Can you explain 2 Timothy 4:13?


by Shawn Brasseaux

The Apostle Paul wrote to young pastor Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:13: “The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.” What are these “books” and “parchments?”

Winter is approaching, as verse 21 says: “Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren.” Paul is in Rome, in prison and cold, asking Timothy to bring him a coat he left far away in Turkey. Moreover, he tells Timothy to also bring him two classes of items—“the books” and “the parchments.” Precisely what are they?

Firstly, we can think of the “books” as “scrolls, writings”—the biblia. They may have very well been previously written Holy Scripture. Paul wanted to do some studying. “Parchments” corresponds to the Greek word membranas—“membranes” (sheets of animal tissue, as in a sheepskin—their “paper,” for lack of a better word). Evidently, Paul wanted to do some writing as well.

Secondly, we can think of the “books” as non-Scriptural works. That is, they may have been secular sources. Remember, Paul demonstrated himself to be familiar with and knowledgeable even in heathen/non-Christian literature (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12). Notice how the Apostle was careful to say, especially the parchments.” There is more emphasis on these parchments than on the books. The parchments, though obscure, are special. Could they have been the Holy Scriptures, thus taking precedence over the secular works? Perhaps.

Paul had written just moments earlier in the chapter: “[6] For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. [7] I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: [8] Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”

Whatever those “last-minute” items were, dear friends, our Apostle chose them of all things to occupy his time remaining on Earth. He wanted to keep his mental and spiritual faculties active right up to the very end. Even though his earthly sojourn was rapidly drawing to a close, he desired to continue learning. How much more should we today, who expect to live for many more years or decades?

Also see:
» “Epistle” and “letter”—same or different?
» Who are the prophets of Romans 16:26?
» Has God’s Word failed?