour forgets to conclude it. The closing words would naturally come in here: “For remember how I besought thee when I left thee behind at Ephesus, when I went on to Macedonia, to discourage and firmly repress all vain teaching, which only leads to useless controversy, so I do now;” or, so I repeat to you now. (This is better and more forcible than the words supplied in the English version: “so do.”)

1:1-4 Jesus Christ is a Christian's hope; all our hopes of eternal life are built upon him; and Christ is in us the hope of glory. The apostle seems to have been the means of Timothy's conversion; who served with him in his ministry, as a dutiful son with a loving father. That which raises questions, is not for edifying; that which gives occasion for doubtful disputes, pulls down the church rather than builds it up. Godliness of heart and life can only be kept up and increased, by the exercise of faith in the truths and promises of God, through Jesus Christ.Neither give heed to fables - That is, that they should not bestow their attention on fables, or regard such trifles as of importance. The "fables" here referred to were probably the idle and puerile superstitions and conceits of the Jewish rabbies. The word rendered "fable" (μῦθος muthos) means properly "speech" or "discourse," and then fable or fiction, or a mystic discourse. Such things abounded among the Greeks as well as the Jews, but it is probable that the latter here are particularly intended. These were composed of frivolous and unfounded stories, which they regarded as of great importance, and which they seem to have desired to incorporate with the teachings of Christianity. Paul, who had been brought up amidst these superstitions, saw at once how they would tend to draw off the mind from the truth, and would corrupt the true religion. One of the most successful arts of the adversary of souls has been to mingle fable with truth; and when he cannot overthrow the truth by direct opposition, to neutralize it by mingling with it much that is false and frivolous.

And endless genealogies - This also refers to Jewish teaching. The Hebrews kept careful genealogical records, for this was necessary in order that the distinction of their tribes might be kept up. Of course, in the lapse of centuries these tables would become very numerous, complicated, and extended - so that they might without much exaggeration be called "endless." The Jews attached great importance to them, and insisted on their being carefully preserved. As the Messiah, however, had now come - as the Jewish polity was to cease - as the separation between them and the pagan was no longer necessary, and the distinction of tribes was now useless, there was no propriety that these distinctions should be regarded by Christians. The whole system was, moreover, contrary to the genius of Christianity, for it served to keep up the pride of blood and of birth.

Which minister questions - Which afford matter for troublesome and angry debates. It was often difficult to settle or understand them. They became complicated and perplexing. Nothing is more difficult than to unravel an extensive genealogical table. To do this, therefore, would often give rise to contentions, and when settled, would give rise still further to questions about rank and precedence.

Rather than godly edifying which is in faith - These inquiries do nothing to promote true religion in the soul. They settle no permanent principle of truth; they determine nothing that is really concerned in the salvation of people. They might be pursued through life, and not one soul be converted by them; they might be settled with the greatest accuracy, and yet not one heart be made better. Is not this still true of many controversies and logomachies in the church? No point of controversy is worth much trouble, which, if it were settled one way or the other, would not tend to convert the soul from sin, or to establish some important principle in promoting true religion. "So do." These words are supplied by our translators, but they are necessary to the sense. The meaning is, that Timothy was to remain at Ephesus, and faithfully perform the duty which he had been left there to discharge.

4. fables—legends about the origin and propagation of angels, such as the false teachers taught at Colosse (Col 2:18-23). "Jewish fables" (Tit 1:14). "Profane, and old wives' fables" (1Ti 4:7; 2Ti 4:4).

genealogies—not merely such civil genealogies as were common among the Jews, whereby they traced their descent from the patriarchs, to which Paul would not object, and which he would not as here class with "fables," but Gnostic genealogies of spirits and aeons, as they called them, "Lists of Gnostic emanations" [Alford]. So Tertullian [Against Valentinian, c. 3], and Irenæus [Preface]. The Judaizers here alluded to, while maintaining the perpetual obligation of the Mosaic law, joined with it a theosophic ascetic tendency, pretending to see in it mysteries deeper than others could see. The seeds, not the full-grown Gnosticism of the post-apostolic age, then existed. This formed the transition stage between Judaism and Gnosticism. "Endless" refers to the tedious unprofitableness of their lengthy genealogies (compare Tit 3:9). Paul opposes to their "aeons," the "King of the aeons (so the Greek, 1Ti 1:17), whom be glory throughout the aeons of aeons." The word "aeons" was probably not used in the technical sense of the latter Gnostics as yet; but "the only wise God" (1Ti 1:17), by anticipation, confutes the subsequently adopted notions in the Gnostics' own phraseology.

