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1 Timothy 4

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Verses 1-99

4:1-5. Warning against false teaching.

Paraphrase. Yet, though each church has to uphold the truth, and though it knows the secret of the true human life, inspired prophets have given us clear warning that, in after days, some Christians will fall away from the true faith: they will pay heed to evil misleading spirits, to doctrines inspired by heathen deities, embodied in the false teaching of insincere men—men whose own conscience bears the brand of sin upon it, men who teach others that it is a duty not to marry, and a duty to abstain from certain kinds of food. Yet it was God who created those foods, and created them that those who have accepted Christ and come to know His full teaching might enjoy them with thankfulness. For every created thing has the Creator’s stamp of excellence upon it, and there is none that need be cast aside, if only it is accepted with a grateful heart, for then it becomes consecrated by the Divine blessing and our responsive prayer. Cf. Matthew 24:11, Acts 20:29, Acts 20:30, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Titus 1:14-16, and notice how in the address to the elders at Ephesus the warning against “grievous wolves” follows directly on the duty of feeding the flock and on the mention of “the Church of God.”

The false teaching referred to. The prohibition of marriage and of certain foods finds an exact analogy in the Gnosticism of the 2nd century; cf. Iren. Hœr. i. 28, of the Encratites,�ib. 24.2, “nubere et generare a Satana dicunt esse. Multi autem … et ab animalibus abstinent, per fictam hujusmodi continentiam seducentes multos” (both of which passages seem reminiscent of this place). Cf. the Acts of Paul and Thekla, c. 12. If the Epistle is not genuine, this is doubtless the reference. But there is no allusion here to the Gnostic central doctrine of an inferior Demiurge (cf. 3 note), and there is nothing that goes beyond the teaching already denounced in Rom_14, Colossians 2:16-23, Hebrews 13:4, Hebrews 13:9. We may therefore trace it possibly to a Judaism of the dispersion influenced by Essenism (Ἐσσαίων οὐδεὶς ἄγεται γυναῖκα, Philo, p. 633; Josephus, B.J. ii. 8; cf. Ep. Diogn. c. 4), or perhaps more probably (cf. δαιμονίων) to Oriental tendencies which developed into Gnosticism. In such a syncretistic city as Ephesus there is no need to assume only one set of false teaching.

On the other hand, the allusions are too definite for it to be merely “an apologetic vade-mecum for all anti-Gnostic controversy” (Dibelius).

1. δέ] With slight antithesis to 3:15 and the substance of 3:16.

τὸ πνεῦμα] The Spirit of the Lord speaking through some prophet, possibly the writer himself, “sibi, ” Ambros.; cf. Acts 20:29, but vide next note.

ῥητῶς] “clearly,” “unmistakably,” or more probably “in express terms,” implying that he is quoting a prophecy (cf. Justin Martyr, Apol. i. 63). If so, the utterance of the Spirit will not have been made to the writer himself, but he is quoting that of some other Christian prophet. The person is ignored: the fact of his inspiration emphasized; cf. Charles, Revelation, 1. p. cix.

ἐν ὑστέροις καιροῖς] “In later days,” “at some later crisis” (the plural not being pressed; cf. καιροῖς ἰδίοις, Titus 1:2 note); cf. ὑστέρῳ χρόνῳ, Plato: ἐν ὑστέροις χρόνοις, Plut. ap. Wetstein; Acta Carpi, 5, Χριστὸν . . . τὸν ἐλθόντα ἐν ὑστέροις καιροῖς ἐπὶ σωτηρίᾳ ἡμῶν. The writer contemplates that this is a present danger, cf. 6-11: hence we may paraphrase, “there is a past prophecy about a later crisis, which is now being fulfilled”; cf. 1 John 4:1-3.

πνεύμασι πλάνοις κ.τ.λ.] Cf. Matthew 24:15, 1 John 4:6, Revelation 16:14 πνεύματα δαιμονίων ποιοῦντα σημεῖα, hence probably from some heathen source; cf. 1 Corinthians 10:20, 1 Corinthians 10:21, James 3:15 σοφία δαιμονιώδης.

ἐν ὑποκρίσει] Insincere, because their own lives are inconsistent; cf. Matthew 23:4, Romans 2:17-23.

