It has been a while since I posted on Bible Ladies, and when I last did I was on the theme of “foreign women.” In the book of Acts, and in Paul’s writings we find the man of God, Timothy. It is clear that the faith of this disciple was nurtured by his believing mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois (2 Timothy 1:5).
These two godly women bear Greek names. Eunice according to Acts 16:1 is of a Jewish believer, opening us up to several possibilities. These women may have been Hellenized Jews. This view while possible is problematic, as Eunice is married to a non-Jewish man. The Old Testament scriptures leave a clear impression of the expectation for Jews not to marry outside the faith. This said, such unions seem to have always occurred. I have written before about my own Northern Irish family having community disapproval as a mixed Catholic/Protestant union.
This leaves a more likely (though still subjective) view that Eunice was a convert to Judaism. The merits of this argument are that Judaism made massive growth during the Roman period, with Gentiles (especially women) turning to the One God of Israel. Acts 16 notes, that Timothy’s mother “was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek.” That Timothy’s father was a Greek, therefore is clear. And that he was an unbeliever is implied, as his faith is not attested to.
This non-Jewish union has led some to question whether Eunice, raised by Lois in a faithful Jewish home, went through a time of rebellion, and married a Greek. Or as noted above that both Eunice and Lois were converts.
What is clear however, is that these women had become believers in The Way, and had passed that belief on to Timothy who is cited as “a disciple” in Acts 16:1. Timothy’s faithful upbringing is reference in 2 Timothy 3: 14 and 15:
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Timothy had learned from “those” in the plural from his infancy. The mark of the influence of his mother and grandmother, not of his Greek father. The father’s influence, and perhaps his mother’s possible convert status may be indicated by Paul’s circumcision of Timothy in Acts 16:3. Paul was no great champion of physical circumcision for non-Jews. That Timothy was uncircumcised shows his Greek birth, that he knew the scriptures, that he had a believing mother. That he was subsequently circumcised a sign of his Hebrew heritage.
This young or youngish disciple through the impact of his matriarchal line, and the entry of the Gospel into his life, goes on to be a leader of the fledgling church.
A quick word on 1 Timothy 4: 12 may be in order. Paul writes to Timothy to “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young.” This passage too is slightly problematic, as we must supposed by “youth” it is implying that he is under the “respectable” ministry age of 30. When Paul arrives in Acts 16:1 (circa 49 A.D.), Timothy is already noted to be a disciple. Allowing for the early date for First Timothy (58 or 59 A.D.) only ten years have elapsed. So was this young disciple would have been no older than 20, when first encountered by Paul? If so his mother’s and grandmother’s godly influence is impressive. And, if the late date for 1 Timothy is used (63-65 A.D.) based on supposed references to the events of Acts 28 within the context of its writing), he would have been even younger and still noted as “a disciple.” Allowing for a 64 A.D. date and the assumption that youth means under 30, Timothy would have only been 15.
The influence of nurturing and praying “Bible ladies” should never be under appreciated, or undervalued. Just look at the impact of Timothy through Lois and Eunice.
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