2 Timothy 1:15-The Apostasy of Phygelus and Hermogenes
In Second Timothy 1:15, the apostle Paul informs Timothy that the majority of believers in the Roman province of Asia had turned away from him in apostasy.
He asserts that Phygelus and Hermogenes were the two most prominent among these believers.
2 Timothy 1:15 You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. (NASB95)
“Turned away” is the third person plural aorist passive indicative form of the verb apostrephō (ἀποστρέφω), which occurs in classical literature 285 times and the LXX 446 times.
However, in the Greek New Testament it appears only 9 times (Matthew 5:42; 26:52; Luke 23:14; Acts 3:26; Romans 11:26; 2 Timothy 1:15; 4:4; Titus 1:14; Hebrews 12:25).
In the New Testament, the word is used transitively in the sense of “misleading” or “causing someone to go astray” from correct or godly behavior (Luke 23:14).
It means to stop listening in 2 Timothy 4:4.
The verb refers to causing someone to change from incorrect behavior to correct behavior in Romans 11:26.
It also means to put something back or return something in Matthew 26:52 and 27:3.
The word is used intransitively in Acts 3:26 where it means to turn away from, stop.
Here in Second Timothy 1:15, the verb apostrephō means “to desert” in the sense of withdrawing from someone usually without intent to return and implies that the person left may be weakened but not destroyed by one’s absence.
The subject of this verb is the majority of Christians in the Roman province of Asia with Phygelus and Hermogenes, the foremost of these.
Its direct object is of course Paul.
Therefore, this verb speaks of the majority of Christians in the Roman province of Asia and Hermogenes and Phygelus the foremost of these “deserting” the apostle Paul in the sense that they withdrew from him in the face of danger from the Roman authorities who arrested Paul.
It is implying that they left Paul in a weakened state but he was not destroyed by their desertion of him.
The middle voice of the verb is an indirect middle meaning that the subject acts for himself or herself or in his or her own interest.
This would indicate that in order to protect themselves from being arrested or harassed by the Roman authorities, the majority of Christians in the Roman province of Asia deserted the apostle Paul with Hermogenes and Phygelus the most prominent of these individuals.
The adjective pas does not means “all” referring to each and every individual in the Roman province of Asia but rather it means “the majority” in this province deserted the apostle Paul when he was arrested by the Roman authorities.
What Paul is saying is much like we would say in America that the whole country watched the events of 911 transpire on television!
Of course not each and every person would have done so but the idea behind the statement is that a good majority in the country did watch the events of 911.
This interpretation is clearly indicated by Paul’s statement in verse 16 in which he expresses his Spirit inspired desire that the Lord would grant the house of Onesiphorus mercy because he often refreshed Paul and was not ashamed of the fact that Paul was incarcerated.
In Second Timothy 1:15, the articular construction of the noun Asia emphasizes that this Roman province is well-known to Timothy since Timothy served the church at Ephesus which was located in this province.
This province was also one of Empire’s wealthiest provinces and was a great center of industry, science, literature and culture in the Empire.
Second Timothy 1:15 You are well aware of this fact that the majority of those who are living in Asia for their own protection deserted me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. (My translation)
Second Timothy 1:15 marks a transition from Paul exhorting Timothy to remain faithful to a discussion regarding those Christians who did not remain faithful to Paul and his apostolic teaching.
Here in verse 15, the apostle states that Timothy was well aware of this fact that the majority of those living in Asia for their own protection deserted him, among whom were Phygelus and Hermogenes.
So Paul’s language here in verse 15 makes clear that this news of this mass defection from the apostle Paul because of his arrest and subsequent imprisonment for the gospel was well-known in the Christian communities in Asia.
Remember Timothy was serving in Ephesus at the time of Paul’s arrest.
In fact, he was Paul’s delegate to the church in that city which was the largest city in the province.
So he would have first-hand knowledge of this mass desertion in this province.
Now, these individuals in Asia were of course Christians because deserting him implies that they were once loyal and friendly to him and had some kind of relationship with Paul.
Thus, this would rule out the non-Christians.
These Christians in Asia deserted Paul in the sense that they withdrew from him in the face of danger from the Roman authorities who arrested Paul.
They withdraw from him in order to protect themselves from being arrested or harassed by the Roman authorities.
Thus, they were sinning by not trusting the Lord which resulted in their living in fear of the Roman authorities and imprisonment.
Paul is employing hyperbole because not each and every Christian abandoned him but rather he is saying that the majority did so.
This is clearly indicated by Paul’s statement in verse 16 in which he expresses his Spirit inspired desire that the Lord would grant the house of Onesiphorus mercy because he often refreshed Paul and was not ashamed of the fact that Paul was incarcerated.
When Paul speaks of “Asia” he is referring to the Roman province of Asia which made up a large part of the western segment of modern Turkey.
In Second Timothy 1:15, the apostle Paul singles out two Christians in particular who deserted him upon his arrest and subsequent imprisonment, namely Phygelus and Hermogenes who are never mentioned anywhere else in the Greek New Testament.
These two appear to be prominent Christians since they are singled out from all the other Christians in Asia who deserted Paul.
Thus, they could have in fact been pastor-teachers since these constituted the leadership of the churches who served under the authority of the apostles like Paul.
The fact that Paul mentions these two by name also makes clear that both men were known by Timothy.
The singling out of these two men could also mean that they were the ring leaders of this desertion of Paul.
When Paul mentions the faithfulness of Onesiphorus in verse 16 who encouraged the apostle and was not ashamed of his imprisonment implies a contrast with Phygelus and Hermogenes and the majority of Christians in Asia who deserted him.
The contrast is between Onesiphorus not being ashamed of Paul’s imprisonment for the gospel and encouraging him whereas Phygelus and Hermogenes and the majority of Christians in Asia were ashamed of his imprisonment and did not give him encouragement during this adversity.
All these Christians who Paul mentions deserted him when he was imprisoned for the gospel were in apostasy.
This means that they were failing to obey the doctrine to love one another as Christ loves (John 13:34).
By deserting Paul, they were refusing to obey the Lord’s command to love one another.
Thus, they were rejecting the gospel which taught Christians to love one another as Christ loves.
This constituted their apostasy.