PAUL’S PASTORAL LETTERS

PAUL’S PASTORAL LETTERS
The three remaining Pauline letters—1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and the Letter to Titus—are called
his “pastoral letters,” apparently because in them Paul provides instructions to two of his associates, Timothy and Titus, on the pastoral offices and their duties in the church.
The pastoral letters resemble one another in terms of vocabulary and style more so than they
resemble Paul’s travel letters or his prison letters; it is obvious the these three letters belong together, most likely because they have something in common with respect to their conditions of
production. It is often claimed that the literary differences between the pastoral letters and the ten
Pauline letters are too great to hold that Paul wrote them all; rather, it is generally held that the
pastoral letters were written by someone who had been influenced by Pauline thought and wanted
to use the authority of Paul to authenticate the ideas expressed in the letters. (Some even argue
that there are fragments from genuine Pauline letters that were incorporated into
pseudepigraphical works.) Often, it is claimed that the author was from the second-century, the
sub-apostolic period. The evidence against the authenticity of the pastoral letters requires the examination of a huge amount of linguistic data, and a full understanding of it requires a good
knowledge of Greek. Nevertheless, a simplified presentation of the evidence is possible.
1. Evidence against Pauline Authorship of the Pastoral Letters
1.1. Linguistic Evidence
1.1.1. The vocabulary of the pastoral letters is more unique in comparison to the ten Pauline letters than any of these ten letters are to the other nine. The following data support this conclusion.
A. The total vocabulary of the pastoral letters consists of 902 words, and, of this total, fifty-four
are proper names. Of the 848 words that remain from the original total, 306 words do not occur in
Paul’s ten letters, or thirty-six percent. 1 Timothy has 173 of 529 words that do appear in ten
Pauline letters, or approximately one in three. Similarly, 2 Timothy has 114 of 413 words that do
appear in the Paul’s ten letters, or almost one in four words, and Titus eighty-one of 293 words,
or one in 3.5 words. These totals exceed comparable statistics from the ten Pauline letters when
compared to one another.
1. Of the 306 words that do not occur in the ten Pauline letters, 175 are hapaxlegomena (words
that occur only once in the New Testament). In fact, there are approximately two and a half times
as many hapaxlegomena in the pastoral letters than in any of the ten Pauline letters. Of the 175
hapaxlegomena, 1 Timothy has ninety-six, 2 Timothy sixty and Titus forty-three. Seventy-five of
the hapaxlegomena occur only in 1 Timothy, forty-eight only in 2 Timothy and thirty only in Ti-
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tus, for a total of 153. Relatively few hapaxlegomena occur in more than one of the pastorals:
nine in 1 and 2 Timothy, ten in 1 Timothy and Titus and one in 2 Timothy and Titus. Only two
hapaxlegomena occur in all three pastoral letters.
2. The pastoral letters contain many 131 words that occur in other New Testament books but not
the ten Pauline letters. Of this total, 1 Timothy has seventy-seven, 2 Timothy fifty-four and Titus
thirty-eight.
B. There are words commonly occurring in the ten Pauline letters that are not found in the pastoral letters. In general, typical Pauline words or groups of words are underrepresented in the pastoral letters.
C. In the pastoral letters, there are fourteen cases of a distinctly Pauline word being used with a
different meaning. Examples of this include: antechomai means in Titus 1:9 “to hold fast (the
faithful words), whereas its occurrence in 1 Thess 5:14 has the meaning of “to support or help”
(needy members of the church); grammata in 2 Tim 3:15 means “sacred writings,” but in the ten
Pauline letters Paul uses the word gramma in a negative sense of “the mere letter of the Law” (as
opposed to the Spirit) (Rom 2:27, 29; 7:6; 2 Cor 3:6-7); koinos is used to mean ritually unclean in
Rom 14:14, but has the sense of “common” (faith) in Titus 1:4.
