1 Timothy and the Ten Commandments

In the process of memorizing 1 Timothy 1: 9-10, I discovered interesting parallels with the Ten Commandments that not only helped me memorize the verses a little faster, but gave me an interesting reversal of what the commandments mean: the negative side, or what not to do. These verses give a list of eleven types of people the law is meant for, marked by the word “for,” that almost exactly correspond to the order of the first nine commandments. While the tenth seems not to specifically be represented, its influence will be seen later. However, two commandments each have two of the types of people, which serves as a form of emphasis.

The first four items are more generic terms for lawbreakers, while the rest are more specific. This parallels the split between the first four commandments being related to God Himself, while the other six are more specific actions against neighbors. Several of the phrases illustrate the most serious type of transgression that could be made against that commandment, although of course, any violation is sin, no matter how large or small.

“Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for…”:

1. “the lawless and disobedient”
Those who are rebellious against God’s law certainly do not honor Him above all else in their lives, and breaking the first commandment (or any, really) can be an indication of being rebellious in some area.

2. “the ungodly”
Those who are not following God’s ways on the path to being like Him can be considered ungodly (not like God). The second commandment is about not just physically making images, but about serving anything instead of God.

3. “sinners”
Very general term, but corresponding to the third commandment, we can say that any sinner, while not necessarily literally taking God’s name in vain, is certainly not living up to God’s name. As a son takes his father’s name, God’s people will take God’s own name.

4. “unholy and profane”
These terms bring to mind Nehemiah describing the people having profaned God’s sabbaths (Nehemiah 13:17-18). These people treat as common what God has made holy, profaning it.

5. “murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers”
Rather than corresponding to the sixth, this points toward the fifth commandment, honoring one’s parents, of which patricide/matricide would be the most flagrant transgression, of course.

6. “manslayers”
This is a direct correspondence to the sixth commandment, against murder.

7. “whoremongers” / “them that defile themselves with mankind”
These two phrases extend beyond the seventh commandment against adultery to warning against other forms of sexual immorality, particularly homosexuality.

8. “menstealers”
This word refers specifically to those who kidnap others for the slave trade, as other translations indicate, but this illustrates the most flagrant sort of stealing: the stealing of people’s very lives and freedom.

9. “liars” / “perjured persons”
Perjury, in modern terms, is the most serious form of lying, because it is knowingly lying under oath, usually to God, to tell the truth to the authorities. Usually those committing perjury are doing it either to benefit themselves (escape the penalty of a crime) or to harm someone else.

The tenth commandment is not specifically mentioned at this point, but the verse does finish by saying, “and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.” This can include any other transgressions of God’s law.

Also, previously the chapter says in verses 5-7, “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law…” Although the “end of the commandment” seems to mean more like the point, or the desired goal of keeping the commandments, or even the result of keeping them, in another sense it could literally also refer to the end of the list, or the tenth commandment. 1 Cor 13:4 says in part: “love [charity] does not envy” (covet).

And what did these people desire/covet? To be teachers of the law (which they did not understand properly). So the tenth commandment does seem to be represented after all, although more indirectly than the others.


4 thoughts on “1 Timothy and the Ten Commandments

  1. Pingback: Memorization: Numerical Patterns in 1 Timothy « The Perfect Law of Liberty

  2. Pingback: Cross-section: 1 Timothy (Part 7) – Zayin | The Perfect Law of Liberty

  3. Pingback: Cross-section: 1 Timothy (Part 9) – Tet | The Perfect Law of Liberty

  4. Pingback: Cross-section: 1 Timothy (Part 10) – Yod | The Perfect Law of Liberty

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