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


In this chapter, the Apostle earnestly conjures Timothy to apply himself to the zealous discharge of his duties, particularly that of preaching the word of God in all forms, and on all occasions. And he assigns as a reason for this earnest injunction, the near approach of corruption in morals, and instability of faith, among the faithful themselves (1–5). He predicts that his own death shall occur at no distant period, and consoles Timothy, by telling him that he is only going to receive a crown of justice, in reward for his past works (5–9). He invites Timothy to come to him, and brings the Epistle to a close with the usual salutations.


1. I conjure thee before God the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ, who, in virtue of the power received from the Father, will judge all men, as well those who are living immediately before the judgment, as those long before dead, at his second coming, and at the final manifestation of his kingly and undisputed power.

2. (I conjure thee therefore), to preach the word of God, to attend to this duty constantly and sedulously, both in season and out of season; to convince by arguments the gainsayers, to chide and rebuke the immoral, to entreat and exhort all to sanctity of life; and all this do with the utmost meekness and the most patient endurance, and the exhibition of sound doctrine.

3. (It is not without a cause, I thus earnestly conjure thee). For, the time is approaching at no remote period, when the faithful themselves will not endure the sound doctrine of the gospel; but, according to the corrupt desires of their own hearts, shall rashly select and multiply for themselves teachers, who shall propound principles pleasing to their passions; and this, because they wish to hear things new and curious, soothing and agreeable to them.

4. Hence it is, that they shall turn away their hearing from the truth of the gospel, and shall attend only to idle fables.

5. But (in order to arrest the progress of these impending evils), be constantly on the alert, sustain all the evils to which you may be exposed, perform all the duties of an Evangelist, faithfully fulfil your ministry, and to do this, be sober.

6. (You cannot long enjoy the benefit of my counsels), for, I am now subjected to the immediate process preceding my oblation as a victim, and the hour of my death is just at hand.

7. (This should be for you a subject of congratulation rather than of grief). For, I have fought a glorious fight, on behalf of the gospel and faith of Christ. I have successfully finished my course, and I have kept inviolable my promise of fidelity.

8. As to what remains, there is stored up and safely kept for me, now almost on the point of victory, the crown which I have justly merited, and which the Lord Jesus Christ, as a just judge, will award to me on the day of General Judgment; and not only to me, but to all who expect and love his glorious coming. Hasten to come to me, without delay, to Rome.

9. For, Demas, preferring the ease and pleasures of the world to a participation in my privations and dangers, has left me, and is gone to Thessalonica.

10. Crescens, at my instance, has gone to Galatia to preach the gospel, and Titus to Dalmatia.

11. Luke only remains with me. Take (John) Mark, and bring him with you, for, he is of service to me for the ministry of the gospel.

12. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus (to supply your place).

13. Call on your way for the cloak, which I left with Carpus at Troas, and for the books also, but particularly the parchments.

14. Alexander, the copper-smith, has done me much evil: the Lord will inflict on him punishment proportioned to his misdeeds.

15. For fear of similar maltreatment, do you also shun him. For, he has offered very great resistance to our preaching.

16. The first time during this imprisonment, that I pleaded my cause before Nero, none of my friends stood by me, they all forsook me. May this not be imputed to them as a sin, i.e., may God forgive them for this desertion of me.

17. But the Lord did not abandon me, he stood by me, and supplied me with spirit and courage for my defence, in order that the preaching of the gospel would be accomplished by me, and that all nations might hear it, and, therefore, I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.

18. But as he has rescued me from the earthly lion so I hope he will rescue me from the spiritual lion—viz., from sin, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom—to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

19. Salute in my name, Prisca and Aquila, and the family of Onesiphorus.

20. Erastus remained at Corinth, on some business, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus.

21. Hasten to come to me before winter. Eubulus, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren salute thee.

22. May the Lord Jesus Christ be with you and all the faithful of your Church by his grace. Amen.


1. Having referred, in the preceding chapter, to the four great duties of the Episcopal office, he now earnestly conjures Timothy to devote himself to their fulfilment, and this obtestation is made in the most solemn form, invoking God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ (before “Jesus Christ,” the words, the Lord, are placed in the Greek, to whom, as man, the “Father had given all judgment,” and whom he constituted Judge of the living, &c.—Acts, 10)—as witnesses, who will also be one day the Judges of his fidelity or neglect. For the meaning of the words, “the living and the dead,” (see First Epistle to Thessal. 4:16). “By his coming,” &c. This is not to be joined to the words, “I charge thee,” but to the words, “who shall judge,” as appears from the Greek particle corresponding with “by,” which signifies, that in this coming and manifestation of his glorious kingdom, when his enemies are trodden under foot, death among the rest (1 Cor. 15:28), he shall judge all mankind. After the words, “I charge thee,” the particle, therefore, is added in the Greek, but it is now rejected by critics.

