Translation commentary on 1 Timothy 2:2

From the general “all people” (Good News Translation, verse 1) a specific group is now mentioned, namely, kings and all who are in high positions. The word for kings is usually used for the Roman emperor; however, the plural form seems to suggest that other rulers are included as well. It is not of course necessary to translate kings literally, especially if such an office is not known or is strange in the receptor culture. A more general translation would be sufficient; for example, “rulers,” “sovereigns” (Revised English Bible [Revised English Bible]), or “chiefs” (see also the comments on the translation of “king” in 1.17). High positions translates a Greek word that refers to a state of high rank or position. It is not explicitly clear that all who are in high positions refers to government authorities or to church leaders; however, the association of the phrase with kings, together with what follows, makes it certain that indeed civil and government authorities are meant. This is made clear in Good News Translation, “and all others who are in authority.” In some languages it will be helpful to start a new sentence at the beginning of this verse; for example, “You should do this for kings (or, high chiefs) and all those who are in positions of authority (in the state)” or “You should pray like this for kings….”

The second half of the verse tells why prayers should be offered for government authorities, namely, so that there will be peace and order in society and reverence for God among the people. The pronoun we should be understood as inclusive, since it includes the readers of the letter.

The two words qualifying life, namely quiet and peaceable, are synonyms, both referring to a life that is calm, serene, orderly, peaceful, and free from any kind of danger or trouble. Most translations retain two expressions here, and there are usually at least two words in the receptor language to describe tranquility and peacefulness. It is also possible to use one term here but in an intensive way; for example, “very peaceful” or “very quiet.”

This peaceful and quiet life is further characterized by two other traits: godliness and respectfulness. Godly is a noun in the Greek, literally “in all piety,” referring to devotion to any supernatural power. In the Pastorals it is used to refer to devotion to God, so the word for “godliness” occurs frequently; it is used eight times in 1 Timothy, once in 2 Timothy, and once in Titus. In addition the adjective “godly” occurs once in 2 Timothy and once in Titus. This is a Greek term used to describe general devotion to any supernatural power, together with the required good moral and ethical life; hence “piety,” “religion,” “devotion” (New American Bible New American Bible, Revised New Testament). In the Pastorals “godliness” refers primarily to devotion to and reverence for God (compare Good News Translation). In certain languages the idea of godly is related to the quality of “straightness,” as in “straight lives,” “people who have straight livers,” “people who walk a straight path,” and so on. The term for respectful is a noun that describes behavior that is right and proper, especially in relation to others; hence “propriety” (New Jerusalem Bible [New Jerusalem Bible]), “proper conduct” (Good News Translation). Some translations relate these two terms closely; for example, Revised English Bible “free to practise our religion with dignity,” Phillips “with a proper sense of God and of our responsibility to Him for what we do with our lives.” It is best, however, to take these two terms separately, the first referring to relationship to God, and the second to relationship with other people. Keeping in mind what has been said above, another way of expressing these two traits is “showing great devotion and reverence (or, respect) for God, and behaving in a right and proper way before other people.”

In every way (New Revised Standard Version “in all”) comes immediately before “godliness” in the Greek text, but it probably acts as a qualifier of both “godliness” and “dignity” (New Revised Standard Version).

An alternative translation model for this verse is:
• You should pray for kings (or, high chiefs) and all people who are in positions of authority, that in every way we [inclusive] may live peaceful and quiet (or, very peaceful) lives, showing great devotion and reverence for God, and behaving in a right and proper way before others.

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Paul’s First Letter to Timothy. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1995. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 1 Timothy 4:11

This section begins with Timothy being urged to Command and teach these things. Command is the same word translated “charge” in 1.3. For teach see comments on “an apt teacher” in 3.2. Both of these are present imperatives, which indicates a continuing obligation to discharge these functions. The expression these things is used for the first time in this letter in 3.14 (translated there as “these instructions”). Once again it is difficult to be certain as to what these things refers to. It may refer to the contents of the letter up to 4.10, or to 4.1-10, or to 4.6-10, or to 4.8-10, or even only to 4.10, which is about the Saviorhood of God. Translations of course generally keep the ambiguity. However, in a translation with readers helps, it may be useful for the various possibilities to be included in the notes.

One other problem is the position of this verse in the translation. Does it begin a new paragraph (as in Revised Standard Version, Good News Translation, and others), or does it end the preceding paragraph (as in Jerusalem Bible, Phillips, and others)? One advantage of including it with the previous paragraph is that it marks the verse more clearly as referring backward; a disadvantage, however, is that this limits the antecedent of these things to the immediately preceding verses. A disadvantage of putting it at the beginning of the new paragraph is that the verse may be understood as referring forward to the following verses; it has, however, the advantage of not limiting the antecedent of these things to the immediately preceding section. Another way of translating this is “Teach these things and tell everyone to do what you say” (Contemporary English Version).

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Paul’s First Letter to Timothy. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1995. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 1 Timothy 6:7

Continuing the idea of being satisfied with one’s own condition or state, Paul now gives a reason why stress should not be put on the gathering of material wealth. The reason he gives is an appeal to a person’s conditions at birth and at death: at birth a person brings nothing into the world, at death a person takes nothing out of the world. If this is so, then the gathering of wealth beyond what one needs is meaningless. This way of talking about birth and death has parallels in Stoic philosophical thought that may have a direct influence on the verse itself. It should be noted, however, that the idea is quite similar to Job 1.21, “I was born with nothing, and I will die with nothing” (Good News Bible).

In the Greek this sentence is awkward, as shown in New Revised Standard Version “for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it.” There are many ways of dealing with the awkwardness created by “so that” (literally “that” or “because”) that links the two parts of the sentence. The first way is to change the text, and as the Revised Standard Version margin shows, there is indeed a variant reading that can be translated “it is certain that.” The textual evidence, however, points to this variant as a secondary reading, and therefore it should not be used in translation. The second way is to take the connective with the meaning “because,” hence “there is no sense in bringing anything into the world, because we shall not be able to take anything out.” A third way is to ignore the connective altogether, which is what many modern translations have done (in addition to Revised Standard Version and Good News Translation, see New English Bible “We brought nothing into the world; for that matter we cannot take anything with us when we leave”; similar are Jerusalem Bible and Phillips). This Handbook recommends the third option for translators.

It should also be noted that the sentence is in the first person plural, which in this context is a way of speaking in an impersonal way, that is, referring to people in general. If this is a natural way in the receptor language, then it should be retained; in this case the pronoun would be translated as inclusive, to include both Paul and Timothy, and anyone else who will read the letter. It is possible, however, to change the first person into a third person if this is more natural in the receptor language; for example, “When people are born, they bring nothing into this world; when they die, they take nothing out of this world.”

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Paul’s First Letter to Timothy. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1995. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 1 Timothy 3:3

The positive virtues are followed by four negative ones and one positive. A bishop must not be a drunkard, which is the opposite of sobriety in the previous verse. Drunkenness was one of the vices of ancient society. Drunkard may also be expressed as “addicted to wine (or, alcoholic beverages),” “drinks too much wine,” or “drinks wine to excess.” Wine came from the juice of grapes. Sometimes the juice was served in an unfermented state, but generally it was allowed to ferment. In situations where safe drinking water was scarce if not absent altogether, wine became the common ordinary drink. Drinking a moderate amount of wine would not make a person drunk; drunkenness is caused by excessive drinking. That is why in many parts of the Bible there is teaching against drinking too much wine rather than about abstinence from wine altogether. In certain cultures today, however, where wine is unknown, it will be necessary to employ a general word for “strong drink” or “strong alcoholic beverage” rather than a specific fermented beverage made from grapes. In some cultures palm wine will be the closest natural equivalent.

The next three virtues are related to each other and should probably be taken together. Violent comes from a Greek verb that means “to strike” and thus describes a quick-tempered individual who does not hesitate to use physical force on those who annoy him. In many languages one must restructure this; for example, “a person who is quick to act from anger (or, a hot heart),” “a person who is quick to use strong force against others.” Instead of being violent, a bishop should be gentle, that is, he should treat others with patience and tolerance rather than with a domineering disposition. Furthermore, a bishop should not be quarrelsome, contentious, or “quick to argue with others.” Many languages use figurative language to describe this type of person; for example, “always have a chip on one’s shoulder,” “always ready to pick a fight.” But a bishop should rather use a peaceful and inoffensive approach (compare Good News Translation “peaceful”). In some languages, like TEV, not quarrelsome will be translated as “loves peace” or “has a peaceful manner.”

