Saint Timothy, Bishop and Martyr
St. Timothy, the beloved disciple of St. Paul, was probably a native of Lystra in Lycaonia. His father was a Gentile, but his mother Eunice a Jewess. She, with Lois, his grandmother, embraced the Christian religion, and St. Paul commends their faith. Timothy had made the Holy Scriptures his study from early youth. When St. Paul preached in Lycaonia the brethren of Iconium and Lystra gave Timothy so good a character that the apostle, being deprived of St. Barnabus, took him for his companion, but first circumcised him at Lystra. St. Paul refused to circumcise Titus, born of Gentile parents, in order to assert the liberty of the gospel, and to condemn those who affirmed circumcision to be still of precept in the New Law. On the other hand, he circumcised Timothy, born of a Jewess, that he might make him more acceptable to the Jews, and might show that he himself was no enemy of their law. Chrysostom here commends the prudence of Paul and, we may add, the voluntary obedience of the disciple. Then St. Paul, by the imposition of hands, committed to him the ministry of preaching, and from that time regarded him not only as his disciple and most dear son, but as his brother and the companion of his labours. He calls him a man of God, and tells the Philippians that he found no one so truly united to him in spirit as Timothy.
St. Paul travelled from Lystra over the rest of Asia, sailed to Macedonia, and preached at Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea. Being compelled to quit this last city by the fury of the Jews, he left Timothy behind him to confirm the new converts there. On arriving at Athens, however, St. Paul sent for him, but learning that the Christians of Thessalonica lay under a very heavy persecution, he soon after deputed Timothy to go in his place to encourge them, and the disciple returned to St. Paul, who was then at Corinth, to give him an account of his success. Upon this the apostle wrote his first epistle to the Thessalonians. From Corinth St. Paul went to Jerusalem, and thence to Ephesus, where he spent two years. In 58 he seems to have dicided to return to Greece, and sent Timothy and Erastus before him through Macedonia to apprise the faithful of his intention, and to prepare the alms he wished to send to the Christians of Jerusalem.
Timothy was afterwards directed to visit Corinth. His presence was needed there to revive in the minds of the faithful the doctrine which the apostle had taught them. The warm commendation of the disciple in I Corinthians xvi 10 no doubt has reference to this. Paul waited in Asia for his return, and then went with him into Macedonia and Achaia. St. Timothy left him at Philippi, but rejoined him at Troas. The apostle on his return to Palestine was improsoned, and after a two years' incarceration at Caesarea was sent to Rome. Timothy seems to have been with him all or most of this time, and is named by him in the title of his epistle to Philemon and in that to the Philippians. St. Timothy himself suffered imprisonment for Christ, and confessed His name in the presence of many witnesses, but was set at liberty. He was ordained bishop, it seems, as the result of a special inspiration of the Holy Ghost. St. Paul having returned from Rome to the East, left St. Timothy at Ephesus to govern that church, to oppose false teachers, and to ordain priests, deacons and even bishops. At any rate, Chrysostom and other fathers assume that the apostle committed to him the care of all the churches of Asia, and St. Timothy is always described as the first bishop of Ephesus.
St. Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy from Macedonia, and his second from Rome, while there in chains, to press him to come to Rome, that he might see him again before he died. It is an out-pouring of his heart, full of tenderness towards this his dearest son. In it he encourages him in his many trials, seeks to revive in his soul that spirit of intrepidity and that fire of the Holy Ghost with which he was filled at his ordination, gives him instructions concerning the false brethren of the time, and predicts still further disorders and troubles in the Church.
We learn that St. Timothy drank only water, but his austerities having prejudiced his health, St. Paul, on account of his frequent infirmities, directed him to take a little wine. Upon which Chrysostom observes, "He did not say simply 'take wine' but 'a little wine', and this is not because Timothy stood in need of that advice but because we do". St. Timothy, it seems, was still young - perhaps about forty. It is not improbable that he went to Rome to confer with his master. We must assume that Timothy was made by St. Paul bishop at Ephesus before St. John arrived there. There is a strong tradition that John also resided in that city as an apostle, and exercised a general inspection over all the churches of Asia. St. Timothy is styled a martyr in the ancient matyrologies.
The "Acts of St. Timothy", which are in some copies ascribed to the famous Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus, but which seem to have been written at Ephesus in the fourth or fifth century, and abridged by Photius, relate that under the Emperor Nerva in the year 97 St. Timothy was slain with stones and clubs by the heathen; he was endeavouring to oppose their idolatrous ceremonies on a festival called the Katagogia, kept on January 22, on which day they walked in troops, everyone carrying in one hand an idol and in the other a club. We have good evidence that what purported to be his relics were translated to Constantinople in the reign of Constantius. The supernatural manifestations said to have taken place at the shrine are referred to as a matter of common knowledge by both Chrysostom and St. Jerome.
See the Acta Sanctorum for January 24. The Greek text of the so-called Acts of St. Timothy has been edited by H. Usener, who, in view of the small admixture of the miraculous element, inclines to regard them as reproducing a basis, derived perhaps from some Ephesian chronicle, a historical fact. The absence of any reference to the translation of St. Timothy's relics to Constantinople in 356 induces him to pronounce the composition of these "acts" to be earlier than that date. Cf. R. Lipsius, Die apokrtphen Apostelgeschichten, vol. ii, pt. 2, pp. 372 seq.; amd BHL., n. 1200; BHG., n. 135.
Butler's Lives of The Saints, Herbert J. Thurston, S.J. and Donald Attwater
Nihil Obstat: PATRICIVS MORRIS, S.T.D., L.S.S., CENSOR DEPVTATVS.
Imprimatur: E. MORROGH BERNARD, VICARIVS GENERALIS
WESTMONASTERII: DIE XXIII FEBRVARII MCMLIII