An Arduous Business

Overview of 1 Timothy
By Tilemann Heshusius

Translator’s Preface

Folio 1 of Heshusius 1586 commentary on 1 Timothy

Folio 1 of Heshusius’ 1586 commentary on 1 Timothy

As a result of my recent dealings with the 16th century Lutheran theologian Heshusius (biography and overview of Isaiah 40), I also came across his commentary on 1 Timothy (Helmstedt: Jacob Lucius, 1586). The acquaintance would have probably remained a passing one were it not for the first 12 words of the Argumentum (Overview) on folio 1, and especially the first two words – Res ardua, “An arduous business.” This opening clause struck me as a masterpiece and convinced me it was a good idea to continue working through the overview (folios 1-6), especially in view of a forthcoming conference isagogical paper on 1 Timothy that has been assigned to me.

Any faithful, experienced pastor or teacher in the Christian Church will find the entire first paragraph of Heshusius’ overview below to be one of the best and most gripping summaries of the public ministry of the gospel on record. However, when one considers that he wrote it in 1586, two years before his death at age 60 and after getting kicked out of at least seven ministerial positions (one of which expulsions took place at 3 a.m. without thought for his “very pregnant wife”) and resigning from another position of his own conscientious accord, its brilliance and force come as considerably less of a surprise.

Heshusius has what many modern commentaries on 1 Timothy lack, an extremely practical “Occasion for Writing” that actually grabs at the jugular, as Luther would say. This is an overview and introduction that proceeds not just from the head and heart, but also from a lifetime of faithful adherence to the letter’s content.

I ask the triune God that he would use the overview that follows to encourage public ministers of the gospel to revisit the treasury of the Pastoral Epistles, and to spur them on to increased faithfulness and diligence in their holy calling, to the glory of our Savior Jesus Christ.


The ministry of the gospel is an arduous business, and a task as extremely difficult as it is sublime – the ministry by which we propagate the knowledge of the true God among the human race, call sinners to repentance, and set forth the heavenly blessings of the Son of God. For this kind of teaching is unknown to human reason and is placed beyond our comprehension. The kingdom of Christ itself, whose cause we serve, is detested by the world and subject to the animosities of the mighty. Not only is our own weakness immense, so that we easily get worn out, but the adversarial spirit also never ceases in his attempts to trouble us, to deter us from duty, to impede our progress, and to dislodge us from the position of faith. Sometimes he exposes us to the violence of tyrants; other times he shrouds us in the false accusations of heretics. We are neither sufficiently safe among our own hearers, nor are we immune from great hardships among colleagues. And since perpetual dangers and all kinds of misfortunes surround the Church, instructing the simple, counseling the troubled, strengthening the faint, and comforting the weak is a considerable task. It also takes a lot of work and exceptional diligence not only to present the teaching about God and eternal life plainly and distinctly, but also to refute the authors of false opinions with firm testimonies of Sacred Scripture, after the causes of the errors have been shown, and to stabilize those who are wavering in faith. The Holy Spirit calls pastors and bishops of churches sons of mighty heroes: “Ascribe to the Lord, sons of mighty men, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength” (Psalm 29). For they must engage in constant battle, not with one kind of enemy, but with various and manifold enemies. On one occasion furious tyrants proceed against them with open force; on another poisonous heretics try to suppress them with ruses and deceptions. Sometimes arrogant and fanatical teachers make life difficult for them; other times false brothers and treacherous colleagues cause very serious dangers for them. We must also contend against our own flesh, which is easily seduced by the world’s charms, is dragged away from the path of righteousness by perverse emotions, lets its resolve in work that has been undertaken be broken by human ingratitude, and which is troubled in faith by the delusions of Satan.

Since then the difficulty of the evangelical task is so great, Paul, who had left Timothy behind at Ephesus and entrusted the Asian churches to his care, wanted to equip and fortify him with doctrine, counsel, and authority, so that he would preside over the church of God faithfully and wisely. Nor indeed does Paul have Timothy alone in mind. No, he wishes to instruct all bishops and pastors in the apostolic spirit, so that they may know what faith and good judgment, what attentiveness and moderation, what patience and mental fortitude needs to prevail in the house of the Lord and is needed for governing the Church of the Son of God.

It takes a lot of good judgment, moderation, and teaching to conduct civil government in such a way that a great number of humans are able to be held together in peace and proper discipline. But it takes far loftier wisdom and teaching to preserve the Church of Jesus Christ in knowledge of the true God, in purity of doctrine, in sincere worship of God, in confession of the truth and patience in afflictions. Therefore, in order that the universal church might have a prescribed form for this beneficial administration, and that each individual pastor might be admonished by the divine voice, the apostle Paul relates the precepts of Jesus Christ. For he had not only learned from extensive experience and years of practice what exactly was required for beneficial governance of the church, but he also had this understanding by virtue of the apostolic spirit. For the Son of God had set Paul apart as the distinguished vessel of choice for instructing the entire Church. So let us then read this epistle as if it were the voice of the Holy Spirit, and let us realize that he is issuing commands not just to Timothy, but to all bishops and pastors.

Chapter 1
He opens the letter with a serious admonition to avoid new and foreign doctrines and to guard against fables and prying questions, which are usually produced by people of ambitious nature. They indeed trouble the church more than they build it up. With this admonition he censures the fanatical teachers who were disparaging Timothy’s authority as a young man and were ingratiating themselves with the people through their inquisitive disputations. And right after that, he sets forth the summary of the whole of Christian doctrine, and he shows to what end all of Christ’s doctrine is passed down – namely, of course, that love may be manifest in us, from a pure heart, a good conscience, and an unfeigned faith. Those who deviate from this goal show that they do not understand what they profess.

He then gets down into the parts of the heavenly doctrine, and he first teaches that the law is good and how it is to be used, that it has not been put into place for the just man, but for the unjust and disobedient, to restrain them and keep them attentive to their duty. It is therefore not to be turned upside down and used for a person’s justification.

To the law he subjoins the doctrine of the gospel, and in order to present it with the utmost clarity, he establishes himself as a singular example of this doctrine: In him everyone may see that the eternal God admits sinners into his favor free of charge, out of boundless mercy, since indeed he himself had been a blasphemer, reviler, and bitter enemy of the pious and had still found mercy. In order to indicate the basis for this comfort, he teaches that Jesus the Son of God came into this world for the very purpose of saving sinners. And he testifies that his own example has been set out for the whole church, that each individual might believe in the Mediator and obtain eternal life.

Having presented the doctrine of the law and of the gospel in summary fashion, he encourages Timothy to prove himself its faithful steward and teacher, to wage the good warfare, keeping faith and a good conscience. And so that this serious admonition might strike Timothy’s heart more deeply, he brings in the tragic examples of Hymenaeus and Alexander, who had made a shipwreck of the faith and had been handed over to Satan.

Chapter 2
After the solid foundation for the doctrine has been laid, the chief point of piety, of true faithfulness in the ministry of the gospel, is arduous and constant prayer, both for all ranks and for public officials in particular. For if we are not constantly praying to the Lord, piety is not putting down roots in us and the struggles we are undergoing in the ministry of teaching are not producing any fruit at all. He explains that the will of God is that all people find salvation. Therefore the gospel of Christ should be set out for all people and we should pray for all people. And as there is one God, so there is one Mediator and one way of salvation that God has revealed from heaven, and of this doctrine he has been appointed by God as a herald and an apostle. Nor indeed does he want pastors and bishops alone to compose prayers to God, but also the hearers themselves. And he also teaches that impure emotions and doubts ought to be far removed from the prayers of the saints.

To wives [matronis] he commends the pursuit of piety through propriety, modesty, and obedience, and he shows that the task of teaching in the Church is not proper for them. He teaches that woman was deceived first, but that salvation still exists for wives if they remain in faith, love, purity, and moderation.

Chapter 3
In the third chapter he describes in many words the task of a true bishop and pastor. He explains what virtues and what gifts are required in him, what sort of men are to be elected to the position, and to what sort of men the care and governance of the Church should be commended. In so doing he indicates at the same time what sort of men should be passed over in an election. He also explains what sort of men ought to be deacons of the Church and with what kind of character they ought to be endowed, and he wants their faith and doctrine to be tested by examination first, before a public task in the Church is committed to them. He also shows what virtues are required in the wives of bishops and deacons. And in order to incite the deacons to maintain faith and diligence, he teaches that faithfulness is honored by God with a remarkable reward.

Furthermore, in order that exceptional diligence in and attention to administration in the Church might be kindled in Timothy and all other pastors, he explains how sublime the glory of the Church is: He says that it is the house1 of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. And to make this point more striking, he explains the chief article of our faith, that God was made a human, which is the foundation of our entire salvation.

Chapter 4
In the fourth chapter he prophesies in the Spirit of the unhappy times to come, in which many are going to reject the faith, how people driven by fanatic spirits are going to trouble the church with destructive teachings, prohibiting marriage, distinguishing between foods. And after he has refuted these false teachings, he urges Timothy to commend these warnings to the pious brothers and to keep away from profane and absurd fables. He incites Timothy and all pastors instead to occupy themselves with the sincere pursuit of piety, which is adorned with far greater promises than with physical exercises, which are weakened with use. He teaches that the hope of the future life has been laid away for us, and that we toil and undergo abuse for this, that we put confidence in the living God.

He urges Timothy and all bishops to be unremitting in setting forth sound doctrine; leading the way for their hearers by their good example in love, spirit, purity, and faith; being diligent in reading, exhorting, and teaching; kindling new gifts in themselves and, through the exercise of piety, augmenting the gifts they have; and constantly persisting in purity of doctrine and faithfulness of duty. For he shows that this is the way they will find salvation.

Chapter 5
In the fifth chapter he instructs Timothy what propriety and gentleness he ought to exhibit toward older men and colleagues, what kindness toward those of the same age, what modesty and purity toward married women. He then gives precepts that detail which widows are to be acceptable recipients of the Church’s ministration.2 He wants widows to be chosen who are of advanced age and have the endorsement of good works. He wants the younger ones to marry, to raise children, to manage a household, and to pursue propriety.

He then commends the elders to Timothy’s care. Timothy is to regard them with reverence, to show them every courtesy, and to see that they are given a respectable salary, since those who are keepers of doctrine are indeed worthy of every honor and of just reward. He warns that accusations against elders are not to be readily entertained without attestation; those openly doing wrong are to be rebuked so that the others fear for themselves. He charges Timothy with instruction and governance by solemnly adjuring him before God and our Lord Jesus Christ and the holy angels not to sin through prejudice or yield to his own affection, nor to share in the sins of another by laying hands on someone quickly and without examination.

Finally, he builds Timothy up with comfort, lest he torture himself excessively. He tells Timothy that he will not be able to remedy every evil all at once or to ward off every harmful pest. Though he will detect the hypocrisy and wicked schemes of some but will be unable to convict them openly, it ought to be enough for him to denounce and punish manifest crimes. The obscure ones will have to be tolerated until they are at last brought to light and to judgment by God himself, for God will not suffer them to lie hidden forever. He also shows that noble deeds get their praise in the end. Even if good and faithful pastors, who devote themselves entirely to serving the salvation of the Church, should be degraded by falsehoods, oppressed by resentment, and falsely accused, nevertheless innocence cannot be suppressed, but gets its due praise in the end.

Chapter 6
In the last chapter he commands slaves to show obedience and honor to their lords, lest their lord refuse to listen to the Christian teaching3 on their account. He forbids them from despising their masters or refusing them obedience on the pretext of religion. After he has explained the doctrine that he wants Timothy to set forth continually with the utmost faithfulness, he subjoins a warning about the false teachers to be avoided, and he describes their character and fruits so that they can be recognized and distinguished from pure teachers that much more readily. And since greediness is a special mark of false teachers, he deals with it more sharply and he urges Timothy not to let it have a place in him, but to be content with the necessities of life, which God will not deny us.

He appends an exhortation to righteousness, piety, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness, and to fortitude in the ministry of the Spirit, so as to obtain the eternal life in Christ.

He adjures Timothy in the presence of God and of Christ to maintain faithfulness in the ministry, to keep the doctrine uncorrupted, and to comply with Paul’s admonitions. Last of all, he enjoins them not to rely on their riches nor to be proud or grow haughty on account of them, but to put all their hope in the eternal and living God and to pursue good works, to practice generosity, and to have a view toward eternal life. He once again admonishes Timothy to take great care to avoid the latest profane chatter and the tendency to dispute, and instead to faithfully guard the deposit, that is, the doctrine he has received from Paul.


1 I am reading domus for Dominus.

2 The Latin sentence could also be translated: “…precepts about the widows to be admitted to the ministry of the Church.” But this makes it seem as though Paul was giving stipulations for widows who would regularly serve the Church as deacons or in some other official capacity, whereas Heshusius makes it clear in his commentary proper that these widows would in fact receive care, protection, and provisions from the ministers of the Church (cf. folio 236).

3 I am reading doctrinam for doctrina.


Raising Wings Like the Eagles

Commentaries on Isaiah 40:30-31
By Tilemann Heshusius and Jerome

Translator’s Preface

I undertook the following in connection with an invitation to preach on Isaiah 40:31 at a graduation service for a Lutheran high school. I like to use such special opportunities to familiarize myself with commentary by our Christian and Lutheran fathers.

In his commentary on Isaiah 40-66 in the NICOT series, John Oswalt writes (p. 74):

The versions [i.e. ancient translations of the Bible] take [the Hebrew word אֵבֶר, pinions or wings, in Isaiah 40:31] as the object [of יַעֲלוּ], but seem to understand the verb [עָלָה] to mean “put forth” in the sense of growing new feathers (see NEB, JPS, NJB). This reading might reflect the ancient tradition that eagles grow new feathers every ten years for a hundred years (see Ps. 103:5).

While Oswalt acknowledges that this idea would nicely parallel “will renew strength” in the first part of the verse and would continue the contrast with vs. 30, he goes on to dismiss the interpretation on semantic grounds: “[T]he verb is nowhere else used in this sense of ‘put forth’ (although it is used of growing plants); and [אֵבֶר] refers to wing feathers, not feathers in general” (p. 74-75). However, with his “although” clause he weakens his first reason, and his second reason assumes that the ancient translators did not also have wing or flight feathers particularly in mind – an unwarranted assumption. (What would be the point of stressing the growth of new feathers, if those new feathers did not give the eagle renewed strength to fly?)

It seems to me unfortunate that Oswalt merely called the view that eagles grow new feathers every ten years an “ancient tradition,” and did not pursue the factuality of the tradition any further. For better or worse, serious translators today want proven science, not ancient tradition, for exegetical cruces such as this one.

The two translations that follow below verify Oswalt’s claim that this interpretation is an ancient tradition – minus perhaps the “for a hundred years” part. Heshusius’ commentary was published in 1617, though the commentary itself must have an earlier date of origin, since Heshusius passed away in 1588. (For more on Heshusius’ life, see here.) Jerome’s commentary dates to 395-400 AD.

As far as the validity of this ancient tradition for interpreting Isaiah 40:31, we must take into consideration at least the following points:

  • King Solomon (ruled 971-932 BC) was one of the wisest men ever to have lived (1 Kings 3:12), and one of the subjects he lectured on was ornithology (1 Kings 4:33). For how many years after his death was his lecture material still available, either in written form or through oral tradition?
  • We do not know which particular species of eagle, if any, Isaiah had in mind. (The Hebrew word נֶשֶׁר has also been translated griffon vulture.)
  • The modern-day bald eagle, for instance, only has an average lifespan of 20 years and its documented molting cycles do not match the every-10-years cycle of this ancient tradition. However, in addition to the previous point, the lifespan and behavior of humans have varied greatly from place to place and throughout the thousands of years of their existence. Why not also with birds and other creatures?
  • Solomon’s father David (1039-969 BC) expressly likened the renewing of one’s youth to what happens to an eagle (Psalm 103:5).