It should be noted that what are denied here are traits that are displayed by the false teachers as they are described in 6.3-5 and 2 Tim 2.22-26.

The last negative trait is that a bishop should not be a lover of money. Greed is mentioned as one of the sins of the false teachers (6.5-10). In contrast a bishop should not put monetary rewards as a primary consideration. Lover of money may also be rendered as “greedy for money,” or even figuratively as “money hungry.”

An alternative translation model for this verse is:
• He must not drink wine to excess or be quick to act from anger (or, a hot heart). Instead, he should be gentle toward others, having a peaceful manner, and must not be a lover of money.

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Paul’s First Letter to Timothy. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1995. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 1 Timothy 5:6

In contrast to the pious widow, there are some widows who are self-indulgent. The term here can be interpreted in the sense of living luxuriously, of enjoying the pleasures of extravagant living. There are some interpreters who would read moral overtones in the term, which means that a self-indulgent widow is one who also engages in immoral and wanton acts, but that is not necessarily the case. At any rate, it is not right for a widow to be extravagant, considering that she is dependent on other Christians for material support. Other ways of expressing who is self-indulgent are “who loses herself in pleasures,” “who spends her time engaging in pleasurable activities.”

Such a widow is dead even while she lives; this statement can be taken in two ways. First, dead can be taken metaphorically, that is, such a widow is no better than dead, or is like someone who is dead, even though she is alive (compare Revised Standard Version and Good News Translation). It is more likely, however, that dead is used in a spiritual and moral sense, which means that such a widow is spiritually and morally dead, although she is very much alive physically. In that case one may translate “she is dead in her heart (or, spirit [soul]), even though she is alive physically.”

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Paul’s First Letter to Timothy. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1995. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 1 Timothy 6:19

Thus (Good News Translation “In this way”) may also be expressed as “If they do these good things.”

This verse spells out the reward of the rich for their kindness and generosity. First, they “lay up for themselves” a good foundation for the future. Laying up translates a reflexive participle that can be literally translated “storing up for themselves a treasure” (similarly New Revised Standard Version and Good News Translation), and this stored treasure functions as a foundation for the future. This is of course metaphorical language and should not be taken literally. Some see a mixing of metaphors here: good and generous deeds are first of all compared to a treasure that is stored away, and secondly, to a foundation upon which a building is erected. Others maintain that there is only one metaphor here, namely, that of treasure, by taking the word for foundation to mean “treasure” or “capital” (so Moffatt “right good treasure,” Goodspeed’s American Translation [An American Translation] “valuable treasure”). For the meaning “capital” see Jerusalem Bible “a good capital sum,” also Phillips “Their security should be invested in the life to come.”

If the mixing of metaphors is retained, an appropriate word should be used to describe the quality of the foundation, as, for example, “solid” (Good News Translation, Contemporary English Version), “firm” (New International Version). The Greek word used here (“good,” “beautiful”) indicates the possession of a quality that is adequate and appropriate to the purpose for which something is intended. However, in cultures where foundations are not used in building, translators should use the metaphor of “treasure.” An alternative model is “If they do these good things, it is like storing up for themselves a good amount of money for the future (or, the life to come).”

All of this is for the future, perhaps a reference to the time beyond this life, in contrast to life “in this world” (verse 17). This interpretation is strengthened by the mention of the life which is life indeed. This refers to a life that is lived in obedience to God’s will and in accordance with God’s promises. Some other ways of rendering this expression are “true life” (Contemporary English Version), “real life,” or “the life that God has promised.” This life is equivalent to “eternal life” mentioned in verse 12 (“immortality”) and in 1.16. Eternal life of course has its beginning in this world and can be enjoyed here and now, but its final consummation and perfection is in the future, when the believer fully shares in the very life of God.

For take hold of see verse 12.

