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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 instructs Timothy in the manner of admonishing and correcting both the young and the old (1–2). In the next place, he gives him instructions regarding the widows who were to be admitted among those supported by the Church, on a part of the offerings of the faithful. He points out the quality of such widows:—They should be really destitute (3); given to prayer (5); sixty years of age (9); of a good reputation (10). He then points out the class of widows who should not be admitted among this number (11, 12, 13).

He, in the next place, instructs him how he should treat his clergy, both in supporting them (17), and in receiving accusations against them (19, 20).

Finally, he implores of him to act the part of a just judge in deciding Ecclesiastical matters (21). Not to be rash or precipitate in admitting persons to Holy Orders, and to lead a life of chastity.


1. Rebuke not with severity a person your senior in years, but admonish him with sweetness, so as to appear entreating him, like a son entreating his father, and sweetly exhort and admonish young men as brothers.

2. Aged women admonish, as mothers; and the young, as sisters, guarding against everything either in the language of admonition, or its circumstances, that might endanger chastity (or lead to disedification).

3. Nourish and support the widows, who may truly be called such, in the strict sense of the word, i.e., destitute of all aid.

4. But if any widow be not thus destitute—if she have children or grand children, let them learn, in the first place, to regulate their own house properly, by supporting their near friends and widowed domestics, and not throw them as a burden on the Church, and pay back to their parents the duty of support, which is due by them, for the care taken of them in their infancy; for, this exercise of filial piety is pleasing and acceptable to God.

5. But let her, who is a widow indeed, that is to say, desolate and destitute of all aid, have recourse to God and hope in him, and devote her entire time, both day and night, to fervent prayers and supplications.

6. But the widow who lives a life of luxury and self-indulgence, although living and animated in body, is dead in soul, dead to God and to grace.

7. Command and explain what I have said to all widows, that they may be free from all reproach, and that the Church may be saved from scandal.

8. But if any one neglect to make the necessary provision for his near relations, particularly those most closely connected with him, such a man, by unnatural conduct of this sort, has practically denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

9. A widow, in order to be enrolled on the catalogue of those to be supported by the Church, should have reached her sixtieth year, and not be married more than once.

10. She should have the reputation of practising good works, among the rest, of piously educating her children, and of exercising hospitality, according to her means, towards holy strangers, of washing their feet, according to the existing usage, of having afforded aid and consolation to the afflicted, and of having sought every occasion of doing good.

11. But younger widows do not admit on this catalogue; for, after having been supported at the expense of the Church, they will grow wanton, and recalcitrate against Christ, and indulge a wish to marry an earthly spouse:

12. Thus incurring damnation for having violated and rendered void the promise which they made before, to their spouse Christ.

13. Another reason for their rejection is, that they are accustomed to go about, doing nothing, from house to house, and they are not merely idle, but they also indulge in garrulity and foolish talkativeness, and in curiously prying into the concerns of others, and engaging in conversations which are not becoming.

14. Considering all things, then, I prefer that, before engaging in vows of chastity, the younger widows should marry, bear children, and manage domestic concerns, and deprive the enemies of the faith of every opportunity of maligning our holy religion.

15. For, already some of them have deserted Christ, and have passed over to Satan.

16. If any Christian has widows who have any claims on him, let him support them, so that the Church may not be burdened with their maintenance, and that provision may be made for such widows as are really destitute, having neither friends nor connexions.

17. The priests who rule well, are deserving of a more liberal and abundant support, particularly such among them as toil at preaching the word of God.

18. For the SS. Scriptures, saith (Deut. 21) “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn,” and “the labourer is worthy of his reward.”

19. Against a priest do not so much as receive an accusation, unless it be proved by two or three witnesses.

20. Those who sin in public, rebuke also in public, that the others, deterred by this example of severe correction, may be restrained within the bounds of duty.

21. I conjure thee in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, and his holy angels, to observe with exactness, what I have said regarding trials, to act the part of a just judge, without precipitancy, or without inclining the balance of justice through favour or affection to one side or the other.

