Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The best mss. give, as for the first Epistle, the shortest title, Second Epistle to Timothy.
Ch. 1. Apostolic Gifts and Responsibilities
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,1, 2. The Salutation to Timothy
1. an apostle of Jesus Christ] Read with the mss. Christ Jesus, and see note on 1 Timothy 1:1 for the frequency of this order of the words.
by the will of God] This phrase with the preceding words in precisely the same order commences the Ep. to Colossians and Ep. to Ephesians, followed in the former by ‘and Timothy our brother.’ The phrase also introduces both 1 Cor. and 2 Cor. The use here shews that there is no asserting of impugned authority intended by it; but rather there is a going back to the first calling and sending by God, from no personal merit, but by His purpose of mercy alone; and apostle through the will of God is a short phrase for the full statement of Galatians 1:15-16, ‘it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles.’
according to the promise of life] This, for Timothy, is the sphere of his apostleship as of his life. ‘To me to live is Christ.’ If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation.’ Lay hold on the life which is life indeed.’ For the apostleship in regard to Titus and the Cretans see note on Titus 1:1. Render, with R.V., the promise of the life, the article with ‘in Christ Jesus’ making ‘life’ definite at once; while according to regular use no article is required in the Greek prepositional phrase on which ‘life’ depends, ‘according to the promise,’ from the nature of the word ‘promise.’ Compare the usage in 1 Timothy 4:8, ‘having the promise of the life which now is and which is to come.’ That passage and 1 Timothy 6:12 give the clue to the choice of the phrase here. Timothy there is exhorted to train himself in the godliness which has the promise of ‘the divine life’ and to ‘lay hold of it’ (see notes). So here his spiritual father recalls his own experience and assurance to encourage his son—the free love of God which had laid hold of him and given him work as the seal of pardon, and (in the doing of that work) ‘life in Christ Jesus,’ begun here to be perfected hereafter in spite of persecution. The greater the sense of sin, the stronger the sense of rescuing ‘grace and mercy,’ and the clearer the assurance of ‘peace,’ the crown of blessings.
To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.2. my dearly beloved son] Or my beloved child. ‘Child’ as in 1 Timothy 1:1; ‘beloved’ in place of ‘mine own,’ but surely not a weaker word, when we remember its use to express ‘the only begotten,’ Matthew 3:17.
mercy] Omitted in the greeting to Titus is in both the letters to Timothy, and may imply St Paul’s inner oneness with his ‘beloved child’ in the feeling ‘he shewed me all the mercy as he shewed me all the sin.’ Cf. note 1 Timothy 1:2. All is ‘writ large’ in 2 Timothy 1:8-12.
I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;3. whom I serve … with pure conscience] The verb ‘serve’ with its noun ‘service’ was specially used to render the worship of Jehovah by the covenant people; it is the same as in St Paul’s profession before Felix, Acts 24:14, ‘after the way which they call a sect so serve I the God of our fathers,’ and again before Agrippa, Acts 26:7. The service of the old covenant was true and real service so long as it was with a pure conscience and until the conscience was enlightened. Hence the force of the verb with its qualifying clauses in the very similar passage, Romans 1:9, ‘God is my witness whom I serve in my spirit in the Gospel of His Son.’ The old service of sacrifice and ceremonial (‘the giving of the law and the service,’ Romans 9:4) has given place to the ‘living sacrifice, the reasonable or spiritual service,’ Romans 12:1. Cf. Php 3:3.
that without ceasing I have remembrance] A.V. follows the Vulg. which has ‘quod habeam tui memoriam.’ R.V. better, ‘how unceasing is my remembrance,’ the construction being similar to Romans 1:9, ‘God is my witness how unceasing.’ It is objected to this that ‘the importunity of Paul’s prayers for Timothy could not have been the occasion of his solemn thanksgiving to God.’ But though the formal construction may seem to limit the object of the thanks, yet it is really more in accord with St Paul’s manner of thought and speech to take all the clauses to the end of 2 Timothy 1:5 as making up his thanksgiving. The structure of the chapter is evidently, ‘I am thy dear father in life and work; I am very thankful to have a dear son in my desolateness—to remember thee at all hours, and most and best in my prayers,—to count the days and nights till I shall see thee—to think of thy tears when I left thee—and so to hope for refreshing news of thy true and trusty faith, learnt like my own, at a mother’s knee. By all this that is between us—and yet more, by that gift of gifts to thee, the Grace of Orders, when these hands of mine were laid upon thy head, and my work was thine, O Timothy my son, play the man, the minister; the man of God, God’s minister; with me and after me.’
