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Saint Timothy

The following story appeared in the January 13 Idaho Catholic Register.

By Emily Woodham

Staff Writer

Although St. Timothy never wrote anything that we know of and was not known for any theological insights, his example of humble and loving leadership has been an inspiration since the first century.

In Philippians 2:20-22, St. Paul said of Timothy, “For I have no one comparable to him for genuine interest in whatever concerns you. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know his worth, how as a child with a father he served along with me in the cause of the gospel.”

Despite this honor given to St. Timothy, his life’s story is known only through piecing together scripture and tradition.

It is believed Timothy (whose name means “honoring God”) was born around 17 A.D. His mother, Eunice, was Jewish. His father (whose name we don’t know) was Greek. It is not known whether his father died early in his life or abandoned the family. Despite not being circumcised according to Jewish law, Timothy was raised in the Jewish scriptures (most likely the Greek Septuagint), and Paul mentions that his mother and grandmother, Lois, shared their faith with him.

Traditionally, Paul met Timothy and his family during his first missionary journey to Lystra (now a part of Turkey) in about the year 48. Because Paul called Timothy his “child in the faith” and his “beloved child,” some scholars agree with the tradition that Timothy, with his mother and grandmother, converted during Paul’s first visit. However, Acts does not mention Timothy joining in Paul’s ministry until Paul’s second visit to Lystra, three years later (Acts 16:1-3).

Before Timothy accompanied Paul in his missionary work, Paul insisted that Timothy be circumcised. Although Paul condemned circumcision as being unnecessary to the Christian faith in several of his epistles, he did not object to circumcision for Jews. Paul had Timothy circumcised, not as a requirement for salvation but to help Jewish audiences be more open to Timothy’s testimony since he was well-known for having a Jewish mother.

Timothy worked with Paul for 17 years. He is mentioned as a co-sender of six of Paul’s epistles: 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians and Philemon.

Timothy accompanied Paul frequently including to Ephesus, Macedonia, Corinth, and Asia Minor. He also worked with Silas at Beroea and Thessalonica. He was sent by Paul on pastoral visits to the Corinthians, Philippians and Thessalonians. Timothy was with Paul at Jerusalem, but after Paul’s imprisonment, he went to Ephesus. At Paul’s request (2 Tim. 4:21), Timothy visited Paul in Rome, while he was in prison.

We don’t know when Timothy was ordained “by the laying on of hands” by Paul (1 Tim. 4:14, 2 Tim. 1:6). However, scholars interpret the epistles of Paul to convey that Timothy had great compassion and concern for those under his pastoral care.

Timothy was ordained the first Bishop of Ephesus, most likely before Paul’s death in 65 A.D., since the letters to Timothy are addressed to him while he was in Ephesus. (Although there is scholarly debate about the authorship of the epistles to Timothy, some scholars side with tradition that Paul is their original author due to the letters’ personal nature.)

Timothy himself was imprisoned and released, though it is uncertain when or where (Hebrews 13:23).

Traditionally, it is believed that he was shy by nature, which is why Paul told the Corinthians to be sure Timothy was “put at ease” (1 Cor. 16:10). He also needed the exhortation from Paul, “Let no one have contempt for your youth” (1Tim. 4:12).

Timothy had stomach problems and was frequently ill, for which Paul recommended drinking some wine (1 Tim. 5:23). Despite being intro-verted and suffering from poor health, Timothy persevered in his call to missionary work and ministry.

In 97 A.D., he was martyred when he tried to stop a pagan celebration of the goddess Diana. In the fourth century, his relics were transferred to Constantinople (now Istanbul).

St. Timothy is the patron saint of those with stomach ailments.

If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.

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