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Introduction

This is the sixth article in a ten part series about why the UMC split over the issue of homosexual practice is a Bible engagement crisis.  In the first two articles, I defined Bible engagement, and the steps in a process to determine if a situation is a Bible engagement crisis. 

In the second article, I explained why the Bible mandates that a Christian practice Bible engagement that satisfies the biblical standard.  In the third article, I discussed 2 Timothy 2:15 to develop a foundation to comprehend the biblical standard for Bible engagement.

In the fourth article, I looked at two actions found in verses 14 and 16 of 2 Timothy 2 that define actions in contrast to those comprising “rightly handling the word of truth.”   In the fifth article, I looked at two more actions found in verses 17 and 18 of 2 Timothy that define contrasting actions to “rightly handling the word of truth.”  

In this sixth article, I consider two more actions found in verses 23 and 22 that are in contrast to activity comprising “rightly handling the word of truth.”  

The Fifth Contrast

2 Timothy 2:23 (ESV) reads:

23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.

Verse 23 identifies the fifth contrast, which is “ignorant foolish controversies” that breed quarrels. 
This contrast is a controversy that is both ignorant and foolish.  This controversy causes something to occur,
i.e., breeds quarrels.  The ESV translates the Greek adjective mōros as “foolish” and it means “pertaining to thoughts devoid of understanding and therefore foolish—‘foolish, nonsensical, to be nonsense.”  See Louw et al. at 2nd edition., Vol. 1, pp. 386–387.  It is a derivative of μωρία ‘foolishness’, which means “the content of foolish thought—‘foolishness, nonsense, what is thought to be foolish.”  See Louw et al. at 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 386.  The ESV translates the Greek adjective apaideutos as “ignorant.”  It means “pertaining to that which or one who fails to reflect formal instruction or training—‘uneducated, foolish,
ignorant.”  See Louw et al. at 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 328. 

The ESV translates the Greek noun zētēsis as “controversies.”  It has the sense of a disagreement over
something important.  See Exegetical Guide, Logos 8.  It also means “to express forceful differences of opinion without necessarily having a presumed goal of seeking a solution—‘to dispute, dispute.’”  See Louw et al. at 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 437.  “Ignorant foolish controversies” are belligerent actions that are just plain stupid with no reasonable biblical basis whatsoever.

The ESV translates the Greek verb gennaō as “they breed.”  It means “to cause to happen, with the
implication of the result of existing circumstances—‘to cause, to produce, to give rise to.”  See Louw et al. at 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 162.  One translation handbook reads:

Breed translates a verb whose ordinary meaning is “to beget” or “to give birth,” but in the present context it has the meaning of “to cause to happen,” hence “to produce.”

Arichea, D. C., & Hatton, H. (1995). A handbook on Paul’s letters to Timothy and to Titus (pp. 216–217). New York: United Bible Societies.

The ESV translates machē as “quarrels.”  It means “serious conflict, either physical or non-physical, but clearly intensive and bitter—‘to clash severely, struggle, fight.’”  See Louw et al. at 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 494.  One commentator characterizes the “quarrels” as “petty quarrels and divisiveness.”  See Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, p. 289). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Verse 23 does not prohibit legitimate discussions about valid theological issues.  One commentator writes:

Paul was not prohibiting intelligent, probing theological discussion but useless wrangling over recondite questions that divide and confuse. We must cultivate a judgment that can distinguish between these options.  The solution to dealing with such ignorance and strife lies in a positive effort to teach truth to those in the grip of error.

Lea, T. D., & Griffin, H. P. (1992). 1, 2 Timothy, Titus (Vol. 34, p. 220). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

According to the fifth contrast, biblical Bible engagement does not result in a stupid belligerent argument that does not seek a solution, but is merely an argument for the sake of argument.  Such bitter dialog gives birth, i.e., brings into being, intense and bitter disputes that in no way honor God.

The Sixth Contrast

2 Timothy 2:22 (ESV) reads:

22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who
call on the Lord from a pure heart.

The sixth contrast is “youthful passions” that Timothy is to flee (v. 22).  The ESV translates the Greek adjective neōterikos as “youthful.”  It means “pertaining to the period of time when one is an adolescent—‘belonging to youth, youthful, youth.’ τὰς δὲ νεωτερικὰς ἐπιθυμίας φεῦγε ‘avoid the passions of youth’ 2 Tm 2:22.”  See Louw et al. at 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 648.

The ESV translates the Greek noun epithymia as “passions.”  It means “to strongly desire to have what belongs to someone else and/or to engage in an activity which is morally wrong—‘to covet, to lust, evil desires, lust, desire.’”  See Louw et al. at 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 290.

Neōterikos modifies epithymia.  One translation handbook comments on this expression:

The expression youthful passions appears only here, although the word for passions occurs several times (see, for example, 1 Tim 6:9 [“desires”]; 2 Tim 3:6 [“impulses”]; 2 Tim 4:3 [“likings”]; Titus 2:12; 3:3), with primary focus on sexual desires. Here Paul focuses on desires and impulses that are characteristic of youth, since Timothy is a young man (see 1 Tim 4:12).

Arichea, D. C., & Hatton, H. (1995). A handbook on Paul’s letters to Timothy and to Titus (p. 216). New
York: United Bible Societies.  Emphasis added.

One commentator sheds light on the scope of “youthful”:

In the first century, the term youth was not confined to the teenage years. In fact, only two phases of life were recognized—youth and old age. Many interpreters believe Timothy was in his late thirties or even in his forties when Paul wrote to him. Perhaps “young” people experience greater temptations toward certain sins which diminish with age, such as haughty independence and selfish ambition.

Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, p. 288). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

The ESV translates the Greek verb pheugō as “flee.”   It means “to avoid doing something, with the evident purpose of attempting to avoid danger—‘to avoid.’ τὰς δὲ νεωτερικὰς ἐπιθυμίας φεῦγε ‘avoid the evil desires of youth’ 2 Tm 2:22”.  See Louw et al. at  2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 165.

One commentator discusses this verse in the context of speech:

The two imperatives (“flee” and “pursue”) are identical with the commands of 1 Tim 6:11. In this context the “evil desires of youth” are not so much a reference to sensual allurements as to expressions of youthful immaturity. Hotheaded answers and extended discussions of trivia can hinder effectiveness, not only for youthful disciples but for those of all ages. Young men can be characterized by partiality, intolerance, halfheartedness, and unwarranted self-assertion. These were the qualities Timothy was to avoid.

Lea, T. D., & Griffin, H. P. (1992). 1, 2 Timothy, Titus (Vol. 34, p. 219). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

According to the sixth contrast, biblical Bible engagement must not lead to unproductive hotheaded dialog characteristic of the adolescent tendency to want to argue for the sake of argument.  Such arguments are pointless and reflect a spiritual immaturity, i.e., youthful passions. 

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