Lesson 1 of 5
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Summary of 1 Timothy


The letter is addressed to Timothy in Ephesus, from which the Apostle Paul has departed for Macedonia. Paul plans to return, but he may be delayed, so he sends instructions to Timothy and expects him to carry them out while he is away. Much of the letter contrasts true and false teachers and prescribes a specific church order. Although the letter is addressed to Timothy, the author sometimes “talks past” him to a larger community that is to hear certain exhortations. For example, all are to honor elders who rule well, preach, and teach; and slaves are to obey their masters.


The First Letter to Timothy is significant for its emphases on the goodness of God, the goodness of the creation, and living in the world (rather than fleeing from it). It is strongly anti-gnostic (even if Gnosticism was not fully developed when it was written). Its information on the ordering of the church in its time and place, as well as its teaching on order, have had major importance throughout church history.


The First Letter to Timothy is the fifteenth book in the New Testament. Clustered with 2 Timothy and Titus (the other two “Pastoral Epistles”), it stands near the end of the “Pauline corpus,” the collection of letters attributed to the Apostle Paul (the books of Romans through Philemon).


According to the first three verses of the letter, it was written by the Apostle Paul, apparently located in Macedonia, to Timothy in Ephesus. Yet, this letter is generally regarded as pseudonymous, written after the death of Paul by an anonymous writer who sought to impersonate Paul in a post-Pauline situation.


The First Letter to Timothy is widely considered to be pseudonymous, written after the death of the Apostle Paul. Paul likely died during the reign of the emperor Nero, somewhere between 62 and 65 C.E. Since the letter has terminology that is found generally in certain Christian writings of the second century, it is considered to have been written late in the first century or even early in the second.


The First Letter to Timothy is primarily about leadership in the early church: it exhorts its readers to resist false teaching, hold on to the faith as delivered, exhibit good conduct, and order the church in such a way that all of this can be accomplished.


Read the letter as one written to impersonate Paul in a situation that the author faced in his own time and place. Seeking to represent Paul in order to give authority to what he has to say, the author calls upon his readers to respect “the faith” that has been transmitted to them and to reject false alternatives that claim to convey a higher knowledge than that which has been received. In order to do this letter justice, one should read it (as well as the other Pastoral Epistles) in light of the seven undisputed letters of Paul, where one finds quite different emphases and teachings. As a canonical text, it has importance, but it does not necessarily express the last word on matters (such as teachings concerning the role of women) that are treated differently in other parts of Scripture.