2 Timothy Chapter 3:1-17 Antique Commentary Quotes

John Calvin

2 Timothy 3:1

1But know this By this prediction he intended still more to sharpen his diligence; for, when matters go on to our wish, we become more careless; but necessity urges us keenly. Paul, therefore informs him, that the Church will be subject to terrible diseases, which will require in the pastors uncommon fidelity, diligence, watchfulness, prudence, and unwearied constancy; as if he enjoined Timothy to prepare for arduous and deeply anxious contests which awaited him. And hence we learn, that, so far from giving way, or being terrified, on account of any difficulties whatsoever, we ought, on the contrary. to arouse our hearts for resistance.

In the last days Under “the last days,” he includes the universal condition of the Christian Church. Nor does he compare his own age with ours, but, on the contrary, informs Timothy what will be the future condition of the kingdom of Christ; for many imagined some sort of condition that would be absolutely peaceful, and free from any annoyance. In short, he means that there will not be, even under the gospel, such a state of perfection, that all vices shall be banished, and virtues of every kind shall flourish; and that therefore the pastors of the Christian Church will have quite as much to do with wicked and ungodly men as the prophets and godly priests had in ancient times. Hence it follows, that there is no time for idleness or for repose.

Cambridge Bible

1. This know also] Lit., ‘take notice of this,’ the present tense. Our Lord in Luk_12:39 has the same formula.

in the last days] ‘Not only the very last days, towards the end of the world, but in general (according to the Hebrew phrase) the days to come, or the future time, whether nearer or afar off. He supposeth this would begin to happen in the age of Timothy, ver. 5 from such do thou (thou, Timothy) turn away and avoid them,’ Bp Bull, Serm. xv. init. So Calvin, ‘universum Ecclesiae Christianae statum.’

perilous times shall come] Lit. ‘difficult,’ grievous; the meaning is well seen from the only other place where it occurs in N.T. Mat_8:28, ‘two possessed with devils exceeding fierce,’ i.e. difficult to deal with, ‘so that no man could pass by that way.’ ‘Shall come,’ lit., will set in. Vulg. ‘instabunt,’ ‘will be upon us,’ ‘will be present.’ In Gal_1:4 the perfect participle is used, ‘this present evil world.’

John Calvin

2 Timothy 3:2

2For men will be It is proper to remark, first, in what he makes the hardship of those “dangerous” or “troublesome” times to consist; not in war, nor in famine, nor in diseases, nor in any calamities or inconveniences to which the body is incident, but in the wicked and depraved actions of men. And, indeed, nothing is so distressingly painful to godly men, and to those who truly fear God, as to behold such corruptions of morals; for, as there is nothing which they value more highly than the glory of God, so they cannot but suffer grievous anguish when it is attacked or despised.

Secondly, it ought to be remarked, who are the persons of whom he speaks. They whom he briefly describes are not external enemies, who openly assail the name of Christ, but domestics, who wish to be reckoned among the members of the Church; for God wishes to try his Church to such an extent as to carry within her bosom such plagues, though she abhors to entertain them. So then, if in the present day many whom we justly abhor are mingled within us, let us learn to groan patiently under that burden, when we are informed that this is the lot of the Christian Church.

Next, it is wonderful that those persons, whom Paul pronounces to be guilty of so many and so aggravated acts of wickedness, can keep up the appearance of piety, as he also declares. But daily experience shows that we ought not to regard this as so wonderful; for such is the amazing audacity and wickedness of hypocrites, that, even in excusing the grossest crimes, they are excessively impudent, after having once learned falsely to shelter themselves under the name of God. In ancient times, how many crimes abounded in the life of the Pharisees? And yet, as if they had been pure from every stain, they enjoyed a reputation of eminent holiness.

Even in the present day, although the lewdness of the Popish clergy is such that it stinks in the nostrils of the whole world, still, in spite of their wickedness, they do not cease to arrogate proudly to themselves all the rights and titles of saints. Accordingly, when Paul says that hypocrites, though they are chargeable with the grossest vices, nevertheless deceive under a mask of piety, this ought not to appear strange, when we have examples before our eyes. And, indeed, the world deserves to be deceived by those wicked scoundrels, when it either despises or cannot endure true holiness. Besides, Paul enumerates those vices which are not visible at first sight, and which are even the ordinary attendants of pretended holiness. Is there a hypocrite who is not proud, who is not a lover of himself, who is not a despiser of others, who is not fierce and cruel, who is not treacherous? But all these are concealed from the eyes of men.

To spend time in explaining every word would be superfluous; for the words do not need exposition. Only let my readers observe that φιλαυτία, self-love, which is put first, may be regarded as the source from which flow all the vices that follow afterwards. He who loveth himself claims a superiority in everything, despises all others, is cruel, indulges in covetousness, treachery, anger, rebellion against parents, neglect of what is good, and such like. As it was the design of Paul to brand false prophets with such marks, that they might be seen and known by all; it is our duty to open our eyes, that we may see those who are pointed out with the finger.

Cambridge Bible

2 Tim 3:2. For men shall be lovers of their own selves] ‘The article is generic; the men who shall live in those times,’ Alford. Self-lovers, money-lovers; the first pair of adjectives in the description go naturally together; the first of the words occurs only here in N.T., the second only in Luk_16:14, ‘the Pharisees also who were lovers of money.’ The first and an almost exact synonym of the second occur together in Ar. Pol. ii. v. where Plato’s question is being discussed whether there ought to be private property or not. ‘It is clear then that the better plan is for the property to be held separately while the produce is common. Besides even for the pleasure of the thing it makes an unspeakable difference to regard a piece of property as one’s own. Indeed it is probably no mere chance that makes each of us hold himself first in his regard. It is human nature. But being a self-lover is rightly blamed. By this is not meant loving oneself, but doing so too much; just as we speak of the man who is a money-lover, since all love what belongs to them. But to support and succour friends or guests or comrades is a very delightful thing and this requires our having property of our own. The “community” idea robs us of the virtue of generosity in the use of property.’ See note on 1Ti_6:10.

boasters, proud, blasphemers] R.V. better, boastful, haughty, railers. Theophrastus (Characters c. 23) describes (‘boastfulness’ to be ‘an endeavour to pass for a man of greater consequence than one really is.’ In the next chapter he describes ‘haughtiness’ to be ‘a contempt for every one but a man’s self.’ The climax is (1) a spirit of vain glory in themselves, (2) an overweening treatment of others, (3) actual abuse and reviling of others. The first word describes a man who sins against truth, the second a man who sins against love, the third a man who sins against both. Cf. Rom_1:30; 1Jn_2:16 (and Westcott’s note); Trench, Syn. § 29. For this general meaning of ‘railers’ rather than ‘blasphemers,’ cf. 1Ti_6:4 ‘envy, strife, railings.’

disobedient to parents] Or, in one word, unfilial; this with ‘unthankful, unholy,’ makes another triad: breakers of the fifth commandment go on to be breakers of the tenth; and thus throwing aside the second table go on to throw aside also the first, ‘unfilial, unthankful, unholy.’ The word for ‘unthankful’ occurs elsewhere only Luk_6:35 in the Sermon on the Mount. For ‘unholy’ see notes on 1Ti_1:9.

2 Timothy 3:2

2. ἔσονται γὰρ οἱ ἅνθρωποι κ.τ.λ., for men will be &c., sc. (as the presence of the article shews) the generality of men, the members generally of the Christian communities. The adjectives which follow are not arrayed in any exact logical sequence; but, nevertheless, as in the somewhat similar catalogue of Rom_1:29-31, connexion may be traced between certain of the vices which are enumerated.

φίλαυτοι, lovers of self. The word does not occur elsewhere in the LXX. or N.T. In Greek thought of an earlier age φιλαυτία had a good sense, and was expressive of the self-respect which a good man has for himself (see Aristotle Nic. Eth. IX. 8. 7). But a deeper philosophy, recognising the fact of man’s Fall, transferred the moral centre of gravity from self to God; once the sense of sin is truly felt, self-respect becomes an inadequate basis for moral theory. So Philo (de Prof. 15) speaks of those who are φίλαυτοι δὴ μᾶλλον ἢ φιλόθεοι, in a spirit quite like that of St Paul.

φιλάργυροι, lovers of money. The adjective only occurs again at Luk_16:14. See the note on φιλαργυρία, 1Ti_6:10.

ἀλαζόνες, ὑπερήφανοι, boastful, haughty, the former term referring specially to words, the latter to thoughts. The words are coupled again in the catalogue at Rom_1:30 (also by Clem. Rom. § 16); Trench (Synonyms § 29) has an admirable essay on the difference between them, and on the usage of both words in Greek literature.

βλάσφημοι, railers, or evil-speakers, in reference to their fellow men rather than to God. This is the regular force of βλάσφημος and the cognate words in the Pastoral Epistles.

γονεῦσιν ἀπειθεῖς, disobedient to parents, a characteristic also mentioned in Rom_1:30. Cp. what St Paul had said about duty to a widowed parent in 1Ti_5:8.

ἀχάριστοι, without gratitude. This follows naturally from the last mentioned characteristic, for the blackest form of ingratitude is that which repudiates the claim of parents to respect and obedience. The adjective ἀχάριστος only occurs again once in N.T., at Luk_6:35.

ἀνόσιοι. See note on 1Ti_1:9.

Marvin Vincent

2 Timothy 3:2

Lovers of their own selves (φίλαυτοι)

Better, lovers of self. N.T.o. lxx. Aristotle, De Repub. ii. 5, says: “It is not loving one’s self, but loving it unduly, just as the love of possessions.”

Covetous (φιλάργυροι)

Better, lovers of money. Only here and Luk_16:14. For the noun φιλαργυρία love of money, see on 1Ti_6:10. Love of money and covetousness are not synonymous. Covetous is πλεονέκτης; see 1Co_5:10, 1Co_5:11; Eph_5:6. See on Rom_1:29.

Boasters (ἀλαζόνες)

Or swaggerers. Only here and Rom_1:30. See on ἀλαζονείαις boastings, Jam_4:16.

Proud (ὑπερήφανοι)

Or haughty. See on ὑπερηφανία pride, Mar_7:22.

Blasphemers (βλάσφημοι)

See on 1Ti_1:13. Better, railers. See also on, βλασφημία blasphemy, Mar_7:22.

Unthankful (ἀχάριστοι)

Only here and Luk_6:35.

Unholy (ἀνόσιοι)

Only here and 1Ti_1:9 (note).

Cambridge Bible

2 Tim 3:3. without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers] Or, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, another triad which starts from another breach of the same fifth commandment, the rending of the family ties of love, and advances to a breach of the sixth commandment in a refusal to make peace, and further of the ninth commandment in calumnious attacks and slanders. The threefold contrary spirit is in the same Sermon on the Mount, Luk_6:27, ‘love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless them that curse you.’ The word for ‘unloving’ occurs only in Rom_1:31, the other similarities of which seem to suggest that St Paul may have it in his mind, and be sadly tracing the decline and fall of Christian men back to the old heathen state. The word for ‘unforgiving,’ means ‘unwilling to make a truce,’ the opposite of ‘peacemakers,’ Mat_5:9. It has been wrongly introduced in Rom_1 from this place where only in N. T. it is found, though an ordinary classical word.

incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good] Vicious or uncontrollable, unapproachable, unkindly to all good, a descending triad, in which the characters of the libertine, the churl, the worldling are painted. The three words occur nowhere else in N.T. But the exact opposites are found together in Tit_1:8, ‘temperate, a lover of hospitality, a lover of good.’

Adam Clarke

2 Timothy 3:3

Without natural affection – Αστοργοι· Without that affection which parents bear to their young, and which the young bear to their parents. An affection which is common to every class of animals; consequently, men without it are worse than brutes.