in my prayers] More precisely, in my supplications. See note on 1 Timothy 2:1, from which we see that this word indicates a felt ‘want’ and a petition for its supply. St Paul sorely wanted strength and support for the last struggle, and Timothy could help him; so he prayed, not in Timothys behalf so much as for Timothy to come in his behalf.
night and day] Variously taken, with ‘my prayers,’ as A.V., or with ‘longing to see thee’ (as R.V.). The phrase in the accusative, Luke 2:37, closes the sentence; in the genitive, as here, and 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 Thessalonians 3:10, introduces it; in these latter passages the participles equally with ‘longing’ require emphasis and do not lose it by ‘night and day’ preceding; so that Dean Alford’s objection to following these here as precedent seems needless. ‘Greatly desiring’ seems a fair rendering of the verb alone, the preposition indicating in this case not ‘greatly,’ but ‘towards,’ ‘yearning towards.’ Render the clause night and day longing to see thee.
3–7. Timothy’s inheritance of Personal Faith and Ministerial Gifts a double ground of Appeal
From what St Paul was himself follows now the first appeal to Timothy, based on his affectionate remembrance of the son’s likeness to his spiritual father, (1) in the personal faith forged with links of natural piety, (2) in the ministerial gift transmitted as a spiritual heritage. With his usual fine tact St Paul hints a connexion between his own and Timothy’s early experiences, to emphasize his depth of feeling towards him.
Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;4. being mindful of thy tears] At the close we must suppose of the visit paid him by St Paul in accordance with the intention expressed 1 Timothy 3:14. It seems very awkward to insert this clause as a subordinate parenthesis ‘with a faint causal force,’ ‘longing to see thee, as I remember thy tears in order that I may be filled with joy’; but this must be the effect of R.V. rendering. And again there is difficulty in either rendering of the participle in 2 Timothy 1:5 with this construction; (1) A.V. ‘when I call to remembrance’ present, whereas we ought to read the aorist (2) R.V. ‘having been reminded,’ implying that there had been some occasion or messenger to give such news, of which we have at least no other hint. It is better to follow Drs Westcott and Hort in putting a comma after ‘tears’ and joining 2 Timothy 1:4-5 thus, ‘that I may be filled with joy in being reminded.’ The thought underlying this phrase ‘to be filled with joy,’ ‘to have one’s joy fulfilled,’ is, as Dr Westcott puts it in 1 John 1:4, that the fulfilment of Christian joy depends upon the realisation of fellowship. This fellowship may be with bodily presence, as 2 John 1:12; John 3:29; or without, as John 15:11; John 16:24; John 17:13; 1 John 1:4, ‘these things we write that our joy may be fulfilled.’ The joy of the apostle is secured by his ‘little children’ realising full fellowship. Similarly the thought here is an echo of St Paul’s feelings expressed 5 or 6 years before to his Philippian ‘beloved ones,’ and the expressions are an echo too. Through that letter ran the theme ‘gaudeo: gaudete’; in that, with a wonderful tenderness and delicacy St Paul shews them that ‘unity,’ ‘brotherly love,’ is ‘the one thing lacking’ to perfect their joy: the one thing that to hear of or see in them will fulfil his too. Compare Php 1:3-8; Php 2:1-2; Php 4:4. Through this letter runs the theme ‘fidem servavi: serva’; and with the same considerate love St Paul makes the appeal to his timid son to be ‘strong in the faith’ turn first on the fulfilment of his own joy which will result.
The final conjunction ‘in order that’ depends then formally on ‘I give thanks in my supplications,’ really on the whole affectionate yearning and praying spirit of 2 Timothy 1:3-4.
When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.5. remembrance] The noun occurs only 2 Peter 1:13; 2 Peter 3:1, besides in N. T.; the verb Titus 3:1, where see note, 2 Peter 1:12, &c.
the unfeigned faith that is in thee] ‘Unfeigned,’ ‘true and trusty.’ Contrasted with that of Phygelus and Hermogenes and Demas, 2 Timothy 1:15, 2 Timothy 4:9. The word is applied to ‘love,’ Romans 12:9, and to ‘wisdom,’ James 3:17. It has been used with ‘faith,’ 1 Timothy 1:5.
which dwelt first] The pronoun may be rendered a faith such as, ‘the which faith,’ as it is rendered 1 Timothy 1:4. Cf. also 1 Timothy 3:15. ‘Dwell in,’ the verb, is used (in quotation) in 2 Corinthians 6:16 of the indwelling of the Almighty, in Romans 8:11, 2 Timothy 1:14 of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, in Colossians 3:16 of the indwelling of ‘the word of Christ,’ the nearest passage to this; where however Bp Lightfoot explains it of ‘the presence of Christ in the heart as an inward monitor’; as Dr Westcott explains 1 John 2:14 ‘ye are strong and the word (of God) abideth in you,’ ‘the natural endowment of energetic vigour is consecrated to a divine end by a divine voice.’ Here too, then, ‘faith’ is personified. Like ‘Heavenly Wisdom’ she ‘dwelt in’ these pious Jewesses from the first, in their early hold of the promises made to Israel, before ‘the glad news’ of Jesus Christ the ‘glory of his people Israel.’ Then, in a larger room, a clearer light within them, the Faith of their fathers in a pure conscience was ‘transfigured’ into the Unclouded Faith of Christ Jesus their Saviour and dwelt within them, and the light and love from that pure presence there passed over into the breast of son and grandson.
thy grandmother Lois] The non-Attic word is used. Eunice is referred to Acts 16:1 as ‘a Jewess which believed.’
and I am persuaded that in thee also] A.V. following the Greek idiom of ellipse; R.V. ‘and, I am persuaded, in thee also,’ following the English idiom of ellipse.
Prof. Reynolds quotes here ‘the celebrated mothers of Augustine, of Chrysostom, of Basil, whose life sincerity and constancy became vicariously a glorious heritage of the universal Church.’ We may add the mother of the Wesleys.
Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.6. Wherefore I put thee in remembrance] More decidedly For which cause. It will break the whole delicacy and tenderness of the exhortation, unless the cause be taken as the thankful recognition of Timothy’s living faith and likeness to his spiritual father.
put thee in remembrance] See note on the last verse. Timothy had been sent himself to ‘put the Corinthians in remembrance of St Paul’s ways that were in Christ,’ ten years before, and was then his ‘child beloved and faithful in the Lord.’ See the same word 1 Corinthians 4:17, the only other use in N.T. in the active.
that thou stir up the gift of God] The verb may be rendered fully, dwelling on the metaphor, ‘kindle the glowing embers of the gift of God,’ or as margin of R.V. ‘stir into flame.’ The ‘live coal from the altar’ had ‘touched his lips’ at his ordination; the ‘lightening with celestial fire’ from ‘the anointing Spirit’ in His ‘sevenfold gifts’ had taken place, as it has ever been invoked and bestowed at ‘The Ordering of Priests,’ cf. 5:14. According to the view taken of Timothy’s greater or less despondency and slackness, the stress may be either on the verb or on the preposition with which it is compounded; either ‘re kindle’ or ‘kindle into flame.’ Perhaps we may best adopt Dr Reynolds’s interpretation of the position. ‘We ought not to infer more than that Timothy’s work had suffered through his despondency arising from the peril and imprisonment of his master. He may have been ready to despair of the Church. The special charisma needed therefore in his case was parrhesia or a clear bold utterance of the faith that was in him.’
by the putting on of my hands] Rather, through the laying on. See note on 1 Timothy 4:14, where the character of this ‘laying on of hands’ is shewn. ‘My hands’ here is not inconsistent with ‘the hands of the presbytery’ there. St Paul of course was chief among the presbyters. But there the largeness of the attendant testimony, the fulness of the circle of ordaining elders, is put forward as a reason for every nerve being strained to run the race: since he is compassed with so great a cloud of witnesses, let him give all heed that his ‘progress may be manifest unto all.’ Here one chief figure, the closest and the dearest, fills all the view: ‘for my sake, my son.’