The clause is connected closely with διδασκαλίαις, teaching embodied in insincere utterances of lying teachers.

κεκαυτηριασμένων.] Not “rendered callous as by medical treatment,” cf. Ephesians 4:19, but rather “branded with the brand of slavery to their true master Satan,” cf. 2 Timothy 2:26, and contrast Galatians 6:17 τὰ στίγματα τοῦ Ἰησοῦ. Claudian in Rufin. ii.504, “en ! pectus inustæ Deformant maculæ,” and other illustrations of the metaphor in Wetstein here and on Gal. l.c.

3. κωλύοντων γαμεῖν,�] Forbidding to marry, bidding to abstain; cf. 2:12. Hort unnecessarily conjectures καὶ γεύεσθαι or ἢ ἄπτεσθαι, W.-H. note ad loc.

, i.e. probably βρώματα only: it might include marriage also; cf. Apost. Canon 51, εἴ τις ἐπίσκοπος ἤ πρεσβύτερος γάμου καὶ κρεῶν καὶ οἴνου οὐ διʼ ἄσκησιν�

τοῖς πίστοις.] those who have accepted the gospel—so not for the Jews on whom the Levitical law was still binding: καὶ ἐπεγν τὴν�1 Corinthians 8:7, Rom_14, esp. v. 14 οἶδα καὶ πέπεισμαι ἐν Χριστῶ Ἰησοῦ ὄτι οὐδὲν κοινόν, and 23.

4. πᾶν κτ. θ. καλόν] A reminiscence of the sevenfold refrain of Gen_1, ἴδεν ὁ θεὸς ὅτι καλόν. Cf. also Ecclus 39:16, 24, 27 τᾶυτα πάντα τοῖς εὐσεβέσιν εἰς�

οὐδέν� had become almost a proverb based on Il. iii. 65, οὔτοι�Ot. Norvic. ad loc., and Wetstein). Both Holy Scripture and Greek proverbial wisdom condemn these teachers.

λαμβάνομενον] If taken as a gift—not treated as a right—and with gratitude. The divine word is constantly λάβετε, φάγετε (Matthew 26:26).

ἁγιάζεται] It becomes holy to the eater; not that it was unclean in itself, but that his scruples or thanklessness might make it so to him. Possibly there is the further thought, it is protected from the power of evil spirits (δαιμόνια) cf. Lake, Earlier Epp. of St. Paul, p. 195.

διὰ λόγου θεοῦ] possibly “by the Word of God” in the Johannine sense, cf. Justin M. Apol. i. 66, διὰ λόγου θεοῦ σαρκοποιηθεὶς Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, and cf. J. Th. St., April 1923, p. 310: but more probably, as this technical sense seems foreign to our writer, “through God’s utterance,” “with God’s blessing upon it,” referring directly to Gen_1. “God said,” perhaps more exactly to the word implied in πᾶν κτίσμα θεοῦ καλόν. But this word is thought of as taken up in some word of Scripture used from meal to meal (ἁγυάζεται, not ἡγίασται) as grace: e.g. Psalms 24:1 τοῦ κυρίου ἡ γῆ καὶ τὸ πλήρωμα αὐτῆς, which St. Paul quotes as sanctioning the eating of all food sold in the market (1 Corinthians 10:26), cf. Justin Martyr (ubi supra), τὴν διʼ εὐχῆς λόγου τοῦ παρʼ αὐτοῦ εὐχαριστηθεῖσαν τροφην. Cf. Sinker, Essays and Studies, p. 115; and for the influence of Jewish forms of grace upon the blessing of the bread and wine and other offerings in the Eucharist, von der Goltz, Tischgebete und Abendmahlsgebete. T. und U., N. F;. xiv., who quotes Athanasius, περὶ παρθενίας: c. 13, τὸ βρῶμά σου καὶ τὸ πόμα σου ἡγιασμένον ἐστί· διὰ γὰρ τῶν προσευχῶν καὶ τῶν ἁγίων ῥημάτων ἁγιάζεται: cf. Irenæus, Hœr. v. 2, ἐπιδέχεται τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ γίνεται ἡ εὐχαριστία σῶμα Χριστοῦ.

