In 1 Thess 4:10-12 (NIV) we read:

10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Now the broader theme is clearly not being a gossip:

  • lead a quiet life

But there is also a theme of entrepreneurship/work ownership:

  • work with your hands
  • you will not be dependent on anybody

But we also see the use of a double-meaning in English:

  • You should mind your own business

Now this can mean both "don't be a gossip" and "conscientiously account for your entrepreneurial activity".

What we actually see in the passage is both these themes in the double-meaning in English.

My question is: Did the translators of 1 Thess 4:10-12 make use of a double-meaning in English to convey the original meaning?

  • KJV and NAB do not lead to a conclusion that you should not gossip. I am not even sure whether that was the intention here (NIV), although it can be read that way. Dec 16, 2014 at 19:59

2 Answers 2


Did the translators of 1 Thess 4:10-12 make use of a double-meaning in English to convey the original meaning?

No. Furthermore, I can say with certainty that NIV technically mistranslated the original Greek.

Acts 19:24 New International Version

A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there.

ἐργασίαν (ergasian)
Noun - Accusative Feminine Singular Strong's Greek 2039: From ergates; occupation; by implication, profit, pains.

The gender for the Greek word for business is feminine.

Darby Bible Translation 1 Thessalonians 4:11

and to seek earnestly to be quiet and mind your own affairs, and work with your [own] hands, even as we charged you,

your own
ἴδια (idia)
Adjective - Accusative Neuter Plural
Strong's Greek 2398: Pertaining to self, i.e. One's own; by implication, private or separate.

τὰ (ta)
Article - Accusative Neuter Plural
Strong's Greek 3588: The, the definite article. Including the feminine he, and the neuter to in all their inflections; the definite article; the.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:11, whatever that implied noun is, it must have neuter gender. ἐργασίαν (business) with a feminine gender does not fit here.

On the other hand: πραγματεία (G4230 affairs) has feminine gender even though the word is not actually in 1 Thessalonians 4:11.

However, NIV can justify their choice of translation here by saying that the English sense of the word "business" makes good sense here in the context of 1 Thessalonians 4:11 even though it failed to match the Greek neuter gender of the article τὰ. English nouns do not carry genders anyway. For most readers, it is not really an issue. For hermeneutical analysis, the difference is important.


Well that is the trouble with translations. Words can mean more than one thing. However in this case I believe the double meaning is not intentional. It would be a good verse to revise in a future version to eliminate the possible misunderstanding.

Going to the greek interlinear we get

prassein         ta         idia
G4238            G3588      G2938

The direct meaning applies to work or action. For a double meaning to be intentional the original phrase "prassein ta idia" would also need to have a secondary informal/slang meaning at the time it was written (1st century). To my knowledge there is no evidence that is the case.

One thing to keep in mind about language is that is always changing and most changes are never documented. The non-biblical documents surviving from the first and second centuries are provide at best an incomplete and fragmented view of the vernacular of the time. Is it possible that "prassein ta idia" had a second meaning in the first century? It certainly "is" possible. However it is generally not a good idea to go out on a limb of what might be possible. Lacking direct evidence of a second meaning in the language of the original text one would be adding their person beliefs to scripture.

This is a great question because it illustrates the danger in translation. Generally speaking when in doubt look back to the original greek (NT) or hebrew (OT) to see the originally wording for context clues.

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