Truce-breakers – Ασπονδοι· From α, negative, and σπονδη, a libation, because in making treaties libations both of blood and wine were poured out. The word means those who are bound by no promise, held by no engagement, obliged by no oath; persons who readily promise any thing, because they never intend to perform.

False accusers – Διαβολοι· Devils; but properly enough rendered false accusers, for this is a principal work of the devil. Slanderers; striving ever to ruin the characters of others.

Incontinent – Ακρατεις· From α, negative, and κρατος, power. Those who, having sinned away their power of self-government, want strength to govern their appetites; especially those who are slaves to uncleanness.

Fierce – Ανημεροι· From α, negative, and ἡμερος, mild or gentle. Wild, impetuous, whatever is contrary to pliability and gentleness.

Despisers of those that are good – Αφιλαγαθοι· Not lovers of good men. Here is a remarkable advantage of the Greek over the English tongue, one word of the former expressing five or six of the latter. Those who do not love the good must be radically bad themselves.

Pulpit Commentary


Implacable for truce breakers, A.V.; slanderers for false accusers, A.V.; without self-control for incontinent, A.V.; no lovers of good for despisers of those that are good, A.V. Without natural affection (ἄστοργοι); as in Rom_1:31, where in the T.R. it is coupled with ἄσπονδοι, as here. The verb στέργω is “to love,” used primarily of the natural affection of parents to their children and children to their parents. And στοργή is that natural love. These persons were without this στοργή, of which Plato says, “A child loves his parents, and is loved by them;” and so, according to St. Paul’s judgment in 1Ti_5:8, were “worse than infidels.” Implacable (ἄσπονδοι); only here according to the R.T., not at all in the LXX., but frequent in classical Greek. Σπονδή was a solemn truce made over a libation to the gods. Ἁσπονδος at first merely expresses that anything was done, or any person was left, without such a truce. But, in a secondary sense, applied to a war, it meant an internecine war admitting of no truce; and thence, as here, applied to a person, it means “implacable,” one who will make no truce or treaty with his enemy. The sense “truce breakers” is not justified by any example. Slanderers (διάβολοι); as 1Ti_3:11 and Tit_2:3. The arch-slanderer is ὁ διάβολος, the devil, “the accuser of the brethren (ὁ κατήγορυς τῶν ἀδελφῶν)” (Rev_12:10; see Joh_6:70). Without self-control (ἀκρατεῖς); here only in the New Testament, not in the LXX. but frequent in classical Greek, in the sense of intemperate in the pursuit or use of anything, e.g. money, the tongue, pleasure, the appetite, etc., which are put in the genitive case. Used absolutely it means generally “without self-control, as here rendered in the R.V. The A.V. “incontinent” expresses only one part of the meaning (see ἀκρασία, Mat_23:25). Fierce (from ferns, wild, savage); ἀνήμεροι; only here in the New Testament, and not found in the LXX., but frequent in the Greek tragedians and others, of persons, countries, plants, etc.; e.g. “Beware of the Chalubes, for they are savage (ἀνήμεροι), and cannot be approached by strangers”. It corresponds with ἀνελεήμονες, unmerciful (Rom_1:31). No lovers of good (ἀφιλάγαθοι); only here in the New Testament, and not at all in the LXX. or in classical Greek. But φιλάγαθος is found in Wis. 7:22, and in Aristotle, in the sense of “lovers of that which is good;” and in Tit_1:8. The R.V. seems therefore to be right in rendering here “no lovers of good,” rather than as the A.V. “despisers of those which are good,” after the Vulgate and the new version of Sanctes Pagninus.

Albert Barnes

2 Timothy 3:3

Without natural affection – see the notes at Rom_1:31.

Trucebreakers – The same word in Rom_1:31, is rendered “implacable;” see the notes at that verse. It properly means “without treaty;” that is, those who are averse to any treaty or compact. It may thus refer to those who are unwilling to enter into any agreement; that is, either those who are unwilling to be reconciled to others when there is a variance – implacable; or those who disregard treaties or agreements. In either case, this marks a very corrupt condition of society. Nothing would be more indicative of the lowest state of degradation, than that in which all compacts and agreements were utterly disregarded.

False accusers – Margin, “makebates.” The word “makebate” means one who excites contentions and quarrels. Webster. The Greek here is διάβολοι  diaboloi – “devils” – the primitive meaning of which is, “calumniator, slanderer, accuser;” compare the notes at 1Ti_3:11, where the word is rendered “slanderers.”

Incontinent – 1Co_7:5. Literally, “without strength;” that is, without strength to resist the solicitations of passion, or who readily yield to it.

Fierce – The Greek word used here – ἀνήμερος anēmeros – does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means “ungentle, harsh, severe,” and is the opposite of gentleness and mildness. Religion produces gentleness; the want of it makes men rough, harsh, cruel; compare the notes at 2Ti_2:24.

Despisers of those that are good – In Tit_1:8, it is said of a bishop that he must be “a lover of good men.” This, in every condition of life, is a virtue, and hence, the opposite of it is here set down as one of the characteristics of that evil age of which the apostle speaks.

Cambridge Bible

2 Tim 3:4. traitors, heady, highminded] The last triad again descending, false and forward and full of conceit, the spirit of one who ‘with a light heart’ (1) betrays old friends, and (2) rushes headlong on new faiths, and (3) remains to the end impenetrably wrapped in clouds of self-esteem. The second word only occurs Act_19:36, ‘to do nothing rash’; the third has been explained 1Ti_6:4; cf. 1Ti_3:6; a purely ‘pastoral’ phrase in N.T., though thoroughly classical. Note the weight and force of the perfect participle closing the list of epithets. Cf. 2:25. The A.V. ‘highminded’ has entirely changed its meaning, as Rom_11:20 shews, ‘be not highminded, but fear.’ Cf. Lightfoot, Revision of N. T. p. 175; and see note on 1Ti_6:17.

lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God] Both compounds only occurring here, like the similar compounds ‘self-lovers’ and ‘money-lovers’ with which the passage opens. The word for ‘pleasures’ is always in a bad sense in N.T., Luk_8:14 ‘choked with … pleasures of this life.’ So Jam_4:1, Jam_4:3; 2Pe_2:13.

Albert Barnes

2 Timothy 3:4

Traitors – This word is used in the New Testament only here and in Luk_6:16; Act_7:52. It means any one who betrays – whether it be a friend or his country. Treason has been in all ages regarded as one of the worst crimes that man can commit.

Heady – The same word in Act_19:36, is rendered rashly. It occurs only there and in this place in the New Testament. It properly means “falling forwards; prone, inclined, ready to do anything; then precipitate, headlong, rash.” It is opposed to that which is deliberate and calm, and here means that men would be ready to do anything without deliberation, or concern for the consequences. They would engage in enterprises which would only disturb society, or prove their own ruin.

High-minded – Literally, “puffed up;” compare the notes at 1Ti_3:6, where the same word is rendered “lifted up with pride.” The meaning is, that they would be inflated with pride or self-conceit.

Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God – That is, of sensual pleasures, or vain amusements. This has been, and is, the characteristic of a great part of the world, and has often distinguished even many who profess religion. Of a large portion of mankind it may be said that this is their characteristic, that they live for pleasure; they have no serious pursuits; they brook no restraints which interfere with their amusements, and they greatly prefer the pleasures to be found in the gay assembly, in the ball-room, or in the place of low dissipation, to the friendship of their Creator.

John Calvin

2 Timothy 3:5

5From those turn away. This exhortation sufficiently shows that Paul does not speak of a distant posterity, nor foretell what would happen many ages afterwards; but that, by pointing out present evils, he applies to his own age what he had said about “the last times;” for how could Timothy “turn away” from those who were not to arise till many centuries afterwards? So then, from the very beginning of the gospel, the Church must have begun to be affected by such corruptions.

Cambridge Bible

2 Tim 3:5. having a form of godliness] The word for ‘form’ is strictly ‘formation,’ its ending implying process rather than result, the producing of the form; hence in Rom_2:20 ‘thou hast the ideally perfect presentation of knowledge and truth.’ ‘The Jew believed that he had in the law the sole embodiment, the forming, of knowledge and truth, that he could give to knowledge and truth their right form, and so was the proper teacher of the world.’ Gifford. So here holding to a presentment of godliness; full ‘profession’ though there is little enough of the substance; ‘still making out that there is the real nature of godliness.’ The stress lies on the making out, the representation, whether as here the inner reality is absent or as Rom_2:20 present. Similarly ‘a professor of divinity’ is credited with exhibiting real truth and knowledge; not so ‘a religious professor.’ Compare too our Lord’s ‘I will profess to you I never knew you,’ Mat_7:23, with the account of ‘the defiled and unbelieving’ who ‘profess that they know God, but by their works they deny him,’ Tit_1:16. The Greek word for ‘form,’ of which our word is the causative process, means ‘embodied substance,’ standing between ‘unclothed essence’ and ‘unsubstantial appearance’; see Lightfoot, Revision of N.T. p. 77.

denying the power thereof] The power lies in the production of ‘works’ as in Tit_1:16. Cf. Bp Bull ‘to deny the power of godliness is for a man by indecent and vicious actions to contradict his outward show or profession of godliness’ Serm. xv. p. 376 (Oxf. 1846). The force of the perfect pass, participle is noted 2:25 living in denial of its power.

from such turn away] The conjunction emphasises the ‘such,’ but not without affecting also the verb turn away,’ cf. ver. 9; ‘offenders of the first degree try to win back; but from these men, hardened in error, make it your habit to turn away,’ see ver. 1. In harmony with this direction is the conduct of St John at Ephesus some 10 or 15 years later, according to the tradition. ‘John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bathhouse without bathing, crying out, “Let us fly, lest even the bathhouse fall on us, because Cerinthus the enemy of the truth is within” (Iren. iii. iii. 4). Epiphanius substitutes Ebion for Cerinthus. Both Cerinthus and the Ebionites denied the reality of the Incarnation.’ Plummer, St John (Gosp.), Introduction, p. 15.

Albert Barnes

2 Timothy 3:5

Having a form of godliness – That is, they profess religion, or are in connection with the church. This shows that the apostle referred to some great corruption in the church; and there can be little doubt that he had his eye on the same great apostasy to which he refers in 2 Thes. 2:, and 1 Tim. 4: All these things to which he refers here have been practiced and tolerated in that apostate church, while no body of men, at any time, have been more zealous in maintaining “a form of godliness;” that is, in keeping up the forms of religion.

But denying the power thereof – Opposing the real power of religion; not allowing it to exert any influence in their lives. It imposes no restraint on their passions and carnal propensities, but in all respects, except in the form of religion, they live as if they had None. This has been common in the world. The most regular and bigoted adherence to the forms of religion furnishes no evidence in itself that there is any true piety at heart, or that true religion has any actual control over the soul. It is much easier for people to observe the forms of religion than it is to bring the heart under its controlling influence.

From such turn away – Have no contact with them as if they were Christians; show no countenance to their religion; do not associate with them; compare 2Jo_1:10-11; see the notes at 2Co_6:17.

John Calvin

2 Timothy 3:6

6Of those are they who creep into families You would say, that here Paul intentionally draws a lively picture of the order of monks. But without saying a single word about monks, those marks by which Paul distinguishes false and pretended teachers are sufficiently clear; creeping into houses, snares for catching silly women, mean flattery, imposing upon people by various superstitions. These marks it is proper to observe carefully, if we wish to distinguish between useless drones and faithful ministers of Christ. These former are here marked by so black a coal, that it is of no use for them to shuffle. To “creep into families” means to enter stealthily, or to seek an entrance by cunning methods.

