Lesson 1 of 5
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Summary of 2 Timothy


The Apostle Paul addresses Timothy as his “beloved child” and speaks of him as one whom he has ordained. This letter begins and unfolds as the most intimate of the three so-called Pastoral Epistles, which include also 1 Timothy and Titus. In its references to Paul and his suffering, the Second Letter to Timothy appears to have been written, at least in part, to elicit sympathy for the apostle. The letter is an exhortation not to be ashamed of the gospel and to stand firm even if that would mean suffering on its behalf.


The primary sources on the life and theology of the Apostle Paul are his seven undisputed letters (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon). In addition, the Acts of the Apostles is the chief secondary source. But 2 Timothy has also had an importance for understanding Paul, portraying him as an apostle who was not only a proclaimer of the gospel but one who was willing to suffer for it. Paul is portrayed as the ideal Christian and apostle.


The Second Letter to Timothy is the sixteenth book in the New Testament. Clustered with 1 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 letter, it was written by the Apostle Paul while he was imprisoned at Rome to Timothy, who appears to be at 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 Second Letter to Timothy is widely considered to be pseudonymous, written after the death of the Apostle Paul. 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.


By appealing for Timothy to imitate the Apostle Paul, who is in prison and faces possible martyrdom, the Second Letter to Timothy prescribes sound teaching, opposition to false teaching, and good order in the church.


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 readers (ostensibly Timothy, but implicitly more than him) to imitate Paul in his fidelity to the gospel, even in trying circumstances. 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.