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Commentary on The Second Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy

1:1 Paul, an apostle: The sender of the letter, not the addressee, is named first in ancient epistles. Paul was appointed an ambassador of Jesus Christ and commissioned to spread the gospel to Israel and all nations (1:11; Acts 9:15; 1 Cor 1:17). Paul's apostleship ranks him alongside the original Twelve selected by Jesus (Lk 6:13-16) (CCC 858). promise of the life: Eternal life, which we receive now as grace (1 Jn 5:13) and will possess more abundantly in the state of heavenly glory (Col 3:4; 1 Tim 4:8). Christ offers this life to the world through the preaching of the gospel and communicates it through the sacramental actions of the Church to those properly disposed to receive it (CCC 2, 1114-16). Back to text.

1:2 Timothy: A friend and companion of Paul ever since his recruitment on the apostle's second missionary tour (Acts 16:13). See note on 1 Tim 1:2. Grace, mercy, and peace: A slight expansion of Paul's customary greeting of "grace" and "peace". Back to text.

1:4 your tears: Probably shed at the last parting of Paul and Timothy in Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3). Since then, the apostle has not laid eyes on his coworker, despite intentions to rejoin him (1 Tim 3:14). This original plan probably fell through as a result of Paul's arrest and imprisonment (2 Tim 2:9). Back to text.

1:5 your grandmother Lois: Otherwise unknown. your mother Eunice: A convert from Judaism who had instructed her son in the OT Scriptures since his childhood (3:15). Timothy's father was a Greek and may not have become a Christian (Acts 16:1). In any case, Paul is encouraged by the faith that Timothy inherited from the godly women of his family (CCC 2220). Back to text.

1:6 rekindle the gift: Refers to the grace of priestly ministry. Timothy received the fullness of this grace when Paul and a gathering of elders ordained him as bishop by the imposition of hands (CCC 1558, 1577). He is now urged to make use of this divine help in order to complete his mission in Ephesus. See note on 1 Tim 4:14. • Zeal is required to stir up the gift of God, for it lies within our power to kindle or quench this grace. By laziness and carelessness it is extinguished, and by attentiveness and diligence it is kept aflame (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on 2 Timothy 1). Back to text.

1:7 spirit of power Timothy is urged to yield himself to the supernatural strength of the Spirit, and this in order to be an effective teacher and shepherd. Back to text.

1:8 his prisoner: Paul is nearly alone (4:10-11) and chained up like a criminal (2:9), suggesting this does not refer to his first Roman imprisonment, where he lived more comfortably under house arrest and was surrounded by friends and crowds eager to listen to him (Acts 28:16-31). Most likely, this refers to his second Roman imprisonment, which is attested by early traditions that supply details about the end of Paul's life. See introduction: Date. Back to text.

1:9 a holy calling: Salvation is a process initiated by God, so that the grace we receive is entirely free and unmerited by our efforts (Rom 6:23; Tit 3:5). At the same time, God calls us to cooperate with his grace in order to become holy and reach our heavenly home (Phil 2:12; Heb 12:14) (CCC 1996, 2008). ages ago: The plan of salvation, now manifest through the historical events of Christ's life, was formulated in the hidden counsel of God before creation came into being (Jn 17:3-5; Eph 1:4). Back to text.

1:12 whom I have believed: Christ, whom Paul calls his "Savior" (1:10). that Day: An abbreviated reference to the Day of Judgment (1:18; 4:8). entrusted to me: Paul did not invent the gospel, nor did he receive it from the original band of apostles. It was given to him directly from the risen Jesus (Gal 1:11-12). Back to text.

1:14 guard the truth: The gospel that Paul received from Jesus is a sacred deposit now entrusted to Timothy for safekeeping (1 Tim 6:20). His highest responsibility is to preserve it from corruption, to defend it from attack, and to pass it along complete and intact to his successors (2:2) (CCC 84, 256). See introduction: Themes and Characteristics. Back to text.