Of course, regardless of which interpretation one prefers – mounting up (Luther), soaring (modern), or growing new flight feathers (ancient) – the point is the same and must not be lost: Leaving the terms and timetable for resolution to God, patiently and willingly suffering for his sake, and trusting in his implicit goodness in Christ Jesus – all of which cannot be done without regular contact with his saving Word – results in ever-increasing and renewed strength for life here on earth and eternal life in heaven. May God always bless our study of his Word to that purpose and end.

Tilemann Heshusius’ Commentary on Isaiah 40:30-31


With this chapter and those that follow to the end of the book, the prophet Isaiah begins sermons that are new in a way. Every one of them is meant to confirm, repeat, and shed light on the promise concerning the coming of the Messiah, both regarding his spiritual and eternal kingdom and regarding his eternal benefits,1 and to strengthen the Church in faith as she awaits salvation from the Messiah. For he explicitly prophesied several times in chapters 3 and 5 that the people of Jerusalem were going to be led away into captivity. And in chapter 39 he plainly announced to King Hezekiah that all the treasures of the king of Judah were going to be carried off to Babylon, and that the sons of the king of Judah were going to be servants in the court of the king of Babylon. And in chapters 24 and 34 he predicted that Jerusalem was going to be so completely destroyed and overthrown at some point that it would never rise again. But if the Mosaic government would be eradicated and the Synagogue rejected from being the people of God, could not the pious begin to doubt and think that all hope of the Messiah’s coming was cut off? That God had changed his will and plan concerning the redemption of the human race and retracted the promise repeated in so many generations?

Therefore, in order that he may remove this doubt and strengthen the pious in faith in the coming Messiah, he preaches with absolute certainty about the Messiah’s coming, expounds his spiritual kingdom in exact detail, describes the distinguished person of the Messiah in many different ways, and comforts the Church with the news that she will be gloriously freed by the Messiah and brought to supreme glory and happiness, and that neither the extremely oppressive Babylonian captivity nor the other manifold misfortunes that will befall that people are going to prevent the coming of the Messiah, who is going to appear towards the end of the government. Yes, he predicts, in fact, that the people of Israel are going to be freed from the Babylonian captivity and that the entire Babylonian empire is going to be destroyed and overthrown by Cyrus the Persian, that Jerusalem is going to be restored and the government preserved until the promised Messiah is presented. Therefore he tells the pious to be of good cheer and to place all their confidence in the promised Messiah, and to expect certain righteousness and salvation from him, and far greater and superior blessings in the New Testament, with the Mosaic government abrogated, than they had ever possessed in the Old.

First he comforts the Church and predicts that the end of the Mosaic government and of the entire Old Testament is drawing near, and he expounds in summary fashion the future benefits of the New Testament, which of course include the free remission of sins.

Then he prophesies about John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, who would cause people to leave the temple and, with sacrifices left behind, would proclaim in the wilderness that the New Testament was about to commence2 and would prepare the way for the Lord Messiah by the preaching of repentance, and would testify with a clear voice that the Messiah was at hand.

He teaches that the Lord himself would be the Messiah, and that the omnipotent God, having been clothed in human flesh, would live among humans and furnish himself for viewing and go about among the cities of Judah. He accuses the entire human race of sin and corruption, in order to warn all people that they need the help of a mediator. He encourages the Church by liberally publishing the good news that the promised Messiah will be presented.3

He describes the Messiah’s spiritual kingdom, that he will not rule with arms and armies the way other kings do, but will gather his Church together like a shepherd and will lead his faithful in a most agreeable and gentle way. He teaches that Christ will rule with divine and heavenly power, and that he will gather a holy church in the world through the ministry of the gospel, the gates of hell notwithstanding. Upon all his enemies, however, he will inflict eternal punishments.

He then preaches in splendid detail about the immense wisdom and infinite power of the Messiah, that he is the creator of heaven and earth, that he has all things in his hand, that he is the source of all wisdom and knowledge, that all the nations are nothing when considered in comparison with the Messiah, the omnipotent God. He teaches that idols and images are nothing, and that those who rely on them are extremely delusional, but that the Messiah is the most powerful of all, as the one who has heaven and earth in his hand, who reduces powerful kings and princes to nothing and makes the wise look like fools.

He teaches that God has not forgotten his Church, nor has he retracted his promise, nor does God grow weary with the passing of time. And so there should be no doubt as to the coming of the Messiah, nor should they abandon the hope of salvation; indeed, they should rather conclude that God will certainly fulfill and accomplish what he has promised, and that he is always supplied with strength and power, but that this kind of judgment will ensue for even the strongest young men, that their strength will let them down so that they fail. But those who wait on the Lord and steadfastly persist in faith will continually regain new powers and will be strengthened through the Holy Spirit. And in this way he instructs the pious to become partakers of Christ’s spiritual kingdom through faith and eager expectation, and to reap the fruit of the Messiah’s coming.

VERSES 27-31

27. Why therefore would you say, O Jacob, and (why) would you, O Israel, speak (this way): “My way has been hidden from the Lord, and my judgment escapes my God”?
28. Do you not know? Have you not heard that God is eternal, and the Lord is the one who created the ends of the earth? He neither wears out from fatigue nor can his intelligence wear out.
29. He (rather) gives strength to the faint, and to him whose powers have surely forsaken him, he supplies vigor in abundance.
30. Grown men are rendered tired and panting, and the choicest young men all fall down.
31. But those who wait for the Lord continually regain new powers; they will raise wings like the eagles. They will run and not wear out; they will walk and not get tired.

Grown men are rendered tired and panting, and the choicest young men all fall down.

He compares the powers of the impious to those of the pious, and he shows how the success is different in each case. The impious vaunt their powers, wisdom, righteousness, free will, courage, and vigor. They expect that they will be able to overcome all troubles and adversities by their own strength. They are confident that they will be able to endure God’s judgment and to overcome death by their own merits and to obtain eternal life. But in fact when troubles and adversities assail, when severe trials attack, when sins awake and they are overwhelmed with a sense of God’s wrath, when death exposes his powers, immediately they grow weary, are unable to hold out, and all fall down.

For human powers cannot endure the judgment of God, and the impious are all destitute of the work and help of the Holy Spirit and therefore must of necessity meet their ruin. Thus Saul met his ruin, Sennacherib fell, Balthasar perished, Goliath fell, the Pharisee in Luke 18 fell. And all the impious, who trust in their own works and powers, sink into despair in the end, destitute of all comfort. Even if they are the choicest young men, who stand out in wisdom, righteousness, vigor, and virtue, who are regarded as most holy, all these fall down too, both among the people of God and among all the heathens.

But those who wait for the Lord continually regain new powers; they will raise wings like the eagles. They will run and not wear out…

That is, the pious, who place their confidence and hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, are continually bolstered with comfort, are revived through the Holy Spirit, receive the remission of sins, are flooded with new light, acquire new powers, are renewed and transformed from splendor to splendor [cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18]. They are sustained in all affliction and adversity, are assisted in every hardship, are strengthened in trials. And in the very courtroom of God’s justice and the sensing of the wrath of God, and also in the agony of death, they have the Holy Spirit as an advocate [paracletum], they receive a taste of eternal life, overcome all evils, and obtain eternal life.

He distinguishes the pious from the impious thus: “But those who wait for the Lord,” that is, those in whom true faith in our Lord Jesus Christ shines forth. For the pious have sins just as much as the impious do. And the pious in large part are weak and feeble. Yet they do not fall down, for they receive the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the one difference between them and the impious, that the pious wait for the Lord.

They therefore continually regain new powers. Just as eagles change their feathers every ten years and renew their strength, so the pious will blossom even in old age; they will be lush and green.

“They will run” – namely in the labors of their vocation, in the endeavor to be pious, in great dangers and trials. “…and not wear out” – namely, they will not be broken by any hardship or any adversity, since they are confirmed and strengthened through the Holy Spirit, whom they have received through faith, and in the end, with all evils overcome, they will be led into eternal life. And thus he also indicates the means through which we may apply to ourselves all the Messiah’s benefits, the remission of sins, grace and truth, an eternal reward, renewal, and eternal life.

Jerome’s Commentary on Isaiah 40:30-31

…That is why God gives sadness to those who have an impenitent heart, in order that they may recognize their sins. And since many people take pleasure in the health of the body, and think that youth and childhood last forever, he continues by saying that the flowering age of life quickly fades, and sturdy bodies waste away. But those who have confidence not in their own powers, but in God, and are always awaiting his mercy put on new strength [mutent fortitudinem] and proceed from strength to strength [de virtute in virtutem], and they take on feathers like the eagles, and they hear, “Your youth will be renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:5). They run to the Lord, and do not toil under his desire; they walk, and never grow weak. We have often said that the old age of eagles is revitalized by the exchanging of feathers, and that they are the only ones that gaze at the brightness of the sun and can look at the splendor of its rays with sparkling eyes, and they use this test to determine whether their chicks are of the noble kind. So too the saints become children again, and since they have taken on an immortal body, they are not affected by the hardship of mortals, but they are snatched up to meet Christ in the clouds, and according to the Septuagint they do not get hungry at all, because they have the Lord at their side as their food.


1 Latin: & de spirituali & æterno regno ipsius de ipsius æternis beneficiis,… There is either an “&” missing before the second de, or the second de should be cum.

2 I am reading exorsurum (in agreement with testamentum) for exorsurus.

3 I am reading exhibiturus for exhibitus.

Finishing the Race

A Commentary on 2 Timothy 4:6-8

By Johann Gerhard, Th. D.

Translator’s Preface

The following was translated from Adnotationes ad Posteriorem D. Pauli ad Timotheum Epistolam, in Quibus Textus Declaratur, Quaestiones Dubiae Solvuntur, Observationes Eruuntur, & Loca in Speciem Pugnantia quam Brevissime Conciliantur (Commentary on St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy, in Which the Text Is Explained, Difficult Questions Are Answered, Observations Are Drawn Out, and Seemingly Contradictory Passages Are Reconciled as Concisely as Possible) by Johann Gerhard, Th.D. (Jena: Steinmann, 1643), pp. 78-86; available from the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. I also consulted the 1666 Jena edition, pp. 205-213.

This translation was prepared in connection with an exegetical presentation assigned to me for a circuit meeting in Merrill, Wisconsin, on December 7, 2015.

The footnotes are mine, and are for the most part an attempt to cite Gerhard’s sources more exactly. “PG” and “PL” stand for J. P. Migne’s collections of the writings of the church fathers, “Patrologia Graeca” and “Patrologia Latina” respectively.

May the Holy Spirit use the apostle’s Paul’s words to inspire us to contend honorably and well in the good contest in which God has graciously placed us, so that we finish our race as Paul did, satisfied with our earthly lot and confident of the crown of righteousness that awaits us.

2 Timothy 4:6-8

6. Ἐγὼ γὰρ ἤδη σπένδομαι, καὶ ὁ καιρὸς τῆς ἐμῆς ἀναλύσεως ἐφέστηκε.

ego enim iam delibor et tempus meae resolutionis instat

  • Ἐγὼ γὰρ ἤδη σπένδομαι

Paraphrase: I am being offered and poured out in the manner of a sacrifice.

This kind of metaphor is taken from the sacrifices of the Old Testament, to which drink offerings used to be added.

At the same time he is alluding to the punishment that he is going to undergo and its fruit, the verification of the truth of the gospel. For he says that he is being poured out [libari], that is, that he is about to be poured out [libatum iri], that is, that his blood is about to be shed in order to ratify the truth of the doctrine of the gospel, just as agreements were ratified with drink offerings [libaminibus], that is, with the pouring out of wine which the contracting parties had first sampled [libaverant], that is, tasted with the edge of their lips.

Certainly our death is a sacrifice that we offer to God, but that sacrifice ought to be a willing one. Therefore when the hour of death comes, let us follow after our Lord, not with reluctance and groaning, but with a ready spirit.

A passage parallel to this one is found in Philippians 2:17: ἀλλ᾽ εἰ καὶ σπένδομαι ἐπὶ τῇ θυσίᾳ καὶ λειτουργίᾳ τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν, χαίρω [But even if I am being poured out on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice].

The little word ἤδη [already] means that it will not be long before he is carried off to punishment and he ratifies the truth of the gospel with the pouring out of his blood.

  • Καὶ ὁ καιρὸς τῆς ἐμῆς ἀναλύσεως ἐφέστηκε

“The time of my release [resolutionis],” namely from bodily fetters. Cyprian seems to have read ὁ καιρὸς ἐμῆς ἀναλήψεως [the time of my ascension].1 Some teach that Paul called it “release” [resolutionem] because through death the body is released (or dissolved) [resolvatur] into ashes, but the better reason was just given, namely that through death the fetter is loosened [solvatur] with which the soul was drawn together with the body.2

A parallel passage is Philippians 1:23: ἐπιθυμίαν ἔχων εἰς τὸ ἀναλῦσαι καὶ σὺν Χριστῷ εἶναι [having a desire for release and being with Christ].

Most interpreters conclude from this passage that out of all the Pauline epistles, this was the last one the apostle wrote, since the death he would suffer was already imminent. Rf. Eusebius’ Church History, Book 2, Chapter 22.3 Estius opposes this judgment in his section on the “Theme of the Epistle.”4 He is of the opinion that “this epistle is either the first or second of those that were produced in Rome, and was written many years before Paul’s death, namely in Nero’s third or fourth year, since Paul’s martyrdom occured during Nero’s thirteenth year.”5 He proves his opinion with the following arguments:

  1. Since Paul had just arrived in Rome, he wanted to inform his disciple Timothy right away how he was doing, since Timothy was his dearest friend, and in particular about the success of his first defense before Nero, which he does at the end of the epistle.
  2. He writes several things in this epistle which clearly show that he has just arrived in the city of Rome, e.g. “When you come, bring along the cloak that I left in Troas” (4:13) and, “Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus” (4:20).
  3. In this very epistle he indicates that he is still being reserved for fulfilling the office of preaching among the gentiles: “The Lord stood by me and gave me much strength, in order that through me the proclamation might be fulfilled and all the gentiles might hear it” (4:17).
  4. The epistle Paul wrote to Philemon, in which he asks that a guest room be prepared for him [vs. 22], implying that he would soon be released from prison, is much later than this one.6

In his exposition of verse 13 in this chapter, he strengthens his opinion with another argument: If [Paul] was thinking that the day of his death was already impending as he wrote this epistle, then what would be the point of his asking for the traveling clothes, or the box, or the scrolls that he had left in Troas some ten years ago, when they would not be of any further use to him?7

At the present passage he responds to the mainstream interpretation by saying that the apostle does not think “that he is already about to be carried off to martyrdom,” but that he is simply indicating that, “even though he is uncertain as to the time of his death or suffering, he is gradually being prepared for sacrifice through imprisonments and tribunals.”8 But this exposition does not capture the emphasis of the apostle’s words, and the strength of the arguments produced by Baronius and Estius is weak.

7. Τὸν ἀγῶνα τὸν καλὸν ἡγώνισμαι, τὸν δρόμον τετέλεκα, τὴν πίστιν τετήρηκα.

bonum certamen certavi cursum consummavi fidem servavi

This is a flowery and sort of triumphant συμπλοκή [combination] linked together by asyndeton, in which he describes the course of his life using three distinct metaphors.

The first one is borrowed from a strong athlete: Τὸν ἀγῶνα τὸν καλὸν ἡγώνισμαι, certamen bonum certavi, “I have contended in the good” – that is, the noble, distinguished, and excellent – “contest.” Some want this to be understood as a running contest here, since it is immediately followed by cursum consummavi, “I have finished the race.” But it is more correct to say that the metaphor is taken particularly from a wrestling contest, which metaphor is also used in 1 Corinthians 9:25.

The second metaphor is borrowed from a strenuous runner: τὸν δρόμον τετέλεκα. He compares himself to those who run in a racecourse, which metaphor is used in the same way as the first, and he links it together with the first one taken from an athlete. See 1 Corinthians 9:24,26. Some want this metaphor to be taken from a journey, but the first explanation fits the context better.

The third metaphor is borrowed from an honorable soldier: τὴν πίστιν τετήρηκα. By the faith he not only understands the confident apprehending of Christ’s merit, but also the faith of duty or the faithfulness with respect to duty that he owed and promised to God. For he compares himself to a soldier who has pledged loyalty [fidem] to the emperor or to the general and keeps it faithfully. “This is what is sought in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2).

