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John Gill’s “Explosive” Exegesis

December 29, 2008

Some time ago I read this comment from Spurgeon, referencing Gill’s “exegesis” of 1 Tim 2:4:

I know how to get rid of the force of the “alls” according to that critical method which some time ago was very current, but I do not see how it can be applied here with due regard to truth. I was reading just now the exposition of a very able doctor who explains the text so as to explain it away; he applies grammatical gunpowder to it, and explodes it by way of expounding it.

For a long time I have considered much of Gill’s exegesis and hermeneutics to be just so much junk.

Last week I was reading Steve’s blog and I saw that he had posted Gill on 1 Timothy 2:1:

[G]giving of thanks, as well as prayers, are to be made for all men; but certainly the meaning is not, that thanks should be given for wicked men, for persecutors, and particularly for a persecuting Nero, or for heretics, and false teachers, such as Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom the apostle had delivered to Satan. But the words must be understood of men of all sorts, of every rank and quality, as the following verse shows

How to explode a biblical text. Obviously the meaning is that none are to be excluded from our prayers. We are to pray for all, no matter of what class or social status they be.

If I still had my pet bird, I know what would be lining the bottom of his little home. :-)

David

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Kevin permalink
    October 3, 2010 2:31 pm

    David,

    Just came across your blog and curious how you can make such a charge against Gill, when our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ himself said that “I pray for them, I do not pray for the world.”

    How do you reconcile this?

    Also, I love Spurgeon, even naming my first son after him, but Spurgeon was never known for his exegesis, and Gill probably was much better at it than him.

    Thanks,
    Kevin

  2. Flynn permalink*
    November 1, 2010 9:04 am

    The “them” refers to the 11 disciples, the world refers to the world of unbelievers.

    What then should be the problem for me, if I may ask?

    Thanks,
    David

  3. Kevin permalink
    November 1, 2010 12:18 pm

    David,
    Thanks for the reply…

    I guess the point I was trying to make is that if Jesus didn’t pray for all men, then why is Gill wrong in saying that this verse does not mean that we should not pray for all men, without exception?

    Clearly, Jesus did not pray for the world of unbelievers, but, prayed for his disciples only.

    You assert that “Obviously the meaning is that none are to be excluded from our prayers. We are to pray for all, no matter of what class or social status they be,” yet Jesus excluded the entire unbelieving world in his prayer, so there must be something to it. How do you reconcile this?

    Also, I’ve included the complete breakdown from Gill (which is still a small portion of his entire commentary on 1 Tim 2:4). The short passage you and the other blogger posted is incomplete and by doing so, you miss Gill’s thinking and reasoning for making his claim. I’m sure you will still disagree, but at least you will have Gill’s complete reasoning behind his position.

    “The exhortation of the apostle, in verse 1, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men. But surely by all men, is not meant every in, individual man, that has been, is, or shall be, in the world; millions of men are dead and gone, for whom prayer is not to he made; many in hell, to whom it would be of no service; and many in heaven, who stand in no need of it; nor should we pray for such who have sinned the sin unto death (1 John 5:16) .Besides giving of thanks, as well as prayers, were to be made for all men; but surely the apostle’s meaning is not that the saints should give thanks for wicked men, and persecutors, and particularly for a persecuting Nero; nor for heretics or false teachers, such as Hymeneus and Alexander, whom he had delivered to Satan; the phrase is therefore to be taken in a limited and restrained sense, for some only, as appears from verse 2, for kings and for all in authority; that is, for men of the highest, as well as of the lowest rank and quality.”
    -The CAUSE OF GOD AND TRUTH. Part 1: Section 45—1 Timothy 2:4.

    Thanks,
    Kevin

  4. Flynn permalink*
    November 3, 2010 3:43 pm

    Kevin says:

    I guess the point I was trying to make is that if Jesus didn’t pray for all men, then why is Gill wrong in saying that this verse does not mean that we should not pray for all men, without exception?

    David: I guess I would say, we have the direct statement to pray for all men. I dont think Paul means to only pray for “some of all kinds of men.” That would be the very thing his readers were doing, which he was trying to correct.

    Kevin: Clearly, Jesus did not pray for the world of unbelievers, but, prayed for his disciples only.

    David: In the specific context of Jn 17, for the purposes of that prayer, he does not pray for unbelievers. However, we cant assume that he didnt pray for unbelievers in all contexts.

    Shedd for example: The Redeemer does not say that he never prayed for the whole sinful world of mankind; for he did this whenever he uttered the supplication, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven;” but on that particular occasion he confines his supplications to a part of the world, namely, the elect. W.G.T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 3:420-421.John 17:9. John 17:9

    Kevin: You assert that “Obviously the meaning is that none are to be excluded from our prayers. We are to pray for all, no matter of what class or social status they be,” yet Jesus excluded the entire unbelieving world in his prayer, so there must be something to it. How do you reconcile this?

    David: Easy, I am not the God-Man, Messiah and Lord and King of the world. Neither are you. :-)

    The revealed will is our rule, is it not?

    Kevin: Also, I’ve included the complete breakdown from Gill (which is still a small portion of his entire commentary on 1 Tim 2:4). The short passage you and the other blogger posted is incomplete and by doing so, you miss Gill’s thinking and reasoning for making his claim. I’m sure you will still disagree, but at least you will have Gill’s complete reasoning behind his position.

    Gill: “The exhortation of the apostle, in verse 1, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men. But surely by all men, is not meant every in, individual man, that has been, is, or shall be, in the world; millions of men are dead and gone, for whom prayer is not to he made; many in hell, to whom it would be of no service; and many in heaven, who stand in no need of it; nor should we pray for such who have sinned the sin unto death (1 John 5:16).

    David: On that, sure we don’t pray for men in hell. For sure we pray for living men. I find that a trivial point that Gill should raise it. The “sin unto death” refers to that specific sin.

    Gill: Besides giving of thanks, as well as prayers, were to be made for all men; but surely the apostle’s meaning is not that the saints should give thanks for wicked men, and persecutors, and particularly for a persecuting Nero; nor for heretics or false teachers, such as Hymeneus and Alexander, whom he had delivered to Satan; the phrase is therefore to be taken in a limited and restrained sense, for some only, as appears from verse 2, for kings and for all in authority; that is, for men of the highest, as well as of the lowest rank and quality.”

    David: Actually I think this misses the point:

    1 Tim 1:1-2: First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,
    for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

    David: Common sense tells us that Paul is not urging us to pray in thanks for the sins of the wicked. That’s just silly to even suggest that as a counter-factual. Gill has just posited a gross caricature of the most obvious meaning which every reader should be able to discern.

    Rather, in all circumstances which God has placed us in, and in which he has placed those who rule over us, we need to thank God for. Next, the sense is which kind of prayer as appropriate. For Kings we can pray petitions and entreaties. The reference to Hymeneus and Alexander is just speculation that their restoration is precluded [1 Corinthians 5:5].

    Kevin, I gotta assume you can see the challenges you’ve laid out, from Gill, and your own point have no value at all? Clearly the point remains, no one living should be excluded from our prayers. Gill’s comments are thoroughly useless and actually blind readers to the plain sense of its meaning.

    And so, Gill actually, in principle, flips the entire point and vindicates the very bad behaviour Paul was trying to counter: selectivity in our prayers.

    Thanks,
    David

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