Hebrews – Chapter Thirteen XXXVII

by Ed Urzi

“Know that our brother Timothy has been set free, with whom I shall see you if he comes shortly” (Hebrews 13:23).

The author of Hebrews continued his closing remarks to his audience with some information regarding their mutual friend Timothy. Timothy was certainly an important figure within the early church as evidenced by the fact that his name appears at least two dozen times within the pages of the New Testament.

Based on what we know from the Biblical book of Acts, it appears that Timothy was a native of a town named Lystra, a village that was located within the modern-day country of Turkey. He presumably became a Christian through Paul’s evangelistic efforts and later went on to accompany him on his second missionary journey.

Timothy also served as a kind of troubleshooting emissary for Paul at various points throughout his ministry. For instance, Paul sent Timothy to work with the church at Corinth with the following recommendation: “…I have sent Timothy to you, who is my dear and faithful son in the Lord. He will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:17 NET). Paul also sent Timothy to assist the churches of Macedonia (Acts 19:21-22), the church at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2) and may have sent him to work with the church in the ancient city of Philippi as well (Philippians 2:19).

So this brief update offers some clues regarding the author of this letter. First, Timothy was obviously someone who was known to both the sender and the recipients of this letter. He likely was (or had been) a companion of the author. However, it seems they were separated by a considerable distance during this time, as indicated by our author’s pending travel plans: “If [Timothy] comes here soon, I will bring him with me to see you” (NLT).

For these reasons, many believe that Paul the Apostle is the author of this letter to the Hebrews. Since Paul mentioned Timothy in most of his New Testament letters, this view has widespread support. However, that conclusion is hardly definitive, for Timothy undoubtedly knew many leaders within the early church.

With these things in mind, one source offers a possible scenario: “Because Timothy was recently freed (Heb_13:23) and the work was apparently written from Italy (Heb_13:24), we may assume that Timothy was arrested in Rome during the Neronian persecution (probably shortly after he came to see Paul—2Ti_4:21) and freed when Nero (and his policy) died in A.D. 68.” (1)

(1) Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary, [Hebrews- Introduction] Copyright © 1993