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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2

Analysis

In this chapter, the Apostle predicts the rise of false teachers, at no very distant period, and minutely describes their corrupt morals (1–5). He exhorts Timothy to shun them; for some of them had already made their appearance, who, although they may meet with partial success, shall ultimately, like the Egyptian Magicians who opposed Moses, be discomfited, and their imposture similarly exposed (5–9). He exhorts Timothy to preserve the doctrine which he himself had transmitted to him, and to take his own conduct, particularly in patiently enduring persecutions, as the model for imitation; for, all the just are doomed to endure persecution (10–15). Finally, he exhorts him to continue the study of the SS. Scripture, as most useful to supply the minister of the Gospel, with the abundant means of performing every good work, connected with his duties of teaching, reproving, correcting, and instructing (15–17).

Paraphrase

1. Be assured of this also, that hereafter shall come on difficult times, seasons of danger.

2. (They shall be rendered such) by men who shall arise, wholly engrossed with their own selfish interests, fond of money, boastful and haughty in their expressions, proud in their exalted ideas of their own superior claims and excellence, blasphemers, rebellious against their parents, ungrateful, perpetrators of every species of wickedness,

3. Devoid of every feeling of natural affection, perfidious (or implacable), calumniators, voluptuaries, indulging in sensual pleasures, savage and inhuman; enemies and haters of all good men,

4. Traitors towards their associates (petulant) or (hasty and precipitate), swollen from the vain conceit of their own excellence, more attached to their pleasures than to God;

5. Bearing externally the mask—the mere appearance—of piety and of reverence towards God, but abjuring and denying, by their works, its truth and reality. Such persons repel far from you and endure them not.

6. For of these there are some who cunningly insinuate themselves into private families, and obtain such control over silly, foolish women, as to hold them insnared by their false doctrine; prepared to follow their teaching in all things—women already loaded with the heavy weight of sins, and driven and led about by the various impulses of concupiscence;

7. Always seeming desirous of learning, but never arriving at the knowledge of the truth.

8. But, as Jannes and Mambres resisted the divine power displayed by Moses, so also do these men now resist the Gospel truth—men corrupted in heart and mind, and therefore, erring regarding the faith.

9. But they shall not succeed long in their work of seduction; for, their folly and imposture shall be exposed, before all men, to their confusion, as happened the Magicians referred to.

10. (But thou being my constant companion, knowest well that I am not such), thou hast fully known my doctrine, my morals, my purpose, or the end I had always in view, the sincerity of my faith, my lenity towards all, my charity, my patience.

11. You have seen the persecutions and miseries I underwent. You have known my sufferings at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, which, together with other persecutions equally severe, I endured, but out of all the Lord delivered me.

12. But why speak of my own case? Since all who wish to lead a holy and pious life, according to the precepts of Christ, shall suffer persecution.

13. But wicked men and impostors will, without molestation, be permitted to progress in the indulgence of their corrupt passions, becoming worse and worse every day, seducing others, and seduced themselves.

14. But do thou persevere in believing and preaching the things which thou hast learned from me, and which have been confided by me to thy safe keeping, mindful of the master, by whom thou wert taught them.

15. Bearing also in mind, that from thy infancy thou hast learned the SS. Scripture, which can instruct thee unto salvation, through the faith of Christ Jesus to which they conduct thee.

16. For all Scripture inspired by God is profitable both for the purposes of instructing the ignorant in the truths of faith, of rebutting the contrary errors, of correcting and rebuking corrupt morals, and of instructing and forming men to sanctity of life.

17. So that (by the diligent and attentive study of the SS. Scripture) the minister of the Gospel becomes perfect, completely furnished with the means of performing every good work connected with the discharge of his sacred duties.

Commentary

1. The Apostle, in order to remove any feelings of wonder on the part of Timothy at the defection of Hymeneus and Philetus, and also with a view of stimulating him to greater vigilance in combating them, predicts the rise of false teachers, at no distant period. “In the last days,” means, hereafter. It is not confined to the period of Antichrist’s coming; for, St. Paul tells Timothy to avoid them (5). The period of the Christian Law is frequently termed in SS. Scripture “the last hour,” as it is not to be succeeded by any other form of Religion. “Dangerous.” In Greek, καιροὶ χαλεποί, hard, or, difficult times.

2. “Men shall be lovers of themselves,” &c. In Greek, and men shall be lovers, &c. i.e., “for men shall be,” &c.; and, is by a Hebrew idiom often employed to signify, for; “lovers of themselves,” referring all things to themselves, as the last end; inordinate self-love is the root of all our corrupt passions. “Covetous,” he enumerates the branches of this corrupted root of self-love. The first is avarice, the desire of money, and of rendering all external advantages subservient to our own ease and pleasure. “Proud,” valuing themselves above others and despising them. “Blasphemers,” may refer to those using injurious language either against God or man.

