Three Bach Cantatas


Preliminary Acknowledgment

These three cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) were recently performed by La Follia Austin Baroque. I was graciously given the opportunity to work with these cantatas in connection with this concert, for which I hereby express my deepest gratitude to the ensemble’s director. As a result of this work, my faith in my Savior Jesus was strengthened, as was my ability to express it, and my prayer is that readers of this post will experience the same benefit. I also wish to acknowledge the lovely performances in that concert by the singers and instrumentalists, especially of the arias.

BWV 151 – Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kömmt


This cantata was first performed on December 27, the Third Christmas Day, in 1725. However, while it was the first time this text was set to Bach’s music, it was very likely not the first time this text had ever been set to music. Bach took this text from a book titled Gottgefälliges Kirchen-Opffer (God-Pleasing Offering for Worship), written by Georg Christian Lehms (Darmstadt: Johann Levin Bachmann, 1711). In his foreword, Lehms said that he wrote the book for use in the city of Darmstadt, and that the plan was to have one of his pieces of poetry sung to accompaniment every Sunday and festival, and he wanted as many people as possible to have his book in front of them as the words were being sung so that they could, as he put it, “really fix the words into [their] soul.” That means it was most likely set to music by some composer in Darmstadt in 1711, or perhaps 1712, but that composer’s cantata setting is unknown…because that composer was not Johann Sebastian Bach.

This particular libretto by Lehms is based on the appointed Gospel from the Third Christmas Day, John 1:1-14, in which John, one of Jesus’ apostles, meditates on the mystery of the incarnation, the taking on of human flesh by the Son of God and his dwelling in our midst. Borrowing from John’s thoughts and others elsewhere in the Bible, Lehms puts himself as a representative Christian in the stable of Bethlehem, watching from a distance as Jesus is being born and applying to himself the beauty of the moment, and the profound, invisible, and eternally signficiant truths behind it.

Bach takes the meditations of that spectator in Bethlehem’s stable and makes them soar on the wings of music. You can watch a performance of his beautiful music here.

A few notes on the German text: In the opening aria, kömmt is simply an older variant of kommt, the regular third person, singular, present tense form; Lehms perhaps considered it a more poetic form (somewhat akin to cometh for comes in English). It is also important to note that, although many translations render the second line simply, “Jesus is now born,” wird geboren is an emphatic present passive construction – is being born – not a present perfect construction like ist geboren – is/has been born. This is underscored by the addition of anitzt, “under the present circumstances, at present, presently, now.”

Unless it was simply a hasty mistake (possible, but not likely), Bach made a telling change in the fourth movement, the tenor recitative. In the original, Lehms says that since Jesus has left his Father’s home out of love for us, we in turn desire “to let” (lassen) Jesus into our heart. I do not know the extent to which Lehms was influenced by Pietism or might have been a Pietist himself, but regardless, the language of “letting Jesus into one’s heart” is Pietistic language (and has carried over into much of modern day American Christianity). Bach changed lassen to fassen; instead of letting Jesus into our hearts, Bach has us fixing him more firmly, or framing him, in our hearts. In other words, Bach recognized that if we believe that Jesus is our Savior from sin, death, the devil, and hell, Jesus is already there in our hearts through such faith (a fact which Pietism seemed to enjoy calling into doubt). But the more we consider Jesus’ self-giving love for us, the more we want to make sure he is fixed there firmly, stays there, and holds more sway there.

For the chorale, Lehms incorporated the final (eighth) stanza of Nicolaus Herman’s Christmas hymn, “Lobt Gott, ihr Christen alle gleich,” which is usually dated to 1560, when it first appeared in print in its complete form. However, a four-stanza version had already appeared in print around 1550, though with serious typographical errors.

1. Soprano Aria

Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kömmt,
Jesus wird anitzt geboren!
Herz und Seele freuet sich,
Denn mein liebster Gott hat mich
Nun zum Himmel auserkoren.

Sweet comfort, my Jesus is coming;
Jesus is now being born!
Heart and soul rejoice,
for my God most dear has
now selected me for heaven.

2. Bass Recitative

Erfreue dich, mein Herz,
Denn itzo weicht der Schmerz,
Der dich so lange Zeit gedrücket.
Gott hat den liebsten Sohn,
Den er so hoch und teuer hält,
Auf diese Welt geschicket.
Er läßt den Himmelsthron
Und will die ganze Welt
Aus ihren Sklavenketten
Und ihrer Dienstbarkeit erretten.
O wundervolle Tat!
Gott wird ein Mensch und will auf Erden
Noch niedriger als wir und noch viel ärmer werden.

Be jubilant, my heart,
for now the pain departs
which has so long burdened you.
God has his Son most dear,
whom he so esteems and cherishes,
sent down to this world.
He leaves the throne of heaven
and will the entire world
from its chains of slavery
and its bondage deliver.
O marvelous deed!
God becomes a human, and wishes to become on earth
still lowlier than we and still far more wretched.

3. Alto Aria

In Jesu Demut kann ich Trost,
In seiner Armut Reichtum finden.
Mir macht desselben schlechter Stand
Nur lauter Heil und Wohl bekannt,
Ja, seine wundervolle Hand
Will mir nur Segenskränze winden.

In Jesus’ humility I can find comfort,
in his poverty, riches.
For me this man’s sorry state makes known
nothing but pure happiness and well-being;
yes, his marvelous hand
will only twine wreathes of blessing for me.

4. Tenor Recitative

Du teurer Gottessohn,
Nun hast du mir den Himmel aufgemacht
Und durch dein Niedrigsein
Das Licht der Seligkeit zuwege bracht.
Weil du nun ganz allein
Des Vaters Burg und Thron
Aus Liebe gegen uns verlassen,
So wollen wir dich auch
Dafür in unser Herze fassen.

O precious Son of God,
now you have opened heaven to me
and through your humiliation
the light of salvation have restored.
Since you now, all on your own,
the Father’s castle and throne
have left out of love toward us,
so we desire also,
in return, to frame you in our heart.

5. Chorale

Heut schleußt er wieder auf die Tür
Zum schönen Paradeis,
Der Cherub steht nicht mehr dafür,
Gott sei Lob, Ehr und Preis.

The door to paradise so fair
He op’ns again today,
No more a cherub guarding there—
To God all praises pay.

BWV 82 – Ich habe genung


Bach composed this cantata in preparation for the Festival of the Purification of Mary (sometimes also called the Presentation of Our Lord) in 1727, though he had already composed the second and third movements for his wife Anna Magdalena at least two years earlier. Since the Law of Moses pertaining to purification after childbirth said that the appropriate sacrifices were to be made 40 days after the birth (Leviticus 12:1-8), the Festival of the Purification was fixed on February 2 – 40 days after Christmas Day, counting inclusively.

In preparing this cantata, Bach as usual had the appointed Gospel reading for that festival in mind, Luke 2:22-32. Here is a portion of Martin Luther’s translation of that text, to which Bach would have referred:

And when the days of [Mary’s] purification arrived, according to the Law of Moses, they brought him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord… And behold, a man named Simeon was in Jerusalem, and he was pious and God-fearing and was waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was in him. And he had received an answer from the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had first seen the Christ of the Lord. And he came into the temple at the instigation of the Spirit. And when the parents brought the child Jesus into the temple…he took him in his arms, praised God, and said, “Lord, now you let your servant depart in peace, just as you said, for my eyes have seen your Savior, whom you have prepared before all peoples, a light to enlighten the heathens and for the glory of your people Israel.”

The particular libretto Bach selected especially seized and expanded upon the little word “now,” spoken by Simeon, and the contentment with which that word is positively dripping. Why was Simeon ready now? What was he now ready for and looking forward to? How can the peace and contentment conveyed in that word now be ours? And how might we put that resignation and contentment into our own words today?

In order to answer these questions, the as-yet unknown poet juxtaposes Simeon’s physical taking of the Christ into his arms, especially in view in the first half of the first movement, with our spiritual embracing of Christ through faith in him, which is in view in the subsequent movements. And Bach puts the poet’s resultant readiness, even eagerness, to face death to music. There is perhaps no better piece of music a Christian could be listening to, pondering, or singing as he or she dies than the aria constituting the third movement. You can watch a performance of this cantata here.

A few notes on the German text: The most discussed word in this cantata is usually the third – genung. Most performances and printings of the text today will use the modern genug, but it is clear that Bach himself, probably relying on his source text, consistently used the variant genung, which dates back to the 14th century and – according to the Deutsches Wörterbuch (1961), the definitive German language dictionary based on work begun by the Brothers Grimm in 1838 – “also appeared often enough in the 18th century both in prose and in verse.” Regarding the pronunciation, the Wörterbuch says:

[This form of this variant] is Middle German in the widest sense, including Franconia and the Rhine, but it also appears in Upper [i.e. Southern] German in isolated instances. It was pronounced genunk, which is also how it was written at first, for the form cannot be explained from the pronunciation standpoint of genûch or genŭch, but only from the standpoint of genŭk, which thus must also date back to the 14th century.

