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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 3

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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Verse 1

2 Timothy 3:1 . ἐν ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις ἐνστήσονται : Although St. Paul had abandoned his once confident expectation that the Lord would come again during his own lifetime, it is plain that here, as in 1 Timothy 4:1 , he regards the time now present as part of the last days. See ἀποτρέπου … εἰσιν οἱ ἐνδύνοντες , 2 Timothy 3:5-6 . The prophetical form of the sentence is a rhetorical way of saying that things are going from bad to worse. The same account is to be given of 2 Peter 3:3 ; Jude 1:18 . St. John says plainly, “It is the last hour” (1 John 2:18 ). See note on 1 Timothy 4:1 .

ἐνστήσονται : will be upon us, instabunt (Vulg.).

χαλεποί : grievous (R.V.); but not necessarily perilous (A.V.) to those who feel their grievousness.

Verses 1-9

2 Timothy 3:1-9 . Evil times are upon us; we have indeed amongst us specimens of the perennial impostor, worthy successors of Jannes and Jambres. The shortlived nature of their success, will be, however, patent to all.

Verse 2

2 Timothy 3:2 . οἱ ἄνθρωποι : mankind in general, not οἱ ἄνδρες . This list of human vices should be compared with that given in Romans 1:29 sqq .; ἀλαζόνες , ὑπερήφανοι , γονεῦσιν ἀπειθεῖς , ἄστοργοι are common to both passages. φίλαυτοι appropriately heads the array, egoism or self-centredness being the root of almost every sin, just as love which “seeketh not its own” (1 Corinthians 13:5 ) is “the fulfilment of the law” (Romans 13:10 ). φιλαυτία is used favourably by Aristotle in the sense of self-respect ( Nic. Eth . ix. 8. 7). But “once the sense of sin is truly felt, self-respect becomes an inadequate basis for moral theory. So Philo ( de Prof . 15) speaks of those who are φίλαυτοι δὴ μᾶλλον ἢ φιλόθεοι ” (Dean Bernard, in loc ).

φιλάργυροι : covetousness ( πλεονεξία , Romans 1:29 ) naturally springs from, or is one form of, selfishness; but we cannot suppose with Chrys. that there is a similar sequence intended all through.

Other compounds of φιλ .- in the Pastorals, besides the five that occur here, are φιλάγαθος , Titus 1:8 , φίλανδρος , φιλότεκνος , Titus 2:4 , φιλανθρωπία , Titus 3:4 , φιλόξενος , 1 Timothy 3:2 , Titus 1:8 .

ἀλαζόνες , ὑπερήφανοι : elati, superbi . The ἀλαζών , boastful , betrays his character by his words; the ὑπερήφανος , haughty , more usually by his demeanour and expression.

βλάσφημοι : abusive, railers (R.V.); not necessarily blasphemers (A.V.).

γονεῦσιν ἀπειθεῖς and ἀχάριστοι naturally go together; since, as Bengel observes, gratitude springs from filial duty.

Verse 3

2 Timothy 3:3 . ἄστοργοι : without natural affection, sine affectione . This and the three preceding adjectives appear to have teference to domestic relations.

ἄσπονδοι : implacable, sine pace ( absque foedere , Romans 1:31 ); not truce-breakers (A.V.), which would be ἀσύνθετοι , Romans 1:31 ; the ἄσπονδος refuses to treat with his foe at all.

διάβολοι : A.V.m. here and in Titus 2:3 , has makebates . See note on 1 Timothy 3:11 .

ἀκρατεῖς : without self-control (R.V.) rather than incontinent (A.V.). The latter word has a purely sexual reference, whereas ἀκρατεῖς , as Chrys. notes, is used “with respect both to their tongue, and their appetite, and everything else”. It is naturally coupled with ἀνήμεροι , fierce, immites . “Simul et molles et duri” (Bengel).

ἀφιλάγαθοι : No lovers of good (R.V.), the good being “things true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, and of good report” (Philippians 4:8 ). The positive φιλάγαθος , Titus 1:8 , has the same reference. It is a characteristic of the heavenly Wisdom ( Wis 7:22 ). The A.V. in both places narrows the reference to persons: Despisers of those that are good; A lover of good men . The Vulg. sine benignitate, benignum , does not express the active positive force of the Greek. φιλάγαθος and ἀφιλάργυρος are applied to the Emperor Antoninus in a papyrus of ii. A.D. which also uses the term ἀφιλοκαγαθία (perh. = ἀφιλοκαλοκαγαθία ) of Marcus Aurelius (Moulton and Milligan, Expositor , vii., vi. 376).

