Facts and summary
2 Timothy is the sixteenth book of the Christian New Testament. The author of the book is traditionally understood to be the Apostle Paul. The letter is dated to the late 60's A.D. The letter was written from Rome, perhaps while Paul was imprisoned there, and the original recipient was Timothy, a close friend and coworker with Paul. 2 Timothy is four chapters in length and is often associated with 1 Timothy in the New Testament. Paul's purpose in writing the book was to ask Timothy to visit him in prison, to encourage Timothy to guard the gospel during persecution, and to write to the Ephesian church through Timothy. Its teaching emphasis is on endurance in persecution and personal greetings.
In Paul's prison at Rome, just before his martyrdom. Timothy was possibly still at Ephesus, for Priscilla and Aquila whom Paul salutes generally resided there (2 Timothy 4:19); also Onesiphorus, who ministered to Paul at Ephesus and therefore it is presumable resided there (2 Tim. 1:16-18). The Hymenaeus of 2 Tim. 2:17 is probably the Hymenaeus at Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:20); also "Alexander the coppersmith" (2 Tim. 4:14) seems to be the Alexander put forward by the Jews to clear themselves, not to befriend Paul, in the riot at Ephesus (Acts 19:33,34).
Still, if Timothy was at Ephesus, why did he need to be told that Paul had sent Tychicus to Ephesus, or that Paul had left Trophimus, himself an Ephesian (Acts 21:29), sick at Miletus which was only 30 miles from Ephesus? Probably Timothy's overseership extended beyond Ephesus to all the Pauline churches in Asia Minor; he combined with it the office of "evangelist," or itinerant missionary Ephesus was only his head quarters; and 2 Tim. 4:13 will accord with the theory of Ephesus or any other place in the N.W. of Asia Minor being Timothy's place of sojourn at the time.
Paul at his first imprisonment lodged in his own hired house, guarded by a single soldier, and having liberty to receive all comers; but now he was so closely confined that Onesiphorus with difficulty found him; he was chained, forsaken by friends, and had narrowly escaped execution by the Roman emperor. The access however of Onesiphorus, Linus, Pudens, and Claudia to him proves he was not in the Mamertine or Tullianum prison, with Peter, as tradition represents; but under military custody, of a severer kind than at his first imprisonment (2 Tim. 1:16-18; 2:9; 4:6-8,16,17).
He was probably arraigned before the "rulers" (Clemens Rom., 1 Ep. Corinth. 5, epi ton(GSN-3588) heegoumenon), i.e. Helius the city prefect (see PAUL), on a double charge: (1) of having conspired with the Christians, as Nero's partisans alleged, to set fire to Rome, A.D. 64; that event took place the year after his liberation from the first imprisonment, A.D. 63; some Christians were crucified, some arrayed in wild beasts' skins, and hunted to death by dogs, wrapped in pitch robes some were set on fire by night to illuminate the Vatican circus and Nero's gardens while that monster played the charioteer.
But now three years had elapsed; and Paul as a Roman citizen was treated with greater respect for legal forms, and was acquitted on the "first" charge (2 Tim. 4:17) of instigating the Christians to incendiarism before his last departure from Rome; it was then that Alexander the coppersmith witnessed against him (2 Tim. 4:14); no patron dared to advocate his cause, though being probably a client of the Aemilian clan, from whence he derived his name Paul, he might naturally have looked for advocacy (2 Tim. 4:16,17). The place of trial was possibly one of the two Pauline basilicae, called from L. Aemil.
Paulus, who built one and restored the other in the Ferrari. (2) The second charge, of introducing a novel unlawful religion, he expected to be tried upon the following winter (2 Tim. 4:21); but if in Nero's reign his second trial cannot have taken place later than June. Luke alone stayed by him. Onesiphorus, undeterred by danger, sought out and visited him; Linus also, the future bishop of Rome, Pudens a senator's son and Claudia the British princess, and Tychicus before he was sent to Ephesus.
