Facts and summary
1 Timothy is the fifteenth book of the Christian New Testament. The author of the book is traditionally understood to be the Apostle Paul and is dated to the mid 60's A.D. The book is named after the recipient, Timothy, the close friend and co-worker of Paul and is often associated with 2 Timothy in the New Testament. The book is six chapters in length and was written from Philippi. The purpose of the book is to instruct Timothy on the pastoral care of the church at Ephesus and to refute false teachings. The emphasis of the letter is refuting Gnostic, antinomian and ascetic heresies, and promoting church organization and worship.
The authenticity of 1 Timothy as Paul's writing, and its canonical authority as inspired, were universally recognized by the early church with the solitary exception of the Gnostic Marcion. 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy are in the Peshito Syriac of the second century. The Muratorian Fragment on the canon in the same century acknowledges them. The Pastoral Epistles, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus, have a mutual resemblance. Irenaeus (adv. Haeres. i. and iii. 3,. section 3,4; 4:16, section 3; 2:14, section 8; 3:11, section 1; 1:16, section 3) quotes 1 Tim. 1:4,9; 6:20; 2 Tim. 4:9-11,21; Titus 3:10. Clement of Alex. (Strom. 2:383, 457; 3:534, 536; 1:350) quotes 1 Tim. 4:1,20; 6:20,21; 2 Tim. as to deaconesses; Titus 1:12. Tertullian (de praescriptione Haereticorum, 25 and 6) quotes 1 Tim. 1:18; 6:13,20; 2 Tim. 1:14; 2:2; Titus 3:10,11; and adv. Marcion, Scorp. 13, compare 2 Tim. 4:6.
Heresies opposed in the Pastoral Epistles. Ascetic Judaism and legalism (1 Tim. 1:7; Titus 1:10,14; 3:9) on the one hand, and incipient gnosticism on the other (1 Tim. 1:4), of which the theory that a twofold principle existed from the beginning, evil as well as good, appears in germ, chap. 4:3, etc. In 1 Tim. 6:20 the term gnoosis, "science," itself occurs. Another Gnostic error, "that the resurrection is past," is noticed (2 Tim. 2:17,18; compare 1 Cor. 15:12,32,33). The Judaism herein refuted is not that controverted in the earlier epistles, namely, that which joined the law with faith in Christ, for justification.
The intermediate phase appears in epistle to Colossians (Col. 2), namely, that which superadded ascetical will worship and angel worship to Judaism. In the epistle to Philippians (Phil. 3:2,18,19) the further stage appears, immoral practice accompanying false doctrine as to the resurrection.
The pastoral epistles -- 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus -- exhibit the mattered godlessness which followed superstition as superstition had followed legalism. Not knowing the true use of "the law" (1 Tim. 1:7,8) the false teachers "put away good conscience," as well as "the faith" (1 Tim. 1:19; 4:2), "spoke lies in hypocrisy, corrupt in mind," regarded "piety as a means of gain" (1 Tim. 6:5; Titus 1:11); "overthrew the faith" by heresies "eating as a canker, saying the resurrection is past, leading captive silly women, ever learning yet never knowing the truth, reprobate as Jannes and Jambres (2 Tim. 3:6-8), defiled, unbelieving, professing to know God but in works denying Him, abominable, disobedient, reprobate" (Titus 1:15,16).
The universal epistles of John (1 John 2:18-23; 4:1,3; 2 Jn. 1:7,11; 3 Jn. 1:9,10), Jude, and Peter (2 Pet. 2:1-22), and to the Hebrews (Heb. 6:4-8) present the same features. This proves the later date of Paul's pastoral epistles. The Gnosticism opposed is not the anti-Judaic later Gnosticism which followed the overthrow of the Jerusalem temple worship, but the earlier phase which amalgamated with Judaism oriental and Greek elements.
Directions in the Pastoral Epistles as to church ministers and officers. The apostle naturally directs Timothy, the church president for the time being at Ephesus, and Titus at Crete, concerning "bishop-elders and deacons," in order to secure due administration of the church at a time when heresies were springing up and when he must soon depart this life. He shows the same anxiety in his address to the elders of the same city Ephesus earlier (Acts 20:21-30). The presbyterate and diaconate existed long before (6:8; 11:30; 14:23). Paul's directions are not as to their appointment then first, but as to the due ordination and moral qualifications of elders and deacons thenceforth, according as vacancies might occur. Timothy and Titus exercised the same power in ordaining elders in Ephesus and Crete as Paul had in the Gentile churches in general (2 Cor. 11:28).