D. In the pastoral letters there are several cases of different words or expressions being used to
denote the same or similar realities in the ten Pauline letters. For example, owners of slaves are
called kurioi in Col 3:22, but despotai in the pastorals. Similarly, Paul uses the word eucharisteô
(“to give thanks”) in his introductions in the ten Pauline letters, whereas the expression charin
echô occurs in the introductions in 1 Tim 1:12 and 2 Tim 1:3 to mean the same thing (The same
expression occurs in 2 Cor 1:15 with the different meaning of “to receive benefit”). Also, when
referring to the appearance of Christ in the ten Pauline letters, the term parousia (1 Cor 15:23; 1
Thess 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 2 Thess 2:1) or apokalupsis (1 Cor 1:7; 2 Thess 1:7) is used, but in the in
the pastoral letters the term epiphaneia is used (elsewhere in the New Testament, only in 2 Thess
2:8).
1.1.2. There are certain “grammatical peculiarities” in the pastoral letters absent from Paul’s undisputed letters. There are certain grammatical forms that are characteristic of the pastoral letters
but absent from the ten Pauline letters and grammatical forms that are characteristic of the ten
Pauline letters but absent from the pastoral letters. First, the use of the definite article differs in
the pastoral letters and the ten Pauline letters. Second, the use of the conjunction hôs (as) followed by a substantive occurs frequently in the pastoral letters but is absent in the ten Pauline
letters, nor is the latter’s use of hôs (as) found in the former. Finally, the use of a series of prepositions in a sentence with reference to a single subject, common in the ten Pauline letters, is absent from the pastorals (e.g., Rom 11:36: “from him and through him and to him”).
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1.1.3. The literary style of the pastoral letters differs from that of the ten Pauline letters.
A. In general, the pastoral letters lack the typical Pauline vivacity and dynamism.
B. There are 112 function words (“particles, enclitics, prepositions, pronouns etc.”) occurring in
the ten Pauline letters, but not found in the pastoral letters. The use of such words is assumed to
constitute a distinctive style of writing. Since style is more invariable than vocabulary, it is argued that the same author could not have written both the pastoral letters and the ten Pauline letters.
1.2. Other Evidence against Pauline Authorship
1.2.1. Many have argued that the ecclesiological structure reflected in 1 Timothy and Titus reflects a later time than that of Paul. In Titus 1:5-7, “Paul” says that he left Titus in Crete in order
to appoint “elders” (presbuteroi) in the churches there. In 1 Tim 3, “Paul” provides Timothy with
qualifications for the offices of “overseer” (episkopês) and deacon (diakonos), and tells Timothy
that the “elder” (presbuteros) should be honored paid for his service (5:17-20). (It seems that “elder” and “overseer” are synonymous [see Acts 20:17, 28].) It is assumed that such a rigid ecclesiastical structure consisting of elders or overseers and deacons was not in place in Paul’s churches
in his day.
1.2.2. The false teaching opposed in the pastoral letters is said to be second-century Gnosticism
and so the pastoral letters must be dated from that time. (This assumes, of course, that there is
only one type of false teaching represented in the pastoral letters.) References to “Jewish myths”
(Titus 1:14), “myths and endless genealogies” (1 Tim 1:4, see 4:7), “what is falsely called
knowledge” (1 Tim 6:20), the necessity of ascetic practices (1 Tim 4:3) and the denial of the resurrection (2 Tim 2:18) are interpreted in light of second-century Gnostic beliefs and as evidence
of it.
1.2.3. The theology of the pastoral letters is thought to be too different from that of the ten Pauline letters to be accepted as from the hand of the apostle. There are certainly some Pauline theological elements in the pastoral letters, such as saving of sinners through Christ (1 Tim 1:15-16),
the revelation of the grace of God through Christ (2 Tim 1:9-10), being made righteous apart
from works (Titus 3:5) and faith as the way to eternal life (1 Tim 1:16). Nevertheless, there are
many theological expressions that are not typical of Paul but sound uncharacteristically Hellenistic. These are used to describe the work of Christ and salvation (Titus 2:10-11; 2:13; 3:4), the nature of God (1 Tim 6:15-16) and Christ (1 Tim 2:5; 2 Tim 1:10; Titus 3:6). Unlike the ten Pauline
letters, God, not Christ, is called “savior” (1 Tim 1:1; 2:3; 4:10; Titus 1:3; 2:10; 3:4). Likewise,
the description of the Christian life is unusual for Paul when measured by the ten Pauline letters.
