Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 10th, 2023
the Second Week of Advent
StudyLight.org has pledged to help build churches in Uganda. Help us with that pledge and support pastors in the heart of Africa.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

- 2 Timothy

by Adam Clarke

In the preface to the first of these epistles, particular mention has been made of the parentage, country, and education of Timothy; his call to the evangelic office; and of his appointment to the presidency of the Church at Ephesus. And for every particular of this kind the reader is referred to that preface. What remains to be done in reference to the present epistle is to inquire into the time in which it was most probably written. The disagreement on this question among learned men is very great; some arguing that it was written about the year 61, others referring it to the year 66. Some asserting that it is the first, in order of time, of these two epistles; and that it was written on Paul's first imprisonment at Rome. Several of the most eminent critics are of this opinion; and they have supported their sentiments with arguments of no small weight. Hammond, Lightfoot, and Lardner, as well as several critics on the continent, contend for this earlier date. Macknight and Paley take the opposite side. Were I convinced that the weight of the argument lay with the former, I should have fixed its chronology accordingly; but the latter appearing to me to have the more direct and the most weighty evidence in their favor, I am led, from the reasons which they give, to adopt their opinion.

Dr. Paley observes, that it was the uniform tradition of the primitive Church that St. Paul visited Rome twice, and twice there suffered imprisonment; and that at the conclusion of his second imprisonment he was put to death; and he thinks that the opinion concerning these two journeys of St. Paul is confirmed by many hints and allusions in this epistle, compared with what St. Paul has said in other epistles, which are allowed to have been written from Rome. I shall give his principal reasons: -

"That this epistle was written while Paul was a prisoner is distinctly marked by the 8th verse of the first chapter: 'Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner.' And that it was written whilst he was prisoner at Rome is proved by the 16th and 17th verses of the same chapter: (2 Timothy 1:16, 2 Timothy 1:17) 'The Lord give mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me.' Since it appears from the former quotation that St. Paul wrote this epistle in confinement, it will hardly admit of doubt that the word chain in the latter quotation refers to that confinement - the chain by which he was then bound, the custody in which he was then kept. And if the word chain designate the author's confinement at the time of writing this epistle, the next words determine it to have been written from Rome: 'He was not ashamed of my chain, but when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently.'" Dr. Macknight thinks that Paul was now a close prisoner, very different in his circumstances from his first imprisonment, in which he was permitted to dwell alone in his own hired house, and receive all that came to him, and publicly to preach the Gospel, being guarded only by a single soldier. That he was in close confinement he argues from the circumstance that when Onesiphorus came to Rome he found that Paul was no longer that well-known public character which he had been while in his first imprisonment, but being closely confined he had some difficulty to find him out; and this appears to be fully implied in the apostle's words: Σπουδαιοτερον εζητησε με, και εὑρε. "He very diligently sought me out, and found me;" 2 Timothy 1:17 And, that crimes were now laid to his charge widely different from those formerly alleged against him, appears from 2 Timothy 2:9 : Κακοπαθω μεχρι δεσμων, ὡς κακουργος· "I suffer evil even to bonds as a malefactor;" plainly implying that he was not only abridged of all liberty, but was bound hands and feet in a close dungeon. And this was probably on the pretense that he was one of those Christians whom Nero accused with having set Rome on fire. Hence the word malefactor, κακουργος, which may mean here that the apostle was treated as the worst of criminals.

That this epistle was not written during St. Paul's first imprisonment at Rome, or during the time in which the Epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon were written, may be gathered, says Dr. Paley, with considerable evidence from a comparison of these several epistles with the present.

I. "In the former epistles the author confidently looked forward to his liberation from confinement, and his speedy departure from Rome. He tells the Philippians, Philippians 2:24 : 'I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly.' Philemon he bids to prepare for him a lodging; 'for I trust (says he) that through your prayers I shall be given unto you;' Philemon 1:22. In the epistle before us he holds a language extremely different. 'I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day;' 2 Timothy 4:6-8."

Those who espouse the contrary opinion suppose that these words only express the strong apprehensions and despair of life which the apostle had when he was first imprisoned; but that afterwards, finding he was treated with kindness, he altered his language, and so strongly anticipated that he predicted his enlargement. This reflects little honor upon the apostle's character; it shows him to be a person subject to alarms, and presaging the worst from every gloomy appearance. The whole of St. Paul's conduct shows him to have been the reverse of what this opinion represents him.

II. "When the former epistles were written from Rome, Timothy was with St. Paul, and is joined with him in writing to the Colossians, the Philippians, and Philemon; the present epistle implies that he was absent.

