In my post yesterday, I said that I was starting a series looking at 2 Timothy 2:15. (See my post “Study to show thyself approved unto God?“) This verse is used by many schools, colleges, universities, seminaries, and other educational programs as a motto to encourage “study.” But, was this Paul’s intention when he wrote to Timothy?
To begin this “study” (ahem), we must start with the very first word in 2 Timothy 2:15. No, not the word “study”… the word σπούδασον (spoudason) which is an aorist active imperative (command) 2nd person singular form of the verb σπουδάζω (spoudazo). But, what does σπουδάζω (spoudazo) mean?
Well, to begin with, let’s remember that only the KJV translates this command as “Study” in 2 Timothy 2:15. Paul uses the verb 2 other times in 2 Timothy. This is how the KJV translators rendered the word in those instances:
Do thy diligence (σπουδάζω) to come shortly unto me. (2 Timothy 4:9 KJV)
Do thy diligence (σπουδάζω) to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren. (2 Timothy 4:21 KJV)
Paul also used the word 4 other times in other letters. This is how the KJV translates the word in those cases:
Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward (σπουδάζω) to do. (Galatians 2:10 KJV)
Endeavouring (σπουδάζω) to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3 KJV)
But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured (σπουδάζω) the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. (1 Thessalonians 2:17 KJV)
When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent (σπουδάζω) to come unto me to Nicopolis: for I have determined there to winter. (Titus 3:12 KJV)
The verb σπουδάζω (spoudazo) is found in five other places in the New Testament (one of them perhaps also written or spoken by Paul). Here are those occurrences as translated in the KJV:
Let us labour (σπουδάζω) therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. (Hebrews 4:11 KJV)
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence (σπουδάζω) to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall. (2 Peter 1:10 KJV)
Moreover I will endeavour (σπουδάζω) that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. (2 Peter 1:15 KJV)
Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent (σπουδάζω) that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. (2 Peter 3:14 KJV)
I think it’s clear that in the cases above, σπουδάζω (spoudazo) could not be translated “study,” but is more correctly translated “be diligent,” “be eager,” or “make an effort.” Of course, this is similar to how the other translators (besides the KJV) rendered the term in 2 Timothy 2:15.
But, also, we have to admit that the evidence above does not prove that σπουδάζω (spoudazo) cannot be translated “study” in 2 Timothy 2:15.
So, next, we should turn to Greek lexicons. One of the best is BDAG, which is the standard Greek lexicon on Greek text of the New Testament. The editors of this volume examine each instance of each Greek term in the New Testament and in other Greek texts of that time period. They offer the following meanings and glosses for σπουδάζω (spoudazo):
1) to proceed quickly, hurry, hasten
2) to speed up a process, expedite
3) to be especially conscientious in discharging an obligation, be zealous/eager, take pains, make every effort, be conscientious
The editors do not mention “study” as a possible gloss or meaning. Why? Because they could not find any examples in the New Testament or in other Greek literature at the time in which σπουδάζω (spoudazo) means “study.” (By the way, I checked other lexicons as well. Some of them suggest “study” as a gloss, but offer 2 Timothy 2:15 as the ONLY place that σπουδάζω means “study” in any Greek text. If there is other evidence, I’m open to consider it as well.)
At this point, it seems pretty likely (obvious, to me) that Paul did not intend to convey the meaning “study” when he used the term σπουδάζω (spoudazo) in 2 Timothy 2:15.
In the next part, I’ll look at what σπουδάζω (spoudazo) actually means in this passage so that we can understand Paul’s (and God’s) intentions.
Series on 2 Timothy 2:15
- Study to show thyself approved unto God?
- Did Paul tell Timothy to “study” in 2 Timothy 2:15?
- In 2 Timothy 2:15, what does Paul mean by “word of truth”?
- What did Paul mean by “rightly dividing the word of truth” in 2 Timothy 2:15?
- 2 Timothy 2:15 – Putting it all together