1. Title. In the earliest Greek manuscripts the title of this book is simply Pros Timotheon B (“To Timothy II”). The title as found in the KJV is the result of later elaboration.
2. Authorship. As the opening lines of 2 Timothy indicate, this epistle comes from the hand of the apostle Paul, now imprisoned at Rome for the second time. For a discussion of the problems relating to the authorship of the epistle see Vol. V, pp. 183–185. For a discussion of the time and circumstances under which it was written see Vol. VI, p. 107.
3. Historical Setting. This is Paul’s last epistle, written from prison at a time when he expected soon to die (ch. 4:6). Inferences from this letter, as well as from the other pastoral epistles, when compared with the narrative in the Acts, suggest that after a period of missionary activity following his first Roman imprisonment, Paul had again been arrested and returned to Rome (see Vol. V, p. 184). It is known that after the great fire at Rome in a.d. 64, Nero persecuted Christians bitterly to divert the suspicions of the people that he himself had burned the city (see Vol. VI, pp. 83, 84). It is not unreasonable to think of Paul’s second arrest, perhaps two years later, as a result of this persecution. Peter was also taken into custody about this time and may have been in Rome during at least part of the time of Paul’s imprisonment (see AA 537). For a picture of the Mamertine dungeon, in which it is thought Paul was held during the course of his second imprisonment, see illustration facing p. 352. At the time Paul wrote 2 Timothy he had already stood trial (ch. 4:17), but apparently had not yet been sentenced to die, although he surmised that such would be the outcome. He was now alone, save for Luke, “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:11). Writing to Timothy, Paul urged him to come to him also “before winter” (ch. 4:21), and to bring his cloak and his books (ch. 4:13). Whether, in response to Paul’s earnest request, Timothy found it possible to make the journey to Rome before the apostle’s death is not known.
As for Timothy himself, little is known about his life apart from his direct association with Paul. According to Heb. 13:23 Timothy was “set at liberty” after being imprisoned, but when and where this imprisonment occurred is not known. Tradition has it that Timothy suffered martyrdom under either Domitian (a.d. 81–96)
or Trajan (a.d. 98–117).
4. Theme. This epistle has been called the last will and testament of the great Apostle to the Gentiles. Paul wrote this letter personally to his spiritual son Timothy, and generally to the church. Knowing his end was near, he felt the need of strengthening his younger co-worker’s faith by means of his own example. He warned Timothy, and with him all other Christian believers, against heresies that were to enter the church after his time, that all might hold firm to the Inspired Word and remain faithful to their Lord until His second advent.
I. Introduction, 1:1–5.
A. The salutation, 1:1, 2.
B. Paul’s grateful memories of Timothy’s friendship, 1:3–5.
II. Timothy Exhorted to Be a Faithful Successor to Paul, 1:6–18.
A. Use ministerial abilities to the full, 1:6, 7.
B. Stand unashamed of gospel, 1:8–18.
1. Remain loyal to the gospel call, 1:8–14.
2. Take warning from those who desert, 1:15.
3. Take courage from the boldness of others, 1:16–18.
III. Paul’s Portrait of the Ideal Minister, 2:1–6.
A. The minister as a faithful teacher, 2:1, 2.
B. The minister as a good soldier, 2:3, 4.
C. The minister as a victorious athlete, 2:5.
D. The minister as a diligent farmer, 2:6.
IV. Content and Method in the Communication of Truth, 2:7–26.
A. The message, 2:7–13.
B. Waste no time with speculations, 2:14–18.
C. Rely upon the support and acclaim of God only, 2:19.
D. Reflect the nobility and purity of Christian principles, 2:20–22.
E. Teach the truth with love and meekness, 2:23–26.
V. A Warning of Perilous Times to Come, 3:1–17.
A. Character traits of the unconverted, 3:1–5.
B. Danger from perverted teachers, 3:6–9.
C. The example of Paul as a minister, 3:10–12.
D. The Scriptures a standard of doctrine, 3:13–17.
VI. Paul’s Parting Admonition, 4:1–22.
A. The minister as God’s herald, 4:1–6.
B. The reward of faithful heralds, 4:7, 8.
C. Paul’s final requests and salutations, 4:9–22.