1 Timothy 3

Qualifications for Overseers and Deacons

This saying
Grk “the saying,” referring to the following citation (see 1 Tim 1:15; 4:9; 2 Tim 2:11; Titus 3:8 for other occurrences of this phrase).
is trustworthy: “If someone aspires to the office of overseer,
Grk “aspires to oversight.”
he desires a good work.”
The overseer
Or “bishop.”
Although some see the article with overseer as indicating a single leader at the top of the ecclesiastical structure (thus taking the article as monadic), this is hardly necessary. It is naturally taken generically (referring to the class of leaders known as overseers) and, in fact, finds precedent in 2:11–12 (“a woman,” “a man”), 2:15 (“she”). Paul almost casually changes between singular and plural in both chapters.
then must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,
Or “a man married only once,” “devoted solely to his wife” (see 1 Tim 3:12; 5:9; Titus 1:6). The meaning of this phrase is disputed. It is frequently understood to refer to the marital status of the church leader, excluding from leadership those who are (1) unmarried, (2) polygamous, (3) divorced, or (4) remarried after being widowed. A different interpretation is reflected in the NEB’s translation “faithful to his one wife.”
temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher,
not a drunkard, not violent, but gentle, not contentious, free from the love of money. He must manage his own household well and keep his children in control without losing his dignity.
Grk “having children in submission with all dignity.” The last phrase, “keep his children in control without losing his dignity,” may refer to the children rather than the parent: “having children who are obedient and respectful.”
But if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for the church of God? He must not be a recent convert or he may become arrogant
Grk “that he may not become arrogant.”
and fall into the punishment that the devil will exact.
Grk “the judgment of the devil,” which could also mean “the judgment that the devil incurred.” But see 1 Tim 1:20 for examples of the danger Paul seems to have in mind.
And he must be well thought of by
Or “have a good reputation with”; Grk “have a good testimony from.”
those outside the faith,
Grk “the ones outside.”
so that he may not fall into disgrace and be caught by the devil’s trap.
Or “be trapped like the devil was”; Grk “fall into the trap of the devil.” The parallel in 2 Tim 2:26 supports the rendering given in the text.

Deacons likewise must be dignified,
Or “respectable, honorable, of serious demeanor.”
not two-faced,
Or “insincere,” “deceitful”; Grk “speaking double.”
not given to excessive drinking,
Grk “not devoted to much wine.”
not greedy for gain,
holding to the mystery of the faith
The mystery of the faith is a reference to the revealed truths of the Christian faith.
with a clear conscience.
10 And these also must be tested first and then let them serve as deacons if they are found blameless. 11 Likewise also their wives
Or “also deaconesses.” The Greek word here is γυναῖκας (gunaikas) which literally means “women” or “wives.” It is possible that this refers to women who serve as deacons, “deaconesses.” The evidence is as follows: (1) The immediate context refers to deacons; (2) the author mentions nothing about wives in his section on elder qualifications (1 Tim 3:1–7); (3) it would seem strange to have requirements placed on deacons’ wives without corresponding requirements placed on elders’ wives; and (4) elsewhere in the NT, there seems to be room for seeing women in this role (cf. Rom 16:1 and the comments there). The translation “wives” - referring to the wives of the deacons - is probably to be preferred, though, for the following reasons: (1) It would be strange for the author to discuss women deacons right in the middle of the qualifications for male deacons; more naturally they would be addressed by themselves. (2) The author seems to indicate clearly in the next verse that women are not deacons: “Deacons must be husbands of one wife.” (3) Most of the qualifications given for deacons elsewhere do not appear here. Either the author has truncated the requirements for women deacons, or he is not actually referring to women deacons; the latter seems to be the more natural understanding. (4) The principle given in 1 Tim 2:12 appears to be an overarching principle for church life which seems implicitly to limit the role of deacon to men. Nevertheless, a decision in this matter is difficult, and our conclusions must be regarded as tentative.
must be dignified, not slanderous, temperate, faithful in every respect.
12 Deacons must be husbands of one wife
Or “men married only once,” “devoted solely to their wives” (see the note on “wife” in 1 Tim 3:2; also 1 Tim 5:9; Titus 1:6).
and good managers of their children and their own households.
13 For those who have served well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves
The statement those who have served well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves is reminiscent of Jesus’ teaching (Matt 20:26–28; Mark 10:43–45) that the one who wishes to be great must be a servant (διάκονος [diakonos], used here of deacons) of all, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve (διακονέω [diakoneō], as in 1 Tim 3:10, 13).
and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
In the phrase the faith that is in Christ Jesus, the term faith seems to mean “what Christians believe, Christian truth,” rather than personal trust in Christ. So the whole phrase could mean that others will come to place greater confidence in them regarding Christian truth; but the word “confidence” is much more likely to refer to their own boldness to act on the truth of their convictions.

Conduct in God’s Church

14  I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions
Grk “these things.”
These instructions refer to the instructions about local church life, given in 1 Tim 2:1–3:13.
to you
15 in case I am delayed, to let you know how people ought to conduct themselves
Grk “how it is necessary to behave.”
in the household of God, because it is
Grk “which is” (but the relative clause shows the reason for such conduct).
the church of the living God, the support and bulwark of the truth.
16 And we all agree,
Grk “confessedly, admittedly, most certainly.”
our religion contains amazing revelation:
Grk “great is the mystery of [our] religion,” or “great is the mystery of godliness.” The word “mystery” denotes a secret previously hidden in God, but now revealed and made widely known (cf. Rom 16:25; 1 Cor 2:7; 4:1; Eph 1:9; 3:3, 4, 9; 6:19; Col 1:26–27; 4:3). “Religion” (εὐσέβεια, eusebeia) is a word used frequently in the pastorals with a range of meanings: (1) a certain attitude toward God - “devotion, reverence”; (2) the conduct that befits that attitude - “godliness, piety”; and (3) the whole system of belief and approach to God that forms the basis for such attitude and conduct - “religion, creed.” See BDAG 412-13 s.v.; 2 Tim 3:5; 4 Macc 9:6–7, 29–30; 15:1–3; 17:7. So the following creedal statements are illustrations of the great truths that the church is charged with protecting (v. 15).

The Byzantine text along with a few other witnesses (אc Ac C2 D2 Ψ [88 pc] 1739 1881 Maj. vgms) read θεός (qeos, “God”) for ὅς (hos, “who”). Most significant among these witnesses is 1739; the second correctors of some of the other mss tend to conform to the medieval standard, the Byzantine text, and add no independent voice to the discussion. A few mss have ὁ θεός (so 88 pc), a reading that is a correction on the anarthrous θεός. On the other side, the masculine relative pronoun ὅς is strongly supported by א* A* C* F G 33 365 pc Did Epiph. Significantly, D* and virtually the entire Latin tradition read the neuter relative pronoun, ὅ (ho, “which”), a reading that indirectly supports ὅς since it could not easily have been generated if θεός had been in the text. Thus, externally, there is no question as to what should be considered original: The Alexandrian and Western traditions are decidedly in favor of ὅς. Internally, the evidence is even stronger. What scribe would change θεός to ὅς intentionally? “Who” is not only a theologically pale reading by comparison; it also is much harder (since the relative pronoun has no obvious antecedent, probably the reason for the neuter pronoun of the Western tradition). Intrinsically, the rest of 3:16, beginning with ὅς, appears to form a six-strophed hymn. As such, it is a text that is seemingly incorporated into the letter without syntactical connection. Hence, not only should we not look for an antecedent for ὅς (as is often done by commentators), but the relative pronoun thus is not too hard a reading (or impossible, as Dean Burgon believed). Once the genre is taken into account, the relative pronoun fits neatly into the author’s style (cf. also Col 1:15; Phil 2:6 for other places in which the relative pronoun begins a hymn, as was often the case in poetry of the day). On the other hand, with θεός written as a nomen sacrum, it would have looked very much like the relative pronoun: Θ-=Σ vs. ΟΣ. Thus, it may have been easy to confuse one for the other. This, of course, does not solve which direction the scribes would go, although given their generally high Christology and the bland and ambiguous relative pronoun, it is doubtful that they would have replaced θεός with ὅς. How then should we account for θεός? It appears that sometime after the 2nd century the θεός reading came into existence, either via confusion with ὅς or as an intentional alteration to magnify Christ and clear up the syntax at the same time. Once it got in, this theologically rich reading was easily able to influence all the rest of the mss it came in contact with (including mss already written, such as א A C D). That this reading did not arise until after the 2nd century is evident from the Western reading, ὅ. The neuter relative pronoun is certainly a “correction” of ὅς, conforming the gender to that of the neuter μυστήριον (mustērion, “mystery”). What is significant in this reading is (1) since virtually all the Western witnesses have either the masculine or neuter relative pronoun, the θεός reading was apparently unknown to them in the 2nd century (when the “Western” text seems to have originated, though its place of origination was most likely in the east); they thus supply strong indirect evidence of ὅς outside of Egypt in the 2nd century; (2) even 2nd century scribes were liable to misunderstand the genre, feeling compelled to alter the masculine relative pronoun because it appeared to them to be too harsh. The evidence, therefore, for ὅς is quite compelling, both externally and internally. As TCGNT 574 notes, “no uncial (in the first hand) earlier than the eighth or ninth century (Ψ) supports θεός; all ancient versions presuppose ὅς or ὅ; and no patristic writer prior to the last third of the fourth century testifies to the reading θεός.” Thus, the cries of certain groups that θεός has to be original must be seen as special pleading in this case. To argue that heretics tampered with the text here is self-defeating, for most of the Western fathers who quoted the verse with the relative pronoun were quite orthodox, strongly affirming the deity of Christ. They would have dearly loved such a reading as θεός. Further, had heretics introduced a variant to θεός, a far more natural choice would have been Χριστός (Christos, “Christ”) or κύριος (kurios, “Lord”), since the text is self-evidently about Christ, but it is not self-evidently a proclamation of his deity. (See ExSyn 341–42, for a summary discussion on this issue and additional bibliographic references.)
Grk “who.”
This passage has been typeset as poetry because many scholars regard this passage as poetic or hymnic. These terms are used broadly to refer to the genre of writing, not to the content. There are two broad criteria for determining if a passage is poetic or hymnic: “(a) stylistic: a certain rhythmical lilt when the passages are read aloud, the presence of parallelismus membrorum (i.e., an arrangement into couplets), the semblance of some metre, and the presence of rhetorical devices such as alliteration, chiasmus, and antithesis; and (b) linguistic: an unusual vocabulary, particularly the presence of theological terms, which is different from the surrounding context” (P. T. O’Brien, Philippians [NIGTC], 188–89). Classifying a passage as hymnic or poetic is important because understanding this genre can provide keys to interpretation. However, not all scholars agree that the above criteria are present in this passage, so the decision to typeset it as poetry should be viewed as a tentative decision about its genre.
was revealed in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
Or “in spirit.”

seen by angels,
proclaimed among Gentiles,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.
Copyright information for NETfull