Tim’othy. The disciple thus named was the son of one of those mixed marriages which, though condemned by stricter Jewish opinion, were yet not uncommon in the later periods of Jewish history. The father’s name is unknown; he was a Greek, i.e., a Gentile, by descent. Acts 16:1, 3. The absence of any personal allusion to the father in the Acts or Epistles suggests the inference that he must have died or disappeared during his son’s infancy. The care of the boy thus devolved upon his mother Eunice and her mother Lois. 2 Tim. 1:5. Under their training his education was emphatically Jewish. “From a child” he learned to “know the Holy Scriptures” daily. The language of the Acts leaves it uncertain whether Lystra or Derbe was the residence of the devout family. The arrival of Paul and Barnabas in Lycaonia, a.d. 44, Acts 14:6, brought the message of glad tidings to Timothy and his mother, and they received it with “unfeigned faith.” 2 Tim. 1:5. During the interval of seven years between the apostle’s first and second journeys the boy grew up to manhood. Those who had the deepest insight into character, and spoke with a prophetic utterance, pointed to him, 1 Tim. 1:18; 4:14, as others had pointed before to Paul and Barnabas, Acts 13:2, as specially fit for the missionary work in which the apostle was engaged. Personal feeling led St. Paul to the same conclusion, Acts 16:3, and he was solemnly set apart to do the work and possibly to bear the title of evangelist. 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6; 4:5. A great obstacle, however, presented itself. Timothy, though reckoned as one of the seed of Abraham, had been allowed to grow up to the age of manhood without the sign of circumcision. With a special view to the feelings of the Jews, making no sacrifice of principle, the apostle, who had refused to permit the circumcision of Titus, “took and circumcised” Timothy. Acts 16:3. Henceforth Timothy was one of his most constant companions. They and Silvanus, and probably Luke also, journeyed to Philippi, Acts 16:12, and there the young evangelist was conspicuous at once for his filial devotion and his zeal. Philip. 2:22. His name does not appear in the account of St. Paul’s work at Thessalonica, and it is possible that he remained some time at Philippi. He appears, however, at Berea, and remains there when Paul and Silas are obliged to leave, Acts 17:14, going afterward to join his master at Athens. 1 Thess. 3:2. From Athens he is sent back to Thessalonica, ibid., as having special gifts for comforting and teaching. He returns from Thessalonica, not to Athens, but to Corinth, and his name appears united with St. Paul’s in the opening words of both the letters written from that city to the Thessalonians. 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1. Of the next five years of his life we have no record. When we next meet with him, it is as being sent on in advance when the apostle was contemplating the long journey which was to include Macedonia, Achaia, Jerusalem, and Rome. Acts 19:22. It is probable that he returned by the same route and met St. Paul according to a previous arrangement, 1 Cor. 16:11, and was thus with him when the Second Epistle was written to the church of Corinth. 2 Cor. 1:1. He returns with the apostle to that city, and joins in messages of greeting to the disciples whom he had known personally at Corinth, and who had since found their way to Rome. Rom. 16:21. He forms one of the company of friends who go with St. Paul to Philippi, and then sail by themselves, waiting for his arrival by a different ship. Acts 20:3–6. The absence of his name from Acts 27 leads to the conclusion that he did not share in the perilous voyage to Italy. He must have joined the apostle, however, apparently soon after his arrival at Rome, and was with him when the Epistles to the Philippians, to the Colossians, and to Philemon were written. Philip. 1:1; 2:19; Col. 1:1; Philemon 1. All the indications of this period point to incessant missionary activity.
From the two Epistles addressed to Timothy we are able to put together a few notices as to his later life. It follows from 1 Tim. 1:3 that he and his master, after the release of the latter from his imprisonment, a.d. 63, revisited proconsular Asia; that the apostle then continued his journey to Macedonia, while the disciple remained, half reluctantly, even weeping at the separation, 2 Tim. 1:4, at Ephesus, to check, if possible, the outgrowth of heresy and licentiousness which had sprung up there. The position in which he found himself might well make him anxious. He had to rule presbyters most of whom were older than himself. 1 Tim. 4:12. Leaders of rival sects were there. The name of his beloved teacher was no longer honored as it had been. We cannot wonder that the apostle, knowing these trials, should be full of anxiety and fear for his disciple’s steadfastness. In the Second Epistle to him, a.d. 67 or 68, this deep personal feeling utters itself yet more fully. The last recorded words of the apostle express the earnest hope, repeated yet more earnestly, that he might see him once again. 2 Tim. 4:9, 21. We may hazard the conjecture that he reached him in time, and that the last hours of the teacher were soothed by the presence of the disciple whom he loved so truly. Some writers have seen in Heb. 13:23 an indication that he even shared St. Paul’s imprisonment, and was released from it by the death of Nero. Beyond this all is apocryphal and uncertain. He continued, according to the old traditions, to act as bishop of Ephesus, and died a martyr’s death under Domitian or Nerva. A somewhat startling theory as to the intervening period of his life has found favor with some. If he continued, according to the received tradition, to be bishop of Ephesus, then he, and no other, must have been the “angel” of the church of Ephesus to whom the message of Rev. 2:1–7 was addressed.