When did Paul write 1&2 Timothy and Titus?


One of the difficulties involved in the study of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus is determining when these letters were written. Were they written from within the time frame covered by the book of Acts, and if so, where in that timeframe? Or were they written later, and if so, what does that indicate about the events of Paul's life subsquent to Acts 28?

A chronology of Timothy's travels, as best we can discern, is given below.

Following that is a series of questions designed to lead you through the evidence that must be considered to determine when Paul wrote 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus.

Chronology of Timothy's Travels

1st Journey

45 Timothy converted by Paul at Lystra? (See 1 Co 4:17; 1 Ti 1:2, 18) Ac 14:6-23


2nd Journey

50/51 At Lystra, Paul is joined by Timothy Ac 16:1-4

51/52 Timothy remains at Berea when Paul is sent to Athens Ac 17:13-15

51/52 Timothy rejoins Paul at Corinth. Cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:6, this epistle apparently written from Corinth. Ac 18:5


3rd Journey

54/55 From Ephesus, Paul sent Timothy to Macedonia Ac 19:22

57 Paul writes 1 Corinthians while at Ephesus (1 Co 15:8, 19; cf. Ac 18:18-19), and mentions having sent Timothy to Corinth (1 Co 4:17, 16:10-11), who presumably planned to proceed there from Macedonia

57 When Paul wrote 2 Corinthians while in Macedonia (2 Co 8:1-5), Timothy was once again with him, as evidenced by 2 Co 1:1 Ac 20:1

58 Timothy accompanied Paul to Corinth, as is indicated in Paul's

letter to the Romans (16:21), which he wrote from Corinth (Ro 15:25-26; 16:23, cf. 1 Cor 1:14) Ac 20:2-3

58 Timothy proceeded (perhaps in advance of Paul, Ac 20:5) to Troas, and was with Paul there Ac 20:4-5


Paul's return to Jerusalem

58 ?

Paul's imprisonment at Jerusalem and Caesarea

58-60 ?

Paul's imprisonment at Rome

62/63 Timothy's presence with Paul in Rome is indicated Ac 28 by Colossians 1:1, Philemon 1:1, and Philippians 1:1 or later

Determining when Paul wrote 1&2 Timothy and Titus

In 1 Timothy, the most important clue that we are given as to when the letter might have been written is found in 1 Tim. 1:3. Paul says, "As I exhorted thee to tarry at Ephesus, when I was going into Macedonia, that thou mightest chargte certain men not to teach a different doctrine..."  We need to ask, to what "going into Macedonia" does 1:3 refer? Let's begin by considering occasions when we know Paul either left Ephesus or arrived at Macedonia.

u Paul went into Macedonia in Acts 16 during his travel with Silas. This is the occasion when Lydia and the Philippian jailor obeyed the gospel.

  1. Did Paul go to Macedonia from Ephesus?
  2. Did Paul leave Timothy anywhere when he went into Macedonia on this occasion?
  3. Is it likely this is the occasion mentioned in 1 Tim. 1:3?

u Paul left Ephesus in Acts 18:19-21

  1. Did Paul go to Macedonia at this time?
  2. Whom did Paul leave behind at Ephesus?
  3. Is it likely this is the occasion mentioned in 1 Tim. 1:3?

u Consider Acts 20:1

  1. Did Paul leave Ephesus on this occasion?
  2. Did Paul enter Macedonia on this occasion?
  3. Did Paul leave Timothy behind at Ephesus on this occasion? (See Acts 19:21-22, 20:3-4).
  4. Could Timothy have gone to Macedonia per Ac 19:22, returned to Ephesus, stayed there when Paul left (Ac 20:1), and then caught up with Paul in Macedonia or Achaia? Consider whether or not this would have allowed Timothy time to accomplish what Paul charged him with accomplishing in 1 Timothy.

u If 1 Tim. 1:3 refers to none of the above mentioned occasions, it must refer to an unrecorded departure from Ephesus to Macedonia, either within the period covered by Acts, or after.

  1. How thoroughly does it seem that Paul's travels are documented in Acts, for the time period covered?
  2. Paul wrote Philemon while a prisoner in Rome. What does Philemon 22 indicate about Paul's expectation?
  3. Paul also wrote Philippians while a prisoner in Rome. What is indicated about Paul's expectation in Phil. 1:25-26 and 2:24?
  4. What does 2 Timothy 4:6-8 indicate about Paul's expectation?

u Certain early extra-Biblical sources tend to confirm the idea that Paul was set free after his first imprisonment at Rome, viz. Eusebius (http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF2-01/Npnf2-01-07.htm#P1347_630318), Clement of Rome (http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-01/anf01-05.htm#P210_28301), the Muratorian Fragment (http://www.bible-researcher.com/muratorian.html). You may want to look at some of these sources and see if you can discern anything about the outcome of the Roman imprisonment that Luke describes in Acts 28.