Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ordination - Evidence from the New Testament - 1 Timothy 5:22 - Part 5 of many

While lacking any terminology referring to the appointing/calling/choosing of elders, this passage is often assumed to refer to elder commissioning. The understanding of commissioning derives from the assumptions made about the other two passages in the personal letters of Paul containing laying on of hands terminology (as will be seen below), combined with the general use of the laying on of hands terminology (as seen in the discussion above). The context of the passage seems to indicate that the people being commissioned are elders.[1] Whether this passage refers to the commissioning of elders in general or to the commissioning of replacement elders in particular cannot be ascertained by the text.[2] Towner further comments that the second person singular of epitithēmi “envisions Timothy as taking the lead in the procedures (though it is not necessary to rule out participation by others in leadership).”[3] The personal note of the letter does diminish the certainty of this conclusion, though, and there is nothing in this passage that warrants the limiting of participation to only the leadership. Regardless of who is performing the commissioning, the text does furnish another important insight into the laying on of hands. This laying on of hands must not be done “hastily” for it might result in sharing “in other people’s sins.” [4] We do not see here a pouring of one’s personality into the person on whom one is laying his hands (contrary to some of the understanding of Daube’s samakh concept), but the reverse process might be seen where the sin of the one receiving the imposition of hands affects the one imposing his hands. This could point to a pattern of “creating a representative or substitute,” for the sin of a representative reflects on the one he represents. Again, this passage does not deal with transference or impartation of authority.

[1] Verses 17-20 clearly refer to elders, and since the consensus from commentators is that v. 21 refers to vv. 19-20, and not to the whole chapter, it logically follows that v. 22 has to continue the train of thought about elders. See Philip H. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 372; William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 46 (Nashville: Nelson, 2000), 316; and George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles, NIGTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 237. The fact that the concept of sin flows throughout this entire section (vv. 20, 22, 24) also serves to confirm this tie.

[2] It does seem unlikely that this passage refers “to the later church ritual of reinstating a penitent sinner” (Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 317; see also Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, 374n72).

[3] Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, 374. One has to wonder if Towner’s limiting the action of laying on of hands to the leadership is anachronistic or due to his perceived understanding of 1 Tim 4:14.

[4] For this causal interpretation, see the discussion on μηδὲ in Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 317-18 or Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, 374n73.

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