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.7. For God hath not given us] Rather, gave us; i.e. both St Paul and Timothy, at the time of their ‘setting apart’ for the ministry; this gift is of special grace for special work, more particularly the proper temper and character formed in them by the Holy Spirit; and this not a spirit of cowardice, ‘a spirit’ being preferable to ‘the spirit’ of A.V. as more plainly indicating this character, the spirit we are of in regard to ministerial work, than ‘the spirit,’ which though written with s, not S, is still liable to be mistaken by the listener or reader as though the Holy Spirit were meant. This indeed Bp Ellicott wishes, needlessly making two classes of passages, one like Ephesians 1:17, and this, where the reference to the gift from God is very near, and one like Galatians 6:1, where it is not. But all the passages in effect suppose the working of the Holy Spirit on our human spirit so that we have a certain spirit, temper, character, resulting.
Some mss. and Versions (and so Clement and Chrysostom) have confused this verse with Romans 8:15 and read instead of deilias, ‘cowardice,’ the word that is used there in the totally different connexion, douleias, ‘slavery.’ And similarly we have there the variant deilias, ‘cowardice.’ It is quite natural that the new phrases coined for the new needs should echo the very ring of the older at times, and at times be (as we have seen) fresh-minted altogether. The noun ‘cowardice’ occurs only here in N.T.; the verb and adjective belonging to it occur only as used by our Lord Himself, John 14:27,’ let not your heart turn coward’; Matthew 8:26, ‘why are ye cowards, O ye of little faith’ (so Mark 4:40); Revelation 21:8, ‘for the cowards and unbelieving … their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire.’ This striking usage emphasises the warning that follows not to be ‘ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.’
but of power, of love, and of a sound mind] ‘power—yes, for surely not in vain is spoken over us the consecrating word; not in vain do we go forth bearing authority from Christ … We “preach Christ crucified,”—“the power of God.” ‘Bp How, Pastoral Work, c. vi; who also well describes the ‘love’ as ‘a simple, self-forgetting, self-sacrificing love’ that can lay itself out to win even ‘the uninteresting, the hard, cold, rude, ignorant, degraded’; but for ‘sound mind’ gives a less convincing quotation from Keble’s preface to the Christian Year, ‘a sober standard of feeling in matters of practical religion.’ The R.V. gives ‘discipline,’ and in the margin as the exact rendering of the Greek, ‘sobering,’ sôphronismos differing from sôphrosynê ‘soberness,’ as logismos, ‘reasoning,’ differs from logos, ‘reason.’ But as the word is the noun of the verb rendered Titus 2:4 ‘train in purity,’ and its root is the word sôphrôn rendered 1 Timothy 3:2 and elsewhere in these epistles ‘pure’ (see notes), ‘training in purity’ would seem the exact force here. And though the verb (note on Titus 2:4) and therefore its noun seems in general usage to mean only ‘train,’ ‘discipline,’ yet here too, thinking of the keywords in these epistles, we shall believe that St Paul is raising the word back to its proper level of ‘moral discipline.’ So St Gregory treating of the life of the Pastor (Pastoral Charge, Pt. ii. c. 2) makes this the first qualification; ‘Rector semper cogitatione sit mundus—quia necesse est ut esse munda debeat manus quae diluere sordes curat.’ Then we find, as we should expect, that these three brief notes of the ministerial character of Timothy are expanded through the next chapter: power, 2 Timothy 2:14-19, moral discipline, 2 Timothy 2:20-22, love, 2 Timothy 2:23-26.