And lead captive silly women laden with sins Now, he speaks of “women” rather than men, because the former are more liable to be led astray in this manner. He says that they “are led captive,” because false prophets of this sort, through various tricks, gain their ear, partly by prying curiously into all their affairs, and partly by flattery. And this is what he immediately adds, “laden with sins;” for, if they had not been bound by the chain of a bad conscience, they would not have allowed themselves to be led away, in every possible manner, at the will of others.

By various sinful desires I consider “sinful desires” to denote generally those foolish and light desires by which women, who do not seek God sincerely, and yet wish to be reckoned religious and holy, are carried away. There is no end of the methods adopted by them, when, departing from a good conscience, they are constantly assuming new masks. Chrysostom is more disposed to refer it to disgraceful and immodest desires; but, when I examine the context, I prefer the former exposition; for it immediately follows —

Pulpit Commentary


These for this sort, A.V.; that for which, A.V.; take for lead, A.V.; by for with, A.V. Creep into (ἐνδύνοντες); here only in the New Testament. It has the sense of “sneaking into,” “insinuating themselves into,” as in Xenophon, ‘Cyrop.,’ 2. 1. 13. Take captive (αἰχμαλωτεύοντες); as in Eph_4:3. The other form, αἰχμαλωτίζοντες which is that of the R.T., is in Luk_21:24; Rom_7:23; 2Co_10:5. The word well describes the blind surrender of the will and conscience to such crafty teachers. Silly women (τὰ γυναικάρια, diminutive of γυνή); nowhere else in the New Testament or LXX., but is used by some late Greek authors. It is a term of contempt—he will not call them γυναῖκας—they are only γυναικάρια. In the passages quoted by Alford from Irenaeus and Epiphanius, the women made use of by the later Gnostics are called γυναικάρια. See, too, the striking quotation in the same note from Jerome, specifying by name the women whom Nicolas of Antioch, Marcion, Montanus, and others employed as their instruments in spreading their abominable heresies. So true is St. Paul’s forecast in the text. Laden with sins (σεσωρευμένα ἁμαρτίαις); elsewhere only in Rom_12:20, “heap coals of fire.” It occurs in Aristotle and other Greek writers in the sense of heaping one thing upon another, and heaping up anything with something else. The last is the sense in which it is here used. It seems to convey the idea of passive helplessness. Led away (ἀγόμενα); with a strong intimation of unresisting weakness. Lusts (ἐπιθυμίαις); all kinds of carnal and selfish desires (see Mat_4:19; Joh_8:44; Rom_1:24; Rom_6:12; Rom_7:7, Rom_7:8; Gal_5:24; Eph_2:3; Eph_4:22; Col_3:5; 1Ti_6:9; 2Ti_2:22; 2Ti_4:3 : Tit_2:12; fit. 3; 1Pe_1:14, etc.; 2Pe_2:18; 1Jn_2:16, etc.).

John Calvin

2 Timothy 3:7

7Always learning, while yet they never can come to the knowledge of the truth That fluctuation between various desires, of which he now speaks, is when, having nothing solid in themselves, they are tossed about in all directions. They “learn,” he says, as people do who are under the influence of curiosity, and with a restless mind, but in such a manner as never to arrive at any certainty or truth. It is ill-conducted study, and widely different from knowledge. And yet such persons think themselves prodigiously wise; but what they know is nothing, so long as they do not hold the truth, which is the foundation of all knowledge.

Albert Barnes

2 Timothy 3:7

Ever learning – That is, these “silly women;” for so the Greek demands. The idea is, that they seeM to be disciples. They put themselves wholly under the care of these professedly religious teachers, but they never acquire the true knowledge of the way of salvation.

And never able to come to the knowledge of the truth – They may learn many things, but the true nature of religion they do not learn. There are many such persons in the world, who, whatever attention they may pay to religion, never understand its nature. Many obtain much speculative acquaintance with the “doctrines” of Christianity, but never become savingly acquainted with the system; many study the constitution and government of the church, but remain strangers to practical piety; many become familiar with the various philosophical theories of religion, but never become truly acquainted with what religion is; and many embrace visionary theories, who never show that they are influenced by the spirit of the gospel. Nothing is more common than for persons to be very busy and active in religion, and even to “learn” many things about it, who still remain strangers to the saving power of the gospel.

John Calvin

2 Timothy 3:8

8And as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses This comparison confirms what I have already said about the “last times”, for he means that the same thing happens to us under the gospel, which the Church experienced almost from her very commencement, or at least since the law was published. In like manner the Psalmist also speaks largely about the unceasing battles of the Church.

“Often did they fight against me from my youth, now let Israel say. The wicked ploughed upon my back, they made long their furrows.” (Psa_129:1)

Paul reminds us, that we need not wonder if adversaries rise up against Christ to oppose his gospel, since Moses likewise had those who contended with him; for these examples drawn from a remote antiquity yield us strong consolation.

It is generally believed; that the two who are mentioned, “Jannes and Jambres,” were magicians put forward by Pharaoh. But from what source Paul learned their names is doubtful, except that it is probable, that many things relating to those histories were handed down, the memory of which God never permitted to perish. It is also possible that in Paul’s time there were commentaries on the prophets that gave more fully those narratives which Moses touches very briefly. However that may be, it is not at random that he calls them by their names. The reason why there were two of them may be conjectured to have been this, that, because the Lord had raised up for his people two leaders, Moses and Aaron, Pharaoh determined to place against them the like number of magicians.

Cambridge Bible

2 Tim 3:8. Now as Jannes and Jambres] And like as; the conjunction should be translated ‘now’ only when there is more of a fresh departure; the present is only a small additional paragraph. Jannes and Jambres are nowhere else mentioned in Scripture. The Targum of Jonathan inserts their names in Exo_7:11, Mambres which the Vulgate reads here being sometimes a later form for Jambres in the Jewish Commentaries. They were held to be the magicians who first imitated the wonders wrought by Moses and Aaron (see ver. 13 ‘impostors’ or ‘magicians’) but afterwards failing confessed that the power of God was with those whom they had withstood. Pliny, Hist. Nat. xxx. i. 2, mentions their story ‘est et alia magices factio a Mose et Jamne et Jotape Judæis pendens.’ He could not have derived his information from St Paul. There must have been an oral tradition or a lost book of Israelitish early history. Mr Poole (Art. Dict. Bib. from which this account is mainly taken) inclines to the latter supposition as more likely to preserve the exact names. That they are exact he thinks probable; since (1) the termination in Jambres or Mambres is like that of many Egyptian compounds ending with ra “the Sun,” as Men-kau-ra, (2) Jannes appears to be a transcription of the Egyptian name Aan, that of a king of the 15th dynasty who was probably the second predecessor of Joseph’s Pharaoh, and the most prevalent names among the Egyptians were those of kings then reigning or not long dead. The Rabbins state that Jannes and Jambres were sons of Balaam, and prophesied to Pharaoh the birth of Moses, and were authors of much mischief, subsequently perishing either in the Red Sea or in the tumult over the golden calf.

resist the truth] Rather, withstand, keeping the word.

of corrupt minds] Implies too much a natural viciousness; the perfect passive participle implies ‘having come to a corrupt state and remaining in it’ as above. In itself the word ‘corrupt’ from the Latin participle (cf. the Vulg. ‘corrupti mente)’ should have just this force, but in usage it is a mere adjective; render corrupted in mind.

reprobate] Just as in Tit_1:16, where see note.

Pulpit Commentary


And like for now, A.V.; withstand for resist, A.V.; corrupted in mind for of corrupt minds, A.V. And; but would be better. Jannes and Jambres; the traditional names of the magicians who opposed Moses; and, if Origen can be trusted, there was an apocryphal book called by their names. But Theodoret ascribes their names to an unwritten Jewish tradition. Their names are found in the Targum of Jonathan on Exo_7:11; Exo_22:22; and are also mentioned, in conjunction with Moses, with some variation in the name of Jambres, by Pliny (‘Hist. Nat.,’ Exo_31:2), who probably got his information from a work of Sergius Paulus off magic, of which the materials were furnished by Elymas the sorcerer (Act_13:6-8). Withstood (ἀντέστησαν); the same word as is used of Elymas in Act_13:8 (so Act_4:15 and elsewhere). Corrupted in mind (κατεφθαρμένα τὸν νοῦν); elsewhere only in 2Pe_2:12, in the sense of” perishing,” being “utterly destroyed,” which is the proper meaning of καταφθείρομαι Here in a moral sense κατεφθαρμένοι τὸν νοῦν means men whose understanding is gone, and perished, as διεφθαρμένος τὴν ἀκοήν means one whose hearing has perished—who is deaf. In 1Ti_6:5 St. Paul uses the more common διεφθαρμένων. Reprobate (ἀδόκιμα); as Tit_1:16, and elsewhere frequently in St. Paul’s Epistles. It is just the contrary to δόκιμος (2Ti_2:15, note).

Albert Barnes

2 Timothy 3:8

Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses – The names of these two men are not elsewhere mentioned in the Bible. They are supposed to have been two of the magicians who resisted Moses (Exo_7:11, et al.), and who opposed their miracles to those of Moses and Aaron. It is not certain where the apostle obtained their names; but they are frequently mentioned by the Hebrew writers, and also by other writers; so that there can be no reasonable doubt that their names were correctly handed down by tradition. Nothing is more probable than that the names of the more distinguished magicians who attempted to imitate the miracles of Moses, would be preserved by tradition; and though they are not mentioned by Moses himself, and the Jews have told many ridiculous stories respecting them, yet this should not lead us to doubt the truth of the tradition respecting their names. A full collection of the Jewish statements in regard to them may be found in Wetstein, in loc.

They are also mentioned by Pliny, Nat. Hist. 30:7; and by Numenius, the philosopher, as quoted by Eusebius, 9:8, and Origen, against Celsus, p. 199. See Wetstein. By the rabbinical writers, they are sometimes mentioned as Egyptian magicians who opposed Moses in Egypt, and sometimes as the sons of Balaam. The more common account is, that they were the princes of the Egyptian magicians. One of the Jewish rabbins represents them as having been convinced by the miracles of Moses, and as having become converts to the Hebrew religion. There is no reason to doubt that these were in fact the leading men who opposed Moses in Egypt, by attempting to work counter-miracles. The point of the remark of the apostle here, is, that they resisted Moses by attempting to imitate his miracles, thus neutralizing the evidence that he was sent from God. In like manner, the persons here referred to, opposed the progress of the gospel by setting up a similar claim to that of the apostles; by pretending to have as much authority as they had; and by thus neutralizing the claims of the true religion, and leading off weak-minded persons from the truth. This is often the most dangerous kind of opposition that is made to religion.

Men of corrupt minds; – compare the notes at 1Ti_6:5.

Reprobate concerning the faith – So far as the Christian faith is concerned. On the word rendered “reprobate,” see the Rom_1:28 note; 1Co_9:27 note, rendered “cast-away;” 2Co_13:5 note. The margin here is, “of no judgment.” The meaning is, that in respect to the Christian faith, or the doctrines of religion, their views could not be approved, and they were not to be regarded as true teachers of religion.

John Calvin

2 Timothy 3:9

9But they shall not proceed further He encourages Timothy for the contest, by the confident hope of victory; for, although false teachers give him annoyance, he promises that they shall be, within a short time, disgracefully ruined. Yet the event does not agree with this promise; and the Apostle appears to make a totally different declaration, a little afterwards, when he says that they will grow worse and worse. Nor is there any force in the explanation given by Chrysostom, that they will grow worse every day, but will do no injury to any person; for he expressly adds, “deceived and deceiving;” and, indeed, the truth of this is proved by experience. It is more correct to say, that he looked at them in various aspects; for the affirmation, that they will not make progress, is not universal; but he only means, that the Lord will discover their madness to many whom they had, at first, deceived by their enchantments.

