Thirsting for human applause- Friday, 24th week in ordinary time- 1 Timothy 6: 2c-12

The first letter to Timothy is winding down. It was necessitated by false teachers in the community, who disturbed the faith of the new converts to Christianity. Now the author of the pastorals wants to expose the motivation of these false teachers and he does so by depicting them as ‘sophists’. Sophists were itinerant professional teachers and intellectuals who frequented Athens and other Greek cities in the second half of the fifth century B.C.E.

The Church too had wandering prophets whose very way of life gave them a certain prestige. The Church’s teachers were unlike the heathens whose sophists or wise men made it their business to sell philosophy. They claimed a fee to teach people and to argue cleverly, while still others gave demonstrations of public speaking. They advertised and gave personal invitations to their display of knowledge. Their thirst was for applause.

With this as a background the writer of the pastoral, exposes the characteristics of the false teachers who disturbed the early church; he calls them conceited. Their motivation was to please rather than to present the truth. Their concern is with abstruse speculations. In the philosophical tradition, episteme is the highest form of knowledge, the knowledge of truth, of which the false teacher has none. Such was the knowledge of truth that even Pilate was prompted to ask, “What is truth”.

But what drove this industry of sophists was also the love of money. Make no mistake, the Bible does not condemn money but condemns the love of money. The sophists teach a so called piety to acquire monetary benefits, for money is their god.

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