1 Timothy 2:1-7 Miscellaneous Comments on a Universal Atonement Passage

, posted by arminianbaptist

http://jmleonardfamily.googlepages.com/1tim2exegeticalcomments

Greek text is from NA-27 (in unicode). English text is from American Standard Version (1901).

Παρακαλῶ οὖν πρῶτον πάντων ποιεῖσθαι δεήσεις, προσευχάς, ἐντεύξεις, εὐχαριστίας, ὑπὲρ πάντων ἀνθρώπων, 2 ὑπὲρ βασιλέων καὶ πάντων τῶν ἐν ὑπεροχῇ ὄντων, ἵνα ἤρεμον καὶ ἡσύχιον βίον διάγωμεν ἐν πάσῃ εὐσεβείᾳ καὶ σεμνότητι. 3 τοῦτο καλὸν καὶ ἀπόδεκτον ἐνώπιον τοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν θεοῦ, 4 ὃς πάντας ἀνθρώπους θέλει σωθῆναι καὶ εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν ἀληθείας ἐλθεῖν. 5 εἷς γὰρ θεός, εἷς καὶ μεσίτης θεοῦ καὶ ἀνθρώπων, ἄνθρωπος Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς, 6 ὁ δοὺς ἑαυτὸν ἀντίλυτρον ὑπὲρ πάντων, τὸ μαρτύριον καιροῖς ἰδίοις·

1 I exhort therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, be made for all men; 2 for kings and all that are in high place; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and gravity. 3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 who would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself a ransom for all; the testimony to be borne in its own times; (ASV 1901)

1 I exhort therefore (οὖν), first of all (πρῶτον πάντων), that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, be made for all men (πάντων ἀνθρώπων);

οὖν Therefore. The exhortation to pray derives from the entirety of chapter one, namely: 1) Timothy’s task to stop the fallen teachers and to restore vital elements of sincere faith to the church at Ephesus; 2) the fallen leaders’ exchanging of the Gospel’s power to change lives for paltry esoteric intellectualism; 3) the effectiveness of the Gospel in changing lives, Paul being a chief example; and 4) Paul’s expulsion of the shipwrecked troublemakers. In light of these four things, therefore, Paul urges that prayers be made for all people.

πρῶτον πάντων first of all. This phrase ought to be taken more seriously as an indicator of priority. If the fallen leaders were guilty of derailing its mission of evangelisation due to their soteriological elitism, Paul’s highest priority may very well have been to restore the practice of prayer for the salvation of all people, and not the restoration of orderly worship as many older commentaries suggest. Paul is not merely checking off a ten point list; he is saying that prayer for all people is to be first of all.

πάντων ἀνθρώπων all people. The textual tradition of this passage, and particularly of the “all people” occurrences herein is wholly stable, with no variants for the occurrences of “all people” in any of the major text critical apparatuses. Moreover, if there were any textual insecurity over “all people” in these verses, those who deny the universal extent of the atonement would beyond question point this out. The point here though is, if Paul’s theology was one of limited atonement, and if the earliest Christians shared this commitment, one would expect, based on scribal activity elsewhere, some evidence for scribal clarification in the extant manuscripts. That is to say, since the passage is so patently obviously a universal atonement passage, at least prima facie, then if there were such a thing as a Calvinist scribe back in the first three centuries of the Church, one would expect to see some evidence of him clarifying the text or bending it toward a limited atonement.

2 for (ὑπὲρ) kings (βασιλέων) and all that are in high place (πάντων τῶν ἐν ὑπεροχῇ ὄντων); that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and gravity.

ὑπὲρ for, on behalf of. George Knight, in his NIGTC commentary, suggests that the repetitive uJpeVr signals that “all men” should be understood to mean “all kinds of men.” I think this is grasping at straws. There is no intuitive reason for thinking that the two-fold repetition of ὑπὲρ means this. Knight could possibly bolster his argument if he were to offer an alternative to convey the universal sense and its elucidation (government leaders), but one suspects he does not do so precisely because Paul probably had no other syntactical alternative. For example, if Paul had omitted ὑπὲρ, the sentence would read: “I therefore exhort first of all that…prayers… be made for 1) all people, 2) kings, and 3) all that are in high places,” as if governmental authorities were not a subgroup of “all people.” Indeed, governmental authorities are not separate from “all peoples,” but rather are a constituent group of “all peoples,” which indicates that a hypothesized omission of the second uJpeVr would be non-sensical. Thus, the second occurrence of uJpeVr is not a clue for “all people” to mean “all kinds of people (but not necessarily all). One gets the impression that if uJpeVr had not been repeated, Knight would have written the same thing either way. On the other hand, Paul really meant “all kinds of people,” he could have avoided any ambiguity by writing, “I therefore exhort first of all that…prayers…be made for (ὑπὲρ) all kinds of people (γενων ἀνθρώπων), for (ὑπὲρ) kings, and all that are in high places.”