Possibly Tychicus was bearer of the epistle as of epistles to Ephesians (Eph. 6:21,22) and Colossians (Col. 4:7,8), since "to thee" in 2 Tim. 4:12 is not needed for this view if Timothy was at the time not at Ephesus itself. Paul's leaving of his cloak and parchments at Troas (2 Tim. 4:13) cannot have been at his visit in Acts 20:5-7, for seven years elapsed between this visit and his first imprisonment. Again, when he wrote to the Colossians (Col. 4:14) during his first imprisonment (Philem. 1:24) Demas was with him; but when he is writing 2 Timothy (2 Tim. 4:10) Demas had forsaken him and gone to Thessalonica, all have deserted him (2 Tim. 1:15).
Not so in his first imprisonment (Acts 28:30), nor in writing from it epistles to Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, Philemon; in these he anticipates liberation, but in 2 Tim. 4:6-8,16, immediate death, having been once already tried. He is more closely confined than when writing even Philippians, which represents him, while more uncertain of life, yet cherishing hope of speedy deliverance (Phil. 2:24; contrast 2 Tim. 1:16-18; 2:9; 4:6-8,18). His leaving Trophimus sick at Miletum (2 Tim. 4:20) could not have been on the occasion of Acts 20:15, for he was with Paul at Jerusalem soon after (Acts 21:29).
Besides, Paul would not mention as a recent occurrence one that took place six or seven years before. Timothy was with Paul then at Miletum, and needed not to be informed of Trophimus' sickness there (Acts 20:4,17), if the occasion were the same. Paul now had shortly before been at Corinth and left Erastus there (2 Tim. 4:20), but Paul had not been at Corinth for several years before his first imprisonment, and in the interval Timothy had been with him; so Paul did not need to write to Timothy about that visit. The writer of Heb. 13:23,24, doubtless Paul, was at liberty and in Italy; liberated from his first imprisonment at Rome, Paul must have resumed his apostolic journeyings, then was imprisoned at Rome again; thence just before his death he wrote 2 Timothy (See PAUL).
Shortly before his second imprisonment Paul visited Ephesus, where new elders governed the church (Acts 20:25, most of the old ones had passed away), say in the latter end of 66 or 67 A.D.
To beg Timothy to come and bring Mark with him (2 Tim. 1:4; 4:9,11,21). But, uncertain whether Timothy would arrive in time, he desired to give a last warning as to the heresies of which the germs were then being scattered. He exhorts him to faithful zeal for sound doctrine, patience under trials, and boldness in Christ's cause, a charge which Timothy's constitutional timidity needed (1 Tim. 5:22,23; 2:2-8; 4:1-5).
Style and characteristics
Paul shows an ever deepening sense of God's "mercy," as the end approaches. Hence, "mercy" is inserted between "grace" and "peace" in the pastoral epistles for the first time; in the former epistles he has" grace and peace" only. Compare 1 Tim. 1:13, "I obtained mercy," especially needed by ministers, whose office is the leading topic in then, (compare 1 Cor. 7:25). The second epistle is abrupt, without plan, or methodical handling of subjects. Strong emotion, vivid remembrances of the past, and anxious thoughts for the future, characterize it, as was to be expected from one on the verge of eternity.
The Old Testament is not quoted, as in his other epistles; still its inspiration and wisdom-giving, saving power is strongly alleged (2 Tim. 3:15-17). "Faithful sayings, "probably inspired utterances of church prophets, take the place of Old Testament quotations (compare 1 Tim. 4:1; 1 Cor. 14). Other characteristics of the pastoral epistles are solicitude for "sound" teaching, as opposed to the morbid subtleties of theosophists; the importance attached to church administration and organization; doxologies, as from one continually realizing God's presence, now especially when earthly things were about to pass from him so soon (1 Tim. 1:17; 6:15,16; 2 Tim. 4:18).
As 1 Tim. 4:1-5 points to the mediaeval apostasy, "in the latter times some shall depart from the faith ... speaking lies in hypocrisy, forbidding to marry ... commanding to abstain from meats which God hath created to be received," so 2 Tim. 3:1-9 to the age out of which shall spring the last antichrist. No longer is it "the latter times," but "the last days," characterized by self love, covetousness, boasting, pride, disobedience to parents, love of plea sure, formality without the power of godliness.