Verse 4

2 Timothy 3:4 . προδοται : has no special reference to persecution of Christians.

τετυφωμένοι : See note on 1 Timothy 3:6 .

Verse 5

2 Timothy 3:5 . ἔχοντες (see note on 1 Timothy 1:19 ) μόρφωσιν , κ . τ . λ .: Habentes speciem quidem pietatis . We have an exact parallel in Titus 1:16 , θεὸν ὁμολογοῦσιν εἰδέναι , τοῖς δὲ ἔργοις ἀρνοῦνται . They were professing Christians, but nothing more; genuine Christians must also be professing Christians. This consideration removes any difficulty that may be felt by a comparison of this passage with Romans 2:20 , where it is implied that it is a point in the Jew’s favour that he has τὴν μόρφωσιν τῆς γνώσεως καὶ τῆς ἀληθείας ἐν τῷ νόμῳ . The μόρφωσις , embodiment, is external in both cases, but not unreal as far as it goes. The ineffectiveness of it arises from the coexistence in the mind of him who “holds” it of some other quality that neutralises the advantage naturally derivable from the possession of the μόρφωσις in question. In this case, it was that they of whom St. Paul is speaking had a purely theoretical, academic apprehension of practical Christianity ( εὐσέβεια , see 1 Timothy 2:2 ), but a positive disbelief in the Gospel as a regenerating force. Compare what St. John says of the rulers who believed on Jesus but did not confess Him (John 12:42-43 ). They too were φιλήδονοι μᾶλλον ἢ φιλόθεοι . In Romans the case is similar: the possession of an admirable moral code did not make the Jew’s moral practice better than that of the Gentile (see Sanday and Headlam on Romans 2:20 ). There is therefore no necessity to suppose with Lightfoot that “the termination - ωσις denotes the aiming after or affecting the μορφή ” ( Journal of Class. and Sacr. Philol . (1857), iii. 115).

δύναμιν : the opposition between μόρφωσις and δύναμις here is the same as that between δύναμις and σοφία in 1 Corinthians 2:5 , or λόγος , 1 Corinthians 4:19-20 , 1 Thessalonians 1:5 ; see also Hebrews 7:16 .

ἠρνημένοι : To deny a thing or a person involves always more than an act of the mind; it means carrying the negation into practice. See on 1 Timothy 5:8 .

καί : perhaps refers back to 2 Timothy 2:22-23 .

Verse 6

2 Timothy 3:6 . ἐνδύνοντες : who insinuate themselves into houses [which they overthrow], Titus 1:11 . “Observe how he shows their impudence by this expression, their dishonourable ways, their deceitfulness” (Chrys.). παρεισέδυησαν (Jude 1:4 ) and παρεισῆλθον (Galatians 2:4 ) are similar expressions.

γυναικάρια : Mulierculas . Chrys. acutely implies that the victims of the crafty heretics were “silly women” of both sexes: “He who is easy to be deceived is a silly woman, and nothing like a man; for to be deceived is the part of silly women”. St. Paul, however, refers to women only.

σεσωρευμένα ἁμαρτίαις : overwhelmed , rather than burdened ( βεβαρημένα ) (Field). Is there any contrast implied between the diminutive, indicating the insignificance of the women, and the load of sins which they carry? De Wette (quoted by Alf.), notes that a sin-laden conscience is easily tempted to seek the easiest method of relief.

ποικίλαις : There is no great difficulty in diverting them from the right path, for they are inconstant even in vice.

Verse 7

2 Timothy 3:7 . πάντοτε μανθάνοντα : They have never concentrated their attention on any spiritual truth so as to have learnt it and assimilated it. They are always being attracted by “some newer thing,” τι καινότερον (Acts 17:21 ), and thus their power of comprehension becomes atrophied.

μηδέποτε : For negatives with the participle, see Blass, Grammar , p. 255.

εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν ἀληθείας : See on 1 Timothy 2:4 .