However, poets like Lessing (1729-1781) and Göthe (1749-1832) would occasionally rhyme genung with words like jung, suggesting that perhaps by the (late?) 18th century, when used, it did not retain its original pronunciation. Bach’s libretto does not help, since the word is not rhymed with anything, except perhaps itself. I personally cannot imagine Bach wanting the word to get lost in the back of the throat at the end of the phrase, especially considering its importance to the cantata’s message, and I therefore personally prefer the genunk pronunciation, although I have only heard it employed by one virtuoso (very beautifully, I might add).

As for the phrase “Ich habe genung” itself, the literal rendering “I have enough” communicates almost nothing clearly in English. The phrase is an idiomatic one in the biblical and liturgical context, which could be paraphrased, “There is nothing else I need and I am completely prepared to die.” Thus my rendering: “I am content.” There is some precedence for this; there is an Easter hymn titled, “Es ist genug,” that has been translated “I am content!”

Another mistake commonly made in translations is to render the first line of the fifth movement, “I rejoice in my death.” Sich freuen auf etw. (acc.) is an idiomatic phrase meaning “to look forward to/eagerly anticipate something.” A literal translation misses the full impact of this powerful expression of faith in Christ.

1. Bass Aria

Ich habe genung,
Ich habe den Heiland, das Hoffen der Frommen,
Auf meine begierigen Arme genommen;
Ich habe genung!
Ich hab ihn erblickt,
Mein Glaube hat Jesum ans Herze gedrückt;
Nun wünsch ich, noch heute mit Freuden
Von hinnen zu scheiden.
Ich habe genung.

I am content;
the Savior, the hope of the pious,
I have taken into my eager arms.
I am content!
I have beheld him;
my faith has pressed Jesus against my heart.
Now I wish—gladly were it yet today—
to depart from here.
I am content.

2. Bass Recitative

Ich habe genung.
Mein Trost ist nur allein,
Daß Jesus mein und ich sein eigen möchte sein.
Im Glauben halt ich ihn,
Da seh ich auch mit Simeon
Die Freude jenes Lebens schon.
Laßt uns mit diesem Manne ziehn.
Ach! möchte mich von meines Leibes Ketten
Der Herr erretten;
Ach! wäre doch mein Abschied hier,
Mit Freuden sagt ich, Welt, zu dir:
Ich habe genung.

I am content.
My comfort is just this alone,
that Jesus can be mine and I his very own.
In faith I hold him,
since I too see with Simeon
the joy of that life already.
Let us go with this man.
Ah! If only from the chains of my body
the Lord would deliver me.
Ah! Even if I were to depart right here,
gladly would I say, world, to you:
I am content.

3. Bass Aria

Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen,
Fallet sanft und selig zu!
Welt, ich bleibe nicht mehr hier,
Hab ich doch kein Teil an dir,
Das der Seele könnte taugen.
Hier muß ich das Elend bauen,
Aber dort, dort werd ich schauen
Süßen Friede, stille Ruh.

Sleep sweetly, you weary eyes,
close gently and happily!
World, I will stay here no longer;
there is simply no part of you
that could be of use to my soul.
Here must I heap up misery,
but there, there shall I see
sweet peace, quiet rest.

4. Bass Recitative

Mein Gott! wann kömmt das schöne: Nun!
Da ich im Friede fahren werde
Und in dem Sande kühler Erde
Und dort bei dir im Schoße ruhn?
Der Abschied ist gemacht,
Welt, gute Nacht.

My God, when is that beautiful “Now!” coming
when I will depart in peace
and rest in the sand of the cool earth
and there with you in your embrace?
My farewell has been said,
world, good night.

5. Bass Aria

Ich freue mich auf meinen Tod,
Ach, hätt er sich schon eingefunden.
Da entkomm ich aller Not,
Die mich noch auf der Welt gebunden.

I look forward to my death—
ah, had it but arrived already!
There shall I escape all the trouble
which has as yet confined me to the world.

BWV 8 – Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben


The early 16th century Scottish poet William Dunbar, in his famous “Lament for the Makars,” writes:

Since there for death is rem’dy none,
Best is that we for death dispone,
After our death that live may we.
The fear of death discomfits me.

In this cantata, Bach attempts to help his audience do just that—dispone or prepare for death. He composed it in preparation for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity in 1724, which fell on September 24 that year. In preparing it, he once again had the appointed Gospel reading for that Sunday in mind, Luke 7:11-17. Here is a portion of Martin Luther’s translation of that text:

But as [Jesus] was drawing near the town gate [of Nain], behold, a dead man was being carried out who was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and many people from the town were accompanying her. And when the Lord saw her, he was grieved for her and said to her, “Don’t cry.” And he stepped forward and touched the coffin, and the pallbearers stopped, and he said, “Young man, I say to you, get up.” And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and he gave him to his mother.

With that concept in mind of Jesus bringing comfort in the midst of death and its sorrow, Bach selected a libretto for his cantata that was based on a hymn written around 1690 by Kaspar Neumann, who had been a well-known Lutheran pastor in Breslau, Silesia – today Wrocław, Poland. Even though only the first and fifth stanza of Neumann’s hymn are incorporated word for word as the first and last movements of the cantata, the other movements, written by an as-yet unknown poet, are based on all the intervening stanzas of Neumann’s hymn. One can therefore effectively argue that Kaspar Neumann is really ultimately responsible for all of the textual content of this cantata.

What Bach heard in this libretto, and in Neumann’s hymn on which it was based, was a personal meditation on Jesus’ words, “Don’t cry.”

Neumann first squarely confronts the fact that death is unavoidable, due to original sin—the teaching that we are not born with a blank slate, but a blackened one, and are therefore deserving of death and headed for death. Bach reflects Neumann’s expression of the inexorable countdown to death with a very clock-like rhythm in the first movement.

Neumann then acknowledges and addresses the fears that all people, including Christians, have as they consider the inevitable reality of death.

But then the voice of his faith in Christ takes over and Neumann concludes by expressing the serenity he is able to have in the face of death because of Christ’s saving work and his promise to raise the bodies of believers from death on the Last Day and bring them safely to his side.

You can read a rhyming translation of Neumann’s original hymn here.

1. Chorus

Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben?
Meine Zeit läuft immer hin,
Und des alten Adams Erben,
Unter denen ich auch bin,
Haben dies zum Vaterteil,
Daß sie eine kleine Weil
Arm und elend sein auf Erden
Und denn selber Erde werden.

Dearest God, when will I die?
My time continually slips away,
and heirs of the old Adam,
among whom I too am included,
have this as their patrimony,
that they for a short while
are poor and miserable on earth
and then themselves turn into earth.

2. Tenor Aria

Was willst du dich, mein Geist, entsetzen,
Wenn meine letzte Stunde schlägt?
Mein Leib neigt täglich sich zur Erden,
Und da muß seine Ruhstatt werden,
Wohin man so viel tausend trägt.

Why, my spirit, do you shudder at the thought
of when my final hour will strike?
My body draws closer to the earth each day,
and there must eventually be laid to rest,
where so many thousands are carried.

3. Alto Recitative

Zwar fühlt mein schwaches Herz
Furcht, Sorge, Schmerz:
Wo wird mein Leib die Ruhe finden?
Wer wird die Seele doch
Vom aufgelegten Sündenjoch
Befreien und entbinden?
Das Meine wird zerstreut,
Und wohin werden meine Lieben
In ihrer Traurigkeit
Zertrennt, vertrieben?

I confess my weak heart does feel
fear, worry, distress:
Where will my body find its rest?
Who is going to be the one
to free and unfasten my soul
from the yoke of sin imposed upon it?
What’s mine will be dispersed,
and where will my loved ones,
left behind in their sorrow,
be separated and scattered?

4. Bass Aria

Doch weichet, ihr tollen, vergeblichen Sorgen!
Mich rufet mein Jesus: wer sollte nicht gehn?
Nichts, was mir gefällt,
Besitzet die Welt.
Erscheine mir, seliger, fröhlicher Morgen,
Verkläret und herrlich vor Jesu zu stehn.

No! Begone, you absurd, useless worries!
The one calling for me is my Jesus; who would not go?
Nothing I truly enjoy
is in the world’s possession.
Show yourself, blessed, joyful morning,
when I get to stand transfigured and glorious before Jesus.

5. Soprano Recitative

Behalte nur, o Welt, das Meine!
Du nimmst ja selbst mein Fleisch und mein Gebeine,
So nimm auch meine Armut hin;
Genug, daß mir aus Gottes Überfluß
Das höchste Gut noch werden muß,
Genug, dass ich dort reich und selig bin.
Was aber ist von mir zu erben,
Als meines Gottes Vatertreu?
Die wird ja alle Morgen neu
Und kann nicht sterben.

Go ahead, O world, keep what’s mine!
You’re already taking my flesh and my bones for yourself,
so take away, too, my poor possessions.
It’s enough that, out of God’s great bounty,
I still get to have the highest good;
it’s enough that I am rich and blessed there in heaven.
What really is there to inherit from me,
except my God’s paternal faithfulness?
That is new every single morning
and cannot die.

