The Cloak and the Books by Mike Kiser

“The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:13).

     The old gospel preacher, Paul, is in prison once again in Rome.  Times have changed in that short time since his last incarceration there.  It is now a crime to be a Christian in Rome, since Nero has laid on them the charge of setting fire to the city.  He misses his friends.  It is dangerous for them to come and see him.  He misses something else, his books!  He had left his books with the good brother in Troas the last time that he was in the east before going to Macedonia. He probably expected to come back by Troas and pick them up; but, instead he goes as a prisoner to Rome.

     At first glance one might find these words unworthy of such a great mind.  Why would Paul bother to speak of such common things? But, on the other hand, these words certainly show the human side of the noble apostle! These few words paint for us a picture of this eminent man as he faces the last days of his life on earth.  It touches our heart with its simple suggestion of human needs, both bodily and mental.

     It was later in the sixteenth century that a similar request was made by the great Englishman, William Tyndale.  In 1535 he was imprisoned in Belgium.  Not long before his fiery martyrdom he wrote a letter to the Marquis of Bergen, Governor of the castle requesting, “I entreat your lordship, and that by the Lord Jesus, that if I must remain here for the winter you would beg the Commissary to be so kind as to send me, from the things of mine which he has, a warmer cap; I feel the cold painfully in my head.  Also a warmer cloak, for the cloak I have is very thin.  He has a woolen shirt of mine, if he will send it; but most of all, my Hebrew Bible, Grammar, and Vocabulary, that I may spend my time in that pursuit.”

     One might wonder if Timothy got there before winter or even before Paul’s martyrdom.   Did the grand old man ever get to warm himself with his old familiar cloak and to bend over his books again?

     What do we know about Paul’s books and parchments?  We know Paul was a literary man.  He was from Tarsus, a university city, and was schooled in Jerusalem in the famous seminary established by Hillel, a liberal Pharisee.  His teacher was Hillel’s grandson, the celebrated Doctor Gamaliel, (Acts 22:3).  He gives evidence of his familiarity with the Greek poets such as Epimenides, Menander, Pindar, Aristophanes, Euripides, and other great Greek writers, (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12).  As a philosopher, he certainly held his own in Athens and Corinth.  Paul was the busiest evangelist that ever lived; but one thing is certain, he did not neglect his intellectual life.

     If I knew I was walking out of my study to go on a long trip and would not see my old friends for a long time, or ever again, which fifty pounds of books would I pull of the shelf to carry with me as my intellectual companions?  Here is my factual answer:

  • My old Thompson’s Chain Reference Bible
  • Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words
  • The Complete Word Study New Testament
  • Studies in The Life of Christ by R.C. Foster
  • The Life and Epistles of St. Paul by Conybeare and Howson
  • God’s Prophetic Word; Bulwarks of The Faith; and The Gospel for Today by Foy E. Wallace, Jr.
  • A Guide to The Psalms by W. Graham Scroggie
  • Knowing The Scriptures; and Godly Self Control by A. T. Pierson
  • Sermons on Salvation; Shall We Know One Another in Heaven; and The Second Coming by Guy N. Woods
  • The Philosophy of Christianity, A System of General Ethics, A System of Natural Theism; and A System of Christian Evidence by Leander S. Keyser
  • The Scheme of Redemption; and Hebrews by Robert Milligan
  • The Fourfold Gospel; Original Commentary on Acts; and Commentary on Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians, Romans by J. W. McGarvey
  • Prophecy by Alexander Keith
  • Holy Living and Dying by Jeremy Taylor
  • The Saint’s Everlasting Rest by Richard Baxter
  • The History of Apostasies by John F. Rowe
  • Foundation Facts and Primary Principles by G. C. Brewer.

     There you have it.  Some are in print.  Some are out of print.  Some are by my brethren.  Some are by denominational authors.  They weigh fifty pounds all together.  I know!  I just weighed them on a postal scale. I still have twenty pounds for all else I would ever need. Hopefully the airline would not lose my seventy pound suitcase along the way!