Biography of a Young Preacher (Part 5)

Timothy during Paul’s Imprisonment

Timothy accompanied Paul and the others into Jerusalem, where they met with James, the brother of Jesus, as well as the elders of Jerusalem.  They presented the funds, as well as gave a report of the great work God was doing among the Gentiles.  This brought up a touchy subject in Jerusalem.  There were thousands of Jewish Christians in the city, and they’d all heard reports that Paul was teaching Jews not to circumcise their children anymore, and that they should forsake all the customs passed down from Moses.*[1]  All Paul would have had to do is point to Timothy to disprove those rumors.  Timothy was a Jew who had not been circumcised, yet Paul made it a point to circumcise him.

Some Jews from Asia had seen Paul in the temple, and began to make these same accusations, but added that he brought a Gentile into the temple, because they falsely assumed that Trophimus had accompanied him there.  Paul was forcibly removed from the temple by a mob, and the doors were shut behind him.  The mob began to beat Paul, and would have succeeded in killing him, had not the Roman soldiers arrived on the scene.  It does not appear that Timothy was with Paul during this uproar, but no doubt he heard about it shortly thereafter.*[2]

Timothy was no doubt anxious the next day when the chief captain, Claudius Lysias, called together the high priest and the Sanhedrin to hear Paul’s testimony.  The proceedings quickly turned ugly, and Claudius removed Paul, “lest [he] should have been pulled in pieces by them.”*[3]  It is quite possible that Timothy visited Paul while he was being held as a prisoner in Jerusalem, and brought him much-needed comfort.*[4]  Timothy most likely joined Paul as he was taken to Caesarea and was probably present during his trial before Felix.*[5]  Timothy was given freedom by Felix to visit Paul as often as he wanted, and this he no doubt did as Paul was there for two years.  It is believed by some that Paul’s letters to the Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, and to Philemon were all written during this two-year period.*[6]  If this is the case, then Timothy’s constant presence with Paul is confirmed, for he is mentioned as co-writer in three of those letters.*[7]

Paul, in order to guarantee that he wasn’t turned over to the Jews, whom he knew would try to kill him, appealed to Caesar.  This was the right of every Roman citizen, and required going to Rome and awaiting a convenient time for the emperor to hear his case.  Luke does not record who, other than himself, joined Paul on this treacherous sea voyage,*[8] but it would be surprising if Timothy was not among his companions.*[9]  If this is indeed the case, then Timothy would have experienced the Euroclydon, the “tempestuous wind” that attacked their ship for fourteen days, and was so bad that the professional sailors tried to abandon the ship, leaving Paul, Timothy, Luke, and the other 200+ to die in the storm.  He would have come aboard the land at Malta, seen Paul get bitten by a viper, yet suffer no ill effects.  He would have seen Paul heal many of the inhabitants of the island, and helped the apostle in preaching to them for the three months they were there.*[10]

The prevailing view among Bible scholars, past and present, is that Paul wrote his “prison epistles” while in Rome under house arrest.*[11]  The greeting at the beginning of Philemon, Colossians, and Philippians all include Timothy, showing he was there with Paul during his imprisonment.

-Bradley Cobb

[1] *It is important to note that James calls them “customs,” and not “commands.”  By this point, the Law of Moses had no binding effect on anyone, having been superseded by the law of Christ.  The customs would have included observing the Sabbath, circumcision, feast days, fasting, vows, meat restrictions, etc.

[2] *Luke tells us that Paul went to the temple with the four men who had a vow on them.  This would appear to exclude anyone else from being with Paul at that point.

[3] *Acts 23:1-10.

[4] *Paul’s nephew was able to come see him (Acts 23:16-22), so it is not a stretch to think that others were permitted to as well.

[5] *At the conclusion of Paul’s trial before Felix, the ruler stated that Paul’s acquaintances and ministers (assistants) were to be permitted to come and go to meet with him.  This implies that Felix had knowledge of Paul’s traveling companions.

[6] *The majority of Bible scholars place the writing of these letters a few years later while Paul was imprisoned in Rome, as recorded in Acts 28.

[7] *The only exception being Ephesians.

[8] *Note the use of “we” throughout chapters 27-28.

[9] *This is especially true if we assume—as do the majority of Bible scholars—that Paul’s “prison epistles” were written from Rome, which include Timothy in their greetings.  Some might suggest that Timothy was sent on missionary journeys to some of the congregations that they had visited before, informing them of Paul’s current situation, and that is also a logical guess as well, considering that Paul would need financial support while under house arrest in Rome, awaiting trial.

[10] *These events are recorded in Acts 27-28.  The specific time on Malta is given in 28:11.

[11] *This living arrangement is shown by Luke in Acts 28:16, 30-31.

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