Vol. 26 New Series June, 1965 No. 2
MISPLACED INGENUITY

Recently a so called theologian has stated that the Jews used to pray for the dead, a custom "which was continued by the Christian Church (2. Timothy 1:18)."

This verse with vv. 16, 17. reads: "May the Lord be giving mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, seeing that many times he refreshes me and was not ashamed of my chain, but, coming to be in Rome, diligently he seeks me, and found (me). May the Lord grant to him to be finding mercy from (the) Lord in that day! And now many times in Ephesus he ministers to me, thou art getting to know quite well."

"No unbiassed mind could possibly deduce from this that Onesiphorus was any but a living breathing friend of Paul. The only; real problem is that Paul should have found it necessary to plead to the Lord for mercy for him. It may perhaps be that Onesiphorus was an unbeliever with exceptional kindness of heart and compassion, and that Paul's love for him burst out in this special plea to the Lord on his behalf.

Nevertheless, in its search for support for its pagan practise of praying for the dead the apostate church has seized on this problem with the ingenious solution that Onesiphorus was already dead when Paul wrote; but the awkward fact remains that there is not even a hint to that effect in the text. Moreover, if v. 18 is a prayer for dead Onesiphorus, then v. 16 must be a similar prayer for his household. Even that might appear plausible but for the further fact that Paul in 2. Tim. 4:18 sends greetings to the household! An even weaker argument in support of his supposed decease is that in the A.V. he is referred to in the past tense throughout, five times in all. Yet, in fact, the past tense occurs only twice: "was not ashamed" and "found." The other three are aorists; and if these were really intended to refer only to the past, the unanswerable question arises why Paul did not use the past tense for them. To the accurate mind, the narrative speaks very plainly. That Onesiphorus was not ashamed, and that he found Paul, are facts established, at one fixed point in the past in each case. That he refreshes Paul, seeks him, ministers to him are repeated acts, as true at the moment Paul wrote as they had been all along.

A.T. Last updated 4.5.2006