Therefore Paul’s life has constituted the following:

  1. A good contest, since he has thus far been stationed in battle against sins, the world, the flesh, the devil, heretics, false apostles, and also enemies of Christ, both Jews and gentiles, and by the power of Christ, who has strengthened him, he has emerged the victor.
  2. A vigorous race, for on the racetrack of the public ministry and of private life, on which he has been running his heart out thus far, he has neither grown faint along the way nor lost faith, but has finished his race the victor.
  3. A continuous excercise of faith, since he has remained faithful to Christ his general all the way to his life’s final breath, and has kept the loyalty [fidem] pledged to Christ.

“[H]e says that he has [contended in the contest,] has finished [the] race[, has kept the faith], even though…the last act of his suffering and death still remained, because…he was already approaching the end of the contest and had firm confidence in the Lord regarding the part of the racecourse he still had to cover.”9 Cf. Augustine, A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, Book 2, Chapter 16.10

8. Λοιπὸν, ἀπόκειταί μοι ὁ τῆς δικαιοσύνης στέφανος, ὃν ἀποδώσει μοι ὁ Κύριος ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ, ὁ δίκαιος κριτής, οὐ μόνον δὲ ἐμοὶ, ἀλλὰ καὶ πᾶσι τοῖς ἠγαπηκόσι τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν αὐτοῦ.

in reliquo reposita est mihi iustitiae corona quam reddet mihi Dominus in illa die iustus iudex non solum autem mihi set et his qui diligunt adventum eius

  • Λοιπὸν, ἀπόκειταί μοι ὁ τῆς δικαιοσύνης στέφανος

Ambrose renders the Greek λοιπόν as quod reliquum est, “as for what remains.”11

He continues in the metaphor and calls the reward of the contest, race, and military service that have been completed commendably a crown, since it was customary for a crown to be given to those running in a racecourse and to soldiers.

But the happiness and glory of eternal life is called the crown of righteousness, not Paul’s righteousness, but God’s. And indeed the righteousness of God is understood not as that which judges according to the merits of works, but as that according to which God is steadfast in promises, and which does not pay a debt that has been earned, but a debt that has been freely promised.

Therefore it is the crown of righteousness because:

  1. Christ has won it for us by his perfect obedience and righteousness.
  2. God has promised it to those who serve him faithfully and pursue holiness and righteousness (1 Corinthians 9:25; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4).In the case of the former, the crown is earned by righteousness; in the case of the latter it is only a consequence of righteousness. It can also be called the crown of righteousness because:
  3. At that time Paul and all the elect will be fully and perfectly brought to that life where there is righteousness without sin. In this sense it is called “the crown of life” (James 1:12), “a beautiful crown” (Ezekiel 16:12), and “the crown of glory” (Isaiah 6:3;12 1 Peter 5:4), etc.

Estius asks how it can be called the crown of righteousness, since it is the crown of compassion (Psalm 103:4). He responds:

Those are no less compatible than the fact that eternal life is sometimes called a reward [merces] in the Scriptures, and at other times a favor [gratia] – a reward because it is given in return for the merits of good works, and a favor because these same merits are God’s gifts. So too eternal life is the crown of righteousness because it is owed to the one who contends according to the law, and it is the crown of compassion because a person would not be able to contend according to the law if God did not grant it, nor would a person attain to the crown if the same Lord did not mercifully pardon the failings and mistakes committed while contending.13

And later:

If Christ as the just judge is going to pay [redditurus] Paul and all the elect with the crown of righteousness in return for having kept the faith and having finished the race, there is therefore a kind [ratio] of merit in these works with respect to such a crown. Nor indeed do the Catholics frame these merits of works in opposition to the grace of Christ… For [they teach] that God’s kindness towards us is required just as much as our merits, which are his gifts. And it is in return for these merits, which he himself has generously bestowed, that eternal rewards are going to be given.14

We respond:

  1. It is not eternal life itself, the essential reward [praemium], that is called a reward [merces], but the accidental or secondary rewards [praemia] that are so called. In Matthew 5:12 and Luke 6:12, Jesus says, “Your reward [merces] will be abundant in heaven,” making a noticeable distinction between heaven itself or eternal life and the reward in heaven. Thus in 1 Timothy 4:8 piety is said to have “promises of the present life and of the life to come,” i.e. promises of the rewards [praemiorum] in the present and future life.
  2. If Scripture does call eternal life a reward [mercedem] sometimes, and a favor [gratiam] at other times, then it is not a reward of merit, but a reward of grace [gratiae], and consequently it is not given in return for the merits of good works, but out of grace. “If it is by grace, then it is not by works” (Romans 11:6).
  3. When the good works of the pious are called merits by the ancients – and indeed such as derive their origin from God’s gift and grace – then they are using the term merit in a broader sense and καταχρηστικῶς [improperly], as was clearly established at the proper locus.15
  4. We concede that eternal life is called the crown of righteousness because it is given to one who contends according to the law, but it still does not follow from this that the contest is deserving of eternal life, or that eternal life is a reward owed by merit in return for that contest. For it is one thing to ask to whom the crown of eternal life should be given; in that case it is correct to say that it is given to those who contend according to the law. But it is another thing to ask for what reason it should be given. The former describes the subject, the latter the meritorious cause.
  5. A debt owed with respect to justice, carefully considered and properly so called, is opposed to a reward of grace, but a debt owed with respect to a gracious promise, carefully considered and καταχρηστικῶς [improperly] so called, does not exclude grace nor is opposed to it. The reward of good works is said by the fathers (but nowhere in Scripture) to be owed by reason of the promise, but since that promise is purely gracious (Isaiah 40:23; Romans 11:35),16 it is therefore improper to call it owed. Augustine on Psalm 109: “God is faithful, the one who has made himself our debtor, not by accepting anything from us, but by promising so many things to us. … Whatever he has promised, he has promised to the unworthy, so that it would not be like a reward [merces] promised in exchange for works, but would be a favor [gratia] given gratis, as its name indicates.”17
  6. If “a person would not be able to contend according to the law if God did not grant it,” then there is no way that the contest can be a meritorious cause of the crown of glory or of eternal life. The reason is that, if the ability to contend according to the law is given by God, then a person is rendered God’s debtor for that, rather than that God should owe a person anything for that. If good works are God’s gifts, then, properly speaking, we are unable to merit anything with them.
  7. If “a person would not attain to the crown if God did not mercifully pardon the failings and mistakes committed while contending,” then there is no way that the contest can be a meritorious cause of the eternal crown. The reason for that is because that contest is not complete, perfect, blameless in all respects. And works that are going to be meritorious need to be perfect and pure, completely free of any defect.

As for the rest, the apostle says that that crown of righteousness has been “set aside for [him],” no doubt by God, by whom Paul was most confidently expecting to have it bestowed [reddendam] upon him. “I am certain that he is able to guard my deposit” (2 Timothy 1:12). That is why he immediately adds:

  • ὃν ἀποδώσει μοι ὁ Κύριος ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ, ὁ δίκαιος κριτής

Estius emphasizes that Paul does not say, “will give [dabit],” but “will give back [reddet],” “just like some debt, or a loan or deposit, which needs to be paid back by law,” and he cites Theophylact and Oecumenius.18

We respond:

  1. The little word ἀποδώσει has the free promise in mind; for what God has promised out of grace, he faithfully keeps. It is therefore not a debt of justice, but of promise.
  2. Basil, on p. 68 of his seventeen homilies on the Psalms, on Psalm 7 in the second homily, teaches that it is Scripture’s custom to say ἀνταπόδοσιν for δόσει and ἀνταποδοῦναι for δοῦναι, just as compound forms are used for simple ones in other cases.19
  3. In Colossians 3:14 the rewards [praemia] for good works are called ἀνταπόδοσις τῆς κληρονομίας, retributio hereditatis, the “repayment of the inheritance.” Just as a son is born an heir, and does not at some point need to earn the inheritance with works, so the pious have been born of God as cherished sons of God in Christ, and if they are sons, then they also have to be heirs. Yet just as a large inheritance is nevertheless at the same time a reward [praemium] for filial obedience, so also the rewards [praemia] of life in heaven compensate the pious for their works and afflictions most generously and far beyond what they deserve.

By ὁ Κύριος [the Lord] he understands Christ, whom he calls ὁ δίκαιος κριτής [the righteous judge], the one to whom the Father has given all judgment (John 5:22). The apostle notably says about this righteous judge that he is going to give the crown both to him (Paul) and to all who love his (the judge’s) appearing, from which it is clearly proved that the authority κριτικήν [to judge] is given to Christ as man.20

But Estius follows this up by saying that Christ is not going to present the elect with heavenly blessedness in any other way than by simply awarding the apostle Paul and the rest of the elect the crown that is owed to them through a judicial decision, since “to bless a creature effectively and properly belongs to uncreated authority alone.”21

We respond: But indeed that uncreated and infinite authority to bless a creature has been given to Christ the man through and on account of the personal union of the two natures in time. He will therefore not only pronounce a judicial decision with his external and audible voice, but he will also demonstrate his omniscience by exposing even the most hidden things of all people (1 Corinthians 4:5), and he will demonstrate his omnipotence with that which precedes the judgment – the resuscitation of the dead, the summoning and assembling of all people at the tribunal of judgment, and the effectual execution of the judicial sentencing. Power and glory that are truly divine are required in order to do all or any of these things, which is why Scripture says throughout that Christ is coming to judge in truly divine glory, power, and authority.

By ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ [that day] he understands the day of judgment, which is elsewhere called “the day of the Lord.”

Ἐναντιοφανές [Apparent Contradiction]: As far as his soul is concerned, Paul received that crown of righteousness immediately after his death. Why then does he say that Christ is not going to give it to him until the day of judgment?

We respond: He is talking about the fullest and most perfect blessedness, which will be bestowed not upon the soul, but upon the human consisting of soul and body.

From this passage it is concluded that the apostle was sure of his salvation. But Estius follows this up by saying that “Paul is not simply affirming here what is going to happen. Rather, he is either speaking optimistically [sermonem esse bonae fiduciae], as if to say, ‘I am certainly expecting and hoping to receive this crown from the Lord,’ or more likely, there is an implied condition, ‘The Lord will do this for me if I perserve all the way to my death.’”22 For Estius says that what Paul wrote in the letter to the Philippians “after this one to Timothy”23 stands against any certainty of salvation, “when he speaks as one who is still by no means completely certain: ‘if somehow I may attain to the resurrection which is from the dead’ (3:11).”24

We respond:

  1. The words of the text by themselves testify clearly enough that the apostle was most certain that the crown of glory would be bestowed upon him by Christ the judge. For he says that that crown of glory was set aside for him by the Lord and would be bestowed upon him on that day of judgment, and he does not employ verbs in the optative mood, but in the indicative.
  2. Many of the Pontificals concede that the apostle was certain of his salvation, but they add that that certainty came from some special revelation. See Duraeus in the eighth chapter of his book against Whitaker, folio 259,25 and Pistorius in his guide, p. 201.26
  3. The words of Romans 8:38, “I am certain that neither death nor life…,” are not merely optimistic, but are also words of unshakeable certainty and of the firmest conviction, with which these words in the present text are in perfect agreement.
  4. Certainly the condition of perseverance is also implied, but the apostle was certain of that very perseverance because of God’s kindness, faithfulness, and power, as was demonstrated at the proper locus.
  5. The particle εἴ πως in Philippians 3:11 does not express doubt, but alludes to the hardship and afflictions that weigh upon the pious in this life.

He is called the δίκαιος κριτής [righteous judge] because he will judge ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ [in righteousness] (Acts 17:31) and will execute that δικαίαν τοῦ θεοῦ κρίσιν [righteous judgment of God] which Paul describes this way in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7: “It is just in God’s sight to repay tribulation to those who are troubling you, and to you who are undergoing tribulation to repay rest, along with us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven…”

  • οὐ μόνον δὲ ἐμοὶ, ἀλλὰ καὶ πᾶσι τοῖς ἠγαπηκόσι τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν αὐτοῦ

Those “who love [Christ’s] coming” are those who are waiting for him as their Savior with longing and vigilance, who daily prepare themselves for Christ’s coming, and who demonstrate that they love him and are eagerly waiting for his coming by earnestly devoting themselves to piety.

Estius suspects that the “familiar distributive” πᾶσι in the Greek text was a later addition, because:

  1. Hentenius does not translate it in Oecumenius.27
  2. Ambrose and the other Latin ancients do not read it.28
  3. The Syriac translator also does not find it in his Greek text.
  4. It is easier to add this little word than to remove it, since the sense seems to require it.29

We respond:

  1. The main reason prompting Estius’ position that this particle was a later addition is that it is not included in the Vulgate version, which the Council of Trent pronounced the authentic one.30
  2. But what will be done with those same Tridentine fathers, who explicitly add that particle when citing this verse in the Sixth Session, Chapter 16?31
  3. Estius himself confesses that “the sense seems to require it.” It is therefore easier for it to have been omitted in the Latin version than added in the Greek, especially since other examples of this kind of omission can also be found in the Vulgate version.
  4. The Greek text of Oecumenius explicitly includes that particle, and Hentenius’ version cannot detract from it at all. In fact Oecumenius draws out this useful observation from that particle: “Here he also incites Timothy himself, for he says, ‘He will also bestow it upon you. For if he will give the crown to all [omnibus] who love his coming, then how much more to you!’”32
  5. Ambrose and the Latin ancients have followed the Vulgate version. The Syriac translator also ignored the Greek text and followed the Vulgate now and then, as several examples are able to confirm.


1 Gerhard may be referring to De Laude Martyrii (On the Glory of Martyrdom) 18 (PL 4, col. 828). This work is attributed to Cyprian with reservation.

2 Cf. Guilielmus Estius, In Omnes Beati Pauli et Aliorum Apostolorum Epistolas Commentaria (Paris, 1623), p. 852.2-853.1: “[Paul] calls death his ‘release’ [resolutionem] either because through death the body is released (or dissolved) [resolvatur] into ashes or, more likely, because through it the fetter is loosened [solvatur] with which the soul was drawn together with the body.” Cosmas Magalianus, Operis Hierarchici, sive, De Ecclesiastico Principatu, Liber II. in quo Beati Pauli Apostoli secunda ad Timotheum Ephesi Episcopum, & Primatem, Epistola, Commentariis illustratur (Lyon, France: Sumptibus Horatii Cardon, 1609), p. 180: “For death is the loosening [solutio] of the soul from the body, a departure, as it were, from the penitentiary in which it was being detained.”

3 PG 20, col. 193-196. Rf. also Magalianus, op. cit., p. 8, where he not only cites Eusebius as such an interpreter, but also Chrysostom in his homilies on this epistle (rf. e.g. PG 62, col. 601) and Jerome in his Lives of Illustrious Men (rf. PL 23, col. 615-618).

4 Estius’ opposition is really based on the arguments of Cardinal Caesar Baronius, in tome 1 of his Annales Ecclesiastici. (Cardinal Baronius undertook his Annales in answer to the Lutheran church history compiled mainly by Matthias Flacius, the so-called Magdeburg Centuries.) Magalianus (op. cit., p. 9) also cites Alfonso Salmerón the Jesuit, in Salmerón’s first discussion (Prima Disputatio) on 2 Timothy (Disputationum in Epistolas Divi Pauli Tomus Tertius), in addition to Baronius, as going against the judgment of mainstream interpreters.

5 Estius, op. cit., p. 825.

6 Ibid., p. 825-826. Estius does not actually include this argument in the “Theme of the Epistle,” as implied here, but in his comments on vs. 6 (p. 852.2), where he says that he will prove his assertion in his comments on Philemon 22.

7 Ibid., p. 856.1.

8 Ibid., p. 852.2.

9 Ibid., p. 853.1. In the original, it appears that Gerhard is citing Augustine (rf. next footnote), but he is actually citing Estius, who supports his interpretation by citing Augustine.

10 PL 44, col. 165-166. In English editions, the citation in question appears in Chapter 24. The “Cf.” does not appear in Gerhard’s original (rf. preceding footnote).