Proper Christian behavior is called “piety” (eusebeia) (1 Tim 2:2; 4:7-8; 6:3, 5-6; 2 Tim 3:5; Titus
1:1), and there are other unique ways of describing the goal of the Christian life (Titus 1:13; 2:2;
2:12; 2:2) (see also 1 Tim 1:5; 2:10; 3:9). Similarly, faith (pistis) uncharacteristically refers to the
content of belief (1 Tim 3:9; 6:10; 2 Tim 4:7) (see also 1 Tim 4:6; 6:3; 1:10; 2 Tim 1:13; 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1) (The same usage occurs, however, in Eph 4:5; Phil 1:27; Col 2:7). The phrase “in
Christ” occurs nine times in the pastoral letters, but not with the meaning that it has in the ten
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Pauline letters: in the former it is applied to qualities, whereas in the latter it is applied to human
beings (e.g., 1 Tim 3:13; 2 Tim 1:1). Moreover, there are some notable theological absences in
the pastoral letters. There are, for example, only two references to the Spirit in the pastorals (2
Tim 1:14; Titus 3:5), and no reference to the Pauline concept of spiritual union with Christ, which
is consistent with the absence of the use of the expression “in Christ.” Also, the concept of God as
father occurs only in the greetings of each pastoral letter (1 Tim 1:2; 2 Tim 1:2; Titus 1:4).
2. Evaluation of the Evidence against Pauline Authorship of the
Pastoral Letters
2.1. Linguistic Evidence
The linguistic evidence does not necessarily point to non-Pauline authorship; rather, at most it
demonstrates how much remains unknown concerning the conditions of the production of the
Pauline letters, including the pastoral letters.
2.1.1. It is generally agreed that the pastoral letters do not provide a large enough sample to draw
any definitive statistical conclusions. Besides, the significance of the difference in vocabulary
between the ten Pauline letters and the pastoral letters is not as great as may first appear.
A. In the pastoral letters, the hapaxlegomena and words that are found in other New Testament
books but not the ten Pauline letters are not so numerous that they could not be explained by the
subject matter of the letter and an increase in Paul’s range of vocabulary over time. The total
number of words in Paul’s ten letters is 2,177; it is not unreasonable to suppose that Paul could
have used the 306 words that occur only in the pastoral letters, especially when addressing new
situations and after the passage of several years. (The pastoral letters are usually dated from after
Paul’s release from his first Roman imprisonment; thus it is easy to imagine that Paul added many
new words to his vocabulary, which found their way into the pastoral letters.)
It is also important to note that relatively few hapaxlegomena occur in more than one of the
pastorals. Nine hapaxlegomena occur in 1 and 2 Timothy, ten in 1 Timothy and Titus and one in 2
Timothy and Titus; only two hapaxlegomena occur in all three pastoral letters. Those who reject
Pauline authorship of the pastoral letters usually argue that one author was responsible for all
three letters. Based on the hapaxlegomena statistics, however, there are no grounds to conclude
that 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus had the same author. In fact, one should conclude that each had a
different author. What this proves is that hapaxlegomena are not a good indicator of pseudonymity.
B. The absence of typically Pauline words or groups of words is only significant if one can
demonstrate that such words or groups of words should have been used. But this is not the case
with the pastoral letters. Moreover, the same phenomenon occurs in the undisputed Pauline letters: some of the typically Pauline words and phrases are also absent. It must also be noted that
there are 542 words shared by the ten Pauline letters and the pastoral letters, and, of this total,
fifty are uniquely Pauline, not found outside of the Pauline corpus; there are also many uniquely
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Pauline phrases shared by both. These considerations seriously weaken the argument that Paul
could not have written the pastoral letters based on vocabulary.
C. The fact that, in the pastoral letters, distinctly Pauline words are used with a different meaning
is consistent with non-Pauline authorship, but does not demand that conclusion. It is not impossible for Paul to use words with different meanings, especially at different times in his life, and
over time to develop new modes of expression. There is no reason that Paul could not use one
word with different meanings, especially after the passage of many years. In fact this phenomenon occurs within the Pauline letters, and sometimes even within the same letter.
