Monday, December 12, 2011

Timothy’s Mama’s Family (II Timothy 1:5)

What was Timothy’s grandmother’s name? Lois.

At the outset of II Timothy, Paul gives thanks for his protégé and the letter’s recipient, Timothy (I Timothy 1:3-5). In fortifying Timothy, Paul is reminded him of Timothy’s spiritual heritage (II Timothy 1:5, 3:14-15). Timothy’s faithful mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois, are set apart for praise (II Timothy 1:5).

For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. (II Timothy 1:5 NASB)
This verse marks the only time the word “grandmother” appears in the Bible. It is also the only time the names Lois and Eunice emerge in Scripture. Even so, many have found inspiration from their lives. Their names have appeared as commensurate characters in literature. For instance, Lois and Eunice are protagonists in Francine Rivers (b. 1947)’s And The Shofar Blew (2003) and side characters in Kirby Larson (b. 1954)’s The Friendship Doll (2011).

Timothy’s mother is also referenced when he is introduced in the book of Acts (Acts 16:1). Though not named in the passage, she is described as a Jewess and believer though she may have been a lax Jew as she married a Greek (Acts 16:1) and Timothy was uncircumcised (Acts 16:3). As such, her spiritual heritage may have been as much Christian as Jewish.

Paul attributes Timothy’s faith in part to his raising. This is not uncommon. Thomas C. Oden (b. 1931) comments, “Faith can be passed on through families. Religious instruction in the family unit is crucial to the transmission of the Christian tradition (Oden, First and Second Timothy and Titus (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching & Preaching), 30).”

Centuries of believers have learned tenets of the faith from their families faith. In Timothy’s case, Paul points specifically his grandmother, Lois.

Donald Guthrie (1915-1992) explains:

The use of the word first (prōton) in this context has been supposed to indicate that Lois was a devout Jewess and was the first to inculcate religious faith in Timothy; in other words from his earliest days he had been surrounded by religious faith. Yet if Christian faith is intended, prōton, may mean that Lois was the first to become Christian, followed by Eunice and her son. (Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries), 137).

What are the biggest lessons your mother and grandmother have taught you? What women have influenced your spiritual journey? Which of your family members has impacted your faith the most?

Paul traces Timothy’s lineage through his maternal line. Conspicuous by his absence is Timothy’s father. He is not referenced in Paul’s letters and when he is mentioned in Acts he is described as a Greek (Acts 16:1). The way the text juxtaposes him with Timothy’s mother implies that he was a nonbeliever. Paul does not allude to him either because he was dead at the time of writing or more likely because he added little to Timothy’s spiritual life.

Paul, himself, stepped, into the vacuum. Raymond F. Collins (b. 1935) writes:

“Paul was Timothy’s father insofar as he had passed the faith along to the absence of any mention of Timothy’s biological father, Paul and Eunice are Timothy’s parents in faith. They shared not only their Jewish ancestry (II Timothy 1:2; Acts 16:2) but also a common Christian faith (see Titus 1:4). (Collins, I &II Timothy and Titus: A Commentary (New Testament Library), 193)

Thankfully, Timothy took after his mother. Edith Deen (1905-1994) praises, “The sublime faith of the mother and grandmother seems to have prepared the son for that greatest of all compliments, which Paul later bestowed when he called him ‘my dearly beloved son (II Timothy 1:2). (Deen, All The Women of the Bible, 238).”

How do you trace your spiritual heritage? How much of your faith is your own and how much is your culture’s or parents’? Whose faith are you enriching? Who are your spiritual sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters?

“Everyone needs to have access both to grandparents and grandchildren in order to be a full human being.” - Margaret Mead (1901-1978)

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