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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 3

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-7

The proper temper of the overseers of the community, of the deacons, and of their wives
A.—Dignity and nature of the office of the overseer

1 Timothy 3:1-7

1This is a true1 saying [Faithful is the saying], If a man desire [aspire unto] the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant,2 sober, of good behaviour [decorous = ornatum], given to hospitality, apt to teach; [,] 3Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre;3 [,] but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; [,] 4One that ruleth well his own house,4 having his children in subjection with 5all gravity; [—] For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God? [—] 6Not a novice, lest being lifted up [blinded] with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7Moreover he must have5 a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.


1 Timothy 3:1. This is a true saying. There is no reason whatever to refer this phrase, which often occurs in the Pastoral Epistles, to the preceding remarks (Chrysostom); it is clear, on the contrary, that here, as 1 Timothy 1:15, there begins a new line of thought. After the Apostle, in the former chapter, has treated of the duties of the church as a whole, especially in regard of public prayer, he turns to the special view of certain persons, the episcopi and diaconi. Undoubtedly it would fall to the lot of Timothy, in his intimate relations to the body, to appoint such officers; and as there might arise a difference of opinion, it was desirable for him to have a written direction from the Apostle, to which he might always appeal. Paul begins, therefore, by informing him, as Titus (1 Timothy 1:6), what special qualities such officers should possess. It is from his own knowledge, doubtless, of the high importance of this function of the episcopus, that he considers first its weighty requirements.—If a man desire, &c. It appears as if, at that time, there was in Ephesus, and its neighborhood, an eager strife for such a presbyterial rank—a strife which contrasts strikingly with the reluctance shown to its acceptance by so many eminent men in the third and fourth centuries; and as it certainly did not spring with all from the purest motives, it does not give us the happiest proof of their Christian spirit. Yet we need not understand ὀρέγεται in the sense of an ambitious rivalry (thus De Wette, against which comp. Hebrews 11:16), since the Apostle would surely have rebuked it with decision. It may have been joined, on the part of many, with an active zeal for the church, which needed only a partial check and guidance.—The office of a bishop, ἐπισκοπή. The word does not before occur in this sense in the New Testament, with the exception of the citation from the Old Testament (Acts 1:20). As to its real meaning, it is proven beyond doubt that in the days of the Apostle the ἐπίσκοποι had no higher rank than the πρεσβύτεροι, although Paul (1 Timothy 5:17) makes a distinction even among the latter and it is certain, likewise, that first in later times, by the combined influence of various causes, a higher place was given to the bishops among their fellow episcopi (Acts 20:17; Acts 20:28). The rule of the church at large was entrusted to, the Apostles; that of the individual communities, to the episcopate or presbyterate. On the diaconate, which is not at all identical with these last, see below, 1 Timothy 3:8.—He desireth a good work, καλον ἔργον ἐπιθ. The adjective expresses the excellence, the noun the difficulty of the work; since ἔργον, in this connection, is not the same as πρᾶγμα or χρῆμα. The Apostle regards it not as a passive, but an active reality; and Augustin thus far wrote with truth, De Civ. Dei, xix. 19: “Episcopatus est nomen operis, non honoris.”—Jerome: “Opus, non dignitatem, non delicias; opus per quod humilitate decrescat, non intumescat fastigio.” Bengel: “Negotium, non otium.” On the whole subject here treated by Paul, we may well compare the Tractatus by Joh. de Wiclef, De Officio Pastorali, published by Dr. G. B. Lechler, Leipzig, 1863. He treats of two points, de sanctimonio vitæ, et de salubritate doctrinæ, and gives suggestions to be laid to heart.

[Note, on the Presbyter-Episcopal Office.—This verse is the crux of the whole controversy concerning the ministry of the apostolic church, and should not, therefore, be passed by with so slight notice as in this commentary. We will endeavor here to give an impartial, critical summary of the evidence contained in the Pastoral Epistles. It is clear, from 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9, that the titles “episcopus” and “presbyter” belonged at first to the same rank. See Bingham, “Ch. Antiq.,” B. 1, c. 3; Schaff, “Apost, Ch.,” B. 3, c. 3, and the citation from Jerome, Ep. 82, Ad Oceanum. Presbyter was the earlier Jewish-Christian name, nomen ætatis; episcopus the later, taken from political usage among the Greeks, nomen officii. The former very probably denoted the general ministerial dignity; the latter, the oversight of a particular church. The restriction of the episcopate to a superior order, therefore, came later. Was it of apostolic date or authority? We turn to this Epistle, and it is clear that Timothy had the power of judging presbyters; 1 Timothy 4:11; 1 Timothy 4:14; 1 Timothy 5:1; 1 Timothy 5:17-24; and the power of ordaining them; 1 Timothy 5:22. The power of ordaining elders in every city is also given to Titus 1:2; the injunction to rebuke with all authority, Titus 2:15. We omit 2 Timothy 1:6; 2 Timothy 1:14; 1 Timothy 2:2, since these are too vague for any fair argument. Timothy and Titus, then, were commissioned by St. Paul, and had the two powers of ordination and of judicial rule. See Hooker, Eccl. Pol., B. 7, c. 11, where the argument is forcibly stated. But the next question is, was this superior office a temporary or permanent one? Were these diocesan bishops, or only evangelists, sent on a special mission? It cannot be proved with certainty, from these Epistles, that they were more than evangelists. Timothy, moreover, is charged to “do the work of an evangelist,” 2 Timothy 4:5. Titus is spoken of, 2 Corinthians 8:23, with other brethren, as “messengers of the churches.” See Calvin, Inst.i1Tim 1 Timothy 3:3, s. 4. The fact of their superior authority appears to us, then, a presumptive argument for the establishment of the episcopate; yet it cannot be a demonstration. But a further question remains: How can this change of name be explained, by which the later bishop became higher than the presbyter? It is the received theory of the Episcopal divine, that when the apostolic authority had thus passed into this diocesan form, the official title was restricted to the higher rank. The name, it is said, is unimportant, but the fact is the essential. See Bingham, B. 2, c. 19. But this does not wholly meet the difficulty. It is not at all likely, had these new diocesan rulers been appointed directly, like Timothy and Titus, by the Apostles, that they would have taken a name appropriated to a lower order. The change points naturally to some election of a presbyter by the college as their chief. This sufficiently explains the case, and appears the most probable custom in the early church. Thus Field, “Of the Church,” B. 5, c. 27. Yet it is, after all, uncertain whether this was done in all cases, as he claims, by the direct choice of the Apostles, or by the choice of the body. There can be little doubt, however, from the appointment of Timothy and Titus, that such a superior order of men was becoming the general rule of the church, and that, too, with the permission, if not by the ordinance of the Apostles. We must, then, draw our conclusion from these meagre and uncertain hints. The chief error has been on either hand, that men have judged the plastic, growing institutions of the early church by the fixed order of a later age. It is enough to say, that toward the close of the lives of St. Paul and St. John, there was a natural, historic change of the church, as it became settled in its great social centres, from the general rule of the apostolate to a diocesan structure. See Rothe, Anfänge d. christl. Kirche, p. 498, ff. We see, in the cases of Timothy and Titus, the germinal form of such an episcopal office. It was a legitimate outgrowth. It had the sanction of the Apostles. To say that it was the invention of a later age, an apostasy from primitive parity or democracy, is unhistoric. Such a structural change could not have taken place without conflict; and the very silence of the sub-apostolic records, the undisputed right with which diocesan episcopacy emerges at the opening of authentic church history, confirms it as primitive. Yet it is alike unhistoric to rear this fact into a jus divinum, or to identify this simple episcopate of the early church with the type of a later hierarchy. Compare also the numerous works on the Ignatian controversy, by Cureton, Bunsen, Baur, Lipsius, Uhlhorn, and others.—W.]

