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Paul wrote to Timothy in his first letter to him:

Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. -1 Timothy 4:14

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul says something similar:

For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. -2 Timothy 1:6

My question is: What is Paul referring to in 1 Tim. 4:14?

There are three things I'd like the answer to address:

  • Is 2 Tim. 1:6 a parallel to 1 Tim. 4:14? That is, do they refer to the same "gift" and the same "laying on of hands" event? I ask because this could affect our interpretation of 1 Tim. 4:14.

  • What "spiritual gift" is Paul referring to in 1 Tim. 4:14?

  • What "laying on of hands" is Paul referring to in 1 Tim. 4:14? Is this just referring to the baptism in the Spirit and a gift that came as a result, or is there reason to believe this was a subsequent event to the initial impartation/baptism of the Spirit?

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  • Please note that I am asking this on BH.SE intentionally. I am looking for an explanation from exegesis -- not from church doctrine
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 18:32
  • The gift refers to the permanant mark on his soul each priest recieves on his ordination. Paul is ordaining Timothy with the sacrament of Holy Orders, making him part of the ministerial priesthood which is preserved today through the laying on of hands
    – user3631
    Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 0:50

7 Answers 7

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As to your first question:

Is 2 Tim. 1:6 a parallel to 1 Tim. 4:14? That is, do they refer to the same "gift" and the same "laying on of hands" event?

According to the several Bibles and commentaries I've examined, yes.


As to your second question:

What "spiritual gift" is Paul referring to in 1 Tim. 4:14?

Ignatius (Epistle to the Ephesians 13, ca. 107 CE) apparently believed that spiritual gift meant being:

  1. a follower of "the love of God towards man" and
  2. "stirring up yourselves by the blood of Christ".

Codices Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus, and Greek New Testaments (GNT's) N-A27, and N-A28 identify that spiritual gift as ΧΑΡΙΣΜΑΤΟΣ (χαρισματος / charismatos at 1 Tim. 4:14) and ΧΑΡΙΣΜΑ (χαρισμα / charisma at 2 Tim. 1:6) with both words referring to a divinely-conferred and free gift.

Zodhiates (Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible 1984) explains, in part:

"The gift is called charisma [and is] the result of grace, charis [and] is exactly the same word [seen] in I Cor. 12 where gifts (charismata) are enumerated.... The same gift is referred to in I Tim. 4:14."

The New Living Translation (NLT) Study Bible also identifies the spiritual gift mentioned by Paul as charisma, and points out that it is:

"the Holy Spirit's enablement for ministry."


And as to your third question: "is Paul referring to ... the baptism in the Spirit and a gift that came as a result, or ... a subsequent event to the initial impartation/baptism of the Spirit?"

"In Act 13:2., when Barnabas and Saul were formally set apart to the mission campaign ..., there was the call of the Spirit and the laying on of hands with prayer. Here again meta does not express instrument or means, but merely accompaniment. In 2Tim 1:6 Paul speaks only of his own laying on of hands, but the rest of the presbytery no doubt did so at the same time and the reference is to this incident" (Robertson Word Pictures in the NT, where the laying on of hands by both Paul and the elders was apparently accompanied by prophecies uttered by the participating elders of the congregation; cp. Vincent Word Studies).

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  • Thanks. Some good stuff here. I'd like a bit more explanation on all three parts to the question, though. Part 1: you say "yes" but don't give me any reason other than "stuff you've seen"... Part 2: are we looking at a specific gift (e.g. from 1 Cor. 12) or not?... Part 3: I need some explanation, not just a quote. (Why is this commentator more credible than the next 50?)
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 18:18
  • PART 1: refer to your preferred biblical commentary(-ies) for more specific information. PART 2: I concur with Zodhiates (ibid. at 2 Tim. 1:6) that "[t]here is no complete list of all the gifts [however] this was the gift that came upon Timothy as a result of his ordination to the ministry .... The same gift is referred to in I Tim. 4:14." PART 3: there's little or no need for me to explain what someone else has said. I thought the comments, information, and explanatory quotes I used answered your questions satisfactorily. If not, then perhaps someone else will share their personal conclusion. Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 17:20
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Is 2 Tim. 1:6 a parallel to 1 Tim. 4:14? That is, do they refer to the same "gift" and the same "laying on of hands" event? I ask because this could affect our interpretation of 1 Tim. 4:14.

These verses are parallel for three reasons. First, the word for "gift" (χάρισμα) and "hands" (χειρῶν) is the same, and the entire construction looks similar. Second, the author is the same. Third, the recipient is the same. (Even if you question the authorship of one/both books, the authors would still be writing as the same person and directing their letter [at least rhetorically] to the same individual).

Thus if one were to argue that these are referring to different gifts, the burden of proof would be on the one showing how these are not the same.

What "spiritual gift" is Paul referring to in 1 Tim. 4:14?

This is traditionally interpreted as the office of overseer. The primary reason for this is because of the mention of "laying on of hands."