22. Do not, on light grounds, and without sufficient trial, impose hands on any man. And do not, by your precipitate admission of unworthy candidates to orders render yourself a participator in the sins of others. Keep thyself chaste, continue to lead a life of chastity.

23. Do not restrict yourself any longer to drinking mere water, but use a little wine mixed with it, on account of the weakness of your stomach, and your other frequent infirmities.

24. The sins of some persons are well known, even previous to any judgment or inquiry regarding them; whereas the sins of others are only known, after an inquiry regarding them is instituted.

25. In like manner, the good works of some persons are fully known, and need no inquiry; and the good works of others are secret; but these, in the course of trial cannot be concealed (and hence, in such a case, enquiry should be held, lest the deserving be rejected).


1. “An ancient man,” i.e., your senior in years, “rebuke not.” The Greek is, μὴ ἐπιπλὴξης, strike not; it means, to rebuke in a harsh manner, “but entreat him as a father.” The Greek word for “entreat,” ταρακαλει, means, also, to admonish. This, of course, regards ordinary cases of delinquency; because if an old man commits grievous sin and gives scandal to the young, he forfeits the privileges of age, and should be rebuked with severity.—“Young men as brethren;”—admonish, understood.

2. “Young women, as sisters, in all chastity.” Neither in the language addressed to them, nor in the circumstances of the time, place, &c., should there be anything that might endanger chastity, or, in any way, tend to disedification.

3. “Honour,” i.e., support. “Honour” has this meaning in many passages of SS. Scripture—(v.g.) Matthew, 15, also in verse 17, of this chapter. “That are widows indeed,” i.e., in the proper sense of the word; for the Greek corresponding with widow, χηρας, is derived from a root, signifying, to be destitute.

4. “Let her learn.” In the Greek it is, let them learn, &c. This latter reading is preferred in the Paraphrase, because it would appear, that the Apostle, having in the preceding verse referred to the widow, who is deserving of support, now shows who the widow is, that is not deserving of the public support. Again, the Greek word for “govern,” ευσεβειν, means the exercise of that piety which children owe their parents. Moreover, the widow in question is supposed to have “grandchildren” also, and it could not be required of her “to make a return of duty to her parents,” in reference to them, since she had done so already towards her children. Besides, the phrase, “make a return of duty to her children,” would bear a very forced construction in the Vulgate reading; whereas, according to the Greek, it runs quite smooth. Finally, the reason assigned, “for this is acceptable before God,” is very like the reason given (Col. 3), why children should obey their parents. This reading is adopted by St. Jerome, Œcumenius, &c., and preferred by Estius.

The Apostle here treats of Ecclesiastical widows, who were supported at the expense of the Church. In the infancy of the Church, some of these lived together in communities, and others, in their own houses. They made vows of chastity (verse 12), and devoted their entire time to works of piety (verse 5). From among them were taken the deaconesses, who were charged with the instruction of ignorant females, and with preparing them for baptism. They ought to be advanced in age, and were placed under the care of the Bishop; hence, among the reasons assigned by St. Chrysostom for flying the Episcopal office, he assigns the duty of taking charge of widows (lib. 3, de Sacerdotio). In the time of St. Augustine, these had a distinct dress of black colour, as appears from the Council of Orange (c. 15); 4th Council of Carthage (c. 104); and St. Augustine’s Ep. 199, ad Ecdiciam. The Apostle says nothing about honouring virgins, because the honour to which he refers is the honour of support, and the widows alone required this, the virgins being supported by their parents.

5. According to the Greek, in this verse he assigns some of the good qualities which should distinguish the Ecclesiastical widow. For, “let her trust in God,” &c.; the Greek is ἤλπικεν, she has trusted, or, trusts in God. In our version, the words convey an exhortation. The Greek indicative form is read in St. Chrysostom.