6. Chorale

Herrscher über Tod und Leben,
Mach einmal mein Ende gut,
Lehre mich den Geist aufgeben
Mit recht wohlgefaßtem Mut.
Hilf, daß ich ein ehrlich Grab
Neben frommen Christen hab
Und auch endlich in der Erde
Nimmermehr zuschanden werde!

Ruler over death and life,
make one day my end a good one;
teach me to give up my spirit
with truly calm and composed courage.
Grant that I have a decent grave
next to pious Christians
and also that at last, in the earth,
I nevermore be put to shame.


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.

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.

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.

Commentary on 1 Timothy 4:12

By Johann Gerhard, Th. D.

Translator’s Preface

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

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

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

1 Timothy 4:12

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

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

  • Μηδείς σου τῆς νεότητος καταφρονείτω

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

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

The second sense is acquired from the antithesis.

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

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

  • Ἀλλὰ τύπος γίνου τῶν πιστῶν

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

  • Ἐν λόγῳ

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

  • Ἐν ἀναστροφῇ

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

  • Ἐν ἀγάπῃ

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

  • Ἐν πνεύματι

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

  • Ἐν πίστει

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

  • Ἐν ἁγνείᾳ

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exegetical Brief: Philippians 2:12b

By Pastor Holger Weiß

Translator’s Preface

This translation is especially unique to the translator in two ways. First, this is the first time he has attempted to translate an article written by someone still living. He met Pastor Weiß at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon during Summer Quarter of 2011. Pastor Weiß is the spiritual shepherd of Emmausgemeinde (Emmaus Church) in Schönfeld by Annaberg-Buchholz, a member congregation of the Evangelisch-Lutherische Freikirche (ELFK; Evangelical Lutheran Free Church) in Germany. He also serves as a professor of New Testament studies at the Lutherisches-Theologishes Seminar (Lutheran Theological Seminary) in Leipzig on the side. In his conversations with Pastor Weiß, it struck the translator that never did the title pastor suit a man better than it did Pastor Weiß.

Secondly, after laboring over the translation and then sending it to Pastor Weiß for approval before publishing it, the translator was amused to learn that Pastor Weiß had originally written it to fulfill an assignment for a class on Philippians during Summer Quarter of 2009. “Just let me know if I should send you the English paper,” he wrote. After all the work and with Pastor Weiß’s blessing, what is presented here is not the original English paper, but an English translation of a German translation by Pastor Weiß of the original English paper by the same.

This article was printed on pages 2-4 of the February 2011 edition of Theologische Handreichung und Information, the theological quarterly of the ELFK, under the title “Schafft, dass ihr selig werdet… Wie ist Philipper 2,12 zu übersetzen und zu verstehen?” (see below for translation).

It is the translator’s prayer that what follows will not only clearly communicate Pastor Weiß’s fine exegesis of Philippians 2:12, but that it will also showcase the unity in the truth that the Holy Spirit, working through Scripture, produces even when the two parties thus united (WELS and ELFK) live thousands of miles away from each other. God grant both these petitions for Jesus’ sake.

Work out your salvation…

How should Philippians 2:12 be translated and understood?

As confessional Lutherans we have been solemnly entrusted with the three solas of the Lutheran Reformation: We are justified by grace alone, through faith in our Savior Jesus Christ alone, and this is communicated to us through Holy Scripture alone (sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura).

Justification by grace alone is the beating heart of the Bible’s teaching. The apostle Paul teaches it in many passages (e.g. Eph 2:8f; Ro 3:23f). Hence it could seem very strange indeed when Paul appeals to his readers, “Work out your salvation…” (Php 2:12). Isn’t he leading us back into Catholicism with its work-righteousness? Or is he suggesting that Jesus’ redeeming work is not sufficient by itself for our redemption? Do we still have to add our own merits (“do” something1) in order to reach heavenly glory one day? Clearly the translation and especially the correct understanding of this apostolic exhortation in the original text is of critical importance.

The original Greek text of this verse reads: τὴν ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίαν κατεργάζεσθε. To translate the verse correctly, we first need to analyze the verb. The predicate κατεργάζεσθε is a present, middle, imperative, second person plural form of κατεργάζομαι. This verb means “to accomplish [something], to carry [something] out.” Paul uses this verb, for example, when he confesses, “For I do not know what I do (ὃ γὰρ κατεργάζομαι οὐ γινώσκω). For I do not do what I want, but what I hate, that I do” (Ro 7:15). The congregation in Corinth had neglected to practice church discipline with a member who had fallen into sexual immorality. To these Christians Paul testifies, “But I, I who am not with you bodily but in spirit, have already decided about the man who has done this, just as if I were with you (ἤδη κέκρικα ὡς παρὼν τὸν οὕτως τοῦτο κατεργασάμενον)” (1 Co 5:3).2 The imperative form expresses a requirement for the readers (second person plural). The readers in this case are primarily the Christians in Philippi. In a wider sense, however, Paul is also addressing all other Christians who read the letter to the Philippians. The present tense expresses a durative aspect. In other words, it does not have to do with a one-time requirement, but with a lasting, continuing one.3 Gordon Fee says about the meaning of κατεργάζομαι:

Its basic sense is to “accomplish” something, not in the sense of “fulfillment,” but of “carrying out”4 a matter… Under no circumstances can it be stretched to mean “work at,” as though salvation were something that needed our work (as in good works) in order for it to be accomplished.5

That which should be carried out is expressed by the accusative object. The noun σωτηρία is occasionally used in the New Testament for preservation in danger or deliverance from deadly peril. So Paul, for example, appeals to his traveling companions in the ship, “Therefore I urge you to eat something, for this will serve to preserve you (τοῦτο γὰρ πρὸς τῆς ὑμετέρας σωτηρίας ὑπάρχει)” (Ac 27:34). But it predominantly refers to our eternal salvation and can be joined with various verbs. Hebrews 1:14, for example, says about the angels: “Are they not all ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation (κληρονομεῖν σωτηρίαν)?” The accusative object is modified by a genitive, masculine, plural pronoun, ἑαυτῶν. Exegetes variously interpret it as reflexive or possessive. Both are grammatically possible. Gordon Fee, however, makes it clear that, when the pronoun should be understood reflexively, it usually arises from an inherent contrast in the sentence:

While the reflexive at times does stress what belongs especially to the subject of a sentence (cf. e.g., [Php 2:]3-4 above), that is usually made clear by some inherent contrast in the sentence. In other cases it functions very close to a normal possessive, except that by use of the reflexive it slightly intensifies the possessive as being one’s own.6

Hence one could render the exhortation from Philippians 2:12 as, “Work out your salvation” – not in the sense of achievement or completion, but in the sense of the “carrying out [Durchführung]” of salvation.

How are we to understand this apostolic exhortation to work out or carry out our salvation? We must first note that Paul begins the entire statement in Philippians 2:12 with the conjunction “so” or “therefore” (ὥστε), which connects the exhortation with the section that precedes. That entire section, Philippians 2:5-11, forms the essential basis for the requirement in Philippians 2:12. In it Paul praises our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who humbled himself and became obedient to death. Through his obedience Jesus has won our eternal salvation, which God gives us as a gift of his grace through faith in Jesus Christ. “Therefore,” because Jesus has humbled himself and become obedient in order to redeem us, Paul now urges us to “carry out” this salvation.

We must also note that the exhortation from Philippians 2:12 is inserted into an even greater context. In Philippians 1:27—2:30, Paul is encouraging his readers to live in a manner worthy of the gospel about Christ.

And finally, we should not overlook the fact that the apostolic exhortation in Philippians 2:12 follows two prepositional phrases in the dative which refer to the Philippians’ obedience. Paul here uses the verb ὑπακούω, which means “to listen to” in the sense of “obey, follow.”7

All these observations make it clear that the apostolic exhortation from Philippians 2:12 does not belong in the realm of justification, but in the realm of sanctification, which flows from justification. In this passage Paul is not addressing how people are saved. His concern is how saved people “live out” the salvation that God has given them solely out of his grace through faith in Christ, that is, how their salvation is realized in everyday life.8

Paul makes this exhortation as a result of the serious dangers that threaten our faith on a daily basis. He exhorts us as those who are already on the path to heaven, but still have to conduct our lives as Christians in this world. We face temptations from the devil, the unbelieving world, and our own sinful flesh. False teachers are spreading in our midst and have already become a serious spiritual challenge [Anfechtung] for many Christians. Satan wants to lead us astray so that we turn our backs on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As believers we must be vigilant so that we do not lose the eternal salvation that God has given to us through baptism out of his grace. We have this salvation only through faith in our redeemer Jesus Christ. If we fall away from the faith and die as unbelievers, we will suffer the punishment for our sins in hell for all eternity. Lenski’s explanation of σωτηρίαν in Philippians 2:12 is worth noting:

The saving effected by God at the time of our conversion does not place us into the salvation of heaven at one stroke; it makes us σεσῳσμένοι, “those who have been saved” (Eph 2:5). But until we attain the safety of heaven we must be kept safe in this dangerous world; the great salvation that is now ours must be kept ours, our heart’s hold upon it must be made ever stronger.9

