Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary

- 1 Timothy

by Joseph Benson



Timothy, or Timotheus, was a native of Lystra, in the Lesser Asia. His father was a Greek, but his grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice, were pious Jewish women, and trained him up from a child in the knowledge of the Scriptures. When young, and probably by hearing the gospel preached by Paul or Barnabas, he was converted to the Christian faith: and from the time of his conversion made such proficiency in the knowledge of the gospel, and was so remarkable for his piety and zeal in the cause of Christ, that he attracted the esteem of all the brethren in those parts, and was so well spoken of by them, that Paul would have him to accompany him in his journeys through the Gentile countries, and to assist him in his labours of preaching the gospel. And as Timothy, though a Jew, had not been circumcised, by reason that his father was a Gentile, the apostle thought it proper that he should bear that mark of his descent from a Jewess, because without it the Jews would have looked on him as a heathen, and would have despised his instructions. This, and not any opinion that circumcision was necessary to salvation, caused the apostle to propose and Timothy to receive that rite, by which the Jews, from the earliest times, had been distinguished from the rest of mankind. Afterward the presbyters at Lystra, the more strongly to impress Timothy with a sense of the importance of the work he had undertaken, solemnly set him apart to the office of an evangelist, by the laying on of their hands and by prayer. This was followed by the laying on of the apostle’s hands, for the purpose of communicating to Timothy the gifts of the Holy Ghost, 2 Timothy 1:6.

Timothy being thus prepared to be the apostle’s fellow-labourer in the gospel, accompanied him and Silas when they visited the churches of Phrygia, and delivered to them the decrees of the apostles and elders at Jerusalem, declaring it unnecessary for the believing Gentiles to be circumcised, and to observe the ceremonial law of Moses. Having gone through these countries, and at length come to Troas, where Luke joined them, they were directed by a vision to go into Macedonia. Loosing, therefore, from Troas, they all passed over to Neapolis, and from thence went to Philippi, where they were instrumental in converting many, and in planting a Christian church. Leaving Luke at Philippi, they proceeded from thence to Thessalonica, where also they made many converts; but, being opposed with great violence by the unbelieving Jews, they were obliged to flee to Berea, whither the Jews from Thessalonica followed them. To elude their rage, Paul, who was most obnoxious to them, departed from Berea by night to go to Athens, leaving Silas and Timothy in Berea. While the apostle remained at Athens, Timothy came to him, and gave him such an account of the afflicted state of the Thessalonian brethren, as induced him to send that evangelist back to comfort them. The apostle, meeting with little success at Athens, did not think it proper to continue there many days, but leaving that city, went forward to Corinth, where Silas and Timothy came to him, and assisted him in the work of preaching the gospel to the Corinthians. And when he left Corinth, they accompanied him first to Ephesus, then to Jerusalem, and after that to Antioch in Syria. Having spent some time in Antioch, Paul set out with Timothy on his third apostolical journey; in which, after visiting all the churches of Galatia and Phrygia, in the order in which they had been planted, they came to Ephesus the second time, and there abode long. In short, from the time Timothy first joined the apostle as his assistant, he never left him, except when sent by him on some special errand. And by his affection, fidelity, and zeal, he so recommended himself to all the disciples, and acquired such authority among them, that Paul inserted his name in the inscription of several of the letters which he wrote to the churches, to show that their doctrine was one and the same.

