A New Perspective on 1 Tim 2:4

Moon-Ryul Jung moon at sogang.ac.kr
Sun Sep 23 11:38:21 EDT 2001

Let me try some experiment on reading 1 Tim 2:4. The idea came from
the "New Perspective on Paul and the Law". The nutshell of this paradigm
is based on a certain reading of Rom 3:28 - 30:

For we hold that a man is righteoused by faith apart from works of law.
Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also?
Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will righteous
the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through
the faith. 

According to the New Perspective, Paul's famous argument
"by faith not by works of law" is essentially the same 
as "God is not of Jews only but of Gentiles also". In other words,
"saved by faith not by works of law" simply means that saved
by faith without becoming Jews, the people of the Law, that is,
without practicing the Law as an identity marker of being Jews.
The ground of Paul's argument is very familiar to the ears of the
Jewish people: God is one. 

I suggest that this perspective sheds some light on "all" in 
relation to "being saved". It may mean "all" not just "Jews".
For example, consider another famous passage of Romans, 1:16:

It is the power of God for salvation PANTI TWi PISTEUONTI,
Ioudaiwi te kai Ellhni. (to all who believe, to the Jews first
and also to the Greek).

Here "all" could be taken to mean "all" not just the Jews, rather
than every individual who believes. When Paul quoted
he wanted to say that it applies to the Greek as well as
the Jews. 

Now, is all I said above relevant to 1 Tim 2:4? I think so.
Let me quote 2:4-7. 

God our Savior, who desires ALL MEN to be saved and to come to 
the knowledge of the truth. For there is ONE GOD, and there is
ONE MEDIATOR  between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who
gave himself as a ransom for ALL, .... For this I was appointed
a preacher and apostle, a teacher of the GENTILES in faith and truth.

The theme of ONE GOD is the same as in Rom 3:28-30. Here the theme
of ONE MEDIATOR is introduced as well. ONE GOD and ONE MEDIATOR!
What is the point of this empasis of oneness? Do not these expressions
emphasize that the Gentiles have the same God and the same mediator
as the Jews? Doesn't the "ransom for ALL" imply the ransom for 
the Gentiles as well as the Jews? In this perspective, Paul's
mention that he was appointed a teacher of the GENTILES makes a good
sense here, and is quite relevant to the context. In other readings,
it is hard to see why Paul mentions his mission to the Gentiles.

So, I suggest the strong connection between "all men" and
"the Gentiles", both of which occur in the passage of 1 Tim 2: 4-7.
For Paul, who had the mission to the Gentiles, and who had to fight
against those Jews who required the Gentiles to become Jews by 
practicing the Law, in particular, circumcision, the "all" 
could quite easily mean "all" not just the Jews. 

Moon R. Jung
Associate Professor
Dept of Media Technology
Sogang Univ, Seoul, Korea
think that these expressions emphasize  

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