2 Timothy 2:17
And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;
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(17) And their word will eat as doth a canker.—Better rendered, as in the margin of the English translation, as doth a gangrene, the usual rendering of the various English versions. “Cancer,” which is adopted also by Luther—krebs—fails to express the terrible and deathly nature of the “word” of these false teachers. The life of the sufferer afflicted with cancer may be prolonged for many years; a few hours, however, is sufficient to put a term to the life of the patient attacked with “gangrene,” unless the limb affected be at once cut away. To translate this Greek word here by “cancer” is to water down the original, in which St. Paul expresses his dread of the fatal influence of the words of these teachers on the lives of many of the flock of Christ. Perhaps Jerome’s words, “a perverse doctrine, beginning with one, at the commencement scarcely finds two or three listeners; but little by little the cancer creeps through the body” (Jerome. in Epist. ad Gal.), has suggested the rendering of the English Version.

Of whom is Hymenæus and Philetus.—Of these false teachers nothing is known beyond the mention, in the First Epistle to Timothy, of Hymenæus, who, regardless of the severe action which had been taken against him (1Timothy 1:20), was apparently still continuing in his error. Vitringa thinks they were Jews, and probably Samaritans. Their names are simply given as examples of the teachers of error to whom St. Paul was referring—famous leaders, no doubt, in their cheerless school of doctrine.

2:14-21 Those disposed to strive, commonly strive about matters of small moment. But strifes of words destroy the things of God. The apostle mentions some who erred. They did not deny the resurrection, but they corrupted that true doctrine. Yet nothing can be so foolish or erroneous, but it will overturn the temporary faith of some professors. This foundation has two writings on it. One speaks our comfort. None can overthrow the faith of any whom God hath chosen. The other speaks our duty. Those who would have the comfort of the privilege, must make conscience of the duty Christ gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, Tit 2:14. The church of Christ is like a dwelling: some furniture is of great value; some of smaller value, and put to meaner uses. Some professors of religion are like vessels of wood and earth. When the vessels of dishonour are cast out to be destroyed, the others will be filled with all the fulness of God. We must see to it that we are holy vessels. Every one in the church whom God approves, will be devoted to his Master's service, and thus fitted for his use.And their word - The word, or the discourses of those who love vain and idle disputations.

Will eat as doth a canker - Margin, "gangrene." This word - γάγγραινα gangraina - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is derived from γραιω graiō, γραινω grainō, to devour, corrode," and means "gangrene" or "mortification" - the death of a part, spreading, unless arrested, by degrees over the whole body. The words rendered "will eat," mean "will have nutriment;" that is, will spread over and consume the healthful parts. It will not merely destroy the parts immediately affected, but will extend into the surrounding healthy parts and destroy them also. So it is with erroneous doctrines. They will not merely eat out the truth in the particular matter to which they refer, but they will also spread over and corrupt other truths. The doctrines of religion are closely connected, and are dependent on each other - like the different parts of the human body. One cannot be corrupted without affecting those adjacent to it, and unless checked, the corruption will soon spread over the whole.

Of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus - In regard to Hymenaeus, see the notes at 1 Timothy 1:20. Of Philetus nothing more is known. They have gained an undesirable immortality, destined to be known to the end of time only as the advocates of error.

17. will eat—literally, "will have pasture." The consuming progress of mortification is the image. They pretend to give rich spiritual pasture to their disciples: the only pasture is that of a spiritual cancer feeding on their vitals.

canker—a "cancer" or "gangrene."

Hymenaeus—(See on [2499]1Ti 1:20). After his excommunication he seems to have been readmitted into the Church and again to have troubled it.

And their word will eat as doth a canker; in the Greek it is: And their word will have pasture (or place to feed upon) as a gangrene: we have ill translated the word a canker, for it signifieth a gangrene; both our English word gangrene and the Latin word are derived from the Greek. There is a great difference between a canker and a gangrene, in the causes of those two diseases, and the nature of them, and the time in which they destroy the body of a man; only they both agree in their infecting the parts contiguous, the canker eating them, the gangrene mortifying them; and for this, the words of erroneous persons are here compared to this disease, because either of them will have something to feed upon; so nomhn signifieth, John 10:9. Most errors in matters of faith are contagious and infectious; the reason is, because ordinarily an error is broached by some, and entertained by others, in satisfaction to some lust, as favouring some evil desire and inclination of our minds, and so naturally pleaseth those who have the same evil propensions.

Of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus: of Hymenaeus we read before, 1 Timothy 1:20, there he is joined with Alexander; but not of Philetus, nor do we find him further mentioned in holy writ.

And their word will eat as doth a cancer,.... Or "gangrene", which gnaws and feeds upon the flesh, inflames and mortifies as it goes, and spreads swiftly, and endangers the whole body; and is therefore to be speedily taken notice of, and stopped. It is better rendered "gangrene", as in the marginal reading, than "cancer".

"The word "gangrene" is Greek (g), and is derived by some authors from the Paphlagonian "gangra", a goat; it being the character of a goat to browse the grass all around without shifting. It is more correct, perhaps, to derive it from the Greek word "manduco", "consumo", I eat, I consume. The "gangrene" is a disease in the flesh of the part which it corrupts, consumes, and turns black, spreading and seizing itself of the adjoining parts, and is rarely cured without amputation. By the microscope, a gangrene has been discovered to contain an infinite number of little worms engendered in the morbid flesh; and which continually producing new broods, they swarm, and overrun the adjacent parts: if the gangrene proceed to an utter sphacelation (or mortification), and be seated in any of the limbs, or extreme parts, recourse must be had to the operation of amputation''

And so the errors and heresies of false teachers worm and spread, and feed upon the souls of men, and eat up the vitals of religion, or what seemed to be such, and even destroy the very form of godliness; and bring destruction and death, wherever they come; and when they get into Christian churches, threaten the ruin of them; and therefore are to be opposed in time, and those infected with them to be cut off.

