Paul's First Epistle to Timothy, Part 7: Women Noble and Naughty

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Paul's First Epistle to Timothy, Part 7: Women Noble and Naughty

There is a part of the story of Genesis chapter 3 that is missing, so perhaps we may fill in a few of the blanks for ourselves. The reason why Eve was so easily seduced can only be that Adam had left her alone, where she was unguarded and vulnerable. Adam was the first feminist, leaving Eve to make it on her own. Now, I can imagine that the Devil set up a football game between two teams of negros, and Adam was fascinated with how well they can run with a pigskin. So he was off watching it all while Eve was left at home. One fallen angel opened a beer concession, and another ran a gambling counter. With Eve left at home and planning her first Tupperware party, along comes the Serpent a-knocking at the door, and the rest is history…. Later, Adam came home half inebriated from a mixture of musk, testosterone and Bud Lite, and the woman “gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” The next morning, the man refused to accept any of the consequences for his actions, and when he was called into account, he tried to blame his wife for all of their sin. So he was punished “because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife,” which was yet another feminist act on his part. Then as they and their descendants toiled in their punishment, within just a few generations the bastards were everywhere and began race-mixing with their great-great grandchildren. Soon the only men left who did not have season tickets was Noah and his sons, and all of them were outcasts at the lunch rooms and office parties because they didn’t know the scores. Thus it is once again today, just it is as it was in the days of Noah.

Of course, all of this may be dismissed as a conjectural fantasy. But the core ideas expressed here are certainly true, and they are evident from Scripture. Adam did leave Eve alone, and when Adam returned to her and found her in a state of sin, he let her lead him into that sin and willfully joined her. Then Adam blamed her once he was called to account for it by Yahweh his God, rather than taking responsibility for his actions. Adam had also neglected his God, as he even attempted to elude him before being questioned for his crime. As a result, by the time of Noah the entire culture was corrupted, and even with Noah’s obedience the entire race was soon once again taken off into paganism, out of which Abraham alone was called.

By the time of Abraham, the entire Adamic culture had long been alienated from God. There is something else I had said this week in social media: If the culture is not compatible with the laws of Yahweh, then there is something wrong with the culture, but not with the law. We can also elaborate on that here. When the law is challenged or changed because of the culture, that is relativism. Relativism comes from humanism, and one of its earliest expressions in the Christian era is found in the Talmud, the work of the enemies of Christ. Relativism has always been popular with the Edomite Jews.

These thoughts were precipitated by a discussion on rape. My wife had made a comment in social media, from answers I gave her to some questions, that in the Old Testament law, when a man raped a married woman he was executed, and when a man raped a virgin he was compelled to pay her father a penalty and marry her. People read that and immediately they protested. Marry a rapist? Doesn’t that reward the rapist? How does a woman live with her rapist? Other subsequent questions were also raised. But the law is found in Deuteronomy chapter 22, where after it explains the punishment for a man who rapes a married woman, we read this: “28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; 29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.” Of course, we speak of men here and not beasts. A beast who rapes a woman must die, according to the law, and the woman who complies with the beast must also die. The law of rape does not disannul the law against fornication.

So if a man rapes a virgin, he is compelled to marry her. There is no choice given in the law for either the man, the father, or the virgin. To this many of our friends objected, but we cannot object to the laws of Yahweh our God. This is a good example of where our present culture is so far removed from Godliness that we reject the law and cannot even fathom why God would insist upon such a ‘horrible’ thing.

But we must ask this: what would a young woman be doing alone, where she would even be vulnerable to rape? In the ancient world, there were no policemen, cell phones, hidden cameras, and often might was the only right, and it does not matter whether we think that precept is right or wrong because in the ancient pagan world it was nevertheless the prevailing situation. The Greeks and Phoenicians and others often kidnapped women from neighboring lands and forced them to be concubines or sold them into slavery. In the opening sentences of his work, the great historian Herodotus blamed all of the troubles that the Greeks had with the people of the east on the kidnappings of women by the Phoenicians, and on the taking of Helen from Sparta by the Trojan prince Alexandros, whom the Romans had called Paris. But Europe itself was named after Europa, a Phoenician woman said to have been raped by Zeus, who posed as a white bull. Rape was a common topic in ancient literature, because rape was common wherever women were found unattended and vulnerable.

