Background

Second Timothy is most likely the third of three letters written that are often called Paul’s Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy, Titus, and 2 Timothy).  This epistle, or letter, is the last of Paul’s letters and is therefore sometimes called “his last will and testament” because he writes to Timothy as a prisoner who knows he will soon die because of the gospel.

For more information on the Pastoral Epistles and on Timothy, see the introductory page for 1 Timothy as well as Timothy’s bio page.

Authorship

The self-proclaimed author of each of the Pastoral Epistles is the apostle Paul (1 Tim 1:1; 2 Tim 1:1; Titus 1:1), and the early church unanimously attributes them to Paul as well.  However, these epistles do provide an interesting challenge for anyone trying to fit them into the life of the apostle Paul as we know it from the rest of Scripture, particularly the book of Acts.  This is because there are a number of events mentioned in them by Paul that we do not have verification of elsewhere.  Specifically in this letter of 2 Timothy, we notice the following:

Second Timothy was written while Paul was a prisoner at Rome (see 2 Timothy 1:8, 16, 17; 2:9), but the details mentioned by Paul about this imprisonment do not agree with what we know of the first imprisonment at Rome. Paul does indeed see the end of his sufferings before him, not with the hope of deliverance, but in the certain expectation of death (2 Timothy 4:7, 8). Again, Paul here mentions certain companions of whom we hear nothing in the letters written from the first imprisonment (2 Timothy 1:15; 4:14-18). It is also certain that he was at Troas shortly before this letter was penned (see 4:13), but when he was in his first Roman captivity, he had not been near Troas for years.1Schaller, John, Loren A. Schaller, and Gary P. Baumler. The Book of Books: A Brief Introduction to the Bible. The People’s Bible. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House, 1990. 264.

However, this does not mean that the apostle Paul did not write the Pastoral Epistles.  In fact, these separate events could actually help support Paul being the author.  If these letters were written and falsely attributed to Paul, one would assume the person writing in Paul’s name would have used events and locations that matched widely known facts about Paul’s life.  Instead, what we have seems to point to Paul’s missionary activity after the book of Acts and after his earlier letters had already been written.

For more information about the apostle Paul, see also his bio page as well as the Chronology of Paul’s Ministry.

Place and Date of Writing

The apostle Paul presumably conducted a fourth missionary journey following his release from his first Roman imprisonment, and yet a few years later he once again became a prisoner in Rome (2 Tim 1:8,16,17; 2:9).  This time he was apparently convinced that his earthly life was coming to an end (2 Tim 4:6-8).  Reliable tradition reports that Paul was martyred during the Neronian persecution (AD 64-68), and therefore Paul seems to have written this letter to Timothy around 67-68 AD.

For more information see the introductory page for 1 Timothy.

Purpose and Content

Paul viewed Timothy as a very dear son in the faith (2 Tim 2:2), so he writes to Timothy to help guide him in his gospel ministry.  First and foremost, Paul encourages Timothy to safeguard the gospel message itself (2 Tim 1:8,14; 2:15) and to entrust it to reliable people who can pass it on to the next generation (2 Tim 2:1-2).  He warns Timothy about false teachings and false teachers (2 Tim 2:14-2:21; 3:6-3:9).  He also encourages him to avoid the sins of the world (2 Tim 2:22-3:5) and to live a godly life for the sake of the gospel (2 Tim 3:10-4:5).

Notable Passages

  • 2 Timothy 1:9-10
  • 2 Timothy 1:13-14
  • 2 Timothy 2:1-2
  • 2 Timothy 2:8-10
  • 2 Timothy 2:15
  • 2 Timothy 2:19
  • 2 Timothy 2:22-26
  • 2 Timothy 3:14-17
  • 2 Timothy 4:1-2
  • 2 Timothy 4:7-8
  • 2 Timothy 4:18

Outline

  1. Hold on to the gospel (2 Timothy 1)
  2. Teach the gospel (2 Timothy 2)
  3. Live in the gospel (2 Timothy 3)
  4. Preach the gospel (2 Timothy 4)2Adapted from: Hendriksen, William, and Simon J. Kistemaker. Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles. Vol. 4. New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001.

References   [ + ]

1. Schaller, John, Loren A. Schaller, and Gary P. Baumler. The Book of Books: A Brief Introduction to the Bible. The People’s Bible. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House, 1990. 264.
2. Adapted from: Hendriksen, William, and Simon J. Kistemaker. Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles. Vol. 4. New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001.