17. Et sermo eorum, ut gangraena, pastionem habebit, quorum de numero est Hymeneus et Philetus
18. Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.
18. Qui circa veritatem aberrarunt, dicentes resurrectionem jam esse factam, et subvertunt quorundam fidem.
14. Remind them of these things. The expression (tau~ta) these things, is highly emphatic. It means that the summary of the gospel which he gave, and the exhortations which he added to it, are of so great importance, that a good minister ought never to be weary of exhibiting them; for they are things that deserve to be continually handled, and that cannot be too frequently repeated. “They are things (he says) which I wish you not only to teach once, but to take great pains to impress on the hearts of men by frequent repetition.” A good teacher ought to look at nothing else than edification, and to give his whole attention to that alone. fb36 On the contrary, he enjoins him not only to abstain from useless questions, but likewise to forbid others to follow them. fb37
Solemnly charging them before the Lord, not to dispute about words. Logomacei~n means to engage earnestly in contentious disputes, which are commonly produced by a foolish desire of being ingenious. Solemn charging before the Lord is intended to strike terror; fb38 and from this severity we learn how dangerous to the Church is that knowledge which leads to debates, that is, which disregards piety, and tends to ostentation. of this nature is the whole of that speculative theology, as it is called, that is found among the Papists.
For no use, On two grounds, logomaci>a, or “disputing about words,” is condemned by him. It is of no advantage, and it is exceedingly hurtful, by disturbing weak minds. Although in the version I have followed Erasmus, because it did not disagree with Paul’s meaning yet I wish to in form my readers that Paul’s words may be explained in this manner, “That which is useful for nothing.” The Greek words are, eijv oujdesimon, and I read crh>simon in the accusative case, and not in the nominative. The style will thus flow more agreeably; as if he had said, “Of what use is it, when no good comes from it, but much evil? for the faith of many is subverted.”
Let us remark, first, that, when a manner of teaching does no good, for that single reason it is justly disapproved; for God does not wish to indulge our curiosity, but to instruct us in a useful manner. Away with all speculations, therefore, which produce no edification!
But the second is much worse, when questions are raised, which are not only unprofitable, but tend to the subversion of the hearers. I wish that this were attended to by those who are always armed for fighting with the tongue, and who, in every question are looking for grounds of quarreling, and who go so far as to lay snares around every word or syllable. But they are carried in a wrong direction by ambition, and sometimes by an almost fatal disease; which I have experienced in some. What the Apostle says about subverting is shown, every day, by actual observation, to be perfectly true; for it is natural, amidst disputes, to lose sight of the truth; and Satan avails himself of quarrels as a presence for disturbing weak persons, and overthrowing their faith.
15. Study to shew thyself to be approved by God. Since all disputes about doctrine arise from this source, that men are desirous to make a boast of ingenuity before the world, Paul here applies the best and most excellent remedy, when he commands Timothy to keep his eyes fixed on God; as if he had said; “Some aim at the applause of a crowded assembly, but do thou study to approve thyself and thy ministry to God.” And indeed there is nothing that tends more to check a foolish eagerness for display, than to reflect that we have to deal with God.
A workman that doth not blush. Erasmus translates ajnepai>scunton “that ought not to blush.” I do not find fault with that rendering, but prefer to explain it actively, “that doth not blush;”, both because that is the more ordinary meaning of the word as used by Greek writers, and because I consider it to agree better with the present passage. There is an implied contrast. Those who disturb the Church by contentions break out into that fierceness, because they are ashamed of being overcome, and because they reckon it disgraceful that there should be anything that they do not know. Paul, on the contrary, bids them appeal to the judgment of God.
And first, he bids them be not lazy disputants, but workmen By this term he indirectly reproves the foolishness of those who so greatly torment themselves by doing nothing. Let us therefore be “workmen” in building the Church, and let us be employed in the work of God in such a manner that some fruit shall be seen then we shall have no cause to “blush;” for, although in debating we be not equal to talkative boasters, yet it will be enough that we excel them in the desire of edification, in industry, in courage, and in the efficacy of doctrine. In short, he bids Timothy labor diligently, that he may not be ashamed before God; whereas ambitious men dread only this kind of shame, to lose nothing of their reputation for acuteness or profound knowledge.
Dividing aright the word of truth. This is a beautiful metaphor, and one that skillfully expresses the chief design of teaching. “Since we ought to be satisfied with the word of God alone, what purpose is served by having sermons every day, or even the office of pastors? Has not every person an opportunity of reading the Bible?” fb39 But Paul assigns to teachers the duty of dividing or cutting, fb40 as if a father, in giving food to his children, were dividing the bread, by cutting it into small pieces.