Verse 8

2 Timothy 3:8 . The apostle now returns from the γυναικάρια to their seducers, whom he compares to the magicians who withstood Moses and Aaron, both in their hostility to the truth and in their subsequent fate. St. Paul is the earliest extant authority for the names; but of course he derived them from some source, written (Origen), or unwritten (Theodoret), it is immaterial which. But the former theory is the more probable. The book is called by Origen ( in Matt . p. 916, on Matthew 27:8 ), Jannes et Mambres liber , and is perhaps identical with Pœnitentia Jamnis et Mambrae condemned in the Decretum Gelasii . Pliny, whose Natural History appeared in A.D. 77, mentions Jannes along with Moses and Lotapis (or Jotapis) as Jewish Magi posterior to Zoroastes ( Hist. Nat . xxx. 1). He is followed by Apuleius, Apol . c. 90. Numenius (quoted by Eusebius ( Prep. Ev . ix. 8) mentions Jannes and Jambres as magicians who resisted Moses. In the Targ. of Jonathan on Ex. vii. 11, the names are given as ינים וימברים , Janis and Jamberes; but in the Talmud as יחנא וממרא , Jochana and Mamre. It is generally agreed that Jannes is a form of Jochanan (Johannes), and that Jambres is from the Hiphil of מרה to rebel. For the legends associated with these names, see art. in Hastings’ D. B .

ἀντέστησαν : The same word is used of Elymas the Sorcerer, Acts 13:8 . The οὕτως refers rather to the degree of their hostility than to the manner in which it was expressed, i.e. , by magical arts. At the same time, it is possible that magic was practised by the false teachers; they are styled impostors, γόητες , in 2 Timothy 3:13 ; and Ephesus was a home of magic. See Acts 19:19 .

κατεφθαρμένοι τὸν νοῦν : cf. 1 Timothy 6:5 , διεφθαρμ . τὸν νοῦν . This is the Pauline equivalent for the Platonic “lie in the soul”. κατεφθ . is not coordinate with ἀδόκ .; the latter is the exemplification of the former.

ἀδόκιμοι : reprobate . The A.V.m. gives the word here, and in Titus 1:16 , an active force, of no judgment, void of judgment . For περί with the acc. See on 1 Timothy 1:19 .

Verse 9

2 Timothy 3:9 . οὐ προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ πλεῖον : There is only a verbal inconsistency between this statement and those in 2 Timothy 2:16 and 2 Timothy 3:13 , where see notes. The meaning here is that there will be a limit to the success of the false teachers. They will be exposed, found out; those to whom that fact is apparent will not be imposed on any more. In 2 Timothy 2:16 , the increasing impiety of the teachers and the cancerous growth of their teaching is alleged as a reason why Timothy should avoid them. In 2 Timothy 3:13 , προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον does not indicate success in gaining adherents, but simply advance in degradation. “Saepe malitia, quum late non potest, profundius proficit” (Bengel).

ἄνοια : dementia (m 50 ) is nearer the mark than insipientia (Vulg.).

ὡς καὶ ἡ ἐκείνων ἐγένετο : “Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods” (Exodus 7:12 ); they failed to produce lice (Exodus 8:18 ). “And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boils were upon the magicians” (Exodus 9:11 ). During the plague of darkness, “they lay helpless, made the sport of magic art, and a shameful rebuke of their vaunts of understanding” ( Wis 17:7 ).

Verse 10

διδασκαλίᾳ : See note on 1 Timothy 1:10 .

ἀγωγῇ : conduct (R.V.). The A.V., manner of life has perhaps reference to guiding principles of conduct rather than to the external expression of them, which is meant here.

προθέσει : For πρόθεσις in this sense of human purpose see reff. Here it means what St. Paul had set before himself as the aim of his life. In Romans 8:28 ; Romans 9:11 , Ephesians 1:11 ; Ephesians 3:11 , 2 Timothy 1:9 the word is used of God’s eternal purpose for man.

ὑπομονῇ : See on 1 Timothy 6:11 .

Verses 10-17

2 Timothy 3:10-17 . I am not really uneasy about your steadfastness. You joined me as a disciple from spiritual and moral inducements only. The persecutions you saw me endure you knew to be typical of the conditions of a life of godliness. Stand in the old paths. Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures on which your growing mind was fed is never out of date as an equipment for the man of God.

Verse 11

2 Timothy 3:11 . Ἀντιοχείᾳ : Acts 13:14 ; Acts 13:45 ; Acts 13:50 ; Ἰκονίῳ : Acts 14:1-2 ; Acts 14:5 ; Λύστροις : Acts 14:6 ; Acts 14:19 .

οἴους διωγμούς : There is no necessity to supply, with Alf., “Thou sawest”.

καί : and yet . The verse is an echo of Psalms 33:0 (34):18, ὁ Κύριος … ἐκ πασῶν τῶν θλίψεων αὐτῶν ἐρύσατο αὐτούς . See also reff.