Adam should not have left Eve by herself, where she would be vulnerable. Reading the Greek classics, and especially the earlier Tragic Poets and similar ancient literature, women did not leave their homes unescorted, and women did not even look upon strange men when they were taken out by their menfolk. Furthermore, they only spoke to men that were properly introduced to them. Young girls generally remained in their mothers' presence throughout the course of each day. If a young girl, a virgin, was in a position where she may be raped, it was either her own fault or the fault of her father and mother or older male guardians. In fact, remembering the 1960’s, only 50 years ago, we were generally taught not to speak with girls unless we were first properly introduced to them by their own families.

Neither should there be any such thing as dating. The concept of dating is a modern contrivance devised by the authors of pop culture – primarily the Jewish media and entertainment industry – and the practice constantly leaves nearly all young women in a vulnerable position at diverse times. Courting is proper, under the supervision of parents, but dating is no better than mating just as wild animals are accustomed to doing. If we had proper family lives, our daughters would very likely retain their chastity until they were properly married – preferably to a man approved by the parents first, whose approval he must have even before he ever even got to speak to such a girl. There is a lot to think about here in the ancient cultural context of the law. And just because the prevalent practices of culture have changed does not mean that the law should change. If we dispose of Yahweh's law because of the new "pop-culture" perspectives, then Satan has prevailed and we are all doomed. Rather, we should seek to be as Noah and his sons… except maybe for Ham.

When we discussed 1 Timothy chapter 2, we rather purposely neglected to elaborate much on the final passage of that chapter. So here is what Paul had said in its final three verses:

13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman had been thoroughly beguiled when the transgression occurred. 15 But she will be delivered through child-bearing, if they abide in faith and love and sanctification with discretion.

Discussing verses 13 and 14, we elaborated on the fact that Adam bore the primary responsibility for the sin, and spoke of the importance of the natural role within the family unit which is assigned to the woman and which she should maintain. But discussing verse 15, we said only that:

As Paul explains in 1 Timothy chapter 5, “if any widow has child or grandchild, they must first learn piety at home and to return compensation to their ancestors”, so the woman is instrumental in the transmission of Christian ethics, culture, and racial awareness to future generations. In this last century, that role has been relinquished to public school systems, and any objective observation of the result of that policy is the best defense of the opinions of Paul of Tarsus.

Here in chapter 5 of this epistle, there is more to discuss concerning just how a woman may be saved through childbirth, or “delivered through child-bearing”, as we have it, and since we believe that Paul answers that question here, we waited for this chapter to discuss the issue at length. But since several statements here in this chapter contribute to that answer, we shall proceed with the chapter itself, remembering that the advice is intended primarily for Timothy, but in this context it extends to all Christian pastors, as Paul expected Timothy to teach these things to the people and especially the leaders of the assemblies which were at Ephesus. But first Paul gives advice concerning another subject:

1 You should not rebuke an elder, but exhort as a father; youths as brothers, 2 matrons as mothers, damsels as sisters with all purity.

So we see that we should treat elder men and women as our own fathers and mothers, and the younger as our own brothers and sisters – even when we are correcting them. Here Paul is not speaking about rebuking elders who have actually sinned, which he discusses towards the end of this chapter, in verses 19 and 20. Rather, the sort of rebuke he refers to here must be a rebuke for something other than sin, and most probably for the misunderstanding of doctrine. This is apparent since doctrine was the topic of the previous sentence, where Paul said in the last verse of chapter 4, according to the King James Version: “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” This verse continues that same thought, as the subject has not changed simply because a chapter division was added many centuries after Paul had written this epistle.

While here Paul is apparently advising Timothy to treat elders as well as youths – both men and women – with loving respect as he corrects them, there is a limitation to the patience he must have. As Paul had told Titus, in an epistle which was written around the same time that this one was written, “10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; 11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” So we exhort our fellows with loving kindness, but we must ultimately reject those who refuse the correction of Scripture.

Now Paul turns his attention to widows, with a statement that we believe is little understood:

3 Honor widows, those who really are widows.

Why would Paul refer to “widows, those who are really widows”, which is the literal translation, unless there were widows which were not really widows? The word really here is from the Adverb ὄντως, a Participle form of the verb εἰμί or to be, which Liddell & Scott define as “really, actually, [or] verily”, and it appears here again in verse 16. Evidently, from his language both here and further on, there were women claiming to be widowed who may have only been divorced, or who lost their virginity in some other way, and who were seeking the support of the community where here Paul tells Timothy to instead encourage, as we shall see, them to seek a husband.

