Thursday, January 26, 2006

St. Timothy

The feast of St. Timothy -- a 1st century disciple of St. Paul, bishop and martyr -- is celebrated on this day.

Timothy’s story is a study in the tensions Christianity endured in the Jewish world during its earliest days. Timothy's father was a Christian adherent and his mother, Eunice, was a Jewish woman. After studying the scriptures and expressing his desire to follow Paul in his mission of conversion, Paul asked young Timothy, because of his mixed background, to be circumcised so as to make him acceptable to "Jewish Christians" who followed the Jewish hygiene laws.

It was a purely political request on Paul’s part, in that Paul himself did not view circumcision as an essential ritual -- but, man, I mean, it was a little more drastic than when Disneyland used to require me to cut my hair short when I worked there back in the 80s! Furthermore, it is kind of remarkable in that it suggests that perhaps Jewish Christians were in the habit of checking under the tunics of their spiritual guides so they could prejudge their credence and theological validity. Be that as it may . . . in adult males, the bleeding from a circumcision is typically quite extensive, I'm told, so Timothy's sacrifice should be considered to be a significant one due to the pain involved -- just as it was painful for the thousands of adult Jewish males who left the Soviet Union in the 1980s and underwent the same experience after having lived under a regime which prohibited circumcision.

At any rate, after his circumcision, Timothy traveled with Paul and went as Paul’s representative to Thessalonica, Macedonia and Corinth, reminding the locals of Paul’s teaching and sending back reports which occasionally inspired Paul to write epistles (i.e. the epistles to the Corinthians, Thessalonians, etc.). Two of Paul’s letters to Timothy have become books of the New Testament, the first written in Macedonia in 65 and the second written from Paul’s prison cell in Rome shortly before his execution.

Later legend holds that Timothy became bishop of Ephesus and died in a shower of stones as he attempted to stop the celebration of Katagogia, a pagan festival in honor of Dionysius.

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