2. This is what he thus solemnly conjures him to do:—It is, “preach the word” of God. “Be instant,” i.e., zealously discharge this sacred duty, “in season, out of season;” which some understand to mean, constantly. The words also mean, that no opportunity, no matter how unseasonable or inconvenient to the minister of the Gospel himself, should be omitted, if there be a hope of advantage; or even though it should be unseasonable for the hearer, as to time, if there be hope of advantage to him, the same is to be said, because even then the word itself is seasonable. “Reprove,” “entreat,” “rebuke,” &c. In the Greek, “rebuke” is before “entreat;” thus:—“Reprove, rebuke, entreat;” expressing the four-fold duty for which he said, in the preceding chapter, that the Scripture is profitable. “In all patience.” The Greek is, in all long suffering, i.e., with the most perfect meekness; for, correction, or instruction, if appearing to emanate from passion rather than from charity, will lose all effect. “And doctrine;” men wish to be convinced, and led by reason and argument. The great duty, then, of the minister of religion is, to “rebuke, and entreat,” alternately, according to circumstances. Hence, the rigour with which the Council of Trent enjoins on Bishops, under the heaviest sanction of moral guilt, to discharge the great duty of preaching—(SS. v., 2, 2, and SS. xxiv., 4, de Ref.)

The common opinion of divines is, that a Pastor of souls who, without a justifying cause, omits the duty of instruction for one month, continuously, or three months of the year, discontinuously, is guilty of mortal sin. The conscientious zeal of Pastors cannot be too strongly stimulated in this matter.

3. “They will not endure sound doctrine;” they will cast it away as an intolerable burthen. “They shall heap to themselves teachers.” These words show that they will take to themselves, without any choice or prudent selection, and multiply teachers: just as men carelessly throw one stone over another in a heap. “Having itching ears.” This refers to the people, and not to the teachers, as appears from the Greek, κνηθόμενοι τὴν ακοήν. “Itching ears,” may either refer to their anxiety for hearing curious and new things, or things pleasing to their passions and corrupt inclinations. Such was the “itching of ears,” among the Jews of old, when they listened to the eloquence of the prophet as “to a musical song; they heard his words and did them not” (Ezechiel, 33); or when they called on the prophet—“Speak unto us pleasant things; see errors for us.”—(Isaias, 30:10).

4. The truth of the Gospel neither humours the whims, nor flatters the passions of any one; hence, they will turn away from it and attend to “fables,” i.e., Jewish fables or, through insane curiosity, they will look after the fables of the heretics, viz., the Simonians, and others of the kind.

5. “But be thou vigilant, labour in all things.” “All things” may affect either “vigilant” or “labour;” the meaning of which latter word, according to the Greek κακοπάθησον, is, endure hardships, i.e., manfully encounter all the evils that may befall thee in the discharge of thy duty. “Do the work of an evangelist,” by preaching the gospel truth in its full integrity, and from the pure motive of God’s glory, “fulfil thy ministry,” in all its parts; neglect none of them. “Be sober.” These words are not in the Greek, nor are they in all the Latin manuscripts. They have made their way into our Vulgate, owing to the signification of the Greek word corresponding with “be vigilant,” νηφε, which also means, be sober, and hence, both significations may have been expressed in our version.

6. “I am now ready to be sacrificed.” The Vulgate reading for “sacrificed,” (delibor), and the Greek, σπενδομαι, clearly expresses that immediate preparation for sacrifice, consisting in pouring out a libation on the victim, as if he said: I am sprinkled with wine, as a libation preparatory to my immediate immolation as a victim. This he says with a view of stimulating Timothy to greater exertions, during the very short period of his own existence; for, he will be immediately deprived of the benefit of his counsels.