Most translations render this verse correctly, even if the implications of the statement are not always understood. However some translations try to interpret it otherwise, and do so wrongly. For instance, the Berean Study Bible has it to say “Support the widows who are truly in need.” And the New Living Translation, which is frequently fraudulent, comes close to the meaning of the International Standard Version which reads the passage to say “Honor widows who have no other family members to care for them.” These are not translations, but wrongful interpretations. In fact, they are even lies. They add ideas to the text which are not found in the original Greek. Paul is referring to widows who are not really widows, and not to women who may have someone else to care for them, or he would not advise them to get married and raise children in the verses which follow.

But first he continues by describing widows who are worthy of assistance:

4 And if any widow has child or grandchild, they must first learn piety at home and to return compensation to their ancestors. For this is acceptable before Yahweh. 5 Now she who is really a widow and being alone has hope in Yahweh [א and D have “the Lord”; the text follows C and 048, and A and the MT which vary slightly] and continues in supplication and prayers night and day.

Before the days of Social Security, a woman relied on faithfully-raised offspring for protection and support after her husband died. That reflects one aspect of Paul’s earlier statement that a woman would be “delivered through child-bearing”. That is why Tamar was considered righteous in whoring herself off to Judah, because by her act she had conceived the children from his house to which she was entitled. That is also part of the reason why it was a reproach for a woman to be a widow, and not to have had children. We see that reproach expressed in the prayers and lamentation of Hannah, in 1 Samuel chapter 1, and in the joy of Elisabeth, where she celebrates her conception of John the Baptist in Luke chapter 1. They feared the deaths of their husbands, and their having no children would leave them destitute.

Here we also see that by raising pious children a woman also instructs them “to return compensation to their ancestors”. If we follow the prophecies concerning the children of Israel being taken into captivity and spread among the nations, we see promises that Yahweh will cut off the wicked from among them. For instance, in Ezekiel chapter 21 we read: “3 And say to the land of Israel, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I am against thee, and will draw forth my sword out of his sheath, and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked. 4 Seeing then that I will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked, therefore shall my sword go forth out of his sheath against all flesh from the south to the north.” Likewise, we read in Amos chapter 9: “9 For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.” Then examining the prophets the pious among the children of Israel would ultimately be preserved, for example as it is described in Isaiah chapter 56 or in Ezekiel chapter 18. So ostensibly, if indeed we are sons and not bastards, we are here in Christ because our ancestors were not wicked. So if our ancestors were pious, we their descendants are part of their reward, and we reward them in turn by being pious ourselves. The impious man or woman betrays his or her own ancestors.

Here Paul is also actually describing, in part, the role of the widow as a servant to the Christian assembly. Serving the assembly, she “has hope in Yahweh” because being a pious and noble widow and choosing to serve Christ, her needs will be fulfilled and she will be fed and protected by the Christian community in her old age. However as Paul also advises here, this benefit should only be extended to women who have led moral lives, who were married and who did raise faithful children. In that manner also, as Paul had said in 1 Timothy chapter 2, the woman is “delivered through child-bearing”. If her own children are not present to support her, which is the Biblical expectation, the community nevertheless recognizes that she had led a pious life, and supports her in turn because her own children are not present or able to do so. The naughty widow should have no such expectation from the community.

Evidently, one such noble widow from Paul’s ministry is Phoebe (or in the King James Version, Phebe), who is mentioned only once, in Romans chapter 16. Paul had employed her as a messenger in order to deliver the epistle to the Romans to the assemblies in Rome. As we find in Acts chapter 20, Paul had passed through Greece and gone on to the Troad, where he and several others of his fellow-workers had assembled. Some of these, such as Luke, had been separated for some time. There they spent several days together before the group went on with Paul to Miletus, and ultimately to Jerusalem. The Greek town of Cenchrea was the seaport of Corinth on the east, so ostensibly Phoebe had accompanied Paul as he left Achaia for the Troad, where we have established that the epistle to the Romans was written, and Phoebe was then selected to deliver that epistle to Rome.

