Young pastor Timothy’s mother, Eunice, is only mentioned briefly in Scripture, yet generations continue to know her influence. Today, she is considered a model of motherhood and the importance of teaching children about God early in their lives. When Timothy was young, her faithfulness to train a child in the way he should go created the strong beginnings that later led him to be chosen by the apostle Paul to help preach the gospel. Eunice’s faithful teachings laid the foundation for Timothy to become Paul’s trusted and beloved “fellow worker” (Romans 16:21).
Luke refers to Eunice in Acts 16:1 but does not mention her name. “Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek.” We first learn her name when Paul names Eunice and her mother Lois in his second letter to his “dear son,” Timothy. “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5).
Eunice and her mother go silent in the New Testament after this mention. Still, we continue to be impacted by her faithful training of Timothy and her fearless determination when we read Paul’s letters to the early churches. From Eunice flowed the faith and knowledge of God that strengthened Timothy to join Paul later. He became so important to Paul's work that he mentions Timothy in seven of the apostle’s letters to the church we read and study today.
Photo Credit: © Getty images/Wavebreakmedia
Who Was Eunice?
Eunice may have been mentioned only briefly, but we learn a lot from the few words written in Scripture about her. She was a devoted mother and daughter. She dedicated time and effort to educate her son about Scripture and live according to God’s will. Eunice was a strong woman of faith, not deterred by obstacles.
“Eunice” is a Greek name that means “conquering well.” The name gives the impression of a “good victory” or “happy victory” and derives from the name of the Greek goddess of victory, “Nike.” This kind of strength and determination was important as a Christian when Eunice and her family lived in Lystra.
Timothy, Eunice, and her mother, Lois, lived in Lystra, a city in the interior of Lycaonia, or Asia Minor, that also included the towns of Derbe and Iconium. Paul passed through the region on multiple occasions preaching and teaching. A Jewess, Eunice, would have been familiar with Scripture, possibly making her open to hearing the gospel's truth as Paul preached. Many believe that Eunice and Lois converted to Christianity during Paul’s first visit to Lystra. Later, Timothy came to accept the gospel either through Eunice or during a subsequent visit by Paul.
Eunice would have been an outcast, looked down on by the Jewish community. As we learn from the book of Acts, Eunice was married to a Greek man never named in Scripture. We cannot know for sure, but her husband probably did not convert to Judaism, and we don’t know if he ever became a Christian. What we do know is that despite what people may have thought about her, Eunice remained faithful to God and His Word.
As a Christian, Eunice likely experienced persecution as well. Paul writes to Timothy, reminding him of the treatment he endured in Lystra. “You know all about how I was persecuted in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra—but the Lord rescued me from all of it” (2 Timothy 3:11 NLT). Timothy would have witnessed enduring perseverance in his mother, who probably experienced harsh treatment because of her faith, just as Paul did.
Photo Credit: © Sparrowstock
How Did Eunice Influence Her Son?
Eunice was a living example to Timothy and her family of perseverance, faithfulness, and trust in God’s sovereignty, but the influence on her son began with Scripture. Proverbs 22:6 teaches parents a vital part of raising children. “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” The way children should go starts with Scripture.
From an early age, Timothy was exposed to Scripture. We can imagine Eunice daily reciting the Torah to her son and Timothy reciting the words back to his mother. This foundation of Holy Scripture readied Timothy for the work God would call him to complete.
Eunice’s persistence in exposing her son to Scripture was not wasted. God promises His Word will accomplish its purpose. “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). For Timothy, the foundation of Scripture provided by Eunice readied him to preach the gospel and become a servant of God.
We also know that Timothy did not turn from the teachings of Eunice and his grandmother, Lois. Paul often writes about how “his true son of faith,” Timothy, gives him great joy. This means that Timothy lived out what he learned.
We also know that Eunice influenced her son by living with “sincere faith.” Paul suggests this faith first lived in Eunice and her mother, Lois. Eunice possibly turned to Christianity during an earlier mission visit by the apostle Paul to Lystra. Possibly because of her unwavering faith and witness and the teachings from Scripture, Timothy later converted as well.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Tinnakorn Jorruang
What Do We Learn from Eunice?
Today, many children do not live in a faith-filled home as Timothy did. Parents that teach their children Scripture and faith in God are the exception. J. R. W. Stott writes, “anyone who has been born and bred in a Christian home has received from God a blessing beyond price.”
Raising children in a faith-filled home goes against worldly views and takes strength and courage. From Eunice, we learn that parenting requires daring and determination. It takes courage to teach our children God's truth over worldly truth.
Eunice also teaches us discipline and self-control. Scripture says she taught her son Scripture from “infancy.” Paul writes, “and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Eunice did not wait for the church or others to instruct her son about the Holy Scriptures. Teaching Timothy God’s Word was her most significant goal, and her perseverance led Timothy to be used by God to share the gospel alongside Paul and the disciples.
Timothy’s name means “one who fears God” and was likely chosen by Eunice. Eunice shows us how the fear of God, the reverence and awe of his sovereignty, blesses our homes and families. Not every child from a faith-filled home becomes a pastor or preacher, evangelist, or missionary. Still, when children learn the Word of God, they receive a faith foundation that will guide their lives, and whatever they become glorifies the kingdom of God.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/ThitareeSarmkasat
Originally published Tuesday, 25 May 2021.