A heretical teacher in Ephesus, an opponent of the apostle Paul, who in the former reference associates him with Alexander (see ALEXANDER), and in the latter, with Philetus (see PHILETUS).
1. His Career:
It is worthy of notice that in both passages where these persons are mentioned, the name of Hymeneus occurs first, showing, perhaps, that he was the leader. In the passage in 1Ti Hymeneus is included in the "some" who had put away faith and a good conscience and who had made shipwreck concerning faith. The apostle adds that he had delivered Hymeneus and Alexander unto Satan, that they might learn not to blaspheme.
2. His Denial of the Resurrection:
In the passage in 2 Tim, Hymeneus and Philetus are included among persons whose profane and vain babblings will increase unto more ungodliness, and whose word "will eat as doth a gangrene." The apostle declares that Hymeneus and Philetus rection are of the number of such people as those just described, and he adds that those two persons "concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some." Then, for the guidance of Timothy, he goes on to say the seal upon the foundation of God is, "The Lord knoweth them that are his:
and, Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness." The inference intended is, that though Hymeneus and Philetus had named the name of Christ, they did not depart from iniquity. There is no doubt in regard to the identity of this Hymeneus with the person of the same name in 1 Tim. Accordingly, the facts mentioned in the two epistles must be placed together, namely, that though he had made a Christian profession by naming the name of Christ, yet he had not departed from iniquity, but by his profane teaching he proceeded unto more ungodliness, and that he had put away faith and a good conscience and had made shipwreck of faith.
The error, therefore, of Hymeneus and his two companions would amount to this:
They taught that "the resurrection is past already," that there shall be no bodily resurrection at all, but that all that resurrection means is that the soul awakes from sin. This awakening from sin had already taken place with themselves, so they held, and therefore there could be no day in the future when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God and shall come forth from the grave (John 5:28).
3. Incipient Gnosticism:
This teaching of Hymeneus had been so far successful:
it had "overthrown the faith of some" (2 Timothy 2:18). It is impossible to define exactly the full nature of this heresy, but what Paul says regarding it makes evident that it was a form of incipient Gnosticism. This spiritualizing of the resurrection sprang from the idea of the necessarily evil nature of all material substance. This idea immediately led to the conclusion of the essentially evil nature of the human body, and that if man is to rise to his true nature, he must rid himself of the thralldom, not of sin, but of the body. This contempt for the body led to the denial of the resurrection in its literal sense; and all that Christ had taught on the subject was explained only, in an allegorical sense, of the resurrection of the soul from sin.
4. Overthrows Faith:
Teaching of this kind is described by Paul as having effects similar to the "eating" caused by a gangrene. It is deadly; it overthrows Christian faith. If not destroyed, it would corrupt the community, for if there is no literal resurrection of the dead, then, as Paul shows in 1 Corinthians 15, Christ is not raised; and if the literal resurrection of Christ is denied, Christian believers are yet in their sins, and the Christian religion is false.
5. Delivered unto Satan:
The way in which the apostle dealt with these teachers, Hymeneus and his companions, was not merely in the renewed assertion of the truth which they denied, but also by passing sentence upon these teachers--"whom I delivered unto Satan, that they might be taught not to blaspheme." In regard to the meaning of this sentence much difficulty of interpretation exists. Some understand it to mean simple excommunication from the church. But this seems quite inadequate to exhaust the meaning of the words employed by Paul. Others take it to signify the infliction of some bodily suffering or disease. This also is quite insufficient as an explanation. It seems that a person who was delivered unto Satan was cut off from all Christian privileges, he was "put away" from the body of Christian believers, and handed over to "the Satan," the Evil One in his most distinct personality (1 Corinthians 5:2,5,13). Compare the cases of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), and of Elymas (Acts 13:11).
It is important that the purpose of this terrible sentence should not be overlooked. The intention of the punishment was distinctly remedial. Both in the case of Hymenacus and Alexander, and in that of the person dealt with in 1 Corinthians 5, the intention was the attaining of an ultimate good. In 1Co it is "for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." Similarly, Hymeneus and Alexander are delivered unto Satan, not for their final perdition, but that they may be taught, through this terrible discipline--for such is the signification of the word which is translated "taught"--not to blaspheme. The purpose of this discipline, that they might learn not to blaspheme, shows the dreadful length of impiety and of railing at Christian truth to which Hymeneus had gone.
6. The "Perverse Things" at Ephesus:
In the history of Hymeneus and his companions, and in their bold and anti-Christian teaching which had overthrown the faith of some, we cannot fail to see the fulfillment of what Paul had said many years previously, in his farewell address to the elders of the church in Ephesus:
"I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them" (Acts 20:29). It was in the Ephesian church that Hymeneus and Alexander and Philetus had arisen. The gangrene-like nature of their teaching has already been described.
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