3. “Without peace,” in Greek, ασπονδοι, not observant of compacts or treaties of peace, may either mean, violators of pacts and treaties, or implacable, never reconciled to any one. “Incontinent,” indulging in lust and intemperance. “Without kindness,” (ἀφιλάγαθοι, enemies to good men.)

4. “Stubborn,” may also mean, precipitate or rash, “lovers of pleasure,” &c., making a god of their bellies “more than of God.” The Greek has “more than lovers of God.” “Lovers of pleasures.” &c., φιλὴδονοι μᾶλλον ἤ φιλόθεοι.

5. “Having an appearance of piety.” The Greek word for “appearance,” μορφωσιν, may also mean having the forming, or, inculcation of piety which they teach to others, but by no means practise themselves. “Denying the power,” i.e., the truth and reality of piety, by the immorality of their lives. “Now these avoid,” or (as the Greek, ἀποτρέπου, implies) repel far from you, of course, after having first “admonished them with modesty,” (2:25). It is deserving of remark, that only few agree in the rendering or exposition of the several words of the preceding verses. The most probable exposition seems to be that given above.

6. Some of these impostors, after having obtained admission into private families, artfully succeed to inveigling foolish, “silly women,” τα γυναικάρια, in the meshes of their erroneous teachings, and obtain such control over their minds as to make them their disciples and followers; “loaded with sins,” committed during their former sinful lives, which predispose them to abandon the faith (1 Tim. 1:19); or, “loaded with sins” by their teachers, who corrupt them with their errors, “led away” like brute beasts, by the impulse of their different passions. St. Jerome observes that it was by women, all heresies began to be propagated. It is also to be remarked, that these false teachers were faithful imitators of the father of lies in addressing first the weak intellects of women.

7. “Ever learning,” &c., from the Greek, μανθανοντα. It appears that this refers to the deluded women, ever anxious to acquire learning, but “never attaining to the knowledge of the truth,” because, in punishment of their sins, and their undue curiosity in recurring to other sources of religious instruction than the true Apostles of Christ, they are delivered over to blindness of heart, and having consulted teachers of falsehood, they can never learn from them anything else than falsehood.

8. No wonder that the truth is now opposed; it was opposed at all times. “Jannes and Mambres” were the two magicians, who were principally engaged in opposing the miracles of Moses by like miracles, until, overcome in the plague of sciniphs, they cried out, “this is the finger of God.”—(Exodus, 7:19). “Mambres,” in the Greek Jambres. Our reading, however, is the one conformable to the Hebrew Talmud. St. Jerome gives both readings in his exposition of Hebrew words. The names of the magicians are not given in SS. Scripture. Hence, St. Paul must have had them from tradition or the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. “Men corrupted in mind;” corruption of heart predisposes for a shipwreck of faith.

9. They shall not long succeed in seduction, without exposure and discomfiture from the teachers of truth, or, “proceed no farther” may mean, that they shall have no influence over the predestined members of the Church, the “sure foundation of God,” though they may succeed with the corrupt of heart, with silly women, weak in intellect.

10. To the teachings and corrupt morals of the heretics, he opposes his own doctrine and morals; these were the pattern for Timothy’s imitation. Timothy, being his constant companion in preaching the Gospel, was fully acquainted with the Apostle’s “doctrine,” his “manner of life,” the purity of his morals, his “purpose,” the end which he proposed to himself in all his actions, viz., the glory of God and the salvation of the neighbour, his “long suffering,” his lenity towards his enemies, which was also exercised in bearing the infirmities of his brethren; his “love” towards all, his “patience” under adversity. Such are the virtues the Apostle teaches every minister of the Gospel to practise.

11. He reminds Timothy of the afflictions and persecutions he underwent for the Gospel, at Antioch of Pisidia (Acts, 13:45 and 50), Iconium (Acts, 14:19, 21), Lystra, (Acts, 14:18). “What persecutions I endured.” You know how I endured these and other persecutions, “and out of all these,” &c. This he adds, to give Timothy confidence, because the same Providence will be exerted for his deliverance also, if necessary.

12. “And all that will live godly,” &c., i.e., all, or, mostly all. This was literally verified in the days of the Apostle, when the sword of persecution was openly unsheathed against the faithful. It is true of all times; the pious will have something to bear from the heretics and unbelievers, or from the envious and wicked, whose lives suffer in the contrast; sometimes, from friends and relatives; sometimes, from God himself, to try them and perfect their virtue; sometimes, from themselves and their own thoughts; sometimes, from the devil. “The life of man is a state of warfare on earth,” and unless we take up our cross and follow him, we cannot be disciples of Christ.—(See the last chapter of the 2nd Book of the Imitation of Christ, for a beautiful Dissertation on this subject).