Paul says in the opening verses of Romans chapter 16: “1 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: 2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.” So we see that Phoebe was evidently one of the widows which Paul describes here, and we see another glimpse of the activities through which a widow can serve a Christian assembly. Then, in contrast to women such as Phoebe, Paul states:

6 But she living lewdly is living dead.

The woman who is a sinner, who did not spend her time raising faithful children but rather went a-whoring, that woman is as good as dead. Her spirit may be saved in the day of Christ, as we read of a fornicating man in 1 Corinthians chapter 5, but carnally she lives in death, being a sinner. Paul wrote in Romans chapter 5 that “if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” Christians should not feed the dead. Christians should not expend themselves on sinners. So Paul admonishes Timothy:

7 And you transmit these things in order that they would be irreproachable.

Speaking in Miletus to the Ephesians and telling them that he may never see them again while testifying to them that he had taught them the Gospel correctly, Paul said “26 Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” Here, two years before he made that speech in Miletus, Paul had encouraged Timothy to teach that very same thing to the elders of these very same Ephesians.

Now, encouraging Christians to irreproachable behavior, “in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee”, as Paul instructed Timothy in the last verse of chapter 4. This preservation is not the preservation of eternal life, which is a gift from Yahweh, but a preservation in this life, as obedience to Christ saves man from the suffering and death which results from sin. Now Paul continues in reference to Timothy’s responsibility to his flock, and by implication in reference to the responsibility that all men have for the people of their own communities:

8 Now if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially of kin, he has denied the faith and is inferior to one of the faithless.

One of the faithless, or those outside the faith, as the word means “without faith”. This is the law, to provide for one’s own, and not only for one’s own kin but for the wider community of the Body of Christ in general. So it says in Leviticus chapter 19 that “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”. Likewise, we read in Exodus chapter 16 of the collection and distribution of the manna in the wilderness where the Word of Yahweh says: “16 This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents. 17 And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. 18 And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating.”

While a man is entitled to the fruits of his own labor, we also have an obligation to make certain that the people of our own family and community are provided for: that no man of a Christian community is lacking for the necessities of life. Not providing for our own, we are essentially denying the faith, because Yahweh provides for the obedient, and even often for the disobedient of His children. So Christ admonishes in the Gospel, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 6: “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?… But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Therefore Christians should seek to provide for one another as well as for their close kin. But where Paul says that a man should provide for “his own”, he means to refer to those of one’s own Christian community. Paul is certainly not informing us that we should provide for aliens or unbelievers. Rather, he admonished in 2 Corinthians chapter 6 to “come out from among them, and be ye separate”, and he is not contradicting himself here.

But the context of these statements is nevertheless within the bounds of the discussion on widows, so Paul continues and says:

9 A widow must not be enrolled less than sixty years old, who had been a wife of one husband,

The punctuation found in the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, where a comma follows the verb γεγονυῖα [μὴ ἔλαττον ἐτῶν ἑξήκοντα γεγονυῖα, ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή], forces the English reader to render a Perfect Passive verb as an Active verb: “not being less than sixty years old, a wife of one husband”. I have moved the comma to precede the verb [γεγονυῖα], where the grammar may then be read correctly, and the phrase “must not be enrolled less than sixty years old, who had been a wife of one husband” which is quite natural, being applied to a widow. This is also the interpretation found in the King James Version. Paul continues to describe women who are eligible for the care of a Christian community as those:

10 being accredited with good works: if she had raised children, if she was hospitable to strangers, if she washed the feet of saints, if she succored the afflicted, if she complied in every good deed.

If a woman has led an exemplary life and finds herself a widow in her old age, she may expect, and is entitled to, the care of the Christian assembly. In turn, she becomes a servant of the assembly itself, a sort of elder wife to the community as a whole, and can serve the assembly through “supplication and prayers night and day”, as Paul suggests here in verse 4, or even in capacities such as we see in the example of Phoebe in Romans chapter 16, or Lydia in Acts chapter 16.

Even Yahshua Christ was assisted in the conduct of His ministry by widows, who evidently looked after His earthly needs as He ministered to the Spiritual needs of His people. This is evident in Matthew chapter 27, where describing the scene of the Crucifixion the apostle wrote that “40 There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; 41 (Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem.”

Now Paul continues with a warning:

11 But younger widows you must excuse, for when they behave wantonly towards the anointed, they desire to marry 12 with judgment because they have set aside that former assurance.