1 Timothy 3:2. A bishop then must be, &c. Here follows a long list of qualifications, partly negative, and wholly concerned with the circle of daily, household life; since the Apostle is not speaking here of the higher gifts of Spirit and faith, which should be lacking in no Christian, least of all in an episcopus. All which is needed for the life hid with Christ, is passed by in silence, that he may consider solely the special requisites of the office. This fully met his purpose, as he speaks only of the aspirants to the episcopate, not of those already in it; and this apostolic rule was to serve Timothy as a safeguard against the importunity of incapable and unworthy men.—Then, οὖν, joins the following counsel with the previous praise of the office. Bengel: “Bonum negotium, bonis committendum.”—Blameless, the husband of one wife. Two qualifications are named first, which the Apostle holds of highest worth. The episcopus must be blameless, ἀνεπίληπτον εἶναι, in good repute, without offence in the eyes of believers, as well as of the unbelieving world. Thus he would be by no means blameless, were he not μιᾶς γυναικὸς�. Is this phrase to be understood as forbidding polygamy or deuterogamy to the newly-appointed overseer? Scholars are not agreed, and the subject itself is far from clear. It is cited in favor of the former view, that polygamy was by no means strange among the Jews; see Justin M., Dial c. Tryph., § 134, ed. Colon; that this custom was less common among the Greeks, and might give offence; that Christianity expressly enjoins and demands (monogamy. The champions of the other view maintain that Timothy hardly needed the warning not to choose an episcopus who had several wives, since the unfitness of so sensual a man for this spiritual office would be self-evident; that, on the other hand, a second marriage might not have been approved by the Greeks; that Paul did not prescribe this abstinence as a general rule (the opposite is clear from 1 Corinthians 7:8; 1 Corinthians 7:39), but that this may rightly have been enjoined on such officers, who were to set an example of the highest self-restraint; and that, finally, in 1 Timothy 5:9, it is required of a widow, chosen as deaconess, to have been once only married. The last reason seems of the greatest weight; and we therefore agree with those who hold this command of Paul to be directed against a second marriage, as unseemly for the episcopal office. As to the question how far this rule should be considered binding now, we cannot better reply than with Heubner, in loco: “Perhaps the rude, quarrelsome disposition of the stepmother, in the servile condition of women at that time, was the cause of this law. With us such a reason is no longer applicable; and, on the contrary, the nurture of the young often requires a second marriage. If we regard marriage ideally, as the heartfelt union of two persons, wholly surrendered to each other, then a second marriage seems to disparage the first, or to be rather a thing of policy than love. Our general inference is, that a church teacher should conform to the usages of the country or the society in which he lives, so far as he can.” That, however, Christian antiquity had really no favorable opinion of second marriage, is seen from Athenag., Legat. pro Christo, p. 37. Theophilusad Autolyc. iii. p. 127, ed. Colon. Minucius Felix Octav.: “Unius matrimonii vinculo libenter adhæremus, cupiditate procreandi aut unam scimus, aut nullam.” Tertullian. ad ux. i. 7. Exhort. Castit., c. 7. De Monogamia, c. 12. Origenes, Contr. Celsum, iii. p. 141, and elsewhere. (According to Diod. Sic. xiii.12, the old Sicilian legislator Charondas had deemed that he who gave his children a stepmother, should not hold office as judge.) The wisdom of this apostolic rule was specially suited to that time, when Christians were anxious to avoid whatever might harm their reputation with the heathen. The view, that Paul speaks here only of the married state, as a conditio sine quânon for the episcopi, or that he merely discourages anything unusual, immoral, or illegal in the married life of such officers, does not fully explain his language. We may mention, as a curious view, still another of some Romish expositors, that by the γυνή here named should be understood the church. Such finespun ingenuity cannot destroy the strong argument which this passage contains against the law of Gregory VII. enforcing celibacy. [Conybeare has here a suggestive note. “In the corrupt facility of divorce allowed both by Greek and Roman law, it was very common for man and wife to separate, and marry other parties during the life of each other. Thus, a man might have three or four living wives, or women who had successively been his wives. An example of this may be found in the English colony of Mauritius, where the French revolutionary law of divorce had been left unrepealed by the English Government; and it is not uncommon to meet in society three or four women who have all been wives of one man, and three or four men who have all been husbands of one woman. This successive rather than simultaneous polygamy is perhaps forbidden here.”—W.]—Vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, &c Vigilant, νηφάλιος; here probably in the sense of spiritual vigilance, since it would else make a tautology with 1 Timothy 3:3; having thus the same meaning as prudent, judicious, and joined, therefore, with σώφρων, the opposite of that violent disposition which can never keep the right measure. Of good behaviour; orderly, so that his whole conduct has in it nothing unseemly; the outward sign of the inward state, expressed by σώφρων.—Given to hospitality (comp. Titus 1:8); especially toward so many Christian brethren (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9).—Apt to teach. It appears, from 1 Timothy 5:17, that he counts worthy of special honor the episcopi, who labor in word and doctrine (comp. 2 Timothy 2:24).

1 Timothy 3:3. Not given to wine = μὴ οἴνῳ πολλῷ προσέχοντας, 1 Timothy 3:8 (comp. Titus 1:7); a vice usually leading to quarrel, and hence the phrase just after: No striker; one who, in his rage, would soon use blows against his opponents. [Wordsworth notices that this injunction against striking shows the impulsive vehemence of the Oriental character. We may add, that it shows the half-Christianized morality of the early Church, which could need such precepts in regard to the first rules of social conduct. The history of church councils in the East supplies too many shameful illustrations.—W.]—But patient, ἐπιεικῆ; the opposite of a quarrelsome character. Luther: Gentle.—Not a brawler, ἄμαχον; shunning all needless strifes. Luther: Not wrangling.—Not covetous, ἀφιλάργυρον; free from that selfish greed which so often begets wrath and strife (comp. 1 Timothy 6:10; Hebrews 13:5). We know how often the Lord warned His disciples to beware of covetousness (Luke 16:14, and elsewhere).

1 Timothy 3:4. One that ruleth well his own house. Bengel: “Multi, foris mansueti, domi eo minus coercent iracundiam, erga conjuges,” &c. The Apostle requires of the episcopus that he shall make his own family a little Christian community. House here embraces the members of the whole household, the private family, in distinction from the public affairs of the Christian body (1 Timothy 3:5). Slaves are therefore included; but the Apostle has in special view the good training of the children.—Having his children in subjection. Here, as often, ἔχοντα = κατέχοντα; see Wolf on this passage. Subjection is regarded as the wholesome rein to check all lawless, froward actions in the children.—With all gravity, does not apparently refer to the children (Wiesinger, Huther), since the word fitly signifies the gravity of the manly and the epicopal character; it betokens, too, the way in which the father must do his duty (comp. Titus 2:15), by the needful exercise of his paternal power. The justice of such a requirement is obvious, as the firmness which enables us to rule our own household must be needed to guide the community; and he who lacks this in the smaller, personal sphere, cannot exhibit it in the greater. In the following verse this is still more plainly urged.

1 Timothy 3:5. For if a man know not, &c. A parenthetical proposition, containing a conclusion a minori ad majus.—Take care, ἐπιμελεῖσθαι; to nourish, provide for, administer—almost identical with the foregoing προΐστασθαι. It is used in Luke 10:34, of the care of the Samaritan for the wounded Jew. Theodoret: “ὁ τὰ σμικρὰ οἰκονομεῖν οὐκ εἰδὼς πῶς δύναται τῶν κρειττόνων καὶ θείων πιστευθῆναι τῆν ἐπιμέλειαν.”

1 Timothy 3:6. Not a novice, νεόφυτος, newly planted; i. e., who has shortly since become a convert to Christianity. Undoubtedly, in a community so recently established, there must have been such a novice now and then placed in the episcopal office. But in Ephesus, where the church had existed some years already, Timothy could more easily choose among those who, earlier or later, had professed the gospel; and it was wise, therefore, not to include the latter among those raised to the episcopal office. This meets the objections of De Wette. It was not merely youth, but the lack of necessary knowledge and experience, which marked the novice; and he would, besides, be in danger of being misled by his pride.—Lifted up, τυφωθείς; literally, beclouded, darkened, befooled; i. e., from pride and self-delusion, through his promotion to such rank above even older converts. There could be no readier sin for the newly converted than such self-exaltation, and, above all, if they were placed in any eminent position; the grace of God must keep them in the path of humility, discipline, and suffering. The following words, lest he fall into the condemnation of the devil, are variously explained. Luther has: “That he be not puffed up, and fall under the judgment of the slanderers;” i. e., give, occasion to slanderers. Others (Mosheim, Wegscheider) refer it to calumnious men. But there is no reason, when τοῦ διαβ. is here used, to understand by it aught save the father of lies, the murderer from the beginning. Nor is the idea satisfactory (Matthias), that the principle of evil is here denoted; but we think it should have the significance of the inward spiritual Power of evil. But what is the condemnation (κρίμα) of the devil? Not the judgment which the devil brings on those who fall under his influence (Genit. subjecti); for here Bengel’s remark applies: “Diabolus potest opprobrium inferre, judicium inferre non potest; non enim judicat, sed judicature.” But it is rather the judgment which has been fulfilled in the case of the devil (Genit. objecti), and will reach, likewise, all who are led astray by pride. Jerome: “Tale judicium, in quod etiam diabolus incidit.” Κρίμα is not merely denunciation, accusation (Matthies), but, as often, in the sense of κατάκριμα or τιμωρία = the sentence of condemnation. If we compare this passage with 2 Peter 2:4; Judges 6:0, we may infer that pride was the chief cause of the devil’s fall. Bengel: “Videtur prius quam alii angeli ad præfecturam super multos angelos, licet multis junior esset, fuisse suscitatus et erectus, quod ipsum ei quoque occasio superbiæ fuit.” Comp. Artemonius, ad init. Joh. præfect., p. 23.

