Biblical Translation Copyright disclaimers
Some people may currently and sadly hold the incorrect interpretation of this passage thinking that it may be saying ‘dear Timothy the disciple was circumcised either against his will or to please others…’;
Such an interpretation is incorrect, and let us understand why.
First let’s read the passage;
1 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
Acts 16:1-3 ESV
Firstly dear reader, we must note that in no place has circumcision been abolished here in this passage – no, not at all.
With this, and with the weight of the rest of all Holy Scripture [see the commandment of circumcision section] – this passage actually shows us that circumcision, and the rest of Torah law still applies today – as circumcision is upheld here before our very eyes.
Here is what we can understand from Acts 16:1-3;
Timothy’s mother is confirmed to be both a Jewish woman and also a believer.
Timothy’s father was confirmed to be a Greek – however, nowhere in the passage does it say that Timothy’s father was a believer.
Timothy’s father was likely not a believer at that particular point in time – as it says ‘…but his father was a Greek…’ in verse 1 in order to make a distinction between Timothy’s believing mother and his then dear unbelieving Greek father;
‘…the son of a certain women, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek…’
(Acts 16:1 KJV)
The use of the word ‘…but…’ when describing Timothy’s father after it described Timothy’s mother as both a believer and a Jewess; denotes Timothy’s father as an unbelieving Gentile (a Greek), at that time.
Two Questions To Consider
Here are two questions which might assist us in summarising the context of Acts 16:1,
Why would it state that Timothy’s mother was both a believer, and also a Jew?
To make a point; to confirm these two specific matters.
Why then does it use the word ‘but’ when it moves to address Timothy’s father’s ethnicity, though, the verse does not state that the father believed at that time as well?
Because he was a Greek who was not a believer at that time, then and thus naturally would not have encouraged circumcision.
If we visit verse 3, it says;
Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
Acts 16:3 ESV
In context it says that potential Jewish hearers of the Gospel knew that at that time Timothy’s father was an unbelieving Greek. Timothy wanted to practice what he preaches, and the opportunity to share the Gospel with the apostle Paul presented itself as a blessed occasion to uphold the commandment;
‘…he took him and circumcised him…’
(Acts 16:3 ESV)
And with regard to practising what we preach;
‘…first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.’
Matthew 7:5 ESV
Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
Revelation 14:12 KJV
Acts 16:1-3 in no place abolishes circumcision, and in no way says that the disciple Timothy was circumcised against his will, or to please others.
In context, the passage shows us that dear Timothy wanted to observe Torah Law, like the Apostle Paul (Romans 3:31, Acts 21:24, Acts 28:17) – and also practice what he preaches.
With this we can see that Timothy was led in his heart to be an imitator of those of faith (1 Cor 11:1), and that the meeting with the faithful apostle Paul was opportune to uphold this commandment – Timothy went and got circumcised.
For the sake of disclosure, the approach is for people to never force a new believer to get a circumcision (Galatians 2:3).
May the Holy G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; bless you beyond maximum, believing in His risen Son the Lord Jesus Christ (Adonai Yehoshua HaMoshiach). Omayn (Amen).