For their folly shall be manifest to all When he says, to all, it is by a figure of speech, in which the whole is taken for a part. And, indeed, they who are most successful in deceiving do, at first, make great boasting, and obtain loud applause; and, in short, it appears as if nothing were beyond their power. But speedily their tricks vanish into air; for the Lord opens the eyes of many, so that they begin to see what was concealed from them for a time. Yet never is the “folly” of false prophets discovered to such an extent as to be known to all. Besides, no sooner is one error driven away than new errors continually spring up.

Both admonitions are therefore necessary. That godly teachers may not despair, as if it were in vain for them to make war against error, they must be instructed about the prosperous success which the Lord will give to his doctrine. But that they may not think, on the other hand, that they are discharged from future service, after one or two battles, they must be reminded that there will always be new occasion for fighting. But on this second point we shall speak afterwards; at present, let it suffice us, that he holds out to Timothy the sure hope of a successful issue, that he may be time more encouraged to fight, And he confirms this by the example which he had quoted; for, as the truth of God prevailed against the tricks of the magicians, so he promises that the doctrine of the gospel shall be victorious against every kind of errors that may be invented.

Albert Barnes

2 Timothy 3:9

But they shall proceed no further – There is a certain point beyond which they will not be allowed to go. Their folly will become manifest, and the world will understand it. The apostle does not say how far these false teachers would be allowed to go, but that they would not be suffered always to prosper and prevail. They might be plausible at first, and lead many astray; they might, by art and cunning, cover up the real character of their system; but there would be a fair development of it, and it would be seen to be folly. The apostle here may be understood as declaring a general truth in regard to error. It often is so plausible at first, that it seems to be true. It wins the hearts of many persons, and leads them astray. It flatters them personally, or it flatters them with the hope of a better state of things in the church and the world. But the time will always come when men will see the folly of it. Error will advance only to a certain point, when it will be “seen” to be falsehood and folly, and when the world will arise and cast it off. In some cases, this point may be slower in being reached than in others; but there “is” a point, beyond which error will not go. At the reformation under Luther, that point had been reached, when the teachings of the great apostasy were seen to be “folly,” and when the awakened intellect of the world would allow it to “proceed no farther,” and aroused itself and threw it off. In the workings of society, as well as by the direct appointment of God, there is a point beyond which error cannot prevail; and hence, there is a certainty that truth will finally triumph.

For their folly shall be manifest unto all men – The world will see and understand what they are, and what they teach. By smooth sophistry, and cunning arts, they will not be able always to deceive mankind.

As their’s also was – That of Jannes and Jambres. That is, it became manifest to all that they could not compete with Moses and Aaron; that their claims to the power of working miracles were the mere arts of magicians, and that they had set up pretensions which they could not sustain; compare Exo_8:18-19. In regard to the time to which the apostle referred in this description, it has already been observed (see the notes at 2Ti_3:1), that it was probably to that great apostasy of the “latter days,” which he has described in 2 Thes. 2: and 1 Tim. 4: But there seems to be no reason to doubt that he had his eye immediately on some persons who had appeared then, and who had evinced some of the traits which would characterize the great apostasy, and whose conduct showed that the great “falling away” had already commenced. In 2Th_2:7, he says that the “mystery of iniquity” was already at work, or was even then manifesting itself; and there can be no doubt that the apostle saw that there had then commenced what he knew would yet grow up into the great defection from the truth. In some persons, at that time, who had the form of godliness, but who denied its power; who made use of insinuating arts to proselyte the weak and the credulous; who endeavor to imitate the true apostles, perhaps by attempting to work miracles, as Jannes and Jambres did, he saw the “germ” of what was yet to grow up into so gigantic a system of iniquity as to overshadow the world. Yet he consoled Timothy with the assurance that there was a point beyond which the system of error would not be allowed to go, but where its folly must be seen, and where it would be arrested.

John Calvin

2 Timothy 3:10

10But thou hast followed In order to urge Timothy, he employs this argument also, that he is not an ignorant and untaught soldier, because Paul carried him through a long course of training. Nor does he speak of doctrine only; for those things which he likewise enumerates add much weight, and he gives to us, in this sentence, a very lively picture of a good teacher, as one who does not, by words only, train and instruct his disciples, but, so to speak, opens his very breast to them, that they may know, that whatever he teaches, he teaches sincerely. This is what is implied in the word purpose He likewise adds other proofs of sincere and unfeigned affection, such as faith, mildness, love, patience Such were the early instructions which had been imparted to Timothy in the school of Paul. Yet he does not merely bring to remembrance what he had learned from him, but bears testimony to his former life, that in this manner he may urge him to perseverance; for he praises him as an imitator of his own virtues; as if he had said, “Thou hast been long accustomed to follow my instructions; I ask nothing more than that thou shouldst go on as thou hast begun.” It is his wish, however; that the example of his “faith, love, and patience” should be constantly before the eyes of Timothy; and for that reason he dwells chiefly on his persecutions, which were best known to him.

Cambridge Bible

2 Tim 3:10. But thou hast fully known my doctrine] The ms. authority on the whole favours the aorist, which suits also the aorists of ver. 14 and does not assert, as the perfect would, the certainty of Timothy’s settled continuance in ‘following.’ The perfect may have come in from 1Ti_4:6, where it is more appropriate in connexion with the present participle ‘being continuously nourished.’ On the meaning of the word see note there: thou didst closely follow.

my doctrine; manner of life] Again, teaching; cf. 1Ti_1:10. ‘Manner of life’ is a word occurring here only in N.T., a substantive derived from the verb used above ‘led’ ver. 6 and Rom_8:14, which shews how conduct is the natural derived sense; cf. Gifford’s note ‘all who are moved and guided by the Spirit and follow His guidance.’ The word is classical in the general sense of ‘guidance,’ ‘course,’ ‘training’; and occurs Ar. Eth. N. x. vii. 3, as here.

purpose] In 1:9, and wherever else it is used in St Paul’s epistles, refers to God’s purpose and plan of salvation. It occurs four times in N.T. to render’ the shew-bread.’ But in Act_11:23 it is used of Barnabas who ‘exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord,’ and this is exactly the force here.

faith] In the same general and usual sense as in 2:22; 1Ti_6:11, where ‘love’ and ‘brave patience’ also occur; for this last see also note on 2:10.

longsuffering] Occurs with ‘brave patience’ or ‘endurance’ in Col_1:11, where Lightfoot distinguishes thus: ‘While “endurance” is the temper which does not easily succumb under suffering, “long-suffering” is the self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate a wrong. The one is opposed to cowardice or despondency, the other to wrath or revenge (Pro_15:18).’ In 1Ti_6:11 this ‘endurance’ is coupled with ‘meekness of heart’ which is rather the opposite of ‘rudeness,’ ‘harshness.’ See 2:25, and note.

charity] As throughout N.T., love.

Pulpit Commentary


Didst follow my teaching for hast fully known my doctrine, A.V. and T.R.; conduct for manner of life, A.V.; love for charity, A.V. Didst follow (παρηκολούθησας, which is the R.T. for παρηκολούθηκας, in the perfect, which is the T.R.). The evidence for the two readings is nicely balanced. But St. Paul uses the perfect in l Timothy 2Ti_4:6 (where see note), and it seems highly improbable that he here used the aorist in order to convey a rebuff to Timothy by insinuating that he had once followed, but that he was doing so no longer. The sentence, “thou didst follow,” etc., is singularly insipid. The A.V. “thou hast fully known” gives the sense fully and clearly. Timothy had fully known St. Paul’s whole career, partly from what he had heard, and partly from what he had been an eyewitness of. My teaching. How different from that of those impostors! Conduct (ἀγωγῇ); here only in the New Testament, but found in the LXX. in Est_2:20 (τὴν ἀγωγὴν αὐτῆς, “her manner of life”—her behaviour towards Mordecai, where there is nothing to answer to it in the Hebrew text); 2 Macc 4:16 (τὰς ἀγωγάς); 6:8; 11:24. Aristotle uses ἀγωγή for “conduct,” or “mode of life” (‘Ethics’), and Polybius (4:74, 14), quoted by Alford, has ἀγωγὴ and ἀγωγαὶ τοῦ βίου, “way” or “manner of life.” The A.V. “manner of life” is a very good rendering. Purpose (πρόθεσιν); that which a person sets before him as the end to be attained (Act_11:23; Act_27:13; 2Ma Act_3:8; and in Aristotle, Polybius, and others). Used often of God’s eternal purpose, as e.g. 2Ti_1:9; Eph_1:11, etc. In enumerating these and the following,” faith, long suffering, charity, and patience,” St. Paul doubtless had in view, not self-glorification, which was wholly alien to his earnest, self-denying character, but the mention of those qualities which he saw were most needed by Timothy. Long suffering (τῇ μακροθυμίᾳ); as 1Ti_1:16, of the long suffering of Jesus Christ towards himself, and elsewhere frequently of human patience and forbearance towards others. Patience (τῇ ὑπομονῇ). This is exercised in the patient endurance of afflictions for Christ’s sake. It is coupled, as here, with μακροθυμία, long suffering, in Col_1:11.

John Calvin

2 Timothy 3:11

11But out of them all the Lord delivered me It is a consolation which mitigates the bitterness of afflictions, that they always have a happy and joyful end. If it be objected, that the success of which he boasts is not always visible, I acknowledge that this is true, so far as relates to the feeling of the flesh; for Paul had not yet been delivered. But when God sometimes delivers us, he testifies, in this manner, that he is present with us, and will always be present; for from the feeling, or actual knowledge, of present aid, our confidence ought to be extended to the future. The meaning, therefore, is as if he had said, “Thou hast known by experience that God hath never forsaken me, so that thou hast no right to hesitate to follow my example.”

Cambridge Bible

2 Tim 3:11. afflictions, which came unto me] It is better to make the ‘afflictions’ go with the preceding, and make a new clause commence with the relative. So R.V. sufferings; what things befell me; what persecutions.

The Antioch meant is that in Pisidia, originally planted by the Magnesians. Seleucus the son of Antiochus re-settled it, and called it Antioch after the name of his father: which name it kept, though under Augustus made a colony with the additional name of Cæsarea. Plin. N.H. v. xxvii. 24 ‘Pisidæ … quorum colonia Cæsarea, eadem Antiochia.’ Its ruins are still to be seen, one of the most striking objects being a very perfect aqueduct of twenty-one arches. See Lewin, Life of St Paul, i. 137. For the work and sufferings at Antioch see Act_13:14-50. The place usually understood by Antioch would be the large and important city of Antioch in Syria; but in writing to Timothy, whose home was in that district, St Paul would use the word with its well-known local meaning.

Iconium lies S.E. of Antioch at a distance of sixty miles, on the dusty highroad connecting Ephesus with Antioch of Syria. It is still called Cogni, and, like Damascus, is an oasis in the desert, by the dry plains of Lycaonia. See Act_13:51-6.

Lystra lies about forty miles to the south of Iconium, on the same road, in a hollow, on the north side of which rises Kara Dagh or the Black Mountain. Its ruins remain and are called ‘the thousand and one churches,’ it having been an episcopal see under the Byzantine emperors. This was Timothy’s birth-place. See Act_14:6-20.

St Paul mentions these places and his sufferings there, (1) because they were the first, in his first period of ministry, (2) they were well known to Timothy and may well have led him to cast in his lot with the Apostle. See Introduction, pp. 57, 59, 62.

but out of them all] Rather, and, yet with an ascending force which marks a contrast, so that ‘and yet’ is hardly too strong; though the more exact rendering is to lay stress on ‘all’ and on ‘delivered,’ cf. Winer, iii. § 53, 3.