1 Timothy 3:7. Moreover, he must, &c. A last requisite is added to the rest. It is not enough that the episcopus should be blameless in the eyes of the community (1 Timothy 3:2), but he must have a truly good report from those without; that is, who are not, or no longer members of the Christian body.—Lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. If before his nomination he had lived in gross sin, yet had been appointed, the remembrance of his old vices would still remain with those who had known him, and this might bring suspicion on the office itself. It was better for such a man, even after a genuine conversion, to retire into the seclusion of a private life, than take a prominent place. Otherwise he would fall εἰς ὀνειδισμόν—into suspicion,—whether deserved or not, and from those, too, within, as well as without the community; and thus, in his weakness and depression, he might readily fall into the snare of the devil, παγίδα τ. διαβ. Deprived of his good name, he might lapse into the same sins which he had scarcely renounced, and become as evil as he was reputed to be. “Quid enim spei restat, si nullius peccati pudor?” Calvin. As ὀνειδισμόν and παγίδα are not separated by εἰς, we must consider the former no less than the latter as the work of the devil.


1. The worth of the episcopal office, which Paul has here so impressively set forth, has been affirmed in all ages and in manifold ways. Compare, e.g., Chrysostom, De Sacerdotio; Baxter, “Reformed Pastor;” Burk, “Pastoral Theology in its Examples;” and the well-known writings of Harms, Vinet, Nitzsch, Ebrard, Moll, Löhe, and others. “Pastor habet triplex officium; primo, verbo Dei spiritualiter pascere oves suas; secundo, purgare prudenter oves suas a scabie, ne sese et alios magis inficiant; tertio, defendere oves suas a lupis rapacibus, tam sensibilibus quam insensibilibus;” Wiclef.

2. Undoubtedly the Greek church, in forbidding second marriage to its clergy, has a support in the μιᾶς γυναικὸς� of Paul. Yet it is quite another question how far the Apostle enjoins the literal fulfilment, in all countries, times, and circumstances, of the precept which he gave for Ephesus. The opponents of the papal hierarchy—which has found so strong a prop in the law of celibacy—rightly point to the liberty given by Paul to the episcopi, of entering once at least into marriage. A compulsory abstinence, without any special calling to it, is surely most unlike the spirit of the Apostle. Yet, whether the eagerness, with which many young pastors of the evangelical church unite their entrance into the ministry with their marriage, would always have his sanction, is quite a doubtful question. All depends on the time and circumstances; but it might be wished that, in the choice of their wives, clergymen would not quite forget the Christian church to which they may be so useful. Compare the “Mirror of a Good Clergyman’s Wife,” by Chr. Burk, 1842. [See Wordsworth for a valuable note on the usage of the Eastern and Western churches in regard of the Apostle’s rule. It seems to have been a general, unwritten law, yet not held of perpetual obligation, or enforced by any decree of general councils. In the time of Callistus, at the beginning of the second century, we learn from Hippolytus that persons twice or thrice married were admitted to the ministry. The whole passage, however, is most striking as a picture of the simple, healthful household life of the primitive clergyman, in contrast with the later diseased type of the Latin church.—W.]

3. It is a noteworthy proof of the practical spirit of Christianity, that the Apostle gives such special worth to the domestic and social virtues even in the official rulers of the community. A life of faith and morality are indivisible in his view. The pastor of the church must above all be a good father in his own family, and that even to the least particulars. If there be those who think that the care of their wider sphere of labor will not permit them to attend to such private duties, the Apostle sets before them our Lord’s words: “These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matthew 23:23). The family of the clergyman must specially deserve the name of a little household church. “He must have a hundred eyes on every side; his spiritual vision must be sharp, not short-sighted. He must be awake, not for self, but for others;” Chrysostom. It is notable that the same Church father laments, in eloquent words, that his care for his large flock hardly left him time to think and watch over his own soul. 44 Hom. in Act. App. Opp. ix. p. 335, ed. Montfauc.

4. With reason Paul here enjoins that an episcopus should be ἀφιλάργυρος. If this vice be the root of all evil in general, the life of Judas Iscariot and Simon Magus show what injury it has done to the clergy and the church; and we may say in this view, that the history of simony is no less shameful than that of celibacy.

5. The words of Paul on the condemnation of the devil is a striking contribution to the New Testament dæmonology, although he gives us but a glance behind the raised veil. The representation of Satan as a fallen angel makes a marked distinction between this scriptural doctrine and the Persian dualism from which it is so often sought to be derived.


The high worth of the episcopal office.—“If any man desireth the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” This is clear from (1) Its origin; (2) its nature; (3) its lineage; (4) its object; (5) its fruit.—The episcopal office: (1) A work; (2) a noble work; (3) a work which every one should not desire.—The due qualifications named by Paul are: (1) Manifold; (2) difficult; (3) just; (4) rich in blessing.—The evangelical clergyman is called to be a pattern of all personal, domestic, and social virtues.—The clergyman (1) a householder of God in the church; (2) in his own dwelling.—Use and abuse of the saying, “Whoso careth not for his own house,” &c.—The rocks which are in the way of a newly-converted man.—Through high to low, through low to high.—The value of a blameless youth to him who would feed the flock of God.—The snare of the devil in the office of pastor and teacher.

Starke: Art thou of high rank, and therefore ashamed to be a preacher of Christ? yet believe it, the office is noble and weighty; it has to do with the greatest things; it regards the salvation of souls, and eternal life.—A preacher may be unmarried without wrong, yet it is better for many reasons that he marry.—Continence of body must be joined with soberness of soul, in him who would grow in spiritual prudence, discretion, foresight.—Lange’s Opus: Covetousness is a hidden, shameful lust, especially in a clergyman.—Starke: A clergyman may be zealous, but not deal blows like a godless man.—A teacher who would not make his family an offence to the church, must look to it that he choose a devout help-meet; else, if he make a blind and carnal choice, he will lay the corner-stone of great evil.—A man can more easily rule his household, than a whole community: (1) Because it is far smaller; (2) because the household will sooner obey than strangers; (3) because he associates more with them than with others; (4) because he naturally treats them with more affection than others.—If a new convert be unfit for the office of teacher, how much more an unconverted person.—The shame and vice of a teacher are snares of the devil, whereby Satan robs his office of its blessing (1 Corinthians 9:12).

Lisco: The personal characteristics of a servant of the word.

Heubner: The bishop must consider his good appearing, his good fame, not hold it lightly because of his real purity; for his good fame adds to his influence.—Covetousness is a blot on the character of a clergyman.—Loss of honor often makes a man dull and base; honor leads to self-respect.—Perhaps the Apostle regarded the higher virtues, here omitted, as acknowledged requisites, and would only keep us from undervaluing those lower ones; or he would guide us upward from the outward conduct of life, here sketched, to the inward gifts.


1 Timothy 3:1; 1 Timothy 3:1.—[πιστὸς; all the authorities; the Sinaiticus. But Δ., Orig. also, ἀνθρώπινος; humanus, hæc lectio vetustior est Hieronymo. But no one is rash enough to approve it. Matthäi, quoted by Huther.—E. H.]

1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Timothy 3:2.—[νηφάλεον. Every one now reads νηφάλιον.—E. H.]