6. This verse would favour the Greek reading in the preceding. The ecclesiastical widow, worthy of support, must be a person addicted to prayer, &c.; for, as to those widows that lead a life of ease and indulgence, though their bodies be animated, their souls are dead. The words of the gospel, “Suffer the dead to bury their dead,” are similar in signification to the words, “she is dead, while living.” Such a person is not a widow indeed; for, though bereft of her husband, she is not still desolate. She employs the means of livelihood which she possesses in purposes of self-indulgence, and not in the exercise of benevolence or charity.

7. These things, regarding the obligation of prayer, of avoiding luxurious living, &c., teach all widows, so that they may be free from reproach. “And this give in charge.” In Greek, ταῦτα παράγγελλε, and these things give in charge.

8. Here he confirms, by a general assertion, what he applied to children and grandchildren (verse 4), wherein he said, that if a widow have children, &c., they should pay back the reciprocal duty of support. Here, he goes farther, and asserts if any person, man or woman, neglects the care of his (or her) own, which is generally understood of such as have claims on them, on the grounds of consanguinity or marriage, “and especially those of his house,” which is commonly understood of near relatives, parents, brothers, and such as generally live in the same house with a person, and form part of his family, such a one has, practically, and in deed, “denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel;” for, the infidels are not dead to these natural feelings.

9. The widow, to be enrolled on the Ecclesiastical catalogue, must be sixty years of age; because, then, she is unfit for labour, and not in danger of incontinence, to which younger widows would be exposed. At this time, such persons were not so securely enclosed, as the nuns are now within convents. She must be a person who was but once married, a mark of continency.

10. She must be a person, whom a character for exercising good works will pronounce deserving of support. He instances a few of these good works:—Bringing up her family in piety, exercising hospitality toward holy travellers, washing their feet, according to the custom then existing. The exercise of hospitality was, in the infancy of the Church, very necessary and meritorious, owing to the want of accommodation, and the danger of perversion at the Pagan places of entertainment. The poor widow should exercise it, according to her means and ability. “If she have diligently followed every good work,” i.e., lost no opportunity of doing good, and had the will and inclination, even when the power of doing good was wanting.

11. He tells him not to admit permanently, by religious vows, widows under sixty, because there is great danger that they will become wanton. The Greek word for “grown wanton in Christ,” κατεστρηνιάσωσι τοῦ Χριστοῦ, conveys an allusion to cattle, that, through wantonness, throw off the yoke, and kick against their masters; so, these widows are apt to grow wanton against Christ, by whose Church they were to supported, and wish to marry an earthly lover to the injury of their heavenly Spouse, whom they were pledged by vow. “Wanton in Christ.” In Greek, wanton against Christ.

12. “Having damnation,” i.e., rendering themselves, by this wish to marry, liable to damnation, “because they have made void their first faith,” i.e., they rejected (as in the Greek, ηθέτησαν) and consequently violated the promise or vow of chastity, which they formerly made to Christ. This is the interpretation given of this verse by all the Holy Fathers, and, in fact, none other can be admitted; for, all the interpretations given of it by heretics, who are opposed to vows, are manifestly opposed to the scope and words of the Apostle;—he evidently says, that they have damnation, because they wish to marry. Now, if there were merely question of deserting the faith, and violating their promise at baptism—or of committing carnal sins, as some of them explain it—what would the wish to marry have to do with these?—and, manifestly, in the Apostle’s mind, this wish to marry is the cause of their damnation. Surely, marriage is not opposed to baptismal faith, and it is one of the remedies against concupiscence. The “faith” here opposed to marriage is a vow of continency, and “faith” has often the meaning of promise (Rom. 3; Gal. 5; 2 Tim. 4); he calls it “first,” i.e., former, as in Apocal. 2:4, 5—“prima opera fac.” “Charitatem tuam primam reliquisti,” i.e., priorem, also (Acts, 1:1), “primum quidem sermonem,” i.e., priorem sermonem.

13. Another reason for not admitting them. From idleness following gossiping, curiosity, garrulity, and other faults in women. “Speaking things which they ought not;” perhaps, divulging secrets, or indulging in detraction, or improper language.

