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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 3

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

2 Timothy 3:1. In the last days. The words imply, as do many other passages in the New Testament, the belief that the end of the world’s history was not far off, that the then state of the world presented signs of its approach. So we have ‘it is the last time’ in 1 John 2:18, and St. Paul’s words implying that the end might come in the lifetime of the generation then living (1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Corinthians 15:51). History has baffled that expectation, but the permanent truth remains that, as elsewhere, ‘prophecy hath springing and germinant accomplishments.’ So here, phenomena of evil, like those described by St. Paul, bring on one of those days of the Lord that are preludes of the final judgment.

Perilous. Better, ‘ grievous.’ The idea is that of distress rather than danger.

Verse 2

2 Timothy 3:2. Covetous. The alliterative emphasis is better given by ‘lovers of themselves, lovers of money.’

Proud. Better, ‘ haughty.’

Blasphemers. The context would rather imply that the word is used in the sense of ‘ railers or ‘revilers.’

Verse 3

2 Timothy 3:3. Truce-breakers. Better, ‘ implacable,’ not the persons who break a truce, but those with whom no truce can be made.

False accusers. Better, ‘ slanderers,’ as in 1 Timothy 3:11.

Fierce. More definitely, ‘ untameable ’ or ‘ inhuman.’

Despisers of them that are good. Better, ‘ having no love of good.’

Verse 4

2 Timothy 3:4. Heady. Better, ‘ headlong.’

High-minded. The same word as 1 Timothy 3:6, 1 Timothy 6:4, ‘ fevered or ‘delirious with pride.’

Lovers of pleasures. Better, as contrasting more pointedly the two objects of love, Movers of pleasure’ in the singular.

Verse 5

2 Timothy 3:5. Form. The Greek word suggests the idea of a manufactured article, the ‘fashion or semblance ’ of piety.

Denying. The Greek participle is in the perfect, ‘having denied’ or ‘repudiated.’

From such turn away. The injunction implies, what is in other ways apparent, that. St. Paul thought of the characteristic features of the last days as already present.

Verse 6

2 Timothy 3:6. Creep into houses. The whole verse paints the early phase of an evil which has reappeared but too frequently in the religious history of Christendom. Every word expresses the scorn with which the apostle looked on the clandestine practices of those who thus gained influence in families, and became, if not the founders of sects, at least the leaders of coteries.

Silly women. The English well expresses the force of the Greek diminutive, ‘ women-creatures.’

Laden with sins. The word gives the reason why such women fall easy victims to the Tartuffe of their time. They are oppressed with the burden of accumulated sins, and they follow any one who promises deliverance on easy terms, or drugs them with a spiritual anodyne.

Diverse lusts. As in the ‘youthful lusts’ of 2 Timothy 2:22, the word, though it includes, is not limited to, sensual passion, but takes in, as the word ‘divers’ implies, desires and caprices of every possible variety.

Verse 7

2 Timothy 3:7. The words describe vividly the fruitless wanderings of those who pass from system to system and teacher to teacher.

The knowledge of the truth, i.e., as in 2 Timothy 2:25, the full clear knowledge that shuts out uncertainty.

Verse 8

2 Timothy 3:8. Jannes and Jambres. The names do not appear in the Pentateuch or elsewhere in the Old Testament. They are found in the Targum or Paraphrase of Exodus 7:11; Exodus 22:11, ascribed to Jonathan, and may represent either a fragment of decorative fiction or an unwritten tradition. According to one legend they were the sons of Balaam, who prophesied the birth of Moses, suggested the murder of the Hebrew infants, and were Pharaoh’s counsellors in all evil. As in the reference to Enoch in Jude 1:14, we see a free use of what we call uncanonical materials by way, not of proof, but illustration.

Of corrupt minds. As in 1 Timothy 6:5, though the Greek word is not quite the same, ‘ corrupted in their mind.’

Reprobate. In its strict sense, as ‘tried, found wanting, and rejected.’

Verse 9

2 Timothy 3:9. They shall proceed no further. Verbally there seems a contradiction between this and 2 Timothy 2:16, but the context shows that the earlier passage refers to the development of evil tendencies from their germ, and the later to their ultimate failure and decay. Heresies spread rapidly but are short-lived.

Verse 10

2 Timothy 3:10. Thou hast followed. Better, ‘ thou didst follow.’ The pronoun is emphatic, and the tense points to a definite time, probably that of Timothy’s early discipleship, which St. Paul had in his memory. It half suggests, too, what the English perfect almost excludes, that the apostle was looking on what he speaks of as belonging to a vanished past. It had been. Was the present like it?

Doctrine. Teaching in its widest sense.

Purpose. Here only used by St. Paul of himself, elsewhere of the Divine purpose.