We certainly cannot manage this with our own strength. So just as the Holy Spirit alone can bring us to faith through the means of grace, so also only the Holy Spirit can keep us in the faith through Word and sacrament. Hence Lenski rightly explains:

Paul refers to the constant, faithful use of Word and Sacrament (“life’s word,” v. 16). These means of grace renew and increase our hold on salvation, for the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom 1:16). This use of the means is the vital part of the working.10

Thus to “work out” or “carry out” one’s salvation means, first of all, that one makes regular use of the means of grace. Through them the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith and enables us to lead a way of life worthy of the gospel. Strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit we will then, in “fear and trembling,” do our level best not to do anything which God forbids or to omit anything which God commands, since we jeopardize our salvation through such misbehavior. By conducting ourselves in this way, we follow Paul’s exhortation and live out the salvation that God has given to us by grace alone through faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


In connection with this matter, the reader might be interested in knowing how the newer German Bible translations render this passage (Php 2:12b). Here is a brief sampling:

  • The way the Gute-Nachricht-Bibel (GNB; “Good News Bible”) renders this phrase appears to be unsuitable: “Work on yourselves with fear and trembling, so that you are saved.” It makes the requirement to work on oneself a prerequisite for salvation. Yet Holy Scripture plainly says in many passages that we do not actively cooperate in our salvation, but receive our redemption by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ.
  • The Hoffnung für alle (Hfa; “Hope for all”) seems much better here: “You are saved, and this should show itself in your life. Therefore also live now in reverence for God and in complete devotion to him.” Here it is first established as a fact that we are already saved. From this then proceeds the encouragement to live in reverence for God and in complete devotion to him.
  • On the other hand, the Neues-Leben-Bibel (NL; “New Life Bible”) shows itself even more removed from the original text: “Now, in my absence, you must see to it even more that God’s love is on display in your life. Therefore obey God with full respect and reverence.” Here it is certainly mentioned that God’s love should be on display in our lives. The reference to salvation is completely cut out though, so that it is not at all clear why we should obey God with full respect and reverence.
  • The Neue Genfer Übersetzung (NGÜ; “New Geneva Translation”) seems quite acceptable at first glance: “So, as you have always been obedient to God up till now, you should also continue to submit yourselves to him (Christ) with respect and deep reverence and to do everything in your power so that your salvation works itself out in your life fully and completely.” The note added to this translation, however, is highly problematic: “Literally: ‘So, as you have always been obedient, you should complete your salvation with fear and trembling.’ ” What is well rendered in the actual translation – that salvation should work itself out in life – is completely ruined by this note. For the note says that the Christian should “complete” his salvation. But if this is true, then salvation would be at least partially an achievement of man that he still has to produce.
  • The same goes for the new Basis-Bibel (“Basic Bible”) from Stuttgart: “Your salvation is at stake. Put all you have into it—even if you are overcome with fear and trembling in the process.” Here too the impression is given that man should work on his salvation, and that he should do so full of anxiety, with “fear and trembling.”
  • The Neue evangelistische Übersetzung (NeÜ; “New Evangelist’s Translation”) by K. Vanheiden appears to be more useful: “Now, in my absence, you must see to it even more that you work hard with all reverence and conscientiousness so that your salvation works itself out.” He makes clear that Philippians 2:12b has to do with salvation working itself out in the Christian’s life and not with prerequisites which people have to fulfill themselves in order to be redeemed.


  • Bauer, Walter. Griechisch-deutsches Wörterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der frühchristlichen Literatur, 6th ed. Ed. Kurt und Barbara Aland. Berlin und New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1988.
  • Hoffmann, Ernst G. and Heinrich von Siebenthal. Griechische Grammatik zum Neuen Testament, 2nd ed. Riehen/Basel: Immanuel-Verlag, 1990.
  • Fee, Gordon D. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians in The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Ed. Ned B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, G. Fee. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.
  • Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians. Columbus, OH: Wartburg Press, 1946.


1 Luther translated the passage under discussion: “Schafft, daß ihr selig werdet” (the German title of this article), literally, “Make [it] so that you are saved,” or more freely, “Do what needs to be done so that you are saved.” It is this meaning of schaffen, make or do, that Pastor Weiss is working with in this parenthetical comment.

2 Walter Bauer, Griechisch-deutsches Wörterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der frühchristlichen Literatur, 6th ed., ed. Kurt und Barbara Aland, (Berlin und New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1988), p. 857.

3 Ernst G. Hoffmann und Heinrich von Siebenthal, Griechische Grammatik zum Neuen Testament, 2nd ed. (Riehen/Basel: Immanuel-Verlag, 1990), §194a.

4 Pastor Weiss translated this for his German readers as durchführen. He refers back to this word a little later when talking about how to translate the passage. The German word has been included in brackets there to make this connection clear.

5 Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians in The New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Ned B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, G. Fee (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), p. 234.

6 Fee, op. cit., 234.

7 Bauer, op. cit., 1668.

8 Fee, op. cit., 235.

9 R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians (Columbus, OH: Wartburg Press, 1946), p. 798.

10 Ibid., 798f.

Not Ashamed of the Cross

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, and Seemingly Contradictory Passages Are Reconciled as Concisely as Possible) by Johann Gerhard (Jena: Steinmann, 1643), pp. 18-25, with an insertion from pp. 8,9; available from the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. A later edition (3rd ed. [Leipzig, 1712]; available from Lutheran Legacy) was also consulted.

The translation was originally presented as a supplement to an exegesis prepared for a pastoral circuit meeting. Everything is Gerhard’s except the footnotes and formatting. With regard to these, the reader may note the following:

  • Each entire verse in both Greek and Latin (Vulgate) has been placed at the head of Gerhard’s comments on that verse.
  • Gerhard’s sources have been more precisely cited when possible. Many of them are available for free download on Google Books.
  • The Greek variants – words, not punctuation – of Gerhard’s text have been retained, but noted.
  • Gerhard used italics whenever he was either quoting or paraphrasing the interpretation of another. In the case of quotations, I have used quotation marks followed by a footnoted reference. In the case of paraphrases, the commentary itself identifies the paraphrase just fine without italics; the work(s) paraphrased has been referenced in a footnote when possible.
  • The map “The Roman Empire in AD 69” below was obtained from the Ancient World Mapping Center. It is copyrighted (Ancient World Mapping Center, 2004), but “may be reproduced and redistributed freely for non-profit, personal or educational use only.”

The translator owes a debt of gratitude to a professor at Martin Luther College for help with an obscure reference, a few difficult phrases, and some final polishing touches.

He owes his deepest appreciation, however, to his God and Savior, without whose free salvation, abundant gifts, and daily blessing neither Gerhard’s work nor his would have any worth, usefulness, or existence.

His prayer is that this work, long bound up in a tongue increasingly (and sadly) foreign to many, will redound to the reader’s spiritual benefit and the glory of Christ. God grant it for the sake of his Son.

Commentary on 2 Timothy 1:11-18

11. εἰς ὃ ἐτέθην ἐγὼ κῆρυξ καὶ ἀπόστολος καὶ διδάσκαλος ἐθνῶν

in quo positus sum ego praedicator et apostolus et magister gentium

  • Εἰς ὃ ἐτέθην ἐγώ

The Vulgate reads, “in which…” But the Greek says, “into which” or “to which I was appointed,” that is, by Christ.

  • Κῆρυξ καὶ ἀπόστολος καὶ διδάσκαλος ἐθνῶν

The apostle describes his office with three names. He calls himself:

  1. κήρυκα, a public herald presenting commands in the name of the King of heaven;
  2. ἀπόστολον, an ambassador of Christ discharging the office of apostleship, an office entrusted to him by God; and
  3. τῶν ἐθνῶν διδάσκαλον, sent primarily to teach the gentiles and call them to the fellowship (consortium) of the kingdom of Christ. For he and Peter had reached an agreement, that he would preach the gospel with Barnabas among the gentiles, and Peter with James and John among the Jews. Yet this should not be taken in an exclusive way. Galatians 2:9 in particular is simply mindful of the divine call described in Acts 22:21: “Go, because I will send you to the gentiles far away.”

12. δι᾿ ἣν αἰτίαν καὶ ταῦτα πάσχω ἀλλ᾿ οὐκ ἐπαισχύνομαι οἶδα γὰρ ᾧ πεπίστευκα καὶ πέπεισμαι ὅτι δυνατός ἐστιν τὴν παρακαταθήκην1 μου φυλάξαι εἰς ἐκείνην τὴν ἡμέραν

ob quam causam etiam haec patior sed non confundor scio enim cui credidi et certus sum quia potens est depositum meum servare in illum diem

  •  Δι᾿ ἣν αἰτίαν καὶ ταῦτα πάσχω

With ταῦτα he has in mind the prison in which he was being detained and the fetters with which he was being restrained. The sense is: “Because I have been appointed by God as a herald of the gospel and an apostle and a teacher of the gentiles, therefore I have been thrown into this prison and these chains.”

