Tuesday, October 16, 2012

1 Timothy 5

Note: I'm continuing this idea for this week, after I write my post as usual, I'm going to look at a bible commentary and insert relevant things into this post. These things will be in blue. Let me know what you think, I will test this idea out for a little while and decide if it is worth keeping.

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Instructions for the Church

Do not rebuke an older man, but encourage him just like you would anybody else.

What a strange statement to make. Is there an impulse I'm unaware of to automatically treat old guys like shit but be nice to everyone else?

This commentary points out that Timothy is younger than many others in the church, perhaps for this reason he might be quick to rebuke the older guys, especially if they come down on him. Paul is telling him not to do that. Makes sense I suppose.

If a widow is at least 60 years old, has no family, and is in good standing with the church (has been the wife of one husband, has a reputation for good works, has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of saints, has cared for the afflicted, has devoted herself to every good work) then she can be enrolled, but any who is self indulgent is dead even while she lives. If she has any family, they should take care of her so the church can help those who don't have family (if anyone does not provide for his relatives, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever). If she is young, she should marry and produce children, for young women's passion would draw them away from the church to marry anyway. Also, they have a tendency to become gossips and busybodies. With the younger women, there is a danger that Satan will work through them.

I'm not exactly sure what it means for the widows to be enrolled in the church, it doesn't seem to quite make sense as a nun as I understand them, but maybe that is what this is. At any rate, it seems that the church is taking care of them in some capacity. The idea that any widow who has family should be taken care of by them is an interesting one. There is certainly the notion of resource management which is important. Obviously, the church has limited resources, they should focus their attention on those who have no one else to help them, while those with capable family should be taken care of by them. This idea I agree with an it reminds me of a conversation we had recently. The issue I have is that the message here seems to be delivered in an incredibly harsh and cold way.  If you don't take care of your relatives you have denied the faith and are worse than an unbeliever? Seems like it is just control through fear.

I looked through a number of commentaries and didn't really see an answer to this stuff. I guess that makes sense given my complaints, I pretty much agree with what is being said, resource management and taking care of family is important. It is just the method they are using to get people to do that is control through fear, which the commentaries I read didn't acknowledge and therefore obviously didn't address.

It also seems to be painting with a pretty broad brush, the whole thing about young widows should remarry because they are gossips. And if you force them to remarry they will no longer be eligible when they are over 60 if their new husband also dies, that doesn't seem quite fair. And I'm not clear on what happens to an older woman who isn't in good standing, are they just SOL?

This commentary says that Paul is not trying to condemn young widows from wanting to remarry, he is just saying it is generally going to happen and therefore those women should not be taken in by the church since they can remarry and hence take care of themselves, and they will likely want to leave soon anyway. This seems to be a bit of spin to me, the actual language of the bible is quite inflammatory, judge for yourself v.13 "Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not." 

Elders deserve to be double honored, especially if they teach and preach. Do not charge elders with anything unless there are multiple witnesses, if they persist in sin however, rebuke them in public so that everyone else may stand in fear.

This verse is quite explicitly ruling through fear.

Apparently double honor means that they should get paid. That commentary also seems to endorse the use of fear, as it is good for people to be fearful of sin, this commentary says something similar. Apparently ruling through fear is indeed working as intended. Also the multiple witness thing has to do with combating gossip.

Paul then tells Timothy to keep these rules, using no partiality. Don't be hasty laying on hands and don't take part in sin.

He is telling him not to be too quick to heal? Laying on hands is about healing people right? Why would he not want to heal everyone he could at every opportunity...unless that power was fake and they didn't want it exposed.

Apparently this has to do with people being recognized in the church, so they are talking about getting people ordained, or perhaps about disgraced people being allowed back into the church. I stand corrected.

Drink wine for your stomach and frequent ailments.

Is this specific to Timothy, or for anyone in authority, or for anyone in power in the church? What is the deal here?

Timothy seems to be having some personal health problems.

Some sins are obvious but some are hidden until later, the same is true of good works.

This is true, I suppose he is telling him to be aware of subtleties? Seems like he is on to something good here, wish he had elaborated.

For the overview post (If you think I should add or remove stuff from this list please let me know, I think it would make good conversation)


5:16 if your family can help, they should so the church can focus its resources on the needy

"If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows."

5:24-25 some deeds (good and bad) are obvious, but some are hidden, only showing up later

"The sins of some men are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden"


5:8,20 Ruling through fear

"But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever"

"As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear."

5:13 young single women are gossips and busybodies

"Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not."


  1. I'm not sure if you've seen this yet, but you may want to check out these commentaries as well. Most of them are older, much from the 19th century. That means that they are not a well "spun" as some of the modern ones. From that page, Gill's commentary is my favorite, because he goes into great depth on a verse-by-verse, phrase-by-phrase basis.

    1. This is great, thank you. I'll explore the other contributors there when I get the chance, but I checked out Gill's and I agree, the format of it is very nice.

  2. It's interesting how, as you pointed out, without the Christian lens, a lot of the verses in the Bible really do seem to point to a "rule by fear." Some explicit, but others I had never really thought about until I read the Bible after leaving the faith.

    The widow stuff does seem to be pretty specific. What about helping widows who aren't part of your church?

    In verse 3, "But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." Is this a different attitude, "taking care of things on your own," vs these other verses? I think I might be a bit too picky here, but it seems elsewhere we've read had more of a "don't worry about anything, God will provide all of it" feel to it.

    Verses 19 and 20 are interesting, the ones about having witnesses when accusing an elder. What happens when a priest or pastor molests a child? Or steals money from someone, or worse? I believe someone is innocent until proven guilty, but if you must have multiple witnesses, wouldn't that make it impossible for someone in those positions of power to get in trouble for shady stuff?

    1. with regard to your v3 comments, I would tend to agree here. The other verses you reference all say not to worry about stuff, God will provide for everything. These are instead saying to take care of yourself and also take care of other people as much as you can. I like the new message much more as the older one was so incredibly short-sighted, but it is undeniably different. I wonder if this is the church realizing that the end times are in fact not right around the corner, and instead settling in for the long haul.

      That's a really good point about the requirement that there are multiple witnesses. For certain crimes, there will never be multiple witnesses if the perpetrator is the least bit clever.


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