4:6-6:2. Personal advice to Timothy, as to (a) his teaching and life as the chief officer of the Church (4:6-16); (b) his conduct to various classes of the members of the Church (5:1-6:2).

6-16. Timothy’s own teaching and life (ἔπεχε σεαυτῷ καὶ τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ 16 sums up the paragraph, but the two parts are not kept distinct).

Paraphrase. Put these foundation truths before the brethren, and you will be a true servant of Christ Jesus, keeping your own soul trained by the precepts of the faith and of the true teaching which you have accepted and taught so faithfully until now. But as for those irreligious and old wives’ fables which are so prevalent at Ephesus, have nothing to do with them at all.

Yet there is a training which you will need, and now you must be your own trainer, the training which helps towards a holy life. The bodily training of the athlete has some little value, but a holy life is valuable in every respect:

“To it God’s promise standeth sure

Of life that ever shall endure.”

That saying is quite true and worthy of whole-hearted acceptance: for it is to win life that we spend our days in toil and take part in the spiritual contest, for our hopes have been set on a God of Life, on one who is a Saviour of all men, but, in the deepest sense, of those who put faith in Him. Hand on these truths from me and enforce them in your own teaching.

So teach and so live that no one shall slight you for your youth; nay, rather show yourself a model of what believers should be both in speech and in your dealings with others— loving, trustworthy, pure. Until I can reach you, do you superintend the reading of the Scriptures, the sermons and the instructions given at the meetings. Do not neglect the divine gift which is in you, remembering that it was a gift from God, given after the guidance of prophets, and confirmed by the whole body of presbyters when they laid their hands on your head. Think carefully of these duties; throw yourself heart and soul into them, that everyone may note your constant growth. Keep careful watch over your own life and the teaching that you give persevere in all these tasks. So will you work out your own salvation and that of those who hear you.

The keynotes of the paragraph are: (i) Doctrinal. γυμνασία, εὐσέβεια, σωτηρία (10, 16), ζωή. A true self-discipline, ministering to holiness of life, and so laying hold of the salvation which God offers to all, and which is true life. (ii) Personal. Timothy’s growth. ἐντρεφόμενος, μύθους παραιτοῦ (see note), γύμναζε σεαυτόν, νεότητος προκοπή. You have passed from childhood to manhood, when you can so act that no one will slight you; but there must still be growth, still constant self-discipline.

6. ὑποτιθέμενος] either, “suggesting,” a gentle word suited to Timothy’s youth (οὐκ εἶπεν ἐπιτάττων, οὐκ εἶπε παραγγέλλων�de vita Mos. ii. 8, ἐν ταῖς ἢ κελεύει) or “supplying,” as a foundation for their faith, the metaphor of building (3:15) being still in his mind; cf. Jude 1:20.

τοῖς�] The metaphor of the family is still in his mind; Cf 3:15 and 5:1.

ἐντρεφόμενος] Possibly the metaphor is that of feeding; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:2, Hebrews 5:12-14, and Epict. iv. 4, 48, τούτοις τοῖς διαλογισμοῖς ἐντρεφόμενος M.M. s.v., “reading and inwardly digesting”; but more probably “training yourself in”: cf. Eur. Phœn. 368, γυμνάσιά θʼ οἷσιν ἐνεράφην, with γύμναζε σεαυτόν 7 (so Hillard). Chrys. adds καθʼ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν to emphasize the present tense.

τῆς π.] recalling 4:3 τοῖς πιστοῖς.

τῆς καλῆς διδ.] recalling 4:3 ἐπεγν. τὴν�

παρηκολούθηκας] cf. a 2 Timothy 3:9, combines the ideas of “understanding,” as frequently in Epictetus, with that of “practising perseveringly.”

7. τοὺς δὲ . . . μύθους] The myths which the false teachers are propagating, cf. 1:4 note; not necessarily to be identified with the teaching in 1-5 supra.

βεβήλους] “ineptas,” Vulg.; “profanas,” O.L., Ambros.; contributing nothing to εὐσεβεία.