1:15 Asia: A Roman province in what is today southwestern Turkey. Its leading city, Ephesus, is the city where Timothy is presently stationed as bishop (1 Tim 1:3). Nothing specific is known of the cowardly Asian Christians who abandoned Paul for fear of persecution. Phygelus and Hermogenes: Otherwise unknown, but presumably known to Timothy. Back to text.

1:16 Onesiphorus: He and his family may have lived in Ephesus (1:18). His diligent search for the imprisoned Paul was an expression of loyalty and courage, especially since Christians in Rome were at this time targets of fierce persecution (1:17). Some commentators infer that Onesiphorus died before 2 Timothy was written, since (1) Paul does not indicate that Onesiphorus is with him any longer; (2) he prays that the Lord will grant him mercy at the final Judgment (1:18); and (3) he asks Timothy to greet the household of Onesiphorus, but not Onesiphorus himself (4:19). If, in fact, Onesiphorus had died before Paul wrote this letter, then the apostle's prayer in 1:18 would be an early example of the Christian practice of praying for the dead. Back to text.

2:1 my son: Paul is Timothy's spiritual father in the faith. See note on 1 Cor 4:15Back to text.

2:2 entrust to faithful men: Timothy is the second link in a chain of succession that stretches from the apostles of the first century to the bishops of the present day. Having received Paul's authority and mission, he is charged with passing on both the priestly ministry and the apostolic faith to the next generation. Timothy must transmit these traditions in the same way he received them from Paul: through public instruction, the sacramental imposition of hands, and the witness of his life (1:6, 13-14; 3:10; 1 Tim 5:22; 6:20). • Apostolic succession takes place through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, when bishops receive and then transmit to others the fullness of their apostolic ministry. In this way, the authority that Jesus gave his apostles to preach, teach, administer the Sacraments, and govern the Church is passed on to successive generations until his glorious return (CCC 861-62, 1576). Back to text.

2:3 share of suffering: Timothy must be brave and steadfast under trial, especially since the gospel he preaches will inevitably spark opposition from those offended by the Cross and uncomfortable with the harsh reality of sin (3:12; Gal 6:12). The commitment expected of him is exemplified in the soldier (2 Tim 2:4), the athlete (2:5), and the farmer (2:6), all of whom receive rewards for their toil and dedication. Back to text.

2:8 Remember Jesus: Christ is the center of Paul's gospel. Through his natural birth in the line of King David and his miraculous rebirth in the Resurrection, the Jesus that Paul preaches is none other than the Messiah (CCC 436-37). • In Paul's mind, Jesus fulfills God's covenant oath to raise up the Messiah from David's descendants and enthrone him over an eternal kingdom (2 Sam 7:12-16; Ps 89:3-4; 110:1; Lk 1:32-33). See note on Rom 1:3-4Back to text.

2:9 the word . . . not chained: Paul himself is shackled in prison, but his saving message continues to spread through trustworthy preachers such as Timothy. In this context, the "word of God" is equivalent to the gospel proclaimed by word of mouth (1 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:25). Back to text.

2:10 eternal glory: Everlasting life in heaven, where the saints enter the fullness of their inheritance (Mt 25:34; Col 3:23-24). Back to text.

2:11-13 Possibly an excerpt from an ancient Christian hymn (CCC 2641). It sets forth in conditional propositions the blessings and curses that await us at the Judgment: those who persevere in faith will live and reign with Christ, but those who deny him will be disowned and disgraced in the end. Our ultimate certainty is that Christ will follow through on his promises and threats and so exercise his justice and mercy in perfect faithfulness to the terms of the New Covenant. Several of these statements echo Jesus' teaching in the Gospels (Mt 25:31-46; Mk 8:38; 13:13). Back to text.

2:11 If we have died: Refers (1) to Baptism, where we die to sin and are filled with new life (Rom 6:2-4; CCC 1262-64), (2) to the Christian life, where we struggle with God's help to put to death our selfish and sinful inclinations (Rom 8:13), and (3) to death itself, which admits us into the presence of Christ our Judge (Phil 1:21) (CCC 1010). Back to text.

