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I read 1timothy 6:5 in Arabic versions of the Bible, it was: التقوى تجارة which means: godliness is trade or (gain).

But the meaning that fits with the chapter (chapter 6) is: trade or gain is godliness.

Fortunately, when I read KJV it was: (gain is godliness).

This translation i.e: (gain is godliness) is found also in versions like: Aramic Bible in plain English, Douay-Rheims, Darby Bible, and Webster Bible translation.

But in other versions of the Bible it was: (godliness is gain).

The literal translation of Greek text is (gain is godliness). Look:

  1. διαπαρατριβαὶ διεφθαρμένων ἀνθρώπων τὸν νοῦν καὶ ἀπεστερημένων τῆς ἀληθείας, νομιζόντων πορισμὸν εἶναι τὴν εὐσέβειαν. ἀφίστασο ἀπὸ τῶν τοιούτων.

So, what is the most accurate translation?, And what about the Greek text?

  1. Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: KJV

.useless wranglings {cf2super [11]} of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. NKJV

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I am not sure there is a clear answer. Grammatically, I think the Greek could be teased either way given how loose word order can be. In any case, both senses seem to have been understood in antiquity by those commenting on these verses in Greek.


Athanasius (4th c.), for example, wrote in his critique of the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia:

Now, if certain others made excuses of the expressions of the Council, it might perhaps have been set down, either to ignorance or to caution. There is no question, for instance, about George of Cappadocia, who was expelled from Alexandria; a man, without character in years past, nor a Christian in any respect; but only pretending to the name to suit the times, and thinking religion to be a means of gain (III.37)

This would support the argument for the "godliness is gain" interpretation. Origen (2d/3d c.) seems to have held a similar interpretation, in the context of Corban (Mark 7:11):

And the Gospel testifies to their love of money, saying, But the Pharisees who were lovers of money heard these things and they scoffed at Him [Luke 16:14]. If, then, any one of those who are called elders among us, or of those who are in any way rulers of the people, profess to give to the poor under the name of the commonweal, rather than to be of those who give to their kindred if they should chance to be in need of the necessaries of life, and those who give cannot do both, this man might with justice be called a brother of those Pharisees who made void the word of God through their own tradition, and were accused by the Saviour as hypocrites. And as a very powerful deterrent to any one from being anxious to take from the account of the poor, and from thinking that the piety of others is a way of gain we have not only these things, but also that which is recorded about the traitor Judas, who in appearance championed the cause of the poor, and said with indignation, This ointment might have been sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor [Mark 14:5, John 12:5], but in reality was a thief, and having the bag took away what was put therein [John 12:6] (Commentary on Matthew XI.9)


On the other hand, there are other writers in antiquity that seemed to have held the other interpretation - that Paul was writing of those who thought "gain is godliness". Malchion of Antioch (3rd c.), for example, wrote against Paul of Samosata:

After other matters again, they tell us in the following terms of what manner of life he was:—But there is no need of judging his actions when he was outside (the Church), when he revolted from the faith and turned aside to spurious and illegitimate doctrines. Nor need we say any thing of such matters as this, that, whereas he was formerly poor and beggarly, having neither inherited a single possession from his fathers, nor acquired any property by art or by any trade, he has now come to have excessive wealth by his deeds of iniquity and sacrilege, and by those means by which he despoils and concusses the brethren, casting the injured unfairly in their suit, and promising to help them for a price, yet deceiving them all the while and to their loss, taking advantage of the readiness of those in difficulties to give in order to get deliverance from what troubled them, and thus supposing that gain is godliness.

This seems also to have been John Chrysostom's (4th c. Byzantine Greek) understanding:

Destitute of the truth, thinking that gain is godliness. Observe what evils are produced by strifes of words. The love of gain, ignorance, and pride; for pride is engendered by ignorance.

From such withdraw thyself. He does not say, engage and contend with them, but withdraw thyself, turn away from them; as elsewhere he says, A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject [Tit 3:10]. He shows that they do not so much err from ignorance, as they owe their ignorance to their indolence. Those who are contentious for the sake of money you will never persuade. They are only to be persuaded, so long as you give, and even so you will never satisfy their desires. (Homily XVII on 1 Timothy)

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  • You appear to regard the early church fathers as authoritative rather than the text itself. You have not addressed the text itself here at all. This answer does not qualify as an exegesis of the text and so does not answer the question. What place does the article "the" (τὴν) before the word "godliness" (εὐσέβειαν) have here? – Dottard Mar 16 '20 at 4:50
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In 1 timothy 6:5, (gain is godliness) or (godliness is gain)?

In the context of Pauls' writings, a correct rendering of the verse is that by the NASB and many other Bible translations, "godliness is a means of gain"

1 Timothy 6:5 (NASB) The word [material] inserted in verse by me for clarity

5 "And constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of [material] gain."

1 Timothy 6:5 (KJV)

5 "Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself."

Materialism is a snare for many, It is obvious from Pauls' writings, that some persons in the congregation took improper advantage of their position of trust shown by fellow believers. Perhaps some have concluded that it is a right to press a well off fellow Christian, for a loan that he may not be able to repay. Others may have side-tracked from the path of Godly devotion as a means of taking advantage over their fellow Christians, thus Paul was inspired to write that such men were corrupt in their minds:

1 Timothy 6:5 (NASB) The word [material] inserted in verse by me for clarity

5 "And constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of [material] gain."

1 Timothy 4:8 (NASB)

8 For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

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There are two matters here that require attention: the meaning of the word πορισμός (porismos), and the grammatical structure of the sentence. We pause only to note the word play that Paul makes with the sole occurrence of this word in 1 Tim 6:5, & 6.

Meaning of the word πορισμός (porismos)

This word is listed as not simply "gain" but more correctly "means of gain" as shown by several lexicons such as BDAG, Strongs, NAS, and Thayer.

Grammatical Structure

Note that we have the article "the" (τὴν) before the word "godliness" (εὐσέβειαν). While nouns "gain" (πορισμὸν) and "godliness" (εὐσέβειαν) are both accusative, the noun "godliness" (εὐσέβειαν) has the article.

Thus we must render the phase as, "godliness is a means of gain" (NASB). See also, NIV, NLT, ESV, BSB, NKJV, CEV, HCSB, GNT, ISV, NET, GWT, ASV, ERV, WEB, etc. The KJV is misleading here.

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  • εὐσέβειαν is accusative, not nominative. πορισμὸν is nominative (in this context). – fdb Mar 15 '20 at 16:34
  • @fdb - you are correct - I will clarify this in my answer. – Dottard Mar 15 '20 at 23:59
  • @Dottard chapter 6 is talking about means of gain or trade, so what fits with overall meaning of the chapter is: trade or means of gain is godliness. – salah Mar 16 '20 at 0:46
  • @salah - 1 Tim 6 covers a much broader subject than simply trade. V1 & 2 is about loyalty of slave;, v3-6 is about integrity and honesty in teaching the truth; v7-10 is about contentment with little and what we have (not wanting more); v11 onwards is about Timothy's responsibilities as a pastor. Not here about gain at all! I think most modern versions have it correct such as NASB, NIV, NRSV, ESV, etc. – Dottard Mar 16 '20 at 4:44

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