The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Bishop MacEvily’s Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:3-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 28, 2012

This post includes the Bishop’s brief analysis of the entire chapter, followed by his notes on verses 3-10. In addition, I’ve included his paraphrase (in purple) of the biblical text he is commenting on.

In this chapter, the Apostle instructs Timothy in the manner of admonishing and correcting both the young and the old (vv. 1-2). In the next place, he gives him instructions regarding the widows who were to be admitted among those supported by the Church, on a part of the offerings of the faithful. He points out the quality of such widows:—They should be really destitute (3); given to prayer (5); sixty years of age (9); of a good reputation (10). He then points out the class of widows who should not be admitted among this number (11, 12, 13).

He, in the next place, instructs him how he should treat his clergy, both in supporting them (17), and in receiving accusations against them (19, 20).

Finally, he implores of him to act the part of a just judge in deciding Ecclesiastical matters (21). Not to be rash or precipitate in admitting persons to Holy Orders, and to lead a life of chastity.

1Ti 5:3  Honour widows that are widows indeed.

Nourish and support the widows, who may truly be called such, in the strict sense of the word, i.e., destitute of all aid.

“Honour,” i.e., support. “Honour” has this meaning in many passages of SS.
Scripture—(v.g.) Matthew 15, also in verse 17, of this chapter.

“That are widows indeed,” i.e., in the proper sense of the word; for the Greek corresponding with widow  χηρας, is derived from a root, signifying, to be destitute.

1Ti 5:4  But if any widow have children or grandchildren, let her learn first to govern her own house and to make a return of duty to her parents; for this is acceptable before God.

But if any widow be not thus destitute—if she have children or “rand children, let them learn, in the first place, to regulate their own house properly, by supporting their near friends and widowed domestics, and not throw them as a burden on the Church, and pay back to their parents the duty of support, which is due by them, for the care taken of them in their infancy; for, this exercise of filial piety is pleasing and acceptable to God.

“Let her learn.” In the Greek it is, let them learn, & c. This latter reading is preferred in the Paraphrase, because it would appear, that the Apostle, having in the preceding verse referred to the widow, who is deserving of support, now shows who the widow is, that is not deserving of the public support. Again, the Greek word for “govern,” ευσεβειν, means the exercise of that piety which children owe their parents. Moreover, the widow in question is supposed to have “grandchildren” also, and it could not be required of her “to make a return of duty to her parents,” in reference to them, since she had done so already towards her children. Besides, the phrase, “make a return of duty to her children,” would bear a very forced construction in the Vulgate reading; whereas, according to the Greek, it runs quite smooth. Finally, the reason assigned, “for this is acceptable before God,” is very like the reason given (Col 3), why children should obey their parents. This reading is adopted by St. Jerome, Œcumenius, &c., and preferred by Estius.

The Apostle here treats of Ecclesiastical widows, who were supported at the expense of the Church. In the infancy of the Church, some of these lived together in communities, and others, in their own houses. They made vows of chastity (verse 12), and devoted their entire time to works of piety (verse 5). From among them were taken the deaconesses, who were charged with the instruction of ignorant females, and with preparing them for baptism. They ought to be advanced in age, and were placed under the care of the Bishop; hence, among the reasons assigned by St. Chrysostom for flying the Episcopal office, he assigns the duty of taking charge of widows (lib. 3, de Saccrdotio). In the time of St. Augustine, these had a distmct dress of black colour, as appears from the Council of Orange (c. 15); 4th Council of Carthage (c. 104); and St.
Augustine’s Ep. 199, ad Ecdiciam. The Apostle says nothing about honouring virgins, because the honour to which he refers is the honour of support, and the widows alone required this, the virgins being supported by their parents.

1Ti 5:5  But she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, let her trust in God and continue in supplications and prayers night and day.

But let her, who is a widow indeed, that is to say, desolate and destitute of all aid, have recourse to God and hope in him, and devote her entire time, both day and night, to fervent prayers and supplications.

According to the Greek, in this verse he assigns some of the good qualities which should distinguish the Ecclesiastical widow. For, “let her trust in God,” &c.; the Greek is  ηλπικεν, she has trusted, or, trusts in God. In our version, the words convey an exhortation. The Greek indicative form is read in St. Chrysostom.

1Ti 5:6  For she that liveth in pleasures is dead while she is living.

But the widow who lives a life of luxury and self-indulgence, although living and animated in body, is dead in soul, dead to God and to grace.

This verse would favour the Greek reading in the preceding. The ecclesiastical widow, worthy of support, must be a person addicted to prayer, &c.; for, as to those widows that lead a life of ease and indulgence, though their bodies be animated, their souls are dead. The words of the gospel, “Suffer the dead to bury their dead,” are similar in signification to the words, “she is dead, while living.” Such a person is not a widow indeed; for, though bereft of her husband, she is not still desolate. She employs the means of livelihood which she possesses in purposes of self-indulgence, and not in the exercise of benevolence or charity.

1Ti 5:7  And this give in charge, that they may be blameless.

Command and explain what I have said to all widows, that they may be free from all reproach, and that the Church may be saved from scandal.

These things, regarding the obligation of prayer, of avoiding luxurious living, &c., teach all widows, so that they may be free from reproach. “And this give in
charge.” In Greek, ταυτα παραγγελλε, and these things give in charge.

1Ti 5:8  But if any man have not care of his own and especially of those of his house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.

But if any one neglect to make the necessary provision for his near relations, particularly those most closely connected with him, such a man, by unnatural conduct of this sort, has practically denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

Here he confirms, by a general assertion, what he applied to children and grandchildren (verse 4), wherein he said, that if a widow have children, &c., they should pay back the reciprocal duty of support. Here, he goes farther, and asserts if any person, man or woman, neglects the care of his (or her) own, which is generally understood of such as have claims on them, on the grounds of consanguinity or marriage, “‘and especially those of his house,” which is commonly understood of near relatives, parents, brothers, and such as generally live in the same house with a person, and form part of his family, such a one has, practically, and in deed, “denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel;” for, the infidels are not dead to these natural feelings.

1Ti 5:9  Let a widow be chosen of no less than threescore years of age, who hath been the wife of one husband.

A widow, in order to be enrolled on the catalogue of those to be supported by the Church, should have reached her sixtieth year, and not be married more than once.

The widow, to be enrolled on the Ecclesiastical catalogue, must be sixty years of age; because, then, she is unfit for labour, and not in danger of incontinence, to which younger widows would be exposed. She must be a person who was but once married, a mark of continency.

1Ti 5:10  Having testimony for her good works, if she have brought up children, if she have received to harbour, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have ministered to them that suffer tribulation, if she have diligently followed every good work.

She should have the reputation of practising good works, among the rest, of piously educating her children, and of exercising hospitality, according to her means, towards holy strangers, of washing their feet, according to the existing usage, of having afforded aid and consolation to the afflicted, and of having sought every occasion of doing good.

She must be a person, whom a character for exercising good works will pronounce deserving of support. He instances a few of these good works:—Bringing up her family in piety, exercising hospitality toward holy travellers, washing their feet, according to the custom then existing. The exercise of hospitality was, in the infancy of the Church, very necessary and meritorious, owing to the want of accommodation, and the danger of perversion at the Pagan places of entertainment. The poor widow should exercise it, according to her means and ability. “If she have diligently followed every good work,” i.e., lost no opportunity of doing good, and had the will and inclination, even when the power of doing good was wanting.

2 Responses to “Bishop MacEvily’s Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:3-10”

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