Friday, 11 May 2018
Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments. 2 Timothy 4:13
Paul now makes a specific request for Timothy to accomplish. He says, “Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come.” It seems like a simple thing to request, easy to translate, and without any need for conflict in interpretation. And yet, it is none of these. The word is found only here in the New Testament, phelonés. Some say it is the same as the Latin word paenula, a cape which fell down below the knees.
Others say that it is a phailone which speaks of a carrying bag. This is how the translator of the Syriac understood it. Others come to one of these two same conclusions using different Greek words, either a cloak or a carrying case. Some have even combined the two, thus signifying a cloak used for carrying.
It is truly hard to be dogmatic with a word used only once, and which has so many possible roots. If it is a cloak, the request is not at all unreasonable. If winter were coming, a cloak of this type could mean life or death for a man bound in a cold Roman prison. There would even be an urgency to it. It may have been hot when he left, and he thought he would not need it immediately. However, with an extended time in prison, the need arose for his garment. Sleeping in one’s garment is actually a concept found in the Old Testament –
“If you ever take your neighbor’s garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down. 27 For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in? And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious.” Exodus 22:26, 27
This general thought is repeated in Deuteronomy 24:13 as well. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine Paul, a man who was so well traveled, and who would constantly move from one clime to another, would go along his route without a cloak that was needed when it was cold. And so the second option is also quite possible. If so, he had a traveling case that he left behind in the care of “Carpus at Troas.” This is the only time Carpus is mentioned in the Bible, but he was obviously someone who could be trusted by Paul. Whether cloak or carrying case, Paul had entrusted something important to him.
The idea of it being a carrying case is then bolstered by the words to Timothy that he was also to bring “the books, especially the parchments.” These would have been Paul’s cherished copies of Scripture, possibly including early copies of the gospel of Matthew, Mark, and even Luke. They could have source material for all of Luke’s interviews and the like. There could have been the writings of Greek philosophers, at times quoted by Paul during his travels and in his epistles. Whatever they contained, a carrying case would make complete sense for Paul to request.
The word “books” is translated from biblion, meaning a papyrus roll; a paper. The word “parchments” is translated from a word unique in the New Testament, membrana. One can see the modern word “membrane” as coming from it. It signifies a sheep-skin; a parchment. Whatever was written on these parchments, be it Scripture, or letters from churches, or whatever else, they were especially important to Paul. He wanted them possibly even as a witness during any trial he would face.
Life application: Is the Bible so important to you that you would request it to be brought to you if you were restricted to a hospital, a prison, or some other type of place? Or would you ask for your favorite movie to be brought to you? The most valuable possession that anyone could possess is often treated as something cumbersome or useless to their needs at such times. In fact, exactly the opposite is true. Treasure your Bible, long for its presence in your life, and let it fill the times when you so most desperately need it.
Lord God, if we have an extended stay in the hospital or some other place of confinement, what is it that we would ask our family or friends to bring us. If our first request is not the Bible, then we are erring in our priorities. The most precious treasure of all is often the thing we relegate to a much lower status than should ever be. Help us to have our priorities straight. Help us to hunger after Your word first and foremost. Amen.