The Bible--Part 5
Feb 04, 2009
By the time Paul reached Rome for martyrdom in 66 A.D., he felt forsaken by most Christians. He writes to Timothy, who was probably in Ephesus (according to Bullinger's introduction to the book in The Companion Bible), giving him final counsel on pastoral matters. In 2 Tim. 2:9 Paul says that he was being charged for criminal behavior (in preaching a gospel that did not recognize Caesar as a god). Paul could have sacrificed to Caesar and saved his own life, but he chose not to do so for the sake of the spread of the gospel.
In chapter 3 he reminds Timothy that "in the last days difficult times will come" (3:1). Paul was relating his present situation to "the last days." Moses had to contend with Jannes and Jambres (3:8), who, according to the Targum of Jonathan, were the unnamed magicians of Egypt in Ex. 7:11. So also, Paul had to contend with the opposition in his own day.
We get more of a feel for this opposition in chapter 4, immediately after Paul says that he has "fought a good fight" and "kept the faith" (4:7). He writes,
" (10) Demas, having loved this present world (aion, "age"), has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. (11) Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service."
It appears that Paul felt deserted and forsaken. It is plain that many Christians had a falling out with Paul over some issue, probably a doctrinal issue. Moreover, Peter and John also wrote about this falling away. It appears as though this falling away was primarily due to the delay of Christ's return. The people were expecting Him to return in the first century, probably at the end of the 40-year "generation" (70-73 A.D.).
In Paul's earlier writings he seems to have shared in this expectation of the soon-return of Christ, but then later it was revealed to him and to Peter that this was not going to happen any time soon. Peter then speaks of a day being as a thousand years (2 Pet. 3:8). A few verses earlier he wrote,
" (3) Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, (4) and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation'."
Peter then reminds his readers that the coming of Christ will be like the flood of Noah (3:5-7) and like a thief (3:10). In other words, there was to be upheaval and destruction before His return, along with a falling away. John follows up by saying that many have proven to be "antichrists," who used to be believers in Christ but who fell away and returned to Judaism (1 John 2:18-23), denying that Jesus was the Christ.
Peter also says that many had followed false prophets like Balaam (2 Pet. 2:15). Part of his criticism was that these other prophets were "promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption" (2:19). He goes on to quote the saying, "A dog returns to its own vomit." (2:22). In other words, these people had been taught to go a different path, but they had returned to the prevalent thinking of the day.
In that Peter was writing shortly before his death in about 66 A.D., we can view these writings in their historical context. The year 66 A.D. was the beginning of the Jewish Revolt in Palestine, which ultimately resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Religious patriotism blew across the land, and many Christian Jews apparently decided to join the revolt, instead of submitting to Rome as both Jeremiah and Jesus had instructed.
In 64 A.D. the temple had finally been fully restored, a work that King Herod had begun about 20 years before Christ. Josephus writes in his Antiquities of the Jews, XX, ix, 7, "And now it was that the temple was finished." It was widely viewed as a sign of the soon-coming Messiah, for it was believed that the Messiah could not come until the temple was complete. (The same view is held by most religious Zionists today.) This contributed greatly to the messianic unrest, for it gave the people a false sense of confidence. Having done their duty to God in finishing the Temple, they could now expect the Messiah to come as a great General who would defeat the Romans and give Judea its freedom.
And so Jewish patriot-prophets came promising freedom and prophesying the coming of the Messiah. But they merely brought the nation into destruction, and many were sold into slavery. Yet in 66 there was an irrational, religious, patriotic wind blowing, and many were swept up in this. The false prophets discredited Jesus' prophecies of the destruction of the temple (Matt. 24:2), but in the end His words were proven true.
In that context, Paul wrote in 2 Thess. 2:3 and 4,
" (3) Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawnessness is revealed, the son of destruction [or perdition] , (4) who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God."
Many have thought that the 120-foot statue of Nero in Rome was the occasion of this statement, but in fact it was the completion of the Temple and the expectation of a Jewish General-Messiah that Paul had in mind. Obviously, Paul did not believe that a real Messiah was coming to that Temple, but rather a "man of lawlessness" (anomia). and son of perdition. In other words, a false Christ and a Judas (John 17:12).
The false Christ represents the false expectations of a Jewish messiah, while Judas represents Christian believers who betray Christ by supporting this false messiah. Both are being fulfilled today in modern Zionism, whether Jewish or Christian.
The Jewish Revolt began just as the ministries of Paul and Peter were ending with their martyrdom. Forces were already dragging many Christians into support for a Jewish messiah. The true gospel message appeared to be lost in the great tempest that was then brewing. It was therefore a matter of great urgency that a canon of NT Scripture be established.
Paul closed out his second letter to Timothy in verses 9-21,
" (9) Make every effort to come to me soon . . . (11) Pick up Mark and bring him with you . . . (13) When you come, bring the cloak (phelones, "mantle" ) which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments. . . (21) Make every effort to come before winter."
Paul wanted Mark and Timothy to bring him copies of his previous letters, which had been left with Carpus in Troas. The "cloak" was not an overcoat, but a covering for books. Dr. Martin quotes Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, "Phelonen was a wrapper of parchments, and was translated figuratively in Latin by toga or paenula, 'a cloak', sometimes of leather." (See p. 385)
Paul wanted copies of his letters so that he could choose which letters to canonize and also to make final editorial changes. He had to work with Peter, of course, because Peter was one of those present at the transfiguration of Christ. These all had to be sent to John in Ephesus by the hand of Mark and Timothy, so that John, the only other witness of the transfiguration, could complete the work of canonization. He did this by the end of the first century.
This is the fifth part of a series titled "The Bible." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones