Wednesday, January 21, 2009

1 Timothy 1:1-11-- The Situation at Ephesus

Chapter 1 starts with Paul’s greeting to Timothy (vv. 1-2). Paul always started a letter with greetings to the persons or people he knew.

Verses 3 and 4 are where we get the scoop on Ephesus:

“3(G) As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not(H) to teach any different doctrine, 4nor(I) to devote themselves to myths and endless(J) genealogies, which promote(K) speculations rather than the stewardship[a] from God that is by faith.”

Timothy’s sole purpose for staying in Ephesus (according to Paul) was so that he would deal with the false teachers (“certain persons not to teach any DIFFERENT doctrine”).
In addition, the false teachers not only taught false doctrine, but spent time studying how to deliver such heretical teaching: “nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies” (v.4). Notice here that there is a sentence construction here very similar to what we will find in 1 Timothy 2. In 1 Timothy 2, we have a negated finite verb + noun + infinitive verb + oude + infinitive verb + noun; in 1 Timothy 1:3-4, we have a similar structure. There are two infinitive verbs negated with “not…nor.”

It seems here that the teaching at Ephesus concerned “myths and endless genealogies,” made-up stories, legends about creation accounts. This is what I found regarding genealogies in the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary online (

“Etymology: Middle English genealogie, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin genealogia, from Greek, from genea race, family + -logia -logy; akin to Greek genos race
14th century
1 : an account of the descent of a person, family, or group from an ancestor or from older forms 2 : regular descent of a person, family, or group of organisms from a progenitor or older form : pedigree 3 : the study of family pedigrees 4 : an account of the origin and historical development of something.”

Tracing the word “genealogy,” we see that genealogy refers to descent, or, as the last definition tells us, “an account of the ORIGIN and HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT of something.” As we can see, then, the false teaching INCLUDED origin accounts, while also containing myths. What are myths? I also looked this up in the Merriam Webster dictionary online (

Etymology: Greek mythos
Date: 1830
1 a: a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon b: parable , allegory 2 a: a popular belief or tradition that has grown up around something or someone ; especially : one embodying the ideals and institutions of a society or segment of society b: an unfounded or false notion 3: a person or thing having only an imaginary or unverifiable existence 4: the whole body of myths

These myths and endless genealogies (numerous) constitute the nature of the false teaching pervading the church at Ephesus. Therefore, the attack on teaching, from the beginning, is due to the NATURE of the teaching, not the teaching itself.

What do the genealogies and myths do? What is the end of these things? “…which promote SPECULATIONS rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith” (v.4b). The word for “stewardship” here in the Greek is “oikonomian,” meaning “good order.” The word “oikonomian” is a compound word consisting of “home” (oikos) and “law” (nomian). Perhaps this word in and of itself shows us the problem at Ephesus: the law of the home was being violated by women who were claiming that the current law in the home was wrong. This is what my research has shown me—that the teaching at Ephesus, consisting of origin accounts, trumped that recorded in the law: the women were claiming that Eve was created before Adam, and that Adam was the one who was deceived; thereby, Eve was given headship in the home.

In verse 5, Paul tells us the goal of correcting the false teachers: “love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Notice that he is saying that the reason why Timothy is to correct the false teachers is because it is being done out of a “pure” heart, good motives, with the intention of aiding the house of God; a “good” conscience, one who is certain that what they are doing is true; finally, a “sincere” faith, one that is practiced with honest intentions, and an honest desire to please God.

Verses 6 and 7 show us the pupils of the false teachers: “Certain persons, by swerving from these [characteristics], have wandered away into VAIN DISCUSSION, DESIRING TO BE TEACHERS OF THE LAW, WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING EITHER WHAT THEY ARE SAYING OR THE THINGS ABOUT WHICH THEY MAKE CONFIDENT ASSERTIONS.”
The Greek word for “vain” is the word “kenos,” meaning “empty.” Paul is saying here that the discussion is worthless, of no spiritual gain or profit—just a waste of time. And this has happened because so many have gotten away from a “good conscience,” a “sincere faith,” and love that comes out of a “pure heart.” Staying away from spiritual integrity has driven them into this almost-reprobate state, where they keep “going in spiritual circles,” throwing themselves into profitless pursuits that have no spiritual benefits.

These persons are also shown to be pupils by the fact that Paul describes them as “persons…desiring to be teachers of the law.” These are not just those who desire to teach, but those who desire to teach THE LAW. What would the Law have consisted of? The law at least consisted of the Torah—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. We believe, however, that the Law could also have consisted of the rest of the Old Testament, since Paul often quoted the Old Testament in his New Testament letters.

Does Paul chide them for having a desire to learn? No. Paul says nothing here against their desire. It is not the desire he knocks about those who DESIRE to be teachers: instead, it is what they are SAYING ABOUT THE LAW that disturbs him: “without understanding either WHAT THEY ARE SAYING or the THINGS ABOUT WHICH THEY MAKE CONFIDENT ASSERTIONS” (v.7b). They lack “understanding,” which means that they are IGNORANT of the truth, they don’t know any better. They seem to be bold with what they say (they make “confident assertions”), but they do so in ignorance.

Paul has voiced his perception of those who desire to teach the law, but, up until this point, has said nothing about the law itself; here, though, Paul takes time to voice his view of the law: “Now we know that the law is good, IF ONE USES IT LAWFULLY” (v.8) Although the English Standard Version translates the word “de” as “now,” a better translation of this word would be “but.” The reason why I stop to make this point is because “but” shows contrast, whereas the word “now” shows a time shift. I don’t think Paul’s point is to move on to a new subject, because he’s just talked about the teachers of the law. Therefore, to use the word “but” is to contrast the law from those who speak of it. The speakers are doing that which is bad (although ignorant of it), but the law in its essence is GOOD—if a person uses the law properly, or RIGHTLY.

Verses 9 and 10 show the groups of people that the law exists for. But the one that gets me the most is when Paul says at the end of verse 10, “and WHATEVER ELSE IS CONTRARY TO SOUND DOCTRINE…” There are so many other things that count as ungodliness, but Paul uses this one phrase to include all those things he doesn’t explicitly mention.

This is the only discussion of the Law Paul deals with in chapter one. However, chapter one serves as an important marker for the rest of the book. We seem to find that these first eleven verses of the FIRST chapter of the book are permeated with discussion surrounding false doctrine. The problem is, I see nothing in chapter one that deals with women who desire to teach who don’t know their place, or who are rebelling against God’s good order by DESIRING to teach. In addition, complementarians are stuck in their deception; for, since they acknowledge that women were not teaching in the church, they have to acknowledge that women are included in those who “desired” to be teachers of the law. It’s funny, but why would these women clamor for something that they weren’t ever supposed to aim for in the house of God IF women not teaching was a universal rule in all the churches?

I will cover the rest of the chapter in the next post. But the issue of women is one that will get tackled as we go along.

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