Place of Writing. -- Paul, in the interval between his first and second imprisonment, after having written First Timothy from Macedonia or Corinth [Birks] (if we are to adopt the opinion that First Timothy was written after his first imprisonment), returned to Ephesus, as he intended, by way of Troas, where he left the books, &c. (mentioned in 2Ti 4:13), with Carpus. From Ephesus he went to Crete for a short visit and returned, and then wrote to Titus. Next he went by Miletus to Corinth (2Ti 4:20), and thence to Nicopolis (Tit 3:12), whence he proceeded to Rome. From his prison there he wrote the Second Epistle to Timothy, shortly before his martyrdom. It is not certain where Timothy was at this time. Some of the internal evidences favor the view of his having been then at Ephesus; thus the salutation of Priscilla and Aquila, who generally resided there (2Ti 4:19); also that of the household of Onesiphorus, who is stated in 2Ti 1:16-18 to have ministered to Paul at Ephesus, a circumstance implying his residence there. Also, the Hymenæus of 2Ti 2:17 seems to be the same as the Hymenæus at Ephesus (1Ti 1:20); and probably |Alexander the coppersmith| (2Ti 4:14) is the same as the Alexander joined with Hymenæus (1Ti 1:20), and possibly the same as the Alexander put forward by the Jews to clear themselves, not to befriend Paul, at the riot in Ephesus (Ac 19:33, 34). The difficulty is, on this supposition, how to account for 2Ti 4:12, 20: if Timothy was at Ephesus, why did he need to be told that Paul had sent Tychicus to Ephesus? or that Paul had left Trophimus, himself an Ephesian (Ac 21:29), sick at Miletus, which was only thirty miles from Ephesus? However, see on 2Ti 4:12; 2Ti 4:20. Troas lay on the road to Rome from either Ephesus or Pontus, so that 2Ti 4:13 will accord with the theory of either Ephesus or any other place in the northwest of Asia Minor, being Timothy's place of sojourn at the time. Probably, he had the general superintendence of the Pauline churches in Asia Minor, in accordance with his mission combining the office of evangelist, or itinerant missionary, with that of presiding overseer. Ephesus was probably his headquarters.
Time of Writing. -- (1) Paul's first imprisonment, described in Ac 28:17-31, was much milder than that in which he was when writing Second Timothy. In the former, he had liberty to lodge in his own hired house, and to receive all comers, guarded only by a single soldier; in the latter, he was so closely confined that Onesiphorus with difficulty found him; he was chained, his friends had forsaken him, and he had narrowly escaped sentence of execution from the Roman emperor. Medieval legends represent the Mamertine prison, or Tullianum, as the scene of his incarceration with Peter. But this is irreconcilable with the fact of Onesiphorus, Linus, Pudens, &c., having access to him. He was probably under military custody, as in his former imprisonment, though of a severer kind (2Ti 1:16-18; 2:9; 4:6-8, 16, 17). (2) The visit to Troas (2Ti 4:13) can hardly have been that mentioned in Ac 20:5-7, the last before his first imprisonment; for, if it were, the interval between that visit and the first imprisonment would be seven or eight years, a period most unlikely for him to have allowed to pass without sending for his cloak and parchments, when they might have been of service to him in the interim. (3) Paul's leaving Trophimus sick at Miletus (2Ti 4:20), could not have been on the occasion mentioned in Ac 20:15; for, subsequent to that, Trophimus was with Paul in Jerusalem (Ac 21:29). (4) The words (2Ti 4:20), |Erastus abode at Corinth,| imply that Paul had shortly before been at Corinth, where he left Erastus. But before his first imprisonment, Paul had not been at Corinth for several years; and in the interval Timothy had been with him, so that Timothy did not need at a later period to be told about that visit (Ac 20:2, 4). For all these reasons the imprisonment, during which he wrote Second Timothy, is shown to be his second imprisonment. Moreover, Heb 13:23, 24, represents the writer (who was probably Paul) as in Italy, and at liberty. So Clement of Rome [First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1.5], the disciple of Paul, explicitly states, |In the east and west, Paul as a preacher instructed the whole world (that is, the Roman empire) in righteousness, and having gone to the extremity of the west, and having borne witness before the rulers (of Rome), he so was removed from the world.| This plainly implies that he fulfilled his design (Ro 15:24-28) of a missionary journey into Spain. The canon of the New Testament, compiled about A.D.170 (called Muratori's Canon), also mentions |the journey of Paul from Rome to Spain.| See Routh [Sacred Fragments, vol.4, p.1-12].