1 Timothy 3:3; 1 Timothy 3:3.—μὴ αἰσχροκερδῆ. Wanting in A. D. F. G., and others, and upon this account Lachmann and Tischendorf have left it out. The Sinaiticus has it not. Apparently it has been intercalated from Titus 1:7.

1 Timothy 3:4; 1 Timothy 3:4.—[προϊστάμενον. So Recepta, Lachmann, Tischendorf. The Sinaiticus reads προϊστανόμενον—peculiar and exceptional.—E. H.]

1 Timothy 3:7; 1 Timothy 3:7.—[δεῖ δὲ αὐτόν; αὐτόν left out by Lachmann and Tischendorf (wanting in A. F. G. H., and others); not in the Sinaiticus. In G., the whole seventh verse is written in the margin; according to Lachmann.—E. H.]

Verses 8-13

B.—Character of the Deacons and Deaconesses

1 Timothy 3:8-13

8Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; [,] 9Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.6 10And let these also first be proved; [,] then let them use the 11office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. 12Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13For they that have used the office of a deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree [secure to themselves good standing], and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.


1 Timothy 3:8. Likewise the deacons. After the Acts of the Apostles have told us the origin of the diaconate (1 Timothy 6:1-5), we may learn from the Pastoral Letters the qualifications needed, in Paul’s judgment, for a good deacon. This passage is important, as it is the only one which portrays the character so clearly as to be a true mirror for all after times. Here, as with the episcopi (1 Timothy 3:1-7), the Apostle omits the higher requisites of spirit and disposition, to consider rather the domestic and moral qualities which men readlily see and judge in others. It is true that the characteristics here named agree in many points with those of the presbyter (1 Timothy 3:1-7); but the likeness lies in the nature of the case and the relationship of both offices, and thus, instead of being at all extraordinary, furnishes an added proof of the genuineness of these Epistles. For, were a marked difference made between the episcopus and diaconus in rank and character, this Epistle would bear the unquestionable stamp of a later age, since, in the day of Paul, both munera were nearly alike. Besides, both divisions differ sufficiently in slight details, which show again the wisdom of the Apostle. See, on the diaconate in general, Lechler on Acts 6:1-5.—Grave, not double-tongued. There is no proof that, in the apostolic time, there existed a special, exclusive class, a collegium of church assistants, who had charge of the various duties of the diaconate. All depended on individual activity; and it was therefore the more necessary that such persons should be of superior worth, and honorably fulfil the office. It is not, however, difficult to see the design of the Apostle in urging these requirements, although naturally we may not expect a complete sketch or an exact order in the recital of them.—Grave (with ὧσαύτως we must supply δωῖ εἶναι from the preceding), σεμνοὺς (comp. 1 Timothy 2:2; Titus 2:2); not so much a special virtue for a deacon, as a Christian quality which every church officer must possess. We may take Stephen and Philip as patterns of the true σεμνότης of a Christian deacon.—Not double-tongued, μὴ διλόγους; a word used only, here. Bengel: “Ad alios alia loquentes.” In the manifold relations of the deacons with different persons and families, they might readily fall into this vice, so wholly unworthy of a man of character.—Not given to much wine (comp. Titus 2:3). He who would not merely aid poverty, but as far as possible heal it, must be himself a pattern of temperance.—Not greedy of filthy lucre, μὴ αἰσχροκερδεῖς (comp. 1 Timothy 3:3). Any who was capable of this, would soon appropriate dishonestly the gifts entrusted to him for the poor.

1 Timothy 3:9. The mystery pure conscience. Here is the same inward connection of faith and conscience as before, 1 Timothy 1:18; and it is an equally strong proof that the Apostle is by no means content with the mere outward blamelessness of the church officers, if this higher spiritual faith be lacking.—Τὸ μυστήριον τῆς πίστεως; a peculiar expression, not occurring elsewhere. The mystery here, as 1 Corinthians 2:7, the truth, before hidden, but now revealed (comp. Romans 16:25).—Of the faith; a Genitiv. subjecti, just as, in 1 Timothy 3:16, τὸ μυστήριον τῆς εὐσεβείας; a mystery which is the object of faith, and can be understood only by faith. The Apostle presupposes that this mystery is like a treasure in the actual possession of the deacons; and to the question, how it can best be preserved, he answers with this precept: “Ἔχοντας τὸ μυστήριον τῆς πίστεως ἐν καθαρᾷ συνειδήσει.” The pure conscience is the coffer in which the treasure is best deposited. Ἔχοντας used here, as often, almost in the sense of κατέχοντας. Although we must grant that this clause does not directly refer to the diaconate, but is entirely general (De Wette), yet it is obvious that such a life of faith and conscience must be most useful toward even official duty. As teaching and preaching were not the usual charge of the deacons, they must so much the more upbuild others by their action; and without this personal faith and conscientiousness they could not fulfil their difficult task. “Additur pura conscientia, quæ extenditur ad totam vitam, tum vero, ut sciant se Deo servire;” Calvin.

1 Timothy 3:10. And let these also first be proved. These no less than the presbyters. The Apostle had not, indeed (1 Timothy 2:1-7), expressly ordered a previous δοκιμάζειν for these persons, but it lies in the nature of the case, especially in the restriction, 1 Timothy 3:5. We are not told by whom this proof was to be made, or to what special points it should extend. It could not have been a public one, before the whole community, since it was already presumed that those called to the diaconate enjoyed a good name and character. It is better to suppose an inquiry by Timothy himself, and the associate episcopi, since the deacons had probably their formal appointment from these last. That it was an examination in the proper sense (Heubner), is as improbable as the notion (Heydenreich) that we are to suppose the “united voices, and questions all around,” from individuals of the congregation. This is surely too official and modern a conception. Far simpler Bengel: “Diaconi debebant prius edere specimen, sui in ipsâ diaconiâ, quam plane immitterentur in munus.” They could enter on their office, after their blamelessness had been proved. This proof was thus, in the main, of a prohibitory character, to keep the unworthy from office.

1 Timothy 3:11. Even so must their wives in all things. This direction concerning the wives has a somewhat singular place amidst the rules of the diaconate. Were not the passage beyond all critical doubt, we might regard it as an interpolation. The connection does not allow us to think of Christian women in general; nor does the Apostle speak of deaconesses alone, as such, since in chap. 5 this class is distinctly treated of. We are almost unwillingly forced to apply this to the wives of deacons (Matthies); although it is remarkable, again, that the Apostle should give such express precepts for these, yet none for the wives of the presbyters, who had yet higher rank. The reason of this may be found, however, in the fact that the wives of the deacons were entrusted also with the office of deaconess; which compels us to the opinion that, by the word γυναῖκας, must be understood the wives of deacons, in so far as they were deaconesses also, and thus subject to certain rules here suggested beforehand, but more expressly given in chap. 5. These requisites are such as every Christian woman should have, yet they are specially desirable and indispensable to the sisters who would undertake a public office in the church.—Not slanderers, μὴ διαβόλους; literally, not devils—which they undoubtedly would be should they be guilty of lying and slander. “Why is it that evil-speaking is so characteristic of women? A woman has no arms, weapons, brute force, like man; her tongue is her weapon; and her natural feeling of dependence makes her more susceptible to envy and rivalry;” Heubner.—This qualification of the deacons’ wives has its relative contrast with the requirement made of the husbands; μὴ διλόγους, just as the νηφαλίους points back to the preceding, μὴ οἴνῳ πολλῷ προσέχοντας.—Faithful in all things, is a precept indeed for all, but specially for women, who in their allotted sphere must practise this fidelity in little things, and therefore not overlook or despise it.

1 Timothy 3:12. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife. See 1 Timothy 3:2.—Ruling their children and their own houses well. See 1 Timothy 3:4-5. The domestic virtue of deacons must not be inferior to that of presbyters. Care of their own children was doubtless the best preparatory school for care of the poor and sick.

