2 Timothy Commentary and Christ’s Coming
This is not a 2nd Timothy commentary as the nature of commentaries go, but are comments on a few details about the Pauline Pastoral epistle in relation to remarks which recently appeared in the Huffington Post on the dating of the books of the New Testament. A new book by Marcus Borg, Canon Theologian at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, proposed a chronological order of the New Testament. Not only does his chronology radically change the dates of N.T. books, he also denies some of the Pauline letters were written by Paul. He posits the pastoral epistles were written in the early part of the second century. What does this have to do with fulfilled eschatology?
2 Timothy Commentary: Imminent Eschatology
Some believe Paul changed his eschatological views from imminent in the beginning of his ministry to uncertainty near its close. Prominent world scholars hold to this view. They have been unable to reconcile the acknowledged imminent return of Christ in the gospels and earlier epistles of Paul, i.e. 1 Thessalonians, 1 Corinthians, and 2 Corinthians with the later pastoral epistles. They argue that in his later writings he abandoned the concept of imminence altogether.
2 Timothy Commentary: Early Writings
In the letter to the 1st epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul wrote in expectation of an imminent parousia. He used the words, “we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord” twice in chapter 4:15, 17. Most agree Paul expected Christ to return in the lifetime of those living in his generation. This accords with the source he cites for his eschatology namely that of Christ. “This we say to you by the word of the Lord”. Jesus taught his return would come before some who stood in his presence died, Matt. 16:28, saying all would come to pass within his generation, Matt. 24:34.
However, in the second epistle to the Thessalonians, it appears that Paul has abandoned his imminent message. KJV translators used the words “is not at hand” to speak of the error of the Thessalonians who believed Jesus already had come. Some have used this text (2:2) in debates to prove Paul never said Jesus’ return was near. However, the later version and others corrected this error and properly translated histemi, Gk., to mean is not present.
In other words, Paul taught the coming of the Lord had not yet arrived, but was nevertheless imminent.
2 Timothy Commentary: Resurrection Past Already
In 2 Timothy 2:18, Paul addresses those who believed and taught the resurrection was already past. Such were Hymenaeus and Philetus. This verse also is used to deny Jesus’ imminent return and also to say the kingdom has not yet arrived. The simple meaning of the text is the same as that found in resolving the alleged discrepancy two Thessalonian epistles.
Paul’s statement that saying the resurrection is past already eats as a canker and overthrows the faith of some have led many headlong into exegetical slaughter. They fail to note that two chapters later, Paul reiterates and repeats the imminence taught elsewhere in his epistles.
“I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ who will [literally, is about to (Gk. mellontos)] judge the living and the dead at his appearing and His kingdom.” (2 Tim. 4:1) Paul’s use of mello with the future infinitive means “about to be”. In other words, he is saying the resurrection/coming of the Lord was imminent, but was not already past. This distinguishes what Paul taught from that of the two false teachers who were not saying the coming was in the imminent future, but who claimed it had already occurred in the past. Thus, the integrity of Paul’s imminent teaching remained unchanged and in tact.
2 Thessalonians and 2 Timothy Commentary
When we compare our 2 Timothy commentary with that of 2 Thessalonians, we find more similarities. In both epistles the temple is yet in tact. This is the most glaring error of Borg’s Chronology of the New Testament. In a point made by John A.T. Robinson’s book Redating the New Testament, he forcefully argued and documented that not a single New Testament book mentions the destruction of Jerusalem as a past event.
In 2 Thessalonians, the man of sin sits in the temple showing the mystery of iniquity already at work. This places the writing of the book before 70 AD. In like manner, Paul speaks to those in his 2 Timothy commentary where he acknowledges the continued presence of the Law. There is no doubt that in 1 Timothy, Judaizers were aggressively teaching the Law of Moses, 1:7-10. Paul likewise mentions the work of Hymenaeus and Alexander connecting the two chronologically with those who taught the law of Moses. Thus, their teaching originated in a pre-70 A.D. context, not afterwards.
A comparison of 1 Timothy 1:6 and 2 Timothy 2:16, connects the teachings of the law with that of Hymenaeus and Philetus saying they were of that sort. This is proof positive the epistle was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D..
2 Timothy Commentary and the Last Days
One final point in this brief 2 Timothy commentary is the following observation made of the last days. Many teach that we are living in the last days and that the last days were in effect starting the first day Peter preached on Pentecost. This is not reasonable. The Jewish age had consisted for almost 1500 years. The new Christian age was just over three decades. How could it already be in its last days? Further, we have now seen over 1900 years of the present Christian age, longer than the entire Jewish age. It could not be the last days spoken of in the Bible. Rather, that term belongs exclusively to the last days of the Jewish age.
Since Paul affirms that in the last days perilous times would come, (2 Tim. 3:1), it is another positive proof that he wrote the book before the Jewish age ended in the Roman conflagration. Further, Peter also wrote in the last days, 1 Peter 1:20 and taught that the end of all things had drawn near 1 Pet. 4:7 and that the time for judgment had begun, (1 Pet. 4:17). Peter endorsed all of Paul’s writings on eschatology, 2 Peter. 3:15-16. That means Peter had knowledge of all of Paul’s epistles when he wrote 2nd Peter. Thus, none were written after Peter penned 2nd Peter.
2 Timothy Commentary Summary
Paul did not change his earlier eschatological teaching from imminence to uncertainty in his later writings. The argument for this change acknowledges he taught imminence. We have shown the harmony between the contested statements in 1 and 2 Thessalonians.
We’ve also addressed similar statements in 1 and 2 Timothy. Both were written before the temple was destroyed and while the law was yet being taught. We distinguished between the doctrine of Hymenaeus and Philetus, saying the resurrection was past already before Jerusalem fell and Paul’s teaching that it was yet future but imminent in the use of the term mello.
We also demonstrated the use of the term last days can only refer to the Jewish age in Paul’s letters. Finally, Peter acknowledge all of Paul’s letters as having already been written when he wrote 2nd Peter and stated they taught the same on eschatology.
We believe our 2 Timothy commentary clearly refutes the idea of a 2nd century writing of the Pastoral or any of Paul’s epistles in addition to changing the focus from imminence in the early versus latter writings.