7. “I have fought a good fight,” i.e., a glorious fight for the gospel; “I have finished my course.” In both these, he alludes to the athletic exercises of wrestling, and running, at the Olympic games. “I have kept the faith,” commonly understood of his promise of fidelity, in allusion to the promise, which a soldier makes to his commander. It would be no great matter for him to glory in having kept the faith of Christ, or in not having become an apostate. Hence, the word “faith,” refers to fidelity in the discharge of his Apostolic functions.

8. He continues his allusion to the Olympic games. As a prize-fighter, he had come off victorious in the glorious contest; as a runner, he had reached the goal, observing all the rules of the race course. It remained, therefore, for him to receive from the master or judge of the games, the crown which he merited, i.e., to receive from God the reward of eternal life, which is held out by our Lord Jesus Christ, to such as triumphantly struggle in the stadium of a Christian life. Then, this reward is not to be seen, but it is “laid up,” and faithfully kept by God. It is “a crown of justice,” or a crown justly merited; eternal life is, therefore, to be the reward of merit. It is also a grace, because grace is indispensable for merit; hence, as St. Augustine expresses it:—“In crowning our merits, God only crowns his own gifts.” And although eternal life be “a crown of justice,” because due to our good works, owing to the liberal promises of God, it is also “a crown of mercy,” because it is merited through the merciful grace of God, as being infinitely above the reach of our natural powers. “On that day,” the day of General Judgment, when the soul and body shall be publicly glorified, though it virtually commences, on the day of particular judgment. “And not only to me,” &c. “It is a crown reserved for all Christians who shall finish their course well.” “That love his coming,” i.e., who by good works are prepared for him, and show that they love his coming to reward them, as the faithful servant, who performs the wishes of his master, loves his coming.

What an exhortation this passage conveys to us to labour zealously for eternal life! The period of our exertions is but momentary; to the man on the point of death, his past life, no matter how long, appears but a mere point. We have the judge of the games, the author and finisher of our faith, who is to be judge and witness, at the same time, holding out from heaven, the crown, that will never fade, and animating us by the sure prospect of enjoying it.

From the present passage, it appears quite clear, that this Epistle was written, when the Apostle was at the very point of death, which he knew, either from revelation or from circumstances, to “be at hand.” The object of the Apostle in this passage is to excite Timothy to greater zeal, by telling him that these are the last written instructions he will receive from him—for, that he is now in the position of the victim, on whose head is poured forth the preparatory libation, his death, just at hand. He removes the grief which this might naturally occasion Timothy, by telling him that he is about to enter on the possession of the crown of eternal life. Looking, then, to the plain, obvious meaning of the words, they can bear no other interpretation than that which fixes his death as instantly to occur. This Epistle was, therefore, written during his second imprisonment.

9. This Demas, afraid of sharing in the dangers of the Apostle, left him and went to Thessalonica. If neither the example, nor the miracles of the Apostle, could preserve this man, who is it that should not tremble for his own perseverance?

10. By “Galatia,” some understand “Gaul,” called “Galatia” by the Greeks.

From the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius (lib. 3, c. 4), as also from the Roman Martyrology (June 27), it appears that this Crescens, was Bishop of Vienne in Gaul. It might be that he came thither from Galatia, in Asia Minor.

11. Luke is the only person able to serve him; that the Apostle was not alone towards the end of his imprisonment—that he and St. Peter were both confined in the Mamertine prison, for nine months before their martyrdom, is the common tradition of the Romans, as we learn from Baronius (A.D. 69). “Mark,” i.e., John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, who was before rejected by the Apostle (Acts, 15:27). After doing penance, the Apostle received him; he was before useless, but now of some service, while Demas becomes useless. The man who stands should not presume, nor should he who falls, despair.

12. He did not wish to leave Ephesus without a pastor during Timothy’s absence; he, therefore, sends Tychicus to supply his place.

13. “The cloak.” This was an outer garment, which the Apostle wished to have in prison, in order to keep off the cold, and not to be troublesome to others, in borrowing from them. His sending for it to so great a distance, shows his great poverty. “The books,” long since written; probably the books of the Old Testament, and “the parchments,” refer to the manuscripts lately written by himself. From this it appears, that though the Apostle was divinely inspired, and taught by Christ himself; still, he omitted no human labour or study for self-improvement. For the short time he had to live, he desired to engage in some useful occupation, and wished for these books to give them to the faithful. If the Doctor of Nations, taught by Christ himself, and after having discharged the Apostleship for so many years, wishes for books to read, how much more necessary must it be for us to make the SS. Scripture and pious books, the subject of our daily study and meditation!

