Why is 1 Timothy 5:23 in the Bible?

Paul wrote the following to Timothy, his son in the faith:

1 Timothy 5:23 Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.

Why is this verse in the Bible? How does God want Christians to profit from it?

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Larry's picture

Moderator

Larry, again, you're simply ignoring basic hermeneutics. 

How so? (Do you notice how little you support the claims you make?) Basic hermeneutics (or advanced hermeneutics) is that you interpret a text in its context. That's exactly what I have done. I have actually used the words of the text to explain the text. 

Not only is the question valid, as you concede, but it is essential.

Essential to what? And if this is essential, why is it that God didn't reveal it to us? You seem to be claiming that Scripture is not sufficient because it lacks something essential and that the wisdom of God in what he actually revealed by inspiration is less than your wisdom and what you declare that we need to know.

Really, what you've done with this passage, and with John 2, is to limit the interpretation of Scripture to "that which is blindingly obvious, and perhaps with a good nod to fundamental culture."  That's not required by the 1st Fundamental.

How so? Interpretation is limited and should be limited by the text. Application may indeed be broader. But I haven't appealed to what is blindingly obvious and there is no nod (good or bad) to fundamental culture (whatever that actually means).

I have to think you didn't actually read what I said. i have already said that my guess is that Timothy had bought into a bit of asceticism and was jeopardizing his health. However, that is not necessary knowledge to understand the passage. 

JD Miller's picture

Larry wrote:

my guess is that Timothy had bought into a bit of asceticism and was jeopardizing his health.

I appreciate how you stated that.  I have been trying a bit harder to be more careful in my preaching to say things like, "my guess is" or "some commentators believe" rather than just making a blanket statement about something that we do not know for certain.

I agree with Bert that our "fundamentalist culture" has often clouded how scripture is interpreted, but if that is the case is it not also possible that our reaction to some of the mistakes of the fundamentalist culture could also affect our interpretation?  I say this because I know it has happened to me on occasions on either side of an issue.  My hope is that I catch myself before I say anything, but I recognize that will not always happen.

Ron Bean's picture

In my years of preaching I've learned to  avoid using terms like "my guess", "it's implied", or similar terms for a number of reasons. Number One is that I'm more confident in preaching what I'm certain the Bible teaches. Number Two is that I've learned that too many listeners didn't hear my qualifiers and took my  statements as facts.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Larry's picture

Moderator

Number One is that I'm more confident in preaching what I'm certain the Bible teaches. Number Two is that I've learned that too many listeners didn't hear my qualifiers and took my  statements as facts.

So in your "tears of preaching" (I can identify with that), how do you communicate to the hearers that there is a divergence of views on a particular question or issue? 

Ron Bean's picture

Thanks for catching the typo.

When I encountered things where there were different views they were usually minor to the main point of the text. I usually just said that were a number of different views and I wasn't sold on any of them and that they made good material for "coffee shop conversations" among friends. 

In the limited moments I have to preach/teach I would rather say "I know" than "I think".

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

pvawter's picture

Larry wrote:

There must be some reason Paul put it here and not somewhere else in the letter.

Yes, apparently because he just said "Keep yourself pure" and was reminding Timothy that abstaining from medicinal use of win was not necessary to keep pure. That is the context. 

Your burden is to show how it could be related to accusations and ordination of elders. Do you have any arguments for that from the text?

Larry, 

You are correct that v.23 follows after the warning to keep yourself pure, but that statement also exists in a context. In what way was Timothy in danger of becoming impure? Read the rest of v.22. My point from the beginning has been that you cannot ignore the issue Paul is dealing with in the paragraph in which this statement is found.

The purpose of Paul's encouragement to drink wine may very well be simply out of a concern for Timothy's physical health, as Rajesh claims in his blog post on the subject, but you must at least consider the context of v.19-25 before you conclude that it certainly does not have anything to do with Timothy's responsibility to cautiously rebuke and appoint elders. 

I'm not sure why it's my burden to show that context matters and not anyone else's to prove that it doesn't.

JD Miller's picture

Ron, I whole heartedly agree when you say,

In the limited moments I have to preach/teach I would rather say "I know" than "I think".

The point I wanted to make is that when a passage like I Timothy 5:23 comes up and I speculate about contaminated water being the reason, I want to make it is clear that the text does not actually give the reason.  Perhaps I should not even speculate about the reason or share what many others have believed to be the reason and should instead just say that Timothy was told to drink a little wine instead of water and we do not know why.  I had not thought it wrong to share the predominate theory, but perhaps I was wrong in that.  I am interested in hearing your further thoughts.