questions—of mere speculation (Ac 25:20), not practical; generating merely curious discussions. "Questions and strifes of words" (1Ti 6:4): "to no profit" (2Ti 2:14); "gendering strifes" (2Ti 2:23). "Vain jangling" (1Ti 1:6, 7) of would-be "teachers of the law."

godly edifying—The oldest manuscripts read, "the dispensation of God," the Gospel dispensation of God towards man (1Co 9:17), "which is (has its element) in faith." Conybeare translates, "The exercising of the stewardship of God" (1Co 9:17). He infers that the false teachers in Ephesus were presbyters, which accords with the prophecy, Ac 20:30. However, the oldest Latin versions, and Irenæus and Hilary, support English Version reading. Compare 1Ti 1:5, "faith unfeigned."

Neither give heed to fables: by fables he probably meaneth the Jewish fables, and commandments of men, mentioned Titus 1:14; or more generally, all vain and idol speculations.

And endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying; whatsoever tendeth not to build men up in godliness, which is the end of preaching. The Jews had many unwritten fables, about what God did before he made the world, &c., and many unwritten endless genealogies, which were as so many labyrinths, intricate, without an issue out of them: and it is probable that some of them (converted to the Christian faith) still busied their heads about them, according to their education and the practice of the Jewish doctors, and made the subject of their sermons and discourses to the assemblies of Christians; which is the thing the apostle here declareth a corruption of the ordinances of preaching, and inveigheth against, 1 Timothy 6:4 2 Timothy 2:23 Titus 1:14 3:9; and willeth preachers to avoid, and people to give no heed to them, as nothing tending to the building Christians up in holiness, which he here calleth oikodomian yeou, the building up of God, either so objectively, or efficiently, or by his command, because it is in God, viz. in the knowledge of God, and an increase in the love of God, and other spiritual habits; or from God, being wrought by him, and serving for his honour and glory, or according to his will.

Which is in faith: he tells us this edifying can be no otherwise than in faith, preaching the doctrine of the gospel, and embracing that which is the doctrine of faith, a doctrine of Divine revelation, to which men must give their assent, because of the authority of God revealing it. So as no discourses which are not founded in a Divine revelation, and to be proved from thence, can possibly tend to any bnilding of God, which cannot stand in the wisdom of men, but must stand in the power of God. From this text we may observe the vanity and proneness of some persons, even from the infancy of the church, to make up what they call sermons of discourses about fables, idle questions, and speculations, and genealogies of which there is no end; the teachers being able to bring the minds of hearers to no rest about them, nor they tending to any good and saving use, but merely to show men’s wit and parts; and we may also learn, that this is no religious preaching or hearing, it being impossible men should be under any religious obligations to hear any but prophets, that is, such as reveal the Divine will. For other discourses, men in their seasons may hear them, or let them alone, and credit or not credit them as they see reason. Neither give heed to fables,.... Old wives' fables, 1 Timothy 4:7 or Jewish fables, Titus 1:14 the traditions of the elders; anything that was not true; or if it was, yet idle, vain, trifling, and unprofitable:

and endless genealogies; not of deities, as the Theogony of the Gentiles, or the ten Sephirot or numbers in the Cabalistic tree of the Jews, or the Aeones of the Gnostics and Valentinians, which are said to proceed from one another, as some have thought; but both the public and private genealogies of the Jews, which they kept to show of what tribe they were, or to prove themselves priests and Levites, and the like; of which there was no end, and which often produced questions and debates. By reason of their captivities and dispersions, they were much at a loss to distinguish their tribes and families. Some care Ezra took of this matter, when the Jews returned from the Babylonish captivity. It is said (a), that ,

"ten genealogies (or ten sorts of persons genealogized) came out of Babylon; priests, Levites, Israelites, profane (or unfit for the priesthood, though they sprung from priests) proselytes, freemen (servants made free), bastards, Nethinim or Gibeonites, such whose father was not known, and those that were took up in the streets.

These Ezra brought up to Jerusalem thus distinguished, that they might be taken care of by the sanhedrim, and kept distinct; but these would often intermix and cause disputes; and sometimes these mixtures were connived at through partiality or fear (b).

