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Course Hero. "New Testament Study Guide." April 27, 2018. Accessed November 19, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/New-Testament/.

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Course Hero, "New Testament Study Guide," April 27, 2018, accessed November 19, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/New-Testament/.

New Testament | 1 Timothy | Summary

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Summary

  • The letter sends greetings from Paul to Timothy, who is teaching in Ephesus and facing opposition from some false teachers.
  • The author recounts how he was called to the service of a merciful Christ, even though he was a "blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence" (1 Timothy 1:13).
  • The community should pray for civic leaders; men should pray peacefully, and women should not teach or hold authority over men in the community, a teaching the author bases on the story of Eve misleading Adam in Genesis.
  • The author describes ideal qualities and personality traits for bishops and deacons: one way to judge their qualifications is to see if they are good household managers.
  • It is Timothy's responsibility to keep people informed about sound teaching, even while false teachers introduce different ideas.
  • The letter provides instructions about how to treat specific groups in the community, especially widows who should be cared for if they have need or who should remarry if they are young.
  • If people seek personal gain from their teaching, they are entering into a gravely risky situation, for "money is a root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10), so Timothy himself should reject all these negative things and "fight the good fight of the faith" (1 Timothy 6:12).

Analysis

One of the most striking features of this letter is that it mentions bishops and deacons, people with formal titles who held church leadership positions in early Christian communities. Bishops (Greek episkopoi or "overseers") and deacons (Greek diakonoi or "servants") are not mentioned in the letters that most scholars recognize as authentically Pauline, so their inclusion in 1 Timothy is part of what leads people to see the letter as a later pseudepigraphic composition.

However, the letter's information about such church leaders provides important insight into the hierarchy that was eventually organized to lead Christ-believing groups near the end of the 1st or the start of the 2nd century CE. The letter holds these individuals to high standards of personal integrity and appropriate social behaviors.

The letter emphasizes the importance of reliable teaching, as well as of reliable teachers. It therefore offers modern readers and scholars key information about how Pauline teaching was received and respected among early Christ-believers. The teaching is something that was "entrusted" to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:20), just as it was "entrusted" to Paul (1 Timothy 1:11).

The letter is concerned about false teachers who would deceive and lie, and this concern seems to reinforce the great weight its author gives to authoritative teaching that comes from reliable sources. Only this teaching can lead to "the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4).

Household codes in 1 Timothy give information about the way Christ-believing communities translated their beliefs and teachings into everyday life. These kinds of practical concerns would be unusual for the historical figure Paul, who advised communities such as the Corinthian Christ-believers not to change anything about their way of life, because Jesus's return was imminent. The development of complex household codes fits better in a time when Christ-believers needed to keep themselves organized, even though the parousia—the second coming of the resurrected Jesus—had been indefinitely delayed.

The expectations for women in this letter should be highlighted. While Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28 that "there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus," the author does not hold such an egalitarian view. Women are not supposed to be teachers or leaders in the community, and young women especially are encouraged to marry and bear children. These gender roles bring Christ-believing communities closely into line with traditional Greek philosophical teachings about virtue and the restriction of women to a domestic sphere of influence.

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