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How does the understanding of 1 Tim 6:5 change with the phrase "from such withdraw thyself" which is found only in the KJV and NKJV?

1 Timothy 6:3-5 (NKJV)Emphasis added
3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, 5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.

I can see how the phrase fits into the context, but does the phrase itself imply a necessary conclusion that the text did not otherwise have?

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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Certainly it changes the passage from being descriptive to being prescriptive. The intent of that section (6:3-10) seems to be to contrast two types of people: 1) those with unsound doctrine who pursue "godliness" as a means to financial gain, and 2) those with sound teaching who pursue contentment for a different kind of gain. If the phrase is kept, it changes the emphasis of Paul's pastoral concern a bit. Rather than focusing on Timothy's own motivations for teaching, it changes the focus to Timothy's reaction to other teachers' motives.

That said, if the phrase were genuine (which it likely is not), it could still be seen as a parenthetical remark. As Jon Ericson mentioned, the NET's translation notes remark, "It is likely that it crept into the text early, perhaps as a marginal comment, but it should not be considered authentic in light of the strong external evidence against it." This would essentially retain the flavor of the passage.

Lastly, I would add that it is not as though it contradicts any of Paul's other teachings, for he writes elsewhere in Titus 3:9-11 (ESV emphasis mine):

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

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The spurious passage would seem to be more aggressive in avoiding such people and not require "due process" if read that way. But now we are plucking mosquito hairs. ;-) –  Jon Ericson Oct 19 '11 at 0:33
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Starting with the basic textual criticism, here's a note from the NET Bible:

Although most witnesses, including some early versions and fathers (D2 Ψ Ï sy Cyp Lcf Ambst), have ἀφίστασο ἀπὸ τῶν τοιούτων (afistaso apo’ twn toioutwn, “stay away from such things!”) after εὐσεβείαν (eusebeian, “godliness”; thus, “who suppose that godliness is a way of making a profit; stay away from such things!”), there seems to be little good reason for this clause’s omission in some of the oldest and best witnesses (א A D* F G 048 6 33 81 1175 1739 1881 lat co). It is likely that it crept into the text early, perhaps as a marginal comment, but it should not be considered authentic in light of the strong external evidence against it.

So the reason the King James and its update include the phrase is that it was included in the Textus Receptus. It's easy to see how a annotation by some scribe could have found its way into the text. Since everything was written by hand, it can be hard to tell the difference between a bit of commentary and a correction. Like all well-used Bibles, the ancient manuscripts often included much marginalia. Thankfully, most remained isolated to particular regions and therefore can be caught via textual criticism.

Since the phrase is merely an emphasis of the point Paul already seems to be making, its not really a big deal in my opinion. The "such" could refer to either the actions ("disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings") or to the actors ("men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth"). The note above seems to say that it is the things and not the men who we should avoid.

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The source of this additional clause is the following bit of Greek:

ἀφιστασο ἀπο των τοιουτων

Which means essentially "keep away from them", with the key word being ἀφιστημι. This clause appears in the majority of manuscripts, but not in the best ones. Among the great uncials, it is present only in a ninth-century emendation to Codex Bezae. Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, along with important miniscules such as 33 and 1739, agree on the reading without the additional clause. It is understandable why the translators of the KJV included it, but the decision to omit it seems sound.

As for the interpretation of the text... Well, the obvious difference is that the text without the additional clause doesn't instruct the reader to steer clear of those who are "depraved in mind and bereft of truth". Obviously, the reader is expected to avoid becoming like those people, but being around them doesn't seems such a problem. This is suggested further by verse 11:

But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.

The instruction is to avoid the pursuit of riches, not to avoid the rich.

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It seems to me that the "such" could refer to either the actions ("disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings") or to the actors. My reading was that it was the actions that ought to be avoided as in verse 11. (But I have no real Greek so must depend on the kindness of strangers for translation issues like this.) –  Jon Ericson Oct 18 '11 at 22:14
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@JonEricson From the Greek, it is much more likely that τοιουτων refers to people, given the grammar of the preceding sentence. I'll agree that it could refer to the actions, in which case you're right: it's the same as v11. –  lonesomeday Oct 18 '11 at 22:20
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