St Timothy, the student of St Paul (Acts 16:1-4)

St Timothy, the student of St Paul (Acts 16:1-4)

St Timothy was a younger co-worker and friend of St Paul. Two of the ‘Pastoral Epistles’ included in the New Testament, First and Second Timothy, are named after him. They contain personal advice from St Paul to the man he came to regard as his beloved and faithful son in the faith (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2).

Pope Benedict XVI once preached on St Timothy’s life. He explained: “Timothy is a Greek name which means “one who honours God”. Whereas Luke mentions him six times in the Acts, Paul in his Letters refers to him at least 17 times (and his name occurs once in the Letter to the Hebrews).”

He continued: “One may deduce from this that Paul held him in high esteem, even if Luke did not consider it worth telling us all about him. Indeed, the Apostle entrusted Timothy with important missions and saw him almost as an alter ego, as is evident from his great praise of him in his Letter to the Philippians. “I have no one like him who will be genuinely anxious for your welfare” (2:20).”

The pope went on: “Timothy was born at Lystra (about 200 kilometres northwest of Tarsus) of a Jewish mother and a Gentile father (cf. Acts 16:1). The fact that his mother had contracted a mixed-marriage and did not have her son circumcised suggests that Timothy grew up in a family that was not strictly observant, although it was said that he was acquainted with the Scriptures from childhood (cf. 2 Timothy 3:15). The name of his mother, Eunice, has been handed down to us, as well as that of his grandmother, Lois (cf. 2 Timothy 1:5).”

He added: “When Paul was passing through Lystra at the beginning of his second missionary journey, he chose Timothy to be his companion because “he was well spoken of by the brethren at Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16:2), but he had him circumcised “because of the Jews that were in those places” (Acts 16:3).”

From then on, St Timothy became one of St Paul’s closest friends. Many of St Paul’s letters begin by listing him as a sender, which tells us that they spent a lot of time together. (e.g. 2 Corinthians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1). He is described as one of St Paul’s “helpers” in the work of preaching and teaching the gospel (Acts 21:22; Philippians 2:22).

The New Testament also includes other small details about his life. It seems that St Timothy was the subject of prophecy (1 Timothy 1:18), battled ill health (1 Timothy 5:23) and even spent time in prison for his beliefs (Hebrews 13:23). According to the Church historian Eusebius, he later went on to become the Bishop of Ephesus.

That tradition is reflected in this window from Holy Trinity, Dorchester. Dating to 1900 and produced by the Kempe studio, it pictures St Timothy alongside St Stephen, the deacon who died for his faith. St Timothy wears a mitre (a bishop’s hat) and holds a crozier, the symbol of a bishop’s authority. The window is captioned with a quotation from the Song of Creation (Daniel 3:87).

See the full image:

Kempe & Co. / St Timothy / Stained glass / 1900

The quotation from the Song of Creation:

Where to find this work of art
Holy Trinity, Dorchester

Read the relevant passage
Acts 16:1-4

On a similar theme

  • From the Old Testament: The window quotes The Song of Creation, a hymn that was sung by the Three Holy Youths.
  • From the New Testament: St Timothy was a close friend and colleague of St Paul, the author of many of the letters included in the New Testament.

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