1.1 Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus according to the authority of God our Savior and Christ Jesus our hope. 2 To Timothy, a true child in faith; grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (translation mine)
Παῦλος ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ κατʼ ἐπιταγὴν θεοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν καὶ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τῆς ἐλπίδος ἡμῶν2 Τιμοθέῳ γνησίῳ τέκνῳ ἐν πίστει· χάρις, ἔλεος, εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς καὶ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν.
1:1 Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ WH Treg NA28 ] Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ RP • Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ WH Treg NA28 ] κυριόυ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ RP 2 πατρὸς WH Treg NA28 ] + ἡμῶν RP
As usual, the first few verses of a New Testament writing set the scene so to speak and the same goes for these opening two verses. I will keep it brief, as much more can be found in standard commentaries on these verses.
- Verse 1: “according to the authority of God” ~ ἐπιταγὴν θεοῦ – No matter how one translates this it comes down to a matter of authority. The writer asserts that Paul’s authority/commission/command comes from God. Paul typically did assert his calling or service as an apostle, but this presents a whole new angle that more directly asserts authority for the words and instruction to follow. Again, this begs the question, would Paul have had to exert this much force with Timothy? It doesn’t seem necessary that he would have to do so. The strength of this thought will fore fully play out in verse 7 with those who “wish to be teachers.”
- Verse 2: “true child” (of one born to a married couple) ~ γνησίῳ τέκνῳ – Another angle that asserts authority passed down legitimately from God to Paul to Timothy. In other words, what is to follow is pure teaching. Think in terms of contrast: true/false, real/fake, legitimate/illegitimate. These opening lines are setting up the discourse to follow in opposition to the way other Christians are interpreting, reading and living out their faith
The introduction is irregular compared to typical Pauline writings on at least several counts:
- Paul’s introduction is overly formal and overtly emphatic of Paul’s authority. In Paul’s letters to the churches this makes sense, but in a seeming private correspondence to a well known co-worker it would be unnecessary. Miller points out that John Calvin noticed this in his commentary when he wrote that Paul had “no need to set forth his titles and reassert his claims to apostleship, as he does here, for the name alone would have certainly have been enough for Timothy.” Further, Calvin concluded that the Pastorals must have been intended for a larger audience, but if so, then why was there no reference to them? (57, n.1)
- Nowhere else in Paul’s letter do we see him refer to God as Savior. Yet in the Pastorals it isused ten times. Six in reference to God (1 Tim. 1.1, 2.3, 4.10, Titus 1.3, 2.10, 3.4) and four to Jesus as Savior (2 Tim. 1.10, Titus 1.4, 2.13, 3.6). (Miller 57)
- The reference to Jesus as “our hope” is a phrase Paul uses five times in the PE and only five other times total in his other letters. A minor point, but still one that is unusual. Miller, citing C.K. Barrett, suggests that these items reveal liturgical additions and propose that Paul might have simply written, “Paul to Timothy, my true child in the faith. Grace and peace from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (59)
- The language change from Christ as Savior to God as Savior as well as from Jesus Christ to Christ Jesus suggests a later writing borrowing from popular liturgical sayings as opposed to typical Pauline phrases. Further, the phrase “in faith” is not known to be something Paul might write. (Dibelius 13-14)
- It is interesting that the writer references Christ Jesus three times in these two verses, yet doesn’t go on to delve into any Christological themes as Paul was known to do. One might suggest that the corrective matters at hand took precedence. However, it also seems to stack the deck with another item pressing too hard for authenticity. (Krause 29-30)
The result yields an introduction that for all intents and purposes should sound Pauline, but in reality is a bit of a “clanging cymbal.”
This introduction, as well as 2 Timothy and Titus, seem to have become formulaic in usage. Let’s not forget that in our culture and age, we can readily examine several other Pauline letters just bu flipping a few pages in any Bible, so spotting a counterfeit is in some ways easier. It is quite possible that the intended audience, not necessarily Timothy alone, would have heard or read this introduction and accepted it as genuine simply because these words resonated with them as something Paul would say…”because these are things we say.”
This is, at least, one way to look at these two introductory verses as formulaic. They provided a formula of words that were quickly recognized as valid, as opposed to invalid. In other words, the writer is using words and phrases in such a way that the hearer/reader will immediately associate them with Paul…at least among themselves. The danger with formulaic phrases is that they can become catch phrases used to manipulate people, or in this case, those who heard or read this short letter.
Perhaps we, too, have become comfortable with the formulaic nature of certain phrases. Perhaps, upon tearing this letter apart and reconstructing it afresh in our hearts and minds we might be able to distinguish it for what it is and apply it accordingly. No doubt, this letter is a part of our Christian heritage and as such deserves a hearing.
One of the possibilities I would like to examine is that this writer was not Paul. It was someone, most definitely male, with authority among a group, church, group of churches or a region that was writing under Paul’s name to influence a change in teaching and practice toward what he thought was necessary. (Krause 29) So, in these first two verses alone, we already encounter “the others.” They are still off in the shadows, but make no mistake, they are the reason for this corrective letter. They have been called out and this author would prefer them to be silenced.