James Patrick’s Blog

March 22, 2010

Date and Background of 1 Timothy (Winds of Doctrine #3)

Filed under: Exegesis,History — alabastertheology @ 4:49 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

At the time Paul wrote his first epistle to Timothy he was not in prison, and while on his way to Macedonia he had asked Timothy to go ahead of him to Ephesus and instruct the teachers of the churches (1Tim 1:3-4).  We do not seem to have any record of this event in Acts, because the situation in Acts 19–20 does not fit this time.  At the end of Paul’s second, extended stay in Ephesus (Acts 19), he had sent Timothy from Ephesus ahead of him to Macedonia rather than vice versa (Acts 19:22; 20:1-4).  After a few months in Macedonia and then Greece, Paul returned northwards through Macedonia and chose to travel by sea from Philippi in order to reach Jerusalem in time to present the Collection from the Gentile churches to the Jerusalem elders at Pentecost (Acts 20:16; Rom 15:25-31).  Paul [and Luke] met up with Timothy and others at Troas, where Eutychus was raised from the dead (Acts 20:12), and Paul joined the others on their ship a bit further down the coast at Assos (20:13‑14).  Paul didn’t want to take the time to visit Ephesus, so he instead summoned the Ephesian elders to him at Miletus (20:16‑38).  Paul was already somewhat aware of the danger he faced in Jerusalem, and prophesied that he would never again see the face of these elders (20:22-23, 25, 38).  It appears that as yet the Ephesian church had not encountered false teachers, though Paul knew that they would surely come, even from among the church leaders themselves (20:28‑31).  Soon after arriving in Jerusalem, Paul was indeed imprisoned, and after several years ended up in Rome.

Very early tradition testifies that Paul was released from that first imprisonment, and possibly after travelling to Spain as he had intended (Rom 15:24, 28) he returned to the eastern Mediterranean, planting churches in Crete where he had not properly visited before as far as we know (Tit 1:5; cf. Acts 27:7-15).  After this that he decided to travel north, visiting churches he had planted on previous missionary journeys throughout Greece, Macedonia and Asia Minor.  1 Timothy 1:3 says that it was on his way to Macedonia (perhaps somewhere in Greece) that he urged Timothy to ‘remain’ at Ephesus, so it seems Paul had decided to first visit the Macedonian churches again before coming around to the churches in Asia Minor (1Tim 1:3).  Timothy was apparently with him at this point, and so Paul asked Timothy to go straight over to Ephesus ahead of him and ‘remain’ there until he arrived.  It appears he had heard of their problems with false teachers, including even some of the elders themselves who had fallen away from true doctrine and upright living, but it was more urgent that he himself visit Macedonia first.  Timothy duly went over to Ephesus, but when Paul found his visits to the Macedonian churches taking longer than planned, he wanted to make sure Timothy didn’t feel unsupported or decide to leave, hence the first letter to Timothy.  Paul himself planned to arrive in Ephesus before long (3:14‑15; 4:13), having perhaps forgotten his prophecy to the Ephesian elders at Miletus several years earlier.

In his letter, Paul mentions that he has already heard enough about the false teachers Hymenaeus and Alexander to have officially excluded them from his churches in Ephesus (1Tim 1:20; cf. 1Cor 5:1‑5), but he warned Timothy not to receive accusations against other elders too quickly (5:19‑21).  It was evident, therefore, that new elders (and deacons) would need to be appointed in place of those who had fallen (3:1‑13; 5:22).  There were issues with the church having to support more widows than it could apparently afford to, hence Paul’s instructions to remove from the list any widows who could be supported by their own family, as well as any below the age of sixty (even if they had made a vow of celibacy!) who should get married and be productive rather than busybodies (5:3‑16).  There were also issues with disrespect for authority, whether that was the men who seem to have been stirring up dissension against city officials (2:1-8), or their wives who were being ostentatious with jewellery and presuming to exercise spiritual authority over their husbands (2:9-15), or slaves who were dishonouring their masters (6:1‑2).  However, the most significant problem in the church was the false teachers, whom Timothy had been specifically sent to instruct in sound doctrine, and in the next post we turn to look at false teaching in the Early Church.

Advertisements

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: