Sunday, April 24, 2011

How are we to properly understand "One Mediator" in 1 Timothy 2:5?

Fundamentalists will reliably quote 1 Timothy 2:5 in an attempt to refute the Catholic practice of praying to Mary and the saints (i.e. intercessory prayer) and the sacrament of Reconciliation, i.e. confessing your sins to a priest. The verse reads like this:

"For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" - 1 Timothy 2:5

It is suggested and the implication is made that praying to Mary and the saints or by confessing our sins to a priest we ignore Christ's work on the cross for our salvation. So how are we to understand this verse and what does is it really referring to?

The mediation between God and men in 1 Timothy 2:5 speaks (and should only be read in context of) in terms of salvation; redemption. It it not speaking in the context of intercessory prayer or the passing on of divine instruction (paradosis; Mark 3:14, 16:15), else it would be in clear contradiction of the instruction given by Paul and Peter to pray for (James 5:16) and teach each others (2 Timothy 1:13).

In other words: we are saved/redeemed by Christ; he alone brings us to God the Father, but it is by humans hands, under the authority of Christ in his commissioning (Matthew 28:19), that others are able to come to him by discovering the fullness of truth in his words (Romans 10:17).

Besides, if we read the very beginning of 1 Timothy 2, we see St. Paul has written this:

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior" - 1 Timothy 2:1-3

The fundamentalists argument has no credence whatsoever in light of this; a text without a context is a pretext. We are exhorted by Christ through scripture not only to prayer for one another, but to confess our sins as well:

"Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." - 2 Corinthians 5:17-20

"'If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.'" - John 20:23

He is risen!

Happy Easter.


  1. Keep explaining and loving our faith Stephen. Well done.

  2. This is exactly the response to a topic on CAF that lead me to RSS your blog. I have never heard even prominent Catholic apologists utilize this meaning even though it's exactly what the Church adheres to. Thanks again, Stephen.

  3. You're very welcome, nibleto. ;-)

  4. Paul called Moses a mediator (Gal 3:19):

    So there are at least two. Fundamentalists might say Moses was replaced by Christ but that's eisegesis (reading preconceptions into the text).

    The Holy Father has nice insights as well:


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