Father Callan’s Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
Posted by Dim Bulb on June 24, 2012
I’ve included Father Callan’s summary of 3:10-17 and 4:1-8 to help provide context for the reading. The latter summary will appear after the commentary on 3:17. Notes in red, if any, represent my additions.
TIMOTHY IS ABLE TO MEET THE SITUATION
Summary of 2 Tim 3:10-17~Timothy is equipped to encounter and deal with the difficulties that now confront him, and with worse ones that may arise in the future; for he has before him Paul’s example and that of all those who desire to live piously in Christ Jesus, he has been instructed by Paul himself, and the Sacred Scriptures are always at his disposal for his guidance and comfort.
2Ti 3:14 But continue thou in those things which thou hast learned and which have been committed to thee. Knowing of whom thou hast learned them:
In contrast with the impostors, Timothy must continue firm in the faith which he has received, being mindful of those by whom he was taught it. Concerning the impostors and how they should be responded to see verses 3:1-13.
And hast been assured of. This is the meaning of the Greek here, which the Vulgate has missed.
Knowing from whom, etc. The best Greek reading makes “whom” plural in this phrase, and hence the reference is to St. Paul and Timothy’s mother and grandmother (see above, on 1:5).
2Ti 3:15 And because from thy infancy thou hast known the holy scriptures which can instruct thee to salvation by the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
The Jews were obliged to teach the Scriptures to their children (Exod 10:2, 12:26; Deut 4:9, etc.), and the Rabbins enjoined that this instruction should begin when they were five years old. Thus, Timothy’s Jewish mother had taught him the Old Testament from his infancy.
The holy scriptures. The best Greek reading here retains the article. This is the only passage in the New Testament where the adjective ἱερός (hieros) is applied to the Scriptures, meaning sacred as opposed to profane writings. But the holy writings was a quasi-technical expression signifying the Old Testament Scriptures, as we learn from Philo (Vita Mos., Ill, 39, and Frag, in Exod., Mangey’s ed., II, 657, and cap, de Vit., cont. 3) and from Josephus (Ant. Proem. 3 and X, 10, 4). Clement of Alexandria was the first Christian writer to apply this phrase to the New Testament (Strom., I, 20, § 98). Cf. Bernard, op. cit., h. I. See the quote from St Clement below.
Which can instruct thee, etc. Better, “which can make thee wise unto salvation.” Other books impart knowledge, but the Divine Scriptures give also wisdom—a wisdom that is not of this world; but for their true and full meaning they must be studied in the light of the faith of Jesus Christ, because they are all directly or indirectly ordained to Christ, and speak directly or indirectly of His Person, ministry, life, work. Church, etc.
2Ti 3:16 All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice:
We must understand this verse in the light of the preceding one, and hence “scripture” here must mean the Old Testament. Moreover, the word γραφή (graphe = scripture), occurs some fifty times in the New Testament, and everywhere it means the Old Testament. All scripture. It is better to translate “every scripture,” meaning each and every part of the Old Testament.
Inspired of God, etc. We may translate as in the Douai version, since the verb is not expressed in Greek; but it is perhaps better to render, “is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, etc.” St. Paul seems to be impressing on Timothy the usefulness of the Holy Scriptures, as inspired by God, for wisdom unto salvation (ver. 15) and for teaching, reproving, correcting, etc. (ver. 16). If we adopt the first rendering, it will mean that St. Paul is taking the
inspiration of Scripture for granted by Timothy, and is insisting here on its profitableness for teaching, reproving, etc. In either case the inspiration of the Old Testament and all its parts is certain to the mind of St. Paul. The word here translated “inspired” θεόπνευστος (theopneustos, literally, “God breathed”) does not occur elsewhere in the Greek Bible, but is common in Greek literature. It was first applied to the New Testament by Clement of Alexandria (Strom., VII, 16, § loi). St Clement wrote: “For truly holy are those letters that sanctify and deify; and the writings or volumes that consist of those holy (ἱερός) letters and syllables, the same apostle consequently calls “inspired of God θεόπνευστος, being profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to every good work.”
Four uses of Scripture are here stressed: (a) “to teach,” the truths of faith; (b) “to reprove,” or refute the errors against faith; (c) “to correct,” vices and sins; (d) “to instruct in justice,” by giving practical norms for the practice of virtue and the attainment of sanctity.
2Ti 3:17 That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work.
The final result for Timothy of a study of the Divine Scriptures will be to fit him for a perfect discharge of his ministry.
Man of God. See on i Tim. vi. 11. Here the expression means the minister of Christ, as the context shows.
Perfect. The Greek word is a common one, but it is found only here in the Bible. The word is ἄρτιος (artios). A synonym ὁλόκληρος (holoklēros) is used in 1 Thess 5:23 and James 1:4. The words convey the idea of completeness in the sense that all parts are in place.
Unto every good work, pertinent to his ministry.
