Hymenaeus & Alexander

Hymenaeus was an opponent of the Apostle Paul, and was associated with Alexander in 1 Timothy 1:18-20. Alexander was a Jewish coppersmith who, with Hymenaeus and others, promulgated certain heresies regarding the resurrection (1 Timothy 1:19; 2 Timothy 4:14), and made shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience. Paul excommunicated him, as is seen in 1 Timothy 1:20.[1]

Paul J. Achtemeier makes mention on Hymenaeus’ heretical beliefs which made him an apostate: “With Philetus, Hymenaeus held that the general resurrection was already past (cf. 2 Thess. 2:1-2). Gnostic dualistic assumptions probably supported an anti-Pauline spiritualizing of the Christian hope and a denial of bodily resurrection.[2] A. F. Walls adds to Achtemeier’s comments above saying,

“It had not, however, evoked repentance when 2 Tim. 2:17 was written. The error of Hymenaeus and others, described in clinical terms as ‘feeding like gangrene’, was still much in Paul’s mind. It involved a ‘spiritualization’ of the resurrection (including, doubtless, the judgment), doctrine always repugnant to the Greek mind: there were similar misunderstandings at Corinth earlier (1 Cor. 15:12). Such ideas took various forms in Gnostic religion: cf. the claim of the false teachers in the Acts of Paul and Thecla 14 (combining two ideas): ‘We will teach thee of that resurrection which he asserteth, that it is already come to pass in the children which we have, and we rise again when we have come to the knowledge of the true God’ (tr. M. R. James, Apocryphal New Testament, p. 275).[3]

Hymenaeus and Alexander worked together to mislead and falsely teach others into apostasy, claiming to be true believers of God, yet they did not follow the true teachings of the New Covenant Church about Jesus Christ, and for this they were handed to Satan for his workmanship and not that of the One whom they thought they knew. While writing to Timothy, Paul saw fit that he be well aware of those that were claiming to be believers of God, yet proclaiming another gospel—these being apostates that falsely teach, misleading others under their apostate teaching. Like that of Judas, Paul makes specific mention of those that are under Satan’s work; in 1 Timothy: 1:18-20 he says,

“This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”

Matthew Henry, in his commentary on 1 Timothy, says,

“As for those who had made shipwreck of the faith, he specifies two, Hymeneus and Alexander, who had made a profession of the Christian religion, but had quitted that profession; and Paul had delivered them to Satan, had declared them to belong to the kingdom of Satan, and, as some think, had, by an extraordinary power, delivered them to be terrified or tormented by Satan, that they might learn not to blaspheme not to contradict or revile the doctrine of Christ and the good ways of the Lord.”[4]

For the Church dealing with apostates today, it is crucial to understand the relationship that occurs between those that are in the Church and those that merely claim to be in the Church. If a believer knows an apostate, it is natural to want to fight to bring them back to the gospel that was left. However, Paul sees that it is perfectly acceptable that there is a time, after much has been done, to let the apostate leave to go to their master whom they serve—Satan—and let them be, yet remaining aware of them and their false teaching. Simon Robinson gives a pastoral approach of looking at this, saying, “This may seem hard but it is the loving thing to do because it enables the people concerned to realize the seriousness of their rebellion against God and it will also serve as a warning to the rest of the church not to follow such examples.”[5] Matthew Henry also brings to light the primary purpose of the New Testament Church, and her dealing with false teachers/apostates:

Observe, The primary design of the highest censure in the primitive church was to prevent further sin and to reclaim the sinner. In this case it was for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.[6]

Today in the New Covenant, the Church deals with those that claim to preach and teach the Word of God, proclaiming they are saved by Jesus Christ, but are misleading thousands of men and women with their false teaching of the gospel. However, it is the true Church’s job to understand that these people are a work of Satan, like that of Hymenaeus and Alexander who worked together against the gospel. As Paul helped equip Timothy to be prepared for these men, the same must be seen in the Church today, in that pastors and elders must continue to prepare the Church for those that falsely teach and lead others astray from the truth of Jesus Christ.

[1] M.G. Easton, Easton’s Bible Dictionary (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

[2] Paul J. Achtemeier, Publishers Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, 1st ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), pp. 413.

[3] D. R. W. Wood and I. Howard Marshall, New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996), pp. 492.

[4] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996), 1 Ti 1:18–20.

[5] Simon J. Robinson, Opening Up 1 Timothy (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2004), pp. 31.

[6] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996), 1 Ti 1:18–20.


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