14. Weighing all things, he prefers that the younger widows should marry, sooner than make vows which they may be apt to violate. In his Epistle to Cor. 7, he prefers, viewing the matter absolutely, that they would be all like himself, i.e., unmarried. There is no argument here against the profession of young females in convents. There is only question here of widows, and not of virgins. Moreover, at the time of the Apostle, those were not enclosed so strictly in convents, as consecrated virgins are now. Nor had they the extraordinary helps derived from, and merited by, the observance of strict discipline, nor the exact vigilance, such as the Church now practises, with such jealousy, towards the virgin spouses of Christ. Moreover, none are admitted to solemn vows, at present in convents, without being first, subjected, for a reasonable period of time, to a novitiate probation, to test their fitness and consult for their perfect liberty, in regard to their vows and the state of life which, of their own free will and consent, they mean to embrace.

15. Experience showed the evil effects of precipitancy in the admission of junior widows.

17. He now passes from treating of widows, to treat of the manner in which Timothy is to act in reference to “Priests,” which word, in this passage, is commonly supposed to include the priests of the first order, i.e., Bishops, as well as those of the second. For, Timothy, as Primate of Asia, of which Ephesus was the metropolis, had to appoint Bishops throughout the different cities. The pastors, whether of the first or second order, “who rule well,” are deserving of a more liberal support. Such is the meaning of “double,” a meaning which it has in many parts of SS. Scripture, (v.g.) Jeremiah, chap. 17, “duplici contritione contere cos;” Proverbs. 12:21; Isaias, 40:2. “Especially they who labour in word and doctrine.” No labour is more severe, according to St. Athanasius, than that of the preacher of the gospel.

18. In confirmation of this, he quotes the law of Moses (Deut. 25:14), and the natural law enunciated by our Redeemer (Mat. 10:10, Luke. 10:7). The meaning and application of the text from Deuteronomy are given, 1 Cor. 9:9. Some persons say, the latter text is used by St. Paul himself; the gospel of St. Luke, in which it is found, not being written at this time. So that the words, “the Scripture saith,” refer only to the first text from Deuteronomy.

19. The Apostle does not say: Do not pass judgment, on a priest, unless there be three witnesses; but do not even receive the charge, or proceed to try him, unless there be two or three witnesses. By the law of Moses, a person could not be condemned except on the testimony of two witnesses; but here, the Apostle commands, that against a priest, the accusation could not be entertained, unless first proved by two witnesses, both on account of his dignity, as also, because he is subject to envy and to enmities, owing to the duty which he has to exercise, of correcting and rebuking others.

20. But when the sins of men are public, they are to be rebuked publicly, not only for their own emendation, but for the honour of the Church, and for the purpose of deterring others from committing the like crimes.

21. He conjures him in the name of “God,” from whom all power is derived, and of “Jesus Christ,” the judge of all, and of “the elect [or holy] Angels,” his ministers, “to observe these things,” i.e., these rules which he has laid down regarding ecclesiastical trials—to act the part of a just judge, “without prejudice,” which is commonly interpreted to mean, without precipitancy, not coming to a decision before the cause is fairly and fully examined, on both sides. “Doing nothing by declining to either side.” There is an allusion in these words to the equilibrium of scales, when they are made the instrument of just weights and measures; if they incline to either side, fraud is committed. So is it with the judge, if he entertain favour for either party. Two faults are to be avoided by all judges—precipitancy, and favour or affection; which are the ordinary causes of unjust decisions. The Apostle cautions Timothy against the former, in the words, “without prejudice;” and against the latter, in the words, “doing nothing by declining to either side,” holding, with a steady hand, the even balance of justice. In the person of Timothy, he admonishes all Prelates, under pain of incurring the wrath of God, the vengeance of Christ, and the indignation of his holy Angels, to act the part of just judges. The thought of God’s presence, and of that Omniscient Judge, who will, one day, pass sentence on judges themselves, is the most efficacious restraint on the injustice of human tribunals.

22. Some refer to this to the Sacrament of Penance, and it is applicable to it. The consequences of precipitate absolutions are frightful; particularly, if absolution be conferred in the case of proximate occasion of sin; and especially of the external occasion of sins of impurity; or, of relapsing sinners. No doubt, the confessor is, in such cases, guilty of sacrilege, unless he adopt the proper precautions, and renders himself a participator in the future sins of his penitents. The words, however, more probably refer to the admission to Holy Orders, which are called “imposition of hands.” This latter ceremony being used in the collation of orders, conveyed the proper idea to the mind of the faithful, while it left the unbeliever in the dark, as to the act itself. “Neither be partaker of other men’s sins,” shows the heavy responsibility with which those are charged, who are concerned in advancing men to Holy Orders. Hence, the exactness of the Council of Trent [SS. 23] on this subject, “Keep thyself chaste.” The Apostle found Timothy chaste, and he now wishes that he should persevere; otherwise, he could not rebuke others transgressing in this most important, most essential, point of clerical morality.

23. It is clear that Timothy altogether abstained from the use of wine, and drank water only, knowing well how useful such abstinence was to preserve chastity—“venter æstuans vino spumit in libidinem.”—St. Jerome. The Apostle says, that although he exhorted him to perseverance in chastity, still, he did not wish he would continue to adopt means for that end, which would prove injurious to his health, such as total abstinence from wine. He tells him to “use a little wine,” evidently insinuating, by the quantity recommended, that it would not be his sole drink, but only taken, when diluted with water. And from the example of Timothy, it is clear, if health did not interfere, that it would be far more perfect to abstain from it altogether. Temperance is a very necessary virtue for a pastor of souls, and should be earnestly recommended both by word and example. Considering the numbers of souls that excessive indulgence in intoxicating drinks sends daily to hell, and the danger there is of falling into this vice, by progressing gradually, total abstinence, when health permits it, is the safest antidote. It is sickening to hear it depreciated.

24. He returns to the subject of ordaining worthy persons, and instituting an inquiry regarding them. Some persons are evidently unworthy; the unworthiness of others will be known only after inquiry.

25. And others are evidently worthy, their good works being of themselves manifest. And the good works of others which are secret and not public, cannot be kept concealed after investigation; and, then, they can be admitted to orders. In the preceding verse, he says, the evil works of some are private; and hence, an examination should take place, less the unworthy be admitted. In this verse, he says, the good works of some are private, and unless examined, the worthy may be rejected. It is not sufficient, if after trial, their evil deeds are not known; they must give proofs of a good life, before they can be admitted to orders. Woe to Superiors, if they are content with less! Shall they not have to answer for the innumerable souls which the unworthy object of their careless choice, may be instrumental in damning? It is recorded of St. Leo the Great, that he watched and prayed for forty days at the tomb of St. Peter, begging pardon for his sins through the Apostle’s intercession; and that after that term, St. Peter informed him in a vision: “Your sins are forgiven you by God, except those committed by you in conferring Holy Orders: of these you still remain charged to give a rigorous account.”—(See Lives of Saints, April 11). It is much to be feared, that men, in other respects irreproachable, whether Ecclesiastical Superiors, who recommend to Holy Orders, or Prelates who rashly confer them, will answer, at their souls’ peril, before the judgment seat of Christ, for their mistaken lenity, or rather merciful cruelty in advancing even doubtful subjects to Holy Orders—cruelty, to the unhappy subjects themselves, who might be useful members of society and saved in the world, but whom a melancholy experience proves, in almost every instance, to turn out unfortunately, in the sacred ministry—cruelty to the Church, that has to shed unavailing tears over their fall—cruelty to the altar, on which they again crucify and trample on the Son of God—cruelty to the faithful, whom, in many instances, they scandalize and ruin for ever! In all cases of doubt, the doubt should be resolved in favour of the Church and the souls of the people.

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