Introduction To The First And Second Epistles Of Paul To Timothy
Paul's letters to Timothy differ from most of his other letters in that they were written to an individual, rather than a church. The only other Pauline epistle written to an individual is the book of Titus. Therefore, 1 and 2 Timothy, along with Titus, are often referred to as the "Pastoral Epistles."
This gives 1 and 2 Timothy a more personal touch than some of his other letters and provides us with an intimate glimpse into the life of Paul. Couple this with the fact that these are among some of the last letters Paul wrote, and their significance grows. The maturity that comes only with time flavors these letters.
Timothy was ordained as the first bishop of the church at Ephesus (see the subscript at 2Ti 4:22 [found in some Bibles]). This apparently took place when Paul had to flee Ephesus (see note 1 at Ac 20:1). Therefore, these letters have special significance to ministers. Paul gave Timothy instructions on how to run the church at Ephesus and also how to manage himself in order to be as effective as possible. There are exhortations to boldness (2Ti 1:7), and instructions on how a young minister can operate in authority despite his youth (1Ti 4:12).
In 2Ti 4, Paul made a somewhat impassioned plea for Timothy to come to him quickly and bring Mark and certain items such as a cloak and his parchments. Everyone but Luke had left Paul, and he desired his "son in the faith" to be with him at the end.
Both 1 and 2 Timothy begin with clear statements that Paul was the author (1Ti 1:1-2 and 2Ti 1:1-2). "There are few New Testament writings which have stronger attestation, for these Epistles were widely used from the time of Polycarp, and there are possible traces in the earlier works of Clement of Rome and Ignatius.... Objections to authenticity must therefore be regarded as modern innovations contrary to the strong evidence from the early Church" (The New Bible Dictionary, InterVarsity Press, p. 1282).
Date Of Writing
At the end of both 1 and 2 Timothy, the subscripts indicate that these letters were written from different places and therefore give us clues as to the dates of writing.
The subscript to 1 Timothy says, "The first to Timothy was written from Laodicea, which is the chiefest city of Phrygia Pacatiana."
There is no scriptural account of Paul visiting Laodicea. He did pass through that area on his first and second missionary journeys, ministering in Lystra (see note 4 at Ac 14:6), Derbe (see note 5 at Ac 14:6), and Iconium (see note 3 at Ac 13:51).
Paul mentioned the Laodiceans in Col 2:1, saying that they had not seen his face. This shows he was aware of them and prayed for the believers there, even though he hadn't been there personally at the time of that writing (see Life for Today Study Bible Notes, Introduction to Colossians, Date and Place of Writing). In Col 4:12-13, Paul spoke of Epaphras having a great zeal for the Laodiceans. Epaphras was the one who received the Gospel from Paul in Ephesus and carried it to Colosse. It can be supposed that he did the same thing in Laodicea (see note 5 at Col 1:4).
Many people believe Paul was released from his imprisonment in Rome and traveled before being incarcerated again (see note 1 at Ac 28:30). Scripture doesn't prove or disprove this. If he was released, it is possible that he traveled back to Asia and Laodicea where he wrote this first letter to Timothy.
Those who believe Paul was imprisoned twice in Rome with a brief period of travel in between date the first imprisonment from about A.D. 61 to 62. Thus the approximate dates for 1 Timothy and Titus are perhaps A.D. 63-66 (it is supposed that the letter to Titus was written around the same time as 1 Timothy).
The subscript for 2 Timothy says, "This second [epistle unto Timotheus, ordained the first bishop of the church of the Ephesians, was written from Rome, when Paul was brought before Nero the second time]." The wording of this subscript seems to lend itself toward the interpretation that Paul was released from his Roman imprisonment, and then he was recaptured and taken before Nero the second time. It would have been during this second imprisonment that Paul wrote the second letter to Timothy, possibly around A.D. 67.
Both 1 and 2 Timothy were written to Timothy, who was Paul's closest associate in ministry. Timothy's father was Greek while his mother was a Jew (Ac 16:1). The spiritual condition of Timothy's father is not mentioned, but his mother, Eunice, and grandmother Lois were both extolled for their faith in Christ (2Ti 1:5).
Timothy was from Lystra, which Paul visited on his first missionary journey (Ac 14:6 and 16:1). Whether or not Paul led Timothy to Christ cannot be known with certainty, but it is certain that it was through Paul's missionary journey to Lystra that the Gospel came to that area and Timothy came to know the Lord. Therefore, Paul called Timothy "my own son in the faith" (1Ti 1:2) and "my beloved son" (1Co 4:17).
Timothy knew and believed the Old Testament scriptures from his youth (2Ti 3:15), and Paul took him on his team during his second missionary trip (Ac 16:1-3). Paul became like a spiritual father to Timothy.
Six of Paul's epistles include Timothy in the salutations (2Co 1:1, Php 1:1, Col 1:1, 1Th 1:1, 2Th 1:1, and Phm 1). Timothy had become so dear to Paul that Paul's last message included a touching appeal for Timothy to join him in his final days of imprisonment (2Ti 1:4; 4:9, and 21).