Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Purpose of 1 Timothy

1 Tim 1:3-7 - a working translation.
Just as I urged you to remain in Ephesus, as I was going into Macedonia, so that you may command/instruct certain people a) not to teach a different/divisive doctrine; b) not to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies which give rise to useless/empty speculation rather than focussing on the work/economy of God [“the way God has organised life”] which is by/through trust/faithfulness.

The goal of [this] instruction is love from a pure heart; a conscience that is good; and trust that is sincere, which some have missed out on by turning to meaningless conversations; desiring to be teachers of the law and yet not having understanding about that which they are so confident in communicating.

1 Timothy, like Galatians, opens without a “thanksgiving” prayer. The prayer is delayed until 1:12-17, where Paul gives thanks as it relates to his own experiences and mission, and not for Timothy and the audience. Rather, what we find in this opening section is the programme for the letter as a whole. Here we have mention of the decisive issue that will shape our entire understanding of this letter, and how it must be understood within its specific context, dealing as it does with the specific issues at hand. Timothy is charged with protecting the gospel, and the community created by the gospel, because there are some within the community who have turned.
The key to understanding the letter lies in taking seriously that Paul’s stated reason in 1:3 for leaving Timothy in Ephesus is the real one; namely, that he had been left there to combat some false teachers, whose asceticism and speculations based on the Law are full of empty words, engendering strife and causing many to go astray. [Fee, God's Empowering Presence, 757.]
This is a corrective letter, much like 1 Corinthians and Galatians. This suggests that as we read this letter, and each section that makes up this letter, we should constantly be aware of this major issue currently plaguing the Christian community in Ephesus. This problem forms the matrix within which we are to read and understand Paul’s letter.

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