What "laying on of hands" is Paul referring to in 1 Tim. 4:14? Is this just referring to the baptism in the Spirit and a gift that came as a result, or is there reason to believe this was a subsequent event to the initial impartation/baptism of the Spirit?

This is traditionally interpreted as an ordination practice (which is still practiced by many denominations today). One clue to this is the broader context of the book. 1 and 2 Timothy are two of the three pastoral epistles, which talk much of offices of ministry.

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  • Thanks. +1. I'm not as interested in tradition, but I appreciated the exegetical insights.
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 2:45
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Evangelist You, however, be self-controlled in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:5.

This scripture identifies this gift as that of Evangelist, which is the same gift in Ephesians 4:11. In context of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (and the work that Paul instructed them to carry out) it is clear we in the Body of Christ have a very muddled and confused view of "Evangelist" today. He is not a Billy Graham holding city-wide crusades. He was "to ordain (appoint) elders in every city" as in Titus. He was to set things in order in local congregations and keep them in order (1 Timothy 5:19-22) , all in the context of teaching sound doctrine which Paul spells out clearly in all three books. In other words these are not "pastoral" epistles. They are "evangelist's" epistles and I believe the reasons stated above would indicate that both Timothy and Titus received this Ephesians 4:11 gift.

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  • Hmm... interesting take. +1 I heard something recently that defined Evangelist in the same way you have here.
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 2:42
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Good question here and I was just wondering the same thing after having recently studied 1 and 2 Timothy. But interestingly enough, what brought me back to 1 and 2 Timothy and this forum post was a verse in Romans (1:11),

"For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established."

"Gift" here is the Greek word "charisma". Just like in 1 and 2 Timothy. "Gifts" (charisma) is also mentioned in Paul's teachings about spiritual "gifts" in 1 Corinthians 12. But I think Paul is talking more along the lines of his teachings in Ephesians 4:11-16 in regard to Timothy in 1 and 2 Timothy. After considering all these verses I think in regard to Timothy specifically that, of course Timothy was baptized in the Holy Spirit but was also given a very special position in the church mentioned in Ephesians 4 ("apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers," v11). AND perhaps Timothy also had one or more of the spiritual gifts mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12. One only needs to search any bible software and see how often he was mentioned in Scripture and how important he was to Paul. Link to Greek word "charisma": http://biblehub.com/greek/5486.htm

Lord bless!

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  • This answer is a bit rambling and hard to follow. Please consider fully quoting the verses that you cite, and indicating the translation that you are using, and breaking the answer into two or three paragraphs, each paragraph making a specific point.
    – user17080
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 10:20
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When I was going through 2 Tim 1 carefully, I noticed that Paul was using this particular word "I was persuaded" to lay on my hands that Timothy you should stir up the gift of faith that's in him. Note 2 Tim 5, Paul was commending Timothy about his unfeigned faith (which was in his grandmother and mother also). It's clearly the gift of faith Paul was taking about. Both the scriptures 1 tim 4:14 and 2 Tim 1:6 refer to this same gift, the gift of faith. Needless to mention, the bible heroes mentioned in Hebrews 11 are accoladed for their faith. Kindly read 1 and 2 Timothy, you will get more insight. May God give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus Christ and strengthen your inner man to boldly do the ministry God's given you. God's richest blessings of grace and peace be with you. Balamurali Raju.

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I actually wrote my master's thesis on this, many years ago now. To understand what Paul is talking about it's necessary to remember that Paul was a Jewish rabbi, which tells us that he generally used terms taken from Judaism the same way the first century (second Temple Judaism) did. In this case the term "laying on hands" refers to a transfer of authority from those who have it to someone judged worthy and appointed/called. This was seen not just as a sort of administration ritual but was understood to impart an actual gift which set the person apart. This is where the concept of ordination comes from, and is what is meant by:

And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.

The first clause excludes anyone claiming to speak for God without having been authorized, the second and third together indicate that God does not call men to this office directly but through others since Aaron was called by God through Moses.

In the rabbinic literature there are actually two phrases that get translated into the Greek as "laying on hands"; one is actually "leaning on hands" (Hebrew סמיכה -- it's also used for the priest laying hands on a sacrifice), and that's the version here. It was done with actual physical pressure applied and required at least three rabbis. The other involved just light contact. It's interesting that the "leaning" was understood to convey an enduring gift while the mere "laying" conferred a momentary gift, most commonly healing.

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I believe that I Timothy 4:14 and II Timothy 1:6 are referring to Timothy's gift of his calling and election as unctioned by The Holy Spirit which is acknowledged, confirmed and declared by the laying on of hands of the presbytery (the hands of the collective spiritually mature ministers of Christ of Timothy and Paul's affiliation) who acknowledge the Spirit's impartation of this gift.

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    Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! Thank you for taking the time to share your insights. Due to the nature of this site, a reference may be required to support your conclusions. Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 20:43
  • Questions here are looking for answers that show the techniques used to arrive at your conclusions - joining the dots from the text itself all the way up. You've just given us what you believe not the crucial why you believe it. Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 6:55

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