Commentary on 1 Timothy 4:12

By Johann Gerhard, Th. D.

Translator’s Preface

The following was translated from Adnotationes ad Priorem D. Pauli ad Timotheum Epistolam, in Quibus Textus Declaratur, Quaestiones Dubiae Solvuntur, Observationes Eruunter, & Loca in Speciem Pugnantia Quam Brevissime Conciliantur (Commentary on St. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy, in Which the Text Is Explained, Difficult Questions Are Answered, Observations Are Drawn, and Seemingly Contradictory Passages Are Reconciled as Concisely as Possible), 3rd ed. (Leipzig, 1712), pp. 68,69, available from lutheranlegacy.org.

It was undertaken in conjunction with preparations for a graduation sermon to be delivered at a Lutheran high school. The translations of the church fathers in the footnotes are the translator’s own.

Through it may God encourage young pastors and Christians not to demand respect, but to earn, win, and compel it from believers and unbelievers by godly words and actions.

1 Timothy 4:12

Μηδείς σου τῆς νεότητος καταφρονείτω ἀλλὰ τύπος γίνου τῶν πιστῶν ἐν λόγῳ ἐν ἀναστροφῇ ἐν ἀγάπῃ ἐν πνεύματι ἐν πίστει ἐν ἁγνείᾳ.

Nemo adulescentiam tuam contemnat sed exemplum esto fidelium in verbo in conversatione in caritate in fide in castitate.

  • Μηδείς σου τῆς νεότητος καταφρονείτω

The Greeks interpret thus: μὴ πάρεχε αἰτίαν τινὶ τοῦ καταφρονῆσαι τῆς νεότητός σου [Do not afford anyone an occasion to look down on your youth].1 The phrase can be taken two ways:

  1. Do not allow yourself, even though you are young, to be despised by those over whom you have charge, but exercise the authority of your office (Titus 2:15).
  2. Conduct yourself with such dignity, chastity, moderation, and prudence that no one may regard you as inferior because of your age. Behave in such a way that no one may have just cause for despising your youth.

The second sense is acquired from the antithesis.

Youth covers a range of ages that stretches beyond age 30, lest anyone think that Timothy was a young man of 20 or so years when Paul was writing this to him. In Acts 7:58 Paul is called a νεάνιος [young man] at a time when he was nearly 35 years old.

Conclusion: Lest Timothy be held in low esteem because of his youth, the apostle instructs him to show himself to the faithful as an example and pattern according to which they may order their lives and adjust their actions.

  • Ἀλλὰ τύπος γίνου τῶν πιστῶν

A τύπος is a distinct pattern to which something else corresponds as an ἀντίτυπον, so to speak.

  • Ἐν λόγῳ

Paraphrase: “You should set forth the doctrine of the divine word with integrity,” or, “You should speak with dignity and prudence for the edification of others.” The former interpretation is confirmed by 2 Corinthians 6:7, where Paul adds two words: ἐν λόγῳ τῆς ἀληθείας [in speech of the truth].

  • Ἐν ἀναστροφῇ

Paraphrase: “You should build others up by living your everyday life in a holy way.”

  • Ἐν ἀγάπῃ

Paraphrase: “Charity2 toward your neighbor should shine out from all your actions.”

  • Ἐν πνεύματι

That is, “in zeal of the Spirit, in pious devotion, in holiness.” Chrysostom and the interpreters of the Vulgate do not include this phrase. Theophylact and Oecumenius interpret πνεύμα here as a spiritual character or special gift, as if the apostle were warning Timothy not to be puffed up by living this way.3 But it is more properly understood as the Holy Spirit (see 2 Corinthians 6:6), which yields this sense: Timothy ought to demonstrate with his deeds that he has the ardor of the Holy Spirit and the zeal of God.

  • Ἐν πίστει

Paraphrase: “You should preach the faith boldly,” or, “You should exhibit your faith by your good works” (see James 2:17,18).

  • Ἐν ἁγνείᾳ

Paraphrase: “You should exhibit purity in words and actions.”

Ἐκδίκησις4: Estius5 seeks proof for the celibacy of the priests in this phrase, since being content with one wife “is the basest kind of chastity.”6 We respond:

  1. Ἅγνεια also signifies purity or immunity from carnal human desires.
  2. Conjugal chastity is often more honorable than virginal chastity.
  3. Even the papists acknowledge that celibacy does not come from divine right.

