This blog, by Richard Fellows, discusses historical questions concerning Paul's letters, his co-workers, Acts, and chronology.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gal 2:1-5, Acts 16:1-3 and Titus-Timothy

Continuing the series of blog posts on Titus-Timothy, we turn now to Gal 2:1-5 and Acts 16:1-3.
Gal 2:1 Ἔπειτα διὰ δεκατεσσάρων ἐτῶν πάλιν ἀνέβην εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα μετὰ Βαρναβᾶ, συμπαραλαβὼν καὶΤίτον: 2:2 ἀνέβην δὲ κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν: καὶ ἀνεθέμην αὐτοῖς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον  κηρύσσω ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, κατ'ἰδίαν δὲ τοῖς δοκοῦσιν, μή πως εἰς κενὸν τρέχω  ἔδραμον. 2:3 ἀλλ' οὐδὲ Τίτος  σὺν ἐμοί, Ελλην ὤν, ἠναγκάσθη περιτμηθῆναι: 2:4 διὰ δὲ τοὺς παρεισάκτους ψευδαδέλφους, οἵτινες παρεισῆλθον κατασκοπῆσαι τὴν ἐλευθερίαν ἡμῶνἣν ἔχομεν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ἵνα ἡμᾶς καταδουλώσουσιν: 2:5 οἷς οὐδὲ πρὸς ὥραν εἴξαμεν τῇ ὑποταγῇ, ἵνα  ἀλήθεια τοῦ εὐαγγελίου διαμείνῃ πρὸς ὑμᾶς.
Gal 2:1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me.  2:2 I went up in response to a revelation. Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running or had not run, in vain. 2:3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 2:4 But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us - 2:5 we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you.
Acts 16:1 Κατήντησεν δὲ [καὶ] εἰς Δέρβην καὶ εἰς Λύστραν. καὶ ἰδοὺ μαθητής τις ἦν ἐκεῖ ὀνόματι Τιμόθεος, υἱὸς γυναικὸς Ἰουδαίας πιστῆς πατρὸς δὲ Ελληνος,16:2 ὃς ἐμαρτυρεῖτο ὑπὸ τῶν ἐν Λύστροις καὶ Ἰκονίῳ ἀδελφῶν.16:3 τοῦτον ἠθέλησεν  Παῦλος σὺν αὐτῷ ἐξελθεῖν, καὶ λαβὼν περιέτεμεν αὐτὸν διὰ τοὺς Ἰουδαίους τοὺς ὄντας ἐν τοῖς τόποις ἐκείνοις, ᾔδεισαν γὰρ ἅπαντες ὅτι Ελλην  πατὴρ αὐτοῦ ὑπῆρχεν.
Acts 16:1 Paul went on also to Derbe and to Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek. 16:2 He was well spoken of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium. 16:3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and had him circumcised because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
Acts 16:1-3 concerns a time shortly after the Jerusalem visit of Gal 2. Paul meets Timothy in Lystra, which is in south Galatia, the region to which Paul later wrote Galatians. There is a consistency between the data on "Timothy" and that on "Titus":

1.  Titus and Timothy were both associates of Paul by the start of the "second missionary journey".

2. Both were subordinates of Paul at that time.

3. Both were uncircumcised Greeks at the time of Paul's Jerusalem visit of Gal 2:1. On Timothy's Greek status see D. Daube, Ancient Jewish Law (Leiden: Brill, 1981), pp. 22-32. Also S.J.D. 
Cohen, ‘Was Timothy Jewish (Acts 16:1-3)? Patristic Exegesis, Rabbinic Law, and 
Matrilineal Descent’, JBL 105/2 (1986), pp. 251-68.

4. Both were probably known to the Galatians. Titus is mentioned without introduction in Gal 2:1, which suggests that he, like Timothy, was known to the Galatians.

