I thought the normal translation of 2 Timothy 3:12 was pretty cut and dried. I never really questioned it deeply which is unusual because I do what I can using English language tools (since I am not a Greek scholar). However, a circumstance arose where it became necessary to take a close look and, for me, what a ride. Most English language translations are almost unanimous with something like: "All who desire to live a godly life in Jesus Christ will suffer persecution."

It is the "suffer persecution" for which I was seeking the best English translation. Persecution seems to convey to the modern popular mind only the most severe treatments like physical harm, imprisonment, and death threats.

However, a look at how the greek phrase is employed across the NT seems to indicate, like so many other texts, that the context bequeaths the correct sense.

And, here, since the subject is "ALL" and the list of oppositional manifestations is long including everything from insults, marginalized, mockery, trick questions to death threats, imprisonment, and torture, (In the life of Jesus and Paul) it seems that persecution misses the point by degrees which is instructive, if true, to all audiences.

If I am correct, it seems like reading it "all who desire to pursue a godly life in Jesus Christ will "move forward against continuous opposition/difficulties" "would communicate the sense better.

And, if that translation is allowable, the question does arise regarding the voice and tense of the Greek. Who is performing the action. It seems it could be the believer simply in walking in a godly manner precipitates the oppositional motion. The Greek phrase translated "persecution" apparently is simply "moving towards something" as in "following" or "pursuing" something good OR bad.

Either way, this "all" inclusive subject adds substance and compliments other verses like John 15:20 and 1 Peter 4:12.

My post is to seek confirmation, expansion, correction of the direction in which I am moving.

If my question is inappropriate for this forum or worded incorrectly, please assist me to make it more appropriate in order to deliver the same result which I hope is evident.

Thank you.

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2 Answers 2


The verb διώκω (diókó) has, according to BDAG, four basic meanings:

  1. to move rapidly and decisively toward an objective, hasten, run, press on, eg, Phil 3:12, 14
  2. to harass someone, especially because of beliefs, persecute, eg, Matt 5:11, 44, 10:23, Luke 11:49, 21:12, John 5:16, 15:20, Acts 7:52, 9:4, 22:4, 7, 26:11, 14, Rom 12:14, 1 Cor 4:12, 15:9, Gal 1:13, 23, 4:29, Phil 3:6, 2 Tim 3:12, Rev 12:13, etc.
  3. to cause to run or set in motion, drive away, drive out, eg, Matt 23:34.
  4. to follow in haste in order to find something, run after, pursue, eg, Luke 17:23, Rom 9:30, 31, 1 Tim 6:11, 2 Tim 2:22, etc.

I note that the tense of διώκω (diókó) in 2 Tim 3:12 is Future Indicative Passive - 3rd Person Plural. Note especially the passive, which means that the action is not the result of the person but others upon the person. Therefore, the translation of the person "moving towards something" (which is active) is not possible.

In conclusion, I believe that BDAG and most modern versions have the translation correct: "will be persecuted" or similar.


I suggest that the proper exegesis of this verse should be focused on why Paul wrote these words to Timothy, instead of us.

Earlier in 2 Timothy 1 (NIV), Paul wrote to Timothy

5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.

7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.

We may only superficially see the character of Timothy from Paul's description of him. Verse 7 may tell us that Timothy was actually timid, likely quite introverted.

When Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, he was about to be executed in Rome. He was asking Timothy to stay strong for Christ sake, as Timothy would see Paul's death pretty soon. Therefore Paul wrote

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12 NIV)

Paul was talking about himself, but also wanted Timothy to prepare his mind that one day it might happened to him too.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it (2 Timothy 3:14)

As to our present time, many Christians are living in hostile area. Their life are being threatened every day. Remember these words from Paul will encourage them to stay strong. As Jesus said:

whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39b NIV)

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