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;8–12. Appeal to Timothy to be a brave Champion both of the saving work of Christ and of the suffering witness of St Paul
8. Be not thou therefore ashamed] Omit ‘thou’ here, and in ‘be thou partaker;’ the stress is on the ‘shame’ and ‘suffering,’ and no pronoun is expressed in Greek.
the testimony] For, in behalf of, the Cross of Christ, recalling the very words of Christ, when He first declared ‘the Cross,’ Luke 9:26, ‘whosoever shall be ashamed of me.’ ‘Testimony’ is the neuter word as in 1 Timothy 2:6 (see note). Here with gen. objective, though in 2 Thessalonians 1:10 with gen. subjective ‘our testimony unto you.’
our Lord] The phrase occurs only here and in 1 Timothy 1:14, in St Paul; but is used also by St Peter, 2 Peter 3:15, ‘the longsuffering of our Lord,’ and in Hebrews 7:14, ‘our Lord sprang out of Juda.’
Both quasi-imperative and imperative are aorist, and contrasted with present imperatives imply the taking up or not taking up a particular line of action in contrast with the continuing or not continuing some course. Whether or not Timothy had as yet shewn shame or cowardice, this exhortation delicately looks only to the future. Winer, § 56 b.
me his prisoner] See Introduction, p. 44.
partaker of the afflictions of the gospel] Vulg., Th. Mops. (true reading), ‘collabora Euangelio.’ R.V. suffer hardship with the gospel. The exact form occurs 2 Timothy 2:2 with no case attached: the thought in both places is the same, and is again elaborated in the rhythmical refrain of 2 Timothy 2:11-12. Fellowship with Christ, with the Gospel, with St Paul—it is all one and the same thing. ‘With the Gospel’ is more natural than ‘for the Gospel,’ which would need a preposition, ‘in behalf of,’ ‘for the sake of,’ ‘in or ‘unto’ according to N.T. usage. For the personifying, which is quite in St Paul’s manner, compare Titus 2:5, ‘that the word of God be not blasphemed;’ Romans 10:16, ‘they did not all obey the Gospel;’ Php 4:14, ‘ye had fellowship with my affliction;’ and especially Php 1:27, ‘with one soul striving together with the faith of the Gospel.’
according to the power of God] Looks back to 2 Timothy 1:7; God, who giveth, hath power.
Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,9. who hath saved us] Rather, who saved us; the ‘saving’ and ‘calling’ should both be referred to the same point of time—viz. Baptism; and 2 Timothy 1:9-10 are compressed by the Prayer-Book Catechism into the sentence ‘he hath called me to this state of salvation through Jesus Christ our Saviour.’ See note 1 Timothy 2:4.
us] Not limited to Paul and Timothy, but as in the parallel passage, Titus 3:5, embracing all the baptised, all who have ‘the faith of God’s elect.’ See generally the note there. The ‘holy calling’ here answers, in its twofold aspect of privilege and duty, to the ‘heirs of eternal life,’ and the ‘maintaining of good works,’ there.
not according to our works] More exactly, Titus 3:5, ‘not by virtue of works, works in righteousness, which we did,’ but in accordance with His own purpose and free gift given to us in Christ Jesus in eternal times gone by; see note on the parallel clause Titus 1:3, where the phrase ‘eternal times’ is explained, and the preposition ‘before.’ Theod. Mops. gives well the connecting thought which carries St Paul here from his appeal for boldness into another of his exulting Gospel anthems. ‘Take,’ he says in effect, ‘take great pains, bear long pains—for a gift so great, so age-long.’
But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:10. is now made manifest] but manifested now; the opposition thus put between the ‘given’ and the ‘manifested’ implies that the gift had been, in the phrase of the other parallel passage, Romans 16:25, ‘kept in silence through times eternal.’ Compare 1 Timothy 3:16, ‘who in flesh was manifested.’
by the appearing] The one use of the substantive ‘epiphany’ for the Incarnation, and so the authority for our use of it in the Church’s season of Epiphany. See notes on 1 Timothy 6:14 and Titus 2:13. The verb, with this reference, occurs again Titus 2:11; Titus 3:4.
our Saviour Jesus Christ] Again, with the best mss., Christ Jesus; the title now especially frequent, see note 1 Timothy 1:1.