1 Timothy 3:13. For they that have used, &c. To call forth an earnest attention to his precepts, the Apostle points to the noble reward of the faithful man. Undoubtedly, in his view, they only would deserve it who made such rules their own, and thus fulfilled them.—Such purchase to themselves a good degree, βαθμὸν καλόν. Βαθμός, gradus, the Ionic form of the Attic βασμός (from βαίνω), may be understood either in reference to church office, or to the spiritual state. If, in the former view, we see in this phrase a promotion to the presbyterial office (Jerome, Bengel, and others), we must presuppose a kind of hierarchical order, which is quite foreign to the apostolic time. This interpretation is not at all necessary by grammatical rule; indeed, the description of this higher official degree as καλόν sounds somewhat singularly; nor can we conceive of any connection between such advancement and the παῤῥησία spoken of just after. We therefore prefer their view who interpret it as a good step in spiritual life, or future blessedness—two meanings which may well be united, and between which to put eitheror (De Wette, Huther, and others), we think unnecessary. The Christian life here and hereafter is, in the Apostle’s view, one united whole; and in proportion as we advance here in our spiritual growth, shall we reach undoubtedly a higher degree of blessedness. It has been often said, indeed, but never proved, that Paul knows no degrees in future happiness. The opposite rather appears from 1 Corinthians 3:15; 1Co 15:41-42; 2 Corinthians 9:6, and elsewhere. A faithful fulfilment of our calling in the Church of Christ is the means blessed of Him to win here, as in eternity, a good degree of growth and of salvation. [It seems most agreeable to our conceptions of justice, and is consonant enough to the language of Scripture, to suppose that there are prepared for us rewards and punishments of all possible degrees, from the most exalted happiness down to the extremest misery, so that our labor is never in vain; whatever our advancement in virtue, we procure a proportionable accession of future happiness; Paley. “Mor. Phil.,” B. 1, c. 7.—W.]—And great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. This second part of the promise expresses the reward which such fidelity will gain from others; as βασμός referred to that which the diaconus would gain for himself. Παῤῥησία, used in this absolute sense, does not mean boldness of faith before God, but boldness of conscience before men, and, indeed, before the church, in whose employment such deacons as breathed this spirit could not have reproach. Bengel joins them both: “Fiducia erga, Deum et homines.” Faith in Christ Jesus does not belong exclusively to παῤῥησία, but as well to βαθμός; meaning the ground in which this confidence is rooted, and on which this degree is built. It is obvious that πίστις must not be taken objectively of Christian doctrine, but subjectively of the personal life of faith. [βαθμός is rendered, by Conybeare, position. Alford inclines to this reading, but refers it also, with De Wette and Wiesinger, to the hope of the future, as well as the present life. We cannot, however, see force enough in the above reasoning to reject the generally received idea of an official promotion. Undoubtedly the hierarchical ideas of the day of Jerome, when the deacon was styled a Levite (Ep. 27), do not belong to the church of St. Paul and Timothy. But there is nothing strange in the supposition, that a deacon of excellence in his calling should rise to the rank of presbyter. The custom, as it afterward obtained in the church, although it may have been by no means the rule of that early time, seems to have arisen naturally enough out of just such instances. Why should not such a promotion be καλός? and why should not one who had attained it have greater “boldness in the faith” ? The opposite interpretation seems to us far-fetched and fantastic. See further, Ellicott and Wordsworth in loco.—W.]


1. It appears, from these precepts given to the deacons, how highly the Apostle valued the charge of the poor, which he would entrust only to those worthy of this special honor. All his directions may be called a practical commentary on two sayings of the Lord: “Woe to him through whom the offence cometh” (Matthew 18:6-7); “Whoso is faithful in the least, is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10). The Apostle in this, moreover, remains true to his own rule, that God is not “a God of confusion, but of peace,” and therefore all must be “done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:33; 1 Corinthians 14:40).

2. The offices of deacon, presbyter, &c., in the apostolic church were not immediately ordained by Christ, and as little arranged by human wisdom after a predetermined and measured plan; but they came by degrees into existence, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and in the process of circumstances, and were thus the source of rich blessing to many. They had from the first a spiritual character, the diaconate not excepted; for this office is very superficially valued, if we suppose it designed to meet the physical wants of the sick and poor. Here, rather, the beautiful saying is true: “The soul of charity is charity to the soul,” Amalia Sieveking; and, “The service of the poor is the service of God,” Angelus Merula. Hence such an office can be worthily exercised by those alone who are united truly with Christ and the brethren by the spirit of faith and love, and for Christ’s sake ready to meet every sacrifice, every trial, and every opposition.
3. The apostolic directions regarding the office of presbyter and deacon have to the present time been far more truly kept in the Reformed Church than in the Lutheran; whilst in the Roman Church they have been caricatured, and are hardly to be recognized. It is from this common cause that the presbyterate and diaconate, in the life of the church, form, together with the office of preacher and pastor, a circle of working forces, whose rights and duties are still too little understood and prized by many. Compare the “Manual for Elders and Deacons in the Evangelical Church, and those who are to become such,” by G. B. Lechler, Frankfort-on-the-Maine, 1857.

4. “It is beyond doubt that much is given to those who are entrusted with the office of elder or deacon. An office is given them of primitive Christianity, honorable by its antiquity, and at the same time evangelical, Protestant, of needful service for the edifying of the Christian body.”
5. The apostolic rules regarding deacons remain, in spirit and substance, normative for all such officers; and a wholesome corrective for the many deviations from those principles which are seen today in manifold shapes.

6. See further, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, and 1 Timothy 5:9 et seq.


How the diaconate must be exercised in the spirit of the Apostle Paul: (1) Its duty; (2) its requirement; (3) its blessing.—Whoso would successfully watch over others, has double need to know his own condition.—The relation of a good servant of the church (1) to honor; (2) to pleasure; (3) to the goods of the world.—The inward connection of a firm faith and a pure conscience.—Women may direct the work of Christ (1) to great gain; (2) to incalculable harm.—The church a family; its pastor a father of the household.—Connection between fidelity in the guidance of our own family and of that entrusted to us.—The laborer is worthy of his hire.—Faithful duty to the Lord the best way toward our own growth in holiness and grace.—Rectitude before God goes hand in hand with boldness before men.—Faith in Christ the spring of the true wisdom for life.—Whoso lacks the requirements of Paul, will not only be a poor deacon, but a poor Christian.

Starke: Hedinger: Pure doctrine and pure conscience must always go together. What worth in much knowledge, without self-knowledge? much teaching, without our own conversion?—None can be a true Christian, still less a teacher, who has not faith and a pure conscience.—Starke: How needful proof, trial, experience, evidence, to those appointed to the spiritual office!—The more prominent the place God allots any one, the more blameless should be his life, since many observe him.—When all is well in the clergyman’s home, there is a good example for his people; if not, it is a slaughter-house, where souls are destroyed (1 Samuel 3:13).—The true servants of God do not mourn over their sweat and toil; if they stay here without further promotion, they will have a degree so much the higher in heaven (Daniel 12:3; 1 Corinthians 15:41-42).

Heubner: The strictest examination before our appointment to the spiritual office cannot equal the holy claims of the office.—Our whole life is indeed an examination followed by a judgment.—No office has such claim (?) to future honor and blessedness as that of the Christian teacher.—It is a strong spur to higher, Christian competition, when we remember that there are degrees even in salvation.

Von Gerlach: Fidelity in little is the test of genuine fidelity in great things.—Many are seemingly truer in the great concerns of life than in the less, where they constantly offend in their everyday faults, which all can see; and therefore such fidelity in greater things is worm-eaten, done from men-pleasing, from worldly ambition, not love to God and the brethren.—Lisco: The personal traits of the almoner of the church, ad 1 Timothy 3:1-15.—Characteristics of a good clergyman.—(Synodal Sermon): We have the richest and the hardest office in the communion of the Lord.

[Donne, Sermons: The ministry to the poor. Heaven and earth are a musical instrument; if you touch a string below, the motion goes to the top. Any good done to Christ’s poor members upon earth, affects Him in heaven.—W.]


1 Timothy 3:9; 1 Timothy 3:9.—[The Sinaiticus is peculiar here. All the critical authorities read ἐν καθαρᾷ συνειδήσει, instead of which it has καθαρᾶς συνειδήσεως. Were this the true reading, the sense would be, “holding the mystery of the faith and of a pure conscience.—E. H.]

1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Timothy 3:15.—How one (wie man). Some authorities—e. g., D., Arm., Vulg., and others—have inserted σε, for the sake, it appears, of explanation, but for the rest, without reason.

