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Godlessness in the Last Days September 25, 2013

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 2 Timothy 3:1-9.

Summary: Paul begins by warning Timothy to prepare for arduous struggles that are inherent to the universal condition of the Christian church. These struggles stem from the fact that there will always be depraved people – including false teachers – in the church who act wickedly; moreover, they pretend to be holy while indulging in vices that are not immediately visible. Timothy should turn away from these depraved people.

Paul then states that these depraved people will enter homes by stealth or cunning; they then gain influence over women who:

  • are bound by a bad conscience
  • indulge their foolish desire to be perceived as religious and holy.

These women learn because they are curious, but they never reach a conclusion about anything. Now in light of the arduous struggles that Paul has just described, he must encourage Timothy by reminding him of the story of Jannes and Jambres, who were magicians in Pharoah’s court and fought against Moses. Paul concludes by asserting that just as God’s truth prevailed against the tricks of Jannes and Jambres, He will shamefully confound the depraved people in the church – enabling the teaching of the Gospel message to win over every false doctrine that they promote.

Thoughts: In verse 6, Paul states that false teachers will lead women astray. Calvin offers some insights on this point:

Paul also talks about women rather than men, for they are more likely to be taken in by imposters.

At first I was rather confused by this verse, as I did not understand why Paul would specifically criticize the female believers in the Ephesian church. I then recalled Paul’s injunctions against the church assisting younger widows in 1 Timothy 5:1-6:2, and I drew a connection between that passage and this verse. Perhaps these younger widows had no family responsibilities, and so they experienced ennui – not knowing how to use their time wisely. In their restless state they were easily deceived by false teachers who knew how to exploit their weaknesses – especially their vanity. Hopefully these younger widows read this letter and ended up repelling any false teachers who visited them.

In verses 8 and 9, Paul states that Jannes and Jambres, who opposed Moses, were defeated by God. Calvin offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 8:

It is generally agreed that the two men mentioned here were magicians in Pharaoh’s court, although it is not clear how Paul knew their names. It is probable that many facts relating to the events of the Exodus were handed down, and God never let them be forgotten. It is also possible that in Paul’s time there were commentaries on the prophets that gave a detailed account of what Moses touches on briefly here. We may suppose that two people are named here because God raised up for his people two leaders, Moses and Aaron, so Pharaoh decided to oppose them with two magicians.

I did some research on Jannes and Jambres; it turns out that while they are mentioned in several ancient sources, not much can be definitively stated about them. So we are left to speculate about how they lived – including Pharoah’s treatment of them after they were utterly embarrassed by Moses and Aaron. Did he punish them for failing to defeat the God of the Hebrews? How did they perform their magic tricks? How did they perceive the God of the Hebrews? As for the “commentaries on the prophets” that Calvin mentions above, I wish that they had survived to the present day; they would have made for some interesting reading.

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1. The Sin and Doom of Godless Men | Ringing In - January 8, 2014

[…] in terms of his application of extra-biblical accounts. I then remembered that Paul had referred to Jannes and Jambres in 2 Timothy 3:1-9. The fact that Jude later refers to an extra-biblical prophecy by Enoch in verse […]


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