who hath abolished death] More exactly, abolishing death, as he did, and bringing into light instead life and immortality. The verb for ‘abolish,’ lit. ‘to make useless, powerless,’ is used here of the Incarnation; in Hebrews 2:14, of the Atonement; in 1 Corinthians 15:26, of the Second Advent, as effecting this victory; at each stage the victory is assured. To us the Incarnation and the Atonement are extended through union with Christ in Holy Baptism. Compare Dr H. Macmillan, Two Worlds are Ours, p. 22. ‘Naturally, we are the creatures of days and months and years that vanish, regulated by sun and moon and stars that will perish. But, born anew in Christ, we enter into a sphere where time has no existence, where one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day; we lay hold on eternal life.’
hath brought … to light] Vulg., Th. Mops., ‘illuminavit,’ i.e. ‘shed over them a full mid-day light.’ The use of the corresponding substantive 1 Corinthians 4:4; 1 Corinthians 4:6, shews the force best, the illuminating power of the Gospel of the glory of Christ. ‘Life,’ ‘the life that is truly life,’ 1 Timothy 6:19, the spiritual life, which is ‘immortality;’ see notes on 1 Timothy 6:12; 1 Timothy 6:19; 1 Timothy 4:8. The Ember hymn well expresses the present glory of this ‘life’ thus illuminated,—‘our glory meets us ere we die.’
through the gospel] Added to the second half of the clause, as coming back to the thought of 2 Timothy 1:8, where ‘the gospel’ personified represents the saving work of the Lord and the suffering ministry of St Paul as here.
Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.11. whereunto I am appointed a preacher] Rather, for which I—remember—was appointed a herald. St Paul ‘magnifies his office’ here in the same terms as in 1 Timothy 2:7; but there to assert his authority for ruling, here to commend his example in suffering: see note.
For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.12. For the which cause I also suffer these things] R.V. places ‘also’ after ‘suffer’ that the emphasis may belong as much to ‘these things’ as to ‘suffer’ according to the order of the Greek; and substitutes yet for ‘nevertheless,’ which is too emphatic for the Greek word.
am not ashamed] The reference to 2 Timothy 1:8 is obvious, as ‘these things’ are the chains and dungeon of ‘the Lord’s prisoner.’ Cf. Romans 1:16.
I know whom I have believed] Rather with R.V. him whom, because it is the relative not the interrogative pronoun that is used.
to keep that which I have committed unto him] R.V. places in the margin the alternative sense, according to its rule when the balance of authority is nearly even, ‘that which he hath committed unto me’; and gives the literal Greek ‘my deposit.’ The genitive of the personal pronoun rendered ‘my’ may be either subjective here or objective; hence the uncertainty, which the context does not clear up entirely. On the whole, looking to the speciality of the phrase and its use in 1 Timothy 6:20, and below 2 Timothy 1:14 of Timothy’s guarding of the sound doctrine handed on to him, and here only besides,—it seems most probable that St Paul is adopting, to describe God’s commission to him, the same words in which he describes the same commission to Timothy. And by a change very characteristic of St Paul, when we might have expected the phrase to run ‘am persuaded that I shall be enabled to guard’ it is made to run ‘am persuaded that he is able to guard.’ Cf. ‘yet not I, but Christ liveth in me’ Galatians 2:20. The guarding, thus, is exactly the same, viz. God’s, in the 14th verse, ‘guard through the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.’ Compare Romans 7:24-25 with Romans 8:9. See note on 1 Timothy 6:20, for a fuller account of the ‘deposit’ itself, as the commission to hand on sound doctrine. If at the end of the first epistle this had become the Apostle’s chief absorbing anxiety, much more is it so now, in the very hour of his departure.
against that day] With a view to, in readiness for, that day; cf. Judges 6, ‘angels … he hath kept … unto the judgment of the great day.’
Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.13, 14. The double ground of Appeal is also the double line of Responsive Action
13. Hold fast the form of sound words] Rather, Hold to the model; the word for ‘form has occurred in 1 Timothy 1:16. As Bp Lightfoot points out, Clem, ad Cor. c. v. fin., the compound signifies the first roughly modelled block in the sculptor’s art; just as in the sister art the similarly formed compound hypogrammos is the pencil drawing to be traced over in ink, or the outline to be filled in and coloured. Cf. 1 Peter 2:21, leaving you an example that ye should follow his steps.’ Hold to or keep to rather than ‘hold fast,’ because it is the simple not the compound verb.
