Timothy© 2007 Dr. Barbara Thiering
"To Timothy, my true child in the faith... As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine... The time of my departure has come...Do your best to come (to Rome) before winter."(1 Timothy 1:2-3, 2 Timothy 4:6,21, written by Paul).
Who was Timothy, who meant so much to Paul? Two of Paul's letters were addressed to him, including his last lettter, when he knew he was about to die. In other letters he associated Timothy with him in the opening address (1 and 2 Thessalonians, Philemon,Colossians, Philippians, 2 Corinthians, or mentioned him in the course of the letter).
The name Timothy - Timotheus , timē "price" of theos "God" - is a clue that he was a Herod. In the pesher, the word timē, "price", reflects the Herodian system of charging a fee for membership - the means of raising revenue that proved so successful for Herod the Great. Its details are given in the Qumran document 4Q159, and the inventory of the huge income it generated from the Diaspora is recorded in the Copper Scroll. The name Timaeus was used for the Herod as the one who received the fee, the price. It is found in Mark 10:46, together with Bartimaeus the "blind beggar", "son of Timaeus", meaning a deputy. Timaeus at that time was Agrippa I, and Bartimaeus was Gamaliel the Pharisee descendant of Hillel, in the status of a pre-initiate Nazirite. The successor of Gamaliel as a teacher in the order of Benjamin was Paul. One of his influences on Timothy was to ensure that the "price" went to "God" - the priest representing God, not into the royal coffers.
On June 28, 45 AD - the date given in the authorising letter - the emperor Claudius indicated that he accepted the young Agrippa II as the successor of his assassinated father (Antiquities 20, 10-14). The prince , aged 17, had made it apparent that he would never marry, exemplifying one of the sexual differences that appeared at times in the Herod family. In order to maintain his kingship against the competing claims of his uncle Herod of Chalcis, he had to have an heir who would step into his shoes at any time. Holding firmly the belief that the monarchy belonged to the Herods, Agrippa II followed the precedent of some emperors and adopted an heir, a male from within the Herod clan. He chose the boy whose own name was Herod, and who later was rebaptized as Timothy.
From the Herodian genealogy supplied by Josephus, (Antiquities 18, 136-137) it is seen that Timothy was the eldest of three sons who were born to Salome, who was the daughter of the marriage between Herodias and Thomas Herod (the marriage arranged in their childhood by Herod the Great, broken up by Thomas' homosexuality). Salome (not the same as Herodias' "daughter" of Mark 6:22 and the Salome of the crucifixion narrative Mark 15:40; 16:1, who was Helena) was first married to the tetrarch Philip Herod, then at his death in 34 AD she married Aristobulus, a son of Herod of Chalcis. With their three sons they changed sides within the Herod clan to join the court of Agrippa II. It was arranged that Agrippa should undergo the ceremony of adopting Timothy as soon as he returned from Rome in his new status , in December 45 AD.
Timothy at that time was only 9 years old. His date of birth in September 36 AD is known from the date when Paul "circumcised" him, that is gave him his Bar Mitzvah at the age of 12 in September 48 AD (Acts 16:3, the date shown by the concealed chronology). Timothy is said to have been "the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer", that is Salome who became the "Sarah" to Gentiles represented by the boy Timothy. "But his father was a Greek" refers to Agrippa II as his adoptive father, to whom his real father had surrendered him. Agrippa II, educated in Rome, was hellenised to the point of always speaking Greek.
The account of the adoption ceremony of Timothy in December 45 AD is given in Acts 14, in a story of strange events in the city of Lystra in east Asia Minor. On that occasion, pagan practices involving bulls and garlands of flowers included hailing Barnabas as the god Zeus and Paul as Hermes. Paul protested and preached a more moderate message, rejecting pagan syncretism, but still speaking of a universal God, not a narrowly Jewish God (Acts 14:8-18).
The paganised setting is accounted for by Josephus' note that it was in this generation that some members of the Herod family "abandoned from birth the observance of the ways of the Jewish land and ranged themselves with the Greek tradition" (Antiquities 18, 141). Educated in Rome, they became fully hellenised, renouncing a Jewish identity. An intermediate course for some was to become Christian. Paul, as a teacher in the order of Benjamin dedicated to educating Herod princes, had been a tutor of Agrippa II and became a tutor of Timothy, his "child". Thus his intellectual influence, expressed through his knowledge of Platonic philosophy (Acts 24:25), was a major factor in the change of commitment.
Paul at the time of writing 1 Timothy in late 57 AD had urged Timothy to stay in Ephesus because, at the age of 21, Timothy had been appointed the Herodian superior in that city. Agrippa II himself, although always preferring to live outside Jerusalem, had to make it his capital, so his deputy and crown prince resided in Ephesus which by that time had become the major city of the western Diaspora mission. Timothy was Paul's social superior, which was why Paul associated him with himself in some of his letters.
In a note at the end of the Epistle to Hebrews the writer, who was not Paul, gives the news that "our brother Timothy has been released" (Hebrews 13:23). That letter, addressed to eastern Essenes and their associated ascetics called Hebrews (Acts 6:1, GPhil II, 51, 29; 52, 22) was written after 63 AD, when persecution of Christians became so intense that they were the victims of Nero in the summer of 64 AD. Timothy would have come to Rome in the winter of 63 AD at Paul's invitation, become involved in Paul's second trial, arrested and released initially because of his Herodian political influence. There is an indication in the pesher of Revelation 16:6 that he was put to death by Nero in AD 65.
Return to Biographies|