Adam Clarke

2 Timothy 3:11

Persecutions – which came unto me at Antioch – The Antioch mentioned here was Antioch in Pisidia, to which place Paul and Barnabas came in their first apostolic progress, and where Paul delivered that memorable discourse which is preserved in the 13th chapter of Acts, Acts 13:16-43. In this city, it is said, the Jews stirred up the devout and honorable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts; but they shook of the dust of their feet against them, and came to Iconium, Act_13:50, Act_13:51. Here there was an assault made both of the Gentiles and also of the Jews with their rulers, to treat them despitefully, and to stone them, and they fled unto Lystra and Derbe; and there came thither certain Jews, who persuaded the people, and having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. The historian informs us that his life was miraculously restored, and that he departed thence, and came to Derbe, and afterwards returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, where they had lately been so grievously persecuted. See Act_14:5, Act_14:6, Act_14:19-21. These are the persecutions, etc., to which the apostle alludes; and we find that he mentions them here precisely in the same order in which, according to the relation of St. Luke, they occurred. Now it is said here that Timothy fully knew all these things; and we may naturally suppose they could not be unknown to him, when it is evident he was either a native of, or resided in, those parts; for when the apostle, sometime after the above, visited Derbe and Lystra, behold, a certain disciple was there named Timotheus, well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium; Act_16:1, Act_16:2. As these things happened in his own neighborhood, Timothy must have known them; for a person who had such a religious education as he had could not be unacquainted with these persecutions, especially as we may believe that his mother and grandmother had been converts to Christianity at that time. See several useful remarks in Dr. Paley’s Horae Paulinae, on these circumstances, page 312.

John Calvin

2 Timothy 3:12

12And all who wish to live a godly life Having mentioned his own persecutions, he likewise adds now, that nothing has happened to him which does not await all the godly. And he says this, partly that believers may prepare themselves for submitting to this condition, and partly that good men may not view him with suspicion on account of the persecutions which he endures from wicked persons; as it frequently happens that the distresses to which men are subjected lead to unfavorable opinions concerning them; for he whom men regard with aversion is immediately declared by the common people to be hated by God.

By this general statement, therefore, Paul classes himself with the children of God, and, at the same time, exhorts all the children of God to prepare for enduring persecutions; for, if this condition is laid down for “all who wish to live a godly life in Christ,” they who wish to be exempt from persecutions must necessarily renounce Christ. In vain shall we endeavor to detach Christ from his cross; for it may be said to be natural that the world should hate Christ even in his members. Now hatred is attended by cruelty, and hence arise persecutions. In short, let us know that we are Christians on this condition, that we shall be liable to many tribulations and various contests.

But it is asked, Must all men be martyrs? for it is evident that there have been many godly persons who have never suffered banishment, or imprisonment, or flight, or any kind of persecution. I reply, it is not always in one way that Satan persecutes the servants of Christ. But yet it is absolutely unavoidable that all of them shall have the world for their enemy in some form or other, that their faith may be tried and their steadfastness proved; for Satan, who is the continual enemy of Christ, will never suffer any one to be at peace during his whole life; and there will always be wicked men that are thorns in our sides. Moreover, as soon as zeal for God is manifested by a believer, it kindles the rage of all ungodly men; and, although they have not a drawn sword, yet they vomit out their venom, either by murmuring, or by slander, or by raising a disturbance, or by other methods. Accordingly, although they are not exposed to the same assaults, and do not engage in the same battles, yet they have a warfare in common, and shall never be wholly at peace and exempt from persecutions.

Albert Barnes

2 Timothy 3:12

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution – Paul takes occasion from the reference to his own persecutions, to say that his case was not unique. It was the common lot of all who endeavored to serve their Redeemer faithfully; and Timothy himself, therefore, must not hope to escape from it. The apostle had a particular reference, doubtless, to his own times; but he has put his remark into the most general form, as applicable to all periods. It is undoubtedly true at all times, and will ever be, that they who are devoted Christians – who live as the Saviour did – and who carry out his principles always, will experience some form of persecution. The “essence” of persecution consists in “subjecting a person to injury or disadvantage on account of his opinions.” It is something more than meeting his opinions by argument, which is always right and proper; it is inflicting some injury on him; depriving him of some privilege, or right; subjecting him to some disadvantage, or placing him in less favorable circumstances, on account of his sentiments.

This may be either an injury done to his feelings, his family, his reputation, his property, his liberty, his influence; it may be by depriving him of an office which he held, or preventing him from obtaining one to which he is eligible; it may be by subjecting him to fine or imprisonment, to banishment, torture, or death. If, in any manner, or in any way, he is subjected to disadvantage on account of his religious opinions, and deprived of any immunities and rights to which he would be otherwise entitled, this is persecution. Now, it is doubtless as true as it ever was, that a man who will live as the Saviour did, will, like him, be subjected to some such injury or disadvantage. On account of his opinions, he may be held up to ridicule, or treated with neglect, or excluded from society to which his attainments and manners would otherwise introduce him, or shunned by those who might otherwise value his friendship. These things may be expected in the best times, and under the most favorable circumstances; and it is known that a large part of the history of the world, in its relation to the church, is nothing more than a history of persecution. It follows from this:

(1) That they who make a profession of religion, should come prepared to be persecuted. It should be considered as one of the proper qualifications for membership in the church, to be willing to bear persecution, and to resolve not to shrink from any duty in order to avoid it.

(2) They who are persecuted for their opinions, should consider that this may be one evidence that they have the spirit of Christ, and are his true friends. They should remember that, in this respect, they are treated as the Master was, and are in the goodly company of the prophets, apostles, and martyrs; for they were all persecuted. Yet,

(3) If we are persecuted, we should carefully inquire, before we avail ourselves of this consolation, whether we are persecuted because we “live godly in Christ Jesus,” or for some other reason. A man may embrace some absurd opinion, and call it religion; he may adopt some mode of dress irresistibly ludicrous, from the mere love of singularity, and may call it “conscience;” or he may be boorish in his manners, and uncivil in his deportment, outraging all the laws of social life, and may call this “deadness to the world;” and for these, and similar things, he may be contemned, ridiculed, and despised. But let him not infer, “therefore,” that he is to be enrolled among the martyrs, and that he is certainly a real Christian. That persecution which will properly furnish any evidence that we are the friends of Christ, must be only that which is “for righteousness sake” Mat_5:10, and must be brought upon us in an honest effort to obey the commands of God.

(4) Let those who have never been persecuted in any way, inquire whether it is not an evidence that they have no religion. If they had been more faithful, and more like their Master, would they have always escaped? And may not their freedom from it prove that they have surrendered the principles of their religion, where they should have stood firm, though the world were arrayed against them? It is easy for a professed Christian to avoid persecution, if he yields every point in which religion is opposed to the world. But let not a man who will do this, suppose that he has any claim to be numbered among the martyrs, or even entitled to the Christian name.

John Calvin

2 Timothy 3:13

13But wicked men and impostors This is the most bitter of all persecutions, when we see wicked men, with their sacrilegious hardihood, with their blasphemies and errors, gathering strength. Thus Paul says elsewhere, that Ishmael persecuted Isaac, not by the sword, but by mockery (Gal_4:29.) Hence also we may conclude, that in the preceding verse, it was not merely one kind of persecution that was described, but that the Apostle spoke, in general terms, of those distresses which the children of God are compelled to endure, when they contend for the glory of their Father.

I stated, a little before, in what respect they shall grow worse and worse; for he foretells not only that they will make obstinate resistance, but that they will succeed in injuring and corrupting others. One worthless person will always be more effectual in destroying, than ten faithful teachers in building, though they labor with all their might. Nor are there ever wanting the tares which Satan sows for injuring the pure corn; and even when we think that false prophets are driven away, others continually spring up in other directions.

Again, as to the power of doing injury, it is not because falsehood, in its own nature, is stronger than truth, or that the tricks of Satan exceed the energy of the Spirit of God; but because men, being naturally inclined to vanity and errors, embrace far more readily what agrees with their natural disposition, and also because, being blinded by a righteous vengeance of God, they are led, as captive slaves, at the will of Satan. And the chief reason, why the plague of wicked doctrines is so efficacious, is, that the ingratitude of men deserves that it should be so. It is highly necessary for godly teachers to be reminded of this, that they may be prepared for uninterrupted warfare, and may not be discouraged by delay, or yield to the haughtiness and insolence of adversaries.

Cambridge Bible

2 Tim 3:13. But evil men and seducers] The word ‘seduce’ in A.V. occurs nine times in Old and New Testament always in the general sense of ‘lead astray’; everywhere except here it is used to represent the Greek word for this cognate to the English word ‘planet’ ‘the wanderer,’ (cf. Jude’s ‘wandering stars’) and almost immediately following here ‘deceiving,’ cf. 1Ti_4:1 and note. R.V. in these places varies between ‘seduce’ and ‘lead astray.’ The word so rendered here is properly ‘enchanter,’ from the cries of incantations used. So ‘magicians,’ and more generally ‘impostors.’ Compare for the general sense, the most probable here, the use of the verb by Plato, Phæd. 81, 13, ‘the soul having served and loved the body and been bewitched by it through desires and pleasures.’ Some think there may be a reference to the magic arts, such as those of Jannes and Jambres; and certainly Ephesus had an evil repute in this respect itself, cf. Act_19:13, Act_19:10. ‘Ephesian letters’ was a common expression for charms made up of magic words and worn as amulets.

shall wax worse and worse] The same verb as in ver. 9. The ‘progress’ is a ‘rake’s progress,’ step after step leading and being led astray. Compare Rev_18:23, ‘with thy sorcery were all the nations deceived,’ 2Jn_1:7, ‘many deceivers are gone forth into the world … this is the deceiver and the antichrist.’

Albert Barnes

2 Timothy 3:13

But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse – That is, it is the character of such men to do this; they may be expected to do it. This is the general law of depravity – that if men are not converted, they are always growing worse, and sinking deeper into iniquity. Their progress will be certain, though it may be gradual, since “nemo repente turpissimus.” The connection here is this: that Timothy was not to expect that he would be exempt from persecution 2Ti_3:12, by any change for the better in the wicked men referred to. He was to anticipate in them the operation of the general law in regard to bad men and seducers – that they would grow worse and worse. From this fact, he was to regard it as certain that he, as well as others, would be liable to be persecuted. The word rendered “seducers” – γόης  goēs – occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, properly, a “juggler, or diviner;” and then, a “deceiver, or impostor.” Here it refers to those who by seductive arts, lead persons into error.

Deceiving – Making others believe that to be true and right, which is false and wrong. This was, of course, done by seductive arts.

And being deceived – Under delusion themselves. The advocates of error are often themselves as really under deception, as those whom they impose upon. They are often sincere in the belief of error, and then they are under a delusion; or, if they are insincere, they are equally deluded in supposing that they can make error pass for truth before God, or can deceive the Searcher of hearts. The worst victims of delusion are those who attempt to delude others.

John Calvin

2 Timothy 3:14

14But as for thee, continue in those things which thou hast learned Although wickedness prevail, and push its way forward, he advises Timothy nevertheless to stand firm. And undoubtedly this is the actual trial of faith, when we offer unwearied resistance to all the contrivances of Satan, and do not alter our course for every wind that blows, but remain steadfast on the truth of God, as on a sure anchor.