III. "In the former epistles Demas was with St. Paul at Rome: 'Luke the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.' In the epistle now before us: 'Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is gone to Thessalonica.'

IV. "So the former epistles Mark was with St. Paul, and joins in saluting the Colossians. In the present epistle Timothy is ordered to bring him with him, 'for he is profitable to me for the ministry;' 2 Timothy 4:11."

The circumstance of Demas being with St. Paul while he wrote the former epistles, which was certainly during his first imprisonment, and of his having forsaken him when he wrote this, is a strong proof of the posterior date of this epistle; nor can the feelings of the apostle, so contradictorily expressed in this and the preceding epistles, be ever cleared (on the supposition of their relating to the same time and circumstances) from weakness and contradiction.

Lewis Capellus has suggested the following considerations, which are still more conclusive: -

1. "In 2 Timothy 4:20, St. Paul informs Timothy that Erastus abode at Corinth, Εραστος εμεινεν εν Κορινθῳ· the form of expression (the verb being in the first aorist) implies that Erastus had stayed behind at Corinth when St. Paul left it: but this could not be meant of any journey from Corinth which St. Paul took prior to his first imprisonment at Rome; for when Paul departed from Corinth, as related in the 20th chapter of the Acts, Timothy was with him; and this was the last time the apostle left Corinth before his coming to Rome, because he left it on his way to proceed to Jerusalem soon after his arrival, at which place he was taken into custody, and continued in that custody till he was brought to Caesar's tribunal.

There could be no need, therefore, to inform Timothy that Erastus stayed behind at Corinth, upon this occasion; because, if the fact were so, it must have been known to Timothy, who was present as well as St. Paul.

2. "In the same verse our epistle also states the following article: 'Trophimus have I left at Miletus sick.' When St. Paul passed through Miletus, on his way to Jerusalem, as related Acts 20:0, Trophimus was not left behind, but accompanied him to that city. He was indeed the occasion of the uproar at Jerusalem, in consequence of which St. Paul was apprehended: 'For they had seen,' says the historian, 'before with him in the city, Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.' This was evidently the last time of Paul's being at Miletus before his first imprisonment; for, as has been said, after his apprehension at Jerusalem he remained in custody till he was sent to Rome.

"In these two articles we have a journey referred to, which must have taken place subsequent to the conclusion of St. Luke's history; and, of course, after St. Paul's liberation from his first imprisonment. The epistle, therefore, which contains this reference, since it appears from other parts of it to have been written while St. Paul was a prisoner at Rome, proves that he had returned to that city again, and undergone there a second imprisonment.

"These particulars," adds Dr. Paley, "I have produced, not merely for the support they lend to the testimony of the fathers concerning St. Paul's second imprisonment, but to remark their consistency and agreement with one another. They are all resolvable into one supposition, viz., that this epistle was not written during St. Paul's first residence at Rome, but in some future imprisonment in that city. The epistle touches upon names and circumstances connected with the date and with the history of the first imprisonment, and mentioned in letters during that imprisonment; and so touches upon them as to leave what is said of one consistent with what is said of others, and consistent also with what is said of them in different epistles."

From the whole, there seems the fullest evidence,

1. That this epistle was not written during St. Paul's first imprisonment at Rome.

2. That he was at Rome when he wrote this epistle.

3. That he was there a prisoner, and in such confinement as we know, from the Acts of the Apostles, he was not in during the time of his first imprisonment there.

4. That this must have been some subsequent imprisonment.

5. That as the general consent of all Christian antiquity states that St. Paul was twice imprisoned at Rome, and that from his second imprisonment he was never liberated, but was at its conclusion martyred; therefore this epistle must have been written while St. Paul was in his second imprisonment at Rome, and but a short time before his martyrdom.

And as the Christian Church has generally agreed that this apostle's martyrdom took place on the 29th of June, a.d. 66, the Second Epistle to Timothy might have been written sometime towards the end of the spring or beginning of summer of that year. It is supposed that St. Paul went from Crete to Rome, about the end of the year 65, on hearing of the persecution which Nero was then carrying on against the Christians, on pretense that they had set Rome on fire: for, as he knew that the Church must be then in great tribulation, he judged that his presence would be necessary to comfort, support, and build it up. Like a true soldier of Jesus Christ, he was ever at the post of danger; and in this case he led on the forlorn hope.

Other matters relative to the state and circumstances of the apostle, and those of Timothy; and the Church at Ephesus, will be carefully brought before the reader in the course of the notes on this epistle.

adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile