Glossary of Terms



Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

You are strongly recommended to add to your library the excellent revised edition of Harper's Bible Dictionary titled, The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition [book review], edited by Paul J. Achtemeier, with the Society of Biblical Literature (NY: Harper Collins, 1996). It is currently the best one-volume Bible dictionary in English, and it is available at Border's Books, Christian Science Reading Rooms,, or


1 A military officer of the Ammonites who joined forces with the Syrians to oppose Judas Maccabeus and Judea’s freedom fighters (ca. 164 b.c.); the Ammonites were crushed in several battles and Timothy was slain (1 Macc. 5:6-8; 2 Macc. 8:30-33; 9:1-4; 10:24-38; 12:1-25, the last passage being misplaced in the narrative).

2 Paul’s ‘beloved and faithful child in the Lord’ (1 Cor. 4:17; cf. 1 Tim. 1:2). Timothy is associated with Paul in the prescripts of at least four of the apostle’s Letters (1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Philem. 1; cf. Rom. 16:21; cf. also 2 Thess. 1:1; Col. 1:1), an indication of the extent of their joint endeavors. He is otherwise mentioned as an associate and helper of Paul in four of the Letters (1 Thess. 3:2, 6; 1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10; 2 Cor. 1:19; Phil. 2:19) and appears in the Acts of the Apostles, a narrative independent of Paul’s Letters (Acts 16:1-3; 17:14-15; 18:5; 19:22; 20:4), in a similar role. Finally, he is the named addressee of two of the pastoral Letters, 1 and 2 Timothy (1 Tim. 1:2, 18; 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:2).

According to Paul’s earlier Letters, Timothy was a colleague with Paul and Silvanus (Silas) in missions to the Thessalonians and the Corinthians (1 Thess. 1:1; 3:2, 6; 1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10; 2 Cor. 1:1, 19). The ministries of these three in Macedonia are also reported in Acts (17:14-15; 18:5; cf. 19:22). From both sources, we learn that shortly after leaving Thessalonica Paul’s anxiety concerning the effects of persecution led him to send emissaries to encourage the Macedonian church in its faith. Paul, himself, was left alone in Athens (1 Thess. 3:1-5; cf. Acts 17:13-16, a slightly more detailed account). From 1 Thess. 3:2-3 we learn that a special responsibility for ministry to the beleaguered Thessalonians was entrusted to Timothy, ‘our brother and God’s servant in the gospel of Christ.’ When, with Silvanus (Silas), Timothy joined Paul in Corinth, he was the bearer of good news: the Thessalonians remained steadfast in ‘faith and love,’ and they longed to see Paul (1 Thess. 3:6).

According to Acts, Paul’s next major campaign in the East was located at Ephesus (Acts 18:18-20:1). During the course of this ministry, several occasions arose in Paul’s dealings with the Corinthian church that led him to send colleagues to act on his behalf. It is not clear that Timothy was the bearer of 1 Corinthians, or that a firm decision had been reached to send him to Corinth, but disturbances there made such a trip likely (1 Cor. 16:10: note NEB, which reads ‘if’—not ‘when’—Timothy comes’; cf. 1 Cor. 4:17). Some have surmised that Paul’s plea concerning the church’s reception of Timothy, should he come, indicates that the apostle had some doubts regarding his young colleague’s effectiveness in a leadership capacity (1 Cor. 16:10-11). More likely, Paul feared that the Corinthians would complain that they merited the attention of the apostle in person, not the ministrations of an ‘underling,’ and that their anger would lead them to slight Timothy. A picture of Timothy as Paul’s inexperienced, youthful protégé, intimidated by an aggressive opposition and needing the encouragement of his battle-hardened mentor, has sometimes been drawn from hortatory passages in 1 and 2 Timothy (e.g., 1 Tim. 3:14-15; 4:12-16; 2 Tim. 1:8; 2:1-7). It is doubtful, however, that this image of Timothy is supported by references in the Letters generally acknowledged as authentically Pauline, and, in view of the probable origin and purpose of the pastoral Letters (1, 2 Tim., Titus), it is unlikely that the material describing ‘Timothy’ there is strictly biographical.

In the prescript to 2 Corinthians, Timothy is again included, as Paul’s ‘brother’ (1:1). It is therefore unlikely that Timothy’s usefulness in dealing with the unruly Corinthians was at an end. It is true that it was Titus, not Timothy, who served as Paul’s emissary when a serious crisis arose as a result of Paul’s ‘painful visit’ and his ‘severe letter’ (2 Cor. 1:23-2:13; 7:5-16), but it is a dubious argument from silence to conclude, as some have done, that Timothy would have been unequal to the task. The frequent references to Titus in connection with the collection for the saints in Jerusalem may only mean that he had been given special responsibility for this project from the start and thus was assigned to deal with obstacles to its completion (2 Cor. 8:6).

The later Letters of Paul continue to portray Timothy as a trusted associate and useful emissary of the apostle (see Phil. 1:1; Philem. 1; cf. Col. 1:1). According to Phil. 2:19-24, Paul plans to send Timothy to Philippi and writes: ‘I have no one like him, who will be genuinely anxious for your welfare. …Timothy’s worth you know, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.’

In none of Paul’s Letters does he refer to his first meeting with Timothy. Acts 16:1-3 reports that Timothy was already ‘a disciple’ when Paul met him at Lystra (cf., however, 1 Cor. 4:17; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 2:2). According to Acts, Timothy’s home life had been unlike that of the apostle (Phil. 3:4-6). Timothy’s Jewish mother had married a Gentile, and their son had not been circumcised. This information would explain Paul’s action in circumcising Timothy (Acts 16:3) after having so recently withstood the insistence of the Judaizers that Titus be circumcised (Gal. 2:1-5).

While the pastoral Letters are of little help in reconstructing the personal history of Paul’s younger colleague, there is no reason to doubt that their author knew the names of Timothy’s mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois (2 Tim. 1:5).


Topical index of terms
Edited for by Robert Nguyen Cramer
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