βασιλέων for kings. If Paul’s intention was “all kinds of people (but not necessarily all),” then, as Knight in fact argues, the subsequent list must be illustrative of what kinds of men should be prayed for. However, the only kind of people mentioned is governmental leaders (kings and all in authority). If Paul had meant “all kinds of people (but not necessarily all),” we would expect him to write something more illustrative of the kinds of people for whom we should pray; for example, “I therefore exhort first of all that…prayers…be made for all kinds of people (but not necessarily all), for slaves and free people, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, and males and females.” Instead, the text can only be made to read, “I therefore exhort first of all that…prayers… be made for all kinds of people (but not necessarily all), for government leaders.” A list of one is hardly illustrative of “all kinds of people (but not necessarily all).”

πάντων τῶν ἐν ὑπεροχῇ ὄντων for all the ones being in authority. In keeping with the Pauline urgency for the salvation of all people in this passage, perhaps the specifying of prayer for governmental authorities implies the recognition of their role in providing either a felicitous or hostile environment for Christian life and evangelization.

3 This is good and acceptable (καλὸν καὶ ἀπόδεκτον ) in the sight of God our Saviour (τοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν θεοῦ);

καλὸν καὶ ἀπόδεκτον good and pleasing. That it is both good and pleasing to God that prayers be made for all people may highlight Paul’s polemic against the soteriological elitism of the fallen church leaders. The two-fold predicate at least serves to emphasize that he truly wants prayers to be made for all people, precisely because he truly desires that they be saved.

τοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν θεοῦ God our saviour. One wonders if the unusual and emphatic references to God as saviour in the Pastoral Epistles are meant to carry some aspect of Paul’s polemic against the soteriological elitism of the fallen teachers.

4 who would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth.

5 For (γὰρ) there is one God (εἷς…θεός), one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus,

γὰρ for. γὰρ introduces the explanation for 1) why prayers are to be rendered for all people; 2) why praying for all people is good and pleasing before God; and 3) why God wants all people to be saved.

εἷς…θεός one God. This is an appeal to the Hebrew creed that there is but one God. Since there is but one God, and since salvation is mediated only through Jesus, the argument goes that if God’s salvation is not for all people, then those excluded will have absolutely no means of salvation. The Calvinist amen’s this point. But the logical force of γὰρ works against this conclusion. More naturally, Paul’s assumption is that the one God provided atonement for everyone; if he did not, then there would be no means for salvation for the excluded ones, which is an intolerable proposition to be automatically dismissed.

6 who gave himself a ransom for all (πάντων); the testimony to be borne in its own times;

παντων all (people). As is widely—perhaps universally—recognized in the secondary literature, this is an allusion to Jesus’ saying in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (πολλων)” (NIV). Paul clarifies that Jesus did not merely die for the elect, but also for “all people.” If Paul wanted to press an atonement which was limited, all he would have had to do is to quote Jesus’ words exactly as they occur in the gospels. But his modification of “the many” would seem proof positive that Paul really did mean to say that Jesus gave himself as a ransom for “all people.”

The three-fold compounding of “all (people)” puts increasingly greater pressure on the phrase to convey its more common meaning rather than “all kinds of people (but not all).” The repetition is obviously deliberate and is obviously designed to resoundly convey a point. The less obvious meaning (i.e., “all kinds of people [but not all]”) is hard-pressed to be carry such emphasis without further clarification. People do not pound the pulpit while saying words whose more obvious meaning counters their intention. Thus, if Paul meant “all kinds of people (but not all),” we would expect him to buttress this repetition with constant references to different kinds of people (slaves, free people, men, women, Jew, Gentile, etc.) or some other kind of rhetorical indicator. As it stands, a commentator such as George Knight (in the first class commentary series NIGTC) who concludes that Paul meant “all kinds of people (but not all),” must remind the reader that his exegesis of verse one must inform the interpretation of “all people.” So, for example, Knight writes regarding v. 4, “As in v. 1 Paul means by the phrase all kinds of people, all sorts of people, including civil authorities,” and again regarding v. 6, “πάντων continues and concludes the emphasis of the passage on ‘all’ kinds of people.”

Knight, who clearly denies that these verses teach that Jesus died for everyone, ends up making confusing statements to the contrary as the direct result of his usage of “all people” to convey “all kinds of people (but not necessarily all) rather than its obvious universal meaning. Thus, he writes, “[Civil authorities] are singled out because of Paul’s concern for…the lives of all people, including Christians…” (116), and “The logic is that since God desires all to be saved, it must be good and acceptable to him that we pray for all…” (118), and “When Paul says that ‘this is good,’ [i.e., praying for “all people”], he probably means that it is so…because of all that is involved in such prayer, such as concern for all people, and …for their salvation…” (119), and “That we pray for all people pleases God” (119), and “…Paul is drawn to refer to God as σωτήρ [Saviour]… since it is only when we remember that God is the Savior of all that we will be adequately urged to pray for all sinners as they are” (119), and “[2:6] specifies the way in which Christ served as the mediator, namely, by giving up his life for all” (121). The point is that if Knight’s readers fail to continuously remind themselves that “all people” actually means “all kinds of people (but not necessarily all) in Knight’s commentary, then all of these comments come across as asserting a universal atonement. If this problem is true of Knight and his commentary on the Pastorals, surely Paul must also have seemed convoluted to his readers if his “all people” merely meant “all kinds of people (but not necessarily all). Paul’s emphasis on all people is hard to grasp if the emphasis is actually on a secondary, possible meaning.