Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

St. Timothy: Studied Holy Scripture from Youth

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It is commonly believed that none of the disciples was closer to St. Paul than St. Timothy.

St. Timothy, the beloved disciple of St. Paul was a young man from Lystra in Southern Asia Minor. St. Timothy whose name meant "honoring God", was born into a religiously divided household, with a Jewish mother and a father of Greek descent who worshipped Greek gods. Most likely because of his father's lineage St. Timothy was considered a Gentile rather than a Jew.

It is known that St. Timothy was not circumcised as mandated by the Jewish custom of his time but we do know he was deeply influenced by the faith of his mother and grandmother. Due to their upbringing early in his youth St. Timothy made the Holy Scriptures his constant study. "Do not let this Book of Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful" (Joshua 1:8).

St. Timothy along with his mother and grandmother were converted to Christianity during St. Paul and Barnabas' first visit to Lystra.

When St. Paul preached in Lycaonia, the brethren of Iconium and Lystra gave St. Timothy such good report that the apostle took him for his companion. St. Paul was soon to recognize young St. Timothy's missionary capabilities and invited him to travel through Asia Minor, and later Macedonia and Greece. Prior to traveling, St. Paul circumcised St. Timothy at Lystra (I Timothy 4:14; II Timothy 1:6).

Around the time of St. Timothy's circumcision, St. Paul refused to circumcise another named Titus, born of Gentile parents, in order to emphasize the Holy Gospel teachings and to rebuke those who continued to affirm circumcision to be necessary regardless of New Testament teachings. Why then did St. Paul circumcise St. Timothy? Most probably because St. Timothy was born of Jewish descent and this would make him more acceptable to the Jews whom he would preach to, and also to forestall any early prejudice against St. Timothy.

The act of circumcision was decidedly not a matter dealing with Christian faith as evidenced by not circumcising St. Titus.

Following this St. Paul committed St. Timothy to the ministry of preaching through the laying on of hands and from this time forward regarded him as not only a disciple and most dear son but as his brother and companion of his labors. St. Paul came to speak of St. Timothy as his "beloved and faithful child" (I Corinthians 4:17).

St. Paul encouraged the humble and young St. Timothy to overcome his apprehensions concerning his pastoral abilities, his youth, and his frequent stomach ailments. St. Paul addresses his youth positively and stresses the need for self discipline in ministry, "Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, and in purity" (I Timothy 4:12).

St. Timothy continued to preach directly with St. Paul until St. Paul was imprisoned on a trip to Jerusalem and then taken to Rome. St. Timothy continued in his preaching working with the difficulties in the church at Ephesus as St. Paul's emissary. His ardent teachings continue to lead a church of faith under opposing pressures.

St. Paul wrote his first letter to St. Timothy from Macedonia, and his second letter from Rome, while imprisoned in chains. St. Timothy came to Rome at the urging of St. Paul who requested to see him once more before he died. "Do your best to come before winter" (II Timothy 4:21). At some point St. Timothy was imprisoned himself and released. St. Paul was to eventually commit to St. Timothy the care of all the churches in Asia while still a young adult perhaps about forty years of age.

Tradition says St. Timothy returned to Ephesus and after becoming ordained the first bishop there, was martyred in AD 97. St. Timothy's courage was to become contagious as many martyrs were to follow in his example throughout Christianity. "Stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong" (I Corinthians 16:13).

The "Acts of St Timothy" written by Polycrates, a later bishop of Ephesus, stated that under the emperor Nerva in the year 97, St. Timothy was slain with stones and clubs by the heathens; he was trying to oppose the idolatrous ceremonies on a festival called the Katagogia, kept on January 22, on which day they walked in troops everyone carrying in one hand an idol and in the other a club.

St. Timothy's courage did not show fear. "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of sound mind" (II Timothy 1:7).

His relics were transported to Constantinople during the reign of Constantius. The Coptic Church honors the martyrdom of St. Timothy the Apostle, Tobe 23.

May we all prepare our minds as St. Timothy, with constant study of the Holy Scriptures with the knowing that Christians must keep the faith but not among themselves.

"Go ye into the entire world, and preach the Gospel" (Mark 16:15).

H.G. Bishop Youssef
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

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