1 Timothy 2 Commentary

1 Timothy 2 DT Commentary

vv. 1-4 “The gospel includes high and low. Both the Emperor in his power and the slave in his helplessness were included in the sweep of the gospel. Both the philosopher in his wisdom and the simple man in his ignorance need the grace and truth that the gospel can bring. Within the gospel there are no class distinctions. King and commoner, rich and poor, aristocrat and peasant, master and man are all included in its limitless embrace.

“The gospel includes good and bad. A strange malady has sometimes afflicted the Church in modern times, causing it to insist that a man be respectable before he is allowed in, and to look askance at sinners who seek entry to its doors. But the New Testament is clear that the Church exists, not only to edify the good, but to welcome and save the sinner.

“[…]The gospel embraces Christian and non-Christian. Prayer is to be made for all men. The Emperors and rulers for whom this letter bids us pray were not Christians; they were in fact hostile to the Church; and yet they were to be borne to the throne of grace by the prayers of the Church. For the true Christian there is no such thing as an enemy in all this world. None is outside his prayers, for none is outside the love of Christ, and none is outside the purpose of God, who wishes all men to be saved.”[1]

v.2 “Paul now adds a reason for praying for the pagan authorities: that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. For many scholars, this sounds terribly bourgeois, even selfish. But, again, it probably reflects the activities of the false teachers, who are not only disrupting (‘disquieting’) the church(es) but apparently are also bringing the gospel and the church into disrepute on the outside (see esp. 3:7;5:14; 6:1; cf. Titus 2:5, 8; 3:1-3). The concern here, therefore, is not that Christians should have a life free from trouble or distress (which hardly fits the point of view of 2 Tim. 1:8 and 3:12) but that they should live in such a way that ‘no one will speak evil of the name of God and of our teaching’ (6:1).”[2]

“[godliness, eusebia] is one of the great and almost untranslatable Greek words.  It describes reverence both towards God and man.  It describes that attitude of mind which respects man and honouors God.  Eusebius defined it as ‘reverence towards the one and only

God, and the kind life that he would wish us to lead.’”[3]

v. 5 “the background [of the word ‘mediator’] lies in the idea of a ‘negotiator’ who ‘establishes a relation which would not otherwise exist’ […]  Jesus Christ is the ‘go-between God’ who reconciles fallen humanity to the one God, that is who mediates between God and men.”[4]

“He gave himself as a ‘ransom,’ that is, he released us from bondage. In our contemporary circumstances we think of paying a ransom in money, but Jesus did not, as is sometimes thought, pay a ransom price to Satan. The ransom was that he gave himself up in death (Mark 10:45).  He did this ‘for’ (hyper, i.e., ‘on behalf of’) all people.”[5]

v. 6 “The last phrase [‘the testimony given in its proper time’] is literally ‘in its own appointed times.’ Christ’s sacrifice for sin took place at God’s appointed hour.”[6]

v.7 “He is a herald of the story of Jesus Christ. A herald is a man who makes a statement and who says: ‘This is true.’ He is a man who brings a proclamation that is not his own, but which comes from the king.”[7]

v.8 “The early Church took over the Jewish attitude of prayer, which was to pray standing, with hands outstretched and the palms upwards.”[8]

“He who prays must stretch forth holy hands. He must hold up to God hands which do not touch the forbidden things. This does not mean for one moment that the sinner is debarred from God; but it does mean that there is no reality in the prayers of the man who then goes out to soil his hands with forbidden things, as if he had never prayed. It is not thinking of the man who is helplessly in the grip of some passion and desperately fighting against it, bitterly conscious of his failure. It is thinking of the man whose prayers are a sheer formality.”[9]

“and here [Paul] refers to their not being ‘soiled’ by anger or disputing, the particular sins of the false teachers.”[10]

v.9 “[This was] not a total ban on the wearing of jewelry or braided hair.  Rather, Paul was expressing caution in a society where such things were signs of extravagant luxury and proud personal display.”[11]

vv. 11-14 “The second part of this passage deals with the place of women in the Church. It cannot be read out of its historical context, for it springs entirely from the situation in which it was written.

“It was written against a Jewish background. […] In Jewish law [a woman] was not a person but a thing; she was entirely at the disposal of her father or of her husband. She was forbidden to learn the law; to instruct a woman in the law was to cast pearls before swine. Women had no part in the synagogue service; they were shut apart in a section of the synagogue, or in a gallery, where they could not be seen. A man came to the synagogue to learn; but, at the most, a woman came to hear. In the synagogue the lesson from Scripture was read by members of the congregation; but not by women, for that would have been to lessen ‘the honour of the congregation.’ It was absolutely forbidden for a woman to teach in a school; she might not even teach the youngest children. A woman was exempt from the stated demands of the Law.

“It was not obligatory on her to attend the sacred feasts and festivals. Women, slaves and children were classed together. In the Jewish morning prayer a man thanked God that God had not made him ‘a Gentile, a slave or a woman.’ In the Sayings of the Fathers Rabbi Jose ben Johanan is quoted as saying: `Let thy house be opened wide, and let the poor be thy household, and talk not much with a woman.’ Hence the wise have said: `Everyone that talketh much with a woman causes evil to himself, and desists from the works of the Law, and his end is that he inherits Gehenna.’ A strict Rabbi would never greet a woman on the street, not even his own wife or daughter or mother or sister. It was said of woman: ‘Her work is to send her children to the synagogue; to attend to domestic concerns; to leave her husband free to study in the schools; to keep house for him until he returns.’

“It was written against a Greek background. The Greek background made things doubly difficult. The place of women in Greek religion was low. The Temple of Aphrodite in Corinth had a thousand priestesses who were sacred prostitutes and every evening plied their trade on the city streets. The Temple of Diana in Ephesus had its hundreds of priestesses called the Melissae, which means the bees, whose function was the same. The respectable Greek woman led a very confined life. She lived in her own quarters into which no one but her husband came. She did not even appear at meals. She never at any time appeared on the street alone; she never went to any public assembly. The fact is that if in a Greek town Christian women had taken an active and a speaking part in its work, the Church would inevitably have gained the reputation of being the resort of loose women.”[12]

v.11 The proper way for any novice to learn was submissively and “quietly” (a closely related Greek term appears in 2:2 for all believers). Women were less likely to be literate than men, were trained in philosophy far less often than men, were trained in rhetoric almost never, and in Judaism were far less likely to be educated in the law. Given the bias against instructing women in the law, it is Paul’s advocacy of their learning the law, not his recognition that they started as novices and so had to learn quietly, that was radical and countercultural. (In the second century, Beruriah, wife of Rabbi Meir, was instructed in the law, but she was a rare exception. Women could hear expositions at the synagogues and did sometimes attend rabbinic lectures, but the vast majority of rabbis would never accept them as disciples, and Hellenistically oriented Jews like Josephus and Philo were even more biased against them than the rabbis were. There is evidence for a few women filling higher roles in some Diaspora synagogues, in local cultures where women had higher social positions, but the same evidence shows that even there prominent women in synagogues were the rare exception rather than the rule. [13]

v.12 Given women’s lack of training in the Scriptures (see comment on 2:11), the heresy spreading in the Ephesian churches through ignorant teachers (1:4–7), and the false teachers’ exploitation of these women’s lack of knowledge to spread their errors (5:13; 2 Tim 3:6), Paul’s prohibition here makes good sense. His short-range solution is that these women should not teach; his long-range solution is “let them learn” (2:11). The situation might be different after the women had been instructed (2:11; cf. Rom 16:1–4, 7; Phil 4:2–3).

v.13 Paul argues for women’s subordination in pastoral roles on the basis of the order of creation, the same way he argued for women wearing head coverings (1 Cor 11:7–12). Some writers take his argument here as universal, for all circumstances, even though that is not the most natural reading of the Genesis text to which he alludes (Gen 2:18 in Hebrew suggests a complementary partner). Other writers take Paul’s statement here only as an ad hoc comparison (see comment on 2:14), as most writers take his same argument for head coverings in 1 Corinthians 11.

v.14 Paul refers to the account of Eve’s fall as it is told in Genesis 3, although some later Jewish stories increased Eve’s guilt or deception considerably beyond that account. That he compares the unlearned women of the Ephesian church with Eve is clear; his earlier letters also compare the whole church of Corinth, both men and women, with Eve (2 Cor 11:3), the Corinthian church with Israel (1 Cor 10:1–22) and his opponents in Galatia with Ishmael (Gal 4:24–25). That he would actually apply this illustration to all women in all times, as some have thought, is less likely (if he did, he would be implying that all women are more easily deceived than men, and his illustration in 2 Cor 11:3 would lose its force; moreover, the local false teachers themselves were men—1 Tim 1:20; 2 Tim 2:17). [14]

v.15 be saved in childbearing—Greek, “in (literally, ‘through’) (her, literally, ‘the’) child-bearing.” Through, or by, is often so used to express not the means of her salvation, but the circumstances amidst which it has place. Thus 1Co 3:15, “He … shall be saved: yet so as by (literally, ‘through,’ that is, amidst) fire”: in spite of the fiery ordeal which he has necessarily to pass through, he shall be saved. So here, “In spite of the trial of childbearing which she passes through (as her portion of the curse, Ge 3:16, ‘in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children’), she shall be saved.” [15] [But the basis of her salvation is, of course, through “faith, love and holiness …”]

“Three interpretations of this verse have been suggested. The first emphasizes the use of the definite article with ‘childbirth’ and suggests that the reference is to the birth of Christ, through whom salvation has come to the world. […]

“A second interpretation is closely related to this. It connects the statement here with Genesis 3:15. The seed of the woman would crush the serpent’s head and bring salvation to mankind.

“The third interpretation is suggested by Vine. He writes, ‘By means of begetting children and so fulfilling the design appointed for her through acceptance of motherhood … she would be saved from becoming a prey to the social evils of the time and would take her part in the maintenance of the testimony of the local church’ (p. 47). This fits best with the context and the main emphasis of this Epistle.”[16]


[1] William Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series CD (Edinburgh, Scotland: The Saint Andrew Press, 1960).

[2] Gordon D. Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, New International Biblical Commentary CD (Peabody, MA; Hendrickson Publishers 1988) .

[3] William Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series CD (Edinburgh, Scotland: The Saint Andrew Press, 1960) .

[4] Gordon D. Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, New International Biblical Commentary CD (Peabody, MA; Hendrickson Publishers 1988).

[5] Walter L. Liefeld, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, The NIV Application Commentary Series  CD(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001).

[6] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).

[7] William Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series CD (Edinburgh, Scotland: The Saint Andrew Press, 1960).

[8] William Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series CD (Edinburgh, Scotland: The Saint Andrew Press, 1960).

[9] William Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series CD (Edinburgh, Scotland: The Saint Andrew Press, 1960).

[10] Gordon D. Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, MA; Hendrickson Publishers 1988) 71.

[11] Keener, C. S., & InterVarsity Press. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary : New Testament (1 Ti 2:11). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

[12] William Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series CD (Edinburgh, Scotland: The Saint Andrew Press, 1960).

[13] William Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series CD (Edinburgh, Scotland: The Saint Andrew Press, 1960).

[14] Keener, C. S., & InterVarsity Press. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary : New Testament (1 Ti 2:12–14). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

[15] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. (1997). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (1 Ti 2:15). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[16] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).

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