Of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; these were some of the principal among the false teachers, the chief authors and spreaders of error and heresy: the former of these is mentioned before in 1 Timothy 1:20 along with Alexander, as guilty of blasphemy, and as delivered up to Satan for it. Philetus is a Greek name as well as the other, though it is sometimes found in Roman inscriptions (h): it is very likely that these were both in Asia, and probably in Ephesus, or near to it, since the apostle mentions them by name to Timothy, that he might beware of them.

(g) See Chambers's Cyclopedia in the word "Gangrene". (h) Vid. Kirchman. de Funer. Roman. l. 3. c. 10. p. 390.

And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;
2 Timothy 2:17. The increase of the ἀσέβεια is closely connected with the further spread of the heresy. On this point the apostle says: καὶ ὁ λόγος αὐτῶν ὡς γάγγραινα νομὴν ἕξει] γάγγραινα, an eating ulcer, like cancer, called in Galen the cold burn (σφάκελος); νομὴν ἔχειν = νέμειν (Acts 4:17 : ἐπὶ πλεῖον διανέμεσθαι), “eat into the flesh, spread;” comp. Polybius (ed. 2, Tauchnitz), i. 4, viii. 5: ἡ τοῦ πυρὸς νομή is equivalent to the spreading of fire; 2 Timothy 1:8; 2 Timothy 1:16, used of an ulcer (Pape, s.v. νομή).

Jerome, Ep. ad Galat.: doctrina perversa, ab uno incipiens, vix duos aut tres primum in exordio auditores reperit, sed paulatim cancer serpit in corpore. The body on which the gangrene is found, and in which it spreads ever wider, is the church. He is therefore speaking here not so much of the intensive increase of the evil (Mack, Wiesinger) in those attacked by it, as of its extensive diffusion (so most expositors), thinking, at the same time, of the ever deepening mark which it is making on the inner life of the church. Chrysostom rightly says: τὸ πᾶν λυμαίνεται; but his further explanation is not apposite: ἐνταῦθα τὸ ἀδιόρθωτον αὐτῶν δηλοῖ, for the apostle does not say here that the heretics are beyond amendment.

Of these heretics Paul mentions two: Hymenaeus and Philetus, of whom nothing further is known, except that the former is possibly the same as the one named in 1 Timothy 1:20 (see on that passage).

2 Timothy 2:17. ὡς γάγγραινα νομὴν ἕξει: spread, R.V.m., ut cancer serpit, Vulg. Ell. compares Ovid. Metam. ii. 825, “solet immedicabile cancer Serpere, et illaesas vitiatis addere partes”. Alf. supplies many illustrations of νομή as “the medical term for the consuming progress of mortifying disease”.

Harnack (Mission, vol. i., pp. 114, 115) illustrates copiously this conception of moral evil from the writings of the early fathers.

Ὑμέναιος καὶ φίλητος. This Hymenaeus is perhaps the same as he who is mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:20. Of Philetus nothing is known from other sources.

17. their word] As opposed to ‘the word of truth’ above, the fictions and heresies in which the Gnostic scheme expressed itself.

will eat] Lit. ‘will have pasture.’ The word occurs John 10:9 ‘will find pasture.’ Cf. Latimer Serm. p. 525 quoted in the Bible Word Book ‘In another place St Paul compareth their doctrine unto a sickness which is called a canker; which sickness, when she once beginneth at a place of the body, except it be withstood will run over the whole body, and so at length kill.’

as doth a canker] Or more exactly a gangrene or ‘eating sore,’ the root notion of ‘gangrene’ as of the common word ‘grass’ being ‘to devour’ ‘to eat.’ Galen defines it as a tumour in the state between inflammation and mortification.

of whom is Hymeneus and Philetus] Or ‘among whom’; the partitive genitive. Hymenæus is probably the same as in 1 Timothy 1:20; see note. Philetus is not mentioned elsewhere.

2 Timothy 2:17. Ὑμέναιος, Hymenœus) who continued pertinacious; comp. 1 Timothy 1:20.—καὶ Φίλητος, and Philetus) who assented to Hymenæus.

Verse 17. - Gangrene for canker, A.V. Their word; as opposed to "the Word of truth" in ver. 15. Will eat (νομὴν ἕξει); i.e. spread, like a gangrene, which gradually enlarges its area, corrupting the flesh that was sound before. So these heretical opinions spread in the body of the Church which is affected by them. Νομή is literally "pasture" (John 10:9), "grazing of flocks," and hence is applied to fire (Polybius), which as it were feeds upon all around it, and, in medical language (Hippocrates), to sores and gangrenes, which grow larger and depasture the flesh. Of whom; of the number of those pointed at in the phrase, "their word." Hymenaeus; probably the same person as is mentioned as a blasphemer in 1 Timothy 1:20. Philetus. Nothing is known of him. 2 Timothy 2:17Will eat (νομὴν ἕξει)

Lit. will have pasturage, and so grow. Νομὴ πυρός a spreading of fire: a sore is said νομὴν ποιεῖσθαι to spread. Comp. Acts 4:17, διανεμηθῇ spread, of the influence of the miracle of Peter, from the same root, νέμειν to distribute or divide; often of herdsmen, to pasture. Νομὴ only here and John 10:9

Canker (γάγγραινα)

Transliterated into gangrene. An eating sore; a cancer. N.T.o. olxx. Comp. Ovid:

"Solet immedicabile cancer

Serpere, et illaesas vitiatis addere partes."

Metam. ii. 826

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