  • Ἀλλ᾿ οὐκ ἐπαισχύνομαι

Paraphrase: “I do not feel ashamed of these chains, which I am enduring on account of the preaching of the gospel.” He is alluding to verse 8 in which the same verb ἐπαισχύνεσθαι is used. It’s as if he were saying, “Therefore do not be ashamed of either the gospel or my chains.”

  • Οἶδα γὰρ ᾧ πεπίστευκα

He cites the reason why he regrets neither the gospel nor his chains.

Some want πιστεύειν here to have the sense of entrusting, since mention of a deposit immediately follows. This would yield the sense: “I know how powerful, faithful, kind, and truthful the Lord is, to whom I have committed my deposit for preservation.” But it is more proper to take πιστεύειν in the customary sense of believing: “I know in whom I have had faith ever since I was converted. My faith does not rest on a sandy and slippery foundation, but on a sure and immovable one.”

  • Καὶ πέπεισμαι ὅτι δυνατός ἐστιν τὴν παρακαταθήκην μου φυλάξαι

Concerning the verb πέπεισμαι, see what was said at verse 5.

***** [The following are Gerhard’s comments on 1:5] *****

  • Πέπεισμαι δὲ ὅτι καὶ ἐν σοὶ (sc. ἐνοικῇ ἀνυπόκριτος πίστις)

The Vulgate has rendered the verb πέπεισμαι, certus sum, “I am certain.” Others have rendered it, persuasum habeo or persuasus sum, “I am convinced or persuaded.”

The papists wish to prove from this passage that the certainty of grace is unable to be proved from Romans 8:38, since it is used here only of a moral certainty and not of an immovable certainty of faith, as also in Romans 15:14.

We respond:

  1. The verb πέπεισμαι is taken in two ways. First, it is taken abstractly, in which case it often signifies any kind of likely opinion. Secondly, it is taken concretely or in a material sense. When it is taken this way, it receives various meanings in keeping with the various subject material. For words ἐκ τῶν πολλαχῶς λεγομένων (taken from expressions used in many ways) obtain various meanings in keeping with the various subjects. When the word πέπεισμαι is understood about others, it is understood not ἀποδεικτικὴν2 but τοπικήν.3 It does not signify a certainty of faith and infallible truth, but a charitable persuasion, i.e. a likely opinion, because we are not able to determine anything about our neighbor a priori,4 but only a posteriori,5 i.e. from what he has produced or done. But when it is used about us, it denotes a sure and immovable persuasion, which is the certainty of faith and of the truth, because it rests on an immovable and immutable foundation, namely the promise of God and the testimony of the Holy Spirit.
  2. The papists themselves are compelled to acknowledge that Paul uses this verb about himself in verse 12 of this very chapter: πέπεισμαι ὅτι δυνατός ἐστιν. (But then they teach that Paul was sure about the grace of God and his own salvation only through some special revelation of God [s. Pistorius, In Hedeg., p. 201; Duraeus, Contra Witaker., f. 259].) Therefore when Paul uses the verb πέπεισμαι about himself, he is using it with a different meaning than in this passage [vs. 5] about Timothy.
  3. Consequently Guilielmus Estius reflects on this passage:6

[T]he word [πέπεισμαι] is generally used to denote a persuasion by which something is regarded as certain, either with what they call a moral certainty or with a certainty produced by divine authority, that is, the certainty of faith. For by faith the apostle was certain that God was able to guard his deposit [vs. 12]. However, he did not know in the same way that an unfeigned faith was dwelling in Timothy, but he had learned it by long experience and therefore was humanly sure of it.7

***** [This ends Gerhard’s comments on 1:5] *****

Some take παρακαταθήκην to mean the deposit that God had entrusted and committed to Paul, namely the deposit of grace and preaching, and the people who were already converted and were yet to be converted by his work. (In approximately this sense the apostle John is said to have spoken about a young man whom he had entrusted to someone else.8) They cite Acts 20:32, “παρατίθεμαι you to God,” as an example of this meaning. But it is more properly understood as the deposit of eternal life and happiness which God had laid aside for Paul in heaven or, as it is called in 4:8, “the crown of righteousness,” which God promises to faithful heralds of the gospel. The following interpretations run along the same lines:

  1. Some take deposit to mean Paul’s life, health, and safety (cf. 1 Peter 4:19).
  2. Others take it to mean good works, done with the hope of eternal reward.
  3. Others understand the payment for the works itself, which is said to be laid aside with God, seeing as a person does not receive his payment immediately after his work is done, but he patiently awaits the time when he will be paid. This takes place in full on the day of judgment.
  • Φυλάξαι

Paraphrase: “Neither the devil nor the world are able to snatch away that glory promised to me.”

  • Εἰς ἐκείνην τὴν ἡμέραν

He means the last day, Judgment Day, on which God will distribute to faithful heralds of the gospel the rewards he has promised.

13. ὑποτύπωσιν ἔχε ὑγιαινόντων λόγων ὧν παρ᾿ ἐμοῦ ἤκουσας ἐν πίστει καὶ ἀγάπῃ τῇ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ

formam habe sanorum verborum quae a me audisti in fide et dilectione in Christo Iesu

  • Ὑποτύπωσιν ἔχε ὑγιαινόντων λόγων

He moves on to the second part of his exhortation about preserving the deposit of the pure doctrine.9

Some translate ὑποτύπωσιν, “distinct pattern” (expressam formam); others, “likeness or sketch” (imaginem & delineationem); still others, “representation” (informationem). The Vulgate translator used this last rendering in 1 Timothy 1:16.10

Most take this noun to mean a brief outline, description, or document that Timothy has in front of him, which is also the guideline he conforms to in his teaching. We grant that it is a metaphor, taken from artists who, when setting about to paint a picture, first make a rough sketch of it. Then, when they want to add the living colors, they follow the guidance of those lines, so that the ὑποτύπωσις is the same as the σκιαγραφία.11 But the noun ὑποτύπωσις here does not just mean the pattern and method of teaching, but also the actual foundation of the doctrine.

  • Ὑγιαινόντων λόγων

Estius remarks that the apostle has made mention of words “because the doctrine of the gospel was being handed down through words and discourses more than in writing. That is also why the apostle adds, ‘which you heard from me.’ ”12

We respond:

  1. The second letter to Timothy was written not long before Paul’s death. By that time both the four writings of the Evangelists and the apostolic letters were available to the Church. Therefore at that time the doctrine of the gospel was not only handed down through the living voice, but also in writing.
  2. What the apostles first heralded with the living voice they later handed down to us in the Scriptures by the will of God as the foundation and pillar of our faith for the future. Therefore there is no real difference whatsoever between apostolic preaching and the apostolic Scriptures.
  • Ἐν πίστει καὶ ἀγάπῃ

There are three interpretations given for this phrase:

  1. Some connect it with the words immediately preceding, “which you heard from me,” so that the sense is: “which you heard from me with faith and charity. Not only were you applying faith to my discourses, but you were also adding the affection of charity, in which you were seeking out not what belongs to you, but what belongs to Christ.”
  2. Others connect it with the words that are more removed, “Have the pattern of sounds words.” They explain it this way: “Have the pattern of sound words with faith and charity. These two things will prove that you are not departing from that pattern.”
  3. Still others also connect it with those more removed words, but they bring out a different sense, which they express this way: “Keep the pattern of sound words, that is, sound doctrine, which deals with faith and love. Keep the pattern in such a way that you preserve the integrity of faith and the sincerity of love.” For faith and love are the two chief divisions of Christian doctrine. Luther translates: “Halte an dem Vorbilde der heilsamen Worte…vom Glauben und von der Liebe [Hold to the pattern of the wholesome words…about faith and love].” This sense best fits the context.
  • Τῇ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ

The Vulgate has rendered this phrase, in Christo Iesu, “in Christ Jesus.” But the article τῇ in Greek should not have been skipped over: “which is in Christ Jesus.” The same Vulgate translator expresses this article in this way in 1 Timothy 1:14.13

14. τὴν καλὴν παρακαταθήκην14 φύλαξον διὰ πνεύματος ἁγίου τοῦ ἐνοικοῦντος ἐν ἡμῖν

bonum depositum custodi per Spiritum Sanctum qui habitat in nobis

  • Τὴν καλὴν παρακαταθήκην φύλαξον

The noun deposit in this passage is not used here in same sense it was used in what just preceded (vs. 12), but in the sense it was used in 1 Timothy 6:20: “O Timothy, guard the deposit, avoiding contemporary jargon…”15 There this noun was understood to mean the gospel’s doctrine which he had entrusted to Timothy.

Here he calls the doctrine of the gospel about Christ “the good deposit,” not just on account of its good author, good material or contents, or good purpose, but also on account of its good effect, namely that this doctrine makes humans good.

Καλὴν can also be translated, “beautiful, excellent, or splendid (deposit).” What he had a little earlier called the sound discourses which had been heard from him (vs. 13), he now calls the splendid deposit.

