1 Timothy 4:10

Steven Lo Vullo slovullo at mac.com
Sat Mar 9 04:42:40 EST 2002

on 3/8/02 4:59 PM, Kevin Cauley at cauley at airmail.net wrote:

> I wanted to weigh in on the original post, but I think I have already
> deleted it.
> Could we consider PANTWN ANQRWPWN to be objective genitive in a  transitive
> way here?  (See Blass and Debruener under Genitive).
> So the translation would read, ". . . who is the Savior *for* all men. . .
> ."
> Would that clear up the dichotomy between "the world" and "the believers" in
> this passage?
> I.E. Man is not going to find a Savior anywhere else.


I think ANQRWPWN is surely an object genitive, understood as the direct
object of the action implied in SWTHR. However, semantically this would be
equivalent to "He saves all men." Also, if we were to understand the phrase
as "Savior FOR all men," it is hard to explain why God would be the only
appropriate Savior *especially* for believers in distinction to those who do
not believe. Wouldn't he be the only appropriate Savior to all equally?

I think the keys to understanding this verse are (a) taking SWTHR in a broad
sense and (b) not succumbing to the theological temptation to assign two
different senses (i.e., "potential" vs. "actual") to the word. I think the
meaning of the passage is obscured when SWTHR is assigned one sense in
relation to unbelievers and another in relation to believers. The result has
been that the word is pressed into double duty semantically, meaning
"potential Savior" with respect to unbelievers and "actual Savior" with
respect to believers. It's only one word, for crying out loud! Therefore we
must choose whether potential or actual Savior is the correct sense vis a
vis both unbelievers and believers. And since the word means "one who
saves/rescues/delivers/preserves, and there is nothing in the semantic range
of the word itself to justify "potential savior," I think there is no choice
but to conclude that it means "actual savior" and that there is no warrant
for the semantically schizophrenic tendency to assign two different senses
to the one word. The dubious result of so doing is that we end up with a
Savior of all men who does not save all men! It must be observed that the
distinction between the soteriological relationship of God with believers
and unbelievers is expressed NOT by two different senses for the one word
SWTHR, but by the superlative adverb MALISTA. God is the ACTUAL Savior of
all (kinds of) men, and in a very special sense (MALISTA) is Savior of
believers. That very special sense is not here spelled out, so all sorts of
speculation on such things as which view of the atonement this verse teaches
are just that--speculation. The contrast seems rather to be more
general--what some would describe as "common grace" vs. "special grace," but
ACTUAL grace nonetheless. And for this reason it is not really a "secular"
usage of SWTHR that is in view, as suggested in an earlier post.

This above view of 1 Tim 4.10 has striking parallels and support, I think,
in a couple of passages in 1 Clement (as well as more general justification
in the NT; cf. Matt 5.44f.; Acts 14.16f.). First, note the use of SWTHR in 1
Clem 59.3 (I will give the Greek where I think relevant):

"Grant us, Lord, to hope on your name (cf. hOTI HLPIKAMEN EPI QEWi ZWNTI in
1 Tim 4.10), which is the primal source of all creation (TO ARCEGONON PASHS
KTISEWS ONOMA SOU), and open the eyes of our hearts, that we may know you,
who alone is Highest among the high, and remains Holy among the holy. You
humble the pride of the proud; you destroy the plans of nations; you exalt
the humble and humble the exalted; you make rich and make poor; you kill and
make alive. You alone are the Benefactor of spirits and the God of all flesh
depths, who scans the works of man; the Helper of those who are in peril,
the Savior of those in despair (TON TWN APHLPISMENWN SWTHRA); the Creator
who multiplies the nations upon the earth (TON PLHQUNONTA EQNH EPI GHS), and
from among all of them have chosen those who love you through Jesus Christ,
your beloved Servant, through whom you instructed us, sanctified us, honored

Note that God is SWTHR of "those who despair" in general (not just of
believers who despair), seeing that this phrase falls in a context where God
is "the primal source of all creation" (ARCEGONON PASHS KTISEWS), "the only
Benefactor of spirits and the God of all flesh" (MONON EUERGETHN PNEUMATWN
KAI QEON PASHS SARKOS), "the Creator and Guardian of every spirit" (TON
PANTOS PNEUMATOS KTISTHN KAI EPISKOPON), and "the One who multiplies nations
upon the earth" (TON PLHQUNONTA EQNH EPI GHS). And just as SWTHR is used of
God's salvific relationship of mankind in general, so also is TON TWN
KINDUNEUONTWN BOHQON ("the Helper of those in peril"), for the same reason.
Yet note also the SPECIAL relationship God has with his people whom he chose
from out of the nations. This pattern, I believe, is the same as that of 1
Tim 4.10.

Another passage from 1 Clement is also instructive. In 1 Clem 20 we read of
God's control of nature, especially concerning his provision in nature for
the good of both men (in general) and beasts (cf. 1 Clem 20.4, 10). Verse 11

"All these things the great Creator and Master of the universe (DHMIOURGOS
KAI DESPOTHS TWN hAPANTWN) ordered to exist in peace and harmony, thus doing
good to all things, but especially abundantly to us who have taken refuge in
his compassionate mercies through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Again, God's universal goodness is in view. As "Creator and Master of all
things" (DHMIOURGOS KAI DESPOTHS TWN hAPANTWN) he "does good to all things"
(EUERGETWN TA PANTA), men and beasts alike (cf. vv. 4, 10). But note the
special relationship, again, that he has with his people: hUPEREKPERISSWS DE
CRISTOUN ("but especially abundantly to us who have taken refuge in his
compassionate mercies through our Lord Jesus Christ"). Though put in
different words, I think the pattern again fits that of 1 Tim 4.10. The idea
in all these passages is that God, as a faithful Creator and Sustainer,
saves/rescues/delivers/preserves/guards/does good to all nations of people
he has created, but is Savior/Rescuer/Deliverer/Guardian/Benefactor in a
special way in his relationship to believers.

Steven Lo Vullo
Madison, WI
slovullo at mac.com

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