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Paul’s First Letter to Timothy. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1995. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 1 Timothy 1:12

The word for thank is derived from the term that is literally translated “grace.” The expression “thanks be to God” (literally “grace be to God”) is one of Paul’s favorite expressions; in fact this does not appear at all in the non-Pauline letters. Thanksgiving here is directed toward Christ Jesus. In a number of languages I thank him will be expressed figuratively; for example, “I feel good in my heart about Christ Jesus,” or “I tell Christ Jesus how good he is,” or even “I say to Christ Jesus, ‘You make me feel very happy.’ ” Has given me strength translates the aorist participle of the verb that in the present context means to make someone able either to experience something or to do something, hence “to empower, to enable, to strengthen.” This latter meaning is in focus here, since the strengthening is related to enabling Paul to fulfill his task as a servant of Christ Jesus. The aorist tense may indicate a primary reference to Christ’s initial act of giving him power (so New English Bible “who made me equal to the task”) or, as in many other cases in the New Testament, may be interpreted here as equivalent to a perfect, with the enabling act of Christ continuing to the present (so Revised Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version, Good News Translation, and many other modern translations). Who has given me strength for this may also be expressed as “he strengthens me so that I am able to do my work.”

For Christ Jesus our Lord see comments on 1.2.

Two reasons for this gratefulness are now given. First, Christ has judged him faithful. Judged translates the aorist form of a verb that means to have an opinion about something or someone, hence “to regard,” “to consider” (so Good News Translation), “to deem.” The aorist tense may be translated as simple past (so Revised Standard Version, Jerusalem Bible [Jerusalem Bible], New International Version [New International Version]) or as equivalent either to a perfect or a present (so New Revised Standard Version, Good News Translation, New English Bible). The word for faithful is derived from the verb that is usually translated “to believe” or “to have faith,” and it means to be trusted, hence “to be trustworthy (so New English Bible ‘worthy of this trust’), reliable, dependable.” Trustworthiness is not here a virtue in a general sense but is specially related to the ministry, that is, the work of serving Christ. This clause may also be rendered as “because he considered that I was someone that he could depend upon,” or even idiomatically, for example, as “because he considered that he could set his heart on me.”

The second reason for gratitude is that Christ has appointed him for service. Appointed translates the aorist participle of a verb that in this context refers to assigning someone to a particular task or function, hence “to give a task to,” “to assign.” Service is Paul’s favorite word for the ministry, that is, becoming a leader in the Christian community. The word for service occurs twelve times in 2 Corinthians alone. In the present context it may refer in a general sense to any kind of help, service, or assistance, or more likely in a specific sense to the role or position of service, hence “ministry” (so Phillips [Phillips] “appoint me his minister”).

It should be further noted that the construction here is the combination of a finite verb (for “to consider”) and a participle (for “to appoint”) in that order. The sense of this combination is in terms of cause and effect; for example, “he appointed me because he considered me trustworthy” or “he considered me trustworthy enough to appoint me.”

Alternative translation models for this verse are:
• I thank Christ Jesus our [inclusive] Lord, who has strengthened me so that I can do my work. I thank him that he considered that he could depend on me, so he appointed (or, assigned) me to represent him.

• I say to Christ our [inclusive] Lord, “Thank you! You have given me the strength to do my work. You also considered me trustworthy enough to appoint me to represent you.”

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Paul’s First Letter to Timothy. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1995. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 1 Timothy 4:1

Paul begins chapter 4 with Now (Greek de), which can be taken with the meaning “However.” What it means is that, while it is true that the church is the bulwark of truth, and that this truth has been made known, yet there are those who will undermine this truth and advocate some other position.

The Spirit is clearly the Holy Spirit (see also 3.16 for comments on Spirit). The word translated expressly denotes clarity and explicitness. This means that this message from the Spirit is not difficult to understand but is clear and easily understood. Translations try to capture this meaning; for example, Revised English Bible “explicitly,” Good News Translation “clearly,” Phillips “specifically.” The text does not say how and when the Spirit has done this. It is suggested by some commentators that what is referred to here is the Old Testament, particularly those parts that contain predictions about apostasy; it should be noted, however, that the formula expressly says is never used in the letters of Paul to refer to the Old Testament. Accordingly some others suggest that this has reference to the prophetic tradition in general, and to Paul in particular. In the Bible the Spirit is spoken of as the source of prophecy and of the prophet’s power to see events before they happen. That this includes Paul is indicated by the use of the present tense says. But since it is difficult and in fact impossible to determine when and how this information was given, it is perhaps best to stick to the text as it is, which is what most translations have done.