11 On the Duties of the Clergy, Book 1, Chapter 15 (PL 16, col. 40). The Latin phrase, like the English, is somewhat ambiguous, referring either to remaining subject matter or to what remains in the future. In Schaff’s Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (vol. 10, p. 11) the phrase is rendered henceforth.

12 This reference does not seem to fit.

13 Estius, op. cit., p. 853.2.

14 Ibid., p. 854.1.

15 Latin: suo loco. This phrase occurs again later; both times it seems to be a reference to Gerhard’s well-known dogmatic treatise and magnum opus, Loci Theologici (Theological Topics).

16 Perhaps Gerhard meant to cite 40:13 (which corresponds to Romans 11:34). The actual Old Testament parallel to Romans 11:35 is Job 41:11.

17 PL 37, col. 1445,1446. This corresponds to Psalm 110 in English Bibles.

18 Estius, op. cit., p. 853.2. Cf. Oecumenius in PG 119, col. 233,234; Theophylact in PG 125, col. 131,132.

19 “‘Lord my God, if I have done this, if there is injustice in my hands, if I have paid back [ἀνταπέδωκα] evil to those who pay me back [τοῖς ἀνταποδιδοῦσί μοι], may I then fall down empty at the hands of my enemies. May the enemy then hunt down my life and overtake it’ [Psalm 7:4-6a LXX]. It is customary for Scripture to apply the term ἀνταπόδοσις [repayment] not only to the usual circumstances, as repayment of something good or bad that already exists, but also to actions taking place first, as in the passage, ‘Pay back [Ἀνταπόδος] to your slave’ [Ps 118:17 LXX]. For instead of saying, ‘Give [Δὸς],’ ‘Pay back [Ἀνταπόδος]’ was said. Δόσις [giving], then, is the beginning of doing good; ἀπόδοσις [giving back] is the reciprocal measuring out of something equal for the good that one has experienced; ἀνταπόδοσις [paying back] is a sort of second beginning and going around [περίοδος] of the good and bad things being paid to certain people. But I think that, whenever the discourse is seeking repayment [τὴν ἀνταπόδοσιν], making, as it were, a sort of formal demand instead of a request, it yields something like the following sense: ‘Show me the same obligation of care that progenitors automatically owe their offspring by nature’” (PG 29, col. 233; translation mine).

20 “appearing” in this sentence is adventum, “coming,” in Latin, but Gerhard has the original Greek ἐπιφάνειαν, “appearing,” in mind. The authority to judge is clearly given to Christ as man, since Christ can only visibly appear to other humans as man, and not as God (rf. Col 1:15; 1Ti 1:17; Heb 11:27; Jn 4:24).

21 Estius, op. cit., p. 853.2.

22 Ibid., p. 854.1.

23 Ibid.

24 Ibid., p. 853.2.

25 Ioannes Duraeus, Confutatio Responsionis Gulielmi Whitakeri (Paris: Apud Thomam Brumennium, 1582).

26 Ioannes Pistorius, Wegweiser für all verführte Christen (Ingolstadt: Andreas Angermayer, 1600). Gerhard cites this book as “hodeget.”, which is an abbreviated Latin transliteration of ὁδηγητήρ, a Greek word corresponding to Wegweiser in German. Pistorius’ father, Johannes Sr., was at first a Roman Catholic and then a Lutheran. Johannes Jr. went the opposite direction.

27 Rf. Iohannes Hentenius, ed., Ennarationes vetustissimorum Theologorum (Antwerp: In aedibus Iohannis Steelsii, 1545), folio 169, Caput Nonum.

28 Rf. Ambrose, op. cit. (endnote 11).

29 Estius, op. cit., p. 854.1.

30 Rf. H. J. Schroeder, trans., Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (St. Louis and London: B. Herder Book Co., 1941), p. 18 (English), 297 (Latin), Fourth Session, “Decree Concerning the Edition and Use of the Sacred Books.”

31 Ibid., p. 41 (English), 319 (Latin).

32 Hentenius, op. cit. (endnote 27), folio 170. At the head of each section of Oecumenius’ commentary, Hentenius includes his own Latin version of the verses being treated.

The Necessity of Being Persecuted

A Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:10-13

By Johann Gerhard, Th. D.

Translator’s Preface

The following was translated from Adnotationes ad Posteriorem D. Pauli ad Timotheum Epistolam, in Quibus Textus Declaratur, Quaestiones Dubiae Solvuntur, Observationes Eruuntur, & Loca in Speciem Pugnantia quam Brevissime Conciliantur (Commentary on St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy, in Which the Text Is Explained, Difficult Questions Are Answered, Observations Are Drawn Out, and Seemingly Contradictory Passages Are Reconciled as Concisely as Possible) by Johann Gerhard, Th.D. (Jena: Steinmann, 1643), pp. 63-65; available from the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.

This translation was prepared in connection with an exegetical presentation assigned to me for a circuit meeting in Merrill, Wisconsin, on November 3, 2014.

May the Holy Spirit use the example of the apostle Paul, especially his willingness to suffer a multitude and variety of persecutions for the sake of the gospel, to incite and inspire us so that we are willing and able to undergo similar experiences to the triune God’s honor and glory.

2 Timothy 3:10-13

10. Σὺ δὲ παρηκολούθηκάς μου τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ, τῇ ἀγωγῇ, τῇ προθέσει, τῇ πίστει, τῇ μακροθυμίᾳ, τῇ ἀγάπῃ, τῇ ὑπομονῇ

Tu autem adsecutus es meam doctrinam institutionem propositum fidem longanimitatem dilectionem patientiam

  • Σὺ δὲ παρηκολούθηκάς μου τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ, τῇ ἀγωγῇ, τῇ προθέσει

In contrast to the corrupt teachings and practices of the heretics Paul sets down his own example, and with it he incites Timothy to discharge his office in a steadfast manner. Paraphrase: “But you have eagerly sought to imitate and have sufficiently understood my teaching, instruction, and intention, that is, when you were an inseparable companion on my travels and a partner in my activity. Therefore you are thoroughly familiar and intimately acquainted with everything about me.”

Some take ἀγωγὴν to mean a particular method of instructing, since ἀγωγή, as Aristotle teaches in Book 1 of The Art of Rhetoric, signifies a guiding and understanding of the law that happens when an instructor or professor leads, so to speak, a student who is to be instructed to the understanding of a particular matter.1 Others say it refers to how one acts in day-to-day life and a particular manner of living. Either interpretation works.

By πρόθεσιν Paul means the end and goal of his apostolic activity. That is to say, in all the activity of his ministry he had as his purpose not his own own glory or his own well-being, but the glory of God and the well-being of his neighbor.

  • τῇ πίστει, τῇ μακροθυμίᾳ, τῇ ἀγάπῃ, τῇ ὑπομονῇ

Some take faith to mean steadfastness of the soul, but it is more correctly applied to faith’s πληροφορίᾳ or full assurance, which shows itself through firmness and steadfastness of the soul.

By μακροθυμίαν Paul means tenderness of the soul and restraint toward persecutors and enemies of the truth.

By ἀγάπην he means Christian love toward all people.

By ὑπομονὴν he means endurance in the adversities and persecutions that he had to undergo.

11. τοῖς διωγμοῖς, τοῖς παθήμασι, οἷά μοι ἐγένετο ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ, ἐν Ἰκονίῳ, ἐν Λύστροις, οἵους διωγμοὺς ὑπήνεγκα, καὶ ἐκ πάντων με ἐῤῥύσατο ὁ Κύριος.

persecutiones passiones qualia mihi facta sunt Antiochiae Iconii Lystris quales persecutiones sustinui et ex omnibus me eripuit Dominus

  • τοῖς διωγμοῖς, τοῖς παθήμασι

He recounts the persecutions and afflictions that he has patiently endured for the sake of the gospel, in order that he may incite and inspire Timothy so that he is able and willing to submit to similar experiences.

  • οἷά μοι ἐγένετο ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ, ἐν Ἰκονίῳ, ἐν Λύστροις

He names three cities that were all accessories to his sufferings – Antioch (Pisidian, not Syrian), Iconium, and Lystra. According to Theodoret and Theophylact, Paul recalls these particular cities because Timothy was more familiar with what Paul had suffered in those places, since Timothy was originally from Lystra, a city in the vicinity of the other two.2 Alternatively, he might be recalling these three cities because the persecutions in those places were stirred up against him particularly by the Jews, as is clear from Acts 13 and 14.

  • οἵους διωγμοὺς ὑπήνεγκα

He is thinking of either the persecutions he has endured in the cities just mentioned or other persecutions. After all, Timothy had seen many other persecutions of Paul.

  • καὶ ἐκ πάντων με ἐῤῥύσατο ὁ Κύριος

Paul adds these words for Timothy’s comfort. However, God does not deliver from adversities in just one way. Sometimes he removes them, sometimes he lightens them, he always works patience in the hearts of the pious, and in the end he grants a blessed ἔκβασιν or release, if not in life, then through death.

12. καὶ πάντες δὲ οἱ θέλοντες εὐσεβῶς ζῆν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ διωχθήσονται.

et omnes qui volunt pie vivere in Christo Iesu persecutionem patientur

Paraphrase: “If persecutions and adversities should also fall to your lot, there is no reason that this should seem strange and unusual, because this is common to all those who are truly pious.”

Question: Why does he add “in Christ Jesus,” when no one is able to live piously except in Christ?

Response: He wants to show the only way we are able to live piously, namely in Christ-centered faith.

Gregory says in Book 7, Epistle 30: “I say confidently that you would live less piously if you suffered persecution to a lesser extent.”3

13. πονηροὶ δὲ ἄνθρωποι καὶ γόητες προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον, πλανῶντες καὶ πλανώμενοι.

mali autem homines et seductores proficient in peius errantes et in errorem mittentes

  • πονηροὶ δὲ ἄνθρωποι καὶ γόητες προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον

There is no reason for us to expect that persecution will cease during this age, because wicked people and seducers are always getting worse and worse, from which fact persecutions against the pious originate.

  • γόητες

Γόητες properly signifies enchanters and swindlers, then it is applied more generally to impostors and deceivers.

  • προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον

These words make us think back to what the apostle had said earlier in vs. 9: οὐ προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ πλεῖον, “they will not progress further.” They also send us back to the just judgment of God, on account of which the false teachers and those who listen to them are being struck with blindness (Rom 1:18ff).

  • πλανῶντες καὶ πλανώμενοι

This is an elegant polyptoton4tum seducentes, tum seducti, “both seducing and being seduced.” Erasmus translates: dum & in errorem adducunt [alios], & errant ipsi, “while they are both leading [others] astray and going astray themselves.”5

The translator of the Vulgate has altered the sequence of the words, because in the natural order going astray comes first, rather than leading others astray. But we are not compelled by any necessity to have recourse to πρωθύστερον.6 For the sense is this: While they are seducing others, they themselves, by the just judgment of God, are suffering the punishment of immediately falling into more grievous errors.


1 Rf. Aristotle, The “Art” of Rhetoric, tr. John Henry Freese (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1926), p. 154, 155. The more exact citation would be Book 1, Chapter 15, Section 10, or 1375b. Gerhard seems to have obtained this interpretation of Aristotle’s usage from Henricus Stephanus, Thesaurus Graecae Linguae, vol. 1 (Paris: Henricus Stephanus, 1572), col. 64. That Aristotle was actually using the word this way does not seem to be firmly established.

2 Interpretation of 2 Timothy: “[Paul] left out everything else that happened to him and called to mind only the dangers that he had met with in Pisidia and Lycaonia. For the one to whom he wrote was himself a Lycaonian, so these dangers were more familiar to him than the others” (Theodoret, Patrologiae Graecae, vol. 82, Theodoreti Cyrensis Episcopi Opera Omnia [Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1864], pp. 847,848).

Commentary on 2 Timothy: “He means the Antioch that was in Pisidia. Lystra was Timothy’s hometown. This is why he only mentions these places, since they were more familiar to Timothy. It could also be that they were the most recent places Paul visited” (Theophylact, Patrologiae Graecae, vol. 125, Theophylacti, Bulgariae Archiepiscopi Constantinopolitani, Opera Quae Reperiri Potuerunt Omnia [Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1864], pp. 121,122).

3 St. Gregory the Great, Patrologia Latina, vol. 77, Sancti Gregorii Papae I, Cognomento Magni, Opera Omnia (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1862), col. 886. The letter was addressed “To Narses, the Religious.” “The Narses here addressed as ‘Religiosus’ was probably the same as the ‘Narses Comes’ of I. 6, and VI. 14, and the ‘Narses Patricius’ of IV. 32. For it is evident from the letters that he was of high rank at Constantinople, and greetings are sent through him to the same persons as in the other letters. He had now, we may suppose, devoted himself to the service of the Church in some capacity” (, note 1710; accessed 3 November 2014).

4 A rhetorical device when several forms or cases of the same word stand together

5 E.g. Novi Testamenti Aeditio Postrema, per Des. Erasmum Roterodamum (Zurich: In Officina Froschoviana, 1541), p. 280. Gerhard incorrectly quotes Erasmus as translating inducunt instead of adducunt, but in this case the two are virtually synonymous.

6 Taking what is last and putting it first

Homily on John 15:26-27

By Johannes Brenz

Translator’s Preface

The following sermon comes from Evangelion quod inscribitur Secundum Ioannem, Centum Quinquagintaquatuor Homiliis explicatum (The Gospel Which Is Titled “According to John,” Expounded in 154 Homilies) by Johannes Brenz (Frankfurt: Ex Officina Typographica Petri Brubachii, 1559).

This volume is a compilation of two groups of sermons. The first group of 82 sermons on John 1-10 had already been published by the same publisher in 1549. A second group of 72 sermons on John 11-21 was added to and published together with the first group in 1554. The present sermon on John 15:26-27, found on pages 791-795 of the above-cited volume, is Homily 39 from the second group, or Brenz’s 121st sermon in the entire series on the Gospel of John.

Read a biography of the author here.

I prepared this translation in connection with a writing assignment for the Northwestern Publishing House-produced Meditations. It just so happened to work out that I could also submit it to the editors of a forthcoming Brenz anthology to be published, God willing, in connection with the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation.

Brenz follows a clear and simple outline in this sermon. First, he reviews the doctrine of the Trinity, “the substance of the whole of Christian doctrine,” presented here so concisely by the apostle John. Secondly, he preaches on the Holy Spirit’s nature. Finally and at greatest length, he preaches on the Holy Spirit’s office, or sphere of responsibility and activity, using three of the Holy Spirit’s names, his most familiar name and the two names appearing in his sermon text – a) the Holy Spirit, b) the Spirit of truth, and c) the Paraclete.

May the Holy Spirit through the gospel of Jesus restrain the wickedness of our flesh, confirm for us the certainty of our religion, and fill our hearts with the comfort of forgiveness and the assurance of our salvation in Christ.

Homily on John 15:26-27

Christ has said that he is fiercely hated by the world, but that his apostles were not going to be hated any less. Therefore any one of the apostles could easily wonder how these facts are going to help reveal the majesty of Christ’s name throughout the world. For the prophets preached about Christ that his majesty would be proclaimed throughout the earth. “Blessed,” says the Psalm, “is the name of his majesty into eternity, and the whole earth will be filled with his majesty” (Ps 72:19). And Isaiah says, “The whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa 6:3). And Malachi says, “From the rising of the sun all the way to the place where it sets, [his] name is great among the nations” (Mal 1:11). If therefore Christ and his apostles are running up against fierce and bitter hatred by preaching about him, how will the glory of Christ be proclaimed in the world?

Christ now preaches about this matter and he repeats the promise about the Holy Spirit, which he has also previously related several times:

But when the Paraclete comes [he says], whom I will send you from my Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will furnish testimony about me. Yes, you too are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.

What he means is this: “Do not be worried about the glory of my name. For even though the world regards both me and you with fierce hatred, I will not let my name remain obscure. For I will send you the Holy Spirit, who will both reveal me and incite you to bear witness to my doctrine and majesty openly and boldly.”

