For an Informed Love of God
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“My Deposit” (2 Tim 1:12)
I just got back from a week of teaching the Pastorals at the Carolina School of Divinity. In going through the Pastorals again I was reminded how difficult some Greek can be to exegete. The interpretation of some passages just ends up being 50/50, and 2 Tim 1:12 is one of them.
In my commentary I translated it, “I am not ashamed, for I know in whom I have trusted and I am fully convinced that he is able to guard my deposit (δυνατός ἐστιν τὴν παραθήκην μου φυλάξαι) until that day.”
Is Paul convinced God can guard what God entrusted to Paul (e.g., the gospel), or what Paul entrusted to God (his life)? The Greek allows both, and my point today is that the arguments are strong for both positions.
In favor of God entrusting the gospel to Paul are the following (I am quoting from my commentary).
- The context is the gospel, referred to directly or indirectly in every verse since v 8.
- Two verses later, as well as in 1 Tim 6:20, Paul uses the same term, παραθήκη, clearly in reference to the gospel.
- It fits the flow of the argument. Paul was entrusted with the gospel, and now that he will suffer to the point of death, he is still convinced that God will continue to guard it. Because of the context, it is implied that God will guard the gospel by entrusting it to Timothy and other reliable people (2 Tim 2:2).
In favor of seeing Paul entrusting his life to God are the following.
- In the other two passages, Timothy is the guard and not God, and here Paul states that it is “my” (μοῦ) deposit. These two differences set our passage apart from the others.
- The eschatological orientation of guarding the deposit “until that day,” the day of judgment, fits better with Paul’s soul being kept safe than with the gospel being kept safe.
- The previous phrase, “in whom I have trusted,” suggests the idea of Paul placing something of his own (“faith,” “my deposit”) into God’s care.
- It also fits the flow of the passage as Paul encourages Timothy to share in suffering. Paul has suffered his share for the gospel, and despite his current imprisonment and certain death, he is fully convinced that God can continue to protect his life, even through death. Likewise Timothy should have no fear of his Ephesian opponents or of suffering for the gospel, for he too can trust that God is able to guard his life.
Strong arguments both directions. When the arguments for two positions are apparently equally strong, sometimes I wonder if we are asking the wrong question. I did go with the second interpretation because I thought it fit the context bit, but these are hard decisions.