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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

- 2 Timothy

by Editor - Joseph Exell



The authorship of the epistle

In several passages this Epistle bears the stamp of genuineness as a writing of St. Paul’s, notably at 2 Timothy 1:5-18; 2 Timothy 4:9-22. In particular, the opening thanksgiving (2 Timothy 1:3) is characteristic of Paul, eight of his ten other Epistles having a similar commencement. At the same time this is not such a prominent feature as to lead to imitation; and, as a matter of fact, it is not found in the two other Pastoral Epistles. A strong proof of genuineness is afforded by the proper names in the Epistle. They are twenty-three in number, including ten mentioned elsewhere. In connection with several of these ten, remarks are made which a forger would have been very unlikely to invent; e.g., “Demas forsook me, having loved this present world” (2 Timothy 4:10; cf. Colossians 4:14), is a record more like what we should have expected to find concerning Mark, in view of his former desertion of Paul (Acts 13:13); whereas we find favourable mention of him in this Epistle (2 Timothy 4:11). Dalmatia is also a strange place to have invented as a destination for Titus (2 Timothy 4:10), considering that he had been written to so recently at Crete. A striking argument has been derived from the occurrence of the name Linus in 2 Timothy 4:21. The argument is based on the fact that Linus, Cletus, and Clement are the names of the first three bishops of the Church of Rome, preserved in her Eucharistic Service, dating from the second century. If the Epistle had been written in the post-Apostolic age, Linus, it is held, would have been sure to receive a more prominent place in the list of salutations, and his name would have been accompanied with that of Cletus, or at all events with that of Clement, as the latter was believed to have been an immediate disciple of Paul (J. A. McClymont, B. D.)

Object of the epistle

It was written from Rome shortly before the martyrdom of the apostle. It was written chiefly to urge Timothy to come to him, all his other companions in the service of Christ (excepting Luke)

being away. One, Demas, had deserted him; others, as Tychicus, he had sent away. But, though apparently sent for the purpose of urging Timothy to come to him quickly, it contains the most precious exhortation to him, and through him to all ministers, “to make full proof of their ministry,” and this it does in the words of a dying man, who is “ready to be offered, and the time of whose departure is at hand.” Whatever special onslaughts of the evil one were yet in store for him, we have his expression of faith that God would carry him triumphantly through all (2 Timothy 4:18). (M. F. Sadler, M. A.)


This letter is of a more private, personal, and intimate character: hence in the superscription Paul omits the title apostle. In the body of the letter (2 Timothy 1:6-18; 2Ti 2:1-26; 2 Timothy 3:1-17; 2 Timothy 4:1-8)

three subjects are dealt with:

1. Timothy’s own deportment. He is to stir up the gift which is in him, and not allow himself to be daunted by fear of the sufferings which the service of Christ may bring upon him. Paul encourages him by four considerations: the grandeur of the gospel, his own example and that of the faithful Onesiphorus, and lastly by the sure hope of the Christian (2 Timothy 1:6-18; 2 Timothy 2:1-13).

2. The Church. This has been invaded by teaching to no profit, and tending only to barren disputations. Nevertheless there still remains a nucleus of true believers, bearing the Divine seal of holiness. Timothy must not be discouraged, therefore, but contend firmly and patiently for the truth. There is even reason to expect that in the last times a moral corruption, like that of the heathen world, may find its way into the Church itself. Already some Christians have become perverted. In order to counteract their influence, the apostle gives Timothy three counsels. He is to remember the example of constancy which he had witnessed in Paul himself (during his first sojourn in Lycaonia); he is to feed continually upon the Scriptures inspired of God; and to redouble his vigilance and activity in evangelistic work (2 Timothy 2:14-26; 2 Timothy 3:1-17; 2 Timothy 4:1-5).

3. The apostle himself. He speaks first of his approaching martyrdom, then he asks Timothy to come as soon as possible, because all his fellow-workers, except Luke, are absent. He urges that Mark should come with him, and desires him to bring also the cloak and the books which he (Paul) had left in Asia Minor. Lastly, he refers to his first appearance before the imperial judgment seat, which gave him an opportunity of fully proclaiming the gospel message, and yet did not lead to his condemnation. In the concluding sentences he refers to, or explains incidentally, the absence of two of his fellow-workers (verse 20). Then come greetings to a few brethren, all of them bearing Roman names. (Prof. F. Godet.).

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