20 October 2011

Two parents, two legacies, two epitaphs

by Dan Phillips

Here is the entire Biblical testimony, direct and indirect, about one parent:
Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer... (Acts 16:1a)

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well (2 Timothy 1:5)

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:14-15)
Here is the entire Biblical testimony, direct and indirect, about the other parent:
...but his father was a Greek. (Acts 16:1b)
Discussion, conclusions, thoughts?

(For a lot more Biblical discussion and development about parenting, study Chapter Eight.)

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57 comments:

Rob said...

I think I see: Timothy's mother and grandmother, as Christians, likely would have offered Timothy a classical Christian education at home, whereas his Grecian father would have preferred to separate him into the secular Greek public school system, right?

Daren Redekopp said...

The passage from 2 Timothy 1:5 seems the most telling, since if Paul believed that Timothy's father were a believer, he most likely would have made reference to him here.

DJP said...

Rob: EXACTLY!!!

LOL

Tom Chantry said...

Well, I was going to say something like this:

It really points up what makes a parent in a biblical sense, doesn't it? If you want to affect something of eternal weight in your children, live out a sincere faith and acquaint them from infancy with the sacred writings. Otherwise, though you may earn great money, send your kids to the greatest schools, have great fun with them on your vacations, and be a great little league coach, all the Holy Spirit will have to say about you in the end is, "Yeah, that guy was an American."

I was going to say something like that, but then I read Rob's comment, and I said, "Oh yeah, it must be the classical ed thing!"

Robert said...

I think it is clear which parent had the most impact in his life. And we can see that his mother and grandmother were faithful in teaching him the Word.

I think that should clearly show that if even one parent is a faithful Christian, that is enough. Peter and Paul both talk about the husband or wife being faithful in their Christian duties in the family if their spouse is an unbeliever. I think we see the fruit of that here. While his father may not have been saved (I'm not saying he wasn't - there is no mention from Scripture), Timothy was and God worked through his mother and grandmother and their faithfulness.

Working through Chapter 8 now and it is recharging me a bit. We definitely have the goal in mind of our children knowing God and have seen much fruit from reading and teaching them Scripture. It makes my heart smile whenever I hear them talk about something new they have learned from Scripture and even moreso when I see them applying it.

DJP said...

Tom C, excellent as usual, thanks.

(BOTH parts)

David Beirne said...

This is the scriptural basis for Disney always portraying fathers as buffoons.

DJP said...

David: so the Disney version would be "...and his father was a Dalmatian"?

stratagem said...

I think it's fairly obvious that Tim's mother was a believer, but all we know about his father is that he was addicted to government pensions and rioting. that's what Greek means, right?

Paul D said...

hmmm. Interesting topic. I'll only show my ignorance in responding.

Seems odd that Timothy wasn't circumsised as a child - I believe Jewish heritage is passed down through the mother.

Probably Timothy's father and certainly Timothy's paternal grandparents would have had zero access to sacred writings since they were entrusted to Israel.

Beyond Chantry and Robert's good words, I would conclude that this is a very granular look at the good news - that all nations be blessed through faith. Timothy was the product of an age when faith and knowledge of God was passed down through Israel, but he preached in an age when faith and knowledge of God was free to all who would believe through Jesus. I think we see that worked out in his lineage.

Seth said...

There's hope here for the classic dysfunctional, unequally-yoked family...

DJP said...

I feel a little sorry for all subsequent commenters. You first guys have set a very high standard of tersely ranging from humor to substance — sometimes both.

But there's still unplowed field here, so I look forward to Things To Come.

David Beirne said...

Dan, Titus' dad would be portrayed by Disney by Fred MacMurray as either an absent minded goof or a guy too busy to pay attention to his kids while an Egyptian scarab turns them into shaggy dogs.
Just realized you may not be old enough to understand what I just said.

Robert said...

I'm sure there are plenty more deep thoughts to come, but it will be hard to top the humor. Nice to start the day off with a good laugh or two or three 8o)

David Beirne said...

Ooops--Tmothy, not Titus. Sorry.

David Beirne said...

On the other hand, with limited access to the scriptures and being women to boot, these two ladies must have been very intentional in making sure Timothy knew the scriptures.

Robert said...

David,

Knowing Disney, they'd probably go with Titus instead of Timothy anyways and just use Timothy's story line. Because Titus would do better as a name in screening with the kids watching Disney Channel, of course.

DJP said...

Oh yes, it's times like this that I think we're blessed with some of the finest commenters in Christendom. That impression is strengthened when I see the less-moderated metas on RPBs when the writer dares to step out of a bland circle, and finds himself buried in a dogpile of cliches.