"Says R. Jochanan, by the temple, it is in our hands, (the gloss adds, to discover the illegitimate families of the land of Israel,) but what shall I do? for lo, the great men of this age are hid (or impure): in which he agreed with R. Isaac, who said, the family that is hid, let it be hid. Abai also saith, we have learned this by tradition, there was a family of the house of Tzeriphah, beyond Jordan, and a son of Zion, (a famous man, a man of authority,) set it at a distance, (proclaimed it illegitimate,) by his authority. And again, there was another, and he made it near (or pronounced it right) by his power. Again, there was another family, and the wise men would not discover it.

By which we may see what management there was in these things, and what a foundation was laid for questions and debates. Of these public and private genealogies; see Gill on Matthew 1:16, to which may be added what R. Benjamin says (c) of some Jews in his time, who were the Rechabites, and were very numerous, and had a prince over them of the house of David; and, adds he, they have a genealogical book, , "and extracts of questions", which I should be tempted to render "clusters of questions", which are with the head of the captivity; and this comes very near to what our apostle here says. And when it is observed, that Herod, that he might hide the meanness of his descent and birth, burnt all the genealogical writings in the public archives (d), it must be still more difficult to fix the true account of things; and for the loss of the genealogical book, the public one, the Jews express a very great concern: for they say (e), that "from the time the book of genealogies was hid, the strength of the wise men was weakened, and the light of their eyes grew dim. Says Mar Zutra, between Azel and Azel, (that is, between 1 Chronicles 8:38 and 1 Chronicles 9:44) there is need of four hundred camel loads of commentaries.

So intricate an affair, and such an endless business was this. And this affair of genealogies might be now the more the subject of inquiry among judaizing Christians, since there was, and still is, an expectation among the Jews, that in the times of the Messiah these things will be set aright. Says Maimonides (f),

"in the days of the King Messiah, when his kingdom shall be settled, and all Israel shall be gathered to him, , "they shall all of them be genealogized", according to his word, by the Holy Ghost, as it is said, Malachi 3:3 he shall purify the sons of Levi, and say, this is a genealogized priest, and this is a genealogized Levite; and shall drive them away who are not genealogized (or related) to Israel, as it is said, Ezra 2:63. Hence you learn, that by the Holy Ghost they shall be genealogized, those that arrogate and proclaim their genealogy; and he shall not genealogize Israel but by their tribes, for he shall make known that this is of such a tribe, and this is of such a tribe; but he shall not say concerning such an one he is a bastard, and this is a servant; for so shall it be, that the family that is obscure shall be obscure.

Or else the genealogical account of their traditions may be meant, which they trace from Moses to Joshua, from Joshua to the elders, from the elders to the prophets, from the prophets to the men of the great synagogue, and from one doctor to another (g), which to pursue is endless, tedious, and tiresome:

which minister questions; as the traditions of the elders, and the genealogical account of them did; the Talmud is full of the questions, debates, contentions, and decisions of the doctors about them:

rather than godly edifying, which is in faith; and which is the principal end of preaching, hearing, and conversation; and that may be called "godly edifying, or the edification of God", as it may be rendered, which he is the author of, and which he approves of, and is by, and according to his word; or that in which souls are built up an habitation for God, and are built up in faith and holiness, and by an increase of every grace: and this is "in faith", not only in the grace of faith, but by the doctrine of faith, on which the saints may build one another, and by which they are edified through the faithful ministration of it by the ministers of the word; when fabulous stories and disputes, about genealogies, are useless and unedifying: not that the apostle condemns all genealogies, such as we have in the writings of the Old Testament, and in the evangelists, nor all inquiries into them, and study of them, which, rightly to settle, is in some cases of great importance and use, but the private and unprofitable ones before mentioned. Some copies read, "the dispensation of God, which is in faith"; meaning the dispensation of the mysteries of grace, which are in the doctrine of faith, which becomes a faithful steward of them, and not fables and genealogies, which issue in questions, quarrels, and contentions,

(a) Misn. Kiddnshin, c. 4. sect. 1.((b) T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 71. 1. & Hieros. Kiddushin, fol. 65. 3.((c) Massaot, p. 83. (d) Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 1. c. 7. (e) T. Bab. Pesachim, fol. 62. 2.((f) Hilchot Melacim, c. 12. sect. 3.((g) Pirke Abot, c. 1. sect. 1, &c.

{3} Neither give heed to fables and endless {b} genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.

