I don’t know why Paul wrote two letters to Timothy. Did Timothy respond to Paul’s first letter, saying something like “Paul, dude, don’t be such an ass!” Did Paul realize he forgot to tell Timothy something important – the ancient equivalent of sending a follow-up email? I don’t know, but apparently it was important enough that the letter was written, and ended up being added to the New Testament canon.
The tone of this letter is different. It is less harsh than 1 Timothy. Paul has turned introspective, and is looking towards a future where the church will have to survive without him. This letter is an interesting read…
Second Epistle of Paul to Timothy
Chapter 1Paul has apparently decided that he should cut Timothy some slack, and actually be nice and stuff to this man he supposedly loves. Paul does this by letting Timothy know that Paul thanks God for Timothy and Timothy’s blind faith and devotion. Which makes sense: who wouldn’t want someone like that? I would thank god too.
Paul exhorts Timothy to never be ashamed of god and Jesus. Instead, Timothy should stick to the words of Paul. Paul has a direct line to god and Jesus, of course. Just stick with Paul, and Timothy will do well. Oh, and seek out Onesiphorus for he provided Paul with food and board, and found Paul in Rome.
All in all, this was mostly harmless
Chapter 2The astute will remember that Paul turned Hymenaeus over to Satan in 1 Timothy. Well, I don’t know what Hymenaeus did to Paul, but Paul is still pissed at him. Paul equates Hymenaeus to gangrene, an infection that will spread throughout the body of the church. Timothy should avoid arguments and discussion with Hymenaeus and his ilk, those who have destroyed the faith of others. Yeesh!
Oh, this chapter also brings up the whole “soldier of Jesus” thing. I wonder if Paul had any idea the conflicts that this phrase would create. How many killings, wars, crusades have their been throughout history as people try to be soldiers of Christ? Paul points out that soldiers do not worry about civilians, but instead listen to their commanding officers. Which, unfortunately, is also still true. If anyone wants proof that the bible contained its violent sections, then they haven’t read 2 Timothy 2.
Chapter 3Paul returns to writing about the end times. People will fall into iniquity and sin. Paul gives a list of the sins that people will commit, and it is oddly uneven. There are major sins and minor sins mixed in as equals. Some will be slanderous, brutal, abusive. Some will be disobedient to their parents and conceited. One of these things is not like the other!
Paul also switches back to sexist mode. There will be deceivers who will target women who can be easily swayed by their desires. Because, of course, these women “are always studying but are never able to arrive at a full knowledge of the truth.” Defenders of Paul will note that he writes about a certain group of women, not all women in general. However, why is it always women who study but can’t discern the meaning of the truth? This is a pattern of Paul’s, and I refuse to give him a free pass just because he qualifies his statements in this one chapter.
Paul actually gives credit to god for rescuing him from persecution. Good for Paul! Paul warns that all followers of Christ will be persecuted. Bummer!
Chapter 4I don’t know why, but I didn’t realize that Paul foresaw his own death. This chapter shows Paul preparing for this eventuality. Paul instructs Timothy how to handle the church once Paul dies. He impores Timothy to stick to Paul’s gospel, even when others don’t want to hear it. Because people won’t want to hear these truths anymore, and will instead turn to fables and myths. What could those fables be? These are the kind of things that I wonder about. Paul pleads with Timothy to be calm and level-headed as he tries to bring people to the truth.
Paul then allows his human side to come out, and seeks comfort. He gives the “I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith” adage, but then asks Timothy to come see him as soon as possible. Everyone but Luke has abandoned Paul. Alexander actually attacked and injured Paul. Paul warns Timothy to be wary of Alexandar, and to bring Mark to Paul. Paul has sent for others, but isn’t sure they will be there in time. Paul again exhorts Timothy to hurry.
ConclusionAnd thus 2 Timothy closes. Not with a whimper, but with a bang. Paul’s fear of death and need for friends to be with him at the end of his life provides an emotional atmosphere missing in most of Paul’s epistles. Paul connects with his readers – or at least with me – in an unexpectedly powerful way. It’s a very powerful way to wrap up this letter.
Up next: Paul’s letter to Titus
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.