5. At first sight it appears that Timothy was from Lyrsta, in contrast to Titus, who was from Antioch. However, a closer inspection shows that both were probably from Antioch.
There will have been few Jews, if any, among the believers in Lystra. Acts mentions no synagogue in Lystra and Paul's letter to the (south) Galatians seems to be written exclusively to Gentiles. In Antioch, on the other hand, there were many Jews, for Josephus tells us that Jews were "particularly numerous in Syria", and, ‘it was at Antioch that they specially congregated’ (BJ 7.45). There were many Jews in the church there (Acts 13:1; Gal 2:13), so it is there, not in Lystra, that we should look for Timothy's mother.

The Jews of south Galatia were strict about maintaining their ethnic boundary, for they required the circumcision of Timothy. It is therefore unlikely that many of them would have married Greeks. In Antioch, however, mixed marriages will have been common, for Josephus says of the Jews of Antioch that "they were constantly attracting to their religious ceremonies multitudes of Greeks, and these they had in some measure incorporated with themselves" (BJ 7.45) (consider also Nicolaos,  This also suggests that Timothy's mother was from Antioch, not Lystra.

Timothy was a fellow missionary of Paul (2 Cor 1:19), and Paul even calls him "God's co-worker" (1 Thess 3:2). He must have been a prominent fellow-worker of Paul at the time of Acts 16:1-3, otherwise his circumcision would not have been required. However, if Timothy was from Lystra, it is hard to see how he could have been qualified for the task. A Lystran Timothy would have been a relatively new believer, who had had little contact with Paul, and was from a rustic village, spoke mainly Lycaonian (Acts 14:11), and probably had no synagogue. It is hard to imagine Paul choosing one of the "foolish Galatians" to be an important member of his missionary team.

Paul circumcised Timothy, but told the Galatians in the strongest terms not to be circumcised. This is consistent if Timothy was very different from the Galatians in some key respect(s), such as being qualified to preach to Jews or having been brought up with Jewish traditions. This confirms that Timothy was not a Galatian.

I have already argued that Luke was from Antioch. We have no evidence that Paul recruited new converts as fellow-missionaries. I will argue in a future post that Paul had probably sent Titus-Timothy to south Galatia to organize a collection for Jerusalem. In any case, Timothy's role as Paul's envoy explains why we read that the believers in Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him: the believers reported that Timothy had represented Paul well, so Paul chose him to be part of his team to function as an envoy on future occasions.

6. The 'not even' (οὐδὲ) in Gal 2:3 works well if Titus was Timothy, who was perhaps the most likely person to require circumcision. The sense would then be, "not even Titus (who you know has a Jewish mother and is my closes co-worker), ... was compelled to be circumcised".

7. Gal 2:4-5 appears to refer to the events of Acts 16:1-3. Gal 2:4-5 as it stands, with its broken grammar, is hopelessly ambiguous. If, however, it refers to events well known to the south Galatians, such as the events surrounding the circumcision of Timothy, the text need not have been ambiguous to the intended audience.

Paul's purpose for yielding (or not yielding) was that "the truth of the gospel might continue with you". "you" here refers to the Galatians, suggesting that Paul's response to the false brothers was for the benefit of the Galatians in particular. It is unnecessary to suppose that "you" here refers to all Gentile believers. The 'you' here connects the events of Gal 2:4-5 with south Galatia, and this works well if Titus was Timothy. While Gal 2:3-5 on its own does not tell us whether Titus was eventually circumcised, we can say that the circumcision or otherwise of Titus, like that of Timothy, is of importance to the south Galatians. This is surely no coincidence.

Gal 2:4-5 and Acts 16:1-3 combine nicely. Here is a possible scenario. The false brothers discovered through their spying (whether in Jerusalem or in south Galatia) that Titus-Timothy's father was a Greek. They then revealed this fact to the south Galatians Jews, who then required that Titus-Timothy be circumcised. Gal 2:5 is still ambiguous (to me). Perhaps Paul denies that he gave way for more than the few minutes required for the circumcision of Timothy, or perhaps he is saying that the circumcision of Timothy was in no way a yielding of the principle.

For further discussion see my "Was Titus Timothy?", JSNT 81 (2001).