D. There is no reason that Paul could not vary his vocabulary, especially after the passage of
many years, so that different words or expressions may be used to denote the same or similar realities in the pastoral letters as compared to the ten Pauline letters.
2.1.2. The “grammatical peculiarities” are more convincing as indicators of non-Pauline authorship, but even these do not constitute proof, because the absence of something in such a small
literary sample does not prove that the author would not have used a “grammatical peculiarity”
under other conditions. Besides, the passage of time could certainly contribute to changes in Paul
as a writer.
2.1.3. The differences in style between the pastoral letters and the ten Pauline letters do not necessarily prove non-Pauline authorship.
A. The lack of vivacity and dynamism in the pastoral letters can just as easily be explained as a
change in Paul’ s circumstances, intended readership and purposes when writing.
B. The 112 function words (particles, enclitics, prepositions, pronouns etc.) are not evenly distributed throughout the ten Pauline letters, because fifty-eight of these occur in only one or two
letters. Thus, this group of more than half of the original 112 words cannot legitimately be included as typical Pauline function words. This observation tends to weaken the argument from
style: if fifty-eight function words can occur in one or two letters, then clearly Paul’s ten letters
do not have stylistic homogeneity, at least as measured by the presence of these function words.
Besides, by Harrison’s count, there are another seventy-seven function words that do appear in
both the pastoral letters and the ten Pauline letters. D. Guthrie has compiled a larger list than that
of Harrison, adding another ninety-three function words to Harrison’s list of 112 words. He observes that of these 205 words, ninety-two are found in the pastoral letters, which compares favorable to other of Paul’s letters, such as Romans with 113, 2 Corinthians with 113 and Philippines with eighty-six (The Pastoral Epistles and the Mind of Paul).
2.1.4. The implication of Paul’s practice of using amanuenses is not often appreciated in dealing
with the question of the authenticity of the pastoral letters. The contribution of Paul’s several
amanuenses remains the unknown variable in determination of the “typical” vocabulary and style
of the Pauline letter, and so makes such an undertaking virtually impossible. The pure Pauline
vocabulary and style have no doubt been “contaminated” many times by the contributions of his
amanuenses. Since it is impossible to separate the style and vocabulary of Paul from those of his
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amanuenses, it is likewise impossible in principle to establish that a given letter was not written
by Paul on the basis of differences in style and vocabulary. On the assumption that they cannot be
explained as functions of the subject matter of the letters or changes in Paul’s vocabulary and
style over time, it is probable that differences in style and vocabulary between the pastoral letters
and the ten Pauline letters, not to mention the “grammatical peculiarities,” originate with Paul’s
amanuensis. (Paul’s use of amanuenses probably explains the uneven distribution of function
words in the ten Pauline letters.)
2.2. Consideration of Other Evidence against Pauline Authorship
2.2.1. There is nothing about the ecclesiastical structure reflected in the pastoral letters that exceeds what is known of Paul’s churches, and so nothing that would support a later date. Early in
his missionary work, Paul appoints elders in his churches (Acts 14:23). He calls for the Ephesian
elders to come to him when he landed in Miletus (Acts 20:17) (referring to them as “overseers”
(episkopoi), and he addresses his Letter to the Philippians to the “overseers and deacons.”
2.2.2. There is no evidence of the existence of second-century Gnosticism in the pastoral letters.
First, it is not certain that there is a single set of false teachers opposed in the pastoral letters, so
that to create a composite sketch of them from the diverse references in the texts may be pure historical fiction. Second, there is nothing necessarily Gnostic in the second-century sense about the
false teaching(s) in the pastoral letters.
2.2.3. The theological differences between the pastoral letters and the ten Pauline letters are exaggerated, for the former have nothing that is at odds with the latter. The lack of references to
particular theological topics is explained by the purpose of each of the pastorals letters; certainly
Paul does not refer to every possible theological topic in each of the ten Pauline letters. The
uniqueness of vocabulary or expression in the pastoral letters is probably to be explained as due
to passage of time or Paul’s use of an amanuensis.
2.3. External Evidence in Favor of Authenticity of Pastoral Letters
There is no trace of doubt concerning the authenticity of the Pastoral Letters in the early church.
