The new issue of New Testament Studies includes my short article, “Almsgiving is ‘the Commandment’: A Note on 1 Timothy 6.6-19”.
Here’s a link to the full text.
There are two thorny problems in 1 Timothy 6:6-19. First, why does the author interrupt two discussions of money with a charge to Timothy to “keep the commandment”? Second, what on earth is “the commandment”? In this article I argue that there is one surprisingly simple solution to both of these questions.
In Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs and various rabbinic texts ‘the commandment’ refers to almsgiving. This idiom also has precursors in earlier texts such as Sirach. If one reads 6:6-19 on the hypothesis that the author was employing this idiom the whole passage snaps into focus. Verses 6-10 describe how the pursuit of money
can lead to spiritual ruin. In vv.11-16 Timothy is given the antidote to such ruin. He is to A) flee from
the love of money, B) pursue instead righteousness, godliness etc., and C) take
hold of eternal life (ἐπιλαβοῦ τῆς αἰωνίου ζωῆς) and keep the commandment until Christ appears. Verses 17-18 repeat this advice, adapting it to
apply to the rich. They are A) not to be proud because of their
money nor put their hope in it; B) rather, they should put their hope in God,
and C) give their money away in order to take hold of true life (ἐπιλάβωνται τῆς ὄντως ζωῆς). If “the commandment”
here refers to almsgiving then the author would simply be telling Timothy the same
thing that Timothy is to tell the rich: instead of pursuing money, pursue
eternal life and give alms. The idiom of almsgiving as ‘the commandment’ not
only explains why the author simply speaks of ‘the commandment’ with no further
clarification; it also fits hand in glove with 6.6-19 as a whole.
Also, check out the article by Duke’s own Robert Moses in the same issue. "Jesus Barabbas, a Nominal Messiah? Text and History in Matthew 27.16-17.