John Calvin Complete Commentary - 1 Timothy 1:4 - 1:4

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John Calvin Complete Commentary - 1 Timothy 1:4 - 1:4


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4And not to give heed to fables He applies the term “” in my opinion, not only to contrived falsehoods, but to trifles or fooleries which have no solidity; for it is possible that something which is not false may yet be fabulous. In this sense, Suetonius speaks of fabulous history, (5) and Livy employs the word fabulari , “ relate fables,” as denoting useless and foolish talk. And, undoubtedly, the word μῦθος (which Paul here employs,) is equivalent to the Greek word φλυαρία that is, “” Moreover, by bringing forward one class by way of example, he has removed all doubt; for disputes about genealogies are enumerated by him amongst fables, not because everything that can be said about them is fictitious, but because it is useless and unprofitable.

This passage, therefore, may thus be explained: — “ them not give heed to fables of that character and description to which genealogies belong.” And that is actually the fabulous history of which Suetonius speaks, and which even among grammarians, has always been justly ridiculed by persons of sound judgment; for it was impossible not to regard as ridiculous that curiosity which, neglecting useful knowledge, spent the whole life in examining the genealogy of Achilles and Ajax, and wasted its powers in reckoning up the sons of Priam. If this be not endured in childish knowledge, in which there is room for that which affords pleasure, how much more intolerable is it heavenly wisdom (6) ?

And to genealogies haste have end (7) He calls them endless, because vain curiosity has no limit, but continually falls from labyrinth to labyrinth.

Which produce questions He judges of doctrine by the fruit; for every thing that does not edify ought to be rejected, although it has no other fault; and everything that is of no avail but for raising contentions, ought to be doubly condemned. And such are all the subtle questions on which ambitious men exercise their faculties. Let us, therefore, remember, that all doctrines must be tried by this rule, that those which contribute to edification may be approved, and that those which give ground for unprofitable disputes may be rejected as unworthy of the Church of God.

If this test had been applied during several centuries, although religion had been stained by many errors, at least that diabolical art of disputing, which has obtained the appellation of Scholastic Theology, would not have prevailed to so great an extent. For what does that theology contain but contentions or idle speculations, from which no advantage is derived? Accordingly, the more learned a man is in it, we ought to account him the more wretched. I am aware of the plausible excuses by which it is defended, but they will never make out that Paul has spoken falsely in condemning, everything of the sort.

Rather than the edification of God. (8) Subtleties of this description edify in pride, and edify in vanity, but not in God. He calls it “ edification of God,” either because God approves of it, or because it is agreeable to the nature of God. (9)

Which consist in faith. He next shews that this edification consists in faith; and by this term he does not exclude the love of our neighbor, or the fear of God, or repentance; for what are all these but fruits of “” which always produces the fear of God? Knowing that all the worship of God is founded on faith alone, he therefore reckoned it enough to mention “” on which all the rest depend.

(5) “Et c’ en ceste signification que Suetone, en la vie de Tibere, dit que cest empereur la s’ fort a l’ fabuleuse.” — “ it is in this sense that Suetonius, in his life of Tiberius, says that that emperor amused himself very much with fabulous history.”

(6) “ we see more clearly, that Paul did not merely condemn in this passage doctrines which are altogether false, and which contain some blasphemies, but likewise all those useless speculations which serve to turn aside believers from the pure simplicity of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is what Paul includes under the word “” for he means not only deliberate and manifest falsehoods, but likewise everything that is of no use, and this is implied in the word which he employs. What, then, does Paul set aside in this passage? All curious inquiries, all speculations which serve only to annoy and distress the mind, or in which there is nothing but a fair show and display, and which do not promote the salvation of those who hear them. This must be carefully remembered, for we shall afterwards see that the reason why Paul speaks of them in this manner is, that the word of God must be profitable. (2Ti_3:16.) All who do not apply the word of God to good profit and advantage are despisers and falsifiers of good doctrine.” — Fr. Ser.

(7) ᾿Απέραντος properly signifies interminable. Hence there is also an implicit sense of what is unprofitable. This, indeed, some, but I think injudiciously, make the principal one.” — Bloomfield.

(8) “ than godly edifying,” — Eng. Tr.

(9) “ word edify is sufficiently common in the Holy Scripture, but is not understood by all. In order to understand it aright, let us observe, that it is a comparison which is set before us; for we ought to be temples of God, because he wishes to dwell in us. — Those who profit in a right manner, that is, in faith, in the fear of God, in holiness of life, are said to be edified; that is, God builds them to be his temples, and wishes to dwell in them; and also that we should unitedly form a temple of God, for each of us is a stone of that temple. Thus, when each of us shall be well instructed in his duty, and when we shall all be united in holy brotherhood, then shall we be edified in God. It is true, that men may sometimes be edified in pride: as we see that they who take delight in their vain imaginations, and who spread their wings, and swell themselves out like toads, think that they are well edified. Alas! what a poor building is this! But Paul expressly says, that we must be edified according to God. By which he shews, that when we shall be instructed to serve God, to render to him pure worship, to place all our confidence in him, this is the edification at which we must aim; and every doctrine that has that tendency is good and holy, and ought to be received; but all that is opposed to it must be rejected without farther dispute: it is unnecessary to make any longer inquiry. And why must this or that be rejected? Because it does not contribute to the edification of God.” — Fr. Ser.