We have indeed already treated this promise about the Holy Spirit. But since this passage advises us to do so, let us make a few certain points about this subject once more, that we might become thoroughly acquainted with the benefits of the Holy Spirit and may be incited to pursue them.

Plus, in the beginning of these verses the substance of the whole of Christian doctrine is contained here in very few words. This summary not only distinguishes us Christians from all the religions of other nations, but it is also the only truth by which we obtain true and eternal salvation. For although there is only one true and eternal God, Christ preaches in this passage about three persons in the one divine nature, who are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

“From the Father,” he says. Here you have the person of the Father.

“I will send,” he says. Here you have the person of the Son.

“The Spirit of truth,” he says. Here you have the person of the Holy Spirit.

Yet there is but one omnipotent God, the creator of heaven and earth. Here we are distinguished from all other religions, some of which imagine that there is only one person in the divinity, namely the Jews and the Muslim Turks, while others imagine that there are many gods and many persons, namely the pagans. But all of these ideas about the true divinity are impious. For there is only one God, but in this one divinity there are three persons. This is the true and catholic1 faith about God.

Next we must give our consideration to the Holy Spirit. We want to consider his nature and his office. For by his nature the Holy Spirit is true and eternal God, not indeed from himself, but from the Father and the Son. He is not born (natus) from the Father, like the Son, nor does he proceed from the Father alone, but he proceeds from the Father and the Son. For Christ says, “I will send [him],” and he adds, “who proceeds from the Father.” And the Creed of Athanasius says, “The Holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son – not made by them, nor created by them, nor begotten (genitus) from them, but proceeding from them.”2 How exactly this takes place, human reason is unable to understand in this life. Nor does Scripture declare this truth that we might grasp it with reason, but that we might believe it in faith. But when we reach the heavenly kingdom, not only will we acquire a perfect knowledge of these mysteries, but we will also derive supreme and eternal happiness from them. We shall therefore defer these matters to the coming age.

And now let us learn the Holy Spirit’s office, that we might become thoroughly acquainted with his benefits. If we want to know the Holy Spirit’s office, we need look no further than his names. For in the first place, he is called “the Holy Spirit.” He is called this in contrast to the unholy, unclean, and impure spirit, who is Satan. For this spirit is the author of all impiety, foulness, shamefulness, savageness, and all evils. And when mankind sinned, this spirit became the lord and prince of the world (Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). That is why he incites all kinds of impiety and evils in the world, both publicly and privately.

Consider the religious world, for heaven’s sake. Consider the sacred rites he has persuaded the pagans to pursue – how very shameful, how foul, how savage they are! They are not even able to be mentioned in church in an honorable way. The Jews used to have the true religion instituted by the word of God. Yet among them now it is not unknown with how many abominations Satan has corrupted their religion. What shall I say about the terrible and savage heresies which Satan has incited within Christianity? And who could count up the godless and manifest nonsense and deceits which Satan palms off on the Muslim Turks, modern-day Jews, and papists as facts to be embraced as absolute religious truth? This is what he has done in the religious world.

And what about in the everyday life of men? Here there is neither end nor limit of horrible evils. Here Satan incites acts of homicide, fratricide, infanticide, parricide, fornication, and adultery, and those sexual desires which is it not even proper to mention. In short, there is nothing so foul or abominable that the impure spirit will not seduce the human race to engage in it.

But the Holy Spirit sets himself against this impure spirit. For he has instituted on earth, first of all, the ministry of preaching the word of God. Through this ministry he gives those who obediently accept the word of God new birth, so that they become new humans, and he restrains the impious, foul, and abominable thoughts in their flesh, and he keeps them attentive to their duty. For unless the Holy Spirit stations himself in a person against the impure spirit, it is impossible for a person to pursue a holy vocation of God.

When Christ the Son of God was still living on earth, he drove out many unclean spirits from the demon-possessed. The apostles also did the same in Christ’s name. But even if it is not part of our vocation to drive out unclean spirits by an external miracle, the necessity of our salvation still requires us to command unclean spirits in God’s name and drive them out from our hearts. For by nature Satan rules in our flesh. Sometimes he tempts us to doubt God, to doubt the clemency and mercy God has shown us in Christ his Son. Yes, he even tempts us to deny God and Christ his Son. “The senseless person has said in his heart, ‘God does not exist’” (Ps 14:1; 53:1). At other times, he urges us on to intrigues, to deceits, to sexual desires, to jealousies, and to other evils. When this happens, it is time for us to issue a stern command to the unclean spirit and drive him out, by the power of the Holy Spirit. And how does the Holy Spirit exercise his power? Through his ministry that he has instituted, namely through the word of God. That is why we need to become thoroughly acquainted with the word of God and take it up, so that the Holy Spirit may have an instrument with which to exercise his power against the unclean spirit.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit has instituted and ordained civil government, so that, just as the ministry of the word of God keeps the pious attentive to their duty, so the civil government keeps the impious attentive to their duty, as much as is possible on this earth, lest the unclean spirit leave no place whatsoever void of foul desires, murders, and other evils. “Law,” Paul says, “was not ordained for a just person, but for unjust, disobedient people, for the impious and sinners, for the irreverent and unholy, for those who murder father or mother, for murderers, fornicators, those who sleep with others of the same sex, kidnappers, liars, and whatever else there is that is opposed to sound doctrine” (1Ti 1:9-10).

These two ministries, the ecclesiastical and political, are the divine arrangement by which the Holy Spirit restrains the unclean spirit. And these two ministries cannot be preserved unless they are preserved from heaven by the Holy Spirit. For even if the pious apply their efforts to upholding the ministry of the word of God and the civil government, so great is the power of the unclean spirit and so great is the multitude of impious men that, unless God himself upheld these ministries, they would not be able to endure among men for long.

But let us proceed to another office of the Holy Spirit. For he is not only called “the Holy Spirit,” but also “the Spirit of truth.” This name explains the Holy Spirit’s office too, and it is once again contrasted with the spirit of Satan, who is a lying spirit and the father of the liar (Jn 8:44). For this spirit has contrived the impious and deceptive religion of the pagans, the Muslim Turks, and the Jews (namely the modern day ones who are no longer the people of God, but rejected by God). He has also contrived all the heresies, and the ungodly teachings of the papists. The religion of all these people is unreliable and deceptive.

The pagans worshipped a number of different gods whose origin is either unknown or shameful. The Muslim Turks acknowledge the hollow teaching of Mohammed, who falsely asserted that he conversed with the angel Gabriel, but could not prove it with reliable arguments or evidence. The Jews acknowledge the fables of the Talmud, which even human reason cannot approve. There is no lie so shameless that the heart blinded by Satan will not embrace it as the truth.

The papists have masses for the deceased, invocations of the saints, pilgrimages to venerate the relics of saints, the cleansing fire of purgatory, and many other such things whose origin is either unknown or rests upon either a faulty interpretation of God’s word or a distorted echoing of the church fathers.

But the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. He has instituted and established a true and reliable religion, which centers on Jesus Christ the Son of God. Christ says, “He will furnish testimony about me. Yes, you too are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.”

For first of all, although Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, few people were acquainted with this before the day of Pentecost. That is why the Holy Spirit performed such great and remarkable miracles in Christ’s name on the day of Pentecost and afterward. He wanted to demonstrate that Christ had truly risen from the dead and was ruling in heaven. Peter says, “Exalted at the right hand of God and having received the promised Holy Spirit from the Father, he has poured out what you now see and hear” (Ac 2:33). And again: “Men of Israel, why are you astonished at this? Or why are you looking at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or piety?” (Ac 3:12). And just a little later: “You all killed the author of life, whom God raised from the dead. We are witnesses of this. It is through faith in Jesus’ name that his very name has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith which comes through Jesus has given him this soundness in the sight of you all” (Ac 3:15-16).

The Holy Spirit performed these and other miracles, not secretly, but in the sight of all to whom Christ’s name was thus revealed, as Peter says. He did this so that no one could deny that God himself was responsible for these things.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit not only performed miracles by which he might truly and publicly reveal the majesty of Christ, but he also incited the apostles and sent them into the world to testify publicly about Christ and his majesty. These apostles were with Christ not just for one day nor on just one occasion, but they stayed with him for the entire time that officially began, as Peter says, with the baptism of John, all the way up to the day when he was taken back into heaven (Ac 1:21-22). They also heard all his sermons and saw all his miracles, and so they had the most mature reflection on everything he had done. That it why it also says in this passage: “You have been with me from the beginning.” In other words, Jesus is saying, “If you had just come to me yesterday or the day before that, your testimony could be perceived as hollow. But now you have been my constant companions from the time I began to preach my gospel, and you have become thoroughly acquainted with all my words and works. You are therefore able to provide firm and reliable testimony about me.”

And the testimony that the apostles provided about Jesus is this: “God has made this Jesus, whom the Jews crucified, Lord and Christ” (cf. Ac 2:36). “There is no other name under heaven given to men in which we must be saved” (Ac 4:12). This apostolic testimony is so firm and reliable that it must not be yielded or entrusted to the Jews, to the Muslim Turks, to kings, to bishops, to demons, or even to angels who might tell us differently.

Enough about how the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of truth, has given testimony for Jesus Christ. Let us also talk about another office of the Holy Spirit. For he is called “the Paraclete,” which means comforter and advocate. This too he is called in contrast to the spirit of Satan. For even if Satan also comforts people at times – for Satan makes people secure in their sins and into those who think little of supplications – yet he only comforts that he may terrify even more. For with every thought he has, Satan is bent on this desire – to alarm and terrify mankind and to hurl them into perpetual despair and damnation.

When you think or do something sinful, he soothes you and gives you a sort of comfort: “Go ahead,” he says. “What are you afraid of? The devil is not as horrible as he is usually pictured, and the fire of hell does not blaze the way people commonly say it does.” This is the comfort that Satan provides the sinner, not in order to save him, but to destroy him.

For after the sin has been perpetrated and God’s judgment is revealed, then Satan holds before the sinner all sorts of terrifying things. “You have sinned!” he says. “All you can do now is despair. No hope of salvation remains for you. You have rejected the mercy of God so often that you no longer have any access to it. Christ has indeed atoned for sins, but not yours, because you do not believe as perfectly as you should, and you have so often denied the faith by your wicked deeds. And even if you do still believe, you are believing in vain, because you have not been predestined from eternity to be a son of God. There is therefore nothing left for you but to give up any hope of salvation.” These are the fiery darts of Satan. With them he strikes so much terror into feeble mankind that, if left to their own powers, they would have nowhere to turn.

But the Holy Spirit is the Paraclete, that is, the Comforter and Advocate. Those who believe in the gospel of Christ he comforts and defends in all terrors, whether of sin, death, or hell. Indeed this Spirit is also accustomed to terrify from time to time, namely through the law, through which we become conscious of sin, as Paul says (Ro 3:20), and which kills (2Co 3:6). But he does not terrify in order to destroy. Destruction is Satan’s intent. The Holy Spirit terrifies in order to save and comfort. He does the alien work in order that he might perform his native work. He kills man in order that he might bring him to life. He leads him down to hell in order that he might set him in heaven. For the Holy Spirit’s proper office and work is to comfort and defend in all adversities.

And so if sins tempt a person to despair, the Holy Spirit puts Christ on display, the one who has atoned for sins. He teaches that the mercy of God is always accessible to those who call on him in Christ’s name. He teaches that even if our faith is imperfect, Christ, whom we have received by faith, is perfect. “A bruised reed,” he says, “he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (Isa 42:3; Mt 12:20). He teaches that Christ is faithful, even when we have violated our faith (2Ti 2:13). He teaches that the predestination of God is revealed in Christ, so that whoever believes in Christ may know that he is predestined by God from eternity to be his son for Christ’s sake, and that Christ therefore has atoned not only for the sins of others, but also for ours, yes, for my sins, and has chosen me to be his fellow heir.

This is the comfort of the Holy Spirit when sins and death are terrifying us. And he exercises this comfort in us through the ministry of the gospel about Christ. For he has instituted and established the preaching of the gospel of Christ on the day of Pentecost to this advantage, that he might have an instrument with which to exercise his office of comforting and defending, publicly in church and privately in pious individuals. The Bible says that Christ gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, that the number of the saints might be filled up, that the Word (of God) might be taught, and that the body of Christ might be built up (cf. Eph 4:11-13).

Let us then expend all our energy in becoming thoroughly acquainted with the gospel of Christ, that we might present to the Holy Spirit his instrument for bestowing his benefits on us and defending us in all adversities, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is God, blessed forevermore. Amen.


1 In the sense of universal.

2 The modern translation in Christian Worship is more concise, but perhaps less precise: “The Holy Spirit is neither made nor created nor begotten, but proceeds from the Father and the Son.”

Commentary on Matthew 5:13-14

By Hermann L. Strack and Paul Billerbeck

Translator’s Preface

The following was translated from Hermann L. Strack and Paul Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch (Commentary on the New Testament on the Basis of the Talmud and Midrash), vol. 1, Das Evangelium nach Matthäus (The Gospel According to Matthew) (Munich: C. H. Beck’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1922), p. 232-238.

I translated it to help with sermon preparation for Epiphany 5, when the appointed Gospel is Matthew 5:13-20. It will also serve as the starting point for the February 2013 posts on my blog Jeshua at Bread for Beggars.

For more information on the authors, click herehere, or here.

If you would prefer a PDF version of this translation (especially for reading the Hebrew), you may download one here.

The numbered endnotes are original; the ones marked by symbols (*, †, etc.) are mine.

An acquaintance of mine, after hearing how much the ancients used and valued salt, said that a “preacher could spend the entire sermon just talking about how great salt is. Then, all he’d have to do is conclude by saying, ‘See, that’s how great Jesus thinks you are.'” May the translation that follows underscore this truth, which is only true through the purifying and preserving blood of Jesus.

Commentary on Matthew 5:13-14

5:13a. You are the salt of the earth.

1. Different types of salt

a. Sodomitic salt (מֶלַח סְדוֹמִית), produced by the evaporating saltwater of the Dead Sea, was considered to be especially sharp and was used for salting the offerings.1

Josephus mentions it only in passing in Antiquities 13, 4, 9. Here King Demetrius II includes the λίμνας τῶν ἁλῶν, i.e. the salt pools of the Dead Sea, in the inventory of revenue sources on whose earnings he was renouncing his claim as a favor to Jonathan the High Priest (161-143 bc); likewise in 1 Maccabees 11:35.

‘Erubin 17b: “Abaye [d. 338/339 ad] stated: This [i.e. the stipulation in ‘Erubin 1:10 (17a Mishnah) that the troops serving in the field were exempt from washing their hands at mealtime] was taught only in respect of the washing before a meal [lit.: the first water], but the washing after a meal [lit.: the second water] is obligatory. R. Hiyya b. Ashi [c. 270] stated: Why did the Rabbis rule that washing after a meal is obligatory? Because of the Sodomitic salt that [when it gets onto the hands from the food, and then from the hands into the eyes] causes blindness.”2 In Hullin 105b R. Hiyya b. Ashi’s question is instead asked by R. Judah b. Hiyya, c. 240.3

Sifre to Leviticus 2:13 (54a): “‘You shall salt all your grain offerings with salt’ (Lev 2:13). ‘With salt’ – One might think that he should just give it somewhat of a salty flavor [for which only a little salt would be necessary]; therefore it also says, ‘You shall salt’ [i.e. the combination במלח תמלח is meant to teach that the offering should be heavily salted]. If it only said, ‘You should salt’ [without the addition of ‘with salt’], then one might think that it should be done with brine; therefore it says, ‘with salt.’ ‘You shall not let salt be missing [תשבית]’ (Lev 2:13), that is, use salt that does not take a break [שובתת]. What kind of salt is that? That is Sodomitic salt [for the Dead Sea does not observe the Sabbath; it produces salt through evaporation day in and day out].” This is a Baraitha in Menahoth 21a;4 it appears in abridged form in Tosefta, Menahoth 9:15 (526).

b. Salt from Ostrakine (Ὀστρακίνη; Latin: Ostracena),5 a city on the Palestinian-Egyptian border (מֶלַח אִסְתְּרוֹקָנִית).

