If there’s one thing that the first three chapters of Timothy taught us, it is that establishing the bureaucracy of a new church is boring.
Chapter 4This is Paul’s action plan for Timothy. It’s actually pretty boring, too. Paul tells Timothy to read publicly from scripture and remind the brothers that all food is allowable to eat. I don’t know, it’s Paul’s words, I’m just saying what I read. I don’t actually care much of anything about this chapter, to tell you the truth. It’s filler and safely ignorable.
What is interesting, though, is that Paul continues to try and hammer home the point that everything he says is true because he says it is. e.g. 1 Tim 4:9 “This saying is trustworthy and deserves complete acceptance.” This echoes statements Paul has made in other books, and earlier in this letter. Apparently no one bothered to point out this logical fallacy to Paul.
Chapter 5Anyone who has been reading this New Testament in Review for any length in time knows by now that I have little respect for Paul. I believe that Paul co-opted the burgeoning Christian church and turned it into his own religion, tainting Jesus’s teachings with his own personal beliefs and prejudices and judgments, coupled with his life-long devotion as a Pharisee. But even I would not accuse Paul of attacking widows. Who could be that heartless?
Turns out Paul is that heartless. After telling Timothy to honor widows, Paul then goes on to describe the type of woman who doesn’t qualify as a true widow, and therefore doesn’t deserve to be treated with respect. This includes women who live for pleasure, women who are younger than 60 years old, women who have been married more than once, and women who haven’t washed the feet of others in the church. Which, if you think about it, probably adds up to a lot of women who were widows but weren’t considered true widows by Paul.
Even worse, young(er) women should not be on the list either. These women should remarry and have more children, so they don’t have a chance to fall to evil or to be ridiculed by the enemy. Elsewise, they will turn away and follow Satan.
You know, Paul was one fucked-up dude…
Paul moves on to salaries. Church elders get paid. Really good church elders should be paid twice as much, especially preachers. Ah! Suddenly televangelism makes a lot more sense to me. It’s in the bible that preachers should get a lot of money. Thanks, Paul!
One last thing: Charges against a church elder should be ignored unless at least two or three people witnessed the complaint. Which is so stunningly stupid that I can’t believe it’d be written thusly. Talk about a license to behave in whatever way one would want. This might be how catholic priests were able to get away with child abuse for so long?
This was one weird, strange chapter…
Chapter 6Okay, I have to grudgingly admit that this chapter is pretty darned good. Except for the slavery part: Paul still sticks to the idea that slaves must be respectful of their masters and serve them well. I am not in the mood to go looking through my old posts, but I seem to remember this being something that Jesus himself said. So Paul actually gets a point for sticking with Jesus’s teachings. Even if they weren’t good ones.
Paul has a great bit of unintentional irony as he writes: “If anyone teaches false doctrine and refuses to agree with the healthy words of our Lord Jesus Christ and godly teaching, he is a conceited person…” Your finger is pointing at yourself, my dear Paul…
The rest of this chapter is a contrast between spiritual and physical wealth. It is a warning that the love of money and physical wealth can pull even the most faithful person into sin. A person should be more concerned about wealth in the form of doing good works, being generous, sharing, loving, being gentle. Those are the true riches.
ConclusionThis is such a weird, weird book. Peter was obviously writing to his friend and protege here, and not to a wider audience. Paul was much more open and honest, and more of the real Paul was shown. This isn’t necessarily a good thing: the true Paul is even more sexist and repressed than I had thought. Narcissistic, too, with his own little god complex showing. Yeah, it isn’t good for Paul that his less-than-glamorous side was shown, but it made for an entertaining book. And the last chapter is excellent food for thought.
New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.