The verse division between the phrases “they desire to marry” and “with judgment” is unfortunate, because the thought should not be broken. But more importantly, where the Greek term which literally means the anointed is in the traditional translations of our New Testaments always rendered as Christ, on some occasions the rule becomes an absurdity. We would assert that on frequent occasions where Paul uses forms of the term ὁ χριστός, or the Christ, he is actually referring to the body of Christ, which is the collective community of believers among the children of Israel, and not to Christ the individual. This is apparent, for instance, in 1 Corinthians 1:13 where Paul asks “Have the Anointed been divided?”, or in Hebrews 11:26 where he makes reference to “the reproach of the Anointed”, which is the shame that the people of Yahweh had suffered in Egypt.

We cannot imagine here that Paul is asserting that young widows would act wantonly towards Christ Himself. The Greek word καταστρηνιάω, according to Liddell & Scott, is to behave wantonly towards, citing this very passage of Scripture, and Strong’s Greek dictionary and many other popular lexicons agree. So our translation is a perfectly literal interpretation of the phrase καταστρηνιάσωσιν τοῦ χριστοῦ. Yet the resulting translation is so little understood by the denominational interpreters that many of them totally corrupt the meaning of the passage in their translations.

But in the context of the wider passage the meaning is clear. Where Paul refers to younger women who would “behave wantonly towards the anointed”, he refers to the probable behavior of potentially lewd women towards the men of a Christian assembly. These women, once committed to serve the assembly in return for their own sustenance, but still having sexual desires, would “desire to marry”, thus abandoning their pledge of service to the assembly. For this reason they would face judgment, because by their natural incontinence they would not be able to keep an obligation which they had made to the community. So Paul is warning of the dangers of taking such younger women into the service of the assembly, and he continues:

13 And then at the same time they learn to be sloths, going about the houses, and not only sloths but babblers and meddlers, speaking unnecessary things.

Younger women, women who still have a sexual urge, are fit to be wives and to have children, and that is their natural role. But they are not fit to be servants of the assembly, as their sexual desires and their idle time would lead them to do these other unseemly things, becoming a disruption to the Christian community as a whole, rather than being a benefit.

In 2 Thessalonians chapter 3, Paul describes the frequent fate of those who refuse to work, of both men and women, where he says “10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.” A woman’s primary work is to care for the domestic concerns of her husband, and to raise their children. An older woman should be doing as much to help with her grandchildren, as Paul indicates here in verse 4, and if an older woman has nobody to care for her in return, she can commit herself to the care of the assembly and in turn she shall be provided for by the assembly. But a woman who neglects such work can become a busybody and a meddler in the households of women who do have husbands, and Paul is warning against that here. In part 2 of this commentary on 1 Timothy, we illustrated that even the ancient Greeks recognized these problems in their own pagan communities, where we cited the poet Euripides, and his warnings concerning this very same behavior.

So now Paul describes what these widows who were not really widows would better be doing:

14 Therefore I prefer younger women [of the widows which he mentioned previously] to marry, to bear children, to rule the household; to give not any occasion to the opposition for cause of abuse.

The term younger women here is a general term, from a feminine plural form of the adjective describing youth. So explicitly it refers to neither virgins nor to women who had already been married. However in the context of this statement, Paul is ultimately referring to those widows who are not really widows, and therefore he is describing adult women who had been married in the past, but for one reason or another did not have husbands any longer. Here we see that it would be better for them if they found an eligible man and married. So even though Yahweh our God hates divorce, there is no compulsion for a woman who was once married to remain alone if she lost her husband for some reason other than widowhood (because as Paul had said, they were not really widows).

In fact, the very concept of Christian mercy invites the repentant sinner back into the fulfillment of a natural role within the Christian community, and that is what Paul insists upon here of young widows who are not really widows, or at least, younger women who are unmarried but who are obviously not virgins. In her natural role as a wife and mother, or potential mother, a woman is certainly noble. Taken outside of that role, we see Paul explain just how she can be naughty – creating divisions in the houses of other women and seducing the men of the community into sin.

The reference to the opposition is a reference to all of those who are excluded from and naturally opposed to the Christian covenants between Yahweh and His people Israel. These adversaries naturally oppose everything which is from God, and since the dawn of time they have infiltrated the assemblies of His people in order to subvert and destroy them. Jude mentions them in his short epistle and says “4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” When they cannot subvert the children of Yahweh, however, they fulfill the role of the false accuser. So we see in the warnings of Peter “8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”, and in the Revelation of Christ, in chapter 12, where “... the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” When the children of Yahweh engage in sin, those opposed to Christ find cause to abuse them. For that reason so many of them are lawyers and scribes to this very day, in great disproportion to their numbers.