2:14 avoid disputing: Timothy must silence errant teachers who are fascinated with useless speculation and become contentious when it comes to defending their private opinions before others (2:23; 1 Tim 1:3-7; 6:3-5). This is a matter of urgency since their novelties are already spreading like an infectious disease (2 Tim 2:17). Back to text.

2:15 the word of truth: The gospel message, which is "heard" through preaching (Eph 1:13; Col 1:5). Uppermost in Paul's mind is the word of God orally proclaimed (1 Thess 2:13), not the word of God written in the Scriptures (Rom 15:4), though the latter is often central to Christian teaching and evangelism (2 Tim 3:16). Back to text.

2:17 Hymenaeus: Possibly the same person Paul had already excommunicated for blasphemy (1 Tim 1:20). His partner Philetus is otherwise unknown. Back to text.

2:18 the resurrection is past: The precise nature of this error is unclear. Perhaps false teachers affirmed a "spiritual resurrection" in connection with Baptism (Rom 6:3-4; CCC 1002) but denied the Pauline doctrine of a "bodily resurrection" of the whole person in the future (Rom 8:11; Phil 3:20-21; CCC 989). According to some, this denial smacks of early Gnosticism, an ancient heresy that reached its full development in the second and third centuries and was known to repudiate the body and the material world in general. Back to text.

2:19 God's firm foundation: The gospel message, or perhaps the Church, which upholds the truth (1 Tim 3:15). this seal: Of the two quotations that follow, the first is from the Greek version of Num 16:5, and the second is drawn from an unknown source, though its wording resembles parts of Sir 35:3 and Is 26:13. • The context of the first excerpt is Korah's rebellion against Moses and the Aaronic priesthood, for which he and his fellow dissenters are destroyed by the Lord. Paul hints that a similar crisis is afoot in Ephesus, where Timothy is the legitimate priest and shepherd of God's people, while the false teachers are doomed to face God's judgment. names the name of the Lord: An act of prayer and worship (Gen 4:26; Acts 9:14; 1 Cor 1:2), unless the divine name is taken in vain (Ex 20:7; Lev 24:10-16). Back to text.

2:22 shun youthful passions: Timothy is still a young man by ancient standards, probably in his mid-to-late thirties (1 Tim 4:12). Despite his age, he must flee from immaturity and pursue the virtues that befit a seasoned minister of the gospel. Back to text.

2:24 forbearing: Timothy must deliver the truth at all times and refute errors whenever they arise. There is hope that straying sheep will return to the fold, so long as his pastoral teaching is matched by a life of integrity and patience (2:25; Jas 5:19-20). Back to text.

3:1-9 Paul cautions Timothy about the moral depravity that is rampant among false teachers. Although they operate behind the mask of religion (3:5), they themselves are captives of bitterness, greed, pride, and a host of vile practices that offend God. Special concern is expressed for certain women who have already been victimized by their deceptions (3:6-7). Despite apparent success, Paul insists that their mischief will be exposed for what it truly is (3:9) (CCC 1852). Back to text.

3:1 the last days: The final age of covenant history that began with the first coming of Jesus and will close with his Second Coming in glory (Acts 2:17; 1 Cor 10:11). Although the iniquity prevalent in these days will intensify as the end nears, it is already thriving here in the apostolic era (1 Tim 6:3-5). Back to text.

3:8 Jannes and Jambres: Egyptian magicians who opposed Moses and Aaron (Ex 7:11). They are not named in the OT but are identified as such in Jewish tradition (e.g., in the Dead Sea Scrolls, CD 5, 18-19, and in an apocryphal work titled Jannes and Jambres). Back to text.

3:10-14 Paul contrasts his own ministry of suffering with the self-indulgence of the false teachers (3:1-9). Timothy is to model himself on the example set by Paul, both in word and deed, so that past memories of the apostle will help him through the struggles that lie ahead (1:13; 2:8-10). Once a disciple of Paul, Timothy must now carry the torch as his successor. Back to text.

3:11 Antioch . . . Iconium . . . Lystra: Cities in southern Asia Minor (modern Turkey) that Paul visited on his first missionary journey (Acts 13:14-14:23). Timothy, as a resident of Lystra, probably embraced the Christian faith at this time and may have witnessed the persecutions that Paul endured there (Acts 14:19; 16:1). Back to text.