Timothy, it must be observed, was properly, as was Titus also, an itinerant evangelist; a kind of secondary apostle, whose office was to regulate all things in the churches to which he was sent, and to inspect and reform whatsoever was amiss either in the bishops, deacons, or people. St. Paul had, doubtless, largely instructed him in private conversation for the due execution of so weighty an office. Yet, to fix things more upon his mind, and to give him an opportunity of having recourse to them afterward, as there might be occasion, and of communicating them to others, as also to leave divine directions in writing, for the use of the church and its ministers, in all ages, he sent him this excellent pastoral letter, which contains a great variety of important instructions and advices. With respect to the date of this epistle, learned men have been greatly divided in their opinions. The hypothesis which has prevailed most generally is, that it was written about A.D. 60, when Paul had lately quitted Ephesus, on account of the tumult raised there by Demetrius, and was gone into Macedonia, Acts 20:1. And this has been the opinion of many learned critics, ancient and modern; particularly of Athanasius, Theodoret, Baronius, Ludovic, Capellus, Blondel, Hammond, Grotius, Salmasius, Lightfoot, and Benson. On the other hand, Bishop Pearson endeavours to prove, that it could not be written till between the time of the first and second imprisonment of Paul at Rome, about A.D. 68; which opinion has been embraced by Le Clerc, L’Enfant, Cave, Fabricius, Mill, Whitby, Paley, Macknight, and others. The following arguments, however, in favour of the former hypothesis, do not appear to the author of this work to have yet received a satisfactory answer, and therefore he prefers the ancient opinion.

1. When Paul wrote his first epistle to him, Timothy was a young man, as appears from 1 Timothy 4:12, where the apostle says, “Let no man despise thy youth;” which is also referred to 1 Corinthians 16:10-11. Now supposing he were only sixteen years of age when converted to Christianity, which is thought to have been in St. Paul’s journey through the Lesser Asia, recorded Acts 14:0., (see note on Acts 16:1,) he would, in the year 60, be about thirty years of age; but in 68, when the latter hypothesis supposes the epistle was written, he would be thirty-eight, and certainly past the time of youth; thirty being the age at which the Levites were, according to the law, to enter upon their office. 2. The state of things in the church at Ephesus, in A.D. 60, better suits the contents of the first epistle than it does in A.D. 68. For it appears from chap. 1 Timothy 1:3-7, and other passages, that those corruptions which the apostle speaks of as greatly increased and risen to a considerable height, when he met the elders of Ephesus at Miletus, and when he wrote his second epistle, were but just beginning to creep into the church at the time of his writing the first. To which it may be added that, from the particular instructions which the apostle gives Timothy about ordination, it seems as if the church at Ephesus, and those in the neighbourhood, had few or no bishops at the time it was written; from whence it appears extremely probable that the meeting between Paul and the elders of Ephesus at Miletus, must have been after the writing of this epistle. But, 3. The argument on which the principal stress hath been laid, in favour of the first hypothesis, is taken from the solemn prophetic declaration which Paul made when he took his leave of the elders of Ephesus at Miletus, in the following words, “I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more,” Acts 20:25. From whence it is inferred, that he must have written this epistle to Timothy before that interview, since in it he not only expresses a full expectation of returning, but speaks of his having just left Ephesus when he set out on his journey for Macedonia.

The epistle contains three parts: I. The inscription, 1 Timothy 1:1-2. II. The instruction of Timothy how to behave at Ephesus; wherein,

1. In general, he gives an injunction to deliver to them that taught the law in a wrong manner, and confirms, at the same time, the sum of the gospel, as exemplified in himself, 1 Timothy 1:3-20.

2. In particular, he prescribes to men a method of prayer, 1 Timothy 2:1-8; to women, good works and modesty, 1 Timothy 2:9-15. He recounts the requisites of a bishop, 1 Timothy 3:1-7; the duties of deacons, 1 Timothy 3:8-10; of women, 1 Timothy 3:11-13.

3. He shows what Timothy should teach, 1Ti 3:14 ; 1 Timothy 4:1-6; what he should avoid, 1 Timothy 4:7-11; what he should follow after, 1 Timothy 4:12-16. How he should treat men and women, 1 Timothy 5:1-2; widows, 1 Timothy 5:3-16; elders, 1 Timothy 5:17-19; offenders, 1 Timothy 5:20-21; himself, 1 Timothy 5:22-23; those he doubts of, 1 Timothy 5:24-25; servants, 1Ti 6:1 ; 1 Timothy 2:4. False teachers are reproved, 1 Timothy 6:3-10; Timothy is admonished and quickened, 1 Timothy 6:11-12; precepts are prescribed to be enforced on the rich, 1 Timothy 6:17-19. III. The conclusion, 1 Timothy 6:20-21.