Now Paul continues with an expression of regret for those women who did not return from their sins to fulfill a natural role in his own time and he says:

15 For already some have turned aside after the Adversary.

Fornication, of which one form is whoring, is seen as going after the Adversary, or perhaps the devil, and following the ways of the pagan idols of old. Simply because we now live in so-called “modern” times does not mean that our outlook on sin should change. Such relativism is a device of the devil. Neither is relativism new. The first century Roman historian Tacitus had complained that the Romans thought of sexual corruption as being fashionable (Germania, 19), so using the concept of modernism as an excuse for perversion is an ancient deception. As we have already said, if the culture is not compatible with the laws of Yahweh, then there is something wrong with the culture, but not with the law. As the apostle Peter informs us in the first chapter of his first epistle, “the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”

So Paul said of the unrepentant fornicator in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 that the Christian community of Corinth should “deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh” [verse 5], thereby putting “away from among yourselves that wicked person” [verse 13]. But Paul also explained in Romans chapter 1 that sexual deviancy itself was a punishment from Yahweh upon the sinners among His people who denied or rejected Him. Rejecting God and following their carnal lusts, men choose to follow Satan in the corrupt ways of the world. The apostle John had said in chapter 3 of his first epistle that “He who is creating sin is from of the devil, since the devil sins from the beginning.” This does not mean that we are of the devil if we sin. The same apostle said in that same epistle that “if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins”. But rather, the devil is the author of sin, and men who sin choose to follow in his path, so by fornicating one has “turned aside after the Adversary”, or Satan. The sinner may follow Satan, but that is very different than being from Satan, for which there is no repentance.

Paul continues to write concerning widows and says:

16 If anyone faithful keeps widows, they must assist them and not burden the assembly, in order that it may assist those who are really widows.

The Greek adjective faithful here is πιστή, which is the feminine form of πιστός (Strong’s # 4103), and therefore it describes a feminine subject (cf Acts 16:15). A more accurate translation here would be “If any faithful woman keeps widows...” Ostensibly, if a man had kept widows in his home – especially widows who were not really widows – they instead may have been considered to be concubines.

The 6th century Codex Claromontanus (D) and the Majority Text – and therefore the King James Version – have both the masculine and feminine forms of the Adjective, πιστός ἤ πιστή, and therefore the King James Version reads “If any man or woman that believeth have widows…” Our text follows the 5th century Codices Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus Graecus 2061 (Uncial 048), and Ephraemi Syri (C).

Once again we see a reference to widows “who are really widows”, as if there were single women who claimed to be widows, and they were actually without their husbands for some other reason.

So Paul informs people who would maintain widows privately to continue to do so at their own expense, and not to burden the wider Christian assembly with anything concerning their care. Ostensibly, one who volunteers to maintain a widow privately has chosen to do so for one’s own reasons, and not having a say in whether or not the particular woman is worthy of such help, nor having the benefit of whatever services the widow could give in return, the assembly should not be responsible for assisting the caregiver. But the assembly should “assist those who really are widows”, women who lived exemplary lives and lost their husbands and need the help of the community, but who would also become servants of that community in exchange for their sustenance.

Now Paul turns his attention from widows and speaks of men who serve the community:

17 Those elders having governed rightly are worthy of double honor, especially those toiling in the word and in teaching.

The elders Paul refers to here are not simply old men, but those men who are governing the assembly, where he says “elders having governed rightly”.

While Paul uses the term elder, which is πρεσβύτερος, in much the same manner in Titus chapter 1, it is not readily apparent from his language that the term elder is a Hebraism which refers to a bishop, or ἐπίσκοπος, which is the elected overseer or supervisor of a Christian community. The identification is made in 1 Peter chapter 5, where in the opening verses of that chapter Peter had used the term elders, and described their office with the word ἐπισκοπέω, the verb akin to the noun ἐπίσκοπος, which the King James Version translates there as “taking the oversight”, the same as fulfilling the office of an ἐπίσκοπος.

That these elders as well as the ministers, or servants, of the community, were elected by the local body of Christians is evident in language used by the apostles in Acts 14:23 and 2 Corinthians 8:19, where the word χειροτονέω, a verb which means “to stretch out the hand, for the purpose of voting… [and] to vote for, elect, properly by show of hands” was used to describe the selection process.

