Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth (2 Tim 4:17) (NIV)

Is this Paul's reference to Colosseum and the practice of having early Christians eaten by wild animals?

share|improve this question
    
There may be a link with the Alexander in Ephesus and 1 Corinthians 15:32. Or there may not :) –  Jack Douglas Jan 12 at 14:08
    
Since construction on the Colosseum didn't begin until 70 AD, it is doubtful that this is a reference to that place. –  camainc Jan 14 at 21:49
add comment

1 Answer

up vote 6 down vote accepted

2 Tim 4:16-18 At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!

FIRST, the context is about recent developments in Paul's life - he's just been talking about his most recent trial during which God strengthened him. It is unlikely that Paul suddenly jumps to describing a completely different event without further clarification.

SECOND, the phrase "delivered from the mouth of a lion" also occurs elsewhere:

Ps 22:21 Deliver me from the lion's mouth, and from the horns of the wild oxen.

This makes perfect sense of the use of "lion" to personify troubles or enemies, e.g.

Ezekiel 1:10 There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof.

THIRD Paul, a roman citizen, could be executed only by beheading, not by being eaten by lions. He would not even have faced such a possibility.

THUS this well-known idiom is used in the context of the proceedings of Paul's (second) trial, and is thus not to be taken literally.

IF you want to argue that Paul faced wild animals in battle, you're better off arguing from 1 Cor 15:32,

What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus?

share|improve this answer
    
Was 2nd Timothy written after Paul stood before Cesar in Rome? –  brilliant Jan 12 at 23:00
    
In my opinion, and, I believe, the majority opinion, it was written during Paul's second imprisonment - he was set free, travelled a few years, was imprisoned again, and then wrote 2 Tim. @brilliant –  Niobius Jan 12 at 23:05
    
Could it be so that during his first imprisonment, before he was acquitted and, thus, set free, he was facing the option of being executed in that manner in Colosseum? Could he be referring here to that his first imprisonment and the subsequent release? –  brilliant Jan 13 at 2:28
    
I don't think so. No one believes that Paul was literally inside a lion's mouth and was delivered out of it, so we have to take it figuratively. And given that, it's best to look for evidence of an extant idiom rather than speculate about Paul's history. Moreover, Paul, a roman citizen, could be executed only by beheading, not by being eaten by lions. Will add it to the answer. @brilliant –  Niobius Jan 13 at 9:41
1  
"it's best to look for evidence of an extant idiom rather than speculate about Paul's history" - Both are needed. "No one believes that Paul was literally inside a lion's mouth and was delivered out of it" - Of course, I didn't mean the exact literal sense. "Paul, a roman citizen, could be executed only by beheading, not by being eaten by lions" - This is a very strong point. Thank you. –  brilliant Jan 13 at 10:19
show 1 more comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.