13. While the godiy and pious shall be persecuted, the wicked and corrupt livers and “seducers,” γόητες jugglers, will progress in vice and unlawful indulgence without being molested by any one; they will progress in “erring” themselves, “and driving into error,” leading others astray after them. The Greek reading runs thus—“seducing and seduced;” as if their own progress in error was the punishment of their seducing others; “shall grow worse and worse” is not opposed to verse 9, “shall proceed no farther,” because this latter is understood of their not undermining the elect members of the Church. Moreover, it can be said that there is question of different persons in both passages: in verse 9, of the heretics who were to arise in the days of Timothy; were, of the wicked in general, whose treatment is contrasted with that of the good in general, verse 12.

14. “And which have been committed to thee.” Referring to the deposit of faith. “Knowing of whom thou hast learned them.” He assigns two reasons why Timothy should continue faithful; the first is derived from the authority of his teacher, no other than an Apostle of Christ, carried up to the third Heaven.—(2 Cor. 12:2).

15. The second is derived from the long period of his education in the Christian religion. From his very infancy, he was taught the SS. Scripture under the pious care of his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois; for, his father was a Pagan, and would not permit him to be circumcised. “Which can instruct thee,” in the Greek, τὰ δυναμενα σε σοφίσαι, which can render thee wise, i.e., render you learned, “unto salvation.” “By the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” The proper reading of the SS. Scripture would lead to Christ; for, “the end of the law is Christ”—or, the words may mean, that in order to derive the proper wisdom and instruction from the SS. Scripture, we should proceed to read them under the guidance of the faith of Christ.

16. In the Greek it is, πᾶσα γραφὴ, θεοπυευστος, καὶ ὠφελιμος πρὸς διδασκᾳλίαν. &c., all Scripture inspired of God and useful for doctrine, &c. According to which, the word “is,” is understood so as to convey two assertions: first, all Scripture is inspired of God; and secondly, Scripture thus inspired is also useful for the purposes of instruction, &c. According to our Vulgate reading, there is only one assertion conveyed, viz., that all Scripture that is inspired of God, is profitable for instructing the ignorant in the truths of faith, for refuting the errors opposed to sound doctrine, for rebuking men of corrupt principles and morals, and for forming men to sanctity and Christian justice. These are the four great duties of a minister of religion, and for these the SS. Scripture is profitable. It is quite evident that this passage furnishes no argument whatever that the SS. Scripture, without Tradition, is the sole rule of faith; for, although SS. Scripture is profitable for these four ends, still it is not said to be sufficient. The Apostle requires the aid of Tradition (2nd Thessalonians, 2:15). Moreover, the Apostle here refers to the Scripture which Timothy was taught from his infancy. Now, a good part of the New Testament was not written in his boyhood; some of the Catholic Epistles were not written even when St. Paul wrote this; and none of the Books of the New Testament were then placed on the canon of the Scripture books. He refers, then, to the Scriptures on the Old Testament; and it the argument from this passage proved anything, it would prove too much, viz., that the Scriptures of the New Testament, not yet written, were not necessary for a rule of faith.

It is hardly necessary to remark that this passage furnishes no proof of the inspiration of the several books of SS. Scripture, even of those admitted to be such. According to the Vulgate reading of this verse (16), which Bloomfield assures us is adopted by all the most eminent critics after Theodoret, there is nothing said of the inspiration of any part of Scripture; all that is stated is simply this: that every portion of inspired Scripture is profitable for teaching, reproving, &c., without determining what these inspired Scriptures are. Nor is the question determined by the Greek reading either. For we are not told what is meant by “every Scripture,” of which it is said, according to this reading, that it “is inspired,” or what the Books or portion of “inspired Scripture” are.

Neither is there any argument here in favour of the indiscriminate reading of the Holy Scriptures. For, the advantage of reading them is here spoken of in reference to the ministers of the Gospel, which no one questions. Of these alone mention is made. “It is profitable” (verse 16). For whom? “That the man of God may be perfect,” &c.—See Paraphrase.

17. So, “that the man of God,” i.e., the minister of the Gospel charged with the care of souls, “may be perfect,” i.e., prepared in all his duties, the meaning of which is more clearly expressed in the following words, “furnished to every good work,” i.e., supplied, from the study of SS. Scripture, with the abundant means of performing every work connected with the four great duties already mentioned. The study of the SS. Scripture is an imperative obligation on the Paster of souls, in order to be furnished with the means of discharging all his duties. St. Paul exhorts Timothy to continue the study of them, although instructed in them from his infancy; he tells him to attend “to reading” them (1 Tim. 4:13), and if this was necessary for Timothy, instructed by the Apostle himself, how much more so must it not be for others. For the proper and effective application of SS. Scriptures, without which religious discourses or sermons would, in many instances, pass for mere philosophical disquisitions or moral essays, the constant study and attentive perusal of the Sacred Volume is necessary.








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