Undesigned Coincidences (Continued from part 1)
In 2 Timothy 2:22, Paul instructs Timothy to “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” This connects with 1 Timothy 4:12, in which Timothy is instructed to “Let no one despise you for your youth.” It is thus fitting, given that Timothy was evidently a young man, that in the 2nd epistle Paul warns Timothy to flee from youthful lusts.
This also connects with what we read in 1 Corinthians 16:10-11:
“When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers.”
The integration between those texts is only incidental. In his first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul instructs the Corinthian Christians not to despise Timothy when he comes, “for he is doing the work of the Lord”, just as Paul was doing. Paul gives no indication of why the Corinthian Christians might despise Timothy. It is only when we read 2 Timothy that we learn that it was because of his youth.
In 2 Timothy 3:10-11, we read,
“You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.”
The Antioch here mentioned was not Antioch the capital of Syria but rather Antioch in Pisidia, to which, as we read in Acts 13, Paul was sent along with Barnabas. The book of Acts tells us (13:50-51),
“But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium.”
Acts 14:1-7 tells us what happened next:
“Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, and there they continued to preach the gospel.”
In Acts 14:19-21, we read of what happened in Lystra:
“But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch,”
It is thus evident that this account relates directly to the persecutions that Paul references in 2 Timothy 3:10-11, where he alludes specifically to his “persecutions and sufferings that happened to [him] at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra.”
What, then, do we have so far? We have a conformity between Acts and 2 Timothy in terms of his persecutions in those three cities of Antioch, Iconium and Lystra. There is also conformity of the fact that he suffered these persecutions in immediate succession and in the order in which Paul mentions the cities in his letter to Timothy. Another point that bears mentioning is that, in Acts, Lystra and Derbe are frequently mentioned together, whereas in the quotation from 2 Timothy, Lystra is mentioned while Derbe is omitted. And sure enough, in the book of Acts, we do not read of Paul facing any persecutions in Derbe. Rather, we are told in Acts,
“But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.”
Thus, there is perfect correspondence not only between the enumeration of the cities in which he faced persecution, but also where that enumeration stops, and the accounts of his persecutions as given in Acts.
But it gets even cooler than that. Paul seems to imply that Timothy witnessed these persecutions that happened to him in these cities, or at the very least is very well acquainted with them and can bring them to mind. Could this provide to us another coincidence? Let’s turn back to the book of Acts to find out.
According to Acts, Paul made a second missionary journey through the same country. The purpose for this trip is given in Acts 15:36:
“And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.””
Thus, we learn, that the purpose of the journey was to check on those who had been converted during the first journey to see how they were doing.
In Acts 16:1-2, we further learn,
“Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium.”
We thus are informed that either Derbe or Lystra was Timothy’s hometown. It is clear from the text that Timothy had already been converted by the time of this visit. And Paul himself refers to Timothy as “my true child in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2) and “my beloved child” (2 Timothy 1:2). This indicates that Timothy was most likely Paul’s own convert. It then follows that Timothy was almost certainly converted upon Paul’s previous journey through these cities, at just the time when the apostle had undergone the persecutions alluded to in his letter to Timothy.
This concludes my positive case for the Pauline authorship of 2 Timothy. In what follows in future posts, I turn my attention to the authorship of 1 Timothy & Titus, two letters which are fairly unanimously agreed to come from the pen of the same author as one another. We will then turn to the popular objections and show why I find them to be unconvincing.