(3) The doctrine is corrupted not only by false opinions, but also by vain and curious speculations: the declaration and utterance of which can help our faith in no way.

(b) He makes note of one type of vain question.

1 Timothy 1:4. μηδὲ προσέχειν: nor to pay attention to. This perhaps refers primarily to the hearers of the ἑτεροδιδάσκαλοι rather than to the false teachers themselves. See reff.

μύθοις καὶ γενεαλογίαις ἀπεράντοις: “Polybius uses both terms in similarly close connection, Hist. ix. 2, 1” (Ell.). Two aspects of, or elements in, the one aberration from sound doctrine.

Some light is thrown upon this clause by other passages in this group of letters (1 Timothy 1:6-7; 1 Timothy 4:7; 1 Timothy 6:4; 1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 2:14; 2 Timothy 2:16; 2 Timothy 2:23; 2 Timothy 4:4; Titus 1:10; Titus 1:14; Titus 3:9). The myths are expressly called Jewish (Titus 1:14), and this affords a good argument that νομοδιδάσκαλοι and νόμος, in 1 Timothy 1:7-8 and Titus 3:9, refer to the Mosaic Law, not restricting the term Law to the Pentateuch. Now a considerable and important part of the Mosaic legislation has relation only to Palestine and Jerusalem; it had no practical significance for the devotional life of the Jews of the Dispersion, with the exception of the community that worshipped at Hierapolis in Egypt. There is a strong temptation to mystics to justify to themselves the continued use of an antiquated sacred book by a mystical interpretation of whatever in it has ceased to apply to daily life. Thus Philo (De Vit. Contempl. § 3) says of the Therapeutae, “They read the holy Scriptures, and explain the philosophy of their fathers in an allegorical manner, regarding the written words as symbols of hidden truth which is communicated in obscure figures”. Those with whom St. Paul deals in the Pastoral Epistles were not the old-fashioned conservative Judaisers whom we meet in the Acts and in the earlier Epistles; but rather the promoters of an eclectic synthesis of the then fashionable Gentile philosophy and of the forms of the Mosaic Law. μῦθοι, then, here and elsewhere in the Pastorals (see reff.), would refer, not to the stories and narrative of the O.T. taken in their plain straightforward meaning, but to the arbitrary allegorical treatment of them.

γενεαλογίαι may similarly refer to the genealogical matter in the O.T. which is usually skipped by the modern reader; but which by a mystical explanation of the derivations of the nomenclature could be made to justify their inclusion in a sacred book, every syllable of which might be supposed antecedently to contain edification. This general interpretation, which is that of Weiss, is supported by Ignat. Magn. 8, “Be not seduced by strange doctrines nor by antiquated fables (ἑτεροδοξίαις μηδὲ μυθεύμασιν τοῖς παλαιοῖς), which are profitless. For if even unto this day we live after the manner of Judaism (κατὰ ἰουδαϊσμὸν ζῶμεν), we avow that we have not received grace.” Hort maintains that γενεαλογίαι here has a derived meaning, “all the early tales adherent, as it were, to the births of founders” (see Judaistic Christianity, p. 135 sqq.). On the other hand, Irenæus (Haer. Praef. 1 and Tertullian (adv. Valentin. 3; de Praescript. 33) suppose that the Gnostic groupings of aeons in genealogical relationships are here alluded to. It was natural that they should read the N.T. in the light of controversies in which they themselves were engaged.

ἀπεράντοις: endless, interminatis (Vulg.), infinitis ([253].), because leading to no certain conclusion. Discussions which do not concern realities are interminable, not from their profundity, as the ocean is popularly speaking unfathomable in parts, but because they lead to no convincing end. One end or conclusion is as good as another. The choice between them is a matter of taste.

[253] Speculum

αἵτινες: qualitative, they are of such a kind as, the which (R.V.).

ἐκζητήσεις: Questionings to which no answer can be given, which are not worth answering. See reff. on 1 Timothy 6:4. Their unpractical nature is implied by their being contrasted with οἰκονομία θεοῦ. Life is a trust, a stewardship, committed to us by God. Anything that claims to belong to religion, and at the same time is prejudicial to the effectual discharge of this trust is self-condemned.

παρέχουσι: παρέχω is used here as in the phrase κόπους παρέχω.

