In 2 Tim 2:15 we read:
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
σπούδασον σεαυτὸν δόκιμον παραστῆσαι τῷ θεῷ, ἐργάτην ἀνεπαίσχυντον, ὀρθοτομοῦντα τὸν λόγον τῆς ἀληθείας.
Apart from the KJV and YLT, English translations generally seem to interpret ὀρθοτομοῦντα as an idiom, translated as correctly or accurately "teaching" (NET, GNT, NIRV; NRSV "explaining") or "handling" (NIV, RSV, ESV, NASB) rather than "dividing."
Is it plausible that this is not an idiom and refers to literal division of the word? Based on a few Google searches, I thought this was a view with support among dispensationalists until I read the NET footnote (italics original; footnote mine):
Accurately (1) is a figure of speech that literally means something like “cutting a straight road.” In regard to the message of truth, it means “correctly handling” or “imparting it without deviation.”
If the NET translators do not even allow as a possible interpretation it seems less likely the view of the dispensationalist community. The Bible Knowledge Commentary (2) (also authored by Dallas Seminary faculty) also doesn't mention it. Is this just a fringe view?
If it's an idiom, what information do we have to guide us as to whether it more closely means "handle" or "teach"? ὀρθοτομέω is not used elsewhere in the NT. The two LXX uses of the word:
ἐν πάσαις ὁδοῖς σου γνώριζε αὐτήν, ἵνα ὀρθοτομῇ τὰς ὁδούς σου (3)
NETS translation of LXX
In all your ways make her known, that she may make straight your ways,
δικαιοσύνη ἀμώμους ὀρθοτομεῖ ὁδούς, ἀσέβεια δὲ περιπίπτει ἀδικίᾳ.
NETS translation of LXX
Righteousness cuts out blameless paths, but impiety is beset with injustice
Although the idea of "doing things rightly" is there in both handling the word and making straight or cutting out the (blameless) path/way, the effects of the verb on its object seem very different and not at all interchangeable.(4) In both of the Proverbs, the subject is presumed to be correct, righting in some way its object via ὀρθοτομεῖ. This doesn't seem to fit well with the exhortation to Timothy as to what he shall do with the word.
How should we understand ὀρθοτομοῦντα τὸν λόγον τῆς ἀληθεία?
I think perhaps they meant "teaching.....accurately" as the idiom seems to include that whole concept.
Liftin, A. Duane. "2 Timothy." Bible Knowledge Commentary. Eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck. Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1985.
The subject of ὀρθοτομῇ here is σοφία from the prior verse, hence αὐτήν, a little different from the MT.
I don't mean to imply that I think they need to be, only that this has not been very helpful for me to determine the meaning of 2 Tim.