Sifre to Leviticus 2:13 (continuation from the citation in note a): “Why may one use salt from Ostrakine if he has no Sodomitic salt? Because it says at the end of the verse [Lev 2:13], ‘You shall offer salt’ – salt in the broadest sense of the word.” The same is found in Tosefta, Menahoth 9:15 and Menahoth 21a.6

The salt from Ostrakine is also contrasted with Sodomitic salt in other cases. Baba Bathra 20b: “Rab [d. 247] said: A partition may be made with anything save salt and grease. Samuel [d. 254] said: Even with salt. R. Papa [d. 376] said: There is no conflict between them [Rab and Samuel]; one speaks of Sodomitic salt and the other of the salt of Ostrakine.”7 Rashi remarks on this: “The Sodomitic salt was as firm and hard as a rock.” The same sentence is used to settle a different disagreement in Bezah 39a.8

c. Seasoned salt (מֶלַח סַלְקוֹנְטִית), probably = sal conditum (seasoned salt). For other spellings and definitions, see at Levy, Neuhebräisches und Chaldäisches Wörterbuch über die Talmudim und Midraschim 3:538a, and Krauss, Griechische und Lateinisch Lehnwörter im Talmud, Midrasch und Targum 2:396.

‘Abodah Zarah 2:6 (35b Mishnah): “The following articles of heathens are prohibited but the prohibition does not extend to all use of them [but only to the enjoyment of them]: milk which a heathen milked without an Israelites watching him; their bread and oil – Rabbi [Judah II Nesiah] and his court permitted the oil – stewed, and preserved foodstuffs into which they are accustomed to put wine or vinegar, pickled herring which has been been minced, brine in which there is no kalbith-fish floating,  helek [a sauce made from small fish], drops of asafetida, and sal-conditum [seasoned salt]. Behold, these are prohibited but the prohibition does not extend to all use of them.9 For the explanation, see at Strack, ‘Abodah Zarah (1909), p. 8f.

Tosefta, ‘Abodah Zarah 4:12 (467): “Black seasoned salt is permitted, but white is prohibited. Thus said R. Meir [c. 150]. R. Judah [c. 150] said black is prohibited, but white is permitted. R. Judah b. Gamaliel [c. 250] said in the name of R. Hananiah b. Gamaliel [c. 120] that both were prohibited.” This appears as a Baraitha in ‘Abodah Zarah 39b; here Rabbah b. Bar Hanah appends the remark in the name of R. Johanan (d. 279): “In the opinion of him who declared the white to be prohibited, the intestines of unclean white fish are mixed with it; in the opinion of him who declared the black to be prohibited, the intestines of unclean black fish are mixed with it; and in the opinion of him who declared both kinds to be prohibited, [the intestines of] both species of fish are mixed with them.”10 It also appears as a Baraitha in JT ‘Abodah Zarah 2:9 Gemara,11 but is established anonymously.

‘Abodah Zarah 39b: “What is sal-conditum [מלח סלקונדרית]? Rab Judah [d. 299] said in the name of Samuel [d. 254]: Salt of which all סַלְקוּנְדְּרֵי of Rome partake.”12 Rashi defines the foreign word as נַחְתּוֹמִין, “bakers, confectioners,” and so has sal conditum (seasoned salt) in mind. Levy, Neuhebräisches und Chaldäisches Wörterbuch 3:538, emends the word to סלוקתי: salt with which one enjoys all boiled foods in Rome. Fleischer, cited in Levy 3:724b, thinks the word is a derivative of σαλάκων and translates: a type of salt enjoyed by all the pompous people of Rome – probably because it is more rare and expensive than other salt.

d. Rock salt (?) (מִילְחָא גְלָלָנִיתָא) = salt formed in lumps, coarse salt.

Hullin 113a: “R. Dimi of Nehardea [c. 320] used to salt meat with coarse salt and then shake it off.”13

Kiddushin 62a: “What is the meaning of, ‘ye shall be fed with the sword’ [Isa 1:20]? — Said Raba [d. 352]: Coarse salt, hard baked barley bread, and onions; for a Master said: Stale bread baked in a large oven with salt and onions is as harmful to the body as swords.”14

2. Uses for salt

Joshua ben Sirach includes salt in the most basic necessities of life (Sirach 39:26): “water and fire and iron and salt, wheat flour, milk and honey, the blood of the grape, oil, and clothing.” If one disregards this use of salt for the preparation of human nourishment, then the rabbinic literature still mentions the following possible uses:

a. All offerings were salted; see at Mark 9:49.

b. Middoth 5:3 attests the curing of animal hides with salt: “There were six chambers in the azarah [outer court], three on the north and three on the south. On the north were the Salt Chamber, the Parwah Chamber [פַּרְוָה apparently was the name of the builder] and the Washers Chamber [for washing off the sacrificial meat]. In the Salt Chamber they used to keep the salt for the offerings. In the Parwah Chamber they used to salt the skins of the animal-offerings [these belonged to the priests]…”15 The Baraitha in Menahoth 21b is at variance: “And so you find that salt was used in three places: in the salt chamber, on the ascent [on the south side of the altar of burnt offering, 32 cubits long and 16 cubits wide, according to Middoth 3:316] and at the head of [or on top of] the altar. In the salt chamber…they used to salt the hides of animal-offerings; on the ascent…they used to salt the sacrificial meat; at the head of [or on] the altar…they used to salt the handful [the memorial portion taken from grain offering], the frankincense, the incense-offering, the meal-offering of the priests, the anointed [High] Priest’s meal-offering, the meal-offering that is offered with the drink-offerings, and the burnt-offering of a bird!”17 King Antiochus’ letter in Josephus, Antiquities 12, 3, 3, shows what amounts of salt were required for the temple supply. In the letter he orders that 375 medimni (Greek bushels)* of salt be delivered to the temple.

c. ‘Erubin 10:14 (104a Mishnah): “Salt may be scattered [on the Sabbath] on the altar’s ascent that the priests shall not slip.18

d. Shabbath 6:5 (64b Mishnah): “A woman may go out [on the Sabbath, without making herself guilty of desecrating the day]…with a peppercorn, with a globule of salt [in her mouth, for potential toothaches]…”19

e. Sotah 9:14 (49a Mishnah): “During the war with Vespasian they [the rabbis] decreed against [the use of] crowns worn by bridegrooms and against [the use of] the drum.20 The Gemara comments on this in 49b: “Rab [d. 247] said: [The decree against the use of a crown] applies only to one made of salt and brimstone, but if made of myrtle or roses it is permitted; and Samuel [d. 254] said: Also one made of myrtle or roses is prohibited, but if made of reeds or rushes it is permitted; and Levi [ben Sisi, c. 200, is meant] said: Also one made of reeds or rushes is prohibited. Similarly taught Levi in his [personal collection of] Mishnah: It is also prohibited if made of reeds or rushes.”21 Rashi comments on this passage: “They were made of salt because it is as clear as a gemstone… They were made of brimstone because they looked like crown made of gold and silver.”† Johann Christoph Wagenseil conveys the following tradition: “The crowns of bridegrooms were made from sulfur and salt in order that they might call to mind once again the sin of the men of Sodom and Gomorrah, who were perversely yielding themselves entirely to adulteries and to the sexual love of males, and for that reason had to bear the penalty of having their land turned into salt and sulfur. Therefore those crowns of salt and sulfur were warning the bridegroom that he should cling to his wife and guard himself against the sins of the men of Sodom.”‡

f. Sukkah 48b Baraitha: “It once happened that a certain Sadducee poured the water libation over his feet [on the Feast of Tabernacles, instead of into the silver basin on the altar] and all the people pelted him with their ethrogs [probably oranges, which were part of the makeup of the לוּלָב, the festive wreath or bundle for the Feast of Tabernacles]. On that day [as a result of the disturbance] the horn of the altar became damaged, and a handful of salt was brought and it [the damaged spot] was stopped up, not because the altar was thereby rendered valid for the service, but merely in order that it should not appear damaged, for an altar which has not the ascent, the horn [sharp corner], the base and the square shape is invalid for the service. R. Jose b. Judah [c. 180] adds, Also [it must have] the circuit [or ledge; סוֹבֵב corresponds to כַּרְכֹּב in Exodus 27:5].”22 The same is found in Zebahim 62a;23 the beginning comes from Sukkah 4:9 (48b Mishnah).24

g. Shabbath 67b Baraitha: “A lump of salt may be placed in a lamp in order that it should burn [more] brightly…”25

h. The custom of rubbing newborn children with salt, taken as a given in Ezekiel 16:4, is utilized as Halacha in Shabbath 129b: “R. Nahman [d. 320] also said in Rabbah b. Abbuha’s [c. 270] name in Rab’s [d. 247] name: All that is mentioned in the chapter of rebuke [namely Ezekiel 16] may be done for a new mother on the Sabbath. As it is said, And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, neither were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not salted at all, nor wrapped up at all [Eze 16:14]. ‘And as for your birth, on the day you were born’: hence a person may assist with the birth of a child on the Sabbath; ‘your cord was not cut’: hence the navel-cord may be cut on the Sabbath: ‘neither were you washed in water to cleanse you’: hence the infant may be washed on the Sabbath; ‘you were not salted at all’: hence the infant may be rubbed with salt on the Sabbath; ‘nor wrapped up at all’: hence the infant may be wrapped on the Sabbath.”26

3. Salt as a picture of utter devastation and destruction, as it is in Deuteronomy 29:23; Judges 9:45; Jeremiah 17:6; Zephaniah 2:9; and Job 39:6.

Midrash on Lamentations, Introduction 9 (31b): “R. Isaac [c. 300] opened his lecture with Jeremiah 51:51. — You will find that when the enemies penetrated into Jerusalem, the Ammonites and Moabites penetrated with them. ‘Heathens…who should not come into the assembly [= Ammonites and Moabites (Dt 23:3)] came into the sanctuary’ [Lam 1:10]. There they found the two cherubim. They took them, placed them in a basket, and carried them through the streets of Jerusalem calling out, ‘Have you not said that this nation worships no idols? Now see what we have found in their possession and what they have worshiped! Then all people are just like yourselves!’ For it says, ‘Because Moab and Seir say, “Look, the house of Judah is like all other nations,”’ etc. [Eze 25:8]. At that hour God swore that he would exterminate them from the world by the very roots. For it says, ‘Moab shall become like Sodom, and the Ammonites like Gomorrah…a salt pit and wasteland forever.’”

JT Qiddushin 4:1 Gemara: “‘These are they who came up from Tel-Melah, Tel-Harsha…and they were not able to show that their family and their seed were descended from Israel’ [Ezr 2:59]. R. Levi [c. 300] said in the name of R. Simeon b. Laqish [c. 250], ‘They were worthy of being turned into a hill of salt [Tel-Melah]; only the Divine Righteousness, the Hill of Silence [Tel-Harsha], kept silent in their favor.’”27

Yoma 54a: “R. Jose said: For seven years sulphur and salt [Dt 29:22] prevailed in the land of Israel.”28 Cf. Pesikta 114a besides the parallels.

4. Salt as a purifying, seasoning, and preservative agent (cf. Job 6:6).

Berakoth 5a (according to the unabridged text from Dikduke Soferim, cited in Wilhelm Bacher, Die Agada der Palästinensischen Amoräer 1:355): “R. Simeon b. Lakish [c. 250] said: The word ‘covenant’ is mentioned in connection with salt and with chastisements [sufferings]: In connection with salt, as it is written, ‘Neither shall you let the salt of the covenant to be lacking with your grain offering’ [Lev 2:13]. And in connection with chastisements, as it is written, ‘These are the words of the covenant’ [Dt 29:1]. [This passaged does not fit; using Dikduke Soferim, Bacher refers to Ezekiel 20:37: ‘I will bring you into the discipline of the covenant.’] As in the covenant mentioned in connection with salt, the salt makes the offering fit [for offering to God], so in the covenant mentioned in connection with chastisements, the chastisements make the sin fit [for forgiveness]. As the salt purifies the meat, so the chastisements purify the entire body of a man.”29

Niddah 31a Baraitha: “When his time to depart from the world approaches the Holy One, blessed be He, takes away his share [the soul] and the share of his parents [the body] remains lying before them. R. Papa [d. 376] observed: It is this that people have in mind when they say, ‘Shake off the salt and cast the flesh to the dog.’”30

Maseketh Soferim 15:8: “The Torah is like salt, the Mishnah like pepper, the Gemara like spices. The world cannot continue without salt, pepper, or spices, and the rich man enjoys all three in his sustenance. So too the world cannot continue without Scripture, the Mishnah, or the Gemara.”

Philo, De Sacrificantibus §6 (Mangey edition, 2:255): Μετὰ ταῦτά φησιν, Ἐπὶ παντὸς δώρου προσοίσετε ἅλας· δι᾽ οὗ, καθάπερ καὶ πρότερον εἶπον, τὴν εἰς ἅπαν διαμονὴν αἰνίττεται. Φυλακτήριον γὰρ οἱ ἅλες σωμάτων, τετιμημένοι ψυχῆς δευτερείοις. Ὡς γὰρ αἰτία τοῦ μὴ διαφθείρεσθαι τὰ σώματα ψυχὴ καὶ οἱ ἅλες ἐπὶ πλεῖστον αὐτὰ συνέχοντες καὶ τρόπον τινὰ ἀθανατίζοντες. “After this it says, ‘Add salt to every offering’ [Lev 2:13]. He thereby figuratively implies an absolute duration, just as I said before. For salts are a preservative for bodies, having been judged worthy of second place only to the soul. For as the soul is a cause of bodies not being destroyed, so are salts, since they keep bodies intact to the greatest extent and, in a way, make them immortal.”

Shabbath 31a: “Raba [d. 352] said, When man is led in for [divine] Judgment he is asked, Did  you buy and sell in honesty? Did you make time for study of the Torah? Did you engage in procreation? Did you watch for the [messianic] salvation? Did you debate [the Halacha] with wisdom? Did you explain one word on the basis of another? And even if he has, if ‘the fear of the Lord is his treasure’ [Isa 33:6], then it will go well; but if not, then not. It is like a man who instructed his agent, ‘Bring a cor of wheat to the loft for me,’ and he went and brought it up. He then said to the agent, ‘Did you mix in a cab of salt-sand [חוּמְטוֹן, in order to preserve the grain]?’ ‘No,’ he replied. ‘Then it would have been better if you had not brought it up,’ he retorted.”31

5. A proverb of Jerusalem (Kethuboth 66b Baraitha;32 Aboth of Rabbi Nathan 17), which stems already from the time of Jesus, very closely resembles the form of Jesus’ words here. It has been handed down in two versions:

a. “The salt of money is want” (מלח ממון חסר). The proverb could mean that only when a person has experienced want does he know how to value money. However, this sense does not fit in the context. The proverb is the answer to the question that Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai (d. c. 80) directed at the daughter of Nakdomon b. Gorion: “What has become of the wealth of your father’s house?” It must therefore contain an assertion about the spending of money. So Rashi probably hit upon the right sense: “Whoever wants to salt his money, i.e. wants to make it so that his wealth retains permanence, he should always let it get lost to alms. Its loss is its permanence.” If this interpretation hits upon the actual sense of the proverb, then the second version only appears to be a reading intended to make the meaning more easily understood:

b. “The salt of money is benevolence” (מלח ממון חסד): Riches only have worth and duration when they are used to practice mercy.

In the same way Jesus’ disciples are to be the salt of the earth. They should impart the value of eternity to humanity and thus make them to be of eternal worth.

What is new and, as far as we can tell, without analogy in ancient Jewish literature is the personal slant that Jesus has given to the picture: Humans are to be a salt.

5:13b. But if salt becomes insipid, with what shall it be salted (ἐν τίνι ἁλισθήσεται)?