 

RajeshG's picture

pvawter wrote:

The purpose of Paul's encouragement to drink wine may very well be simply out of a concern for Timothy's physical health, as Rajesh claims in his blog post on the subject, but you must at least consider the context of v.19-25 before you conclude that it certainly does not have anything to do with Timothy's responsibility to cautiously rebuke and appoint elders. 

I'm not sure why it's my burden to show that context matters and not anyone else's to prove that it doesn't.


 

"The purpose of Paul's encouragement to drink wine may very well be simply out of a concern for Timothy's physical health, as Rajesh claims in his blog post on the subject."

 

This is an erroneous claim that misconstrues what I wrote in my blog post. Nowhere in that post do I say or imply that "the purpose of Paul's encouragement to drink wine was simply out of a concern for Timothy's physical health." You have wrongly inferred that notion and run with it repeatedly in this thread. You need to stop representing me erroneously in that way.

My blog post was not a detailed exegetical treatment of the verse in a commentary to treat the verse fully, as I would treat it were I writing a commentary or journal article on 1 Timothy, etc. I stated a subject at the beginning of the post and then treated 1 Timothy 5:23 to bring out the importance of what that verse actually says in the verse itself in relation to the topic of the article, the topic with which I began the article with other verses pertaining to God's Word and our physical health.

 

 

Ron Bean's picture

While humbling, I've found that declaring "I don't know" can be a wonderfully liberating statement. Sadly, the phrase doesn't seem very popular.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Larry's picture

Moderator

In what way was Timothy in danger of becoming impure? Read the rest of v.22.

That was my point: By ordaining someone to ministry before evaluating their life and thereby sharing in responsibility for their sins. The wine comment has nothing to do with that per se; it was a personal thought that occurred with the idea of keeping himself pure. Timothy abstaining from wine and becoming sick has nothing do with accusing or ordaining elders. That's why it is most likely a parenthetical comment.

My point from the beginning has been that you cannot ignore the issue Paul is dealing with in the paragraph in which this statement is found. ... you must at least consider the context of v.19-25 before you conclude that it certainly does not have anything to do with Timothy's responsibility to cautiously rebuke and appoint elders. 

I don't think anyone has disagreed, at least that I saw.

I'm not sure why it's my burden to show that context matters and not anyone else's to prove that it doesn't.

As you as you find someone who argues that context doesn't matter I will wholeheartedly join you in attempting to correct them, because i agree with you.

Ron Bean's picture

The text says nothing about Timothy abstaining, therefore that statement is just speculation and no one knows whether he did or not. 

And his malady could have been indigestion. No one knows. 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Larry's picture

Moderator

The text says nothing about Timothy abstaining, therefore that statement is just speculation and no one knows whether he did or not. 

"Stop drinking water" seems a strong indication that he wasn't drinking wine but only water (as most translations make clear). What else could it mean? There are necessary inferences that are part of exegesis. 

If he was not abstaining, why did Paul have to tell him to drink a little wine for his stomach's sake? Wouldn't he have already been drinking wine? Surely Paul's point was not along the lines of "I know you are drinking but for the wrong reason. You should do it for your stomach"? Or "You are drinking too much; you should only drink a little"? The only conclusion that makes sense of the text seems to be that Timothy was a total abstentionist.

We don't know why because the text doesn't tell us. We can possibly invoke 1 Tim 4 and asceticism as a suggestion or 1 Tim 3 and the qualifications. There seems no connection to elder accusations or ordinations. 

So what would we preach out of this passage? 

If we go with Ron's approach that we must limit ourselves to what we know vs. what we think, we can only say that Timothy is commanded to drink wine for his health.

If we expand that into what "we think" a bit, we can say that the medicinal use of alcohol is permitted by Christians and the purity does not require us to avoid medicine that has alcohol. Of course we could expand the principle beyond that (such as other types of medicine), but that requires us to get into "I think." I don't have a real problem with that because I think it is a necessary part of preaching. It is what is in view in the OT when the text was translated to give the sense. There is an explanation that goes along with it. The old line is that the right preaching of the Word of God is the Word is true. 

However, it is probably a long and uncomfortable stretch to say that this verse teaches that drinking wine is acceptable as a general practice. Or to address larger issues of asceticism.

 

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