γραώδεις] such as old women tell to children (Plato, Rep. i. 350 E, ὥσπερ ταῖς γραῦσι ταῖς τοὺς μύθους λεγούσαις), quite unfit for strong young men who have to be trained to discipline themselves (ib. ii. 377 A, πρότερον δὲ μύθοις πρὸς τὰ παιδία ἤ γυμνασίοις χρώμεθα).

γύμναζε] but you are full-grown, you have to be even your own trainer—perhaps with the thought “in my absence” (so Bengel) implied. Your training must be of your whole self, body and soul, not for health or a crown in the games, but for living a religious life. Dibelius quotes Isocr. ad Nicoclem, 10, οὐδένι τῶν�ad Demonicum, 21, γύμναζε σεαυτὸν πόνοις ἑκουσίοις, ὅπως ἂν δύνῃ καὶ τοὺς�2 Timothy 3:12. For further very interesting illustrations see Wetstein.

8. ἡ σωμ. γυμν] “corporalis exercitatio,” Vulg. The reference is to either: (i) ascetic discipline, the thought of 3 being still in his mind: you, too, will need discipline of the body, but it must be from a right motive, and only as a means to an end, for in itself it goes a very little way. On this interpretation the best comment is Colossians 2:20-23; or (ii) athletic discipline: an illustration from the ordinary training in the gymnasium; and the best comment 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. This is the more probable, as the subject of 3 seems to have been dropped at 5, and it is supported by�

πρὸς ὀλίγον] e.g. πρὸς φθαρτὸν στέφανον (1 Corinthians 9:25) πρὸς ὑγιείαν (Lucian, Macrob. 6, οἱ γυμνασίοις . . . πρὸς ὑγιείαν χρώμενοι).

ἐπαγγ. ἔχουσα κ.τ.λ.] cf. Titus 1:2 εὐσεβείαν . . . ζωῆς . . . ἐπηγγείλατο; James 1:12, 1 John 2:25, Revelation 2:10. The saying may have been based on the Lord’s own words, Luke 18:30 ὃς οὐ μὴ�Luke 12:15 for the thought, but it has earlier Jewish analogies; cf. Pirke Aboth iv. 2. “Who is rich? He that is contented with his lot: for it is said, Happy art thou in this world, and it shall be well with thee in the world to come.” True life lies in contentment (6:6), in the glad acceptance of our lot, in gratitude for God’s common blessings, in the sense that all things are ours through union with Christ, 1 Corinthians 3:22; cf. Chrys. ad loc., or Traherne’s Meditations.

9. πιστὸς ὁ λόγος] probably the preceding verse, which is more stereotyped in form and wider in application than the Christian experience which supports it (γάρ).

πάσης] cf. 1:15 note: here perhaps anticipating σωτὴρ πάντων 10 as πιστός leads up to πιστῶν. Those who have faith have found this saying trustworthy, and it is worth all men’s while to accept it.

10. εἰς τοῦτο.] Cf. 1 Corinthians 9:25-27. θεῷ ζῶντι: living, and therefore able to give life now and hereafter; cf. 3:15 note.

σωτὴρ. (“salvator,” Vulg.; “salutaris,” Ambros.) πάντων�Acts 17:28) and protection from danger (Chrys. Bengel, “servat omnes”), but, much more deeply, as giving them the instincts that feel after Him (Acts 17:27), and as longing for their full spiritual salvation (2:4).

μάλιστα πιστῶν] as completing their salvation, giving grace in response to their faith and in proportion to every need, and life to meet a daily dying; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:31, 2 Corinthians 4:10-15. The difference of treatment lies not with God, but with men themselves. He is always Father and Saviour; but they who trust Him as such and accept the revelation through His Son, know that He is such and gain a fuller life. Cf. Plut. Alex. p. 683 A, ὡς πάντων μὲν ὄντα κοινὸν�Galatians 6:10, Philippians 4:5.

ἀγωνιζόμεθα] cf. 6:12, 1 Corinthians 9:25, 2 Timothy 4:7. For the reading cf. Introd. p. xxxvii.

ὀνειδιζόμεθα] Cf. Romans 15:3, Romans 15:1 P 4:14, Hebrews 10:33, Hebrews 10:13:13; but the thought of persecution and reproach is not found in this Epistle, nor is it very appropriate to this context.