The Muratorian canon ascribes the Pastoral letters to Paul: “But he [Paul] [wrote] one [letter] to
Philemon and one to Titus, but two to Timothy for the sake of affection and love,” and
Theophilus of Antioch quotes from 1 Tim 2:22, referring to the text as the “divine word” (theios
logos): “Moreover, concerning subjection to authorities and powers, and prayer for them, the divine word gives us instructions, in order that ‘we may lead a quiet and peaceable life’” (Autol.
3.14). Eusebius is certain that Paul wrote 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus; they are not included among
the so-called “disputed works”, the antilegomena (H.E. 2.22; 3.3). Clement of Alexandria accepts
1 & 2 Timothy as from Paul (Strom. 2, 3), and Tertullian expresses his amazement that Marcion
rejects 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, claiming that the three letters were written by Paul. Finally,
Irenaeus quotes from the Pastoral Letters as from Paul in his disputes with heretics, which implies
that there was no doubt about their authenticity (Adv. Haer.).
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THE FIRST LETTER TO TIMOTHY
1. Who wrote the First Letter to Timothy?
What does 1 Tim 1:1 indicate about the authorship of 1 Timothy?
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2. To whom was the First Letter to Timothy written?
2.1 What does 1 Tim 1:2 indicate about the intended reader of 1 Timothy?
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2.2. What can you learn about Timothy’s early life and his equipping for ministry from Acts 14:820; 16:1-3; 1 Tim 1:18-19; 4:14; 2 Tim 1:5-6; 3:15?
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2.3. According to a fourth-century source called Acts of Timothy (Acta Timothei), which may or
may not be historically reliable, Paul consecrated Timothy as the first bishop (or overseer) of the
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church at Ephesus during Nero's reign and before his own death. The same source claims that
Timothy was killed during Nerva's reign in 97 while he tried unsuccessfully to stop a violent mob
of men wearing masks and brandishing clubs from attacking people during a pagan religious festival, probably connected with the cult of Dionysius. The mob turned on him and murdered him.
3. When was the First Letter to Timothy written?
3.1. According to 1 Tim 1:3, Paul writes to Timothy when Timothy is in Ephesus and Paul apparently is in Macedonia. Paul’s statement that previously, while he was on his way to Macedonia,
he urged Timothy to stay on in Ephesus, implies that Paul has reached his destination, Macedonia. Whether Paul urged Timothy in person in Ephesus or by letter is not clear. At the time of
writing, Paul hopes to come to Timothy in Ephesus soon (1 Tim 3:14-15; 4:13). If the situation
described in 1 Tim 1:3; 3:14-15; 4:13 can be correlated with information about the itinerary of
Timothy from other New Testament sources, it might be possible to date 1 Timothy, at least relative to other events in Paul’s life.
3.2. The following is a list of references to Timothy in Paul’s letters, the Book of Acts and the
Letter to the Hebrews. Construct as far as possible Timothy’s itinerary, correlating, when possible, the references in the Book of Acts and Hebrews with their parallels in Paul’s letters.
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Acts 16:1, 17:14-15; 18:5; 19:22; 20:4
Hebrews 13:23
1 Thess 1:1; 3:2, 6; 2 Thess 1:1; 1 Cor 4:17; 16:10; 2 Cor 1:1, 19; Rom 16:21;
Phil 1:1; 2:19; Col 1:1; Philemon 1
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3.3. Can you correlate the situation described in 1 Tim 1:3; 3:14-15; 4:13 with any part of the
Book of Acts or any reference in Paul’s letters other than 1 Timothy? What do you conclude
about when Paul wrote 1 Timothy from your answer to this question?
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3.4. Some have argued that Paul could have written 1 Timothy towards the end of his third missionary journey. According to Acts 20:1-3, towards the end of his third missionary journey Paul
leaves Ephesus for Troas, and then travels to Macedonia. It is claimed that 1 Tim 1:3 refers to this
same event, so that Paul wrote 1 Timothy to Timothy while he was traveling from Ephesus to
Macedonia. (The Alexander mentioned in 1 Tim 1:20 is identified with the one in Acts 19:33.)