Knowing from whom thou hast learned them This is said for the purpose of commending the certainty of the doctrine; for, if any one has been wrong instructed, he ought not to persevere in it. On the contrary, we ought to unlearn all that we have learned apart from Christ, if we wish to be his disciples; as, for example, it is the commencement of our pure instruction in the faith to reject and forget all the instruction of Popery. The Apostle therefore does not enjoin Timothy to defend indiscriminately the doctrine which has been delivered to him, but only that which he knows to be truth; by which he means, that he must make a selection. Besides, he does not claim this as a private individual, that what he has taught shall be reckoned to be a divine revelation; but he boldly asserts his own authority to Timothy, who, he was aware, knew that his fidelity and his calling had been proved. And if he was fully convinced that he had been taught by an Apostle of Christ, he concluded that therefore it was not a doctrine of man, but of Christ.

This passage teaches us, that we ought to be as careful to guard against obstinacy in matters that are uncertain, (such as all the doctrines of men are,) as to hold within unshaken firmness the truth of God. Besides, we learn from it, that faith ought to be accompanied by prudence, that it may distinguish between the word of God and the word of men, so that we may not adopt at random everything that is brought forward. Nothing is more inconsistent with the nature of faith than light credulity, which allows us to embrace everything indiscriminately, whatever it may be, and from whomsoever it proceeds; because it is the chief foundation of faith, to know that it has God for its author.

And which have been intrusted to thee When he adds, that the doctrine had been intrusted to Timothy, this gives (αὔξησιν) additional force to the exhortation; for to “commit a thing in trust” is something more than merely to deliver it. Now Timothy had not been taught as one of the common people, but in order that he might faithfully deliver into the hands of others what he had received.

Pulpit Commentary


Abide for continue, A.V. Abide thou, etc. Be not like these juggling heretics, blown about by every wind of doctrine, and always seeking some new thing, but abide in the old truths which thou hast learnt from thy childhood. Hast been assured of (ἐπιστώθης); only here in the New Testament, but found in 2Ma 7:24 and 1Ki_1:36. In classical Greek it has the same sense as here (among others), “to be made sure of a thing.” Of whom thou hast learned them (παρὰ τίνος ἔμαθες, or, according to another reading of nearly equal authority, παρὰ τίνων). If τίνος is the right reading, it must refer either to God or to St. Paul. In favour of its referring to God is the expression in the Prophet Isaiah commented upon by our Lord in Joh_6:45, where παρὰ τοῦ Πατρὸς answers to παρὰ τίνος; the promise concerning the Comforter, “He shall teach you all things” (Joh_14:26, etc.); and the very similar reasoning of St. John, when he is exhorting his “little children” to stand fast in the faith, in spite of those that seduced them: “Let that therefore abide in you which ye have heard from the beginning;” for “the anointing which ye have received of him, abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things,…and even as it hath taught yon, abide in him” (1Jn_2:24-28); and other similar passages. There would obviously be great force in reminding Timothy that he had received the gospel under the immediate teaching of the Holy Spirit, and that it would be a shameful thing for him to turn aside under the influence of those impostors. If τίνων does not refer to God, it must refer to St. Paul. If, on the other hand, τίνων is the true reading (which is less probable), it must refer to Lois and Eunice, which seems rather feeble.

Albert Barnes

2 Timothy 3:14

But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of – To wit, the truths of religion. Timothy had been taught those truths when a child, and he had been confirmed in them by the instructions of Paul. Amidst the errors and seductions of false teachers, Paul now exhorts him to hold fast those doctrines, whoever might oppose them, or whatever might be the consequence; compare the notes at 2Ti_1:13.

Knowing of whom thou hast learned them – To wit, of his mother 2Ti_1:5, and of Paul; 2Ti_1:13. The reference seems to be particularly to the fact that he had learned these truths first from the lips of a mother (see 2Ti_3:15); and the doctrine taught here is, “that the fact that we have received the views of truth from a parent’s lips, is a strong motive for adhering to them.” It is not to be supposed, indeed, that this is the highest motive, or that we are always to adhere to the doctrines which have been taught us, if, on maturer examination, we are convinced they are erroneous; but that this is a strong reason for adhering to what we have been taught in early life. It is so, because:

(1) A parent has no motive for deceiving a child, and it cannot be supposed that he would teach him what he knew to be false;

(2) A parent usually has had much more experience, and much better opportunities of examining what is true, than his child has;

(3) There is a degree of respect which nature teaches us to be due to the sentiments of a parent.

A child should depart very slowly from the opinions held by a father or mother; and, when it is done, it should be only as the result of prolonged examination and prayer. These considerations should have the greater weight, if a parent has been eminent for piety, and especially if that parent has been removed to heaven. A child, standing by the grave of a pious father or mother, should reflect and pray much, before he deliberately adopts opinions which he knows that father or mother would regard as wrong.

John Calvin

2 Timothy 3:15

15And that from (thy) childhood This was also no ordinary addition, that he had been accustomed, from his infancy, to the reading of the Scripture; for this long habit may make a man much more strongly fortified against every kind of deception. It was therefore a judicious caution observed in ancient times, that those who were intended for the ministry of the word should be instructed, from their infancy, in the solid doctrine of godliness, that, when they came to the performance of their office, they might not be untried apprentices. And it ought to be reckoned a remarkable instance of the kindness of God, if any person, from his earliest years, has thus acquired a knowledge of the Scriptures.

Which are able to make thee wise unto salvation It is a very high commendation of the Holy Scriptures, that we must not seek anywhere else the wisdom which is sufficient for salvation; as the next verse also expresses more fully. But he states, at the same time, what we ought to seek in the Scripture; for the false prophets also make use of it as a pretext; and therefore, in order that it may be useful to us for salvation, it is necessary to understand the right use of it.

Through faith, which is in Christ Jesus What if any one give his whole attention to curious questions? What if he adhere to the mere letter of the law, and do not seek Christ? What if he pervert the natural meaning by inventions that are foreign to it? For this reason he directs us to the faith of Christ as the design, and therefore as the sum, of the Scriptures; for on faith depends also what immediately follows.

Cambridge Bible

2 Tim 3:15. from a child] Lit. from a babe; the word occurs four times in St Luke’s ‘Gospel of the Infancy,’ ch. 1 and 2, and again 18:15; Act_7:19.

thou hast known] Lit. ‘thou knowest,’ the perfect having this present force, and the Greek idiom in a phrase like this using the present where we use the perfect definite. The meaning is that there has been a continued knowledge present always ‘from a babe’ and present now. So in Joh_15:27, ‘ye are, i.e. have been, with me from the beginning,’ cf. Winer, iii. § 40.

the holy scriptures] Lit. ‘the sacred writings’ of the Old Testament. It was a requirement of the Rabbis that a child should begin to learn the Law by heart when five years old. ‘Raf said to Samuel, the son of Schilath, a teacher, “Do not take the boy to be taught before he is six years old, but from that year receive him, and train him as you do the ox, which, day by day, bears a heavier load.” Philo, a contemporary of our Lord, says, “They are taught, so to speak, from their very swaddling clothes by their parents, masters and teachers, in the holy laws, and in the unwritten customs, and to believe in God, the one Father and Creator of the world,” (Legal. ad Caium, § 16). At the age of thirteen he became a “son of the Law,” and was bound to practise all its moral and ritual requirements.’ Geikie, Life of Christ, i. 173.

The original word for ‘scriptures’ is used of Moses’ writings Joh_5:47, where Westcott well points out that it ‘appears to mark the specific form rather than the general scope of the record’ which is denoted by the word used in ver. 16.

which are able] Present participle, in harmony with the present sense of ‘thou hast known,’ and marking the abiding continuous power of the Holy Scripture.

to make thee wise] The verb occurs here only in N.T.; its participle in 2Pe_1:16, ‘cunningly devised’; the tense is aorist according to the proper use of the aorist, to give the idea of the verb in its most general form, ‘the scriptures have this capacity of making wise.’

through faith which is in Christ Jesus] See note on 1Ti_3:13; the clause belongs to the verb ‘make wise,’ not to the noun ‘salvation.’ The doctrine and scheme of Christianity is required to illuminate the precept and history of the Old Testament. ‘In vetere Testamento latet novum, in novo vetus patet.’ Ellicott quotes Hooker, Eccl. Pol. i. 14. ‘The Old did make wise by teaching Salvation through Christ that should come, the New by teaching that Christ the Saviour is come.’ Cf. also Art. vii. in the English Prayer Book, ‘The Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ.’

Marvin Vincent

2 Tim 3:15. From a child (ἀπὸ βρέφους). Mostly in Luke. oP. Only here in Pastorals. See on 1 Pet. 2:2. Comp. Mk. 9:21, ἐκ παιδιόθεν from a child.

The holy Scriptures (ἱερὰ γράμματα). Note particularly the absence of the article. Γράμματα is used in N. T. in several senses. Of characters of the alphabet (2 Cor. 3:7; Gal. 6:11): of a document (L. 16:6, take thy bill): of epistles (Acts 28:21): of the writings of an author collectively (J. 5:47): of learning (Acts 26:24, πολλά γράμματα much learning). In LXX, ἐπιστάμενος γράμματα knowing how to read (Isa. 29:11, 12). The Holy Scriptures are nowhere called ἱερὰ γράμματα in N. T. In LXX, γράμματα is never used of sacred writings of any kind. Both Josephus and Philo use τὰ ἱερὰ γράμματα for the O. T. Scriptures. The words here should be rendered sacred learning. The books in the writer’s mind were no doubt the O. T. Scriptures, in which Timothy, like every Jewish boy, had been instructed; but he does not mean to designate those books as ἱερὰ γράμματα. He means the learning acquired from Scripture by the rabbinic methods, according to which the O. T. books were carefully searched for meanings hidden in each word and letter, and especially for messianic intimations. Specimens of such learning may be seen here and there in the writings of Paul, as 1 Cor. 9:9f.; 10:1f.; Gal. 3:16f.; 4:21f. In Acts 4:13, the council, having heard Peter’s speech, in which he interpreted Ps. 118:22 and Isa. 28:16 of Christ, at once perceived that Peter and John were ἀγράμματοι, not versed in the methods of the schools. Before Agrippa, Paul drew the doctrine of the Resurrection from the O. T., whereupon Festus exclaimed, “much learning (πολλὰ γράμματα, thy acquaintance with the exegesis of the schools) hath made thee mad” (Acts 26:24). To Agrippa, who was “expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews” (Acts 26:3), the address of Paul, a pupil of Hillel, was not surprising, although he declared that Paul’s reasoning did not appeal to him. In J. 7:15, when Jesus taught in the temple, the Jews wondered, and said: “How knoweth this man letters?” That a Jew should know the Scriptures was not strange. The wonder lay in the exegetical skill of one who had not been trained by the literary methods of the time.

To make thee wise (σε σοφίσαι). Only here and 2 Pet. 1:16. See note there on cunningly devised. To give thee understanding of that which lies behind the letter; to enable thee to detect in the O. T. books various hidden allusions to Christ; to draw from the O. T. the mystery of messianic salvation, and to interpret the O. T. with Christ as the key. This gives significance to the following words, through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ was the key of Scripture, and through faith in him Scripture became a power unto salvation. The false teachers also had their learning, but used it in expounding Jewish fables, genealogies, etc. Hence, their expositions, instead of making wise unto salvation, were vain babblings; profane and old wives’ fables (1 Tim. 4:7; 2 Tim. 2:16). Const. through faith, etc., with make wise, not with salvation.