Estius comments on this passage:

This passage should be noted in opposition to the heretics, who cannot produce any deposit of this kind, i.e. the doctrine handed down and received from the apostles through successors in an unbroken series from that time to the present, unless perhaps they say that this deposit is Holy Scripture. But this cannot be said. For Paul had not deposited Holy Scripture with Timothy, but the doctrine handed down by himself through word of mouth. Besides, what sort of deposit is it, if it is shared by nearly every heretical sect? So then Scripture, which itself we also have handed down from the apostles, is one part of the deposit, but not the whole and complete deposit, which the Catholic Church alone preserves.16

The necessary response to this argument we have set forth in On the Nature of Theology and Scripture, § 406,17 and in The Catholic Confession, Book I, Part 2, Chapter 5, Arguments of the Adversaries, no. 6.18

  • Διὰ πνεύματος ἁγίου τοῦ ἐνοικοῦντος ἐν ἡμῖν

He shows the way to guard the deposit he just mentioned, namely through the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Estius thinks that ἐν ἡμῖν refers to “the overseers of the Church, by whose ministry that deposit is preserved in the Church through the Holy Spirit promised to them.”19

But it is more proper to take it as referring to the whole Church and all her true and living members. The preservation of this deposit is entrusted also to them, and the Holy Spirit’s grace is promised also to them.

15. οἶδας τοῦτο ὅτι ἀπεστράφησάν με πάντες οἱ ἐν τῇ Ἀσίᾳ ὧν ἐστιν Φύγελος καὶ Ἑρμογένης

scis hoc quod aversi sunt a me omnes qui in Asia sunt ex quibus est Phygelus et Hermogenes

  • Οἶδας τοῦτο ὅτι ἀπεστράφησάν με πάντες οἱ ἐν τῇ Ἀσίᾳ

He recalls this occasion of many people deserting him in order that he might cheer Timothy up and encourage him, for Timothy might have been disturbed by that occurrence when he heard about it.

  • Ἀπεστράφησάν με

The Vulgate has rendered this phrase, aversi sunt a me, “they have turned away from me.” Properly speaking, the Greek phrase means, aversati sunt me, “they have turned me away or rejected me.”

  • Οἱ ἐν τῇ Ἀσίᾳ

Some, especially the Greek commentators,20 take τοὺς ἐν τῇ Ἀσίᾳ to mean those originally from Asia who were at Rome when the apostle was being held prisoner there, so that the preposition in stands for from.21

But others retain the natural meaning of the particle ἐν and still understand those who were from Asia, since the apostle says οἱ ἐν τῇ Ἀσίᾳ in an indefinite way. Therefore they judge that the apostle is speaking about those who seemed to put their confidence in the apostle and to adhere to him when he was preaching in Asia, but abandoned him when he came to Rome and they saw him thrown into prison.

Others want the apostle to be talking about those who were in Asia when the apostle was writing this letter. The fact that οἱ ἐν τῇ Ἀσίᾳ is preceded by οἶδας τοῦτο favors this interpretation. For Timothy was occupying himself in Asia and could have known what was happening there, but not what was happening at Rome.

The Roman Empire in AD 69

By τοῖς ἐν τῇ Ἀσίᾳ he understands Asia Minor and converts from the Jews, but not from the gentiles. Whether they rejected the faith or person of Paul is not expressed, but the latter seems more likely, for they seem to have been somewhat fearful that they would get involved in danger together with him.22 Of course, this aversion to his person could easily lead to abandoning the faith.

  • Ὧν ἐστιν Φύγελος καὶ Ἑρμογένης

These two men were doubtlessly more harsh and deceitful toward Paul than the rest.

Tertullian in The Prescription Against Heretics, Chapter 3, counts Phygelus and Hermogenes among the deserters of the Church.23

Concerning Phygelus, Symeon Metaphrastes relates in his sermon about the apostles Peter and Paul that he was appointed by Peter as bishop for the Ephesians, but later turned believing Jews away from the faith. But the faith of the renowned Metaphrastes himself is exceedingly slippery.

Tertullian wrote Against Hermogenes. But it is clear from those very words of Tertullian that he was a different Hermogenes. He says, “[N]or has he, an apostolic Hermogenes, continued steadfastly in the rule [of faith].”24 He calls him “an apostolic Hermogenes,” namely the one whom the apostle has mentioned in this letter.

16. δῴη ἔλεος ὁ κύριος τῷ Ὀνησιφόρου οἴκῳ ὅτι πολλάκις με ἀνέψυξεν καὶ τὴν ἅλυσίν μου οὐκ ἐπαισχύνθη

det misericordiam Dominus Onesifori domui quia saepe me refrigeravit et catenam meam non erubuit

  • Δῴη ἔλεος ὁ κύριος τῷ Ὀνησιφόρου οἴκῳ

Paraphrase: “May God be kind and well-disposed toward him. God grant that he find mercy.”

This is an exception to the general clause, “all who are in Asia have rejected me.” For Onesiphorus was a native of Asia, as can be gathered from the end of this letter where he says, “Greet the household of Onesiphorus” (4:19). Indeed, it is thought that he was an Ephesian on account of that which immediately follows: “And you know well to what great extent he ministered in Ephesus” (1:18).

  • Diagram of the etesian winds in southeastern Europe

    Ὅτι πολλάκις με ἀνέψυξεν

Paraphrase: “He refreshed me with his beneficence.” The kind acts and encouragements shown to the pious are like the etesian winds during the dog days of summer.

  • Καὶ τὴν ἅλυσίν μου οὐκ ἐπαισχύνθη

Paraphrase: “He did not feel ashamed of my chains like the rest of the Asians.”

17. ἀλλὰ γενόμενος ἐν Ῥώμῃ σπουδαιότερον25 ἐζήτησέν με καὶ εὗρεν

sed cum Romam venisset sollicite me quaesivit et invenit

Paraphrase: “It is so far from the truth that he was ashamed of my chains that, when he was here in Rome, he became aware that I was being held a prisoner in chains on account of the preaching of the gospel, searched for me very eagerly, and did not rest until he found me.”

Question: Why did he need to do all that searching?

Answer: First, there was not just one, but several prisons in which those waiting to appear before Caesar’s tribunal were being detained. Secondly, “Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with a soldier guarding him” (Acts 28:16).26

18. δῴη αὐτῷ ὁ κύριος εὑρεῖν ἔλεος παρὰ κυρίου ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ καὶ ὅσα ἐν Ἐφέσῳ διηκόνησεν βέλτιον σὺ γινώσκεις

det illi Dominus invenire misericordiam a Domino in illa die et quanta Ephesi ministravit melius tu nosti

  • Δῴη αὐτῷ ὁ κύριος εὑρεῖν ἔλεος παρὰ κυρίου ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ

The apostle looks back at what he just wrote. “Just as Onesiphorus sought and found me in Rome, so may the Lord grant that he also find mercy.”

Estius thinks that there is a Hebraism in the words, “The Lord grant that he find mercy from the Lord,” such as is also supposedly found in the words of Genesis 19:24: “The Lord rained down from the Lord,” so that the sense is: “The Lord grant that he [Onesiphorus] find mercy from himself [the Lord].” “For Hebrews are accustomed to repeat the antecedent where one would expect a reflexive pronoun.”27

We respond:

  1. We are neither ignorant of nor deny that Hebraism, but we deny that it fits this passage.
  2. For we are not compelled by any necessity to depart from the customary and natural meaning, as though we did not consider it to be in utmost conformity with the analogy of faith.
  3. For, since Christ has been appointed by God the Father to be the judge of the living and the dead (Jn 5:22; Ac 10:42), the apostle is praying for Onesiphorus that God the Father would allow him to find mercy with Christ the Lord on the day of judgment.
  4. In contrast to the Calvinist and Photinian28 perversion of the Mosaic text in Genesis 19:24, we promote the clear distinction of the Lord the Son from the Lord the Father, the emphatic addition of the preposition, a comparison with other passages of Scripture, the Aramaic version, and the consensus of Christian interpreters. In Canon 16 of the Council of Sirmium, referred to by Socrates Scholasticus in Ecclesiastical History, Book 2, Chapter 30, an anathema is pronounced on Estius and everyone else who advocates this distortion of the text.29 Cf. On the Nature of God and on the Trinity, Commonplace III, § 155.30

Chrysostom and Theophylact note that the apostle prays for mercy for Onesiphorus on that day of judgment because many mercies will be needed even for all the saints, and no one will be saved except through mercy.31 Augustine writes in On Rebuke and Grace, Chapter 13, that mercy will be necessary on that day for the saints about to be crowned by God.32

Tertullian, in On the Resurrection of the Flesh, Chapter 23, explains that mercy in this way, that on the day of judgment all the elect will be freed from the misery of mortality and corruption through the blessed resurrection.33

The noun mercy is most simply taken as gracious beneficence, just as it is taken in many passages of Scripture. For eternal life is a χάρισμα τοῦ θεοῦ in Christ (Ro 6:23).

