Post image for <em>Parathēkē</em>: The Beautiful Thing Entrusted to You (Part One)

Parathēkē: The Beautiful Thing Entrusted to You (Part One)

by Stephen Hebert on Sunday - 14 March 2010

in Biblical Studies, New Testament

It’s been quite the hiatus; I do apologize for that. I’ve been busy this semester. This morning, however, I read something that I believe God impressed upon my heart, so I thought I’d take a few moments to share it with you in two parts. The first part is a bit academic and deals largely with the meaning of this particular word. The second part is a bit more applicational — what does this mean for us?

Whatever your opinion of the authorship of the pastorals, there is no doubt that the letters to Timothy paint an interesting picture of discipleship for us. Looking specifically at 2 Timothy,1 we find a word that is not often used in the New Testament: parathēkē (παραθήκη) — “deposit; thing entrusted to someone.” As far as I can tell, this word appears only in these letters to Timothy. Check out 2 Tim 1.12 and 1.14:

2 Tim 1.12
On account of this, I suffer. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard that which is entrusted to me until that day.

2 Tim 1.14
By the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, guard that beautiful item which is entrusted to you.

So, what is it that has been entrusted to these guys? Admittedly, at first blush, I thought it might be the Holy Spirit, but then v. 14 doesn’t make a lot of sense. My next thought was that it was the Gospel, but then I have to ask: What are we guarding the Gospel against? Isn’t the Gospel a sword able to cut through all falsehood and lies? Why should we need to guard it?

While I’m still not 100% sure (and, admittedly, I have not consulted any commentaries on this issue), I wonder if this parathēkē refers to the instruction itself which is under attack by those who have left Paul (see v. 15). What has been entrusted to Timothy is the same sacred instruction (the “model2 of sound words” in v. 13) that was first given to Paul in a revelation of Jesus Christ (see Gal 1.12).

This transmission of knowledge, and the need to safeguard it, fits in very well with other early Christian sources. For example, we could look at the Pseudo-Clementine literature and examine how Peter passes on knowledge of the True Prophet (a.k.a. Jesus) to Clement.3

So, this is how I’m understanding this particular word. Parathēkē refers to the teaching that dwells, guarded by the Holy Spirit, in our hearts.

How is this teaching different from the aforementioned Gospel? Well, stay tuned for the second part of this post which will consider what this idea really means for us.

Footnotes

  1. We’ll set potential gender issues aside for now as this post is really only talking about 2 Tim 1 — 2 Tim 2 is where we start to run into some issues with gender roles.
  2. The translation of hypotyposis (ὑποτύπωσις) is problematic to me — I don’t think that the typical English glosses (model, pattern, example) really hit it
  3. I have spilt quite a bit of ink on this subject in a 2006 paper: “The Tension Between the Oral and the Written in the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies and the Epistola Clementis.”

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