Unique phrases and modes of thought in the Pastoral Epistles. The difference of subject and of circumstances of those addressed, and those spoken of, as compared with Paul's other epistles, accounts for these. They partly occur in Galatians also, where as here he with characteristic warmth controverts the perverters of the truth: 1 Tim. 2:6; Titus 2:4, "gave Himself for us," with Gal. 1:4; 1 Tim. 1:17; 2 Tim. 4:18, "forever and ever," with Gal. 1:5; 1 Tim. 5:21; 6:13; 2 Tim. 2:14; 6:1 with Gal. 1:20; "a pillar," 1 Tim. 3:15, with Gal. 2:9; "mediator," 1 Tim. 2:5, with Gal. 3:20; 1 Tim. 2:6; 6:15; Titus 1:3, with Gal. 6:9, "in due season." Fifty special phrases occur, e.g. "the faithful saying" (1 Tim. 1:15), "sound," "seared" (1 Tim. 4:2,7), "old wives' fables," "slow bellies" (Titus 1:12). Paul's writing with his own hand, instead of by an amanuensis, as he did to Galatians and Philemon, accounts for the more concise, abrupt, and forcible style and phraseology.
The Time of Writing
Soon after Paul's leaving Ephesus for Macedon (1 Tim. 1:3). The object of leaving Timothy at Ephesus was primarily to restrain the false teachers (1 Tim. 1:3), not to organize the church for the first time. The institution for church widows implies a settled organization. Scandals occurring after the original institution rendered directions as to the existing ministry needful. The similarity in style, subject, and state of the church, of the second epistle to Timothy (written certainly just before Paul's death) with the first epistle, implies that the date of the latter is not much prior to that of the second.
The mention of Timothy's "youth" (1 Tim. 4:12) is not inconsistent with a late date; he was "young" not absolutely but as compared with "Paul the aged" (Philem. 1:9), and with some of the elders whom he had to superintend; probably 34 or 35, compare 1 Tim. 5:1. As to Acts 20:25, "all" the Ephesian elders called to Miletus "never saw Paul's face" afterward; Paul "knew" this by inspiration; but this assertion of his is compatible with his visiting Ephesus again (1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Tim. 1:18; 4:20). Being at Miletum, so near Ephesus, after his first Roman imprisonment, he would be sure to visit Ephesus. In 1 Tim. 3:14 Paul says "I write, hoping to come unto thee shortly"; but on the earlier occasion of his passing from Ephesus to Macedon he had planned to spend the summer in Macedon and the winter in Corinth (1 Cor. 16:6).
Nor did Paul leave Timothy then as now (1 Tim. 1:3) at Ephesus, but sent him to Macedon (Acts 19:22). Paul in his address to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:29,30) prophesies the rise of false teachers; in his epistle to the Ephesians from Rome at his first imprisonment he does not notice the Judaeo-Gnostic errors as yet; but in 1 Tim. he notices them as then actually prevailing.
The Place of Writing
Place of writing First Epistle to Timothy. Paul's using "went" not "came," "when I went (poreuomenos) into Macedonia" (1 Tim. 1:3), implies he was not there when he wrote the First Epistle to Timothy. Wherever he was he was uncertain how long he might be detained from coming to Ephesus to Timothy (1 Tim. 3:14,15). Corinth may have been the place. Between it and Ephesus communication was easy; his course on former occasions was from Macedon to Corinth (Acts 17--18). Coincidences occur between 1 Tim. 2:11-14 and 1 Cor. 14:84 as to women being silent in church; 1 Tim. 5:17,18 and 1 Cor. 9:8-10 as to ministers' maintenance, on the law's maxim not to muzzle the ox treading the grain; and 1 Tim. 5:19,20 and 2 Cor. 13:1-4 as to charges against elders before witnesses. In the very place where these directions had been already enforced Paul naturally reproduces them in his First Epistle to Timothy.