The Second Letter Of Paul To Timothy - Introduction
The second epistle addressed to Paul's “beloved child” Timothy, despite its similarities in address and diction, has a more personal tone than the first. (On the authorship and date of this letter, see p. 349 NT.) Less concerned with church order and roles, here Paul is portrayed as near death. In testamentary fashion the apostle hands on to his spiritual heir, Timothy, the wisdom accumulated through a life of mission, ministry and, above all, suffering for the gospel. The letter is set within a carefully scripted historical scenario marked by Paul's imminent death and Timothy's bereavement, at a time of distortions to the apostle's “sound teaching” ( 1.13; see 4.3 ).
Paul's letters present Timothy as one of his most loyal disciples (Philem 2.19–22 ), who acted as a delegate to churches (1 Cor 4.17; 16.10 ) and was cosender of six of the Pauline epistles (2 Cor 1.1; Philem 1.1; Col 1.1; 1 Thess 1.1; 2 Thess 1.1; Philem 1 ). According to Acts 16 , Timothy's mother was Jewish and his father Greek, which is why according to Acts 16.3 Paul had him circumcised in the face of probable Jewish hostility (an event not corroborated in Paul's epistles). This letter sketches Timothy's life in broad strokes, from his early immersion in the scriptures (1 Tim 3.15 ) and matrilineal Christian pedigree ( 1.5 ), to his authorization for ministry by the laying on of Paul's hands ( 1.6 ), and his present ecclesiastical challenges. More prominent in the letter, however, is the detailed and moving portrait of Paul, imprisoned for the gospel in Rome ( 1.8,16–17; 2.9 ), and forsaken by even his close friends ( 1.15; 4.10,16 ), yet empowered by his Lord not only to endure suffering and death, but to celebrate it as the fitting culmination to a life of ministry and service ( 4.6–8,17–18 ).
The theme of 2 Timothy is announced in 1.8 : that Timothy and all who follow him should not be ashamed of the gospel or its representative, Paul, but should stand in fidelity to them, even to the point of suffering. The structure of the letter lays out Timothy's alternatives, between Paul the prototypical example of faith, and the seductive, dangerous power of deceitful opposition. The letter implores Timothy to adhere to Paul's example of suffering for the gospel ( 1.12; 2.9–10; 3.11; 4.6–7,16–18 ), which he is called upon to imitate ( 2.3; 4.5 ), as are all believers ( 2.11–12 ).
Second Timothy follows a regular epistolary structure with an opening greeting ( 1.1–2 ), thanksgiving ( 1.3–7 ), and body ( 1.8–4.18 ). Timothy is urged to contemplate the positive example of Paul ( 1.8–14 ) and the negative one afforded by those who deserted Paul in time of need ( 1.15–18 ). The exhortation to Timothy to be strong and teach others rightly ( 2.1–13 ) is contrasted with false teachers who must be contended with ( 2.14–26 ), for, as expected at the end time, signs of their appearance are already here ( 3.1–9 ). But Timothy is to follow in Paul's footsteps ( 3.10–4.5 ). These exhortations build up to the depiction of the dying apostle's reflections on his life and its imminent conclusion ( 4.6–8 ). The letter ends on a hopeful note as the imprisoned apostle exults in divine deliverance (both past and future) and issues spirited directives for the ministry, including a future visit from Timothy ( 4.8–18 ).