Numerical Patterns in 1 Timothy – Six and Ten

I began memorizing 1 Timothy nearly three years ago now. I made it nearly halfway through, but then other avenues of research took my attention. I wandered away from memorizing for a time as a result. Now I have renewed my attention to this vital practice and regained all of my lost ground with significant further progress. My current challenge is to finish memorizing 1 Timothy by the end of 2012, with one chapter to go.

I’m far enough into 1 Timothy now that I’m able to see more of the thematic and numerical patterns in the text and will be documenting some of those here. As the Bible Wheel shows, 1 Timothy is the tenth book on the third cycle, the 54th book overall. I have found, therefore, a lot of patterns with 6, 9, and 10 in the structure of this book. The critical verse is 1 Timothy 5:9: “Let not a widow be added to the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man.” That means that 60 is the threshold of support for widows, similar to how 30 is the threshold of maturity for priests. Now, 60 has so many factors that it can appear in a number of combinations, but the most common is as the combination of 6 and 10, which are already linked with  1 Timothy. Please note that these patterns can be particularly useful as memorization aids even if they don’t have any direct theological meaning. Scripture interprets itself; I’m merely observing the connections here.

I already looked at the pattern of the negative side of the commandments in 1 Timothy 1:9-10 (note the verse numbers!), where we have eleven types of law-breakers marked by the word “for”, matching the first nine commandments, with the tenth implicitly represented. The ten commandments, when inverted like this, illustrate a full range of fleshly behavior, represented by the number six, for mankind created on the sixth day, etc. The ten commandments amplified by fleshly behavior results in 10×6, or 60.

More than that, though, there are actually at least four separate lists of six items that illustrate righteous action (6×10 again), with the first one reversed again with the use of “not”:

Ref Intro 1 2 3 4 5 6
3:3,6 A bishop then must be…not given to wine striker greedy of filthy lucre a brawler covetous a novice
3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh justified in the Spirit seen of angels preached unto the Gentiles believed on in the world received up into glory
4:12 …be thou an example of the believers in word conver-sation charity Spirit faith purity
6:11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness godliness faith love patience meekness

The first list is interesting because it shows that bishops, or elders, must be particularly focused on godly action by avoiding these corruptions, three of which have to do with desire (tenth commandment!) and two of which have to do with violence (sixth commandment!). The last of the six is actually two verses later, after an interlude about ruling his own household, but also marked with “not”, and its focus is pride.

Verse 3:16, which in other books carries the theme of the core of the gospel (John, 1 Corinthians, 1 John, etc), continues that here by being a one-verse summary of Christ’s actions on earth in six stages, worded in an oddly passive form. We can think of this as God the Father working through Christ, though, who always pointed back to the Father as the ultimate head and goal of all his works.

Next, 4:12 gives Timothy six areas to be an example to other believers, which can be thought of in three parallel groups where the second item determines the motive of how the first is used. Having God’s Spirit will help one’s word (speech/writing) be righteous; having faith will help one’s conversation (conduct/works) be righteous; and having purity will help one’s charity (love/giving) be righteous. Those pairs aren’t exclusive, but they are indicated elsewhere in scripture, even in the letters to Timothy, such as 1 Tim 1:5: “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart…” For the third pairing, see 2 Tim 3:16: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” – literally “God-breathed” – given through the Spirit of God. Since both books of Timothy were originally letters written by Paul that became Scripture, God’s Spirit inspired his writing. James 2:17 well illustrates the second pairing: “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”

Finally, 6:11 distills this down into six areas to “follow after” while fleeing from lust and temptation and covetousness, similar to the fruit of the Spirit list in Galatians 5:22-23, which also immediately follows a list of the “works of the flesh” (v19). Following after these six things is no passive “spectator” ability, but an active requirement for God’s people, both avoiding negative behaviors and embracing positive ones. These can also be paired up, symmetrically this time, starting with the most familiar connection between faith and love (charity), linked with hope in the culmination of the Love Chapter itself, 1 Cor 13:13. Patience and godliness are linked sequentially in verse 6 of the progression of character in 1 Peter 1:5-7. And finally, righteousness and meekness are linked back in the Psalms and also in Zephaniah 2:3, where both are to be sought.

Next time I’ll look at patterns of four items that interact with the theme of the number fifteen, again pointing to the greater numerical theme of sixty.


2 thoughts on “Numerical Patterns in 1 Timothy – Six and Ten

  1. Pingback: Memorization: Numerical Patterns in 1 Timothy (Part 2) « The Perfect Law of Liberty

  2. Pingback: Memorization: Numerical Patterns in 1 Timothy (Part 3) – Twenty « The Perfect Law of Liberty

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