Question: How should we identify the teachers Paul has in mind in 2 Timothy 2:2?
Discussion arises as to whether this verse refers to faithful “men” or simply faithful “people” as the ones who are to be trained for future teaching. I think there are two keys issues to consider here.
First is the Greek word, anthropos, which can be translated “man” or “person.” It must be acknowledged that this word can be used in a gender specific way or in a gender non-specific way. Some simply state (in print) that this is the generic word for human beings and thus it should be translated here as “people.” However, this is less than careful. The word can certainly be used in this general sense. However, it is also used specifically to mean a “male person.” In two of Paul’s key marriage texts, he uses anthropos in precisely this way. In 1 Cor 7:1 Paul cites the Corinthians as writing, “It is good for a man [anthropos] not to have sexual relations with a woman.” Anthropos here clearly means male! Then in Eph 5:31, citing the Old Testament, Paul writes, “A man [anthropos] shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife.” Thus, we cannot simply say that anthropos must refer to people in general. Nor can we say the word must refer to males. The word itself is not determinative, so we must look to context.
The second key issue is the context. We would affirm that both men and women should be taught the Scriptures and have a role in passing on the faith. Titus 2 contains a clear call for older women to teach younger women. However, the context in 2 Tim 2:1-7 seems to involve not general discipleship but the training of the next generation of leaders. This position of churchwide leadership and instruction has been forbidden to women in 1 Timothy 2.
Thus, it is best to understand anthropos here as referring to men. Timothy, as he is being called away from the work in Ephesus, is urged to make sure new leaders are trained to continue the work of leading the church.
Ray Van Neste is associate professor of biblical studies and director of the R. C. Ryan Center for Biblical Studies at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.
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