Introduction to Second Timothy-Recipient, Date and Literary Genre
Wenstrom Bible Ministries
Pastor-Teacher Bill Wenstrom
Thursday January 22, 2015
Second Timothy: Introduction-Recipient, Date and Literary Genre
Lesson # 1
The two epistles to Timothy and that to Titus are closely related to each other since they were written by Paul to his fellow co-workers to give them instruction concerning their pastoral duties.
The content of these letters makes them unique in the Pauline corpus.
They address the same concerns, presuppose the same false teachers and possess similar language and style.
These epistles are usually identified by scholars with the title “Pastoral Epistles.”
This title was given to them by D.N. Berdot in 1703 and followed by Paul Anton in 1726.
The “Pastoral Epistles” were regarded by the early church as divinely inspired.
They were universally accepted by the early church as a part of the canon of Scripture and it wasn’t until the nineteenth century that their canonical status was ever questioned.
That Paul is the author of each of the Pastorals is clearly supported by the salutation in each of them and the recipients of the Pastoral letters are identified in the salutations as Timothy (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 2:2) and Titus (Titus 1:4).
The personal references to these two men throughout the letters further support the idea that Timothy and Titus are the recipients.
However, not only are these two men the recipients but also the local assemblies that are instructed through these men are the recipients of these letters as well.
This is indicated implicitly by the plural “you” that appears in the concluding benediction of each letter “grace be with you” (1 Timothy 6:21; 2 Timothy 4:22), which is made explicitly with the addition of “all” (Titus 3:15).
All of this, should negate the idea that these letters were written only to Timothy and Titus.
Second Timothy was a letter written by the apostle Paul which was sent to his delegate in Ephesus, namely Timothy (2 Timothy 1:2).
“Timothy” is the proper name Timotheos (Τιμόθεος), which means “one who honors God” since it is composed of the noun time, “honor” and the noun theos, “God.”
His name appears 24 times in the Greek New Testament and is found 6 times in Acts (16:1; 17:14-15; 18:5; 19:22; 20:4).
His name appears 18 times in Pauline epistles (Romans 16:21; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 16:10; 2 Corinthians 1:1, 19; Philippians 1:1; 2:19; Colossians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 3:2, 6; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:2, 18; 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:2; Philemon 1:1; Hebrews 13:23).
His name appears at the head of eight of the Pauline epistles (2 Cor. 1:1; Phlp. 1:1; Col. 1:1, 1 Th. 1:1, 2 Th. 1:1, 1 Tm. 1:2; 2 Tm. 1:2; Phlm 1:1).
On his second missionary journey Paul met Timothy at Lystra (Acts 16:1-5).
Timothy, who may have been converted as the result of Paul’s first visit to Lystra, was highly regarded by the royal family at Lystra and Iconium.
His Jewish mother had become a believer with his grandmother (2 Tm. 1:5) but yet his father is described as a Greek (Acts 16:1) and thus would have belonged to the small elite class of Lystra who had been educated in the Greek language and culture.
This mixed marriage would have been viewed by Jewish law as illegal and would have been opposed by the Christian church (cf. 2 Cor. 6:14).
Timothy became an associate and traveling companion of the apostle Paul.
Paul links Timothy’s name with his own in saluting the churches in: (1) Corinth (2 Cor. 1:1). (2) Philippi (Phlp. 1:1). (3) Colosse (Col. 1:1). (4) Thessalonica (1 Th. 1:1; 2 Th. 1:1).
This indicates either that Timothy served with Paul in each of these churches, or that he had been sent there by the apostle, or that he had come to be known by them because of his close association with Paul (cf. Rm. 16:21).
As Silas took Barnabas’s place as Paul’s senior associate on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-41), so Timothy replaced Mark as Paul’s junior associate.
Timothy was diligent student of Paul’s as well as becoming a trusted and invaluable colleague.
