Pillar and Foundation of Truth: What is the pillar?


So I’m sure most of us are aware of 1 Timothy 3:15:

Maybe my reading comprehension is a little out of whack, but every time I see this, I struggle a bit understanding what “the pillar and foundation of truth” is referencing. Grammatically, it seems ambiguous, in that it might be referencing the whole phrase “the church of the living God” or just “the living God”. In the former case, it would refer to the Church, but in the latter case, it would refer to God Himself.

I have considered that it doesn’t make sense to refer to God as the “pillar and foundation of truth”, since He Himself is truth. He doesn’t merely support it, as if there is some truth outside of God that is grounded in the truth that is God. It seems more likely that it is referring to the Church, as the Church holds up what God reveals about Himself to the world. But of course then we’re getting to the bit where Catholics and Protestants disagree, so it seems a bit like begging the question there.

So I am wondering if there is reason to grammatically understand it as referring to the Church and not God. Is my understanding of English grammar that bad, or does it come from the Greek or Latin?

(Note: Don’t take this as me questioning the Church’s authority. The verse wasn’t really critical to me becoming Catholic. I’m just curious, since I see this verse brought up so much.)


If my own reading comprehension isn’t suffering, it’s referring to the Church, as the Church is referred to twice (the household of God and the Church of the living God).

We can read it as,

But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.


When I read it, it seems:

“which is the church of the living God” is a clause referencing the “household of God”. Granted, it seems a bit ambiguous there, but the ambiguity is cleared up pretty easily because:

  1. God isn’t the Church, as we know from elsewhere in Scripture.
  2. God is referenced again in the clause.

“the pillar and foundation of truth” doesn’t have these clarifying factors in its clause. Granted, I guess the repetition could indicate that Paul just keeps describing the same thing a few different ways, but I’m not 100% sure if that’s a required reading from the structure.


That grammar does bothers me too and I worry that it might be referring to something else.


The explanatory text in my Didache bible is this;
Household of God: an expression that points to the unity of the Church and to the status of the faithful as children of God and, thereby, members of Gods family. In the household of the local Church, the bishop represents the figure of the Father. Pillar and bulwark: The key structural supports of a building. The Church, with Christ as her cornerstone, upholds the truth and means of salvation from generation to generation. She accomplishes this through teaching the truths of the Catholic Faith revealed by Jesus Christ. Guided by the Holy Spirit, she is preserved from error in her teachings on matters of faith and morals…


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