Numerical Patterns in 1 Timothy (Part 2) – Fifteen

In Part 1, I looked at patterns of lists of six items in 1 Timothy which primarily had to do with godly actions. The pattern of six amplified by ten, for living the commandments, results in a value of 60, but also six amplified by nine, for goodness and purity, results in a value of 54, both of which have thematic patterns in 1 Timothy.

Another possible division of 60 is into 4×15. Now, four is associated with the door of knowledge, or the four corners of the earth, the totality of understanding, while fifteen is associated with support and leadership. Fifteen is a perfect sub-theme for a book about teaching Timothy how to be a good leader of his congregation. There are at least six lists of four items that illustrate ways to be a good leader or support the congregation.

Ref Intro 1 2 3 4 End
2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all supplications prayers intercessions giving of thanks be made for all men
2:9-10 …women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair gold pearls costly array But…with good works
2:15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith charity holiness sobriety
3:8 Likewise must the deacons be grave not double-tongued not given to much wine not greedy of filthy lucre
3:11 Even so must their wives be grave not slanderers sober faithful in all things
5:10 Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children lodged strangers washed the saints’ feet relieved the afflicted diligently followed every good work

The first list gives four ways to support others by speaking to God. We generally call any such communication “prayer,” but here, prayers are mentioned as one of four types of communication made on behalf of or about others. However, it’s quite beyond the scope of this article to write in depth on prayer, which is a vast topic. It’s not made any simpler by the fact that the words for “supplications” and “intercessions” here are also sometimes translated as “prayer”. All three words can have the implication of a request or petition to God. But we can think of them as being various aspects of asking for blessings on others, mercy or healing for them, or requests on their behalf. The fourth is more obviously thanking God for them, for the blessing of their presence, for what they do on our behalf, etc.

The second and third lists are focused on women. First Paul gives four ways women should avoid being excessively decorated: complicated hair arrangements, precious metals, jewelry, and expensive clothing. That doesn’t mean that being careful with one’s appearance by braiding one’s hair, or wearing some jewelry, is always bad. The ending of the verse puts the emphasis on building character by doing good works, which again ties in with the theme of 1 Timothy. Women should pay attention to being adorned with good character more than with anything physical. At the end of the same chapter, Paul gives four ways for women to support and teach their children: faith, charity/love, holiness, and sobriety. That last also appeared in the same verse as the previous set of four, along with “shamefacedness” or modesty, clearly contrasting what to do with what not to do.

The next two lists are parallel, giving requirements for deacons and their wives. Both must be grave, or honorable; both must be honest in their speech, not accusing others falsely; both must be sober, not abusing drink; and both must be faithful with physical blessings, not being greedy for more. Deacons do not have quite as many requirements as elders, but they support the elders and the whole congregation when they lead by example. Having the requirements extend to their wives emphasizes how important it is for men to find a God-fearing wife, and for wives to properly support their husbands. Having a dishonest or morally suspect wife could disqualify a man, no matter how otherwise upstanding, from being eligible to be a deacon or elder.

The last list describes the good works that a deserving widow will have done in her life. Faithful widows would then be provided for by the church after the threshold of sixty years old if they have no one else. All four types of good works support the congregation directly, by raising faithful children; by giving hospitality to travelers in need; by following Christ’s example of washing people’s feet, or more generally, meeting their needs; and by serving and relieving the suffering of those sick or in pain. Twice this verse describes these widows as doing good works, just like women of all ages are to pursue rather than physical adornment, as in the earlier list.

Next time I will look at patterns of three items that interact with the theme of the number twenty.


3 thoughts on “Numerical Patterns in 1 Timothy (Part 2) – Fifteen

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

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

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

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