Verses 14-16

Weightiness of the preceding admonition for the Church

1 Timothy 3:14-16

14These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: 15But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how7 thou oughtest [one ought] to behave thyself [one’s self] in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 16And without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness: [,] God [Who] was8 manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.


1 Timothy 3:14. These things write I unto thee. The Apostle does not mean here the whole Epistle, but only the admonitions which he has given in chaps. 2 and 3. Probably, before he parted from Timothy, he had left behind for him a general direction, but not special rules for each individual case. He now does this, hoping, &c. Ἐλπίζων does not mean the cause of his writing, but is to be taken sensu adversativo, although I hope; see Winer, p. 214.—To come shortly; properly, sooner;τάχιον, in comparative; i. e., sooner than is expected, or perhaps than I think of. The various readings, ἐν τάχει, ταχεῖον, or ταχέως, are only expository corrections, against which we hold, difficilior lectio præferenda; for which reason Tischendorf has justly retained the Recepta. Besides, the comparative τάχιον, John 13:27, is used in almost the same sense with ταχύ.

1 Timothy 3:15. But if I tarry long, &c. It might happen that the expectation of Paul to return soon would be disappointed; and in order to prevent any embarrassment to Timothy, he writes him the necessary instructions. Βραδύνω, the same word used 2 Peter 3:9 of the promise of Christ’s coming. That Paul will meet Timothy in Corinth, to go with him to Macedonia (Otto), is a conjecture, only forced on the text to favor a pet hypothesis.—How thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God. The expression has a general sense, although it apparently refers to Timothy in particular. The explanatory σε has this degree of weight (Luther, too, reads, how thou shouldst behave); but critically the evidence is too weak to admit it into the text. See Tischendorf on this passage.—Ἀναστρέφεσθαι means not Christian life in general, but here the life of the Christian officer, which belonged to Timothy and his fellow-episcopi. The scene of this ἀναστροφή is the house of God, the Christian community not exclusively in Ephesus, but in general.—House of God, οἶκος Θεοῦ. It is well known how frequently this scriptural expression occurs in the other letters of Paul; most strikingly 1 Corinthians 3:9-17. If the temple at Jerusalem, as well as Israel itself, the Old Testament people, bore this name (Matthew 21:13; Hebrews 3:2; Hebrews 3:5), it might certainly be used with greater truth of the Church of the New Testament. It is the house whose owner is God, since He built it, inhabits it, and will complete it in His own way and time (comp. Lisco, “Parables of Jesus,” 4th ed., p. 505). The conception of inward unity, as well as of indestructible steadfastness, is obviously expressed in this word. These attributes are possessed by the Christian church, because it is the house of the living God. Bengel’s remark is deeply spiritual: “Ecclesia Dei viventis opponitur fano Dianæ Ephesiorum. Vita Dei fundamentum spei nostræ,” cap. i1Tim 1 Timothy 3:10, et fons veritatis, h. l.Pillar and ground of the truth. We have thus reached by degrees one of the most difficult passages in these Epistles. The words which are chiefly to be discussed offer nothing doubtful in a literal sense. Στύλος is the support on which the roof of a house rests, its upholding pillar (comp. Revelation 3:12; Galatians 2:9). Wahl says very truly: “Omne id, cui ut primario et præ ceteris insigni innititur aliquid.” Ἑδραίωμα means the ground, the foundation (comp. θεμέλιος, 2 Timothy 2:19), which is as necessary for the stability of the whole house. Pillar and ground of the truth can only refer to the religious truth personally revealed and manifest in Christ. But now the question is, whether these words are in apposition to οἶκος τοῦ θεοῦ ζῶντος just before, or belong to καὶ ὁμολογουμένως, κ.τ.λ., just following them. Both constructions have been often defended and attacked with alternate success by learned and devout men. In De Wette and Huther may be found the names of the various champions of either view. Here, where we do not aim at strict exegetical discussions, but rather to give the results of our own inquiries, we shall simply state why the latter view, as is seen in our translation, seems preferable to the former. The statement of Paul’s design in the preceding portion is already closed with 1 Timothy 3:15; and while the description of the church as the house of the living God has a good and valid sense, the following phrase, “a pillar and ground of the truth,” if it be considered as an addition to this figurative expression, is exceedingly dull and heavy. It is most improbable that the Apostle should in one breath describe the church, which he has called an οἶκος, as also a στῦλος καὶ ἑδραίωμα. We cannot possibly expect such a violation of all æsthetic rule from a man like Paul. The conception of the church as such a pillar and ground of the truth, is indeed quite explicable in a sound sense, yet it is in itself far from clear and as far from Pauline (comp. 1 Corinthians 3:11). But if the new proposition (1 Timothy 3:16) begins with the words καί δμολ. μέγα, then the copulative καί is entirely without a purpose, and a singular commencement, too, of a proposition. We need not here recall the misuse made by Romish interpreters of the idea: “The church a pillar of the truth” (comp. Calvin on this passage). A striking view of this conception of the church, as columna veritatis, in the Protestant light, is given by Melanchthon on this sentence.—For all these reasons, we believe that we are right in beginning, with στῦλος, a new proposition, which continues to the end of the chapter. It must be granted that the construction remains singular and hard: στύλος καὶ ἑδραίωμα τῆς�; especially the article τὸ had best be removed, if, according to our view, στῦλος … ἀληθ. is the predicate of τῆς εὐσεβ. μυστ. Yet we do not find this objection so overwhelming, as Grotius and others do, against our construction. The evolution of thought is rapid; the Apostle speaks so forcibly, that he does not painfully weigh and arrange his words. The representation of the ὅς ἐφαν., κ.τ.λ., in 1 Timothy 3:16, directly after, as not only a μυστήριον τῆς εὐσεβείας, but as likewise a στύλος κ. ἑδραίωμα τῆς�, the denial and opposition to which is fully noticed 1 Timothy 4:1, is entirely in the Apostle’s spirit; who, as we know already in earlier letters, gives a special importance to the essentials of the gospel. If a new chapter had been begun with the words, “a pillar and ground of the truth,” the whole connection would perhaps have been viewed in another light. The interpretation of στύλος καὶ ἑδραίωμα τῆς�. as referring solely to Timothy, deserves scarcely any notice save as an exegetical oddity. To exhort a pillar to behave itself (ἀναστρέφεσθαι), sounds a little hyperbolical. Only three of the foremost Apostles are called στύλοι, Galatians 2:9; but never their associates.