Here Paul indicates that these men who serve the community in this capacity are worthy of twice the support as would be provided to a widow, and especially those men who labor in teaching the Word of God. But Paul is not speaking of retired elders, as he uses a verb for toiling which is in the present tense. Rather, he is speaking of those who have acted as elders presently as he had written this. We find no concept of retirement for men in Scripture, and “if any would not work, neither should he eat”, as Paul wrote elsewhere, in 2 Thessalonians chapter 3. Next Paul explains why these teachers of the Word and those governing the community are worthy of the support of the community, in principle by citing two Scriptures:

18 For the writings say: “You shall not muzzle a treading ox” and “worthy is the workman of his wage.”

Likewise Paul said to the Christians of Corinth concerning those who ministered the Gospel to them, that: “11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” But these men governing their community or teaching the Gospel were not mere Sunday preachers. Rather, Paul is speaking of community administrators, which is what Christian governance was about: local rule by the Commandments and Gospel of Christ, administered through a Patriarchy which selected their administrative and spiritual leaders from among themselves. Paul is telling us that those leaders who govern rightly are worthy of double honor, and especially when they labor in the Word of God and the teaching of the Gospel.

Here Paul quoted from Deuteronomy 25:4, which he also cited in that same passage of 1 Corinthians to which we have just referred, in verses 9 through 11 of 1 Corinthians chapter 9. Then he paraphrased the words of Christ in the Gospel as they are recorded in Matthew 10:10 where he wrote “worthy is the workman of his wage”. The Codex Sinaiticus has this passage here to say “worthy is the workman of his victuals”, food or sustenance, which more closely agrees with the version recorded in Matthew.

The concept is simple. The Levitical priests were the administrators of the Old Covenant and the Kingdom, and they lived off the tithes and the offerings to the temple, which is evident in passages such as Numbers 18:31 where the Levites working in the service of the Tabernacle are told, in reference to the sacrifices, “31 And ye shall eat it in every place, ye and your households: for it is your reward for your service in the tabernacle of the congregation.” But men selected as ministers of the Gospel and community leaders elected by the people are the administrators of the New Covenant, and they should live likewise. Working for their community, the life they lead precludes them from spending their days earning money working for their own benefit. Now Paul continues in reference to them and says:

19 An accusation against an elder you must not receive publicly, except “by two or three witnesses.”

The King James translation of this passage reads “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.” We feel this rendering is incorrect, and it matters greatly. But first, we shall discuss the reasons for our differences in translating the verse.

Here the King James Version seems to have completely ignored the word ἐκτός, or as some lexicons suggest, to have read the phrase ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ simply as but. The large 9th edition of the Liddell & Scott Greek-English Lexicon defines ἐκτός primarily to mean “without, outside, opposite ἐντός”, and ἐντός primarily means within or inside. Then they explain that “as Preposition with genitive, which may either precede or follow,” it may have one of several related meanings, such as out of, far from, or beyond, and it may also mean except in the sense of being besides or apart from. But here the word is not necessarily a Preposition. Later, Liddell & Scott explain that “with Verbs of motion” it may mean out, giving the example of ῥίπτειν ἐκτός, or to throw out. Even that agrees with our translation. Here we interpret ἐκτός as an Adverb modifying the verb for receive, which it follows, and we have rendered it as publicly in order to illustrate the meaning of the literal translation, which would be “receive outside”. The phrase εἰ μὴ itself, which is literally “if not”, is then rendered properly as but.

I have found corroboration for my interpretation of the word ἐκτός here in contemporary Judaean literature which illustrates what Paul had in mind when he used the term. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, in the scroll designated 1QS, Column VI, we read in part “no-one should raise a matter against his fellow in front of the Many unless it is with reproof in the presence of witnesses.” This same admonition is repeated in several of the other scrolls in parallel passages. [The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition, Volume I p. 83, Florentino Garcia Martinez and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1997.]

An elder approached with an accusation against a member of the community must hear the accusation. But then he is obliged to investigate whether or not there are corroborating witnesses, thereby fulfilling the law of two or three witnesses. Making the accusation of one witness public invites slander, and can spoil the reputation of a man falsely accused. So while the victim of some crime has a right to report the crime to an authority and to be heard, the accusation should not be broadcast without corroborating evidence so that the law of witnesses may be fulfilled. Once two or three witnesses have been gathered, only then may the next step in the judicial procedure may be fulfilled.