14. “Alexander, the copper-smith.” The same, probably, to whom reference is made (1 Tim. 1). Irritated at the excommunication with which the Apostle visited him, he resisted his preaching; he also, very likely, spoke of St. Paul to the friends of Nero, as a seditious person, and an enemy of the Jewish religion, which was tolerated at Rome. “The Lord will reward him,” &c. (In Greek, ἀποδῴη αὐτῷ ὁ Κύριος may the Lord reward him), which is a prophecy, joined with an approval, of the Divine vengeance with which he was to be visited.

16. “In my answer.” (In Greek, ἀπολογίᾳ, apology), i.e., the first time he pleaded his cause during this second imprisonment, either before Nero, or before some subordinate judge. “No man” (of his friends), stood with him, “but all,” i.e., almost all; for, Luke and others did not desert him, but all who could be of any service to him in the court of Nero “forsook” him, from a dread of that Emperor’s cruelty. “May it not be laid to their charge;” may God forgive them, because they sinned only through weakness.

17. “The Lord stood by me;” he was not altogether forsaken—the Lord stood by him, encouraging him. “And strengthened me;” giving him strength and courage to go through his defence. Some persons interpret the Greek word corresponding with “stood by me,” παρεστη, to mean, appeared to me, and by his presence refreshed me, giving me strength and confidence. “That by me the preaching may be accomplished;” not that I deserved any such divine interposition; but, the end for which he stood by me, and for which I wished to have my life prolonged, was, that the preaching of the gospel might receive its consummation through me, and that all the nations might hear it at the centre of the greatest power then existing—viz., at Rome, and even in the palace of Nero, to which many had flocked from all parts of the then known world. Hence, it came to pass, that in his second imprisonment, as well as in his first, “his bonds were made manifest in all the court,” and to all the rest (Philip. 1); and, therefore, “he was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” Such was the appellation which Nero received for his savage ferocity and cruelty. He was delivered from Nero’s grasp, and permitted to live some time longer, perhaps comparatively free, under the custody of a single soldier, as had been allowed him, during his first imprisonment. This passage furnishes no argument against the opinion of the ancients, that the present Epistle was written during the Apostle’s second imprisonment. It is rather in favour of that opinion. Because, he says, that “in his first defence,” or as in Greek, apology, “all had forsaken him,” fearing the cruelty of Nero; and he calls him the “lion,” on account of his cruelty. Now, these expressions could not be used in reference to Nero during the Apostle’s first imprisonment; for, as Ecclesiastical writers tell us, St. Paul’s first imprisonment occurred during the early part of Nero’s reign, some say, in the second or third year of it. And it is quite certain that during the four first years of his reign, Nero was a most benevolent prince. So much so that Seneca declares, that when he was called upon to write the sentence for the execution of two robbers, he exclaimed, would I never knew letters! Why, therefore, should the faithful dread so clement and kind-hearted a prince?—why call him “a lion”? This would be true of him only in the subsequent part of his reign, during the Apostle’s second imprisonment. Then, he calls the defence his “first,” because he was often interrogated during his second imprisonment.

18. “The Lord hath delivered (in Greek, ῥύσεται, will deliver) me from every evil work,” from the incursions of the infernal lion, from all sin, and will grant me victory over all temptation, and transfer me to his heavenly kingdom.

19. “The household of Onesiphorus.” Onesiphorus himself was at Rome, or, perhaps, dead.

20. Erastus was Treasurer of Corinth.—(Rom. 16:23).

21. This was written before winter, either in summer or autumn; the Apostle was put to death, on the 29th of the following June. He was at least a year in his second imprisonment. And “all the brethren,” i.e., all the Christians at Rome “salute thee.” “Grace be with you,” i.e., with you and all the faithful of your Church.

The Greek subscription is:—(The Second to Timothy, ordained the first Bishop of the Church of the Ephesians, was written from Rome, when Paul stood a second time before Nero).

These subscriptions are not always, however, of undoubted authority.

In the Codex Vaticanus, the subscription is merely: The Second to Timothy.

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