Translation commentary on 2 Timothy 2:7

This section (that began at verse 1) ends with an invitation to Timothy to consider seriously the things that have been brought to his attention. Think over translates a verb that means “to consider,” “to understand,” “to think,” “to reflect on” (New American Bible, Revised).

What I say (the verb is present tense, hence “what I am saying”) most likely refers to the six previous verses of this chapter, particularly the three illustrations that have been given (so Phillips “Consider these three illustrations of mine…”).

As in similar cases, Lord here is ambiguous, referring either to God or to Christ. An argument in favor of Christ is that in 1 John 5.20 it is the Son of God who gives understanding, and it is possible that this is also true in the present case. However, the mention of Jesus Christ in the next verse, without the appellation “Lord,” may also suggest that Lord in the present context refers to God. While most translations retain the ambiguity, making a choice is crucial especially in languages where one word is used to translate both “Lord” and “God,” and where “Christ” or “Jesus Christ” is added to the word when it refers to Christ rather than to God. In such cases the second option seems to be a better choice.

The word for understanding occurs only here in the Pastoral Letters. It is often translated “knowledge” or “intelligence”; in the present context it refers to a correct, thorough, and intelligent awareness and perception of things.

Everything: it is possible to understand the expression to mean “in all things,” or “in every way,” “in every respect.” However, if Paul is speaking about the three illustrations in verses 4-7, the more natural translation will be something like Good News Translation‘s “understand it all,” or “understand it completely.” An alternative translation model for this final sentence will be “because the Lord (or, God) will cause you to fully understand these illustrations” or “… will help you understand this completely.”

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

Translation commentary on 2 Timothy 3:14

But as for you translates an expression that is identical to that found in the beginning of verse 10. The sense of But is contrastive; the false teachers are “progressing” in their wickedness, but as for Timothy, he should advance in godliness by continuing in the truth that he has learned.

Continue is literally “remain,” “keep on,” “do not waver.” (See further on “continues” in 1 Tim 2.15.) Firmly believed translates a verb that means “to come to believe something as true,” “to be convinced and certain of the truth of something.” Both what you have learned (literally “what you were taught”) and have firmly believed are in the aorist tense, focusing on the times and occasions in the past when Timothy learned these truths and came to believe in them. But while the tense is aorist, it makes more sense, in English at least, to translate the aorist as perfect, which is what Revised Standard Version has done. Good News Translation retains the aorist in the first case but interprets the second aorist as having a stative sense; hence “firmly believe.”

What does it mean to continue in what you have learned? It can be “continue to live according to,” “continue to be loyal to” (compare Contemporary English Version “Keep on being faithful,” New American Bible, Revised “remain faithful,” Translator’s New Testament “you must be loyal”), “continue to believe,” “continue to make progress,” “hold on to,” “stand firm in” (compare Revised English Bible “stand by,” New Jerusalem Bible “you must keep to”).

Timothy should hold on to these truths because he knows that his teachers are reliable Christians and can therefore be trusted. The pronoun whom (in from whom you learned it) is plural, indicating that Paul was not only talking of himself but of others as well who played a part in the Christian education of Timothy, including Timothy’s own mother and grandmother, who are mentioned in 1.5.

An alternative translation model for this verse is:
• As for you, Timothy, you must continue to hold on faithfully to the things that people taught you and that you believe in. After all, you know who taught you these truths (or, doctrines).

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

Translation commentary on 2 Timothy 1:4

A comparison between Revised Standard Version and Good News Bible indicates two ways of punctuating the Greek text. The question is: does the expression night and day go with “prayers” in verse 3 or with long to see you in verse 4? The latter position is depicted in Revised Standard Version, which is achieved by putting a full stop after “prayers,” thus taking night and day with verse 4 rather than with verse 3. The former position, which seems more likely, takes night and day to refer backward to “prayers” in verse 3; this is followed in Good News Translation and many other translations (see, for example, New International Version, New English Bible, Jerusalem Bible, New Revised Standard Version). The expression itself should not be taken literally but indicates continuing activity; the meaning therefore is similar to that of “constantly” in verse 3. One further note: in some languages it is more natural to reverse the order, hence “day and night.”

The words for remember and tears occur only here in the Pastoral Letters. Remember is synonymous with that found in the previous verse, except that the focus here is on recalling information. Tears may have had some connection with Timothy’s suffering, or with the sadness that Timothy felt when he and Paul said good-by to one another. Other ways to translate this are “I remember how you wept (or, cried)” or “I remember how sad you were.”

Long translates a present participle of a compound verb that means “to long after,” and in a negative way “to lust” or “to harbor a forbidden desire for something.” The focus here of course is on the positive sense, so Good News Translation “I want to see you very much.”

I may be filled translates an aorist passive of the verb that is usually translated “to fulfill.” It is used here to describe the completeness of the joy that Paul will experience in being reunited with Timothy. Filled with joy may also be expressed as “may have complete joy,” “may be completely happy,” or “my heart may be filled with joy.”

An alternative translation model for this verse is:
• I remember how you wept (or, cried), and I want to see you very much, because that will make me completely happy.