3:12 will be persecuted: Antagonism toward the gospel often strikes those who preach it. The inevitability of Christian suffering is a recurring theme in this letter (1:8; 2:3; 4:5) and in the NT generally (Jn 16:2-3; Acts 14:22; 1 Pet 4:1214). • Persecution is not only what attacks Christian piety by sword, fire, and torments. Persecution is also inflicted through personal conflict, the perversity of the disobedient, and the sharp point of slanderous tongues (St. Leo the Great, Letters 167). Back to text.

3:15 the Sacred Writings: I.e., the writings of the OT. The NT had not yet been written when Timothy was a young boy. Jewish children often began instruction in the Torah at age five (Mishnah, Aboth 5, 21). for salvation: The books of the OT point the way to Christ (Rom 1:2-3) and continue to instruct his disciples for life in the New Covenant (Rom 15:4) (CCC 121-23, 128-30). Back to text.

Word Study

Inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16)

Theopneustos (Gk.): A compound adjective that means "God-breathed" and is found only here in the NT. It is formed from the noun "God" (Theos) and a verb meaning "blow" or "breathe out" (pneō). Applied to the Scriptures, it means that everything written down in the Bible has been breathed forth from the mouth of the Lord. God is thus the ultimate source of Scripture and, indeed, its principal Author. The similar passage in 2 Pet 1:20-21 adds to this teaching that God collaborated with human authors in producing the biblical books. Inspiration thus means that the Holy Spirit acted in and through the human writers as they wrote, so that the words they left behind are truly sacred expressions of God's instructions to his People. Finally, because the Bible enshrines the very words of God, its message is as truthful as God himself is (Jn 17:17; Tit 1:1-2) and is thus a reliable guide for Christian living, able to instruct us for every good work (2 Tim 3:17) (CCC 105-8).

3:16 All Scripture is inspired: Some prefer to translate this "All inspired Scripture", which is grammatically possible but contextually and statistically unlikely. For one thing, it would allow the possibility that some Scriptures might not be inspired, and neither Paul nor any other theologian in the early Church accepted such a proposition. Also, parallel constructions in Greek almost always treat the second modifier as a predicate (Scripture is inspired) rather than an attributive (inspired Scripture). Back to text.

3:17 complete: Paul extols Scripture as a preeminent guide for the moral life. He does not claim, however, that Scripture supplies us with comprehensive instruction in all matters of Christian doctrine, worship, and ecclesial government. Besides the divine authority of the biblical books, he also acknowledges the authority of apostolic tradition (1 Cor 11:1; 2 Thess 2:15) and sees the Church, built on the foundation of Christ and the apostles (1 Cor 3:11; Eph 2:20), as the bearer of God's truth to the world (1 Tim 3:15). For the role of tradition and the teaching office of the Magisterium, see notes on Jn 14:26, 16:13, and 2 Thess 2:15. • Sacred Scripture is extremely profitable for the soul. Like a tree planted near a stream, the soul that is watered by Scripture grows hearty and bears fruit in due season. It is fitted with leaves that are always green, with actions pleasing to God (St. John of Damascus, Orthodox Faith 4, 17). Back to text.

4:1 in the presence of God: Paul speaks as if testifying in a courtroom where God is present and Jesus Christ presides as judge. He issues a final and solemn appeal for Timothy to fulfill his mission as a teacher of God's people. Back to text.

4:2 in season and out of season: Timothy must proclaim the gospel, making the most of his time to correct or encourage his flock as each situation demands (Eph 5:16). Back to text.

4:4 wander into myths: Already a problem in Ephesus (1 Tim 1:4; 4:7), where erring teachers have exchanged the revealed truth of God for the uncertainties of their own speculation—and hear only what suits their liking (2 Tim 4:3). Back to text.

