Look at the sentence, “Walking down the hall, I saw a statue”. Now, if I were the one walking down the hall, and saw a statue, that would be one thing. But if it were the case, “I saw a statue walking down the hall,” that would be a different thing!
In understanding this verse, the grammatical concept of an “appositive” needs to be introduced. An “appositive” is a noun or nominative phrase that is “placed next to” another phrase or concept, “usually occurring directly after” the earlier noun or phrase, “and standing for the same thing”. Here are some examples, with the appositive phrase in italics:
At camp we met Mr. Willett, the scoutmaster.(Source, Gucker’s “Essential English Grammar”)
Our first dog, a spaniel, was very fond of the baby.
The two senior members, James and I, are in charge of public relations.
The guide, a man of great courage and skill, was mainly responsible for our rescue.
His trouble was money, the notorious root of all evil.
“Appositives” come into play, because this verse from Paul seems to have several of them. And the topic comes up in one or more of the commentaries that deal with the verse.
Pete Holter and I have been having a discussion that began in the comments of this thread, and it continued here and in some private emails.
My topic, at any rate, was the question of either “teaching correctly about the word of God” [Martin Luther’s words] or, as I later pointed out, doing what Rome does, rather than trying to understand the text and then allowing it to speak its word, the Roman Catholic starts with modern Roman doctrine, and then uses Biblical texts in such a way that they can seemingly provide support for those [Roman] doctrines. In that regard, I provided a link to a blog post I had written about Rome’s use of 1 Timothy 3:15, where I said:
My contention in this posting is that Rome’s official usage of this verse is wrong at best. But what’s worse is that in popular apologetics, Roman apologists are going far beyond what even Rome says in this verse.Rome’s misuse of the verse is bad enough [especially from an “infallible church” in an official, conciliar document]. But what’s worse is that Rome’s usage fosters a “scattering” of what this verse really says among know-nothing Roman Apologists (and others) who continue to spread these false meanings far beyond Rome’s already-bad usage of it. Here is another example from a popular Roman Catholic website:
One popular Catholic writer said this: “As Saint Paul taught, the church is ‘the pillar and ground of the truth’ – she does not err. (1 Tim 3:15)” [This was a Taylor Marshall-ism.]
1 Tim. 3:15 - Paul says the apostolic Church (not Scripture) is the pillar and foundation of the truth. But for the Church to be the pinnacle and foundation of truth, she must be protected from teaching error, or infallible. She also must be the Catholic Church, whose teachings on faith and morals have not changed for 2,000 years. God loves us so much that He gave us a Church that infallibly teaches the truth so that we have the fullness of the means of salvation in His only begotten Son.To be sure, this has nothing to do with what Paul was saying to Timothy in 1 Tim 3:15. And keep in mind, again, the topic was Martin Luther’s comment about “teaching correctly about the word of God”. Rome wasn’t doing this at the time of the Reformation, and it’s not doing it now.
In order to “teach correctly” this verse, we first need to understand what Paul is actually saying.
For background purposes, here is the passage in Greek: Ταῦτά σοι γράφω ἐλπίζων ἐλθεῖν πρὸς σὲ ἐν τάχει ἐὰν δὲ βραδύνω, ἵνα εἰδῇς πῶς δεῖ ἐν οἴκῳ θεοῦ ἀναστρέφεσθαι, ἥτις ἐστὶν ἐκκλησία θεοῦ ζῶντος, στῦλος καὶ ἑδραίωμα τῆς ἀληθείας.
Here it is in the ESV: I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.
NIV: Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.
In my original post, I provided extensive selections from three commentators, and each of those is reproduced here for anyone who wants to look at them:
The Text of 1 Tim 3:15, including the entire chapter for context.
Philip Towner on 1 Tim 3:15, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT) series, Grand Rapids, MI and Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, ©2006.
L.T. Johnson on 1 Tim 3:15, The First and Second Letters to Timothy: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries, New York, NY: The Anchor Bible Doubleday, ©2001.
George Knight on 1 Tim 3:15, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary (NIGTC) series, Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, ©1992.
Note: Clicking on the “[Name] on 1 Tim 3:15” links will take you to a blog post at my own blog that shows the scanned pages from the commentary; the links behind the commas, showing the name of the work, takes you to the Amazon.com page for that work.
Now, here is Rome’s official use of this verse in Lumen Gentium 8:
Christ, the one Mediator, established and continually sustains here on earth His holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as an entity with visible delineation through which He communicated truth and grace to all. But, the society structured with hierarchical organs and the Mystical Body of Christ, are not to be considered as two realities, nor are the visible assembly and the spiritual community, nor the earthly Church and the Church enriched with heavenly things; rather they form one complex reality which coalesces from a divine and a human element. For this reason, by no weak analogy, it is compared to the mystery of the incarnate Word. As the assumed nature inseparably united to Him, serves the divine Word as a living organ of salvation, so, in a similar way, does the visible social structure of the Church serve the Spirit of Christ, who vivifies it, in the building up of the body.
This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as “the pillar and mainstay of the truth”. This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him…
Taking the bold-face portions from Lumen Gentium, here is what Rome is saying without all the densely-packed modifiers:
Christ, the one Mediator, established and continually sustains here on earth His holy Church, [the society structured with hierarchical organs and the Mystical Body of Christ]. This is the one Church of Christ which He erected for all ages as “the pillar and mainstay of the truth”.
Rome’s language is dense, which makes it difficult to follow the main thought that’s presented here. But taking out all the modifiers, this is what we are left with. This is what we are to understand what Rome, officially, is saying. This is how Rome understands, and teaches 1 Tim 3:15. In Rome’s usage, Rome does in fact appear to be saying that Christ’s whole purpose in founding the church in its current Roman manifestation, in fact, the whole purpose of the hierarchical structure of the church is to function as a “pillar and mainstay of the truth”. But is that what Paul means? Is this anything close to what Paul is saying?
Since this is already long, I’ll pause for now, and pick up the discussion in a future blog post.