Albert Barnes

2 Timothy 3:15

And that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures – That is, the Old Testament; for the New Testament was not then written; see the notes at Joh_5:39. The mother of Timothy was a pious Hebrewess, and regarded it as one of the duties of her religion to train her son in the careful knowledge of the word of God. This was regarded by the Hebrews as an important duty of religion, and there is reason to believe that it was commonly faithfully performed. The Jewish writings abound with lessons on this subject. Rabbi Judah says, “The boy of five years of age ought to apply to the study of the sacred Scriptures.” Rabbi Solomon, on Deu_11:19, says, “When the boy begins to talk, his father ought to converse with him in the sacred language, and to teach him the law; if he does not do that, he seems to bury him.” See numerous instances referred to in Wetstein, in loc. The expression used by Paul – “from a child” (ἀπὸ βρέφους  apo brephous) – does not make it certain at precisely what age Timothy was first instructed in the Scriptures, though it would denote an “early” age. The word used – βρέφος brephos – denotes:

(1) A babe unborn, Luk_1:41, Luk_1:44;

(2) An infant, babe, suckling.

In the New Testament, it is rendered “babe and babes,” Luk_1:41, Luk_1:44; Luk_2:12, Luk_2:16; 1Pe_2:2; “infants,” Luk_8:15; and “young children,” Act_7:19. It does not elsewhere occur, and its current use would make it probable that Timothy had been taught the Scriptures as soon as he was capable of learning anything. Dr. Doddridge correctly renders it here “from infancy.” It may be remarked then,

(1) That it is proper to teach the Bible to children at as early a period of life as possible.

(2) That there is reason to hope that such instruction will not be forgotten, but will have a salutary influence on their future lives. The piety of Timothy is traced by the apostle to the fact that he had been early taught to read the Scriptures, and a great proportion of those who are in the church have been early made acquainted with the Bible.

(3) It is proper to teach the “Old” Testament to children – since this was all that Timothy had, and this was made the means of his salvation.

(4) We may see the utility of Sunday schools. The great, and almost the sole object of such schools is to teach the Bible, and from the view which Paul had of the advantage to Timothy of having been early made acquainted with the Bible, there can be no doubt that if Sunday-schools had then been in existence, he would have been their hearty patron and friend.

Which are able to make thee wise unto salvation – So to instruct you in the way of salvation, that you may find the path to life. Hence, learn:

(1) That the plan of salvation may be learned from the Old Testament. It is not as clearly revealed there as it is in the New, but “it is there;” and if a man had only the Old Testament, he might find the way to be saved. The Jew, then, has no excuse if he is not saved.

(2) The Scriptures have “power.” They are “able to make one wise to salvation.” They are not a cold, tame, dead thing. There is no book that has so much “power” as the Bible; none that is so efficient in moving the hearts, and consciences, and intellects of mankind. There is no book that has moved so many minds; none that has produced so deep and permanent effects on the world.

(3) To find the way of salvation, is the best kind of wisdom; and none are wise who do not make that the great object of life.

Through faith which is in Christ Jesus; – see the Mar_16:16 note; Rom_1:17 note. Paul knew of no salvation, except through the Lord Jesus. He says, therefore, that the study of the Scriptures, valuable as they were, would not save the soul unless there was faith in the Redeemer; and it is implied, also, that the proper effect of a careful study of the “Old” Testament, would be to lead one to put his trust in the Messiah.

John Calvin

2 Timothy 3:16

16All Scripture; or, the whole of Scripture; though it makes little difference as to the meaning. He follows out that commendation which he had glanced at briefly. First, he commends the Scripture on account of its authority; and secondly, on account of the utility which springs from it. In order to uphold the authority of the Scripture, he declares that it is divinely inspired; for, if it be so, it is beyond all controversy that men ought to receive it with reverence. This is a principle which distinguishes our religion from all others, that we know that God hath spoken to us, and are fully convinced that the prophets did not speak at their own suggestion, but that, being organs of the Holy Spirit, they only uttered what they had been commissioned from heaven to declare. Whoever then wishes to profit in the Scriptures, let him first of all, lay down this as a settled point, that the Law and the Prophets are not a doctrine delivered according to the will and pleasure of men, but dictated by the Holy Spirit.

If it be objected, “How can this be known?” I answer, both to disciples and to teachers, God is made known to be the author of it by the revelation of the same Spirit. Moses and the prophets did not utter at random what we have received from their hand, but, speaking at the suggestion of God, they boldly and fearlessly testified, what was actually true, that it was the mouth of the Lord that spake. The same Spirit, therefore, who made Moses and the prophets certain of their calling, now also testifies to our hearts, that he has employed them as his servants to instruct us. Accordingly, we need not wonder if there are many who doubt as to the Author of the Scripture; for, although the majesty of God is displayed in it, yet none but those who have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit have eyes to perceive what ought, indeed, to have been visible to all, and yet is visible to the elect alone. This is the first clause, that we owe to the Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God; because it has proceeded from him alone, and has nothing belonging to man mixed with it.

And is profitable Now follows the second part of the commendation, that the Scripture contains a perfect rule of a good and happy life. When he says this, he means that it is corrupted by sinful abuse, when this usefulness is not sought. And thus he indirectly censures those unprincipled men who fed the people with vain speculations, as with wind. For this reason we may in the present day, condemn all who, disregarding edification, agitate questions which, though they are ingenious, are also useless. Whenever ingenious trifles of that kind are brought forward, they must be warded off by this shield, that “Scripture is profitable.” Hence it follows, that it is unlawful to treat it in an unprofitable manner; for the Lord, when he gave us the Scriptures, did not intend either to gratify our curiosity, or to encourage ostentation, or to give occasion for chatting and talking, but to do us good; and, therefore, the right use of Scripture must always tend to what is profitable.

For instruction Here he enters into a detailed statement of the various and manifold advantages derived from the Scriptures. And, first of all, he mentions instruction, which ranks above all the rest; for it will be to no purpose that you exhort or reprove, if you have not previously instructed. But because “instruction,” taken by itself, is often of little avail, he adds reproof and correction

It would be too long to explain what we are to learn from the Scriptures; and, in the preceding verse, he has given a brief summary of them under the word faith. The most valuable knowledge, therefore, is “faith in Christ.” Next follows instruction for regulating the life, to which are added the excitements of exhortations and reproofs. Thus he who knows how to use the Scriptures properly, is in want of nothing for salvation, or for a Holy life. Reproof and correction differ little from each other, except that the latter proceeds from the former; for the beginning of repentance is the knowledge of our sinfulness, and a conviction of the judgment of God. Instruction in righteousness means the rule of a good and holy life.

Cambridge Bible

2 Tim 3:16. All scripture] The word for ‘Scripture’ occurs fifty-one times in N.T., always, except 2Pe_3:16, of the recognised Old Testament Scriptures, the Law, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa, or of one or more of them; in 2Pe_3:16 the reference is to St Paul’s epistles and to ‘the other Scriptures.’ The A.V. of a.d. 1611 is therefore not wrong (though many printed copies have altered it) in rendering the word as ‘Scripture’ with a capital S; for it is by itself the recognised technical term.

We should translate Every Scripture probably, as is the proper rendering when there is no article. The word ‘Scripture’ is without the article also in Joh_19:37; 1Pe_2:6; 2Pe_1:20. Those who retain the rendering ‘All Scripture’ with A.V. would lay stress on the technical use of the word shewn above, so that it may be treated as a proper name, comparing Act_2:36, ‘all (the) house of Israel.’ But this is unnecessary, especially as the three places where the word occurs without the article in the singular have the meaning ‘a Book or passage of Scripture’ and they are in date as late as or later than this Epistle.

given by inspiration of God] One word in the original, a passive verbal, occurring only here in N.T., and meaning ‘filled with the breath of God’ so as to be ‘living oracles,’ Act_7:38. Cf. 2Pe_1:21, ‘holy men of God moved by the Holy Spirit.’ Compare also the following passage written about a.d. 95, at the same time as the last N.T. book, St John’s Gospel: ‘Search the Scriptures, the true Scriptures, the Scriptures of the Holy Ghost: ye know that there is nothing unrighteous, nothing counterfeit written in them.’ Clem. Rom. ad Cor. c. 45.

There are two ways of taking this adjective, either as an attribute (so R.V.) or a predicate (so A.V.); either ‘Every Scripture, inasmuch as it is inspired of God, is also useful &c.’ or ‘Every Scripture is inspired and is profitable &c.’ In the latter case the second predicate comes in tamely. In the one case inspiration is assumed, in the other it is asserted.

profitable for doctrine] For teaching.

for reproof] The noun occurs only Heb_11:1, ‘the proving of things not seen.’ The corresponding verb is used five times by St Paul in these epistles, e.g. 4:2.

correction] Only here in N.T. though a good classical word, cf. Dem. c. Timocr. 707, 7 ‘they shall lose their promotion to the Areopagus for putting down the amendment of the laws.’

for instruction in righteousness] Lit. discipline which is in righteousness; the verb ‘disciplining’ has occurred, 1Ti_1:20; 2Ti_2:25, where see notes. It occurs with ‘reprove’ in the letter to the church at Laodicea, Rev_3:19, where R.V. ‘chasten.’ ‘Which is in righteousness’ just as ‘faith which is in Christ Jesus’ above; the definite article indicates the definite sphere of exercise for the discipline and the faith. See note on 1Ti_1:2, where without the article the preposition and its case are shewn to be very nearly equivalent to an adjective. Ellicott well sums up the meaning ‘that Holy Scripture teaches the ignorant, convicts the evil and prejudiced, corrects the fallen and erring, and trains in righteousness all men, especially those that need bringing to fuller measures of perfection.’

Pulpit Commentary

2 Tim 3:16Every Scripture inspired of God is also profitable for all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable, A.V.; teaching for doctrine A.V.; which is in for in, A.V. Every Scripture, etc. There are two ways of construing this important passage:

(A) As in the A.V., in which θεόπνευστος is part of the predicate coupled by καὶ with the following ὠφέλιμος; (B) as in the R.V., where θεόπ́ευστος is part of the subject (as πᾶν ἒρλον ἒπλον ἀγαθόν “every good work,” 2 Cor. 9:8, and elsewhere); and the following καὶ is ascensive, and to be rendered “is also.”

Commentators are pretty equally divided, though the older ones (as Origen, Jerome (Vulgate), the versions) mostly adopt (B). In favour of (A), however, it may be said

(1) that such a sentence as that which arises from (B) necessarily implies that there are some γραφαὶ which are not θεόπνευστοι, just as Πᾶν ἒργον ἀγαθόν implies that there are some works which are not good; ρᾶσα εὐλογία πνευματική (Eph. 1:3), that there are some blessings which are not spiritual; πᾶν έρλογία πνευματική (2 Tim. 4:18), that there are some works which are not evil; and so on. But as γραφή is invariably used in the New Testament for “Scripture,” and not for any profane writing; it is not in accordance with biblical language to say, “every inspired Scripture,” because every Scripture is inspired.

(2) The sentence, taken according to (B), is an extremely awkward, and, as Alford admits, harsh construction, not supported in its entirety by one single parallel usage in the whole New Testament.

(3) The sentence, taken according to (A), is a perfectly simple one, and is exactly parallel with 1 Tim. 4:4, Πᾶν Θεοῦ καλόν καὶ οὐδέν ἀπόβλητον, “Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused.”