A LAST APPEAL TO TIMOTHY
A Summary of 4:1-8~Now that the end is drawing near, the aged Apostle, feeling his days are numbered and his work is done, adjures Timothy incessantly to continue the labors of the ministry and to bear up under its trials, being prepared for the onslaughts of future false teachers. As for Paul himself, he is about to pour out his blood as a sacrifice for the cause; but he is ready and his reward is waiting for him. The just Judge will never fail him, nor anyone else who has lived and labored for the cause.
2Ti 4:1 I charge thee, before God and Jesus Christ, who shall judge the living and the dead, by his coming and his kingdom:
St. Paul in verses 1-4 solemnly charges Timothy so much the more to preach the word of God as the wicked stray farther from the truth.
I charge thee, etc. See on 1 Tim 5:21. Here is how Father Callan commented on that passage: Better, “I solemnly charge thee, etc.” The same solemn formula occurs again in 2 Tim 2:14, 4:1.
The living and the dead. See on 1 Thess 4:16-17. Here is what Father Callan wrote concerning that passage, specifically, verse 16, which reads: “Then we who are alive, who are left, shall be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air, and so shall we be always with the Lord.” Father Callan comments: He (St Paul) seems to say plainly that those saints who are alive at the time of the Parousia will not die, but will be transformed and taken, together with the righteous dead already raised to life, into glory with Christ. The Greek Fathers and many modem interpreters so understand the Apostle; and this interpretation agrees with the correct reading and meaning of 1 Cor 15:51, on which see commentary in vol. I of this series. To be consistent,we should explain “we who are alive” here as in verse 14, that is, as referring, not to St. Paul and his companions then living when the Apostle was writing nor to others then living with whom he compares those then dead, but to those just who will be living when the Lord comes in glory. Hence follows the conclusion that the righteous who are alive at the Second Coming of Christ to judge the world will pass to glory without dying, and this is what the Apostle was referring to in 2 Cor 5:4. For further argument and a consideration of the opposing opinion on this subject, see vol. I of this series, on 1 Cor 15:51.” I’ve thought it best not to include the commentary on 1 Cor 15:51 here as it is fairly lengthy.
His coming, in General Judgment to render to each one according to his works.
His kingdom, which the good will be invited to share. The word “coming” and “kingdom” are accusatives of adjuration in Greek and form part of the Apostle’s oath.
2Ti 4:2 Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine.
The word, i.e., the Gospel message (Gal 6:6; Col 4:3). This Timothy is to proclaim incessantly, in order that all may hear it and have the opportunity to embrace its teachings.
And doctrine. Preaching without doctrine is of little value, since it lacks substance and leaves rebuke and exhortation without a reason and basis.
2Ti 4:3 For there shall be a time when they will not endure sound doctrine but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers having itching ears:
The reason is now given why Timothy must redouble his zeal; for during his own lifetime there will be persons who, following their own lusts and craving for novelties, will reject sound doctrine they will repudiate and turn away from the dogmas of the Church, and instead will seek out teachers whose doctrines appeal to the passions and lower appetites. In our own time this is precisely what is taking place. Multitudes are now ridiculing the very notion of dogfma as old-fashioned and out of date, and are running after those preachers who justify artificial birth-control, trial marriages, divorces, and similar disorders.
Having itching ears, i.e., they will be eager for all kinds of novelties.
2Ti 4:4 And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables.
Fables. See on 1 Tim 1:4; 1 Tim 4:7. On 1 Tim 1:4 Father Callan wrote: “Fables were most probably Jewish legends (Titus 1:14), such as are frequently found in the Talmud; and genealogies were extravagant, legendary stories about the ancient patriarchs, such as we find in the Book of Jubilees. Speculation on these useless subjects would lead away from the great truths of faith and the practical realities of Christian life; and thus vast harm would be done to the Church and to souls”.
2Ti 4:5 But be thou vigilant, labour in all things, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil thy ministry. Be sober.
In the face of the difficulties just described, Timothy is to be prudent and well poised in all things, to endure hardship, to preach the Gospel, and faithfully to fulfill all his duties as a minister of Christ, entrusted with his master’s business.
Evangelists. See on Eph 4:11. In his notes on Eph 4:11 Father Callan wrote: Evangelists are not necessarily those only who wrote the Gospels, but missionaries and preachers of the word among strangers and infidels (John 21:15 ff.; Acts 21:8; 2 Tim 4:5; 1 Peter 2:25).
Ministry. See on 1 Tim 1:12. In his notes on 1 Tim 1:12 Father Callan wrote: “The Greek word for “ministry” here in the time of St. Paul meant the apostolate, whereas in the second century it had come to designate the order of deaconship. Hence we have in the use of the word here an argument for the early date of this letter. St. Paul would hardly be speaking of himself as having been called to the deaconship.” In Father Callan’s day some rationalist scholars were postulating a second century date for the Pastorals, a position now almost completely abandoned.