The above rendering of the British Authorized Version has been followed generally by English versions, causing the true sense to be totally obscured. That State or established Churches should adhere to such a rendering is only natural. We must, however, be guided solely by our one authority—the divine Greek text.
Here is a very literal rendering: Yet if ever I may be tardy, that thou mayest perceive how, in God's household, (which indeed an ecclesia of God Living is) must be conducting himself a pillar and base of the truth.
Firstly, let us observe that Greek oikos means household or home, not the building or house, which is invariably oikia. (Any seeming exceptions are beautifully explained by other passages).
God is at home in every ecclesia, but certainly not in every church building.
Besides, Paul does not mention THE church or ecclesia, any more than THE pillar. No one has the right to play fast and loose with the Greek Definite Article, or the absence thereof.
Further, as Dean Farrar pointed out in "Texts Explained" (1899), only by great confusion of thought can the Church be called both the house of God and a pillar. He also pointed out what history has often shewn, that the word pillar is usually in the New Testament applied to persons (Rev. 3:12; Gal. 2:9; cf. Eph. 2:20).
Rev. 3:12: "He who is conquering shall I make a pillar in the temple of My God." Gal. 2:9: "James and Kephas and John, who are reputed to be pillars. . . ."
In Rev. 10:1 the word stulos is used in its physical sense of a pillar of fire. In Modern Greek both senses are used. The support of his family is called a stulos. In English we speak of a person being a pillar of strength.
Farrar says the Greek word was applied to the martyr Attalus in the Epistle from the Church of Lyons. Eusebius wrote that Attalus had always been, in Pergamos, a "pillar and base."
Any stout and sturdy saint can be a pillar, like Timothy.
Gilbert Wakefield (1795) translated as follows:—"that thou mayest know how a pillar of a living God and a support of the truth, ought to behave himself in God's house. . . ." Dewes reads, "that thou mayest know, as a pillar and mainstay of the truth. . .." Conybeare and Way also state the truth, and Alford agrees with our view.
The error in translation becomes mischievous when it is claimed that when 1. Timothy was written the Ecclesia was the public exponent of the truth, whereas when 2. Timothy was written, only a very brief time later, the church was no longer the pillar and base of the truth, but merely a "great house," containing utensils honourable and not honourable. Paul, however, does not refer to THE Church, and never stated that it was the pillar and base of the truth. To aver that the pillar of the truth had fallen within these few years, because the apostasy had set in during the interval, would be to make the former Epistle seem very short-sighted. We cannot believe that Scripture needs to correct Scripture, especially within such a brief lapse of time. Besides, even to-day "THE Apostasy" (2. Thess. 2:3) has assuredly not arrived yet. When it does come, it will be unmistakeable and an event beyond description. It appears to usher in the revelation of the Man of the (great or universal) Lawlessness.
It must also be noted that in 2. Tim. 2:20 the "great house" is a house (oikia), not a household. Paul had in mind a large residence, using this as a picture. He does not say the Ecclesia is this great house.
In 1. Tim. 3 Paul tells Timothy about the qualifications of overseers and helpers in ecclesias and assemblies. No gathering of any size can flourish and carry on without these. But just as necessary is a good "pillar." Timothy was both an evangelist and a pillar.
A.T. Last updated 8.1.2006