First Timothy 5.3-6.2: Honoring Means What?

This whole passage has been in the back of my mind for some time. In it are the following three premises:

  • Honor widows who are truly widows ($esv(1Ti 5.3-16))
  • Double honor for elders who “lead well” ($esv(1Ti 5.17-25)); those in error are to be corrected
  • Slaves are to honor their masters ($esv(1Ti 6.1-2))

Sure, that’s all fine and dandy — until you ask the question, “What does it mean to honor?” In the case of widows and elders, the text makes it fairly clear this means taking care of them materially. Widows are to be provided for, and elders who rule well are to be doubly provided for (5.18, with its OT quotes, makes this fairly plain).

And slaves are to “honor” their masters. But surely this doesn’t mean that slaves are to provide materially for their masters, does it? What really does 6.1-2 say?

1 All who are under a yoke as slaves, let them consider their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and our teaching might not be maligned. 2 But those having believers as masters must not be disrespectful because they are brothers, rather they must serve more, because the ones who benefit from their good work are believers and beloved. (my own translation)

This all comes down to “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” which, as some of my co-workers will tell you, pervades my very being. I suppose my basic problem is that the same terminology is used for “honor” throughout the passage whether it is discussing widows, elders or slaves/masters. But in context it doesn’t mean exactly the same thing in each instance, even though all three exist in close succession and in an overall similar context. But can it mean such different things in such close succession? Why wouldn’t the third instance of “honor” carry similar meaning to the first two?

Is the difference because the “honor” explained in detail in the first two (widows/elders), and left unmodified/specified in the last? That is, the method of honor itself is not fully explicated, though the effects of having the honor are?

(gotta go, but that sums up my basic thoughts as I’ve mulled over this text for the past months) 

Update (2007-03-08): Of course, if slaves submit to their masters and do what they are told, then the master will benefit materially (assuming the master is acting in his own interest and has some sensibility … perhaps too much to assume?). The end of 6.2 alludes to this, ” …  the ones who benefit [masters] from [the slaves’] good work are believers and beloved”. And by “serving more” if their master is Christian, then the master benefits more. So maybe there is some sort of connection with material gain here?

Commentary and Reference Survey

John Glynn’s 10th edition of his Commentary and Reference Survey (Kregel) has just been released.  This is the most thorough of such books around- though recommendations from Don Carson still carry the most weight with me! 

Glynn’s book is a great resource.  He has added two chapters on software in this edition.


His section on the Pastorals is well done.  As before, he has a list of forthcoming commentaries which is always interesting.  In addition to his listing of “Technical, Semitechnical” and “Exposition” types of commentaries he has a list of books dealing with 1 Timothy 2:9-15 and a list of “Special Studies.”  I was gratified to note that Lloyd’s book and mine were included in the list, though neither were marked as best buys. J  I am not sure exactly how he determined which books to list in this section since there seem to be some obvious gaps, Towner’s monograph for example.  Perhaps the idea is that with Towner’s two commentaries there is no need to list his monograph.


This is a very useful- and impressive- book.

Fee’s Pauline Christology

I just received the Ryan Center’s copy of Gordon Fee’s Pauline Chrtistology.  I have deeply appreciated Fee’s work on the Spirit in Paul, God’s Empowering Presence, and have therefore eagerly anticipated this new book.  He follows the same basic format as the earlier book though he could not be as comprehensive for obvious reasons.

60 pages are devoted to the Christology of the Pastoral Epistles (with each letter treated individually).  I have not had the chance yet to work through it, but Fee had already described to me his argument that Paul does not call Jesus God in Titus 2:11-14.  It is a significant argument though I have not been able to settle yet on my evaluation of it.

This will be a significant book on many levels.

Statistics and Biblical Studies

Anybody else notice how, in this recent Jesus Tomb hullabaloo, biblical scholars are all of a sudden willing to enter the arena of statistics and note seemingly obvious problems with statistical studies?

Yet in the area of authorship of the Pastorals, where statistics play a central part in the case for pseudepigraphy, most biblical scholars turn their heads and say, “I’m not a statistician, but the statisticians say … ” as a positive case?

Why are P.N. Harrison’s numbers and approach still being used as groundwork for pseudepigraphy when problems with his methodology have been thoroughly documented? (e.g. Donald Guthrie here and here) And why don’t more people engage the statistics as they are in this Jesus tomb crud? Why do most just say “yup” and move on?