The First Prison Epistle ?


There are reasons to query the traditional placing of Second Timothy as Paul's last letter. The end of his course did not imply his early expectation of death, or he would not be looking for Timothy with Mark to join him at a time possibly six to twelve months later. Also relevant is certain evidence that the two years in Paul's hired house is a displaced text from Acts 24:22, at Caesarea under Felix; so Paul could have been released from Rome quite soon, and that he wrote any epistle from prison then is only an assumption. He would most likely have begun his new commission to the nations by proceeding first to Philippi, a community suitable for the new missionary centre, as Antioch had earlier been.

Here Paul probably first appointed some bishops and deacons, and then he takes a hurried tour with Titus, whom he leaves in Crete to appoint similar overseers, and Timothy who is left for a like purpose at Ephesus.

In due course Titus in Crete is relieved by Artemas and rejoins Paul at Nicopolis, from where Paul was later intending to return to Timothy to relieve him from his charge at Ephesus, and perhaps to teach the truth of the Mystery.        1TIMOTHY   TITUS

But Timothy is not relieved, for Paul is again arrested and taken to Rome as a prisoner for a second term. So with Timothy still at Ephesus Paul sends him a second letter conveyed by Tychicus (2Tim.4.12. is easily explained). 2TIMOTHY

Many months later Timothy, Tychicus and Mark, with the requested items reach  Rome, where they find Paul's second task is to write to Philippi - not to the Church there (that was an Acts Period ecclesiastical order) but to "all the saints in Christ Jesus". Compare "saints and faithful" Eph. and Col.. PHILIPPIANS

The "Church of God" Is a term never designating a universal ecclesia (an PC concept adopted by Exclusive Brethren); It applied only to a city based witness during the Acts Period, as the address to both Corinthian letters shows, and It had applied earlier to Philipi, hence Phil.4.15/16.

A verse that is badly translated and hardly understood is 1Tim.3.15. If the version of J.N.Darby or The Newberry Bible is consulted it will be observed that there are three articles shown which are not in the Greek. As far as is known only the version of Rotherham correctly reads it thus -  "How it is needful in a House of God to be behaving oneself, which indeed is an assembly of a Living God a pillar and basement of the truth" 2nd Edition. A house of God = a godly household.

Now just consider this; here is Timothy a trusted 'son' of Paul who was well versed in all Paul's teaching here being treated as a novice in need of fresh instruction. Was it not because the city based ecclesia no longer was the order of the day?  So a household ecclesia bccame the unit of witness to the nations (i.e. all mankind). The ministry of the universal ecclesia of the body of Christ was about to be revealed, but that would not be seen by mankind, only by the powers and authorities among the heavenly ones to whom it witnesses.

So Paul's next letter, the first after 2Timothy, is to Philemon and his household church conveyed by the repentant slave Onesimus. Tychicus would not have gone along to make sure that he got there: so, Paul was testing his new convert's faith and commitment and that object would have been defeated unless he went alone.  Those who suggest that two epistles were taken at the same time fail to see the incongruity of greeting Archipus in Philemon and allegedly in Colossians giving him a message, or repeating salutations from Epaphrus, Luke and Demas, (then back with Paul.)PHILEMON

In both Philippians and Philemon Paul anticipates possible release from his prison which proved not to be.   Probably much later, after accepting that he was not going to be freed, Paul writes the Ephesian epistle, which embodied that ministry he had intended to present there in person. Then much later still he writes finally to the Colossians the letter conveyed by Tichicus and Onesimus.     EPHESIANS   COLOSSIANS

It should be observed that Onesimus has now demonstrated his worth to Paul so that he can speak of him as the faithful and beloved brother. He could not have been called faithful until matters had been put right between him and Philemon, though he doubtless could have been called a beloved brother before.

The proposition outlined will resolve quite a few problems and no doubt may introduce some others. Any helpful comments will be appreciated.

  Maurice Lloyd May 2000

Proposed Order of Epistles:   


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