It will be observed that οἰκονομία is here taken subjectively and actively (the performance of the duty of an οἰκονόμος entrusted to a man by God; so also in Colossians 1:25); not objectively and passively (the dispensation of God, i.e., the Divine plan of salvation). The Western reading οἰκοδομήν or οἰκοδομίαν, aedificationem, is easier; but the text gives a deeper meaning.

τὴν ἐν πίστει: This is best taken as in the faith; cf. 1 Timothy 1:2, 1 Timothy 2:7, Titus 3:15. The trust committed to us by God is exercised in the sphere of the faith.

The aposiopesis at the end of 1 Timothy 1:4 is due to an imperative need felt by St. Paul to explain at once, and develop the thought of, οἰκονομία θεοῦ. The true teaching—that of the apostle and of Timothy—would be the consequence of the charge given by Timothy and would issue in, be productive of, an οἰκονομία θεοῦ. This οἰκονομ. θ. is the object aimed at, τέλος, of the charge; and is further defined as love, etc.

This is the only place in Paul in which τέλος means the final cause. In every other instance it means termination, result, i.e. consequence. 1 Peter 1:9 is perhaps an instance of a similar use.

The charge is referred to again in 1 Timothy 1:18. See also 1 Thessalonians 4:2. The expressed object of the charge being the comprehensive virtue, love, it is strange that Ellicott should characterise this exegesis as “too narrow and exclusive”. Bengel acutely observes that St. Paul does not furnish Timothy with profound arguments with which to refute the heretics, because the special duty of a church ruler is concerned with what is positively necessary. The love here spoken of is that which is “the fulfilment of the law” (Romans 13:10); and its nature is further defined by its threefold source. Heart, conscience, faith, mark stages in the evolution of the inner life of a man. Heart, or disposition, is earlier in development than conscience; and faith, in the case of those who have it, is later than conscience.

καθαρὰ καρδία is an O.T. phrase. See reff. συνείδησις is καθαρά in 1 Timothy 3:9, 2 Timothy 1:3; it is ἀγαθή in reff.; καλή in Hebrews 13:18; it occurs without any epithet in 1 Timothy 4:2, Titus 1:15. πίστις ἀνυπόκριτος occurs again 2 Timothy 1:5; and the adj. is applied to ἀγάπη, Romans 12:9, 2 Corinthians 6:6. See other reff. It is evident that no stress can be laid on the choice of epithets in any particular passage.4. fables and endless genealogies] Ellicott following Chrysostom and the early Greek commentators regards the false teaching as arising from Jewish, perhaps Cabbalistic sources, and only an affluent afterwards of the later and more definite Gnosticism—Rabbinical fables and fabrications in history and doctrine, and vague rambling genealogies—in the proper sense, but very possibly combined with wild speculative allegories. See Introduction, pp. 45 sqq.; Appendix, B.

which minister questions] Rather with R.V. the which minister questionings—‘the which’ implying the force of the pronoun ‘which are of such a kind as to’; and ‘questionings’ suggesting better the process and state of questioning which the form of the noun conveys. The compound noun which is the right reading implies painful, elaborate questionings, so the verb 1 Peter 1:10 ‘searched diligently.’

godly edifying] Read with the best mss. (and the Received Text which the A.V. has not followed here) a dispensation of God—the divine economy or scheme of salvation to be apprehended by faith. They whom Timothy was thus to correct had or might have learnt exactly what St Paul meant by this dispensing of grace on God’s part from the eloquent passage in his own letter to them, Ephesians 3; ‘the dispensation of that grace of God,’ 1 Timothy 1:2; ‘to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery,’ 1 Timothy 1:9.