Estius suspects that, at the time when Paul wrote this, Onesiphorus “was already deceased by then,” for the following reasons:

  1. The apostle does not say, “The Lord grant mercy to Onesiphorus,” but, “to the household of Onesiphorus.”
  2. Paul says about Onesiphorus, “The Lord grant that he find mercy from the Lord on that day,” “namely desiring for him what Christians usually desire for the faithful departed – rest and mercy.” Estius later adds, “If the apostle prays this for Onesiphorus, that he would find mercy from the Lord, when his life is already completed, then prayer for the departed faithful is powerfully established from this passage.”
  3. “[A]t the end of the letter, he tells Timothy to greet the household of Onesiphorus, not Onesiphorus himself, as if he were now no longer alive.”34

We respond:

  1. Estius does not dare to affirm for certain that Onesiphorus was already deceased. “[I]t can probably be said…,” he says.35
  2. Earlier he writes, “As for Onesiphorus, it should be known that this good prayer of the apostle for him was not without effect. For, according to both Greek and Latin martyrologies, Onesiphorus was at last crowned with martyrdom in the Dardanelles for the sake of Christ’s name – assuming that he is the same man they are commemorating.”36
  3. We also pray the blessed requiem for the piously departed in our churches, but we do not ask for them to be liberated from purgatory. The Apology of the Augsburg Confession explains how such petitions are to be understood.37
  • Καὶ ὅσα ἐν Ἐφέσῳ διηκόνησεν βέλτιον σὺ γινώσκεις

Some explain ὅσα thus: quanta, i.e. quam multa, “how many things.” But this phrase is more properly explained this way: in quam multis rebus Ephesi ministraverit, “in how many affairs he ministered in Ephesus,” i.e. quam fuerit in ministerio officiosus, “how dutiful he was in the ministry.” This is also how the censor understands it in the addition to Estius.38

In some codices mihi, “to me,” is added, but that lacks the credibility of the most reliable Greek and Latin texts. This addition also fights against the context. For if Paul had added, “to me,” he would not tell Timothy, “as you well know.” For it is only reasonable that Paul himself would know the most about services rendered to himself. ✠


1 Most manuscripts read παραθήκην.

2 I.e., in a way that is clearly established or beyond dispute; cf. English apodictic.

3 I.e., in a way that is not demonstrative, but probable.

4 I.e., in a way based on theoretical deduction rather than empirical observation; could be rendered here, “before the fact.”

5 I.e., in a way based on reasoning from known facts or past events rather than by making assumptions or predictions; could be rendered here, “after the fact.”

6 Gerhard cites this eminent Roman Catholic theologian (1542-1613) throughout the commentary, usually to refute him. Here, however, he displays the charitable tact for which he was known by citing an interpretation with which he agrees.

7 Guilielmus Estius, In Omnes Pauli Epistolas, Item in Catholicas Commentarii, vol. 5 (Mainz: Kirchheim, Schott, & Theilmann, 1843), p. 279. Gerhard himself would have referred to the original Douai edition (1614-16).

8 The reference is to a story Clement of Alexandria told which Eusebius included in his Ecclesiastical History, Book III, Chapter 23. The apostle John allegedly entrusted a promising young boy to a bishop and left. The bishop looked after the boy, brought him up, educated him, and baptized him. After that the bishop lost track of him, and the boy fell in with some bad characters and became a violent, bloody, and cruel leader of a band of robbers. Eventually John returned and said, “Come, O bishop, restore to us the deposit which both I and Christ committed to you.” The bishop was initially confused, and wondered when John had deposited money with him, but it quickly became evident that “the deposit” John was seeking was the young man. Upon learning that the bishop had not kept the young man’s soul safe, John boldly sought him out and brought him to repentance.

9 In his Prolegomena, Gerhard divided 2 Timothy into three parts – preface, treatise proper, and conclusion. He wrote: “The actual treatise contains 1) an exhortation a) to patience and endurance under the cross (1:6-18), and b) to steadfastness in doctrine and faith (2:1-14)…” (pp. 1,2). He seems to be modifying that outline somewhat in his comments here.

10 A number of Vulgate manuscripts read informationem in 1 Timothy 1:16 instead of deformationem, the reading preferred by the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft edition. Both essentially have the same meaning.

11a sketch or rough painting, such as to produce an effect at a distance, scene-painting, Plat.” (An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon [Oxford University Press, 1889], p. 733.2)

12 Estius, op. cit., p. 286.

13 Vulgate: superabundavit autem gratia Domini nostri cum fide et dilectione quae est in Christo Iesu.

14 See footnote 1.

15 Vulgate: O Timothee, depositum custodi vitans prophanas vocum novitates. This reading is based on the Greek variant καινοφωνίας, new talk, for κενοφωνίας, empty talk; cf. BDAG sub κενοφωνία.

16 Estius, op. cit., p. 287.

17 Johann Gerhard, On the Nature of Theology and Scripture, vol. 1 of Theological Commonplaces, 1st ed., trans. Richard J. Dinda (St. Louis: CPH, 2006), pp. 379,380.

18 Johann Gerhard, Confessionis Catholicae, in Qua Doctrina Catholica et Evangelica, quam Ecclesiae Augustanae Confessioni Addictae Profitentur, ex Romano-Catholicorum Scriptorum Suffragiis Confirmatur, book 1, Generalis (Jena: Ernest Steinmann, 1634), pp. 384,385.

19 Estius, op. cit., p. 287.

20 This label usually refers to John Chrysostom (347-407), Theodoret of Cyrrhus (c.393-c.458), and Theophylact of Ochrida (c.1050-c.1109); see footnote 21.

21 Homily 3 on 2 Timothy: “It is likely that there were many people in Rome at that time from the regions of Asia. ‘But no one came to help me,’ he says, ‘no one knew me; everyone alienated me’ ” (John Chrysostom, Patrologiae Graecae, vol. 62, S. P. N. Joannis Chrysostomi, Archiepiscopi Constantinopolitani, Opera Omnia Quae Exstant [Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1862], pp. 613,614).

Interpretation of 2 Timothy: “Rome was once the center of royal affairs. For that reason many people were traveling there, some for the sake of trade and others because of other needs. Therefore we may reasonably suppose that some of those who had come to faith in Asia went abroad [to Rome] during that time, but avoided the company of the apostle because they were afraid of Nero” (Theodoret, Patrologiae Graecae, vol. 82, Theodoreti Cyrensis Episcopi Opera Omnia [Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1864], pp. 837,838).

Commentary on 2 Timothy: “For, after he was arrested by Nero, all those in Asia abandoned him, that is, those from Asia who were present in Rome” (Theophylact, Patrologiae Graecae, vol. 125, Theophylacti, Bulgariae Archiepiscopi Constantinopolitani, Opera Quae Reperiri Potuerunt Omnia [Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1864], pp. 97,98).

22 Jena edition: “videntur enim subveriti, ne uni cum ipso periculo involverentur…” Leipzig edition: “videntur enim subveriti, ne una cum ipso periculo involverentur…” The translation follows the latter.

23 Tertullian, Patrologia Latina, vol. 2, Tertulliani Presbyteri Carthaginiensis Opera Omnia cum Selectis Praecedentium Editionum Lectionibus Variorumque Commentariis (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1844), p. 15.

24 Tertullian, op. cit., p. 198.

25 Most manuscripts read σπουδαίως; cf. BDAG sub σπουδαίως 2.

26 Either Gerhard is erroneously identifying Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, mentioned in Acts 28, with the writing of this letter, or he is assuming that, if Paul was allowed to live by himself the first time, he likely was allowed to do so the second time also.

27 Estius, op. cit., p. 289.

28 The Photinians were “the early modern Unitarians who are sometimes called ‘Socinians.’ Lutherans and others called these Unitarians ‘Photinians’ because they held beliefs similar to the ancient heresy of Photinus, who viewed Christ basically as a mere man and denied the personality of the Holy Spirit” (Johann Gerhard, On the Nature of God and on the Trinity, vol. 2 of Theological Commonplaces, trans. Richard J. Dinda [St. Louis: CPH, 2007], p. ix).

29 “If anyone does not understand, ‘The Lord rained from the Lord’ (Gen 19:24), as referring to the Father and the Son, but says that he has rained down from himself, let him be anathema. For the Lord the Son rained down from the Lord the Father” (Socrates, Patrologiae Graecae, vol. 67, Socratis Scholastici, Hermiae Sozomeni Historia Ecclesiastica [Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1864], pp. 283,284).

30 Gerhard, op. cit., pp. 404,405.

31 Homily 3 on 2 Timothy: “If Onesiphorus, who exposed himself to danger, is saved through mercy, how much more so we!” (John Chrysostom, op. cit., p. 615).

Commentary on 2 Timothy: “‘He had mercy on me,’ he says. ‘May he therefore receive his reward on that terrible day when there will be need of much mercy for all, even for the saints.’ If Onesiphorus, who exposes himself to danger for the sake of Christ, is saved through mercy, how much more so we!” (Theophylact, op. cit., pp. 99,100).

32 Patrologia Latina, vol. 44, Sancti Aurelii Augustini, Hipponensis Episcopi, Opera Omnia (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1865), p. 941.