Verse 11

2 Timothy 3:11. There is something at once natural and touching in the way in which the aged apostle goes back to the memories of the first missionary journey in which Timothy had known him. It is true that he did not then accompany him, but he must have known every incident of the persecutions recorded in Acts 13:14. The Antioch is, of course, that in Pisidia, and the fact that it is not mentioned as such is, so far as it goes, a proof of the naturalness and therefore of the genuineness of the letter. Persecution and then deliverance, that had been the course of his life then. He is confident that it will be so to the end.

Verse 12

2 Timothy 3:12. All that will live godly. The Greek is emphatic, ‘ all who purpose,’ ‘all whose will is ’ to live godly. The general axiom is clearly intended to remind Timothy that there is no test by which a man can satisfy himself whether he lives piously, so sure as the question whether he is or is not, in some way or other, persecuted.

Verse 13

2 Timothy 3:13. Again we have an oscillation of thought, and the immediate advance of evil becomes prominent. The chasm would grow wider till the final issue.

Seducers. Better, ‘ magicians,’ ‘ sorcerers,’ with reference to Jannes and Jambres.

Verse 14

2 Timothy 3:14. Thou hast learned, and hast been assured of. As in other cases, the English perfect hides the force of the Greek. Better, ‘Thou didst learn and wast persuaded of.’

From whom. The received text gives the singular, the better MSS. the plural, The former would point to St. Paul, the latter to Lois and Eunice as well, perhaps (looking to the ‘from a child’ of the next verse) to them chiefly.

Verse 15

2 Timothy 3:15. The holy Scriptures. The Greek noun is not that usually employed in the New Testament, but answers rather to ‘sacred literature’ (Acts 26:24). It is used, however, of the Old Testament books by Josephus.

Which make thee wise. The English is literal enough, but the Greek implies somewhat more of systematic education.

Through faith which is in Christ Jesus. The addition is remarkable. St. Paul’s experience had taught him that without that faith the study of the sacred writings might lead only to endless questionings and logomachies. Targums and the Talmud remain as if to show how profitless such a study might become.

Verse 16

2 Timothy 3:16. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. The Greek sentence leaves the verb to be understood, and this leaves the sentence ambiguous. ‘ All Scripture God-inspired also profitable.’ According to the position which we assign to the omitted verb, we have (1) All Scripture is God-inspired, and is profitable, etc.; or (2) All Scripture God-inspired is also profit-able, etc. Of these two, the former has been more commonly adopted, probably on account of the doctrine as to inspiration which it was supposed to confirm. The latter has, however, been adopted by many commentators, appears in the Revised Version of the New Testament, and on internal grounds has most to commend it. We can hardly think that St. Paul found it necessary to impress the abstract doctrine on the mind of Timothy. What was necessary was to impress on him the practical end to which every inspired writing ought to minister. Every Scripture, so far as it is inspired, works for the completeness of ‘the man of God,’ of the minister of Christ, and of his work.

For doctrine, i.e. as before, teachings in all its width. The words appear purposely chosen to describe the work of Scripture both on the individual character of the reader and on his pastoral work. It will be noticed that the points on which stress is laid are precisely those to which Timothy had been urged

the work of teaching ( 1Ti 1:3 ; 1 Timothy 4:11; 1 Timothy 4:13); of reforming (1 Timothy 5:21; 2 Timothy 2:15); of correcting (2 Timothy 2:25). It is as though he said, ‘It is of small use acknowledging the inspiration of Scripture as a dogma, unless you use it for its appointed work.’

Verse 17

2 Timothy 3:17. That the man of God. This, in technical language, is the final cause of the inspiration of Scripture

the reason why God has thus made it profitable. The man of God’ is used here, as before in 1 Timothy 6:11, as a half official term, as in 1 Kings 13:1, 2 Kings 6:6; 2 Kings 6:9, to indicate the work of Timothy as a prophet and evangelist.

Perfect. In the sense of being complete at all points. The participle thoroughly furnished’ is in the Greek formed from the same root, so that the effect answers to that of the English, ‘that the man of God may be complete, completely equipped.’ The explanation which has been given of this verse refers it primarily to the work of Scripture in fitting the minister of Christ, such as was Timothy, for his appointed work. But it is obvious that the work is not limited to this, and that this is the end for which Scripture was given in relation to each individual soul. It is obvious that St. Paul refers chiefly, many would say exclusively, to the Scriptures of the Old Testament; and it may well be believed that he had no thought at the time that this letter of personal counsel and strong emotion would come under the category of the Scripture of which he thus speaks. We need not, however, limit the word to this meaning. Other ‘writings’ or Scriptures were beginning to be known as such, records of the Gospel history (1 Timothy 5:18), records of prophetic utterances (Romans 16:26; 2 Peter 1:20), some of St. Paul’s own Epistles (2 Peter 3:16). The fact that the word had gained this wider range explains St. Paul’s addition of the qualifying adjective, not ‘ every Scripture’ absolutely, but ‘every God-inspired Scripture,’ as though giving a test by which that inspiration might be recognised.

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 3". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/scn/2-timothy-3.html. 1879-90.
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