Bekoroth 8b: (R. Joshua b. Hanania, c. 90, is asked by the wise men of the Athenian school in Rome:) “‘Tell us some stories [fables].’ He said to them: ‘There was a [female] mule which gave birth, and round its neck was a document in which was written, “There is a claim against my father’s house of one hundred thousand zuz.”’ They asked him: ‘Can a mule give birth?’ He answered them: ‘This is one of those stories [you asked for].’ [Then they asked him:] ‘When salt becomes unsavory, wherewith is it salted [מילחא כי סריא במאי מלחי לה]?’ He replied: ‘With the after-birth of a mule.’ ‘And is there an after-birth of a mule [if a mule cannot give birth in the first place]?’ [He replied:] ‘And can salt become unsavory?’”33 The reference to Matthew 5:13 stands out so clearly that one cannot help but see in the entire passage a cynical mockery of Mary and Jesus. The implication is this: The salt of Israel never becomes insipid and thus does not need any freshening, least of all by a man like Jesus!**

5:13c. Except to be poured out.

Cf. the saying in Niddah 31a Baraitha above.

5:14a. You are the light of the world.

In rabbinical literature “light of the world” is expressed by נֵרוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם and אוֹרוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם. The original distinction between נר and אור – namely that the former designates that which produces the light, the lamp, and the latter the bright and shining light itself, the flame34 – has not been upheld in the combination above. Rf. 2 Samuel 21:17, where David is called נר ישראל already at that time.

The following are designated as “light” or “lamp of the world”:

a. God. Midrash Tanhuma בהעלותךi204a: “‘When you set up the lamps’ [Num 8:2]. This is also what Psalm 18:28 means: ‘You make my lamp bright.’ The Israelites spoke in God’s presence: ‘Lord of the world, you say that we should make bright [light up] before you, but it is you who are the lamp of the world [נרו של עולם], and light dwells with you [Dan 2:22], yet you say, “When you set up the lamps, the seven lamps should light the area in front of the lampstand” [Num 8:2]!’ God said to them: ‘It is not as though I have need of you. You should rather shine for me as I have shone for you [with the pillar of cloud during the wandering in the wilderness]. For what purpose? In order to exalt you [make you glorious] before all nations, so that they say, “See how Israel shines for the One who shines for all!”’” In the parallels, Midrash Tanhuma B בהעלותךi§5 (24a) and Numbers Rabbah 15:5, God is not called נרו של עולם, but אורו של עולם, “light of the world.”35 In Exodus Rabbah 36:2 there is no corresponding designation for God.36

b. Individual humans. JT Shabbat 2:6 Gemara: “The first man was the lamp of the world [נרו של עולם], as it is written, ‘The soul of Adam was a lamp of the Lord’ [Pr 20:27; thus probably the Midrash]. Since Eve caused him to die, therefore the requirement concerning the [kindling of the Sabbath] lamp [מצות הנר] was assigned to the woman.”37 In Genesis Rabbah 17:8 there is no designation of Adam as “lamp of the world.”38

Aboth of Rabbi Nathan 25: “When the time came for Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai [d. c. 80] to depart this world, he raised his voice and began to weep. His students said to him, ‘Rabbi, exalted pillar, lamp of the world [נר עולם], mighty hammer, why do you weep?’” The parallel passage in Berakoth 28b has נר ישראל instead of נר עולם, in keeping with 2 Samuel 21:17.39

c. Israel. Midrash on Song of Songs 1:3 (85a): “As the oil of the world produces light, so is Israel the light for the world [אורה לעולם], as it is written, ‘Nations will journey to your light’ [Isa 60:3].” Cf. Exodus Rabbah 36:1: “Our forefathers were accordingly called ‘a leafy olive tree’ [Jer 11:16] because they gave light to all.”40

Midrash on Song of Songs 1:15 (94a): “As the dove of the world brought light [rf. Gen 8:11], so you too [Israel] should bring light to the world, as it is written, ‘Nations will journey to your light’ [Isa 60:3].” According to the parallel passage in Midrash Tanhuma B תצוהi§1 (48b), R. Isaac, c. 300, is the author of this statement.

d. The Torah and the temple. Baba Bathra 4a: “[After Herod I had the rabbis killed, he asked Baba b. Buta:] Now tell me what amends I can make. He replied: As you have extinguished the light of the world [אורו של עולם], as it is written, For the commandment is a lamp and the Torah a light [Pr 6:23], go now and attend to the light of the world [אורו של עולם, namely the temple], of which it is written, All nations will journey to it [Isa 2:2].”41

e. Jerusalem. Genesis Rabbah 59:5: “Jerusalem is the light of the world [אורו של עולם], as it says, And nations shall journey to your light [Isa 60:3]; and who is the light of Jerusalem? God, as it is written, The Lord shall be your light [Isa 60:20].”42

Just as the rabbis speak of the lamp or light of the world, so they also speak of the lamp or light of Israel:

‘Arakin 10a: “[Rabbi] answered [his son Simeon]: Light of Israel [נר ישראל]! So it was!”43 For more, see Berakoth 28b above in note b.

Midrash on Psalm 22 §3 (91a): “As the scent of myrtle is pleasant but its taste is bitter, so Mordecai and Esther were a light for Israel [אור לישראל] but darkness for the peoples of the world.”

The synonym בוֹצִינָא can also substitute for נר and אור:

JT Shabbat 6:9 Gemara: “R. Jonah [c. 350] and R. Yosé [c. 350] went up to visit R. Aha [c. 320], who was failing. They said, ‘We shall follow the counsel of an echo [here = omen].’ They [then] heard a woman saying to her friend, ‘Has the light [בוצינה] gone out?’ The other said to her, ‘It will not go out!’ And the light of Israel [בוציניהון דישראל = R. Aha] did not go out.”44

Genesis Rabbah 85:4: “‘And Judah saw there the daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua’ [Gen 38:2]. She was the daughter [read בת with the Targum Onkelos instead of בר] of a merchant who was the lamp of that place [בוצינא דאתרא].”i45

It is said of the righteous in general, in Pesahim 8a: “To what are the righteous comparable in the presence of the Shechinah [Divine Being]? To a lamp [נר] in the presence of a torch [אַבוּקָה].”i46

The expression “sun of a righteous man” (שמשו של צדיק), which has been cited more than once, does not belong in this discussion. It occurs, for example, in Genesis Rabbah 58:2: “[R. Abba b. Kahana, c. 310, said]: [B]efore the Holy One, blessed be He, causes the sun of one righteous man to set, he causes the sun of another righteous man to rise. Thus, on the day that R. Akiba died [d. c. 135], our Teacher [namely, Rabbi] was born…”47

5:14b. A city on a mountain cannot be hidden.

In Megillah 3b, a city “situated on the top of a mountain” (דיתבה בראש ההר) is contrasted with another which “is situated in a valley” (שיושבת בנחל). The passage reads: “R. Joshua b. Levi [c. 250] said: A [fortified] city [כָּרָךְ] and all that adjoins it and all that is taken in by the eye with it is treated as [a fortified] city. [The suburbs are reckoned as the city.] A Tanna commented: Adjoining, even if it is not visible, and visible even if it is not adjoining [is treated as a city]. Now we understand what is meant by ‘visible even though not adjoining’: this can occur for instance with a city situated on the top of a mountain. But how can there be ‘adjoining but not visible’? R. Jeremiah [c. 320] replied: If [the city] is situated in a valley.”48

One example of a city situated on a mountain was Sepphoris. Megillah 6a: “Zeira [c. 250] said: Kitron [Jdg 1:30] is Sepphoris. And why is it called Sepphoris? Because it is perched on the top of a mountain like a bird [שיושבת בראש ההר כצפור].”i49

Pesikta Rabbati 8 (29a): “‘I am making a thorough search of Jerusalem with lamps’ [Zph 1:12]. The Israelites said, ‘Lord of the world, when will you do this?’ He replied, ‘When I have done what was written first: “On that day, declares the Lord, a loud cry will go up from the Fish Gate,” and so on [Zph 1:10f].’ ‘A loud cry from the Fish Gate’ – that applies to Akko, which lies in the lap of the fish. ‘Wailing from the second city [i.e. the new quarter of the city]’ – that applies to Lydda, which was second to Jerusalem. ‘A loud crash from the hills’ – that applies to Sepphoris, which is situated on hills [שנתונה בגבעות]. ‘Mourn, you inhabitants of the mortar’ – that applies to Tiberias, which is deep like a mortar. God said, ‘When I have carried out my judgement on those four places for what the idolaters have done in them, in that hour I will make a thorough search of Jerusalem with lamps.’” This interpretation is also familiar to Rashi in his commentary on Zephaniah 1:10f. Heinrich Graetz, in Geschichte der Juden (2nd ed.) 4, 490f, applies it to the destruction of the aforenamed cities by Gallus.


1 Krauss, Talmudische Archäologie 1:119, thinks that the Sodomite salt was “salt mined from the salt mountains near the Dead Sea.”

2 Soncino, 117, alt.

3 Ibid., 584.

4 Ibid., 135-136.

5 Thus Krauss, Griechische und Lateinisch Lehnwörter im Talmud, Midrasch und Targum 2:99 and Talmudische Archäologie 1:500. Dalman has Istrian (?) salt (Istrisches [?] Salz).

6 Soncino, 136.

7 Ibid., 102, alt.

8 Ibid., 195.

9 Ibid., 171-172.

10 Ibid., 195.

11 Neusner, 92.

12 Soncino, 195, alt.

13 Ibid., 620.

14 Ibid., 310-311.

15 Ibid., 21-22.

16 Ibid., 12.

17 Ibid., 137.

* In Attic medimni, this would be about 559 US bushels.

18 Soncino, 723.

19 Ibid., 306. Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History, said that the popular wisdom of his day maintained “that teeth neither rot nor decay if one daily while fasting in the morning keeps a piece of salt under the tongue until it melts” (Book 31, Chapter 45). The context of this mishnaic quote makes clear that this wouldn’t be taking place in the morning, since the peppercorn or salt globule had to be placed in the woman’s mouth before the Sabbath, which commenced at 6 p.m. on Friday. However, the practice of placing salt in the mouth to help one’s teeth could have been a more general one among the Jews. – trans.

20 Ibid., 265.

21 Ibid., 267-268.

† The Soncino edition also includes this note: “Rashi explains that it was a crown cut out of a block of salt upon which figures were traced with brimstone” (ibid., 267, fn. 9).

‡ The particular work of Wagenseil in which he conveys this tradition is not given.

22 Ibid., 229.

23 Ibid., 306.

24 Ibid., 226-227.

25 Ibid., 322.

26 Ibid., 647-648, alt.

27 Cf. Neusner, 188,189.

28 Soncino, 253.

29 Cf. ibid., 19. The Hebrew of the Soncino only has one comparison, which reads: “As in the convenant mentioned in connection with salt, the salt makes the meat more palatable, so in the covenant mentioned in connection with sufferings, the sufferings wash away all the sins of a man.”

30 Ibid., 214, alt.

31 Cf. ibid., 141-142.

32 Ibid., 405.

33 Ibid., 53, alt.

** The mockery of Jesus seems more perceptible here than the mockery of Mary by comparing her to a mule. But since neither is explicit, the reader must be careful not to make absolute assumptions.

34 Midrash on Psalm 22 §3 (91a): “According to common custom, a man lights the lamp [הנר] in his palace. Is it possible for him to say, ‘So and so, who is my friend, may enjoy [avail himself of] the light of the lamp [לאור הנר], but my enemy may not enjoy the light of the lamp’? No, all enjoy it at the same time.”

35 Sonc. MR, 645.

36 Ibid., 439.

37 Cf. Neusner, 93.

38 Sonc. MR, 139.

39 Soncino, 173.

40 Sonc. MR, 438.

41 Soncino, 11, alt.

42 Sonc. MR, 519, alt.

43 Soncino, 53.

44 Neusner, 180, alt.

45 Sonc. MR, 791, alt.

46 Soncino, 32.

47 Sonc. MR, 509.

48 Soncino, 14.

49 Ibid., 27.

Troublesome Times

A Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:1-5

By Johann Gerhard, Th.D.

Translator’s Preface

The following was translated from Adnotationes ad Posteriorem D. Pauli ad Timotheum Epistolam, in Quibus Textus Declaratur, Quaestiones Dubiae Solvuntur, Observationes Eruuntur, & Loca in Speciem Pugnantia quam Brevissime Conciliantur (Commentary on St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy, in Which the Text Is Explained, Difficult Questions Are Answered, Observations Are Drawn Out, and Seemingly Contradictory Passages Are Reconciled as Concisely as Possible) by Johann Gerhard, Th.D. (Jena: Steinmann, 1643), pp. 53-57; available from the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. The third edition (Leipzig, 1712), available from Lutheran Legacy, was also consulted.

Chief among the merits of Johann Gerhard is his ability, without wasting words, to familiarize the reader with the original Scripture text, the various available versions, and the remarks of the preeminent church fathers all at the same time.

In this particular section of his commentary on 2 Timothy, due to the nature of the content, he also familiarizes the reader with some secular classics. In so doing, he confirms the importance of a classical, liberal arts education for biblical interpretation and scholarship.

This translation was prepared in connection with an exegetical presentation assigned to me for a circuit meeting in Merrill, Wisconsin, on November 4, 2013, the day after the observance of the Lutheran Reformation. In going over it and digesting it, it struck me how well this portion of Scripture fits the context of a Reformation remembrance and celebration. Many of the characteristics of the troublesome times Paul warns about are precisely the characteristics Martin Luther noted, lamented, and battled in his time, ultimately leading him and his followers to separate from the Roman Catholic Church (2 Timothy 3:5).

Yet we would be fools to think that we are safe from these characteristics in the confessional Lutheran church. The same evils which grow in the garden of the Roman Catholic Church may be noted here and there in our own, and are always sprouting up in our own hearts. If we spend our time trumpeting our supposed superiority over other church bodies and denominations, we have become the very “boastful, arrogant” and “conceited” people against whom Paul warns (3:2,4). Yes, we have shown ourselves to possess that source trait of all evil traits – “lovers of self” (3:2).

My prayer then is that this work, and particularly the meditation on the Bible text to which it lends, leads us to be watchful rather than boastful, to be swollen with gratitude rather than with conceit, and to fall to our knees in humility rather than in despair. God graciously grant it for Jesus’ sake.

2 Timothy 3:1-5

This chapter has three parts:

  1. The apostle’s prophetic prediction about the circumstances of the end times (vv. 1-9),
  2. The patience that should be exhibited, illustrated by the apostolic example set forth for imitation (vv. 10-12), and
  3. A serious forewarning against seducers and an exhortation to unfold Holy Scripture diligently (vv. 13-17).

 1. Τοῦτο δὲ γίνωσκε, ὅτι ἐν ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις ἐνστήσονται καιροὶ χαλεποί

Hoc autem scito quod in novissimis diebus instabunt tempora periculosa

  • Τοῦτο δὲ γίνωσκε

Lest Timothy or anyone else be amazed or offended that evil people and hypocrites are multiplying in the church, he warns him in advance that this will be the case.

  • ὅτι ἐν ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις ἐνστήσονται καιροὶ χαλεποί

He understands ἡμέρας ἐσχάτας as the entire time spanning the distance between Christ’s first coming and his second coming, so that his prediction also pertains to Timothy’s times. For at the end of his warning he adds, “and avoid these people” (vs. 5). Therefore he is thinking of all the time subsequent to the apostolic age. Cf. 1 Timothy 4:1.

  • καιροὶ χαλεποί

The Vulgate translated this Greek phrase as tempora periculosa, “dangerous times.” But it is properly translated tempora difficilia, “difficult times” – times during which it is difficult for someone to get advice as to how to conduct himself in the face of such people. It can also be rendered tempora molesta, “troublesome times,” since nothing more troublesome can happen to a pious person than having to contend with people like this. Luther translated greuliche Zeiten, “horrible times.” It can also be rendered beschwerliche Zeiten, “oppressive times.”

Epithets of this kind are given to time metonymically, in view of the things that happen in time, especially in view of the morals and endeavors of the people who are going to prevail in those times. For we must note that the apostle does not identify the difficulties of the times by external evils, such as war, famine, plague, etc., but by humanity’s corrupt morals.