He advises Timothy to “cut aright,” lest, when he is employed in cutting the surface, as unskillful people are wont to do, he leave the pith and marrow untouched. Yet by this term I understand, generally, an allotment of the word which is judicious, and which is well suited to the profit of the hearers. Some mutilate it, others tear it, others torture it, others break it in pieces, others, keeping by the outside, (as we have said,) never come to the soul of doctrine. fb41 To all these faults he contrasts time “dividing aright,” that is, the manner of explaining which is adapted to edification; for that is the rule by which we must try all interpretation of Scripture.
16. But avoid profane and unmeaning noises. My opinion as to the import of these words has been stated in my commentary on the last chapter of the First Epistle to Timothy; and my readers will find it there. fb42
For they will grow to greater ungodliness. That he may more effectually deter Timothy from that profane and noisy talkativeness, he states that it is a sort of labyrinth, or rather a deep whirlpool, from which they cannot go out, but into which men plunge themselves more and more.
17. And their word will eat as a gangrene. I have been told by Benedict Textor, a physician, that this passage is badly translated by Erasmus, who, out of two diseases quite different from each other, has made but one disease; for, instead of “gangrene,” he has used the word “cancer:” Now Galen, in many passages throughout his writings, and especially where he lays down definitions in his small work “On unnatural swellings,” distinguishes the one from the other. Paul Aegineta, too, on the authority of Galen, thus in his sixth book defines a “cancer;” that it is “an unequal swelling, with inflated extremities, loathsome to the sight, of a leaden color, and unaccompanied by pain.” Next, he enumerates two kinds, as other physicians do; for he says that some “cancers” are concealed and have no ulcer; while others, in which there is a preponderance of the black bile from which they originate, are ulcerous.
Of the “gangrene,” on the other hand, Galen, both in the small work already quoted, and in his second book to Glauco, Aetius in his fourteenth book, and the same Ægineta in his fourth book, speak to the following effect; that it proceeds from great phlegmons or inflammations, if they fall violently on any member, so that the part which is destitute of heat and vital energy tends to destruction. If that part be quite dead, the Greek writers call the disease sfa>kelov the Latins sideratio, and the common people call it St. Anthony’s fire.
I find, indeed, that Cornelius Celsius draws the distinction in this manner, that “cancer “is the genus, and “gangrene “the species; but his mistake is plainly refuted from numerous passages in the works of physicians of high authority. It is possible, also, that he was led astray by the similarity between the Latin words “cancer” and “gangræna.” But in the Greek words there can be no mistake of that kind; for ka>rkinov is the name which corresponds to the Latin word “cancer,” and denotes both the animal which we call a crab, and the disease; while grammarians think that ga>ggraina is derived ajpo tou~ grai>nein which means “to eat.” We must therefore abide by the word “gangrene,” which Paul uses, and which best agrees with what he says as to “eating” or “consuming.”
We have now explained the etymology; but all physicians pronounce the nature of the disease to be such, that, if it be not very speedily counteracted, it spreads to the adjoining parts, and penetrates even to the bones, and does not cease to consume, till it has killed the man. Since, therefore, “gangrene” is immediately followed by (ne>krwsiv) mortification, which rapidly infects the rest of the members till it end in the universal destruction of the body; to this mortal contagion Paul elegantly compares false doctrines; for, if you once give entrance to them, they spread till they have completed the destruction of the Church. The contagion being so destructive, we must meet it early, and not wait till it has gathered strength by progress; for there will then be no time for rendering assistance. The dreadful extinction of the gospel among the Papists arose from this cause, that, through the ignorance or slothfulness of the pastors, corruptions prevailed long and without control, in consequence of which time purity of doctrine was gradually destroyed.
Of the number of whom are Hymenaeus and Philetus. He points out with the finger the plagues themselves, that all may be on their guard against them; for, if those persons who aim at the ruin of the whole Church are permitted by us to remain concealed, then to some extent we give them power to do injury. it is true that we ought to conceal the faults of brethren, but only those faults the contagion of which is not widely spread. But where there is danger to many, our dissimulation is cruel, if we do not expose in proper time the hidden evil. And why? Is it proper, for the sake of sparing one individual, that a hundred or a thousand persons shall perish through my silence? Besides, Paul did not intend to convey this information to Timothy alone, but he intended to proclaim to all ages and to all nations the wickedness of the two men, in order to shut the door against their base and ruinous doctrine.
18. Who, concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is already past. After having said that they had departed from “the truth,” he specifies their error, which consisted in this, that they gave out that “the resurrection was already past.” In doing this, they undoubtedly contrived a sort of allegorical resurrection, which has also been attempted in this age by some filthy dogs. By this trick Satan overthrows that fundamental article of our faith concerning the resurrection of the flesh. Being an old and worthless dream, and being so severely condemned by Paul, it ought to give us the less uneasiness. But when we learn that, from the very beginning of the gospel, the faith of some was subverted, such an example ought to excite us to diligence, that we may seize an early opportunity of driving away from ourselves and others so dangerous a plague; for, in consequence of the strong inclination of men to vanity, there is no absurdity so monstrous that there shall not be some men who shall lend their ear to it.