(4) It is in perfect harmony with the context. Having in the preceding verse stated the excellence of the sacred writings, he accounts for that excellence by referring to their origin and source. They are inspired of God, and hence their wide use and great power

(5) This interpretation is supported by high authority: Chrysostom, Gregory of Nyssa, etc., among the ancients (Alford); and Bengel, Wiesinger, De Wette, etc., among modern. The advocates of (B), as Bishop Ellicott, Dean Alford, etc., speak very doubtfully. With regard to the rendering of πᾶσα γραφην no doubt, strict grammar, in the absence of the article, favours the rendering in the R.V., “every Scripture,” rather than that of the A.V., “all Scripture.” But Alford’s remark on Matt. 1:20 applies with full force here: “When a word or an expression came to bear a technical conventional meaning, it was also common to use it without the article, as if it were a proper name, e.g. Θεός, νόμος, υἰὸς Θεοῦ,” etc. Therefore, just as πᾶσα Ἱεροσόλυμα (Matt. 2:3) means “all Jerusalem,” not “every Jerusalem,” so here πᾶσα λραφή means “all Scripture.” What follows of the various uses of Holy Scripture is not true of “every Scripture.” One Soripture is profitable for doctrine, another for reproof, and so on. Examples of γραφή without the article are 2 Pet. 1:20 and Rom. 1:2; and of πᾶς not followed by the article, and yet meaning “all,” are in Eph. 2:21 and 3:15. Inspired of God, etc. (θεόπνευστος); here only in the New Testament or LXX, but occasionally in classical Greek, as Plutarch. For teaching, etc. The particular uses for which Scripture is said to be profitable present no difficulty. Teaching, of which Holy Scripture is the only infallible source. Reproof (ἒλεγχον or ἐλεγμόν); only here and Heb. 11:1; but in classical Greek it means “a proof,” specially for the purpose of “refutation” of a false statement or argument. Here in the same sense for the “conviction” or “refutation” of false teachers (comp. Titus 1:9, 13), but probably including errors in living (compare in the ‘Ordering of Priests,’ “That there be no place left among you, either for error in religion or for viciousness in life”). Correction (ἐπανόρθωσιν); only here in the New Testament, but occasionally in the LXX, and frequently in classical Greek, as Aristotle, Plato, etc., in the sense of “correction,” i.e. setting a person or thing straight, “revisal,” “improvement,” “amendment,” or the like. It may be applied equally to opinions and to morals, or way of life. Instruction which is in righteousness. There is no advantage in this awkward phraseology. “Instruction in righteousness” exactly expresses the meaning. The Greek, τὴν ἐν δικαιοσύνη merely limits the παιδεία to the sphere of righteousness or Christian virtue. By the use of Holy Scripture the Christian is being continually more perfectly instructed in holy living.

Albert Barnes

2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture – This properly refers to the Old Testament, and should not be applied to any part of the New Testament, unless it can be shown that that part was then written, and was included under the general name of “the Scriptures;” compare 2Pe_3:15-16. But it includes the whole of the Old Testament, and is the solemn testimony of Paul that it was all inspired. If now it can be proved that Paul himself was an inspired man, this settles the question as to the inspiration of the Old Testament.

Is given by inspiration of God – All this is expressed in the original by one word – Θεόπνευστος Theopneustos. This word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly means, God-inspired – from Θεός Theos, “God,” and πνέω pneō, “to breathe, to breathe out.” The idea of “breathing upon, or breathing into the soul,” is that which the word naturally conveys. Thus, God breathed into the nostrils of Adam the breath of life Gen_2:7, and thus the Saviour breathed on his disciples, and said, “receive ye the Holy Ghost;” Joh_20:22. The idea seems to have been, that the life was in the breath, and that an intelligent spirit was communicated with the breath. The expression was used among the Greeks, and a similar one was employed by the Romans. Plutarch ed. R. 9:p. 583. 9. τοὺς ὀνείρους τοὺς θεοπνεύστους tous oneirous tous theopneustous. Phocylid. 121. τῆς δὲ θεοπνεύστου σοφίης λόγος ἐστὶν ἄριστος  tēs de theopnoustou sophiēs logos estin aristos.

Perhaps, however, this is not an expression of Phocylides, but of the pseudo Phocylides. So it is understood by Bloomfield. Cicero, pro Arch. 8. “poetam – quasi divino quodam spiritu inflari.” The word does not occur in the Septuagint, but is found in Josephus, Contra Apion, i. 7. “The Scripture of the prophets who were taught according to the inspiration of God – κατὰ τὴν ἐπίπνοιαν τὴν ἀπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ kata tēn epipnoian tēn apo tou Theou. In regard to the manner of inspiration, and to the various questions which have been started as to its nature, nothing can be learned from the use of this word. It asserts a fact – that the Old Testament was composed under a divine influence, which might be represented by “breathing on one,” and so imparting life. But the language must be figurative; for God does not breathe, though the fair inference is, that those Scriptures are as much the production of God, or are as much to be traced to him, as life is; compare Mat_22:43; 2Pe_1:21. The question as to the degree of inspiration, and whether it extends to the words of Scripture, and how far the sacred writers were left to the exercise of their own faculties, is foreign to the design of these notes. All that is necessary to be held is, that the sacred writers were kept from error on those subjects which were matters of their own observation, or which pertained to memory; and that there were truths imparted to them directly by the Spirit of God, which they could never have arrived at by the unaided exercise of their own minds. Compare the introduction to Isaiah and Job.

And is profitable. – It is useful; it is adapted to give instruction, to administer reproof, etc. If “all” Scripture is thus valuable, then we are to esteem no part of the Old Testament as worthless. There is no portion of it, even now, which may not be fitted, in certain circumstances, to furnish us valuable lessons, and, consequently, no part of it which could be spared from the sacred canon. There is no part of the human body which is not useful in its place, and no part of it which can be spared without sensible loss.

For doctrine – For teaching or communicating instruction; compare the notes on 1Ti_4:16.

For reproof – On the meaning of the word here rendered “reproof” – ἐλέγγμος  elengmos – see the notes on Heb_11:1. It here means, probably, for “convincing;” that is, convincing a man of his sins, of the truth and claims of religion, etc.; see the notes on Joh_16:8.

For correction – The word here used – ἐπανόρθωσις epanorthōsis – occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, properly, “a setting to rights, reparation, restoration,” (from ἐπανορθόω  epanorthoō, to right up again, to restore); and here means, the leading to a correction or amendment of life – “a reformation.” The meaning is, that the Scriptures are a powerful means of reformation, or of putting men into the proper condition in regard to morals. After all the means which have been employed to reform mankind; all the appeals which are made to them on the score of health, happiness, respectability, property, and long life, the word of God is still the most powerful and the most effectual means of recovering those who have fallen into vice. No reformation can be permanent which is not based on the principles of the word of God.

For instruction in righteousness – Instruction in regard to the principles of justice, or what is right. Man needs not only to be made acquainted with truth, to be convinced of his error, and to be reformed; but he needs to be taught what is right, or what is required of him, in order that he may lead a holy life. Every reformed and regenerated man needs instruction, and should not be left merely with the evidence that he is “reformed, or converted.” He should be followed with the principles of the word of God, to show him how he may lead an upright life. The Scriptures furnish the rules of holy living in abundance, and thus they are adapted to the whole work of recovering man, and of guiding him to heaven.

John Calvin

2 Timothy 3:17

17That the man of God may be perfect. Perfect means here a blameless person, one in whom there is nothing defective; for he asserts absolutely, that the Scripture is sufficient for perfection. Accordingly, he who is not satisfied with Scripture desires to be wiser than is either proper or desirable.

But here an objection arises. Seeing that Paul speaks of the Scriptures, which is the name given to the Old Testament, how does he say that it makes a man thoroughly perfect? for, if it be so, what was afterwards added by the apostles may be thought superfluous. I reply, so far as relates to the substance, nothing has been added; for the writings of the apostles contain nothing else than a simple and natural explanation of the Law and the Prophets, together with a manifestation of the things expressed in them. This eulogium, therefore, is not inappropriately bestowed on the Scriptures by Paul; and, seeing that its instruction is now rendered more full and clear by the addition of the Gospel, what can be said but that we ought assuredly to hope that the usefulness, of which Paul speaks, will be much more displayed, if we are willing to make trial and receive it?

Cambridge Bible

2 Tim 3:17. the man of God] As in 1Ti_6:11.

perfect] In the sense in which, for example, Confirmation is sometimes said to make ‘a perfect Christian,’ i.e. one perfectly equipped and supplied with the full measure of gifts and graces through the Holy Spirit. The word for ‘perfect’ here occurs nowhere else in N.T. It is derived from an adverb meaning ‘exactly,’ and so occurs in Homer, Il. xiv. 92, of speaking ‘exactly to the purpose,’ in Theophrastus H. P. 2. 5. 5, of being ‘full-grown.’ Complete, then, as R.V. renders, is more correct than A.V. So when the word is compounded with hand, foot, mind, we get ‘perfect of hand,’ ‘of feet,’ ‘sound of mind,’ &c.

throughly furnished] The perfect participle again expressing the resulting and abiding state; the verb is from the same root as the adjective; hence R.V. rightly preserves the play upon the words by rendering furnished completely. It only occurs again in Act_21:5, ‘we had accomplished,’ completely finished, the days. Another compound occurs Luk_6:40, ‘Every one, when he is perfected, shall be as his master.’

Pulpit Commentary


Complete for perfect, A.V.; furnished completely for throughly furnished, A.V.; every good work for all good works, A.V. Complete (ἄρτιος); only here in the New Testament, but common in classical Greek. “Complete, perfect of its kind” (Liddell and Scott). Furnished completely (ἐξρτι σμένος, containing the same root as ἄρτιος); elsewhere in the New Testament only in Act_21:5 in the sense of “completing” a term of days. It is nearly synonymous with καταρτίζω (Ma Act_21:16; Luk_6:40; 2Co_13:11; Heb_13:21; 1Pe_5:10). In late classical Greek ἐξ ρτίζω means, as here, “to equip fully.” As regards the question whether the man of God is restricted in its meaning to the minister of Christ, or comprehends all Christians, two things seem to decide in favour of the former: the one that “the man of God” is in the Old Testament invariably applied to prophets in the immediate service of God (see 1Ti_6:11, note); the other that in 1Ti_6:11 it undoubtedly refers to Timothy in his character of chief pastor of the Church, and that here too the whole force of the description of the uses and excellence of Holy Scripture is brought to bear upon the exhortations in 1Ti_6:14, “Continue thou in the things which thou hast heard,” addressed to Timothy as the Bishop of the Ephesian Church (see, too, 1Ti_4:1-5, where it is abundantly clear that all that precedes was intended to bear directly upon Timothy’s faithful and vigorous discharge of his office as an evangelist).

Albert Barnes

2 Timothy 3:17

That the man of God may be perfect – The object is not merely to convince and to convert him; it is to furnish all the instruction needful for his entire perfection. The idea here is, not that any one is absolutely perfect, but that the Scriptures have laid down the way which leads to perfection, and that, if any one were perfect, he would find in the Scriptures all the instruction which he needed in those circumstances. There is no deficiency in the Bible for man, in any of the situations in which he may be placed in life; and the whole tendency of the book is to make him who will put himself fairly under its instructions, absolutely perfect.

Thoroughly furnished unto all good works – Margin, “perfected.” The Greek means, to bring to an end; to make complete. The idea is, that whatever good work the man of God desires to perform, or however perfect he aims to be, he will find no deficiency in the Scriptures, but will find there the most ample instructions that he needs. He can never advance so far, as to become forsaken of his guide. He can never make such progress, as to have gone in advance of the volume of revealed truth, and to be thrown upon his own resources in a region which was not thought of by the Author of the Bible. No new phase of human affairs can appear in which it will not direct him; no new plan of benevolence can be started, for which he will not find principles there to guide him; and he can make no progress in knowledge or holiness, where he will not feel that his holy counsellor is in advance of him still, and that it is capable of conducting him even yet into higher and purer regions. Let us, then, study and prize the Bible. It is a holy and a safe guide. It has conducted millions along the dark and dangerous way of life, and has never led one astray. The human mind, in its investigations of truth, has never gone beyond its teachings; nor has man ever advanced into a region so bright that its light has become dim, or where it has not thrown its beams of glory on still far distant objects. We are often in circumstances in which we feel that we have reached the outer limit of what man can teach us; but we never get into such circumstance in regard to the Word of God.


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