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

Translation commentary on 2 Timothy 2:18

Here the two heretics (or more probably heretical teachers) are described as having swerved from the truth. For swerved see 1 Tim 1.6, where it is translated as “wandered away.” The meaning of the word is to lose one’s way as a result of not abiding by the truth. For truth see 1 Tim 2.4. This first sentence may be variously expressed as “They teach something which is far from the truth” or “They teach something which is a complete lie.”

An example of their heretical teaching is now mentioned, namely, that the resurrection has already happened. Holding is literally “saying.” The resurrection ordinarily refers to the event of Jesus being raised from death (see, for example, verse 8 of this chapter). Here, however, it refers to the resurrection of people who have died, which was generally held by Christians to happen at the last day when Christ returns, thus Good News Translation “our resurrection.” These two men, however, have been teaching that this is not true, that in fact the resurrection is past already, or as Good News Translation puts it, “has already taken place.” The nature and content of this teaching is difficult to determine. One possible explanation is that there were some people who denied resurrection altogether, but instead identified resurrection with conversion, which is described figuratively as an experience of dying and rising with Christ, and is symbolized by baptism (see, for example, Rom 6.1-11 and Col 2.20–3.4). Another possibility is that there were people who were asserting that resurrection was not really necessary, since, as Greek philosophy teaches, human beings are by nature immortal, being endowed with an immortal soul. In the light of 2 Thes 2.1-2 a third possibility may be mentioned, and that is that they were teaching that the resurrection on the Day of the Lord had already taken place, and they had missed out! Whatever the form of this heresy, it probably started very early in the church, and this may be one of the reasons why Paul devotes a long chapter on this matter in the Corinthian correspondence (1 Cor 15). In languages that do not use the passive voice, the sentence by holding that the resurrection is past already may be expressed as “by teaching that God has already raised people (or, us) from death.”

As a result of all this, They are upsetting the faith of some. They can be limited to the two men; on the other hand, since these two men are only cited as examples, They can also refer to the false teachers in general. However, the general emphasis of the discourse seems to point to these two men.

The verb translated are upsetting occurs only twice in the New Testament, here and in Titus 1.11. The verb literally means “to overthrow” or “to overturn” but has the extended meaning of causing difficult problems. The tense of the verb (present tense) indicates that this was actually happening at the time the letter was being written. Faith here can refer either to a person’s relationship to Jesus Christ in terms of trust and commitment, or, less likely, to a person’s doctrinal beliefs. Some refers to members of the church, hence “some Christians,” “some believers.” Another way to express this sentence is “and are causing some people to stop believing in Christ.” In some languages it will be helpful to restructure this verse as follows:
• They teach that God has already raised people from death. This teaching is far from the truth (or, is a complete lie), and it is causing some people to stop believing in Christ.

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

Translation commentary on 2 Timothy 4:8

Paul once again returns to the athletic metaphor, this time concentrating on the prize of victory. This verse begins with Henceforth, which has the sense of “from this very moment” (compare New Revised Standard Version “From now on,” Good News Translation “And now”).

Laid up comes from the verb that means “to store up,” “to reserve,” “to set aside,” “to preserve,” “to keep.” The implicit agent is God, and what he has laid up for Paul is the crown of righteousness. The crown of course is a symbol of victory. It was a practice in ancient times to bestow a crown of leaves or flowers to victors in athletic competitions. The crown of righteousness can be interpreted in two ways: (1) the prize of victory that is awarded for a righteous life, and (2) the prize of victory that consists of righteousness itself (compare Good News Translation “the victory prize of being put right with God”). While both are possible, the first option seems to be more appropriate, since it finds support in similar passages in the New Testament (for example, James 1.12; 1 Peter 5.4). Another way of translating this part of this verse, then, is “And now there is waiting for me the victory prize (or, crown of victory), because I have lived a life which is pleasing to God.” Righteousness here describes a life that is lived in a right relationship with God, together with its moral and ethical qualities.

The Lord clearly refers to Jesus Christ, since he is identified as the righteous judge (see 4.1), and his second coming is alluded to (his appearing). For righteous see 1 Tim 1.9 (where the word is translated “just”). The idea here is that Christ will be just and fair in pronouncing sentences of innocent or guilty and in assigning appropriate awards and punishments. For Day see 2 Tim 1.12.

But it is not only Paul who will receive the prize; in fact all who have loved his appearing will receive the crown of righteousness. For appearing see 2 Tim. 4.1 and 1 Tim 6.14. Loved in this context includes eager and earnest longing, setting one’s heart on something, looking forward to something with reverence and love (so Revised English Bible “all who have set their hearts,” New Jerusalem Bible “who have longed for,” Translator’s New Testament “who have set their hearts on”). There seems to be a problem in the expression as it stands, in that while Christ’s appearing is a future event, all who have loved seems to mark it as an event that has already taken place. A likely explanation of this is that Paul is writing from the standpoint of the day of Jesus’ appearing, and at that point all who have loved his appearing will receive the same prize as Paul.