The words of Christ as they are recorded in Matthew chapter 18: “15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church [or properly, the assembly]: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” Of course, the witnesses must be able to testify to the facts of the case, or they are not witnesses. So the first step is to gather witnesses, and then to judge whether the matter may be settled privately, and only then, with two or three witnesses, to make it public.

The law first appears in Numbers chapter 35: “30 Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.” This concept is repeated in Deuteronomy chapter 17, and then in Deuteronomy chapter 19 we read: “15 One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.” The words are repeated several other times in both Old and New Testaments.

So if an accusation is made against anyone, for any reason no matter how grave, and it is heard by an elder and there is only one witness, the accusation has to be privately shelved until another witness arises, and if there is no other witness, the accusation may never be brought to light. Many of us disdain that law, but it exists for good reason, and it is repeated frequently in the Word of Yahweh our God.

Now in reference to accusations which may be proven, Paul says:

20 Those wrongdoers you censure before all, in order that the rest also would have fear.

Men, and also women, must learn that there are consequences to wrongdoing, which Christian communities cannot tolerate. Once even the slightest sin is tolerated, the community is on a slippery slope down the path to relativism, and ultimately, any sin may be justified – just as the modern denominational churches, which now all practice relativism, have come to create for themselves the anti-Christ slogan “love the sinner, hate the sin”. Yet Yahweh God destroyed all of the Sodomites in Sodom rather than eradicating Sodomy. Those people who were sinners were destroyed and the Sodomites who tolerated the sin were destroyed, and not merely the ideas which were sinful. It is so important for Christian communities to maintain the Laws of Yahweh their God, that Paul now makes a very emphatic exhortation, stating:

21 I solemnly appeal, before Yahweh and Christ Yahshua and the chosen Messengers, that you would keep these things without prejudice, doing nothing in accordance with partiality.

There is equality of men before the law. Men are not all equal, but they should expect equal judgment before the laws of God (i.e. James 2). Strangely, the 5th century Codex Alexandrinus (A), and 6th century Codex Claromontanus (D) and the Majority Text all have κατὰ πρόσκλησιν here, which is “according to judicial summons”; our text follows the 4th century Codex Sinaiticus (א) which has κατὰ πρόσκλισιν, which means “with partiality”. The difference is one letter. This is also one of those passages which shows that the King James Version did not always follow the Majority Text, as it also agrees here with the Codex Sinaiticus. But of course there are other later manuscripts that follow either one of these readings. Paul continues with another warning:

22 Lay hands hastily upon no one, nor partake in another’s wrongdoings. Keep yourself pure.

Here his remarks must be related to his admonition concerning accusations and witnesses, which illustrates the danger of accepting an accusation publicly without having sufficient witnesses. Now he adds a personal note which seems to be out of place, but which is attested to in all of the earliest surviving manuscripts:

23 No longer drink water only, rather you must use a little wine for sake of the [the MT has “your”; the text follows א, A and D] stomach, and your frequent sicknesses.

The Greek geographer and historian Strabo of Cappadocia, who wrote approximately 40 to 60 years before Paul, called the wine of Signia in Italy “the best for checking the bowels” (Geography, 5.3.10). Other Greek ancient writers also recognized the health benefits of moderate wine consumption as well as the dangers of drunkenness.

But why would Paul make this admonition here, right in the middle of a discussion on the teaching of proper community governance? We can only conjecture that perhaps Paul realizes the result of the constant divisions, strivings, back-stabbings, slanders, rumor-mongering and other contentions that involve such a community leader on a daily basis, and the adverse health affects which may be caused by having to constantly deal with such things. So now that Timothy has assumed Paul’s role in Ephesus, as Paul had only recently departed the city, he recommends a little wine to soothe what may be a problem frequently agitated by anxiety and frustration.

So Paul concludes:

24 The errors of some men are manifest beforehand, going ahead to judgment, but others then follow after. 25 In like manner also are the good works manifest, and those being otherwise are not able to be concealed.

Christians who repent in this life are forgiven their sins in this life, although they may still have to live with some of the inevitable consequences depending upon the circumstances of the sin and the repentance. Likewise the good works of men are manifest. However those who refuse to repent will indeed have to face their Creator when they depart from this life, and their evil deeds will eventually be known to all.

We may elaborate on these things when we return to conclude our commentary on Paul’s first epistle to Timothy.

 

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