Paul describes him as: (1) “My fellow-worker” (Rm. 16:21). (2) “God’s fellow-worker” (1 Th. 3:2). (3) “My beloved and faithful student in the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:17). (4) “True child in the faith” (1 Tm. 1:2; Phlp. 2:22). (5) “A Christian gentleman of proven worth” (Phlp. 2:22). (6) “Brother” (2 Cor. 1:1; Col. 1:1). (7) “My son” (1 Tm. 1:18; cf. v. 1; 1 Cor. 4:14). (8) “I have no one like-minded” (Phlp. 2:20). (9) “Slave of Christ Jesus” (Phlp. 1:1). (10) “Seeks the things of Jesus Christ” (Phlp. 2:21). (11) “Loyal” (2 Tm. 3:10). (12) “Doing the Lord’s work” (1 Cor. 16:10).
Apparently the apostle Paul derived special comfort from Timothy’s presence (Phlp. 2:20-22).
Paul’s request for Timothy to leave Ephesus and come to him at Rome during his second and last Roman imprisonment demonstrates once again Paul’s deep and lasting affection for Timothy and his need for Timothy’s sympathy and care, especially at the end of his life (2 Tm. 4:9).
Evidently, Timothy was a young man with exceptional leadership qualities since Paul authorized him to appoint pastor-teachers and to establish order in the churches throughout the Roman Empire.
Duane Lifton writes “Paul was a prisoner in a Roman dungeon when he wrote this, the last of his epistles, to Timothy (cf. 2 Tim. 1:8, 16; 4:6–13). The date, as best it can be established, was approximately A.D. 67. Not long afterward, according to tradition, the apostle was beheaded.”
Second Timothy has the form of a letter and conforms to the standard Pauline elements: (1) salutation (1:1-2) (2) thanksgiving (1:3-5) (3) body of the letter (1:6-4:8) (4) personal remarks and final greetings (4:9-21) (5) final Spirit inspired desire (4:22).
Despite this many scholars have asked if Second Timothy is a literary genre known as the testament or in other words, a farewell discourse.
This genre appears in Second Temple Jewish literature.
This type of genre appears in Acts 20:17-35 where Paul says a final goodbye to the pastors in Ephesus.
Many believe that Paul is employing this genre when writing this second letter to his young delegate Timothy since this letter has all the elements of this genre in that Paul is about to die and then warns Timothy regarding the difficult future he himself will face.
He encourages Timothy to persevere which is another element of this genre.
However, it appears that Paul is in fact not employing the testament genre in Second Timothy.
First of all, Paul’s death is not made explicit in the letter even though it is implied.
Secondly, he is passing his commission off to Timothy which would be found in the testament genre.
Thirdly, Paul devotes a lot of attention to his opponents which is far more explicit than found in most testamentary literature.
Lastly, Paul predicts future woes which are statements of reality (see 3:1-6).
This is not a major characteristic of testamentary literature.
Second Timothy is more in line with a paraenetic letter which was a type of letter written to exhort someone and to advise them to pursue a particular course of action and discourage other particular courses of action.
Thus a paraenetic letter is advice in the form of exhortation that encourages certain actions and discourages others.
In Second Timothy, we have Paul presenting himself to Timothy as his spiritual father to his beloved spiritual son.
The apostle repeatedly advises Timothy of the models that he can imitate, namely himself.
He then explains this model to imitate with a series of spiritual axioms and then, at the end, he presents himself a final time as a model that Timothy can imitate.
However, what does not fit within the framework of paraenetic letter is the polemic against false teachers.
But this attack upon the false teachers does appear in protreptic letters which was a literary genre where one was attempting to win someone over to a superior point of view.
This type of genre is found in letters which encourage young men to pursue the life of philosophy or for those already professing the philosophical life, to live up to the ideals of their profession.
In this type of letter, the personal vices and the disgusting practices of the philosophers serve to highlight a positive ideal.
Here in Second Timothy we have the same idea with the respected teacher, Paul, presenting himself as the model that the aspirant, Timothy, is to imitate.
We have Paul presenting spiritual axioms to Timothy and in antithetical fashion using a polemic against false teachers in order to present to Timothy actions which are to be avoided.
Therefore, it appears that Paul is employing the protreptic genre with the paraenetic genre here in Second Timothy.