This hypothesis, however, does not account for all the available data. First, there is no evidence
that Paul left Timothy behind in Ephesus when he left the city during his third missionary journey; in fact, Acts 19:22 claims that Paul sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia just before he
left Ephesus, implying that Timothy never returned to Ephesus, but met up with Paul somewhere
in Macedonia. Second, since he is with Paul in Macedonia when he writes 2 Corinthians (2 Cor
1:1), Timothy must have left Ephesus not long after Paul. But it seems that more time is required
for Paul to learn of Timothy’s wish to leave Ephesus and his subsequent writing of 1 Timothy
than the few weeks or even months allowable on this hypothesis. Besides, according to 1 Tim
3:14-15; 4:13, Paul plans to go to Ephesus and there rejoin Timothy, not in Macedonia. Third,
after his third missionary journey in the Book of Acts, Paul never returns to Ephesus; in fact, on
his way to Jerusalem, he intentionally avoids the city so as not to be detained there, and instead
stops at Miletus, from where he calls the Ephesian elders to join him (Acts 20:15-17).
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4. Where was the First Letter to Timothy written?
What can you infer about Paul’s location at the time of the composition of 1 Timothy from 1 Tim
1:3?
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5. What is the First Letter to Timothy?
Outline of the First Letter to Timothy
A. 1:1-2: This represents the introduction of the letter; there is only a salutation and no thanksgiving or prayer.
B. 1:3-6:19: This represents the main body of the letter.
1. 1:3-20: Paul instructs Timothy on how to deal with false teachers, telling him to command these men not to teach false doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and genealogies. He adds
that the law is good if used properly; the law is not made for good men but lawbreakers. Paul also
thanks God for his own conversion and call to be an apostle. He gives Timothy the trustworthy
saying that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Finally, Paul makes some personal
encouraging comments to Timothy, and speaks of some men who have shipwrecked their faith.
2. 2:1-4:16: Paul gives Timothy regulations for worship and order in the church.
a. 2:1-8: Paul instructs that prayers to be made for all in authority. He also says that there is one
God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for all men. He adds that he wants men everywhere to pray.
b. 2:9-15: Paul gives instructions concerning Christian women. He wants them to dress moderately and to learn in quietness and submission. Paul says that he does not permit a woman to teach or
have authority over a man, citing as support the fact that Eve was deceived, not Adam. He adds
that women will be saved through childbirth, if they continue in faith, love and holiness with
modesty.
c. 3:1-13: Paul gives Timothy information of the qualifications for overseers and deacons.
d. 3:14-15: Paul tells Timothy that he plans to come to him soon, but, if he is delayed, Timothy
will know how a person ought to behave in the church.
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e. 3:16: Paul quotes a hymn about Christ.
f. 4:1-16: Paul describes the wrong beliefs and practices of the false teachers: they forbid marriage and demand abstinence from certain foods. Paul rejects their teaching about restrictions on
diet, since nothing is to be rejected provided that it is received with thanksgiving. Paul instructs
Timothy to counter these false teachings, and to avoid profane myths and old wives’ tales; he is
also to train himself in godliness, for godliness is valuable in every way. Paul then gives Timothy
a series of exhortations on how to function in his absence.
3. 5:1-25: Paul explains to Timothy how to maintain discipline within the church, especially as
relating to widows.
4. 6:1-19: Paul gives to Timothy a series of miscellaneous practical instructions.
C. 6:20-21: This represents the conclusion of the letter, including another admonition to Timothy
and a benediction.
6. Why was the First Letter to Timothy written?
6.1. What do you conclude about the reason for Paul’s writing of 1 Timothy from 1 Tim 1:3-11;
4:1-5?
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6.2. In his address to the Ephesian elders given in Miletus when he was on his way to Jerusalem,
Paul warned them, “From your midst will arise men who will speak distortions of the truth in order to lead astray the disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). It seems that Paul’s prophecy was fulfilled, as 1 Timothy indicates. Based on the following passages, how would you characterize the
false teaching that had arisen in the church in Ephesus?
6.2.1. 1 Tim 1:3-7; 4:7; 6:3-5, 20
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6.2.2. 1 Tim 4:1-5
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