First Epistle to Timothy

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The earliest fragment of the First Epistle to Timothy, c. 200-300 CE.

The First Epistle to Timothy, also written as I Timothy, is the fifteenth book of the New Testament. It is a letter written in ancient Greek around the late first century or early second century (circa 80-150 CE). In the letter, the author identifies himself as Paul writing to his student Timothy, an evangelizing member of his church. The epistle is often grouped with the Second Epistle to Timothy and the Epistle to Titus as the Pastoral Epistles.

Authorship and Dating

Although the letter has traditionally been attributed to Paul, the majority of modern historians no longer attribute I Timothy to Paul for several reasons:

  • Paul died around 64-67 CE, but the epistle doesn't appear to have been written until many years later.
  • The topics in the letter don't fit with those letters which are thought to be the genuine work of Paul.
  • Marcion, who created one of the earliest Christian New Testaments in 140 CE, did not include the epistle in his canon, either because he didn't know about the epistle, it wasn't written yet, or he did not think it was genuine.
  • The first evidence of Christians actually accepting the epistle as canon don't occur until 180 CE.
  • The epistle appears to denounce Encratites, religious beliefs which didn't become popular until the second century.
  • The author quotes from the Gospel of Luke, which is estimated to have been written no earlier than 80 CE, about 15 years after Paul was dead.

There are no known original manuscripts. The oldest surviving fragment of I Timothy is Papyrus 133, c. 200-300 CE.

Content

The letter is mostly about the structure of the early Christian church, who should be avoided, and how women should be treated as inferiors.

Status

This letter is in the public domain. I have several translations of this book from various bibles, and have read the NIV translation.

Reviews

Good

  • The author says to be kind to the elderly, to treat young men as brothers, and young women as sister, and be "pure" with them (5:1-2).
  • The author warns against greed and the love of money misleading people and suggests learning to be content with food and shelter (6:8-10).

Bad

  • The author's attempt at humility sounds more like he's bragging about how evil he is, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst." (1:13-16)
  • Saying god has "unlimited patience," (1:17) doesn't fit with a religion that believes in eternal damnation.
  • The author doesn't seem to accept trinity, saying that Jesus acts as the mediator between his god and men.
  • The author says church overseers and deacons must only have one wife (3:2, 11-12) which implies that the author accepts polygamy among lesser parishioners.
  • The author says raising obedient children and running a church are similar (3:4-5), suggesting that parishioners are like children.
  • The author says those who abstain from certain foods are evil, and says everything created by his god is good, nothing should be rejected. This is terrible advice since many plants and animals are toxic, or, at the very least, unhealthy.
  • The author says people who don't provide for their relatives are worse than unbelievers (5:8). By this message, Christians should provide more for abusive relatives than helpful strangers. No thanks!
  • The structure of the ending indicates additional forgeries. It certainly seems to end with 6:16, but then continues with 6:17-21, which just repeats the themes of earlier passages.

Ugly

  • The letter starts out by denouncing false doctrines (1:3-11), which is interesting considering the letter is widely viewed as a forgery. Later on the author says, "I am telling the truth, I am not lying," (2:7) something a liar would never say, right?
  • The author makes it clear that he thinks very little of women: (2:9-15)
    • He wants to control how they dress and do their hair.
    • Thinks they should always submit to men.
    • Doesn't think they should be allowed to teach men or have any authority over men.
    • Believes that only Eve was deceived, not Adam, though that's not how Genesis reads.
    • Thinks that women can only get to heaven if they have children.
    • The author rebukes widows who live pleasurably after their husbands die (5:6). Why? If a husband genuinely cares about his wife's happiness, he would want her to live a pleasurable life after he's gone. And notice how the author doesn't rebuke widowers, he only wants to control women. In 5:9-16, he says that churches shouldn't take care of windows unless they're over the age of 60, and have been very good to their husbands, children, and church. Then he goes one to insult all women saying, until they become really old, they're lazy, gossipers,
  • The author invokes the two-witness rule against accused elders (5:19), a rule which has caused child sexual abusers to thrive in many churches.

Links

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