in faith] That is, as Theod. Mops. puts it, we lay hold of the plan of salvation by ‘a historic faith’—‘getting our proof of its truth from the facts themselves of the life of God incarnate.’1 Timothy 1:4. Μηδὲ προσέχειν, nor give heed) in teaching.—μύθοις καὶ γενεαλογίαις, to fables and genealogies) A Hendiadys. Comp. on fables, ch. 1 Timothy 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:4; Titus 1:14; on genealogies, ib. ch. 1 Timothy 3:9. And because these two things are joined together, and because those who taught such doctrines boasted of the law, it is evident that the apostle is not speaking of the genealogies of the Jewish families, but of the genealogies of the œons, against which Irenaeus and Tertullian quote this very passage. Nay, even Paul opposes to them the true consideration of the œons, 1 Timothy 1:17 [τῷ βασιλεῖ τῶν αἰώνωνδόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, “to the King of the æons (ages)—be glory, throughout the æons of æons”]. But if there be any doubt, whether those who taught another doctrine used the word œons already at that time, the wisdom of God [“the only wise God,” 1 Timothy 1:17] should be the more admired, which confutes (by anticipation) words not yet framed; comp. note to Matthew 26:27. γενεά and αἰὼν are kindred words. The more inquisitive Jews had at that time very much mixed themselves up with the Gentiles. Paul casts no reproach on civil genealogies: he puts fables before this word; a fact quite inconsistent with his meaning the genealogies of families, which were evidently not fabulous. At least Paul would not have cared whether they were true or false. There was on the part of those men a certain degree of boasting, that they can search more deeply than others into the mysteries contained in the law—a circumstance which greatly impeded the power of the Gospel, especially around Ephesus.—ζητήσεις, questions) Questions to be terminated by no decision, nothing at all desirable; pure truth is profitable. Comp. on these, and on “strifes about words,” ch. 1 Timothy 6:4; 2 Timothy 2:14; 2 Timothy 2:23-24; and presently after, 1 Timothy 1:6-7; Titus 3:9.—οἰκονομίαν Θεοῦ) [godly edifying]. Οἰκονομία, in this passage, implies the act, not the state; moreover, the constant act [‘edifying’]. Where time is wasted in useless questions, there the necessary and salutary functions in the house[2] of God are neglected.

[2] In allusion to the derivation of οἰκονομία from οἶκος and νέμω. So ædificatio, edification, from ædes facere.—ED.Verse 4. - To give for give, A.V.; the which for which, A.V.; questionings for questions, A.V.; a dispensation of God for godly edifying, A.V. and T.R. (οἰκονομίαν Θεοῦ for οἰκοδομίαν Θεοῦ); so do I now for so do, A.V. Fables (see 1 Timothy 4:7). If the spirit which gave birth to the fables of the Talmud was already at work among the Jews, we have a ready explanation of the phrase. And that they were Jewish fables (not later Gnostic delusions) is proved by the parallel passage in Titus 1:14, "Not giving heed to Jewish fables." The prevalence of sorcery among the Jews at this time is a further instance of their inclination to fable (see Acts 8:9; Acts 13:6; Acts 19:13). Endless genealogies. What was the particular abuse of genealogies which St. Paul here condemns we have not sufficient historical knowledge to enable us to decide. But that they were Jewish forms of "vain talking," and not Gnostic, and related to human pedigrees, not to "emanations of eons," may be concluded from the connection in which they are mentioned in Titus 3:9, and from the invariable meaning of the word γενεαλογία itself. It is true that Irenaeus ('Contr. Haer.,' lib. 1.) applies this passage to the Valentinians and their succession of eons (Bythus, Nous, Logos, Anthropus, etc. - in all thirty, male and female); and so does Tertullian, who speaks of the seeds of the Gnostic heresies as already budding in St. Paul's days ('Advers Valentin.,' cap 3. and elsewhere), and Grotius supports thin explanation ('Comment.,' 1 Timothy 1:4). But it was very natural that Irenaeus and Tertullian, living when the heresies of Valentinus, Marcion, and others were at their height, should so accommodate St. Paul's words - which is all that Irenaeus does. On the other band, neither Irenaeus nor Tertullian shows that γενεαλογία was a word applied to the emanations of the eons in the Gnostic vocabulary. The genealogies, then, were Jewish pedigrees, either used literally to exalt individuals as being of priestly or Davidic origin (as the pedigrees of the Desposyni, or later of the princes of the Captivity), or used cabbalistically, so as to draw fanciful doctrines from the names composing a genealogy, or in some other way which we do not know of (see the writers 'Genealogies of Christ,' 1 Timothy 3. § 2:1; and note C at the end of the volume). Endless (ἀπέραντος); found only here in the New Testament and so one of the words peculiar to the pastoral Epistles, but used in the LXX. for "infinite," "immeasurable." It means either "endless," "interminable," or, "having no useful end or purpose;" οὐδὲν χρήσιμον (Chrysostom). But the former ("interminable") is the better rendering, and in accordance with its classical use. Questionings (ζητήσεις or ἐκζητήσεις, R.T.). (For ζητησις, see John 3:25; Acts 25:20; and below, 1 Timothy 6:4; 2 Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:9; and for the kindred ζήτημα, Acts 15:2; Acts 18:15; Acts 23:29; Acts 25:19; Acts 26:3.) The reading ἐκζήτησις is only found here. A dispensation of God. This version arises from the Greek οἰκονομίαν, which is the reading of the R.T. and almost all manuscripts. The T.R. οἰκοδομίαν ισ thought to be a conjecture of Erasmus, which, from its much easier sense, was taken into the T.R. Taking the reading οἰκονομίαν, the phrase, "a dispensation of God which is in faith," must mean the gospel as delivered by revelation and received by faith. These fables and genealogies address themselves, the apostle says, to the disputatious, itching curiosity of men's minds, not to their faith. The substance of them is matter of doubtful disputation, not revealed truth. "The dispensation" is better English than "a dispensation." So do I now; or, as the A.V., so do, is the conjectural filling up of the unfinished sentence which began "as I exhorted thee." But it is much more natural and simple to take ver. 18 as the apodosis, and the intermediate verses as a digression caused by St. Paul's desire to show how exactly the charge was in agreement with the true spirit of the Law of God. Give heed (προσέχειν)