11. παράγγελλε] “ut fiant, δίδασκε quomodo fiant,” Pelagius. παραγγέλλειν does not occur in Titus, and is perhaps more suitable to Timothy’s age—“hand on my message.” Contrast Titus 2:15 (Ramsay, Expositor, 1910, p. 331).

12. μηδεὶς . . . καταφρονείτω] contrast Titus 2:15. It is perhaps a side hint to the Church, who would hear the Epistle read (6:21, cf. 1 Corinthians 16:11, and Ign. Magnes. c. 3, ὑμῖν δὲ πρέπει μὴ συγχρᾶσθαι τῇ ἡλικίᾳ τοῦ ἐπισκόπου), but mainly advice to Timothy, so to act that none may be able to despise him. Cf. 2 Timothy 2:22.

νεότητος] used of grown-up military age, extending to the 40th year; cf. Iren. c. Hær. ii. 22, “triginta annorum ætas prima indolis est juvenis et extenditur usque ad quadragesimum annum.” For fuller illustration cf. Ramsay in Expositor, 1910, p. 327, and Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, i. p. 110.

τύπος . . . τῶν πιστῶν] not so much “a model for the faithful to follow” (τοῖς πιστοῖς, cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:7, 2 Thessalonians 3:9, but also τύποι τοῦ ποιμνίου, 1 Peter 5:3) as “a model of what the faithful are” (cf. Titus 2:7 τύπον καλῶν ἔργων), which will make its appeal to all men (cf. 10, 15) and attract them to complete salvation (cf. 2:3-8).

ἐν λόγῳ, ἐν�] “in conversation” (preaching is dealt with in the next verse), “and all intercourse with others”; cf. 3:15, 1 Peter 3:1, 1 Peter 3:2. These give the sphere, the next three the qualities in which he is to be a model.

ἐν πίστει] Possibly “faith,” but more probably, owing to the context, “fidelity,” “trustworthiness.” Cf. Galatians 5:22 and the combination�Pap. Oxyr. i. 41, 29 (M.M. s.v.

ἐν ἁγνείᾳ] purity of act and thought. The transition from ritual to moral purity had already been made by the Greeks; cf. the Inscription on the temple at Epidaurus:

ἁγνὸν χρὴ νηοῖο θυώδεος ἐντὸς ἰόντα

ἔμμεναι. ἁγνείη δʼ ἐστὶ φρονεῖν ὅσια.

Clem. Alex. Strom. v. 1. 13.

Cf. the account of the early Christians given to Pliny, Ep. x. 97, “soliti essent … se sacramento obstringere ne furta, ne latrocinia (=�

13. τῇ�] i.e. the public reading (cf. ταῖς προσεύχαις, 5:5, Acts 2:42), as in the Jewish synagogues (cf. Charles on Revelation 1:3). This would, with the O.T., include Apostolic letters (1 Thessalonians 5:27, Ephesians 3:4, Colossians 4:16, Euseb. H.E. 4. 23), apocalypses (Mark 13:14, Revelation 1:3; cf. Tert. Apol. 39, “cogimur ad litterarum divinarum commemorationem si quid præsentium temporum qualitas aut praemonere cogit aut recognoscere”), the memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the prophets (Justin M. Apol. i. 67).

πρόσεχε] This will include his own reading (cf. Titus 1:9) and that of any official to whom it was deputed. It will imply—

(a) A wise choice of the passages to be read: cf. Apost. Const. ii. 5 (infra).

(b) Audible reading: cf. Apost. Canons, 19,�

(c) A power of correct exposition: cf. ib.Apost. Const. ii. 5 of the bishop: πολὺς ἐν�

Such supervision will necessarily imply previous private study; cf. Apost. Const. i. 5, καθεζόμενος ἔνδον�Canons, 27, “Sol conspiciat matutino tempore scripturam super genua tua.” Cf. 2 Timothy 3:15.

For an interesting analogy, cf. Pap. Oxyr. iii. 531, from a father to his son, τοῖς βιβλίοις σου αὐτὸ μόνον πρόσεχε φιλολογῶν καὶ�

τῇ παρακλ. τῇ διδασκ] cf. Romans 12:7 and Titus 2:1-14, which shows that the teaching will include moral and doctrinal instruction.

