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The Catholic Study Bible A special version of the New American Bible, with a wealth of background information useful to Catholics.

Reading through 2 Timothy

The Address and Thanksgiving ( 1, 1–5 )

The address ( 1, 1–5 ) consists of a greeting ( 1, 1–2 ) and a thanksgiving ( 1, 3–5 ), following the authentic Pauline style.

The Body of the Letter ( 1, 6–4, 8 )

We have noted previously that Paul generally follows a basic pattern of first presenting his fundamental teaching on various issues and then drawing ethical conclusions from this teaching, though these two parts do not always follow one another in neat order. First Timothy does not follow this pattern very well, and 2 Timothy even less so, primarily because it is more of a personal communication that combines reminders about teaching with advice in an informal way. The informal structure of this letter focuses on two main themes that are developed here: the minister's experience of God and warnings against false teaching.

Instructions to Timothy ( 1, 6–2, 13 )

Timothy is not to be ashamed of the gospel or his commission to testify to the truth at all times. He also has the responsibility to keep that truth intact as he has received it. The apostle often uses himself as an example, as a source of inspiration and motivation. Paul lives with such integrity that he urges Christians to imitate him in everything (see Phil 4, 8–10 ). Timothy is reminded that those who follow Christ will suffer persecution. This echoes Jesus' warning to his disciples (Mt 24, 9–14; Mk 13, 9–13; Lk 21, 12–19; Jn 15, 11–27 ). In the face of such pressure, Timothy is to remain constant.

Warnings about False Teaching ( 2, 14–3, 9 )

Like the other Pastorals, 2 Timothy is aimed at false teachings that promote a certain gnosis or knowledge and a consequent asceticism or strict discipline. The false teachings Paul attacks attach superior value to those who are “enlightened” with such knowledge and practice stringent customs regarding sexuality and diet. These practices set them apart from others, contributing to their sense of superiority. In all three letters, Paul was assuming that his addressees held the right beliefs, so that it was not necessary to review the correct teaching or doctrine that the writer and recipient hold in common. Therefore Paul spoke in vague and abstract terms about the false teaching, concentrating instead on the appropriate ethical applications that follow from true gospel preaching. Paul urges Timothy not to become embroiled in debates: “Charge [people]…to stop disputing about words…avoid profane [and] idle talk” ( 2, 14.16 ). One of the false teachings actually identified is that baptized Christians are already risen with Christ and that there is no future bodily resurrection (see note on 2, 14–19 ). Paul understands Christians as living in the last days when there are many dangers and threats to faith.

While warnings about false teaching are given throughout this section, in verses 1–9 they are concentrated and seem aimed at a specific group of people, although they could also be intended more generally. The disparagement of women's intellectual ability that we have seen surface in 1 Timothy is again present ( 3, 6–7 ), with perhaps the opposite effect: in fact, the author is telling us that missions among women were very successful, which means that the women were intellectually alert and responsive.

Final Advice ( 3, 10–4, 8 )

Paul describes his life and impending death as a liturgical sacrifice; he is being poured out like a libation, an offering of wine ( 4, 6 ). He has run and finished the course ( 4, 7 ). He awaits with longing the reward of God ( 4, 6–8 ). Such confidence is based in God and meant to serve as encouragement to Timothy who still runs the course. Like other biblical heroes (including Moses and Jesus), Paul is represented in 2 Timothy as giving a kind of farewell address near the end of his life ( 4, 6–8 ). In this speech the hero warns his followers about impending dangers and threats to fidelity. They are commissioned with authority and reminded about the source of their confidence. They are promised that God will remain with them and that they will endure. Paul reminds Timothy to hold to the essentials of sound doctrine: Scripture, and the example of Christ and of other Christians. He reminds Timothy that those who live the gospel message will be persecuted. Paul urges Timothy to be faithful in waiting for the appearance of Jesus Christ.

Conclusion ( 4, 9–22 )

The personal tone and greetings of 2 Timothy mark this as the closest Pastoral Letter to Paul's own style. Paul often experienced failure in his relationships with others. The author of 2 Timothy experiences similar problems. Like Paul, he says that such difficulties are the occasion for more converts to the gospel message. The letter ends with a prayer for God's spirit to be with Timothy (“your” is singular). The plural in the last line may indicate the letter's being read and reflected upon in the assembly.

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