In his commentary on 1 Timothy 6:10, Charles Ellicott wrote,

For the love of money is the root of all evil.—Some would water down this strong expression by translating the Greek words by “a root of all evil,” instead of “the root,” making this alteration on the ground of the article not being prefixed to the Greek word rendered “root.” This change, however, grammatically is unnecessary, as the article disappears before the predicate, in accordance with the well-known rule respecting subject and predicate.

The Greek text of 1 Timothy 6:10:

Ιʹ ῥίζα γὰρ πάντων τῶν κακῶν ἐστιν ἡ φιλαργυρία ἡς τινες ὀρεγόμενοι ἀπεπλανήθησαν ἀπὸ τῆς πίστεως καὶ ἑαυτοὺς περιέπειραν ὀδύναις πολλαῖς TR, 1550

To what “well-known [Greek] rule respecting subject and predicate” does Ellicott refer?


1 Ellicott, p. 211, 1 Tim. 6:10


A New Testament Commentary for English Readers. Vol. 3. Ed. Ellicott, Charles John. London: Cassell, 1884.

  • I've always thought the obvious meaning of this passage was "for the love of money men will do every evil." One of the ways of saying which is, "money is the [at the] root of every kind of evil." Nov 8, 2018 at 0:22

3 Answers 3


There is definitely not a consensus on this. Here’s Robertson for example:

A root of all kinds of evil (ριζα παντων των κακων [riza pantōn tōn kakōn]). A root (ριζα [riza]). Old word, common in literal (Matt. 3:10) and metaphorical sense (Rom. 11:11–18). Field (Ot. Norv.) argues for “the root” as the idea of this predicate without saying that it is the only root. Undoubtedly a proverb that Paul here quotes, attributed to Bion and to Democritus (την φιλαργυριαν εἰναι μητροπολιν παντων των κακων [tēn philargurian einai mētropolin pantōn tōn kakōn]), where “metropolis” takes the place of “root.” Surely men today need no proof of the fact that men and women will commit any sin or crime for money.

Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (1 Ti 6:10). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

I’m wondering if Charles Ellicott was arguing for what was a Hebraism:

(i) A noun in the postconstructus state can be found with or without the article הַ and is accordingly definite or indefinite.

(ii) A noun in the status constructus never takes the article הַ. The definiteness of the postconstructus also applies to the status constructus (with certain exceptions, especially in poetry).

Van der Merwe, C., Naudé, J., Kroeze, J., Van der Merwe, C., Naudé, J., & Kroeze, J. (1999). A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar (electronic ed., p. 194). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

For those who don't know Hebrew, root would be in the construct state and evil would be in the post-construct state if it were Hebrew.


I cannot speak to the question of which rule is being referenced but I wanted to address the tangent, is it "a" root or "the" root.

First of all, the context is a warning about the harm that covetousness causes:

[1Ti 6:9-11 KJV] 9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and [into] many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

He's not concerned primarily with moral guilt at this point but about all the heartache that the love of money brings. Think "credit card debt". Talk about "skewering yourself" with "many sorrows"!

It is these "many sorrows" that are the result of the love of money.

There is no effort being made to suggest that Adam ate the forbidden fruit because he wanted shekels. There are other motivations.

Also, I don't think there are any plants with a single root. One might say a carrot but actually the carrot is the "tap root" but there are other roots. So the image of a root is kind of intrinsically, or naturally an image of multiple roots.

So what I consider the sensible interpretation of what the Greek text is saying is like that old joke:

"There is no problem that you have that is so bad, so complicated, so miserable and horrible... that alcohol can't make it worse!"

But only with money... "the love of money is a factor in all of those troubles".

And there may be some hyperbole involved as well.


I am unaware of any such grammatical rule. Apparently, neither have many of the major versions of the Bible: NIV, ESV, NASB, CSB, GNT, HCSB, NHEB, NAS1977, ASV, ERV, YLT all have "a root".

Apart from the grammatical requirements, we have the informed comment of others such as:

Meyer's NT Commentary 1 Timothy 6:10 gives a reason for the thought in 1 Timothy 6:9.

ῥίζα γὰρ πάντων τῶν κακῶν ἐστὶν ἡ φιλαργυρία] It is to be observed that Paul does not mean to say, whence all κακά whatever proceed, but what proceeds from φιλαργυρία. Hence there is no article with ῥίζα. Hence, too, de Wette’s correcting remark, that ambition, too, may entirely destroy man, does not affect the author of the epistle.

Further we have:

Expositor's Greek Testament

1 Timothy 6:10. ῥίζα, κ.τ.λ.: The root of all evils. The R.V., a root of all kinds of evil is not satisfactory. The position of ῥίζα in the sentence shows that it is emphatic. Field (in loc.) cites similar examples of the absence of the article collected by Wetstein from Athenæus, vii. p. 280 A (ἀρχὴ καὶ ῥίζα παντὸς ἀγαθοῦ ἡ τῆς γαστρὸς ἡδονή), and Diog. Lært. vi. 50; and adds five others from his own observation. It is, besides, unreasonable in the highest degree to expect that on the ground of his inspiration, St. Paul’s ethical statements in a letter should be expressed with the precision of a text book. When one is dealing with a degrading vice of any kind, the interests of virtue are not served by qualified assertions.

Thus, it become obvious that the English translation cannot be literally, "The root of all evil is the love of money" as there are numerous other evils whose origin is patently not pecuniary! Therefore, this is one of the many instances where the major translations have it completely correct - "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" or similar.

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