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OF ST. PAUL'S
SECOND EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY.
Of the Time when the second Epistle to Timothy was written.
FROM various particulars, in the second epistle to Timothy, it appears that it was written while the apostle was in confinement at Rome. But whether that confinement was the one mentioned by Luke in his history of the Acts, or an after imprisonment, learned men are not agreed. Estius, Hammond, Lightfoot, and Lardner, think it was the confinement mentioned by Luke, for the two following reasons.
First, It is evident from 2 Tim. iv. 11. that when Paul wrote this letter, Luke was with him. Wherefore as Luke hath spoken of no imprisonment of Paul at Rome, but the one with which his history of the Acts concludes, the learned men above men. tioned infer, that that must be the imprisonment, during which the apostle wrote his second epistle to Timothy.—But the answer is, Luke did not propose in the Acts to give a history of the life of any of the apostles, but an account of the first preaching and propagation of the gospel. Wherefore, having related how the gospel was published, first in Judea by the apostles Peter, James, and John; and by the evangelists Stephen, Philip, and Barnabas; and after that, in many heathen countries, by Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, and others; and by Paul in his own hired house during his two years confinement at Rome; he ended his history at that period, as having finished his design. It is evident therefore, that although Luke hath written nothing farther concerning Paul, it is no proof that Paul's ministry and
life ended then, or that Luke was ignorant of his after transactions; any more than his silence concerning Peter after the council of Jerusalem, is a proof that his ministry and life ended then: Or than his silence concerning many particulars mentioned in Paul's epistles, is a proof that these things did not happen; or if they happened, that they were not known to Luke.
Secondly, It is said, that if this epistle was written during an after imprisonment of Paul in Rome, Timothy must have been so old, that the apostle could not, with propriety, have exhorted him to flee youthful lusts, 2 Tim. ii. 22.-But, besides what is to be said in the note on that verse, it should be considered, that in the year 66, when the apostle is supposed to have been a pri soner at Rome the second time, Timothy may have been only 34 years of age; which both the Greeks and Romans was considered as youth. See Pref. to 1 Tim. Sect. 2. Object. 1.
These are the arguments on which the writers above mentioned have founded their opinion, that Paul wrote his second epistle to Timothy during his confinement at Rome, of which Luke hath given an account in his history of the Acts.
Other learned men hold, that the apostle wrote this epistle during a second imprisonment at Rome; and support their opinion by the following arguments.
1. At the time the apostle wrote this epistle, he was closely imprisoned as one guilty of a capital crime, 2 Tim. ii. 9. I suffer evil, nexge deopav, unto bonds, as a malefactor. The heathen magistrates and priests considering Paul as an atheist, because he denied the gods of the empire; very probably also supposing him to be one of the Christians who, they said, had set fire to the city; they confined him in close prison, with his hands and feet in fetters, as a malefactor.-His situation was very different during his first confinement. For then, Acts xxviii. 30. He dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him; 31. preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus with all confidence, no man forbidding him. This mild treatment, probably, was owing to the favourable account which Festus gave of him to the Emperor, Acts xxv. 25. xxvi. 31. and to what Julius the centurion, who brought him to Rome, said of him, when he delivered him to the officer appointed to receive the prisoners from the provinces. The centurion's esteem of Paul is mentioned, Acts xxvii. 42, 43.
2. The Roman Governors of Judea, by whom Paul was tried for his life, declared, at his trials, that no crime was alleged against him, but only his holding opinions, which his accusers said were contrary to their religion, Acts xxv. 18, 19. They likewise declared, that he had been guilty of no crime against. the State, Acts xxvi. 31. Heresy, therefore being the only charge laid to the apostle's charge, and that circumstance being made known, by the governor of Judea, to his judges at Rome, they must have had a favourable opinion of his cause. This appears likewise from what the apostle himself wrote to the Philippians, chap. i. 12. I wish you to know, brethren, that the things, which have befallen me, have turned out rather to the advancement of the gospel. 13. For my bonds on account of Christ are become manifest in the whole palace, and in all other places. His being sent a prisoner to Rome, and his defending himself before his judges, either in person, or by writings presented to them, had made the cause of his bonds well known in the palace and in all other places, to be, not any crime, but his having preached salvation to the Gentiles through Christ, without requiring them to obey the law of Moses. He therefore was fully persuaded by the Lord, that even he himself should soon come to them, Philip. ii. 24. and abide some time with them, Phil. i. 25. and sent them the salutation of Cæsar's household, Philip. iv. 22. by whose good offices he hoped to be set at liberty. But, when he wrote his second epistle to Timothy, his judges, considering the things laid to his charge as crimes against the State, were so enraged against him, that he called his escaping condemnation, when he made his first answer, a being delivered out of the mouth of the lion, 2 Tim. iv. 17. And having no hope of being acquitted at his next hearing, he looked for nothing but immediate death, 2 Tim. iv. 6. I am already poured out, and the time of my departure hath come.-7. I have finished the race.