Footnotes

1 Homily 13 on 1 Timothy: “ ‘Let no one despise your youth,’ he says. Do you see that the priest should also command and speak with strong authority, and not just teach everything? For I think you’ll agree that youth has become a thing easy to despise in the common mind. So he says, ‘Let no one despise your youth.’ For it is also necessary that the teacher be unable to be despised. ‘Then what about gentleness?’ you might ask. ‘Then what about meekness, if he may not be despised?’ In matters where he alone is concerned, let him be despised and let him bear it. For in this way his teaching will prosper by his patient endurance. But in matters where others are concerned, he should tolerate it no longer. For that is not gentleness, but coldness. If a man avenges insults to himself, injuries to himself, plots against himself, you have good reason to accuse him. But where the salvation of others is concerned, command and take care of the matter with authority. What’s needed then is not gentleness, but authority, lest it do harm to the entire community. ‘Either command,’ he says, ‘or teach. Let no one despise you on account of your youth. For as long as you exhibit a life with this kind of counterbalance, no one will despise you because of your age any longer, and they will even admire you instead’ ” (John Chrysostom, Patrologiae Graecae, vol. 62, S. P. N. Joannis Chrysostomi, Archiepiscopi Constantinopolitani, Opera Omnia Quae Exstant [Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1862], pp. 564,565).

Interpretation of 1 Timothy: “ ‘Let no one despise your youth.’ But this does not have to do with me. Why then do you command me about things that concern others? ‘But be an example to the faithful.’ ‘Do you wish,’ he says, ‘not to be despised as you are commanding [vs. 11]? Become a living law. Show in yourself the perfection of the laws you lay down. Make your life bear witness to your message’ ” (Theodoret, Patrologiae Graecae, vol. 82, Theodoreti Cyrensis Episcopi Opera Omnia [Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1864], pp. 815,816).

Commentary on 2 Timothy: “ ‘Since the common opinion regards youth as a thing easy to despise,’ he says, ‘command with strong authority and do not let anyone despise you.’ For it is also necessary that the teacher be unable to be despised. Then what about meekness? When there is need to avenge insults to himself, let him be meek. But when there is need for austerity for the sake of the salvation of others, let him command boldly. Another interpretation: ‘Exhibit a decent life, and your youth will not be despised, even though it is naturally easy to despise. It will rather be admired’ ” (Theophylact, Patrologiae Graecae, vol. 125, Theophylacti, Bulgariae Archiepiscopi Constantinopolitani, Opera Quae Reperiri Potuerunt Omnia [Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1864], pp. 57-60).

Commentary on 2 Timothy: “ ‘Let no one despise your youth.’ For it is also necessary that the bishop speak with strong authority. Then what about, ‘Let your gentleness be known to all people’ [Philippians 4:5]? To that we answer: Among people who are wronging only him, he ought to be meek. But among people who are wronging erring brothers, let him be austere. Or you could take it this way: ‘If you lead an exceptionally decent life, your youth will not be despised, even though it has a natural tendency to be despised’ ” (Oecumenius, Patrologiae Graecae, vol. 119, Oecumenii, Triccae in Thessalia Episcopi, Opera Omnia [Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1864], pp. 171,172).

2 “ ‘Charity’ now means simply what used to be called ‘alms’—that is, giving to the poor. Originally it had a much wider meaning. … Charity means ‘Love, in the Christian sense’. But love, in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of the feelings but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity [New York, NY: HarperOne, 2001], p. 129). Lewis’ entire chapter “Charity” is worth reading.

3 “Ἐν πνεύματι. Either with a spiritual character or with a special spiritual gift (ἢ τῷ χαρίσματι), so that you do not become puffed up by your charity toward everyone” (Theophylact, op. cit., 59,60).

Oecumenius differs very little and translates into English exactly the same (op. cit., 171,172).

4 Ἐκδίκησις means avenging or vindication. Gerhard includes these as opportunities to let the opponents of specific points of Lutheran doctrine (usually Estius) speak their part, in order to vindicate the Lutheran position as the biblical one and prove the opposing position unbiblical.

5 Gerhard cites this eminent Roman Catholic theologian (1542-1613) throughout the commentary. In addition to refuting him, Gerhard borrows much of his work in phrasing his own interpretation.

6 Guilielmus Estius, In Omnes Pauli Epistolas, Item in Catholicas Commentarii, vol. 5 (Mainz: Kirchheim, Schott, & Theilmann, 1843), p. 203.

Gerhard himself would have referred to the original Douai edition (1614-16).

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Red Brick Parsonage Printing is operated by a confessional Lutheran pastor serving in the Midwest.

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