Faith trumps state- Monday- 24th week in ordinary time- 1 Timothy 2: 1-8

Faith trumps state- Monday- 24th week in ordinary time- 1 Timothy 2: 1-8

You are encouraged to read the text before you read the explanation

The community of Timothy was certainly under attack. There were the false teachers polluting the minds of the converts, and to top it all, there was a state sponsored threat to Christianity. The accusation from the Roman state was that the community of believers were traitors, because they refused to accept the cult of the Emperor, a custom of praying to the divinized Caesars.

The cult of the Emperor began after the assassination of Julius Caesar in 27 BC. Julius Caesar was proclaimed divine and accepted among the gods of the state, officially allowing for the initiation of his worship. It is the worship of the Emperors that ironically brought about a stabilizing force to the Empire.

Unity and peace was a hallmark of the Roman Empire and if this worship could guarantee stability in the Empire, it was worth implementing, even if it meant that it be done with force. This cult of the Emperor came to a standoff towards the end of the reign of Gaius Caligula. In his arrogance, Caligula attempted to erect a statue of himself within the Temple walls in Jerusalem, to be worshiped by the Jews. Fate however stepped in and Caligula died, averting a disaster.

Paul has boldly declared in 1:17 that there is only one God. He reiterates this core belief in 2:5; yet he sees the need to send a message to the Romans that this does not mean that the Christians oppose the Emperor’s authority. While Paul will not compromise on the worship of the one true God, he does not want to antagonize the Romans. It is for this reason that he cites the need for prayer.

Paul groups together four different words for prayer which he urges the Christian ‘first of all’ to pray for, as the need seems to be urgent.  He asks for prouseuche (supplications) which means prayer to God, unlike deesis which is prayer that may be to God or man. Then there is enteuxis (intercession) originally used to indicate a meeting but later came to be an ‘intimate conversation’, and finally came to mean ‘to enter the king’s presence and submit a petition’. Finally he uses the word eucharistia (thanksgiving from where you get the word Eucharist) to ask God for things.

Interestingly, Paul asks these prayers “for kings” instead of “to the kings”. Paul was not encouraging the cult of the Emperor in any way; rather he proposed a language of courtesy to all rulers, so that they may receive the guidance and mercy of the one true God. Furthermore, it indirectly implies that they are not divine but mortal humans.

This for Paul is “right and is acceptable in the sight of God OUR Saviour who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of THE truth” (verse 4).  Paul’s petition for prayer is not out of a spirit of patriotism, rather in the hope that Christian leaders may be left in peace, and that these authorities may come to the knowledge of the truth.

Paul harkens to his Jewish roots when in verse five, he quotes the ‘shema Israel’ taken from Deuteronomy 6:4. He proclaims, “There is ONE GOD and ONE mediator between God and man and that is Christ Jesus.” But unlike the Emperors who wished to be worshiped as divine, Jesus “himself God,” gives himself up to be ransomed (as a slave) for all.

Here is a lesson for us all. Paul respects the rulers of his land but he loves his God more for faith ‘trumps’ state . (apologies to Donald)

Fr Warner D’Souza

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