He who lives by the RP...

Tom Chantry said...

Unplowed fields? Hmmm...

I wonder, did Luke take Timothy's dad out for coffee before dismissing him as "some Greek guy"?

DJP said...

Or, like, ouzo.

Robert said...

I'm wondering if the average guy on the street would read this and think of Timothy's dad as some guy who thinks Windex is the cure for all ailments...

thomastwitchell said...

At first I thought, hmm, a post about a Jewish-Christian who was marked out as such for a special purpose, which would deny any credibility to those who amalgamate to the point of distinctionlessness. Then I thought, this seems to settle the making one of the two question. It is hard to deny the Gospel is meant for Jew and Gentile alike in Timothy. Interesting that it was the Jerusalem council's determinations that Paul and Timothy delivered. Judaistic practice wasn't required, but identification with heritage was most certainly allowed, and sometimes contextually necessary. Then I thought, just imagine the cuisine and the crazy dances Timothy enjoyed as a yoot.

Having listened to fifteen years of bash fathers sermons on Mother's Day and again on Father's Day in a SBC church, my take on the father is that he was wise to insist that his mother (in-law?) and wife immerse Timothy in the Scripture.

Then too, both women have Greek names. It might be that the one converted to Judaism before coming to faith, and the other didn't. We don't know about the grandmother. She may have been Tim's paternal mammy. Neither do we know about the father's faith. De is a primary particle which may be adversative or continuative. In either case, with out another means of connecting the father's Greekness to being an unbeliever, it is impossible to say.

stevenorange said...

In reference to Timothy's grandmother, it's powerful to notice how the commitment we make to God and His Word today may yield fruit for generations to come.

How many Christians were encouraged, how many lost were taught, how many souls were impacted by Timothy? And his faith had its beginnings in his grandmother! It encourages me to be everything God wills for me to be, for whatever future ends I cannot yet see.

dac said...

but all we know about his father is that he was addicted to government pensions and rioting. that's what Greek means, right?

that is pure gold.

On a different tack, Paul clearly draws the line from grandparent to parent to son. I would suspect that they all lived together. I know that it was a true gift that my mother in law lived with us for 15 years, and the impact that it had on our children. And me.

Tax Collector said...

Ok, hammer me if you will be here goes:

I think it is an incredible message about a grandmother patiently trusting in the LORD.

I’m guessing here but it seems like Eunice might have been somewhat of a late bloomer, spiritually speaking.

Why else would a devout Jewish woman marry a Greek man?

DJP said...

Um, we might hammer you for your screen-name...

Tommy said...

Well, one thing that sticks out to me is yet another example of how unique God’s Word is. The fact that it’s saved for eternity that women raised a man up in knowledge of Holy Scripture in such a male dominant culture strikes against what would have been written by man at that time.

My father-in-law had Geisler as a professor while at Dallas(yes, I’m married into enemy territory), and he gave me a quote he heard from Geisler, “The Bible isn’t a book man would write if he could, or could write if he would.”

Daryl said...

It's also possible that Timothy was born out of wedlock.

His father was some Greek guy.

The 1st century version of "some football player".

The might possibly fit with the closeness of Grandma to the situation. Perhaps she was a believer before her daughter, she encouraged her to keep the child rather than expose it, and the rest...is history.

It could also fit in with things like the inclusion of Tamar and Bathsheba in Christ's line.

Sin is no obstacle to the plan of God. Not even the sin of a Greek girl and some Greek guy.

That might also explain Paul's closeness with Timothy. Almost father and son.
The seems more likely for a fatherless boy.

Tax Collector said...

DJP: Not by trade. The one in Luke 18.

Keep up the great work!

David Regier said...

Why is everyone so hard on the Greeks? They can't be so bad.

After all, the first doughnuts were fried in Greece.

Stefan said...

I like Daryl's take on it. It's impossible to know for sure, and one must tread very carefully when speculating on what's not actually there in Scripture (like a thousand theories on the "real" Jesus or Paul), but it certainly does make coherent sense of the details we have. There's certainly no indication at all of any leadership of any kind whatsoever by the father, spiritual or otherwise.

dac said...

Perhaps this should be re-titled the story of three parents...assuming the grandmother lived with them, my own kids would tell you it's like having three parents

DJP said...

stares at Regier

shakes head

slowly, face and palm meet

Stefan said...

This is on a tangent, but in relation to the quoted passage, verse 15 has long intrigued me:

"...from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."

This seems like another verse (like those on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24, etc.) that testifies to Jesus Christ's being a central part of the Old Testament.

More relatedly, when you consider the many OT verses where hearers are admonished to pass on the Word of God to their children (Exodus 12:26-27; Deuteronomy 6:6-9; 6:20-25; etc.), you can see how Lois and Eunice were doing just that very thing, in obedience to their duties as parents.

DJP said...

Yeah, someone should study on that. Maybe give some talks, 'r something.

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

I think it shows a real-life example of the issue in 1 Cor 7.

Phillip said...

On the theme that there is still some field yet to plow I offer the following in no particular order:

Timothy's mother and grandmother apparently never lied to little Timmy about there being a Santa Clause or Easter Bunny (or even lesser folklore creatures like the great pumpkin or tooth fairy). Rather, they instructed and taught him of the sacred writings (and that being the OT) which were able to make him wise unto salvation. That being said I think we can all safely say that Timothy didn't "miss out" on some sacred rite of childhood.

God is able to work through imperfect circumstances to enact His Holy and Sovereign Will. As others have noted, Timothy's father appears to have played little to no role in his spiritual development. Yet Timothy came to faith through the witness of his faithful mother and grandmother, became a pastor, and also became the recipient of two pastoral epistles in addition to that blessed general epistle sent to his own church at Ephesus.

We will probably never know or comprehend the full extent of our own faithfulness as certainly neither Lois nor Eunice could've possibly imagined, but all glory be to God for His abundant grace leading to faith without which it would be impossible to please Him.

Thanks for the post!

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

What I think of is the command God gives in Deuteronomy 6, and the sad end of Uzziah's life, that he was nothing more than a leper.

I think of my call to be a dad, and to teach my children the Word of the Lord, and to live in obedience to Jesus' word.

I also consider that Timothy must have talked alot about his mom and grandmother, and about their faithfulness to the Lord and how that influenced him, and think in contrast that I would like to have the honor of my children, even if they say, "Dad was some nut who believes everything in the Bible, and he taught it to us clealy and lovingly," to be able to say that I lived sincerely before them the faith I have in Jesus.

Rachael Starke said...

Here goes:

Lois and Eunice battled contemporary conventions, and less than ideal personal circumstances to teach Timothy the whole counsel of God, the counsel they had faithfully worked to learn on their own. They didn't spend a ton of time taking him to javelin lessons in the hopes of making him an athlete, or Latin to make him a scholar. They, personally, taught him Scripture. They knew he needed to learn wisdom - skillful living in the fear of Yahweh, not just knowledge, because that's what God had taught them through His word first.

In the end, the two women are memorialized as the faithful influences of a man who eventually himself became the faithful influencer of many other men to follow hard after God.

The man is "memorialized" as a mere absent afterthought.

Conclusions:
1.Women need to be taught the whole counsel of God, and expected to learn it, to be faithful to teach their children.

2.God will either work through your faithful parenting, or around your unfaithful parenting.

3.Women with husbands who are neglecting their fatherly role do not earn a "get out your responsibility free" card. God can and does bless faithfulness, even in the midst of difficulty.

4. Sometimes the sheer freakish brilliance of David Paul Regier's wit kind of scares me a wee bit.

Matt Aznoe said...

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the other possibility: that his father died when he was young. This would then give hope and comfort to single mothers trying to raise godly sons without a male role model in the house.

CleanFlea said...

Being raised by mother and grandmother, I somewhat identify with Timothy. Of course, I don't have someone as cool as Paul dragging me all over the known world but still...

Charlie Frederico said...

I have concluded that the "Sacred Writings" of 2 Timothy 3:15 is none other than the wisdom books of the OT, primarily Proverbs. The OT typically were categorized into the Torah, Nebiim, and the Ketubim: Law, Prophets and the Writings. So, the stuff of parenting is all found in the wisdom literature of the OT. This is why Paul then writes in v. 16, "All Scripture..." since he sectioned out the Writings of the OT, using two different words. The Greeks did not seek for discipleship-style wisdom, but rather book-wisdom. Thus the Writings are the tools that give one 'wisdom' that leads to faith in Christ Jesus. Parenting (and church ministry) is imparting God's wisdom to children/young people (i.e. discipleship) to lead them to Christ Jesus, wisdom personified (Col. 2:1-3). Timothy's dad would have rejected this kind of wisdom as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:22; cf. 2:6-16.

CleanFlea said...

Also, I remember well a point during childhood when my mother decided I needed to be in the main service instead of the children's service. At the time I was upset. I would have preferred making useless crafts that somehow loosely tied in to a dumbed-down version of a story pulled from the Bible and eating ants-on-a-log with my friends. I undoubtedly learned more sitting in the service. In retrospect I am very thankful for my mothers insistence that I be exposed to sound Biblical teaching.

Jim Pemberton said...

Not much is said about his father aside from being Greek. Charlie has a point about the possibility that his father died early. So we know very little about the faith of his father and the circumstances in which his Jewish mother and grandmother taught him the scriptures sans his father.

What I notice is that he has a mixed genealogy. This may have made it difficult for him, particularly being established as a pastor. But Paul doesn't make direct reference to it. If anything, Paul talks about his youth as a potential stumbling block for the elders in the church.

Anything beyond this is speculation, but speculate I will:

1) Racial tension may have been somewhat effectively taught out in church plants given the early teaching that the gospel was to go to the gentiles.

2) Racial tension was still present to some degree in places because Paul had to confront Peter on his own temporary segregationist behavior.

3) If 2nd Timothy was to be read aloud, then this may be why Paul mentions his Jewish mother and grandmother in 2 Tim 1:5 as particular means of his faith.

Tom Chantry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Chantry said...

Regardless of the father's condition, it would seem that Timothy was born between two worlds. His mother and grandmother were pulling him toward true faith. His father, by his mere existence, was pulling him toward the world. His father didn't win. Neither did Lois and Eunice.

God won.

Stefan said...

Dan:

Are you referring to your Ashford Lectures? I'm sorry, but I haven't listened to them yet, although the topic is one of my favourite ones (Christ in the OT).

Sir Brass said...

"On the other hand, with limited access to the scriptures and being women to boot, these two ladies must have been very intentional in making sure Timothy knew the scriptures."

Yeah, I mean, it says alot that Timothy learned so much from just being taught Proverbs 31...


I'm a bad man :P.

Wendy said...

I really like Chantry's last comment.

"His father didn't win. Neither did Lois and Eunice.

God won."

That perspective has always given me more hope than nearly anything (as a mom to a boy who has 0 men in his life).

Phillip said...

The sincere faith of Lois, Eunice, and Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5) - all church age saints - went hand in hand with knowledge and firm belief coupled with right action which was all firmly rooted in the sacred scriptures. (2 Timothy 3:14-15)

So no wiggle room for the leaky canoners. But neither is their any for the uninvolved or ignorant parent.

the phantom of the bookstore said...

A cultural quote from ancient Greek life:

"For this is what living with a woman as one’s wife means- to have children by her. Mistresses we keep for the sake of pleasure, concubines for the daily care of our persons, but wives to bear us legitimate children and to be faithful guardians of our households" - Demosthenes (322 BC)


I think it is possible that Tim had a pagan/unbelieving father whose life reflected the quote above.

Hence the apparent contrast between Mom, Grandma, and Dad.

Robert said...

Tom,

Since God is love and God won, does that mean in the end that love wins?

christianlady said...

Evident is that even with his upbringing, Timothy had still not learned all he needed to learn. He was still growing, and Paul felt it important to continue to lead and teach him. I am impressed with his childhood and what his mother and grandmother taught him despite his access to his father. But, as a mother, there will be a day when I am no longer going to be the primary teacher who grows my children. They will move on, and I can only hope they find strong teachers and mentors to continue to teach them. The foundation can be laid, but we are not completely perfect and can still learn through out life.

Blessings!

Tom Chantry said...

You know, Robert, the funny thing about that title: my first thought was, "The love of God always wins! Now, shall we define that love biblically?"

Mark B. Hanson said...

One perspective I don't see yet:

Lois and Eunice had knowledge of the Scriptures, but being of Jewish heritage, had no bacon.

The father, being Greek, had bacon but no knowledge of the Scriptures.

Timothy by his combined heritage, had both. Nevertheless, knowledge of the Scriptures (rightly) rates more mention than bacon.

winslowlady said...

Since people are speculating, what if he was a Greek from Crete. We all know what that means.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Late to the party and swimming in the shallow end of the theological pool...

The example of Timothy gives hope not only to single moms, as already mentioned, but to families where Dad is not spiritually 'taking the reins'.

Here's a guy whose primary influences were two women and he's no sissy. He's sufficiently grounded in the faith such that Paul singles him out for leadership and further training/mentoring (he calls him "my dear son".)

I'm not bashing his dad. We don't know if he was antagonistic, ignorant, or even present. We just know that, by the grace of God, wise and faithful women can raise wise and godly sons.

Hallelujah :D