33 Tertullian, op. cit., pp. 825-27.

34 Estius, op. cit., p. 291.

35 Estius, op. cit., p. 291.

36 Ibid., p. 291.

37 Article XXIV, § 89-99.

38 Estius, op. cit., pp. 291,292. At the conclusion of Estius’ commentary on 1:18, a section is appended, titled Additiuncula Censoris (“Little Additions by the Censor”).

Not Against Flesh and Blood

By Doctor Martin Luther

Translator’s Preface

The following was translated from Das Sechste Capitel der Epistel S. Pauli an die Epheser, Von der Christen harnisch und woffen, gepredigt durch D. Mart. Luther (The Sixth Chapter of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians, Concerning the Armor and Weapons of Christians, Preached by D. Martin Luther) on October 29, 1531, taken from D. Martin Luthers Werke, vol. 34, part 2 (Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1908), pp. 385-388.

The translation was inspired by, but not copied from, the devotion titled “The Importance of Truth and Unity” found in the Luther devotional Day by Day We Magnify You (Marshall D. Johnson, ed. [Minneapolis: Augsburg Books, 2008], p. 379). The reader will find it to be, among other things, an excellent treatise on the biblical article of church fellowship. It was originally prepared as the opening devotion for a pastoral circuit meeting.

God graciously preserve the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod’s unity in the truth that we may afford an unrelenting assault on the devil and all his works and ways.

Ephesians 6:12a.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood…

Now he goes on to paint our enemy, to whom we are subject here on earth. He makes the painting truly terrifying enough, so that we don’t disregard it so casually and blithely, but rather know what kind of a struggle we’re engaged in and what sort of danger we should expect. For whoever is going to struggle and fight and plans on emerging victorious must first know what kind of enemy he is up against – what he is plotting and how strong and mighty he is – and what kind of trouble and danger the struggle holds for him.

When he says, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood,” we must not understand the words “flesh and blood” to mean the evil lusts or enticing of the flesh, such as enticing to sexual immorality, anger, hatred, pride, greed, etc. – as though one need not struggle against those. No, St. Paul uses “flesh and blood,” as he customarily does, to refer to the state and condition of the world or of the people on earth who live in flesh and blood (although it is finely and commendably arranged and God wants it to be preserved). He calls it “flesh and blood” because it is not spirit or the Holy Spirit’s business and work. He speaks the same way in Galatians 1, where he says about the apostles, “When I went up to Jerusalem, I did not deliberate over it with flesh and blood…,” which is to say, “I didn’t care what kind of people they were, what great apostles they were, or what great disciples of the apostles they were.” So in this passage it does not mean anything bad in man, but something that separates and distinguishes between our army and warfare and the world’s.

In the world there is no struggle except that of flesh and blood against each other – one prince, city, or people against another. But none of that has anything to do with us, for it is not the Holy Spirit’s cause preached or revealed and given from heaven. No, the struggle of flesh and blood has its origins with the creation in Genesis 1, when we became flesh and blood and God gave man authority over every creature and confirmed it as an essential part of his existence. Man needed no Holy Spirit for that purpose. Instead, whatever is ordered according to reason and human ordaining is in place in order that everyone may have and protect his house, home, wife, child, and servants, which the heathen also have, and they know of no Spirit.

Thus he teaches us Christians not to take up at any time such a war as the world wages and engages in. Nor should we do as Muentzer, our prophet of the devil, would do together with his rabble-rousers. They take the government into their own hands and fight with the sword and root out the godless. But this type of warfare belongs to flesh and blood between the two, that is, to human authority, powers, and wisdom, to rule and government on earth. We should rather be armed against enemies different from earthly ones, enemies who battle with us for a different life, kingdom, country, and rule, where it means eternal life or death, the kingdom of heaven or the fires of hell. Something more than what flesh and blood is and is capable of is involved here. For flesh and blood only has to do with mere temporal and transitory goods and affairs. For us, however, eternal blessing or harm is at stake. Therefore we also do not have such an enemy whom we could slaughter and strangle, as is done in the world. For he is a spirit who does not have flesh and blood. So too we are not flesh and blood insofar as we are Christians, although we are flesh and blood on account of the body and this life.

Now you might ask, “But aren’t we supposed to fight against our factions, fanatics [Schwärmer], and heretics, and aren’t they flesh and blood?” Certainly, but we do not fight against them as against flesh and blood, but as against the abominable devil, who through them does not struggle against us and attack us in a fleshly or bodily way. No, he attacks our faith, the dear Word, baptism, the Sacrament, and all articles of faith, none of which are given or instituted by flesh and blood or belong to the government of this earth. These are shown from heaven and belong to eternal life. Therefore we do not fight against them that we may take body, possession, or anything else from them, or that we may keep what is ours safe from them. Rather, we fight to preserve our doctrine and faith, Christ and God, to repel them to the devil and prevail over them to that end, and to gain eternal life, of which the world knows nothing.

So he shows us here with these words what our situation is and what we’re facing, namely that we must stand in battle here and that a Christian who wants to believe should arm himself. A Christian must fight and contend, if not outwardly with factions and deceiving tongues, then inwardly in his heart against unbelief and deceiving thoughts and influences. He must expect the attacks at every hour, both from others and within himself, when the devil strikes his heart with terror, sorrow, and despair. It cannot be otherwise, for this spirit cannot rest. He is enemy to God and to eternal life. Therefore he also plans how to rout you from it and wants to have everyone dead who seeks after it. He does not seek our money or other transitory goods, but how he can get us to lose eternal life. When he has taken that, he has taken everything and it is all his very own. And he has taken away eternal life when he takes away the Word, which brings it.

Now this is certainly a dangerous affair, and it sounds so dreadful that a person might very well become anxious and fearful. After all, he has to expect this spiritual struggle continually, and his mangy little neck is not at stake, but the one treasure that is impossible to retrieve once it is lost. This struggle means eternal life or death.

The reward is so great that no human heart can comprehend it, and for this reason it calls for an even greater, harder struggle. Yet it has been contested so lightly wherever people do not cling to the dear Word with all their powers, so that they lose it eternally. Indeed this struggle must not be regarded so trivially, as the world does. With regard to the Sacrament or some other error, some imprudent spirits who are deceived by the devil assert, “People should not contest so fiercely and get bent out of shape over one article of faith and tear apart Christian love over it. Nor should they hand each other over to the devil over it. Instead, even if someone errs in a minor point, if he otherwise agrees in the others, it should not be a big deal to yield somewhat and let the matter go and still maintain brotherly and Christian unity or fellowship just as well.”

No, my dear man, I want no part in a peace and unity that people get by losing God’s word, for in so doing eternal life and everything else would already be lost. Here yielding or conceding anything to oblige yourself or any person is not permitted. Instead, everything must yield to the Word, be it friend or foe. For God has given his word not for the sake of an external or earthly unity and peace, but for the sake of eternal life. The Word and its doctrine must establish Christian unity or fellowship. Where doctrine is one and the same, there Christian unity will follow as a matter of course. If it is not the same, then no unity will ever remain. Therefore don’t even speak to me of any love or friendship where people want to break up the Word or the faith. For it says that the Word, not love, brings eternal life, God’s grace, and all heavenly treasures.

We will gladly maintain outward peace with them, as we must do with everyone while we are in the world, even with our worst enemies. Let that go its own way in this life and in worldly affairs. We have nothing to contend for there. But when it comes to doctrine and Christian fellowship, we want nothing to do with them nor want to regard them as brothers, but as enemies, because they deliberately persist in their error. We want to fight against them through our spiritual struggle. Therefore it is only a devilish and deceptive, cunning attack which asserts such a thing and demands that we should yield something and make allowance for an error for the sake of unity. With this attack the devil seeks to lead us away from the Word so cunningly. For when we accept this and agree on this point, then he has already won a place. And soon he will have taken an entire yard if you give him just an inch, and – just like that – he’s torn up everything.

It certainly does not seem that this struggle contains such great danger and power, but St. Paul makes it truly great because it is not a matter of money or possessions, human love or affection, worldly peace or ease, or what flesh and blood is and is capable of or what the world can give and take. In this struggle we stand to lose God and eternal life. Therefore let all that stay or go where it stays or goes, for the devil still hasn’t won anything thereby. But if you make the mistake of letting him take from you this article, namely the Word, then you have lost everything and there is no more help or counsel for you. For the Word is paramount, and without it no possession, life, or anything you are capable of avails or endures before God. And does the devil ever wish and seek to deprive you of it with such fine pretense and appearance! For he has in mind to take everything from you. Therefore it does no good to joke or be carefree about it.

If you had to fight for your house and home, wife and child, and finally for your own body and life, you would certainly not be lazy, but would seek out your enemy and let him have no peace. You would not accept anything from him or yield anything to him, but would take care to anticipate him and have the mastery over him. But now you have other enemies, who have quite different plans for you and have sworn your eternal death, enemies who will not cease until they have overpowered you, and yet who attack you with such cunning (as already mentioned), as if they were pursuing love and friendship for you. See, that is why St. Paul earlier so earnestly exhorts us to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty strength, that is, not to let ourselves be moved to retreat a hair’s breadth from the Word, but to be confident against such cunning attacks of the devil.  ✠