G. K. Beale is hard at work on his forthcoming Pastorals commentary in the ZECNT series, co-authored with Christopher Beetham. In the meantime, he has published a new article on the Pastorals, grounded in an SBL presentation he gave in 2021:
G. K. Beale, “The Background to ‘Fight the Good Fight’ in 1 Timothy 1:18, 6:12, and 2 Timothy 4:7.” Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 113.2 (2022): 202–30. https://doi.org/10.1515/znw-2022-0011
The combined wording in 1 Tim 1:18 of στρατεύω + στρατεία can be rendered in English “fight the fight,” “battle the battle,” or more generally “perform military service” or “serve in a military campaign.” The combination surprisingly occurs often throughout Greco-Roman literature to express a patriotic warfare idiom for good character revealed by persevering through warfare or military campaigns. This idiom is applied to Timothy to demonstrate his good Christian character and reputation over against the false teachers’ bad character. The idiom also occurs often in a legal context to affirm a person’s character and good reputation, which qualifies a person to be an officer of the court or endorses a person’s character before the court in a legal dispute, showing him to be worthy of an innocent verdict. In 1 Timothy this idiom is used in a legal context (accompanied repeatedly by the μάρτυς word group, as in the Hellenistic occurrences of the idiom) that demonstrates and acquits Timothy’s character and reputation before the false teachers. The redundant word combination of ἀγωνίζομαι + ἀγών (“struggle the struggle”) in 1 Tim 6:12 and 2 Tim 4:7 is recognized by commentators as a development of the phrase in 1 Tim 1:18. In the Greek world, this also is a well-worn idiom used in the same way as the στρατεύω + στρατεία expression, most likely highlighting the difficulty of the fight. This is why the expression ἀγωνίζομαι + ἀγών is synonymous with the expression in 1 Tim 1:18, even with the added adjective “good.” This is also why some English translations even translate the redundant expressions in 1 Tim 1:18, 1 Tim 6:12, and 2 Tim 4:7 as “fight the good fight,” clearly seeing στρατεύω + στρατεία and ἀγωνίζομαι + ἀγών as synonymous. This lexical study of Greco-Roman backgrounds endorses the conclusion that the two expressions are idioms and are synonymous.