Sunday, June 25, 2023

An Early Christian Slogan?

There is a pithy statement in 1 Tim 2:5-6, written in terse prose omitting certain verbal forms that would help with the clarity of the piece, were they present. It is a concise statement of a slogan-like character.1 Line 4 has the character of a “tag line,” possibly functioning as a title. Likely for these reasons and the fact that the unit appears formulaic, the editors of the Nestle-Aland critical Greek text of the New Testament (NT) chose to print it in a structured format, a printing not generally followed by English translators of the NT:2

For one God

and one mediator of God and humanity

a human being, Lord Anointed Jesus

the one giving himself a ransom for all

the testimony at the right time

There are six other narrative units in the pastoral letters3 published by the Nestle-Aland Greek text in the same stylized manner.4 English Bible translators print some of these in a formulaic manner.

            The narrative unit 1 Tim 2:5-6 is a traditional piece, likely liturgical. It is tied loosely to the surrounding context and hence was likely not composed by the author of First Timothy. It was inserted at this point to support the author’s statement that God “desires all people to be saved.”5

Line 1: taking the word “one” (εις) as the predicate, the translation should be rendered as “God is one” (Rom 3:30; 1 Cor 8:6; Eph 4:5-6), rather than “there is one God,” as modern translators generally render it.6

Lines 2-3: These two lines comprise one thought. A mediator is one who mediates or arbitrates between two parties. That is to say the mediator brings about at-one-ment between two parties. There is no description given as to how the mediation occurs. The appellation “Christ” signals not divinity necessarily but rather that Jesus is “the Anointed of God.” (χριστος=Christ/Messiah=Anointed). The slogan uses the general term for human beings, or people (ανθρωπος). The appellation “lord” is a term used in ancient texts of a person who commands respect or exercises authority. In Hebrew Bible it is used as a substitute for the personal name of God, Yahweh. As applied to Jesus, it is not necessarily a term of divinity. “Giving himself” (stated again in Titus 2:14) is not the same thing as “giving his life” (as it appears in Mark 10:45 and Matt 20:28); compare 2 Cor 8:5 where it is said of the Corinthians that “they first gave their own selves” (see similar statements at 2 Tim 2:15; Rom 6:13). The lack of specificity as to how he gave himself is surprising. The word “ransom” (αντιλυτρον) immediately brings to mind the crucifixion (it is λυτρον in Mark 10:45 and Matt 20:28), but that is not the only way in the NT Jesus is said to have offered himself. In Heb 2:10 Jesus was the pioneer of a certain kind of faith. By being perfected through his own suffering, his own faith (Gal 2:16) established the way of faith for others to follow. The “price of their release” (ransom) was his suffering for his own perfecting; that is, it was not “in our behalf.”7 “Ransom” in Heb 2:10 (αντιλυτρον) in the NT appears only in 1 Tim 2:6, and is a word otherwise only attested in the post NT period.8

Line 4: It is unclear whether the “tag line” was composed by the author of First Timothy or if it is part of the liturgical quotation. “At the proper time” (also in Tit 1:3) in 1 Clem 20:4 refers to the processes of nature.

Evaluation: This liturgical statement is interesting for its lack of detail in the language describing Christ’s role in redemption; compare 2 Tim 1:9-10; Titus 3:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; 1 Pet 2:21-25. The stripped-down statement in 1 Tim 2:5-6 fails to mention his suffering and death in our behalf on the cross and his resurrection. The oneness of God and Jesus performing the work of redemption as a human being reads today like an anti-trinitarian formula. Compare, for example, the detail in Paul’s statement in 1 Cor 15:3-4: I have delivered to you what I also received:

That Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures;

And that he was buried;

And that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures;

And that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.

To consider 1 Tim 2:5-6 “Christian orthodoxy,” one must make a lot of assumptions.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University


2Out of the fourteen English translations of the New Testament on my shelf, only the following render 1 Tim 2:5-6 in a formulaic manner: Holman, New American, New Revised Standard, and Ehrman. All fourteen, however, with the exception of the King James, render 1 Tim 3:16b in a formulaic way.

3The Pastoral Epistles are 1, 2 Timothy, and Titus.

41 Tim 3:16b, 6:11-12, 6:15b-16; 2 Tim 1:9-10, 2:11b-13; Titus 3:4-7.

5Martin Dibelius, The Pastoral Epistles (Hans Conzelmann, ed. of the German edition; Philip Buttolph and Adela Yarbo, trans.; Helmut Koester, ed. of English edition. Hermeneia: Fortress: Philadelphia), 41-43.