One way of translating the second half of the verse is:
• “The Lord (or, Our Lord Jesus Christ), who is the righteous judge, will give it [the victory crown] to me on that Day. But it is not only to me that he will give this prize, but to everyone who is waiting for him to return.”

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

Translation commentary on 2 Timothy 1:15

You are aware is literally “You know” (Good News Translation), an expression that denotes either probability (for example, “It is probable that you know”; compare Phillips “You will know, I expect”) or certainty; this latter option seems to explain the Good News Bible rendering. One may also express this as “I am sure that you know.” Another problem here is whether Timothy’s knowledge about this matter is from firsthand experience or simply from hearing about it. If from hearing about it, then one may say “I am sure that people have told you.” It is much more probable, however, that this knowledge comes from Timothy’s own observation; the Greek word for “know” (oida) favors this interpretation.

All is of course an exaggeration, as indicated by the mention in the very next verse of someone who did not forsake Paul. In most languages this kind of exaggeration is quite common, especially in direct speech, which is the case here. If, however, the tendency of readers is to understand all literally, then some restructuring needs to be done in order to avoid any misunderstanding. Perhaps one can say “almost all the Christians in the province of Asia.” Then verse 16 will indicate that at least one of them supported Paul. As to what all refers to is quite uncertain. Perhaps these are Asian Christians who are in Rome, where presumably Paul was. Or perhaps these are Christians in Ephesus (where Timothy was located) who have been asked by Paul to go to Rome and testify in his trial, but who have refused.

Asia here refers, not to the continent of Asia, but to Asia Minor, now a part of western Turkey (Asia is marked near the center of the map, page 6|fig:Map_Paul-12.jpg). At that time Asia Minor was a Roman province with Ephesus as its capital. See 1 Tim 1.3 on “province.” Phygelus and Hermogenes are mentioned only here in the whole New Testament.

Turned away (Good News Translation “deserted”) should not be taken to mean that some people have physically left. In the present context it denotes the act of repudiating someone and refusing to provide help in any way (compare Jerusalem Bible “refuse to have anything more to do with me”). Formerly these people were very friendly and cooperative, but now they have become antagonistic and refuse to help. Sometimes this may be expressed as “say that they don’t know me,” or even idiomatically; for example, “turned their backs on me,”

Determining the historical event that this verse is referring to is quite difficult, especially since, as we have noted, Phygelus and Hermogenes appear nowhere else in the New Testament. There is reference to a riot in Paul’s visit to Ephesus (Acts 19), but it is obvious that that event is not what is meant here. As noted above, it has been suggested by some scholars that this has reference to Paul’s trial in Rome, on which occasion he had appealed to Christians from Asia to testify on his behalf, but they had refused to do so. But this is all speculation, and it has to be admitted that exact information on this event is no longer available to us, although it is obvious that this was information that was known to Paul and Timothy, as well to many other members of the early church.

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

Translation commentary on 2 Timothy 3:3

Inhuman translates a word that denotes a lack of love or affection, especially for close associates and members of one’s family; hence “heartless” (Jerusalem Bible), “no natural affection” (New English Bible), “devoid of gratitude” (Revised English Bible), “unkind” (Good News Translation), or “treat other people roughly.” This word also appears in Rom 1.31, where it is translated “heartless.”

Implacable describes an unwillingness to be reconciled to others; hence “unforgiving” (New International Version), “unappeasable” (Jerusalem Bible), “remorseless” (Phillips), “merciless” (Good News Translation).

The final group of vices deal with behavior toward others, either by words or by actions.

Slanderers translates a word that can literally be rendered “devils” but which is derived from a Greek verb that means “to slander”; hence “scandalmongers” (Revised English Bible), “gossipers.” See also in 1 Tim 3.11.

Profligates pertains to people who are completely lacking in self-control; hence “intemperate” (New English Bible), “licentious” (New American Bible, Revised), and even “violent” (Good News Translation).

Fierce describes behavior that is wild, vicious, and untamed; hence “savages” (New Jerusalem Bible), “brutal” (New International Version, New American Bible, Revised), “violent” (Revised English Bible), “brutes” (New Revised Standard Version). The word occurs only here in the New Testament.

Haters of good pertains to people who are against anything that is good; hence “hostile to all goodness” (Revised English Bible), “enemies of everything that is good” (Jerusalem Bible). The word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament.

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

Translation commentary on 2 Timothy 4:19

Greet translates a word that is often rendered “salute.” It may also be expressed as “I send words to,” “I want to convey my loving memories to,” “I want Priscilla … to remember me kindly.”

Prisca and Aquila are wife and husband. Prisca is the name used in the letters from Paul, but she is identical with “Priscilla” in the book of Acts, where she is referred to with her husband (Acts 18.2, 18, 19, 26). See also Rom 16.3 and 1 Cor 16.19. The order of names (with Priscilla mentioned first) probably indicates that Priscilla was more important than Aquila, at least in their ministry to the Christian community.

For Onesiphorus see 2 Tim 1.16. For household see comments on 1 Tim 3.4.

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