His martyrdom is universally said to have occurred in Nero's reign [Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 2.22; Jerome, On Illustrious Men]. Five years thus seem to have elapsed between the first imprisonment, A.D.63 (Ac 28:17-31), and his martyrdom, June A.D.68, the last year of Nero's reign. He was probably arrested by the magistrates in Nicopolis (Tit 3:12) in Epirus, in the winter, on a double charge, first, of being one of the Christians who had conspired, it was alleged by Nero's partisans, to set fire to Rome, A.D.64; secondly, of introducing a novel and unlawful religion. His friends all left him, except Luke: Demas from |love of this present world|: the others from various causes (2Ti 4:10, 11). On the first charge he seems to have been acquitted. His liberation from his first imprisonment took place in A.D.63, the year before the great fire at Rome, which Nero made the pretext for his persecution of the Christians. Every cruelty was heaped on them; some were crucified; some were arrayed in the skins of wild beasts and hunted to death by dogs; some were wrapped in pitch-robes and set on fire by night to illuminate the circus of the Vatican and gardens of Nero, while that monster mixed among the spectators in the garb of a charioteer. But now (A.D.67 or 68) some years had elapsed since the first excitement which followed the fire. Hence, Paul, being a Roman citizen, was treated in his trial with a greater respect for the forms of the law, and hence was acquitted (2Ti 4:17) on the first charge of having instigated the Christians to their supposed acts of incendiarism before his last departure from Rome. Alexander the coppersmith seems to have been a witness against him (2Ti 4:14). Had he been condemned on the first charge, he would probably have been burnt alive, as the preceding martyrs were, for arson. His judge was the city Præfect. Clement of Rome specifies that his trial was (not before the emperor, but) |before the rulers.| No advocate ventured to plead his cause, no patron appeared for him, such as under ordinary circumstances might have aided him; for instance, one of the powerful Æmilian house, under which his family possibly enjoyed clientship (2Ti 4:16, 17), whence he may have taken his name Paul. The place of trial was, probably, one of the great basilicas in the Forum, two of which were called the Pauline Basilicas, from L. Æmilius Paulus, who had built one and restored the other. He was remanded for the second stage of his trial. He did not expect this to come on until the following |winter| (2Ti 4:21), whereas it took place about midsummer; if in Nero's reign, not later than June. In the interim Luke was his only constant companion; but one friend from Asia, Onesiphorus, had diligently sought him and visited him in prison, undeterred by the danger. Linus, too, the future bishop of Rome, Pudens, the son of a senator, and Claudia, his bride, perhaps the daughter of a British king (see on 2Ti 4:21), were among his visitors; and Tychicus, before he was sent by Paul to Ephesus (2Ti 4:12; perhaps bearing with him this Epistle).
Object of the epistle. -- He was anxious to see his disciple Timothy, before his death, and that Timothy should bring Mark with him (2Ti 1:4; 4:9, 11, 21). But feeling how uncertain it was whether Timothy should arrive in time, he felt it necessary, also, to give him by letter a last warning as to the heresies, the germs of which were then being scattered in the Churches. Hence he writes a series of exhortations to faithfulness, and zeal for sound doctrine, and patience amidst trials: a charge which Timothy seems to have needed, if we are to judge from the apostle's earnestness in urging him to boldness in Christ's cause, as though Paul thought he saw in him some signs of constitutional timidity (2Ti 2:2-8; 4:1-5; 1Ti 5:22, 23).
Paul's Death. -- Dioysius, bishop of Corinth (quoted in Eusebius [Ecclesiastical History, 2.25]) about A.D.170, is the earliest authority for the tradition that Peter suffered martyrdom at Rome |about the same time| as Paul, after having labored for some time there. He calls Peter and Paul |the founders of the Corinthian and Roman Churches.| The Roman presbyter, Caius (about A.D.200), mentions the tradition that Peter suffered martyrdom in the Vatican. But (1) Peter's work was among the Jews (Ga 2:9), whereas Rome was a Gentile Church (Ro 1:13. Moreover, (2) the First Epistle of Peter (1Pe 1:1; 5:13) represents him as laboring in Babylon in Mesopotamia. (3) The silence concerning Peter of Paul's Epistles written in Rome, negatives the tradition of his having founded, or labored long at Rome; though it is possible he may have endured martyrdom there. His martyrdom, certainly, was not, as Jerome says, |on the same day| with that of Paul, else Paul would have mentioned Peter's being at Rome in 2Ti 4:11. The legend says that Peter, through fear, was fleeing from Rome at early dawn by the Appian Way, when he met our Lord, and falling at His feet, asked, Lord, whither goest thou? to which the Lord replied, I go again to be crucified. The disciple returned penitent and ashamed, and was martyred. The Church of Domine quo vadis, on the Appian Way, commemorates the supposed fact. Paul, according to Caius (quoted in Eusebius [Ecclesiastical History, 2.25]), suffered martyrdom on the Ostian Way. So also Jerome, who gives the date, the fourteenth year of Nero. It was common to send prisoners, whose death might attract too much notice at Rome, to some distance from the city, under a military escort, for execution; hence the soldier's sword, not the executioner's axe, was the instrument of his decapitation [Orosius, The Seven Books of History against the Pagans, 7.7]. Paul appears, from Php 1:12-30, to have had his partisans even in the palace, and certainly must have exercised such an influence as would excite sympathy in his behalf, to avoid which the execution was ordered outside the city. Compare Tacitus [Histories, 4.11]. The Basilica of St. Paul, first built by Constantine, now stands outside Rome on the road to Ostia: before the Reformation it was under the protection of the kings of England, and the emblem of the order of the Garter is still to be seen among its decorations. The traditional spot of the martyrdom is the Tre Fontane, not far from the Basilica [Conybeare and Howson].
2Ti 1:1-18. Address: Thankful Expression of Love and Desire to See Him: Remembrance of His Faith and That of His Mother and Grandmother. Exhortation to Stir Up the Gift of God in Him, and Not Shrink from Affliction, Enforced by the Consideration of the Freeness of God's Grace in Our Gospel Calling, and by the Apostle's Example. The Defection of Many: The Steadfastness of Onesiphorus.