3. The boldness with which the apostle preached the gospel to all who came to him, during the confinement mentioned by Luke in the Acts, and the success with which he defended himself against his accusers, encouraged others to preach the gospel without fear; so that he had fellow-labourers then in abundance. Philip. i. 14. Many of the brethren in the Lord, being assured by my bonds, have become much more bold to speak the word without fear. At that time also he had the service of many affectionate friends; such as Mark, Timothy, Luke, Tychicus, Aristarchus, and others, mentioned, Col. iv. 7. 10, 11, 12. 14.
But when he wrote his second to Timothy, his assistants were all so terrified by the rage of his accusers and judges, that not so much as one of them, nor any of the brethren in Rome, appeared with him when he made his first answer, 2 Tim. iv. 16. And after that answer was made, all his assistants fled from the city, except Luke, 2 Tim. iv. 11.
4. During the apostle's confinement in Rome, of which Luke has given an account, Demas was with him, Philem, ver. 24. and Mark, as his fellow-labourers, Col. iv. 10, 11. Philem. ver. 24.But when he wrote his second epistle to Timothy, Demas had forsaken him, having loved the present world, 2 Tim. iv. 10. And Mark was absent; for the apostle desired Timothy to bring Mark with him, 2 Tim. iv. 11. From these circumstances it is evident, that the epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, and the second to Timothy, were written by the apostlé during different confinements.
To invalidate these arguments, Lardner supposes, that on Paul's arrival at Rome from Judea, he was shut up in close prison as a malefactor, and expected nothing but instant death: That being in the greatest danger, all his assistants, except Luke, forsook him and fled for fear of their own lives; that in this state of despondency he wrote his second to Timothy; that the Emperor having heard his first defence, mentioned 2 Tim. iv. 16. entertained a favourable opinion of his cause, and by a written order, appointed him to be confined in the gentle manner described Acts xxviii. 16. 30. That afterwards his assistants returned; and that he preached the gospel to all who came to him, and converted many.
But these suppositions are all directly contrary to the apostle's own account of the matter. For, 1. After making his answer, mentioned 2 Tim. iv. 16. instead of being allowed to live in his own hired house, he was so closely confined, that when Onesiphorus came to Rome, he had to seek him out diligently among the different prisons in the city, before he could find him, 2 Tim. i. 17.-2. After his first defence, his judges, instead of being more favourably disposed towards him, were so enraged against him that he looked for nothing but immediate condemnation at has next answer, 2 Tim. iv. 6, 7.-3. Luke, who was with the apostle during his first confinement, and who hath given an account of it, hath not said one word of any danger he was then in. He only tells us, that his confinement lasted two years, Acts xxviii. 30.—4. If the liberty which the apostle so soon obtained, was the effect of his first answer, we must suppose that the per
sons deputed by the council at Jerusalem to answer his appeal, either were in Rome before he arrived, or came to Rome in the same ship with him; and that the Emperor gave him a hearing on the second day after his arrival. For Luke informs us, that three days after his arrival, he had such liberty that he called the chief of the Jews to his own house, and spake to them what is mentioned Acts xxviii. 17. But such a speedy hearing, granted to a Jewish prisoner, by the head of so great an empire, who was either occupied in affairs of government, or in pursuing his pleasures, and such a sudden alteration in the prisoner's state, are things altogether incredible.-5. The apostle being in a state of despondency when he wrote his second to Timothy, he must, as Lardner supposes, have written it before he made his first answer, since the alteration of his circumstances was the effect of that answer. Nevertheless from the epistle itself, chap. iv. 16. we know, not only that it was written after the apostle had made his first answer, but that it produced no alteration whatever in his circumstances. For after making that answer, he wrote to Timothy, that the time of his departure was come. In short, he was in as much despondency after his first answer, as before it.
Upon the whole, the arguments to prove that Paul wrote his second epistle to Timothy, during the confinement recorded in the Acts, being of so little moment, in comparison of the facts and circumstances which shew that it was written during a subsequent confinement, I agree in opinion with those who hold, that the apostle was twice imprisoned at Rome; once, when he was brought thither from Judea to prosecute his appeal; and a second time, when he came to Rome from Crete, in the end of the year 65, while Nero was persecuting the Christians; (See Pref. to Titus, Sect. 1. last paragr.) and that having made his first defence early in the year 66, he wrote his second to Timothy in the beginning of the summer of that year, as may be conjectured from his desiring Timothy to come to him before winter.
I have taken this pains in refuting the opinion of the learned men first mentioned, concerning the time of writing the second to Timothy, because on that opinion Lardner hath founded another notion still more improbable, but which, after what hath been said, needs no particular confutation; namely, that what is called the apostle's second epistle to Timothy, was written before the one which is placed first in the Canon, and which is generally believed to have been the first written.