Verse 12

2 Timothy 3:12 . This verse is an interesting example of the effect of association of ideas. St. Paul’s teaching after his persecutions at Antioch, etc., had strongly emphasised this topic. St. Luke (Acts 14:22 ) actually repeats the very words used by the preachers, “Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God”. Consistency in the life in Christ must necessarily be always opposed by the world. θέλοντες is emphatic, as Ell. notes, “whose will is”. Cf. Luke 14:28 , John 7:17 .

εὐσεβῶς of course qualifies ζῇν , as in Titus 2:12 . There is a similar extension of thought, from self to all, in 2 Timothy 4:8 .

Verse 13

2 Timothy 3:13 . πονηροὶ δὲ : The antithesis seems to be between the apparent discomfiture of those who wish to live in Christ (their persecution being after all almost a means conditional to their attaining their desire), and the paradoxical success of evil men; they advance indeed; but only in degradation; proficient in peius (Vulg.). See notes on 2 Timothy 3:9 and 2 Timothy 2:16 .

γόητες , impostors (R.V.), seductores , exactly expresses the term. γοητεία occurs 2Ma 12:24 , where it means trickery .

πλανώμενοι : cf. Titus 3:3 . Those who deceive others impair, in so doing, their sense of the distinction between truth and falsehood, and thus weaken their power of resistance to self-deceit, and to imposition by others.

προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον : See on 2 Timothy 3:9 .

Verse 14

2 Timothy 3:14 . σὺ δὲ μένε : Both σύ and μένε are in strong contrast to the πονηροὶ ἄνθρωποι and προκόψουσιν of 2 Timothy 3:13 . The exhortation is illustrated by 2 John 1:9 , πᾶς ὁ προάγων , καὶ μὴ μένων ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ τοῦ Χριστοῦ θεὸν οὐκ ἔχει . The conservatism here enjoined concerns more especially the fundamental ethical teaching common to the Old Covenant and the New. For the idiom, see note on 1 Timothy 2:15 .

ἐν οἶς ἔμαθες καὶ ἐπιστώθης : ἃ , supplied out of ἐν οἶς , is the direct object of ἔμαθες , and remoter object of ἐπιστώθης .

ἐπιστώθης : The Latin versions blunder here, quae … credita sunt tibi . This would be the translation of ἐπιστεύθης . πιστόομαί τι means to have received confirmation of the truth of a thing . Bengel, rendering “fidelis et firmus es redditus,” compares Psalms 77:0 (78):8, οὐκ ἐπιστώθη μετὰ τοῦ θεοῦ τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτῆς , and 37, οὐδὲ ἐπιστώθησαν ἐν τῇ διαθήκῃ αὐτοῦ .

εἰδὼς παρὰ τίνων ἔμαθες : It has to be remembered that St. Paul is speaking of moral, not intellectual, authority. The truths for which St. Paul is contending were commended to Timothy by the sanction of the best and noblest personalities whom he had ever known or heard of. The characters of Timothy’s revered parent and teachers of Eunice, Lois, the prophets, and Paul, to enumerate them in the order in which they had touched his life had been moulded in a certain school of morals. Their characters had admittedly stood the test of life. What more cogent argument could Timothy have for the truth and reasonableness of their moral teaching?

Verse 15

2 Timothy 3:15 . καὶ ὅτι : dependent on εἰδώς . For the change of construction, von Soden compares Romans 9:22-23 ; 1 Corinthians 14:5 . Timothy’s knowledge of things divine was derived not merely from persons, but from sacred writings; and, perhaps, as Theophylact notes, the two points are emphasised: ( a ) that the persons were of no ordinary merit, and ( b ) that his knowledge of Scripture was conterminous with the whole of his conscious existence. He could not recall a period when he had not known sacred writings. This is the force of the hyperbolic ἀπὸ βρέφους .

ἱερὰ γράμματα : sacras litteras, sacred writings (R.V.). For this use of γράμματα see John 7:15 , and Moulton and Milligan, Expositor , vii., vi. 383. The force of this peculiar phrase is that Timothy’s A B C lessons had been of a sacred nature. The usual N.T. equivalent for the Holy Scriptures (A.V.) is αἱ γραφαί or ἡ γραφή (once γραφαὶ ἅγιαι , Romans 1:2 ); but St. Paul here deliberately uses an ambiguous term in order to express vigorously the notion that Timothy’s first lessons were in Holy Scripture. τὰ ἱερὰ γράμματα is found in Josephus, Antiq . Prooem 3 and x. 10, 4, and elsewhere. Cf. παραναγνοὺς τὴν ἱερὰν βίβλον ( 2Ma 8:23 ). There may be also an allusion to γράμματα of the false teachers which were not ἱερά . See on next verse.