4:6 the point of being sacrificed: Or "being poured out as a libation". The description alludes to the cultic liturgy of Israel, where daily drink offerings of wine were poured out at the base of the Temple altar (Ex 29:38-40; Num 28:7). Evoking this imagery, Paul sees martyrdom as an act of sacrifice and liturgical worship (Phil 2:17) (CCC 2473). my departure: A metaphor for death, which in Paul's case is both imminent and personally desirable (Phil 1:23). According to tradition, Paul was condemned during the Neronian persecution that began in the mid 60s and was beheaded just outside the city of Rome along the Ostian Way. Back to text.

4:8 crown of righteousness: The reward of everlasting righteousness (Gal 5:5) that awaits the saints, who have persevered in the grace of God (Jas 1:12; 1 Pet 5:4). The image alludes to the garland or victory wreath used to crown winning athletes in the ancient Olympics (1 Cor 9:25). Paul's confidence that such a reward awaits him rests on his sense of accomplishment, since after 30 years of ministry, toil, and suffering, he has remained firm in the faith without straying from the course set for him by Christ (2 Tim 4:7; Acts 20:24). He was not nearly so assured of his salvation while the race was still in progress (1 Cor 9:16). • Is not a crown the reward of good deeds? Yet, this is possible only because God accomplishes good works in men. It is through his mercy that we perform the goods works to which the crown is awarded (St. Augustine, On Grace and Free Will 21). that Day: The Day of Judgment. his appearing: Either the future return of Christ in glory (4:1) or, possibly, his first coming in the flesh (1:10). Back to text.

4:9 come to me soon: The nearness of Paul's death adds a sense of urgency to his request (1:4). Timothy must not delay because the onset of winter (4:21) will make sea travel impossible, and Paul needs his cloak to stay warm in prison (4:13). Back to text.

4:10 Demas: One of Paul's associates, but one whose attachment to worldly comforts tore him away from the apostle. He was once a loyal companion (Col 4:14; Philem 24). Back to text.

4:11 Luke: The physician and evangelist who wrote the Gospel of Luke and its sequel, the Book of Acts. He traveled with Paul on parts of his second and third missionary tours and was present with him at his first Roman imprisonment (Col 4:14; Philem 24). See introduction to Acts: Author. Mark: John Mark, the evangelist who wrote the Gospel of Mark. Once estranged from Paul for abandoning his missionary team (Acts 13:13; 15:39), he later rejoined the apostle's company and was present with him at his first Roman imprisonment (Col 4:10; Philem 24). Back to text.

4:12 Tychicus: One of Paul's personal couriers (Eph 6:21; Col 4:7-9; Tit 3:12). Back to text.

4:13 books . . . parchments: Two forms of writing material, the first referring to papyrus scrolls and the second to sheets made from animal skins. No hint is given of their contents, but they may have included Paul's personal copies of OT books. Back to text.

4:14 Alexander the coppersmith: Possibly a heretic Paul excommunicated for blasphemy (1 Tim 1:20). Back to text.

4:17 strength to proclaim: Paul's preliminary hearing before the Roman court was disappointing because his companions abandoned him; nevertheless, it was successful because an opportunity was given to expound the gospel in the imperial capital (CCC 2471-72). the lion's mouth: Metaphorically, "a verdict of condemnation". Because Paul was a Roman citizen, he would not have been thrown to the lions in the Roman circus. Back to text.

4:19 Prisca and Aquila: A distinguished Christian couple who worked alongside Paul (Acts 18:2-3) and went on to minister in the churches of Rome (Rom 16:3-5) and Ephesus (Acts 18:24-26; 1 Cor 16:19). The name "Prisca" is also spelled "Priscilla". Back to text.

4:21 Linus: Quite possibly Peter's first successor as pope. Saint Irenaeus gives us a running list of the bishops of Rome from the apostolic age down to the late second century, and the first in succession after Peter is named "Linus" (Against Heresies 3, 3, 3). Back to text.

4:22 Grace be with you: All the Pastoral Epistles end with a benediction that has the word "you" in the plural (1 Tim 6:21; Tit 3:15). This suggests that while Paul addressed his letters to Timothy and Titus privately, he intended his correspondence to be read publicly to the congregations under their care. Back to text.

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