Unger's Bible Dictionary: First Timothy



TIMOTHY, FIRST EPISTLE. The first of three pastoral letters written by Paul to two of his young converts (1 Tim 1:2; cf. Titus 1:4) who had accompanied him on many of his missionary journeys. They had been established as pastors of churches, and these epistles were directed to them to give them instructions for the orderly management of the organized congregations. These letters thus have a special message to youthful ministers. Although the letters are directed to young pastors and not to churches, their messages are peculiarly applicable to the churches.


Date. Apparently Paul was released from prison at Rome between A.D. 63 and 67. If this is true, it was during this interval that he composed this epistle. He also sent Titus an epistle at this time. If Paul endured only one Roman imprisonment, 1 Timothy was written just before his last visit to Jerusalem.


Theme. The golden text of the epistle may be said to be 1 Tim 3:15, "That you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth." The approaching end of the apostolic period witnessed the increase of the number of the local churches and the consequent need of definite revelation concerning questions of order, creed, and discipline. At first these problems had been solved by the apostles themselves. But now definite instructions applicable to all occasions and periods were necessary.


Purpose. The apostle had four main goals in penning this letter to Timothy: (1) to encourage him to oppose false teaching (1 Tim 1:3-7,18-20; 6:3-5,20-21), (2) to furnish Timothy with written credentials authorized by himself (1:3-4), (3) to instruct him in the management of ecclesiastical affairs (3:14-15), (4) to exhort him to diligence in the performance of his pastoral duties (4:6-6:2).


Attestation and Authenticity. Three classifications of objections-(1) chronological, (2) linguistic, and (3) ecclesiastical-have been commonly urged against the pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus). Some assume Paul was in prison in Rome only once and that the pastorals cannot be fitted into the events of his ministry. But the third group of Paul's epistles distinctly favors the idea that Paul was released after two years (Acts 28:30-31). The linguistic peculiarities hinge on the numerous hapax legomena in the pastorals-ninety-six in 1 Timothy; sixty in 2 Timothy; forty-three in Titus, this being about twice as many as in the other Pauline epistles. This argument, however, has never been conclusive, since Paul was writing on a distinct subject that required a different vocabulary. Ecclesiastical objection maintains that the pastorals imply too finished a stage of church organization for so early a period as the Pauline age. This, however, is hardly a tenable objection since the apostle had already ordained elders in every city on his first missionary journey; and the churches that he addressed, as at Philippi (Phil 1:1), were well organized with "overseers and deacons." There is no evidence in these epistles of "a second-century sacerdotalism." All the pastorals are to be taken as genuinely Pauline since their internal evidence manifestly reflects the character and temperament of the great apostle.



BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. H. Bernard, The Pastoral Epistles, Cambridge Greek Testament (1922); D. Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles, Tyndale New Testament Commentary (1957); D. E. Hiebert, First Timothy (1957); H. A. Kent, Jr., The Pastoral Epistles (1958); C. K. Barrett, The Pastoral Epistles (1963); J. N. D. Kelly, The Pastoral Epistles (1963); P. N. Harrison, Paulines and Pastorals (1964); W. Hendriksen, Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (1968); H. P. Liddon, Explanatory Analysis of St. Paul's Epistle to Timothy (1978); P. Fairbairn, The Pastoral Epistles (1980).

(from The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

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