In summary, Gal 2:1-5 when combined with Acts 16:1-3 provides significant points of agreement between "Titus" and "Timothy". This confirms what we have already seen from the Corinthian correspondence - Timothy was Titus renamed.


  1. Greetings Richard,
    Concerning your thoughts that Galatians 2:5 is ambiguous above…
    I had thought that the ‘false brethren’ that Paul refers to were then at Jerusalem. They and those they could influence argued against Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15, but Paul wouldn’t yield to them. This is what is reported in the Galatian epistle. It would appear that Timothy-Titus took the letter to the Galatians after Paul understood that these ‘false brethren’ claiming to be from James had not only gone to Antioch but had also reached Syria-Cilicia as well as Galatia, apparently to destroy Paul’s work. The letters that James wrote were taken to Antioch and then to Syria-Cilicia. Months later after Paul had strengthened the churches at Antioch and Syria-Cilicia, he returned without Barnabas to south Galatia with the letters from James (Acts 16:4). Timothy-Titus was already there, having delivered Paul’s epistle to the Galatians and was acting as Paul’s envoy until he arrived. Timothy was by then already well known and well received by all, and at that time and for future ministry in Antioch-Pisidia and beyond, Paul circumcised Timothy. Does this work?

  2. Hi Ed,
    your reconstruction here is similar to the one that I favored a few years ago, and you express it very well. As you say, it explains why Timothy was in Galatia when Paul arrived. However, I now prefer to place the writing of Galatians AFTER the events of Acts 16:1-3. I see the circumcision of Timothy as the cause of the confusion in Galatia that led to the writing of Paul's letter. See my blog posts of March and April 2010 on Galatians. Also, to my ear, the mentions of Titus in Galatians are not what we would expect if Titus was the deliverer of the letter. Paul does not commend Titus in Galatians in the same way that he commends him in 2 Cor or Phil (or Phoebe in Rom).

    My post on the chronology of the collection from Galatia argues that Titus-Timothy went to south Galatia to organize a collection there. I think this makes sense because, having just been to Jerusalem, he was ideally qualified to report of the need for aid.

    Let me know what you think.

  3. Hi Richard,
    Thank you so much for getting back to me. I am reading your blog posts with great interest, and I shall read those you refer to above next.

    Concerning Paul not commending Titus-Timothy, he commends no one, but obviously someone brought the letter. If this is Paul's first letter, perhaps he wasn't so keyed into the customary etiquette of doing so. I don't know for certain, but were the Europeans more into that than the Galatians? If so, maybe Paul didn't have to do here what he did elsewhere; just a thought.

    One thing, for curiosity sake, I noticed that you seem to make a big deal of Paul's negative thoughts toward Mark. Have you ever heard that the reason why Jerusalem 'suddenly' sent out people to destroy Paul's work was because Mark was uneasy with Paul's missionary methods and had a 'big mouth' back in Jerusalem when he left Paul and Barnabas?

    Thanks again for submitting all this good stuff in your blog. It certainly has me thinking.

    God bless,


  4. In the cases where Paul commends no-one it may be that the deliverer of the letter was not someone who was to be a visitor to the addressed church(s). In such cases the letter carrier could have been a non-Christian. We don't really know.

    I don't know of any reason to believe that letter writing conventions in Galatia would have been different from elsewhere. I don't think we have any letters from Galatia in our time period.

    Yes, I am aware of the theory that Mark told the Jerusalem church leaders that Paul was preaching things that they would not preach. However, as you are seeing from my blog posts, I believe that Paul and the Jerusalem church leaders had the same doctrines. It is always possible that the "men from James", heard from Mark what Paul and others in Antioch were preaching, and went to Antioch to try to correct correct them. However, I do not think that these "men from James" had the blessing of James to try to correct what was going on in Antioch.

    Mark was later willing to join the 'second missionary journey', so I don't think he had a (big) doctrinal difference with Paul. I suspect he turned back on the "first missionary journey" because he was afraid the the inevitable opposition from the conservative Galatian Jews.