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2 Timothy (Bible)

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2 Timothy or the Second Epistle of the Apostle Paul to Timothy is one of the books of the New Testament. It is a letter (epistle), sometimes referred to as one of the Pastoral Epistles, most commonly considered to have been written by the apostle Paul to his pupil Timothy. It is the last epistle (chronologically) that Paul wrote.

The letter contains instructions from the apostle to Timothy about maintaining true Christian doctrine and how to deal with false teachers at Ephesus, where Timothy was serving the Christian community. Apart from this doctrinal content, the letter is also full of personal remarks about Paul's life and provides a number of comments about Timothy's background and his relationship with Paul. At the time of writing, Paul was a prisoner in Rome and he expected to be executed soon. He instructs Timothy to come to Rome.

Authorship and Date

The traditional view holds that the apostle Paul wrote this letter sometime between AD 64 and 68, a short time before his supposed execution in Rome. Until about AD 1800, nobody seriously doubted either authorship or date of this letter. The early Church Father Irenaeus and the Canon Muratori, both from the late second century, ascribe the letter to Paul. Only Marcion, excommunicated in AD 144 as a heretic, rejected it as spurious. However, from the nineteenth century onward, many scholars have doubted the authenticity of the Pastoral Epistles, including 2 Timothy.

However, since the nineteenth century, many scholars have questioned the authenticity of the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus). In 1807, Friedrich Schleiermacher rejected 1 Timothy as inauthentic, which had implications for 2 Timothy. Among the most influential critiques of the standard (canonical) view of the authorship and date was The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles by Percy Neale Harrison (1921).[1]

Arguments against the authenticity of 2 Timothy as a Pauline letter rest on the following points:

  1. Historical inaccuracies. The description of Paul's journeys in 2 Tim 3:11 appear to be based on the Acts of the Apostles (which scholars generally believe to be written after the traditional date of Paul's death) and differs from Paul's descriptions in his own letters.
  2. Literary reasons. The style of the letter is said to differ in important points from other letters by Paul.

More conservative Bible scholars remain unconvinced by these objections and have countered with reasonable explanations for any of the supposed problems that have been raised. The historical problems are easily reconciled if a second Pauline imprisonment is supposed, which is not too far-fetched in view of the fact that Luke's description in Acts terminates before the account of Paul's first imprisonment is finished. The literary objections have been rejected as subjective and unprovable; the use of different vocabulary is no proof against identical authorship. The theological and ecclesiastical objections are rejected as reading too much into some of Paul's comments and defenders of the traditional authorship and date see no contradiction in this letter with any other of Paul's writings. Finally, 2 Timothy contains a large amount of personal instruction that would be unwarranted in a pseudepigraphical work. For an overview of the arguments surrounding this controversy see Guthrie The Pastoral Epistles (1957; 1990).

Contents and Themes

Assuming the authenticity of the letter, the contents of the letter serve as the apostle's last will and testament regarding the preaching of the gospel. Paul was apparently expecting execution (4:6-8) and charged Timothy, his faithful companion of many years, to continue in his faithful witness. The letter includes provides background information about Timothy, such as the names of his mother (Eunice) and grandmother (Lois), and the fact that both were Christians. Timothy was still relatively young (1Tim 4:12; 2Tim 2:22) and apparently a shy, fearful person (1Co 16:10,11).

The letter illustrates strong faith in God through a reaffirmation of a number of basic Christian tenets of doctrine, e.g. the grace and faithfulness of God, salvation by grace, election, and the divine inspiration of Scripture. The author expresses concern over the presence of false teachings in the church at Ephesus, including a prohibition of marriage and certain foods (4:3) and the notion that the resurrection had already taken place (2:18), promulgated by false teachers from within the church itself.


  • Guthrie, Donald. The Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957. 228 pp. ISBN 0802814131; ISBN 9780802814135; 2nd ed. (revised) 1990, by Leon Morris (ed.). 240 pp. ISBN 0802804829; ISBN 9780802804822.
  • Hanson, Anthony Tyrrell. The Pastoral Epistles. New Century Bible Commentary. London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott/ Grand Rapids: W. Eerdmans, 1982.
  • Harrison, Percy Neale. The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1921. Full-text PDF
  • Metzger, Bruce M. "A Reconsideration of Certain Arguments against the Pauline Authorship of the Pastoral Epistles." In: Expository Times 70 (1958-59), pp. 91-94.
  • Moule, Handley G.C. The Second Epistle to Timothy. The Devotional Commentary series. Religious Tract Society, 1905.
  • Nute, Alan G. "The Pastoral Letters." In: F.F. Bruce et al. (eds.) New International Bible Commentary, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1979, pp. 1472-1497.
  • Stott, John R.W. The Message of 2 Timothy. Leicester (UK): Inter-Varsity Press, 1973.
  • Percy Neale Harrison. The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1921. Full-text PDF