2. ἔσονται γὰρ οἱ ἄνθρωποι φίλαυτοι φιλάργυροι ἀλαζόνες ὑπερήφανοι βλάσφημοι, γονεῦσιν ἀπειθεῖς, ἀχάριστοι ἀνόσιοι

et erunt homines se ipsos amantes cupidi elati superbi blasphemi parentibus inoboedientes ingrati scelesti

  • ἔσονται γὰρ οἱ ἄνθρωποι φίλαυτοι

The Vulgate reads se ipsos amantes, “lovers of self.” Augustine provides an excellent explanation of the force of this description in Tractate 123 on John:

In some inexplicable way – I do not know how – whoever loves himself, not God, does not love himself. And whoever loves God, not himself – it is he who loves himself. For he who cannot live by himselfsurely dies by loving himself; therefore he does not love himself who loves himself to the point that he cannot live. But when he is loved by the One by whom life is lived, by not loving himself he loves more, when he does not love himself for this reason, that he may love Him by whom he lives.2

The apostle has set this vice in the first position because it is the  fountainhead and origin of the rest. Augustine says in the work just cited, “For when the apostle said, ‘For people will be lovers of themselves,’ he continued and added, ‘lovers of money, puffed up, arrogant, blasphemers…’ All these evils flow from that which he set first, as from a fountain, namely ‘lovers of themselves.’”He says the same thing in the beginning of his books on the city of God, that the love of self has built the city of the devil, just as the love of God has built the city of God.4

Theophylact comments on “lovers of themselves” in this verse: “At once he sets down the cause of all the evils – looking out not for one’s neighbor, but looking out only for oneself. For a φίλαυτος is someone who only loves himself, the result of which is that he does not even love himself.”5

Apparent Contradiction: “No one has ever hated his own flesh” (Eph 5:29). Yet in this verse the love of self is mentioned among the most grievous vices!

Response: We must distinguish between an ordinate or moderate love of self, which is spoken of in the passage, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” and an inordinate or absurd love of self which this passage is talking about. Those who love themselves, or are lovers of self, are people seeking to gain things which are their own, who only pursue what is good for themselves.

  • φιλάργυροι

The Vulgate has cupidi, “desirous.” The Greek properly says amantes pecuniarum, “lovers of money,” or cupidi divitiarum, “desirous of wealth,” just as φίλαυτοι are desirous of honor.

  • ἀλαζόνες

The Vulgate has elati, “puffed up.” Ambrosiaster has insolentes, “insolent.”The Greek word properly signifies jactatorem, “a boaster,” gloriosum, “a vainglorious person,” or ostentatorem, “a show-off.” Luther has ruhmredig, “boastful.” Grammarians derive from ἄλη and ζῆν that it is properly one who tries to make a living by wandering, just like those who are called ἀγύρται, i.e. circulatores, “peddlers.” As a consequence, however, he turns into a boaster, show-off, or vaunter. Xenophon in Cyropaedia 2, 2, 12:

ὁ μὲν γὰρ ἀλαζὼν ἔμοιγε δοκεῖ ὄνομα κεῖσθαι ἐπὶ τοῖς προσποιουμένοις καὶ πλουσιωτέροις εἶναι ἢ εἰσὶ καὶ ἀνδρειοτέροις καὶ ποιήσειν ἃ μὴ ἱκανοί εἰσιν ὑπισχνουμένοις, καὶ ταῦτα φανεροῖς γιγνομένοις ὅτι τοῦ λαβεῖν τι ἕνεκα καὶ κερδᾶναι ποιοῦσιν.7

For to me, the name ἀλαζών seems to be given to those pretending to be both richer and more manly than they are, and to those professing to do what they are not capable of doing, and to those getting exposed for doing these things simply for the sake of getting something and making a profit.8

“Ulpianus, the expositor of Demosthenes, says that ἀλαζονείαν is used of people promising more than they can fulfill.”9

  • ὑπερήφανοι

These are superbi, “arrogant,” people who despise the lowly and weak, übersichtige, “presumptuous.”10 Ἀλαζονεία, a proud bearing in words and gestures, stems from ὑπερηφανίᾳ, arrogance lurking in the heart.

  • βλάσφημοι

These are maledici, “slanderous.” Some explain this to be referring to maledictis in Deum prolatis, “slanders directed against God.” But the Greek descriptor is general, denoting those who damage the reputation of others so that they alone might be elevated. Luther has Lästerer, “slanderers.”

  • γονεῦσιν ἀπειθεῖς

These are parentibus immorigeri, “disobedient to parents.” The Greek properly signifies those who do not allow themselves to be persuaded to show due obedience to their parents.11 The Syriac translated it as לאנָשַׁיהוּן לָא מֵתּטפִּיסִין, “not submitting to their own people.”12

  • ἀχάριστοι

Ἀπειθεῖς and ἀχάριστοι are listed together because ἀπείθεια, “disobedience,” stems from ἀχαριστίᾳ, “ingratitude.”

  • ἀνόσιοι

The Vulgate has scelesti, “villainous.” The Greek properly signifies profanos, “profane,” nefarios, “godless,” or contemtores religionis et sacrorum, “despisers of religion and sacred rites,” people who have no respect for what is holy and right to keep them from daring to perpetrate any wicked deeds. Luther has ungeistliche, “unspiritual.”

3. ἄστοργοι ἄσπονδοι διάβολοι ἀκρατεῖς ἀνήμεροι ἀφιλάγαθοι

sine affectione sine pace criminatores incontinentes inmites sine benignitate

  • ἄστοργοι

These are people in whom the natural affections toward parents, children, and brothers are completely extinguished. Luther has störrige, “stubborn.” The Vulgate has sine affectione, “without affection,” people who are moved by no affection of love toward their neighbor, not even toward those whom nature usually incites us to love most of all.

  • ἄσπονδοι

These are foedifragi, “perfidious,” or infidi, “unfaithful.” Σπόνδη signifies familiaritatem and amicitiam, “familiarity” and “friendship.” So ἄσπονδοι are those who do not keep agreements or who are implacable and do not let reconciliation take place. Ambrosiaster has sine fide, “without faith.”13 The Vulgate has sine pace, “without peace,” in this verse and absque foedere, “without agreement,” in Romans 1:31. Luther has unversöhnliche, “irreconcilable.”

  • διάβολοι

These are calumniatores, “calumniators,” people who suppress the innocence of others by their lies and made-up accusations. The Vulgate has criminatores, “accusers.” Luther has Schänder, “defilers.”

  • ἀκρατεῖς

These are incontinentes, “uncontrolled,” people who give themselves up to carnal pleasures. Luther has unkeusch, “unchaste.” The Vulgate has intemperantes, “immoderate.”

  • ἀνήμεροι

These are inhumani, “inhuman,” people possessed of a brute character. The Vulgate has inmites, “harsh.” Luther has wilde, “wild.”

  • ἀφιλάγαθοι

This can be understood of both persons and things, describing those who love neither a good thing nor good people. Ambrosiaster has bonorum inimici, “enemies of good people or good things.”14 The Syriac has סָניַי טָבָתָא, “haters of good things.”15 Luther has ungütige, “unkind.” But it is probably better to apply it to persons, so that it signifies those who are averse to friendship with good people and hate them because of the discrepancy in character.

4. προδόται προπετεῖς τετυφωμένοι, φιλήδονοι μᾶλλον ἢ φιλόθεοι

proditores protervi tumidi voluptatium amatores magis quam Dei

  • προδόται

These are proditores, “traitors,” or amicitiae desertores, “abandoners of friendship,” people who expose well-deserving friends to things that endanger their life.

  • προπετεῖς

These are praecipites, “rash,” or temerarii, “heedless,” people who follow the impulses of their desires without consideration and counsel. The Vulgate has protervi, “brash.” Luther has Frevler, “wanton offenders.”

  • τετυφωμένοι

These are inflati prae superbia, “inflated with arrogance,” or qui sibiipsis sunt Suffeni, “those who are each a Suffenus to themselves,”16 people who are swollen with conceit. The Vulgate has tumidi, “swollen.” Luther has aufgeblasen, “puffed up.”

  • φιλήδονοι μᾶλλον ἢ φιλόθεοι

These are voluptatum magis quam Dei amantes, “lovers of pleasures more than of God.” In Greek this is an elegant play on words.

Incidentally, since the apostle here is not only talking about wicked people in general, but also about false teachers, Augustine makes elegant work of applying all these descriptions to false teachers in Tractate 123 on John. He says:

Let those who feed the sheep of Christ not be “lovers of themselves.” Otherwise they will feed the sheep as if the sheep were their own, and not as Christ’s sheep, and they will want to make their own profits from them, just like the “lovers of money,” or they will lord it over them, just like the “puffed up,” or they will glory in the honors they get from them, just like the “arrogant,” or they will go so far as even to create heresies, just like the “blasphemers.” They will part ways with the holy fathers, just like those who are “disobedient to their parents,” and to those who wish to correct them because they do not want them to perish they will repay evil for good, just like the “ungrateful.” They will destroy their own souls and the souls of others, just like the “villainous.” They will scatter the motherly offspring of the Church, just like the “irreligious.” They will not have compassion for the weak, just like those “without affection.” They will attempt to defile the reputation of the saints, just like the “detractors.” They will not rein in the basest desires, just like the “uncontrolled.” They will occupy themselves with disputes, just like the “harsh.” They will be ignorant of how to lend help, just like those “without kindness.” They will make known to the enemies of the pious what they know ought to be kept secret, just like the “traitors.” They will embarrass human modesty by stirring up what is immodest, just like the “shameless.” They will understand neither what they are saying nor the things about which they are affirming [1Ti 1:7], just like the “blinded.”17 They will prefer carnal delights to spiritual joys, just like those who are “lovers of pleasures more than of God.” For these vices and others like them – whether all of them befall one human or some rule in these while others rule in those – sprout in some measure from that one root, namely when people are “lovers of themselves.” This vice must be most diligently guarded against by those who feed the sheep of Christ…18

5. ἔχοντες μόρφωσιν εὐσεβείας τὴν δὲ δύναμιν αὐτῆς ἠρνημένοι · καὶ τούτους ἀποτρέπου

habentes speciem quidem pietatis virtutem autem eius abnegantes et hos devita

  • ἔχοντες μόρφωσιν εὐσεβείας τὴν δὲ δύναμιν αὐτῆς ἠρνημένοι

The Vulgate reads: habentes speciem quidem pietatis virtutem autem eius abnegantes, “having at least a form of piety, but refusing its power.”

The Greek μόρφωσις properly signifies formationem, “a shaping.” Ambrosiaster reads formam, “a shape.”19

  1. Some understand this to mean a speciem, imaginem, or similitudinem pietatis, “kind, image, or likeness of piety,” so that it is spoken against hypocrites and the sense is this: In external words and gestures they put on a show of piety, but in reality they do not have it, or rather they are so foreign to piety that they seem to have refused it and sworn off it.
  2. Others think that the apostle is reprimanding those who do a beautiful job prescribing to others whatever deed must be done, even though they themselves are the last ones to carry out those deeds (Mt 23:3). For μόρφωσις signifies a philosophy of educating and training that says that when the teacher prescribes something to the pupil, he ought to speak or conduct himself the same way (Ro 2:20).

But both of these interpretations can be combined. For those who prescribe rules of piety to others and do not observe them themselves have but a μόρφωσιν of piety.

The δύναμις εὐσεβείας consists of true faith in Christ, “which purifies the heart” (Ac 15:9), of spiritual and inner obedience of the heart (1Ti 1:5), of ἀνυποκρίτῳ and sincere love for God and one’s neighbor. This is also what it means “to live piously in Christ” (2Ti 3:12).

Some want δύναμιν to be treated like ἀλήθειαν, for the truth of nature is understood from the power and working of everything in nature.

Paul does not write ἀρνημένοι, a present tense participle, as the Vulgate has translated it with abnegantes, but ἠρνημένοι, a past tense participle, inficiati, “having denied.”

  • καὶ τούτους ἀποτρέπου

The Vulgate has devita, “avoid.” The Greek properly signifies illos aversare, “turn yourself away from them,” namely by:

  1. neither agreeing with them nor approving of them,
  2. drawing yourself away from their midst, and
  3. not putting on a yoke with them.

From this apostolic admonition we conclude that Paul is speaking in such a way about the future that he might show at the same time that this kind of people will also not be lacking in Timothy’s time. Otherwise it would not have been worth the effort to urge Timothy to turn himself away from them.


1 “By himself” not in the sense of “alone,” but in the sense that he cannot make himself live.

2 J.-P. Migne, ed., Sancti Aurelii Augustini, Hipponensis Episcopi, Opera Omnia, vol. 3, part 2 (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1864), col. 1968.

3 Ibid., col. 1967-1968.

4 Gerhard’s citation lends itself to confusion. First, the quote can be said to come from “the beginning of [Augustine’s] books on the city of God” only if one understands said books in the narrow sense, namely the second part of De Civitate Dei, Books 11-22, which properly deal with the origin, nature, etc. of the two cities. Secondly, Gerhard is paraphrasing Augustine. The opening lines of Book 14, Chapter 28, read: “Accordingly, two loves have made two cities. The love of self, even to contempt of God, has made the earthly city, but the love of God, even to contempt of self, has made the heavenly city” (J.-P. Migne, ed., Sancti Aurelii Augustini, Hipponensis Episcopi, Opera Omnia, vol. 7 [Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1864], col. 436). Cf. Saint Augustine, The City of God, trans. Marcus Dods (New York: The Modern Library, 1993), p. 477.

5 J.-P. Migne, ed., Theophylacti, Bulgariae Archiepiscopi Constantinopolitani, Opera Quae Reperiri Potuerunt Omnia, vol. 3 (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1864), col. 115, 116.

6 J.-P. Migne, ed., Sancti Ambrosii Mediolanensis Episcopi Opera Omnia, vol. 2, part 2 (Paris: Vrayet de Surcy, 1845), col. 493.

7 Xenophon, Cyropaedia I, trans. Walter Miller (New York: The MacMillan Co., 1914), p. 162.

8 Cf. ibid., p. 163. Gerhard does not include the last clause, since he is citing a partial quote from Henricus Stephanus, Thesaurus Graecae Linguae, vol. 1 (Paris: Henricus Stephanus, 1572), col. 306.

9 Ibid., col. 307.

10 Transferred sense of übersichtig. It is properly used of one who has a real or perceived sight defect – a blink-eyed person, a person with a sideways glance, or someone who has oblique, distorted eyes so that he squints strongly. From this it came to be used of someone who looks disapprovingly or disparagingly at others whom he considers to be inferior to himself.

11 Gerhard is probably overdoing the exegesis here.

12 Peshitta New Testament text viewable here.

13 Rf. endnote 6.

14 Ibid.

15 Rf. endnote 12.

16 Gerhard is alluding to poem 22 in Catullus’ Carmina. The entire poem is about a poet named Suffenus, a nice, pleasant, witty man who had written “a thousand or ten thousand or more” verses and published them with the finest available materials. Yet in spite of his otherwise pleasant and witty character and the fancy dress of his poems, Catullus lambasts Suffenus’ poems as worthy only of a goatherd or a ditch-digger. He analyzes: “So much he’s altered from the man he was. | How can this be? and what can be the cause? | Yet he that but just now in others’ sense | Was destitute of every excellence, | Was made the common jest of all the town, | And thought much more unlearned than a clown, | Is wise, and to perfection, in his own. | When he puts pen to paper and indites, | No man so blest as he in what he writes. | He joys so much, and wonders at his skill, | As if the Muses had inspired his quill.” Catullus then concludes: “No wonder; all are subject to mistakes; | None but in something a Suffenus makes. | Our neighbour’s bunch upon his back is known, | But we forget what rises from our own” (Walter K. Kelly, tr., ed., The Poems of Catullus and Tibullus, and the Vigil of Venus [London: George Bell and Sons, 1887], p. 191). Rf. the original here.

17 Even though Augustine was not known for his ability in Greek, he appears to exhibit some familiarity with the Greek text here. He substitues caecati, “blinded,” for the Vulgate’s tumidi, “swollen.” Both are acceptable translations of the Greek τετυφωμένοι. Cf. BDAG ad τυφόω, 1 & 2.

18 Rf. endnote 2.

19 Rf. endnote 6.