CLAIM: Paul refers to Timothy’s “youthfulness.” We picture a “youth” to be in their teenage years. However, Timothy was the leader of the church in Ephesus, which must have been quite large. Was a teenager leading a church of this size?
RESPONSE: While the term “youth” can describe a very young person (Lk. Mk. 10:20; Lk. 18:21; Acts 20:19; 23:17), this word has a wide semantic range. Indeed, Paul is called a “young man” (cognate neanias) when he watched Stephen martyred, and this was after he had been excelling in his academic and religious studies for years (Gal. 1:13-14). Paul was no child at this point in his life.
In this culture, someone could be called a “youth” (neotēs) until they were “up to forty years old.” According to Irenaeus, “Thirty is the first stage of a young man’s age, and extends to forty, as all will admit.” Josephus calls a 40-year old man a “youth” (Antiquities 18.143ff). Earle comments, “The word for ‘youth’ (KJV) is neotēs, ‘used of grown-up military age, extending to the 40th year.’”
Paul picked up Timothy on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:1). 1 Timothy was written 13-14 years later. If Timothy was sixteen years old, when Paul first worked with him, he would be somewhere “his late twenties to mid thirties.” Paul probably gave this command, because older men were considered to be wiser than men in their thirties, and he wanted to encourage Timothy to stand up for himself.
 Donald Guthrie, Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 14, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 111.
 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 2.22.5. Cited in John R. W. Stott, Guard the Truth: The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 35.
 Ralph Earle, “1 Timothy,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 374.
 William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, vol. 46, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2000), 258.