There is a similar problem with in later times. Does it refer to the future or to the present, that is, the time of the writing of this letter? Some take it as equivalent to the expression “in the last days,” which means that what is referred to is the whole time between the resurrection of Jesus and his second coming. The general understanding in the New Testament is that Christians are living in the last days. And these last days will be characterized by tribulations and apostasy. If translators understand this to be the meaning of in later times, one may also express this phrase as “in these last days” or “in the days before the end time.”

Others, however, understand the expression to refer specifically to what was happening during the time of the writing of the letter. The conditions being described here were the activities of the false teachers already mentioned in the first chapter. The use of the future tense here is due to a feature of prophetic utterances, where things that are going on in the present are described as occurring in the future. This of course does not rule out the occurrence of similar events in the future, which means that, although this prophetic utterance has a present reference, it could still have a future fulfillment. If the translator follows this second interpretation, other ways to express this are “in these latter times” or “in these later days.”

It should be further noted that times comes from the Greek word kairos (significant time, important segment of time) and not chronos (chronological, temporal time). All in all, it seems that the second interpretation of in later times is the more likely one. However, the prophetic style can be retained in the translation, in which case the resulting translation will resemble the first option.

The interpretation of some people will of course be determined by the way that a person interprets the phrase in later times. If the latter expression is understood as future, then some people will be the victims of false teachers and false prophets that will arise at a later time. If, however, the latter expression is understood as referring to conditions already existing in the Christian community which Timothy is serving, then the people referred to as some are the victims of the false teachers mentioned in the letter itself; namely, “in these latter days some people will….”

These people will depart from the faith. Faith here is either Christian doctrine or the Christian faith as a religious movement. For discussion see 1.2 and 3.9. As in those two passages it is more likely that Christian doctrine (or, teachings) is meant here in 4.1, too. Depart comes from a Greek verb from which is derived the word “apostasy” and which literally means “to stand off from.” It refers primarily to the act of turning away from what is accepted by the community as true belief, hence “abandon” (Good News Translation), “turn from” (Contemporary English Version), “renounce” (New Revised Standard Version), “desert” (New Jerusalem Bible), “forsake” (Revised English Bible). An alternative translation model for depart from the faith is “stop believing in (or, renounce) the Christian teachings.”

The cause of their apostasy is that they “will obey” deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons. Giving heed translates a participle that means “pay attention to” (New Revised Standard Version), both in terms of mental assent (for example, Revised English Bible “surrender their minds”) and of action (hence Good News Translation “obey … follow”). Deceitful comes from a word that means “erroneous,” “wrong,” “misleading,” hence Good News Translation “lying.” These spirits are contrasted with the Spirit, who is the source of true teaching. See 3.16 for a discussion of “Spirit” and “spirits.”

The two expressions deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons are obviously related, but the relationship is not all that clear. Ways of defining their relationship are as follows:
(1) The spirits and demons may be taken as parallel and as referring to evil spirits. The whole expression can then be restructured as “the teachings of deceitful demonic (or, evil) spirits,” or “deceitful demonic spirits and their doctrines,” or even “deceitful evil spirits and their demonic doctrines.”
(2) The spirits may refer to the false teachers, and their teachings are described as doctrines of demons. In this sense the spirits are identical with the liars in verse 2. No translation has chosen this alternative, however.
(3) The spirits may refer to evil spirits, while doctrines of demons can be taken as human teachings that are inspired by demonic forces. The translation that comes closest to this position is Revised English Bible: “subversive spirits and demon-inspired doctrines.” It is recommended by this Handbook that translators follow this interpretation.

An alternative translation model for this verse is:
• God’s Spirit clearly says (or, states) that in these last days some people will stop believing the Christian teachings; they will instead obey false teachings inspired by lying evil (or, dirty) spirits (or, demons).

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Paul’s First Letter to Timothy. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1995. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .