A Commentary in Simple English on 1 Timothy


The story of Timothy really begins in Acts 14:8-20. There we read how Paul and Barnabas brought the Good News about Jesus to Lystra. Lystra was a city in what is now Turkey. This was about the year 47AD. [0.1] About two years later Paul came to Lystra again (Acts 16: 1-3). He found Timothy there. Timothy had a grandmother called Lois. She was a woman who had faith in God. His mother's name was Eunice (2 Tim 1:5). She was a Jew who believed in Jesus and she taught Timothy. Her husband was a Greek, and it is likely that he had already died. The Christians at Lystra and at the city of Iconium, about 25 km to the west, spoke well about Timothy to Paul. So from this time on Timothy became one of Paul's best helpers in his work. We find Timothy's name about 17 times in the New Testament.

Timothy was important to Paul. There are thirteen letters from Paul in the New Testament. Paul may have written one of them (Galatians) before Timothy joined him. Only two others (Ephesians and Titus) do not say anything about Timothy. Paul sent two more to Timothy. In six of the letters (2 Corinthians; Philippians; Colossians; 1 and 2 Thessalonians; Philemon) the name 'Timothy' is there with Paul's name in the first verse. And we know that Timothy was with Paul when he wrote 1 Corinthians (1 Cor 4:17 and 16: 10) and when he wrote Romans (Rom 16:21).

Some people say that the Letters to Timothy and Titus are not like Paul's other letters. We can see that this may be because Timothy helped Paul to write the others. [0.2]

We will not try to tell the full story of Timothy's life and travels with Paul. We find him with Paul in Ephesus, Corinth and Rome. They are often together from 49 AD until about 64 AD. Then we have one last verse which speaks about Timothy (Hebrews 13:23). This may well be after the death of Paul. No one seems to know anything at all about what happened to Timothy after that. The death of Paul must have been a great sorrow to Timothy.

The Letter

Much of what Paul says in this letter is like what he says in the Letter to Titus. Many people think that this is because Paul wrote them at about the same time.

Paul had been in Rome for two years (Acts 28: 16-31). He did not live in a prison, but he was not free at that time. We think that the Romans set him free in A.D.62. He seems to have gone east again to Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3).[0.3] Many people think that Paul wrote the first letter to Timothy at this time. Paul's journey took him from Ephesus through Troas to Macedonia and on to Nicopolis (2 Tim 4:13; Titus 3:12). But Paul wanted to go back to Timothy in Ephesus (3:14).

You will find that Paul's two letters to Timothy are very different from each other. In 1 Timothy Paul writes about the things in the church at Ephesus which worry him. In 2 Timothy he writes about his own troubles. He is in prison in Rome.


Timothy was at Ephesus when Paul wrote this letter to him (1:3). Ephesus was a great Greek city. It was in the western part of what is now Turkey. In New Testament times it was in the part of the Roman Empire which was called 'Asia'. Ephesus was a port.

People from Roman 'Asia' heard the Good News and believed in Jesus right at the start (Acts 2:9). Then Acts 18:24 to 20:1 tells us how the church in Ephesus began, and in Acts 20:16-38 there is the speech which Paul made to the leaders of the church in Ephesus. There is a letter written by Paul to the church at Ephesus, as well as the two letters which Paul wrote to Timothy when he was in Ephesus. Then there is the message to Ephesus in the book of Revelation (Rev 2:1-7); and the three letters from John may well have been sent to Ephesus. Many people think that John lived in Ephesus until he was a very old man. If so, John wrote his Gospel there.

There were many Jews who lived in Ephesus. Some of them were Christians. But some Jewish teachers had come to Ephesus with strange teaching. This was causing trouble in the church.