oP. Frequent in lxx and Class. Lit. To hold to. Often with τὸν νοῦν the mind, which must be supplied here. It means here not merely to give attention to, but to give assent to. So Acts 8:6; Acts 16:14; Hebrews 2:1; 2 Peter 1:19.

Fables (μύθοις)

Μῦθος, in its widest sense, means word, speech, conversation or its subject. Hence the talk of men, rumour, report, a saying, a story, true or false; later, a fiction as distinguished from λόγος a historic tale. In Attic prose, commonly a legend of prehistoric Greek times. Thus Plato, Repub. 330 D, οἱ λεγόμενοι μῦθοι περὶ τῶν ἐν Ἅΐδου what are called myths concerning those in Hades. Only once in lxx, Sir. 20:19, in the sense of a saying or story. In N.T. Only in Pastorals, and 2 Peter 1:16. As to its exact reference here, it is impossible to speak with certainty. Expositors are hopelessly disagreed, some referring it to Jewish, others to Gnostic fancies. It is explained as meaning traditional supplements to the law, allegorical interpretations, Jewish stories of miracles, Rabbinical fabrications, whether in history or doctrine, false doctrines generally, etc. It is to be observed that μῦθοι are called Jewish in Titus 1:14. In 1 Timothy 4:7, they are described as profane and characteristic of old wives. In 2 Timothy 4:4, the word is used absolutely, as here.

Endless genealogies (γενεαλογίαις ἀπεράντοις)

Both words Pasto. For γενεαλογία (olxx) comp. Titus 3:9. Γενεαλογεῖσθαι to trace ancestry, only Hebrews 7:6; comp. 1 Chronicles 5:1, the only instance in lxx. Ἁπέραντος endless, N.T.o. Twice in lxx. By some the genealogies are referred to the Gnostic aeons or series of emanations from the divine unity; by others to the O.T. Genealogies as interpreted allegorically by Philo, and made the basis of a psychological system, or O.T. Genealogies adorned with fables: by others again to genealogical registers proper, used to foster the religious and national pride of the Jews against Gentiles, or to ascertain the descent of the Messiah. Ἁπέραντος from ἀ not, and πέρας limit or terminus. Πέρας may be taken in the sense of object or aim, so that the adjective here may mean without object, useless. (So Chrysostom, Holtzmann, and von Soden.) Others take it in a popular sense, as describing the tedious length of the genealogies (Alford); and others that these matters furnish an inexhaustible subject of study (Weiss). "Fables and endless genealogies" form a single conception, the καὶ and being explanatory, that is to say, and the "endless genealogies" indicating in what the peculiarity of the fables consists.

Which (αἵτινες)

Rather the which: inasmuch as they.

Minister (παρέχουσιν)

Afford, furnish, give occasion for. Only twice in Paul. Elsewhere mainly in Luke and Acts.

Questions (ἐκζητήσεις)

Better, questionings. N.T.o. olxx. oClass. The simple ζητήσεις in Pastorals, John and Acts. The preposition ἐκ gives the sense of subtle, laborious investigation: inquiring out.

Godly edifying

According to the reading οἰκοδομίαν edification. So Vulg. aedificationem. But the correct reading is οἰκονομίαν ordering or dispensation: the scheme or order of salvation devised and administered by God: God's household economy. Ὁικονομία is a Pauline word. With the exception of this instance, only in Paul and Luke. See Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 3:2, Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:25.


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