sound words] Here opposed to the gangrene of Hymenæus and Philetus, ch. 2 Timothy 2:17, see notes on 1 Timothy 1:10; Titus 1:9. Add the following from Dean Vaughan on ‘The Wholesome Words of Jesus Christ,’ Cambridge ‘University Sermons’ of 1866. ‘Never before through the whole volume of his letters has St Paul applied that term to the Gospel. Now it is almost his only epithet for it.… New experiences make new expressions.… St Paul himself saw the first symptoms of this morbid action of the Gospel; alternations of hectic flush and deadly pallor; of a pulse now throbbing, now torpid; of lost appetite and broken sleep; of deformed excrescence and palsied limb.… Each falsehood in religion is some overstrained onesided or isolated truth. Either free grace or free will—either faith or duty—either truth or charity—either dependence or responsibility—either the Humanity or the Divinity—not both, not all—this has been in all time the oscillation, the ebb and flow, of human doctrine; and the Gospel has been not healthy, not well, but sickly, at times almost dying, in consequence. The wholesome words are known by this sign—that in them every part of the truth is equally present, every function of the life equally vigorous. Health is the balance of the powers: a healthy Gospel is one which holds in exact equilibrium opposite forces—excluding nothing that is good, yet suffering no one good thing to engross and swallow up the whole.’
which thou hast heard of me] ‘Of’ in the sense of from, the Latin a not de; so very frequently in A.V. representing the other meaning of a, ‘by’; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:32 ‘chastened of the Lord.’
in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus] The faith and the love are both ‘in Christ Jesus,’ and are, as Fairbairn puts it, ‘the spiritual element or frame of mind in which the pattern of things exhibited to him should be remembered and applied.’ The clause belongs to ‘keep,’ not (as Alford) to ‘heard.’ So A.V. and R.V., by the insertion of the comma. St Paul had as his secret of activity and endurance the present sense of a present Saviour, and he longs for Timothy too to possess it as constantly. See note on 2 Timothy 2:1.
That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.14. That good thing which was committed unto thee] The good deposit as in 2 Timothy 1:12 and 1 Timothy 6:20, catholicae fidei talentum; see notes on both verses.
keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us] Guard through the Holy Ghost. The indwelling of the Holy Ghost is ‘the gift of God’ in 2 Timothy 1:6, the ‘Grace of Holy Orders’ for the office and work of a priest; cf. Acts 13:2; Acts 13:4.
This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.15. all they which are in Asia be turned away] Omit ‘be’; the tense describes a definite act, not a continuing state. We are left to conjecture when and where this desertion took place. ‘They which are in Asia’ implies the residents in Asia, but the desertion may have been either in Asia, between the first and second imprisonments, or in Rome: perhaps the former more probably, on the ground that Timothy’s knowledge of it is appealed to, as also is his knowledge of Onesiphorus’ service at Ephesus, while the help rendered by Onesiphorus at Rome is spoken of independently. The ‘Asia’ meant is the Roman province according to most Commentators (Howson, Dict. Bib.) which embraced Lydia, Mysia, Caria, and Phrygia, as distinguished from ‘Asia Minor’ commonly so called and from the continent of Asia. Lewin however (Life and Epistles of St Paul, 1. p. 190) identifies the Asia of N.T. with Lydia alone, i.e. from the Caicus to the Mæander, with the plain of the Cayster within it, which Homer calls ‘the Asian Meadow,’ cf. Il. 11. 461, Virg. Georg. 1. 383, ‘Asia … prata Caystri’; and he makes three strong points: (1) that the ‘Mysia of Acts 16:6 seems clearly separated there from ‘Asia’; (2) that ‘the seven churches which are in Asia’ on this hypothesis just cover the whole district; (3) that ‘the dwellers in Asia’ of Acts 2:9 heard their own language, not three languages, Lydian, Mysian and Carian. Prof. Ramsay, the most recent authority on the geography of Asia Minor, appears to support this latter view.
of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes] The mss. favour the form Phygelus, but nothing is known of him; or yet of Hermogenes.
15–18. A Sad Warning and a Bright Example
The connexion is: ‘Many faithless ones failed me; be thou faithful all the more:—the faith and practice of an Onesiphorus may surely be thine.’