1 Timothy 3:16. And without controversy great, &c., Καὶ ὁμολογ. μέγα, κ.τ.λ. This must, as στύλος καὶ ἑδρ., be regarded as the introduction of the summary statement ὅς ἐφανερ., κ.τ.λ. Μυστήριον is the Pauline expression for that truth, before hidden, now brought to light (see Ephesians 3:3-5); μυστ. τῆς ευʼσεβείας, that which is the object of εὐσεβ., like μυστ. τ. πίστ. (1 Timothy 3:9); whence it appears that the translation, a godly mystery (Luther), is somewhat arbitrary. This mystery is great, not wholly unfathomable (comp. Matthew 13:12), deep in meaning, weighty (comp. 1 Corinthians 9:11), confessedly great, ὁμολογουμένως; not strictly, made known (Luther), but rather in the sense of indubitable, secundum id quod in confesso est apud omnes. Summa; a mystery now revealed, whose weight and worth no Christian can doubt. What, now, is this mystery? The very thing called στύλος κ. ἑδραίωμα τ. ἁλ. The phrase lacks, indeed, in a degree, the climax which we might here expect; but this difficulty vanishes when we balance against it the fact that the Apostle has expressed his meaning first in a tropic, then in a literal mode; whilst the following clauses show now in their order what the subject is which was called improprie a pillar and ground, proprie a mystery of godliness. The remark of Wiesinger, following Schleiermacher, that the third adjective of definition, ὁμολογ. μέγα, cannot grammatically be connected with two predicates like στύλος and ἑδραίωμα, seems to us at least without any proof. [The reference of the “pillar and ground” to the church, is more strongly sustained by exegetical argument, both by writers of older and later times, than this view of our author. Huther, Schleiermacher, and Wiesinger, among many, hold the grammatical construction to point to ἐκκλησία. Alford has perhaps summed the evidence as concisely as any of our English expositors; and in his view the structure of the whole passage demands this application. His answer to the chief objection offered by our commentator, on the score of good taste, seems sufficient, viz., that the οἶκος contains in itself pillar and basement. Conybeare is one of the few who apply the phrase to Timothy; but this sense seems frigid, and unworthy of this great passage. There is a striking suggestion of Arnold, which may well be added: “If the words are to be applied to the church, they do not describe what it is de facto, but what it ought to be. Take care that no error through thy fault creep into that church, which was designed by God to be nothing but a pillar and basis of truth;” “Life and Letters,” p. 31, 1 Timothy 5:2, Amer. ed.—W.]—God was manifest in the flesh [Who was manifest in the flesh, in the German version]. The translation given above expresses already our probable judgment on this well-known crux criticorum. We can with a good critical conscience wholly agree with the steadily increasing number who regard neither θεός nor ὅ, but ὅς, as the original reading. See Tischendorf, N. T., Exodus 7:0, on this passage; and compare the very valuable Excursus ad 1 Timothy 3:16 in his edition of the Codex Ephr Syri rescriptus, 1843. The Codex Sinaiticus has also confirmed the reading ὅς as the only true one. Paul might, indeed, from his Christological standpoint, have very justly written θεός; but it does not at all follow that he has done so. It is hardly credible that the original reading θεός should have been changed to θεὅς; but very explicable that the original ὅς should have been changed to θεός. Were θεός the true reading (Matthäi, Scholz, Rinck), it would be passing strange that such decisive proof-texts should never have been used by the orthodox church fathers in the Arian and other controversies; and, again, Cyril, in his reply to the Emperor Julian, who denied that Paul had ever called Christ θεός, has not appealed in a word to this passage, as he would almost surely have done had he known the Lectio Recepta. Besides, we find in the following clauses several expressions (e.g., ὤφθη� and ἀνελήφθη ἐν δόξῃ) which could hardly be used of God absolutely, but only of the θεός φανερωθείς. For all these reasons, the reading ὅς is not only critically but exegetically proved to be best; and the view often expressed, that it is an heretical corruption of the text, is quite exploded. To the question, whether we should supply an οὗτος after ὅς before ἐδικαιώθη, or whether all the clauses following this refer to a subject not further named in 1 Timothy 3:16, we must answer by the latter opinion. The designation of the μυστ. τ. εὐσεβ. has the character of a proposition, to which the apodosis is wanting; and this fragmentary style of the whole expression confirms yet more the conjecture, based on the metrical sequence of the words, and already affirmed by many, that we have here a part of an ancient Christian hymn. The unnamed subject of the proposition in 1 Timothy 3:16 can be only Christ; and although the reading θεός, in our view, is not critically justified, the passage still contains, by the reading ὅς ἐφανερώθη, a proof indirect but unquestionable of the Divine-human nature and dignity of the Lord. Manifest in the flesh can only be said of Him who, before His incarnation, was personally with the Father. Nay, more; it is possible to keep the reading ὅς, with Tischendorf, yet avoid all the difficulties which might possibly come from a surrender of the Recepta, if we consider the clause, Στύλος κ. ἑδρ. … μυστήριον, as a long parenthesis, and thus read the text, 1 Timothy 3:15-16 : “ἵνα εἰδῆ̣ς πῶς δεῖ ἐν οἴκῳ θεοῦ� (στύλος καὶ ἑδραίωμα τῆς� !) ὅς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκὶ, κ.τ.λ.” This conjecture appears to us the simplest and most natural in the treatment of a passage so often interpreted and misinterpreted. If it be true, then the reading θεός is critically untenable; yet it is a right exposition of the Apostle’s meaning, since ὅς reverts directly to θεοῦ ζῶντος. That the Apostle often uses long parentheses, appears, among several instances, from Romans 2:13-15. That he does it here, will seem less extraordinary when we consider the fulness and rapid succession of thoughts in this part of his letter. We readily grant, moreover, that objections may be raised against this view by those especially who regard στύλος κ. ἑδραίωμα as in apposition with ἐκκλησία τ. θεοῦ ζῶντος. But this last view seems to us unsustained; and thus the only question is, in the choice of the many expositions, which has the fewest difficulties? We have from our point of view the double advantage, that we need neither violate our critical conscience, nor surrender a dictum probans for the divinity of Christ.—Manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit. Six connected clauses, which, in the original especially, have a very euphonic and metrical character.—Manifest in the flesh. Man is flesh; the Son of God is manifest in the flesh, since He came forth from the Father, with whom He personally pre-existed (1 John 1:2). The birth of the Lord is the starting-point of this manifestation; its scene His whole earthly life. Bengel: “Hæc manifestatio dicit totam occonomiam Christi, oculis quondam mortalium conspicui.” If the excellence of this Divine manifestation is misjudged and despised by many, yet God has confirmed it in the most undoubted way. Ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι; He is proved to be the very Person He truly was (for this sense of justified, comp. Luke 7:35). He is by His divine glory known ἐν πνεύματι, not as Spirit (Baur), but in the Spirit, whereby this His δικαίωδις is effected. The Spirit who dwells and works in Him, not by measure (John 3:34), and raised Him at last from the dead (Romans 1:3-4), reveals Him in His high nature and dignity. We have here, without any arbitrary severance of the connection, a reference to all by which His divine origin is made known (comp. John 1:14). In what way has this wondrous announcement of this wondrous manifestation been given? Paul answers in the two following clauses.—Seen of angels, ὤφθη�; not the Apostles, which would not be the common use of the word, but the angels of heaven, who often ministered to Him in the days of His humiliation (Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43), and to whom, after His resurrection, He revealed Himself in His godlike glory. The power of Christ over these heavenly beings is not here meant (Mack), but the vision of His glory by those who wonder at the brightness which they have never before seen, or at least not in such perfection. Comp. 1 Peter 1:12; Ephesians 3:10; Hebrews 1:6. Chrysostom: “Ὥστε καὶ ἄγγελοι μεθ̓ ἡμῶν εἶδον τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ, πρότερον οὐχ ὁρῶντες.” “He alludes probably to a heavenly scene, the contrast of the descent into hell;” De Wette. If we take θεός as the subject of this clause, we may perhaps find expressed here the thought, that God, through His manifestation in Christ, has been revealed in a higher light before the angels. Whatever the truth of this, He who has thus revealed Himself in heaven, has not been forgotten on earth.—Preached unto the Gentiles.Ἐθνη., in a general sense, implying that the nations have received, through the preaching of the gospel, the same truth which the angels received by vision—the glory of Christ, the Lord. Wiesinger justly says: “It is a new commandment to both; and the mystery lies in this union of heaven and earth around His person, in this wonderful blending of such entire opposites.” It is not the contrast between Jew and heathen, but between human and superhuman beings, which the Apostle directly regards.—The third couplet denotes, finally, the results of this whole manifestation, and its announcement. It had not been in vain. It was believed on in the world, ἐπιστεύθη ἐν κόσμῳ. This last word must be here taken in an ethical sense, quite like 1 John 2:15; 1 John 5:19. Amidst the multitude of those who reject Him, the Son of God has found faith with many where He has been preached (comp. 2 Thessalonians 1:10); and is finally received up into glory, ἀνελήφθη ἐν δόξῃ. It is the most natural view to refer this to the ascension of the Lord (comp. Luke 24:40; Luke 24:51); nor is it any insuperable difficulty that the foregoing clauses in part allude to a period after His ascension, since the Apostle does not design to give a chronological view of the events in the life of Jesus. Meanwhile, we need not refer this last clause (ἀνελήφθη ἐν δόξῃ) to the ascension exclusively, any more than the first (ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί) to the nativity of Christ. We may embrace in the conception His whole heavenly life in glory, taking the expression per attractionem;ἀνελήφθη εἰς δόξαν, καὶ ἐστὶν ἐν δόξῃ. Calvin: “Ergo sicuti in mundo quoad fidei obedientiam ita et in Christo personâ mira fuit conversio, dum ex tam abjectâ servi conditione erectus est ad dexteram Patris, ut illi flectatur omne genu.” The three couplets thus bring before our vision the advancing glory of this Divine manifestation in Christ in a series of acts, whose beginning is the earth, whose closing is in heaven. It may appear, perhaps, an incidental feature, that the whole consists of two chief divisions, of which earth has two subdivisions; the first two embracing the events on earth, the third those of heaven (Huther). In any case, Paul has not arranged this division in such an order by any arbitrary rule of art. We probably, therefore, have, as already suggested by Winer, Wiesinger, De Wette, Huther, and others, in this whole passage the fragment of an ancient church hymn (as Ephesians 5:14), or a symbol of faith, which, when the praise τοῦ θεοῦ ζῶντος was sung, perhaps in some strophe. no longer known to us, may have been as follows

Ὅς—μέγα τὸ μυστήριον—

ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκὶ,

ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι,

ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι,


Ἐκηρύχθη ἐν ἔθνεσιν,

ἐπιστεύθη ἐν κόσμῳ,

ἀνελήφθη ἐν δόξῃ.