σοφίσαι ; instruere, cf . Psalms 18:0 (19):8, ἡ μαρτυρία Κυρίου πιστή , σοφίζουσα νήπια . Also Psalms 104:0 (105):22, 118 (119):98. The word is chosen for its O.T. reference, and also because of its strictly educational association.

εἰς σωτηρίαν : a constant Pauline phrase. See reff.

διὰ πίστεως : to be joined closely with σοφίσαι . Cf. de Imitatione Christi , iii. 2, “Let not Moses nor any prophet speak to me; but speak thou rather, O Lord God, who art the inspirer and enlightener of all the prophets; for thou alone without them canst perfectly instruct me, but they without thee will avail nothing. They may indeed sound forth words, but they do not add to them the Spirit.… They shew the way, but thou givest strength to walk in it,” etc.

Verse 16

2 Timothy 3:16 . In the absence of any extant Greek MS. authority for the omission of καί before ὠφέλιμος , we may assume that the early writers who ignored it did so from carelessness. The sentence then is best taken as a repetition and expansion of that which has just preceded; θεόπνευστος corresponding to ἱερά , and ὠφέλιμος , κ . τ . λ ., to σοφίσαι , κ . τ . λ .: Every writing which is inspired by God is also profitable . γραφή of course has exclusive reference to the definite collection of writings which St. Paul usually designates as ἡ γραφή or αἱ γραφαί ; but it is used here in a partitive, not in a collective sense. A parallel case is John 19:36-37 , ἡ γραφή … ἑτέρα γραφή . Hence the rendering writing or passage is less free from ambiguity than scripture (R.V.). The nearest parallel to this ascensive use of καί , as Ellicott terms it, is Galatians 4:7 , εἰ δὲ νἱός , καὶ κληρονόμος . See also Luke 1:36 , Acts 26:26 ; Acts 28:28 , Romans 8:29 .

θεόπνευστος : If there is any polemical force in this adj., it is in reference to heretical writings, the contents of which were merely intellectual, not edifying. In any case, the greatest stress is laid on ὠφέλιμος . St. Paul would imply that the best test of a γραφή being θεόπνενστος would be its proved serviceableness for the moral and spiritual needs of man. See Romans 15:4 , 2 Peter 1:20-21 . This, the R.V. explanation of the passage, is that given by Origen, Chrys., Thdrt., syrr., the Clementine Vulg., Omnis scriptura divinitus inspirata utilis est ad docendum etc . [The true Vulg. text, however, is insp. div. et utilis ad doc .] The other view (A.V., R.V.m.), which takes καὶ as a simple copula, Every Scripture is inspired and profitable , is open to the objection that neither in the antecedent nor in the following context is there any suggestion that the inspiration of Scripture was being called in question; the theme of the passage being the moral equipment of the man of God. For this view are cited Greg. Naz., Ath. It is to be added that it is possible to render πᾶσα γραφή , the whole of Scripture , on the analogy of Matthew 2:3 , πᾶσα Ἰερόσολυμα (Ephesians 2:21 cannot be safely adduced as a case in point); but it is unnecessary and unnatural.

διδασκαλίαν (see notes on 1 Timothy 1:10 ) and ἐλεγμόν represent respectively positive and negative teaching. Similarly ἐπανόρθωσιν and παιδείαν have relation respectively to “the raising up of them that fall,” and the disciplining the unruly; ad corrigendum, ad erudiendum (Vulg.).

τὴν ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ : a παιδεία which is exercised in righteousness . Compare the dissertation on the παιδεία Κυρίου , Hebrews 12:5 sqq . παιδεία in reff. is used in relation to children only.

Verse 17

2 Timothy 3:17 . ἄρτιος : perfectus, completely equipped for his work as a Man of God. τέλειος would have reference to his performance of it.

ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ ἄνθρωπος : See on 1 Timothy 6:11 . The Man of God has here a primary reference to the minister of the Gospel.

πρὸς πᾶν , κ . τ . λ .: see 2 Timothy 2:21 ; and, for this use of πρός , 1 Peter 3:15 , 2 Corinthians 2:16 ; 2 Corinthians 10:4 , Ephesians 4:29 , Hebrews 5:14 and on ἐξαρτίζω , Moulton and Milligan, Expositor , vii., vii. 285.

Cf. the use of καταρτίζω , Luke 6:40 , 2 Corinthians 13:11 , Hebrews 13:21 , 1 Peter 5:10 .

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/2-timothy-3.html. 1897-1910.
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