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HOW "Young" was Timothy?

"Let no one despise your youth, but become an example of the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity." (1Ti 4:12)

by aymon de albatrus


With the advent of Democracy it is now common to see young men being appointed to Eldership. Well Elder does not mean Younger as the dictionary attests:

Elder:

  • An aged man

  • One having authority by virtue of age and experience

  • Any of various church officers, it also denoted a political office

  • A name frequently used in the Old Testament as denoting a serious man clothed with authority, and entitled to respect and reverence

  • The Elders of the New Testament church were the "pastors" Eph 4:11 "bishops or overseers" Act 20:28 "leaders" and "rulers" Heb 13:7 1Th 5:12 of the flock.

Therefore an Elder of the church needs to have a certain age, and must be clothed with authority, and entitled to respect and reverence. A thing that is not found in a young man of 20.

But, which is the minimum age for a man to be appointed as a junior Elder?

In the OT The normal age to be appointed to the priestly junior ministry at the temple was 30, even 40.

The same in the NT as we see exemplified by the ministry of Jesus. Now let us work out at what age He started His ministry. It is accepted that Jesus died in about April, 31 AD, however when Dionysius Exiguus, a Sythian monk, invented our current calendar by placing all dates in relation to Christís birth, which he called year "1 AD" made a mistake for Jesus was actually born about 3-4 years before (year 0 not counted) about August, 3 BC. This means that Jesus lived just about 34 years. Now, it is commonly accepted that the ministry of Jesus lasted about 3 years making Him over 30 when He started, in perfect accordance with the Biblical age of ministry of 30.

Moreover the evidence of the NT for the position of Elder says this: "ruling his own house well, having children in subjection with all respect." (1Ti 3:4). Surely the wording "having children in subjection with all respect" does not refer to babies or toddlers, but to children of around 10 at least, and the earliest age that this can be is just about 30 for their father.

Now let us look at the famous verse by which many young men have been appointed to eldership: "Let no one despise your youth, but become an example of the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity." (1Ti 4:12)

We can actually work out the age of Timothy when that verse was written.

  • According to tradition Timothy died at Ephesus in 97 AD when he was 80 years old.

  • Paul directed two letters to Timothy: one from Macedonia about 65, and one while Paul was incarcerated in Rome, awaiting his own death.

  • Now if we subtract 65 from 97 we get 32 years.

  • Subtracting 32 years from the age of Timothy when he died, we get: 80 Ė 32 = 48 which is the age of Timothy when the letter 1Timothy was written. Therefore Timothy must have been about 48 years old when Paul wrote 1 Timothy with that reference to "your youth". NOT SO YOUNG after all.

Timothy was more than a simple fellow-worker for Paul, he was his dearest disciple and his beloved and faithful son in the Lord (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2). Timothy was Paul's son in the sense that he was converted by Paul, therefore receiving the "gift of God" (2 Timothy 1:6) from him.

We can also work out approximately Timothyís age at conversion. Timothy converted around 47 in conjunction with Paulís first missionary journey. If we take 47 from 97 we get 50 years subtracting 50 from Timothyís age at death 80-50 = 30, therefore Timothy converted when about 30 years old, NOT SO YOUNG. Moreover it is conceivable to believe that Timothy, as a new convert, would have been baptised at that time.

Incidentally, according to tradition Timothy as Bishop of Ephesus died in 97 at the age of 80 whilst trying to halt a pagan procession of idols, ceremonies and evil songs and committing blasphemous, abominable deeds. In response to his preaching of the Gospel, the angry pagans attacked him and beat him severely, dragged him through the streets and stoned him to death. A typical martyrís death.

From the evidence of the OT and that of the NT it is clear that those churches that appoint men to eldership below the age of 30 are acting unwisely and have no Biblical support with all the chances of repenting afterwards.

In Summary:

  1. Evidence from both OT and NT is that the minimal age for junior ministry is over 30, actually 40 was regarded as the minimum age for 'elder' recognition.  Remembering that Timothy in 1Ti 4:12 was not just an elder but the overseer of the churches of Ephesus

  2. By Elder it is intended a man of a certain age, that must be clothed with authority, and entitled to respect and reverence. A thing that is not found in a young man of 20.

  3. It is evident by records that Timothy at the time of the writing of the pastoral letter 1 Timothy was about 48, NOT the youthful youth portrayed by modern interpreters.

  4. Churches that appoint men to eldership with age below 30 are acting with little wisdom and no Biblical support. These foolish decisions will, with all probabilities, bring discord and strife in the church.

A proverb by aymon de albatrus:

There is no wisdom without a white beard, but white beard does not always mean wisdom