2 Timothy 2

Athlete, Workman, Soldier, Scribe

A Soldier's Priorities

No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life (2 Timothy 2:4).

The phrase “soldier in active service” represents the Greek participle strateuomenos, which could be woodenly rendered “one who is soldiering.” Paul uses it to call attention to the need for focus and resolve in the midst of battle, where more mundane concerns no longer matter. This relief carving was photographed at the National Museum of Rome. It comes from the Portonaccio sarcophagus, which is thought to have been inspired by the Antonine Column.

Playing Within the Rules

If anyone competes in an athletic contest, he is not crowned unless he has competed lawfully (2 Timothy 2:5).

Every four years in Athens, the Panathenaic Games were held in honor of Athena. This vessel is a Panathenaic prize amphora which would be filled with gallons of olive oil from sacred groves of Athena and would be given to the winner of an athletic competition. They are decorated with scenes from the Panathenaic games. In this case, two athletes are depicted competing in the pankration, a mixture of wrestling and boxing. However, the athlete on the left is committing a foul. The figure on the right is flagging this with a judge’s rhabdos, a stick used for moderating events. In his other hand, he holds a wreath to award the victor. This amphora was made in Athens during the archonship of Niketes, in 332–331 BC.

Producing Good Work

Present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15).

The word “workman” (Gk. ergatēs) can refer to an agricultural worker (e.g., Matt 9:37) or to a craftsman (e.g., Acts 19:25). The tools shown here include compasses and three plumb-bobs. Such tools were used by Roman craftsmen and builders to keep their projects straight and square, a prerequisite to a construction that would look good and last over time.

Faithfully Distributing Scripture

Handling the word of truth accurately (2 Timothy 2:15).

Paul seems to have assumed that Timothy possessed at least some facility in the Hebrew Scriptures, given his charge to handle the word of truth accurately. Also, it likely would have fallen to Timothy to make initial copies of the letters sent to him to pass along to others, if he was capable of doing so. Scribal work requires much patience and was not a common ability in Paul’s day. Whether he made copies himself or had it done, Timothy had responsibility to see that the job was done accurately and well. These replicas of papyri are in the form of the codex (as opposed to a scroll) which became very popular in the early centuries, especially among Christians.

The Disease of Gossip

Avoid worthless and empty chatter, since it leads to ungodliness. Such talk spreads like gangrene (2 Timothy 2:16-17).

The term “gangrene” (Gk. gangraina) refers to a disease that leads to ulcerous inflammation. Although they did not have modern knowledge of medicine, the Greco-Roman doctors were able to diagnose and treat a great number of ailments and diseases. The term “gangrene” appears as early as the writings of Hippocrates in the 5th century BC. This fresco shows a surgeon working on a leg wound. It comes from the House of Siricus at Pompeii.

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