The second letter in the New Testament that is addressed to Timothy presents a scenario that sees Paul in prison (1:8; 2:9), where he is in contact with a group otherwise unknown from his letters—Phygelus and Hermogenes (1:15), Crescens (4:10), Carpus (4:13), Eubulus, Pudens, Linus and Claudia (4:21)—as well as with others known from letters of Paul and/or that narrative of Acts—Onesiphorus (1:16), Demas and Titus (4:10), Luke and Mark (4:11), Tychicus (4:12), Prisca and Aquila (4:19), Erastus (4:20), Trophimus (4:20), and Timothy himself (1:2).
The letter suggests that the writer was previously in Corinth and Miletus (4:20) and is in Rome as he writes (1:17); the posture within the letter suggests a mature believer, imparting wisdom to a younger co-worker, writing at a time near the end of his life. This some commentators date this to the latter stage of Paul’s life, while he was under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:16).
The excerpt from 2 Timothy which is offered by the lectionary this coming Sunday includes reference to quite a number of named individuals. Careful study of this group can reveal quite a lot about the activities of Paul and those who were involved with him. This section of the letter is one of the parts of this letter that seem to reflect, very strongly, the historical figure of Paul.
The options for interpreting this are (1) the whole letter was actually written by Paul (a view that I don’t hold, for reasons explained elsewhere); (2) that the letter as a whole was written after the lifetime of Paul, but a scrap of papyrus with specific names and details from Paul’s lifetime was known to the writer, who skilfully integrated into the letter to give it the feel of an authentic letter; or (3) the late first century letter writer crafted this letter on the basis of his knowledge of Paul, drawing on letters that we know as well as other material no longer extant. My own choice is the middle option.
We know from the authentic letters of Paul that he regarded Timothy as his “co-worker” (Rom 16:21) and fellow-preacher (2 Cor 1:19). Timothy provided an invaluable role as a regular intermediary between Paul and believers in Thessalonica (1 Thess 3:1–6), Corinth (1 Cor 4:17; 16:10) and Philippi (Phil 2:19–24). Timothy is described as the co-writer, with Paul, of three authentic letters (2 Cor 1:1; Phil 1:1; 1 Thess 1:1) as well as two debated letters (Col 1:1; 2 Thess 1:1). In Acts, he appears regularly as an associate of Paul (Acts 16:1–2, 14–15; 17:5; 19:22; 20:5).
The letter as a whole is addressed to Timothy, but he seems to stand as a cipher for those in leadership roles in the church, most likely later in the first century. The passage in this Sunday’s lectionary begins with a direct construction to Timothy: “do your best to come to me soon” (6:9), and later in the passage (just after the lectionary selection ends) there is a reiteration of this instruction with a timeframe added: “do your best to come before winter” (6:21).
The reference to Demas is not flattering; he is “in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” (4:10). Demas is mentioned also in a group of four men in the letter to Philemon, when Paul notes that “Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers” send their greetings (Phlm 24). He is mentioned again in Col 4:14, sending greetings along with “Luke the beloved physician”. The negative description of Demas in 2 Tim 4:10 indicates that Paul did not have universal success in his missionary efforts. Demas appears to have parted ways from Paul and others in unhappy circumstances.
Crescens and Titus
The neutral note that “Crescens has gone to Galatia” (4:10) reveals little other than the fact of the mobility of the circle of believers associated with Paul. That is strengthened by the next clause, “Titus [has gone] to Dalmatia”. Titus, like Timothy, accompanied Paul during his ministry. He went with Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem (Gal 2:1, 3) and was a fellow-worker with Paul in ministry to the Corinthians (2 Cor 2:13; 7:6, 13–15; 8:6, 16, 23; 12:18). The capacity for mobility, evidenced in these notes of Titus and Crescens, is reflected in the constant travels of Paul across his letters and Acts.
more to come … see