All this is, in the Apostle’s view, the great mystery of godliness—the pillar and ground of the truth, on which the house of God (1 Timothy 3:14) rests unshaken; and it is an apostasy from this in the bosom of the same church to which he looks forward (1 Timothy 4:1). Compare Rambach, “Anthology of Christian Hymns in all Ages of the Church,” i. p. 33, et seq.


1. The tone in which the Apostle here speaks to his friend and scholar Timothy, and the deference which he expects in the performance of his instructions, give us a fresh proof of his apostolic authority.
2. The tabernacle and temple of the old covenant, in which it is said that God dwelt in a special manner, were a type of the Christian Church with all its blessings; and Israel, the people of the elder revelation, a pattern of the kingly and priestly race of the new covenant.

3. It is the essential character of Christianity, that it does not rest on abstract conceptions, and inferences of reason, but on undeniable and changeless facts (1 John 1:1-3). The whole sum of the Christian revelation is in the person and history of its Founder, which the Apostle here condenses in a few words. Each new proposition which he offers opens a new world of Divine wisdom and love. The creed here recorded is not the confession of particular churches, but of the one holy, catholic Church of Christ in all centuries; the oldest formula concordiæ—the standard of the true Church against the unbelieving world, on which a higher hand has written, in hoc signo vinces.

4. The preceding words are most important, as clearly explaining to us the meaning of the μυστήριον. The older theology considered mysteries as dogmas, which lie wholly beyond and above the sphere of men, which are to all eternity unsearchable to the finite understanding, and therefore best veiled in a holy obscurity. Paul does not acknowledge many mysteries; he knows one only great mystery, whose chief truth is here revealed; and this is its specific characteristic, that it was before hid, but is now manifest. Yet there is no ground in such a view for the position of modern rationalism, that this mystery, now revealed, may be completely apprehended by man. Even a revealed mystery has its dark, hidden side. The sun, which has been long veiled by the clouds, and suddenly breaks forth in its full light, blinds the eyes as truly as the darkness. “Mysteria quantumvis revelata, vel sic tamen obscura manent” (comp. 1 Corinthians 13:11-12). When Paul presents the mystery as the object of the εὐσέβεια, he indirectly reproves their arrogance, who think with their bounded understanding to search the deep things of God, instead of keeping them in the sanctuary of a holy heart.

5. This confession of faith is only the fuller exposition of the testimony which the Lord (John 16:28) gave of Himself. The last words should not be overlooked, in which the question is answered, whether Paul taught or no the bodily ascension of the Lord Jesus.


Paul a pattern of tireless apostolic activity in speech and writing.—Timothy, however rich in spiritual gifts, yet in his church duties directed by the authority of Paul.—The minister of the gospel must above all know how to behave himself in the house of God.—The Church of Christ a house of the living God: (1) Builded of God; (2) inhabited by God; (3) consecrated by God; (4) completed through God.—The greatest blessings of the old covenant are not lost in the new, but lavished in fuller measure.—The manifest mystery of the grace of God in Christ the essential fact we have in Christianity.—The personal, historic, living Christ the ground of His Church.—God’s glory in Christ: (1) Manifest; (2) declared; (3) crowned with the desired success.—The Divine manifestation: (1) A mystery; (2) a mystery which passeth knowledge; (3) a mystery which the godly alone can understand and prize, and which alone can lead to godliness.—The marvellous facts of the gospel history a chain, in which not a link is wanting.—From these facts the preaching of the gospel must proceed, and to it constantly return.—The minister of the gospel is not called to declare to the church the religious ideas of his time, but God’s eternal truths of redemption and salvation.

Starke: Anton: A Christian minister must not sit always in his study, but must go hither and thither.—Hedinger: The Church may fail, but not fall.—Anton: Behold the Church directly in your sight What it is in God’s eyes, let it be in yours.—Μυστήριον. This mystery is great: (1) In its origin, for it comes from the inconceivably and inexpressibly great love of the heavenly Father; (2) in its own character, for who can think or know how it is possible for One greater than all angels, yea, equal to the Father in power and glory, to have been manifest in the flesh; (3) in its purpose, which is the salvation of lost men, lying in the utmost ruin.—The same: The gospel is full of mystery; it must be judged not by the reason, but by God’s revelation (2 Corinthians 10:5).—Preachers, who carry into the pulpit an empty babble, which leads not to godliness, are not gospel teachers (1 Timothy 1:4; 1 Timothy 4:7).—The mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God, received in faith and shown in godliness, leads to eternal glory (1 Timothy 4:10; Acts 16:30-31).—Heubner: Each Christian community must be a community of the living God.—All Christians must agree in the essential truth of the Christian faith.—Christianity is the holiest and worthiest revelation of God.—The spread of the gospel is an outward enlargement of the glory of Jesus; the greater the number of His worshippers, the greater His kingdom.

Lisco: The inmost kernel of the Christian doctrine of salvation.—The confessedly great and blessed mystery of the Incarnation: (1) A mystery; (2) the godly power which renews our life.

[Bishop Hall, “Mystery of Godliness:” He that should have seen Thee, O Saviour, working in Joseph’s shop, or walking in the fields of Nazareth, would have looked upon Thee as mere man; neither thy garb nor countenance betrayed any difference in Thee from ordinary men. It was Thine all-working and co-essential Spirit, by whose mighty operations Thy divinity was made known to the world.

Bishop Andrewes, Resp. ad Bellarminum, 1Tim 14: We reject not the voice of the Church; nay, we all do venerate it. But the Church to us meaneth not the Pontiff, or the Roman curia; nor, unless you have so prejudged it in your mind, will this title of the Church much advantage you. It is the pillar of the truth, yea, verily; not that the truth is sustained by it, but itself by the truth. This pillar truly hangeth not in the air; it hath a basis: but where, save in the word of God?—W.]


1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Timothy 3:16.—See the exegetical explanations. [There are difficulties here both in the proper reading and in the translation. ΟΣ is easily convertible into ΘΣ. In the Oriental Church the powerful Christological interest might easily have overlooked an alteration in the text, which was the result either of inadvertence, or of a design to give greater emphasis to the doctrine of the Incarnation here enunciated. We find that the reading in the Lectionaries, in Chrysostom, Theodoret, John of Damasc., æcumenius, Theophylact, and others, was Θεός; but this was not the reading of the great uncial MSS. Bishop Pearson has an elaborate note upon this text (“Creed,” Am. ed., p. 194), in which he assumes, however, that the “Greek copies” all read Θεὸς, which is an error. It is not denied that many of the Greek fathers read Θεὸς; the question is, what is the evidence that it is the true reading? The reader is referred to the author’s critical remarks.—Nor is the translation easy. Our author is ingenious here, hut not convincing. He brackets the following words: (“Ein Pfeiler und Grundfeste der Wahrheit, und anerkannt gross ist das Geheimniss der Gottseligkeit”) = “a pillar and ground of the truth, and confessedly great is the mystery of godliness.” He thus connects the clause, “great is the mystery of godliness,” with what precedes. It has, indeed, a connection with the foregoing, but not in the way of grammatical structure. We can, with the modern critical editors, place a full period at the end of the 15th verse. Then we can find the logical connection thus: the mystery of godliness is the truth just referred to; the especial substance of that “truth” is then expressed in the words that follow: “Who was manifest,” &c. Yet ὁε creates the greatest difficulty in the way of structure. But it may (so Huther) be regarded as referring to a subject not yet named expressly, but which, of course, must be Christ. Then, if we regard the passage as taken from a current Christian hymn, the difficulty disappears in a measure.—E. H.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 3". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/1-timothy-3.html. 1857-84.
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