The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:16. The Lord give mercy] The phrase ‘give mercy’ does not occur elsewhere in N.T. As the use of the word ‘mercy’ with ‘grace and peace’ in the salutation to Timothy in both epistles marks the special intimacy and tenderness of sympathy between St Paul and his ‘son in the faith,’ so here the ‘friend in need’ is the ‘friend indeed.’
the house of Onesiphorus] The natural though not necessary inference from this phrase here and in 2 Timothy 4:19, and from the prayer in 2 Timothy 1:18, is that Onesiphorus himself was dead.
he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain] That is, ‘in Asia, before I came to Rome this last time’ or ‘when on my way hither bound.’ The clause which follows seems to prevent our referring this to anything at Rome e.g. the libera custodia of the first imprisonment Acts 28:20; Ephesians 6:20, where the word is used, as here, in the singular. But we may refer it to a similar libera custodia, which was exchanged on arrival at Rome for that close confinement which needed Onesiphorus’ ‘zealous’ seeking out.
But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me.17. when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently] It is the simple verb, and, according to the best mss., the positive not the comparative adverb, he sought me diligently. What ‘close confinement’ could be under the Emperor Tiberius we see from Suet. Tib. 61 (quoted by Lewin) ‘quibusdam custodiae traditis non modo studendi solatium ademptum sed etiam sermonis et colloquii usus.’ What it could be under Nero’s lieutenant Tigellinus, who succeeded Burrus as praefectus praetorii a.d. 63, we learn from Tacitus, who says of him (Hist. i. 72) ‘crudelitatem mox deinde avaritiam et virilia scelera exercuit corrupto ad omne facinus Nerone.’
Where did Onesiphorus find St Paul? Nero to screen himself had given the word for the most virulent animosity against the Christians (Tac. Ann. xv. 44). When St Paul then was brought prisoner to Rome, he must have been known as one of their chief leaders, and as such would be confined now not in any ‘hired house,’ not in any ‘guard house’ of the praetorium, or any minor state prison, such as that of Appius Claudius if it still existed, or even the ‘Stone Quarry Prison,’ lautumiae, at the furthest north-west corner of the Forum, but (we may believe) in the Carcer itself, the Tullianum or ‘Well-Dungeon,’ at the foot of the Capitol. This last with its chill vault and oozing spring was the worst, as we gather from Seneca Controv. ix. 3, where one Julius Sabinus asks to be removed from the ‘Carcer’—the Prison par excellence—to the lautumiae. See Burn, Rome and the Campagna, p. 80, and his fuller account of the ‘Carcer’ in Excursus.
The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.18. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day] The repetition of ‘the Lord’ arises apparently from the use of two clauses together which had become customary separate phrases in intercessory prayer. In its first use, as in 2 Timothy 1:16, with the article, understand ‘our Lord’ as in the Epistles generally, cf Winer, Pt. iii. § 19a; and in its second use ‘God the Father’ (Bp Ellicott). For a somewhat similar English use cf. Coll. for 4 S. in Advent ‘O Lord, raise up (we pray thee) thy power and come among us … through the satisfaction of thy Son our Lord.’ The sentence should be regarded, as by Revisers, as a parenthetic prayer forced from him as he recalls the love that persevered to find him ‘in the lowest pit’; though he is chiefly bent on completing the tale of benefits for Timothy’s good; ‘go thou’ he would imply ‘and do likewise.’
and in how many things he ministered unto me] Omit with the best mss. ‘unto me’; the statement is general of ministry to the Church, but the context gives a special suggestion of ministry to St Paul in his ‘overseer’s’ office there. The Greek words would well bear rendering how fully he played the deacon; but anyhow the work is more prominent than the office, that of attending to bodily needs; as St Paul uses the word diakonein of himself when carrying the alms to Jerusalem, Romans 15:25 ‘now I say I go unto Jerusalem ministering unto the saints,’ and of Onesimus with himself at Rome ‘whom I would fain have kept with me, that in thy behalf he might minister unto me in the bonds of the gospel.’ Philemon 1:13.
thou knowest very well] Lit. ‘better’ i.e. than that I should need to dwell upon it.