14. χαρίσματος] an individual capacity with external recognition. The gift of authority by the Society strengthens the individual’s power and confidence: cf. 3:13. Here the gift combines the capacity to preach himself and the authority to control others.

ἐδόθη] cf. 1 Corinthians 12:7 ff., 2 Corinthians 12:7.

διὰ προφητείας] Possibly “through” the gift of prophecy given to Timothy himself, which carried with it the lesser χάρισμα (Pelag. Ambros.); but Timothy is never elsewhere treated as a prophet, hence, almost certainly, through the utterance of some prophet or prophets; cf. 1:18.

μετʼ ἐπιθεσέως κ.τ.λ.] This may well have been combined with the laying on of the Apostle’s hands, 2 Timothy 1:6; but here stress is laid on the action of the presbyters, because Timothy has to exercise discipline over them (13 5:17-25). They have themselves recognized your authority.

When and where was this gift given? Either at Lystra on the first choice of Timothy as minister (so Hort, Christian Ecclesia, p. 187, and, more doubtfully, Ramsay, Expositor, 1910, p. 325), or at Ephesus when left there by St. Paul. The latter suits this context better.

To what office? The laying on of the hands of the presbyters would, if later usage is a guide, point to the presbyterate cf. The Egyptian Ch. O. (Connolly, pp. 178, 179); but it might be to an “overseership,” a presbyter being associated sometimes with the bishops in the ordination of a bishop: cf. Wordsworth, Ministry of Grace, p. 167. For the very doubtful tradition that at Alexandria presbyters alone consecrated a bishop, vid. C. H. Turner, in Cambridge Mediæval History, i. pp. 155-61.

15. μελέτα] either “meditate upon” (A.V.); cf. Seneca, Ep. 16, “hoc quod liquet firmandum et altius cotidiana meditatione figendum est” (Wetstein), and Darwin’s advice to G. J. Romanes— “Always cultivate the habit of meditation.”

Or, “practice”; cf. μελετᾶν τέχνην. Make this your “profession,” cf. 5:13 μανθάνουσιν: and for the whole verse, Epict. i. 1. 25, ταῦτα ἔδει μελετᾶν τοὺς φιλοσοφοῦντας, ταῦτα καθʼ ἡμέραν γράφειν, ἐν τούτοις γυμνάζεσθαι (Field, Ot. Norvic. ad loc.).

ἐν τούτοις ἴσθι] an unusual phrase, picking up the duties and qualities enumerated above 12 ἐν, ἐν, ἐν, ἐν, ἐν. Cf. Hor. Eph_1Eph_1. i. 11, “omnis in hoc sum.” προκοπή, Cf. Philippians 1:12, Philippians 1:25: a favourite word in Stoic writers of a pupil’s progress in philosophy. Bonhoffer, Epict. p. 128. πᾶσιν: so that no one may despise thee 12.

16. ἔπεχε] Give heed to, keep an eye upon (cf. Luke 14:7, Acts 3:5) thy own life and the teaching which you (Qy. and others, Cf. 13) give. Cf. Acts 20:28 προσέχετε ἑαυτοις καὶ πάντι τῷ ποιμνίῳ.

σώσεις] Cf. 1:15, 2:15, 4:10. σεαυτόν cf. 1 Corinthians 9:27. καὶ τοὺς�John 10:9 διʼ ἐμοῦ ἐάν τις (= ποιμήν) εἰσέλθῃ, σωθήσεται (himself) καὶ εἰσελεύσεται καὶ ἐξελεύσεται καὶ νομὴν εὑρήσει (for his sheep).

W.-H The New Testament in Greek, with Introduction and Appendix, by Westcott and Hort, Cambridge, 1881.

J. Th. St. The Journal of Theological Studies, London, 1910-

T. und U. Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der Altchristlichen Literatur, von Gebhart und Harnack, Leipzig, 1882-1895.

Pap. Oxyr. The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, ed. Grenfell and Hunt, vols. i.-xv., London, 1898-

A.V. Authorized Version of the English Bible.

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 4". International Critical Commentary NT. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/1-timothy-4.html. 1896-1924.
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