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Encyclopedia of The Bible – Timothy
Timothy

TIMOTHY. From the account in Acts and the allusions in the Pauline letters, Timothy seems to have been one of the most constant companions of the Apostle Paul. The first reference to Timothy is found in Acts 16:1-3 at the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey when he revisited Derbe and Lystra in Lycaonia. It seems probable that Paul had met Timothy earlier during his visit to this area on his first missionary journey (Acts 14). This young man made a good impression upon Paul and had a good reputation in Lystra and Iconium (16:2), suggesting that he was a resident of Lystra, rather than Derbe. Later Paul suggests that certain prophetic utterances confirmed Timothy’s appointment (1 Tim 1:18; cf. 4:14). Concerning his parentage it is recorded that his father was a Gr. and his mother a devout Christian Jewess (Acts 16:1). His mother’s name was Eunice, and his grandmother was Lois (2 Tim 1:5), who faithfully instructed their offspring in the OT Scriptures (2 Tim 3:14—note the pl. τίνων according to the better MSS).

Timothy’s mixed parentage motivated Paul to have him circumcised (Acts 16:3). This seems contrary to the decision of the Jerusalem Council held shortly before the second missionary journey (15:27-29) and the vindication of Paul’s position is demonstrated in the fact that Titus was not compelled to be circumcised (Gal 2:3) (see Titus). This mixed parentage, however, could have become an occasion for serious offense in Jewish circles if he had remained uncircumcised, and apparently Paul judged that this concession would be necessary for the maximum effectiveness of Timothy’s work. That Timothy was rather young when he joined Paul is suggested by Paul’s exhortation, “let no one despise your youth” (1 Tim 4:12), which was given some fifteen years later.

Timothy is not mentioned in connection with the experiences and imprisonment of Paul and Silas in Philippi (Acts 16:12-40). Possibly because of his youth Timothy was not imprisoned. Likewise, he is not mentioned in the account of Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica (17:1-9). However, Acts 17:14 indicates that Silas and Timothy remained in Berea after Paul’s departure, although Paul requested that they join him as soon as possible (17:15). According to Acts 18:5, they rejoined Paul at Corinth. However, 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3 indicates that Timothy at least was with Paul in Athens and that Paul, being anxious about the believers at Thessalonica, sent Timothy to Thessalonica. This suggests that, during Paul’s ministry at Thessalonica, Timothy (who seemingly was present) was not directly involved in the work, so that the “ban” placed on Paul and Silas (“security,” “bail,” ἱκανόν [Acts 17:10]; cf. 1 Thess 2:18) did not apply to Timothy. Upon his return to Corinth where Paul was (1 Thess 3:6 and Acts 18:5), he informed him about the situation in Thessalonica. In response Paul, with Silas and Timothy as co-writers, sent 1 Thessalonians. Shortly thereafter, while still at Corinth, these three men sent 2 Thessalonians.

During his extended residence in Ephesus on his third missionary journey, Paul sent Timothy to Corinth to deal with the vexing problems in that church (1 Cor 4:17; 16:10). It appears that he was not successful in this mission and returned to Paul at Ephesus. Prior to Paul’s departure from Ephesus, he sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia (Acts 19:22). Later when Paul joined him in Macedonia, they jointly wrote 2 Corinthians, after Titus seemingly had successfully dealt with the problems in the church (2 Cor 1:1; cf. 1:19). When Paul wrote his letter to the Romans during the following winter while at Corinth, Timothy, identified as a “fellow worker” (συνεργός, G5301), was among those who sent their greetings (Rom 16:21).

Timothy accompanied Paul on his last journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4). It is not indicated that Timothy accompanied Paul on his shipwreck voyage to Rome, but Philippians 2:19, 20 (if written from Rome) suggest that Timothy was sharing Paul’s first Rom. imprisonment. Likewise, Timothy was included with Paul as author of Philippians (1:1), Colossians (1:1), and Philemon (v. 1), traditionally considered with Ephesians as the Prison Epistles, written from Rome.

Two of the Pastoral Epistles, written after Paul’s first Rom. imprisonment, were addressed to Timothy. The intimate relationship that existed between Paul and Timothy is very evident from these letters. Paul refers to Timothy as “my true child in the faith” (1 Tim 1:2), “my son” (1:18), “my beloved child” (2 Tim 1:2). In these two epistles Paul uses a special term (found only in these two epistles in the NT) to describe the responsible task or consignment that the preacher has. This term, παραθήκη, G4146, “deposit,” “consignment,” is found in 1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:12, 14. Twice Paul urged Timothy to guard this φυλάσσω, G5875, (1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:14). This is also what had been entrusted or consigned to Paul (2 Tim 1:12—the preferred interpretation of the text). Paul virtually identified his ministry with Timothy’s ministry. This continuation of Paul’s ministry in the work of Timothy underlies the various exhortations of the Pastoral Epistles.

First Timothy was written from Macedonia while Timothy was at Ephesus. Heterodoxy had infested the church—a kind of legalism (1 Tim 1:6f.) and a kind of speculative theology based on myths and genealogies (1 Tim 1:4). It was also in this period that ecclesiastical organization was developing, and Timothy was enjoined carefully to supervise the appointment of qualified officers. Personal godliness is a necessary qualification of an effective minister (e.g., 1 Tim 6:11-16).

Second Timothy was written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome, apparently the second time. The future looked very bleak for him and he wrote this letter to Timothy to urge him to come to Rome for these last days. Whether he reached Rome before Paul’s death is not recorded. This epistle has been aptly called Paul’s Swan Song. It is the picture of a man passing the torch to his successor. Paul’s confidence and trust in Timothy as a worthy successor are very evident. It is not indicated where Timothy was—apparently in western Asia, possibly at Ephesus, since he would be passing through Troas (2 Tim 4:13). Although Paul was at the point of death (4:6) and had been abandoned by certain followers, e.g., Phygelus and Hermogenes (1:15), Demas (4:10), Alexander (4:14), nevertheless he expressed an assurance and faith to Timothy which must have made a formative impression on this young minister and have been an enduring inspiration to him.

A study of these epistles addressed to Timothy gives the impression that he was a fairly young man who was somewhat retiring, perhaps even a bit shy. He appears to be sincere and devoted, but at times perhaps frightened by his opponents and their teachings. This perhaps is also reflected in his apparent inability to cope with the problems in the Corinthian church.

The last reference to Timothy in the NT is in Hebrews 13:23, where it is reported that Timothy was recently released from prison. Timothy was known to the recipients of this epistle (whose identity is debated—see [http://biblegateway/wiki/D. Hebrews. HEBREWS]) and the author (obviously not Paul) intends to bring him along on a proposed visit. Timothy’s name does not occur elsewhere in the early Christian lit. See Pastoral Epistles.