Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ordination - Evidence from the New Testament - 1 Timothy 4:14 & 2 Timothy 1:6 - Part last (6) of many

Due to their interconnection, 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6 will be discussed together. Both passages contain a reference to the laying on of hands on Timothy. Both passages use the noun epithesis" instead of the verb epitithēmi used in the three New Testament passages mentioned above. Yet, to stipulate that these therefore refer to a different kind of laying on of hands would ignore that a common etymological root between epitithēmi and epithesis" corroborates the interchangeability of the two terms.[1] Both refer to a gift, charisma, that is in Timothy and which he needs not to neglect (1 Tim 4:14) and to stir up (2 Tim 1:6). One passage identifies the agency of the eldership in the laying on of hands, while the other the agency of Paul. One adds that the gift was given by prophecy, while the other that it is the gift of God.

Regardless of the differences, due to their apparent parallelism, the two passages have often been assumed to refer to a single event,[2] to which it may be believed that 1 Timothy 1:8 also refers. This event is often seen as Timothy’s “ordination into service in general (assuming such was the practice of the early church) or [his] commission for a special task such as his ministry to Ephesus.”[3] Due to the differences in the passages, Fee offers a different perspective. He postulates that 1 Timothy 1:8 and 1 Timothy 4:14 refer to the same incident, that is a confirming or commissioning of Timothy’s giftedness, a special equipping for his next divinely appointed task of ministry, but that 2 Timothy 1:6 refers to a separate incident, that of the impartation of the Holy Spirit on Timothy.[4] The topic of the impartation of the Spirit through the laying on of hands is obviously outside the scope of this paper. Suffice it to say at this time that while the laying on of hands does not seem to be a necessary practice for the reception of the Spirit, there are three incidents in the book of Acts which describe said practice.[5] Towner, while agreeing with Fee, adds that “it is not impossible that Timothy received his commission as Paul’s coworker at the same time.”[6]

In these passages there is therefore clear evidence of the laying on of hands on Timothy. Prophecy is associated with this laying on of hands, probably as an accompanying activity, “a reference to words of the Spirit spoken by a prophet(s) that confirm and identify Timothy’s giftedness.”[7] This giftedness could refer to the gift(s) given to Timothy by God to enable him to perform the good works that God had prepared beforehand that he should walk in them, but more probably it refers more specifically to the gift(s) given to Timothy to enable him to perform the tasks that he needed to perform as an apostolic aid. It does not necessarily refer to an office, especially the office of elder at Ephesus.[8] Yet again, there is not a consensus on who is doing the laying on of hands, but it is likely that the hands were the elders’, representing the community’s recognition.[9] While in 1 Timothy 4, Paul reminds Timothy of these laying on of hands to encourage him, he does not point to them as having imparted power or authority to Timothy to enable him to perform the task at hand. To help him on his task, Timothy is encouraged to focus on the Word and his response to it. Those things will allow him to save himself and those who hear him. There is also nothing in this text that would point to the laying on of hands as creating a representative. Likewise, in 2 Timothy 1:6, there is no concept of creating a representative or of imparting authority, unless the rite itself ontologically demands such an understanding.[10]

[1] Pierre Chantraine, Dictionnaire Étymologique de la Langue Grecque [DELG] (Paris: Éditions Klincksieck, 1968), s.v. τίθημι. Chantraine lists θεσις", and ἐπίθεσις", as a sub voce of τίθημι, and ἐπιτίθημι, and deems them to be part of a coherent system. In the commentaries, the terminological difference is neither mentioned nor are any assumptions made from it.

[2] See Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 209; Mounce, Pastoral Epistles,70, 261-63, 476; C. Spicq, Les Épitres Pastorales, vol. 2, 4th ed. Études Bibliques (Paris, France: J. Gabalda et Cie, 1969), 708, 728; Culpepper, “The Biblical Basis for Ordination,” 480. Often the differences are explained by the assumed differing nature of the two letters: 2 Timothy is a more personal letter, therefore Paul only mentions himself.

[3] Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 71.

[4] Gordon D. Fee, God’s Empowering Presence (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 774, 786-88; cf. Culpepper, “The Biblical Basis for Ordination,” 480.

[5] For the reception of the Spirit through the laying on of hands see: Acts 8:17-19; 9:12-17; 19:6. Ellingworth, in Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews, NIGTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 316, believes that this is what Paul refers to in the letter to the Hebrews when he mentions the laying on of hands (Heb 6:2) in his list of “elementary principles.” Ellingworth comes to this conclusion due to: the proximity in the list of the principles of baptism and the laying on of hands; what he sees as the supporting text in v. 4; and the lack of support for a “transmission of office” view in that context. He does also add that “the reference is so brief and general that it is impossible to be certain.” When thinking about this topic, it is important to consider that at Pentecost (Acts 2) and at what some call the gentile Pentecost (Acts 10:44-48), the Spirit clearly descended on believers without the laying on of hands. In addition, ignoring Ellingworth’s proposal for Heb 6:2 and Fee’s proposal for 2 Tim 1:6, there is no teaching in the epistles of said practice. This lack of pattern and clear teaching does not invalidate the use of the practice in the book of Acts, but, it does seem to make it non-prescriptive.

[6] Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, 459. Towner sees 1 Tim 4:14 as a separate congregational commissioning by the church in Ephesus (324-25, 459-60).

[7] Ibid., 323. Similarly see the following for a slight variation on the same theme: Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 71; Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 208; Quinn and Wacker, The first and second letters to Timothy, 386. C. Spicq, Les Épitres Pastorales, vol. 1, 4th ed. Études Bibliques (Paris, France: J. Gabalda et Cie, 1969), 517, understands prophecy, not as a word from God, but as a consecrating prayer which is an integral part of the sacramental action of the laying on of hands.

[8] This is the consensus of Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, 322n40; Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 263; John Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2005), 205; Fee, God’s Empowering Presence, 772n82. Fee goes as far as saying that “only the most biased reading of this letter sees Timothy as ‘holding office’ in Ephesus.” Cf. Jeremias (Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 209) and Calvin (Fee, God’s Empowering Presence, 775n97) propose that πρεσβυτερίου should be read as “to the presbyterate.”

[9] Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, 323-4; Fee, God’s Empowering Presence, 775.

[10] This seems to be the understanding of samakh in Daube, The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism, 245, who understands these two passages as being the “earliest reference to apostolic succession.” Quinn and Wacker, The First and Second Letters to Timothy, 396, present the understanding of the generic symbolism of the human hand in the ancient world to suggest that power, authority, and responsibility might be implicitly involved.

No comments:

Join my blog network
on Facebook