Saint Timothy's
Episcopal Church
Indianapolis, IN  USA


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Saint Timothy

Timothy was a close companion and messenger of Paul the Apostle. Paul called him his "dear and faithful child in the Lord". Timothy appears to have been entirely at Paul's disposal from Paul's visit to Lystra on the Second Journey until the time of Paul's death in Rome, a period of perhaps 17 years. Timothy was by nature reserved and timid. Paul nevertheless commissioned Timothy to strengthen the recalcitrant Corinthians in their faith and in their loyalty to Paul.

For all his shyness, Timothy could be trusted above many others for his pastoral concern and his gentle tact in dealing with awkward situations. When in prison, Paul wrote to the Christian community at Philippi, 'I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be cheered by news of you. I have no one like him, who will be genuinely anxious for your welfare. They all look after their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But Timothy's worth you know, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.' (Phil. 2:19-22) Although Timothy may have been subject to 'frequent ailments' (I Tim. 5:23), he seems to have been constantly ready to undertake dangerous journeys on difficult errands for Paul. His deliberate action leading to his martyrdom (some thirty years after Paul's) shows a similar courage, if not quite the same aggressive initiative as that of the apostle.

Timothy was a native of Lystra in Lycaonia, a town visited twice by Paul and Barnabas on their First Journey. On the first occasion Paul had been stoned and left for dead, so Timothy was under no illusions as to the cost and danger of discipleship. A few years later, when Paul returned to Lystra, this time with Silas, Timothy was already a respected member of the Christian congregation, as was his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice, both Jewesses.

Paul and Silas took Timothy along with them on their journey over to Macedonia. Somehow Timothy escaped the very rough treatment suffered by Paul and Silas at Philippi, and he does not seem to have been involved in the episode that incensed the Jews at Thessalonica. When Paul went on to Athens, Silas and Timothy stayed for some time at Beroea and Thessalonica before joining Paul at Corinth. We do not know at what point in Timothy's career he was ordained by the laying-on of hands by Paul and others. We do not know whether he accompanied Paul back to Antioch between the Second and Third Journeys. But we do know that Timothy and another disciple named Erastus were Paul's 'helpers' during his long teaching ministry at Ephesus, which may well have been interrupted by some crisis involving danger. Timothy acted as Paul's messenger to carry the Corinthian correspondence from Ephesus, and his name is linked with Paul's in letters to Thessalonica, Colossae, and Philippi.

At the end of Paul's Third Journey, Timothy was among the large group of disciples who met Paul at Troas and shared a Eucharist the night before Paul sailed for Jerusalem. But we do not know whether Timothy accompanied Paul or shared any of his imprisonment at Caesarea. It seems that Luke acted as Paul's secretary and companion until his arrival in Rome; from then onwards there is little evidence of Paul's movements, let alone those of his companions. If Paul's letter to Philippi or to Colossae, whether to the congregation or to Philemon, were written in Rome, then certainly Timothy was with Paul in Rome.

Whether the letters to Timothy were written by Paul or not, it is certain that Paul sent Timothy as his representative to Ephesus, to teach for some considerable time. We know that Paul sent for Timothy to bring his scrolls and cloak before winter set in - but not whether Timothy arrived before Paul's execution. The final chapter of the letter to Hebrew Christians may just possibly have been an appendix added by Paul himself. Its last message is that Timothy has been set free from some imprisonment and that Paul hopes he will arrive in time to be with him.

Eusebius, the 4th-century historian and bishop of Caesarea, records that Timothy became the first bishop of Ephesus. The apocryphal Acts of Timothy, dating from the same period, describes his martyrdom on 22 January in the year 97, when protesting at the licentious festivities in honor of Diana of the Ephesians. His relics are believed to have been transferred to Constantinople in the year 356.