6Dibelius, Pastoral Epistles, 41, note 38. For an adjectival predicate: H. W. Smyth, Greek Grammar, §910b, 944-48; Blass, Debrunner, Funk, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament, §270 (1); 127-28. Dibelius (p. 35) renders the expression “God is one.” Dibelius, Die Pastoral Briefe (Handbuch zum Neuen Testament 13; 2nd.rev. ed.; Tϋbingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 26.

7See Hedrick, “On Calling Jesus my Brother,” March 4, 2021 and “How is Jesus the Son of God,” March 22, 2021:

8F. Bϋchsel, “λυτρον,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 4.349.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Hope and Faith in the New Testament and Modern Science

Hope is not just a small township in Arkansas.1 It turns out to be the primary anchor that makes religious faith possible: Hope is the slender thread by which believers are anchored to the bedrock of their faith.2 Hope for the future and religious faith are attitudes reflecting certain expectations. Yet all of us share hopeful expectations that have no religious associations; basically, it turns out, hope is a secular attitude with secular and existential expectations. Hope is also an essential aspect of religious faith, a necessary complement to religious belief.

Hope is “a feeling that what is wanted is likely to happen, a desire accompanied by expectation”; or stated differently, hope is an attitude that what is desired could come to pass. Faith, as exercised in Christian faith, “is an unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence.” As I understand these hopeful attitudes, they are similar but not the same. In First Peter (1:21) and 1 Corinthians (13:13) they are stated as different attitudes. They are both attitudes but they differ in the degree of confidence in which one holds the expectation that what one hopes-for could actually come to pass. Nevertheless, hope is a secular attitude utilized by religious believers in their faith. In its secular form hope is an attitude one holds toward what might be possible (not probable) in the future.3 As expressed in its secular form, hope is not necessarily oriented toward God or a particular God (for example, Acts 24:26; 27:20; Rom 5:4;1 Cor 9:10; 13:13; 2 Cor 10:15).

The word faith is also used in the New Testament to designate a body of religious belief to which one gives mental assent. Hence, in the New Testament faith is both an attitude (for example, Matt 8:10; Mark 5:34; Luke 8:48; Rom 3:28; 4:5, 19-20; 2 Cor 5:7; Gal 3:23-24) and the particular system of religious belief to which one ascribes (for example, Gal 1:23; 6:10; Eph 4:5; 4:13; Col 2:7; 1 Tim 1:2; 3:9; 4:1, 6).

There is a certain arrogance on the part of some writers of the New Testament who completely discount hope apart from that as exercised in their own sectarian faith (for example, Rom 1:21; 1:28-32; Eph 2: 11-12; 4:17-18; 1 Thess 4:13; 1 Pet 1:14). Nevertheless, “in Philebus 39e,” Plato “shows how human existence is determined not merely by the perception (αισθησις) which accepts the present but also by the recollection (μνημη) of the past and the expectation of the future.”4 In other words, hope for the future is a natural aspect or corollary of being human. Human beings are born with the capacity to hope. They are endowed by their “creator” with the inalienable right of having future expectations, as best it seems to each one. Someone who shares no religious faith might be led to express the following secular hope for continuity beyond the mortal field:

I hope that the considerable powers of the universe will not consign my personal consciousness to oblivion.

Such a hope would neither be directed toward a supernatural divine entity, nor would it be expressed confidently and unwaveringly. There is no certain proof or evidence to support such a secular hope. Yet, a glimmer of hope is encouraged in the fact that death is the great waster of consciousness in the universe and, to judge from life cycles on earth, the universe resists waste. Countless millions spend their lifetimes developing unique complex personalities that apparently disappear in the moment of death. Such universal waste and the tendency of nature to resist waste might lead someone to hope, in spite of the odds against hope, that something more may yet lie in our future. In earth’s ecosystem of life nothing material is wasted, but all is recycled; even some energy is transformed and reclaimed at each level of the food chain in earth’s ecosystem.5 This tendency of nature not even to waste nonmaterial energy encourages the slim hope that something more may yet lie before us. Such a hope is at least as certain as Abraham’s “hope against hope” (Rom 4:18; that is, continuing to have hope even though it appears baseless). Under the second law of thermodynamics, however, every energy transfer reduces the amount of usable energy in the universe and eventually no usable energy will be available. Thus, even this slender thread of hope is a hope against hope.6

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1Other unincorporated areas and tiny villages in the U.S. also bear the name Hope.

2I posted an essay of the subject on hope on July 16, 2018: See Hedrick. “What lies behind Gospel Music.”

3Kierkegaard: “Hope, as a form of expectation, is an attitude towards the possible.”

4Rudolf Bultmann, “Ελπις: The Greek Concept of Hope,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Gerhard Kittel, ed.; Geoffrey Bromiley, trans.; Eerdmans, 1964), 2.517-18.


6Stephen Leacock, “Theory and Common Sense,” pp. 369-70 in Louise B. Young, Exploring the Universe (Oxford, 1971) and