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In II Timothy 3, Paul cautions Timothy that in the last days men will come:

Having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
II Timothy 3:5 (NKJV)

The Greek word 'dunamis', given here in English as 'power', appears to be out of context with the verses before and after it, that is, if we accept it to mean dynamic power. One can think that perhaps the supposed believers are practicing their own beliefs that do not agree with the doctrines/teachings, of the whole Word. Some teach that in the last days believers will deny the Holy Spirit, or the miraculous power of God, even though it does not specifically say that.

My Hebrew Transliteration Translation by Seth Hunerwadel says: Lich'orah ba'alei yir'at shamayim (ancient meaning lofty or sky, and I am thinking in the New Testament it was a euphamism for God), ach (but) koferim (atheist) betakepah. Hitrachek (move away) me'elleh (from them). --

My Orthodox Jewish Brit Chadasha has: having an outward form of yir'at (fear, as in fear of Adonai) Shomayim but the ko'ach (ability, the force, vigor) of the chasidus (pious) having denied. Turn away from these.

My scholarly software reads: Ve'hem pa'nim la'hem kid'moot yir'at sha'ma'yim ach mi'ko'acha eyn be'kir'bam ve'al'ken har'chek naf-she-ka mehem.

The translators for whatever reason used dunamis, but the better word may be Ko'ach, which means strength, or ability. Strength as in vigor of the creation. I do not possess, yet, the necessary skills to translate the Hebrew in terms to understand this passage. Anyone else have a clue?

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    That particular verse seems to describe the Pharisees, all form, and no substance.
    – Lucian
    Sep 11, 2021 at 2:20
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    Welcome to BH.SE. I have added quote formatting so the quote stands out a little more. A general comment: the chain of translation you are using appears to be Greek --> Hebrew --> English, whereas for English Bibles it is simply Greek --> English. In Physics, power is defined as work done per unit time, so something needs to happen (be moved) in order for there to be evidence of the existence of power. Paul is saying these men look godly, but there is no evidence (no work done) because they do not possess the power necessary to achieve it. They don't credit God as the source of godliness.
    – enegue
    Sep 11, 2021 at 3:01
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    I've edited my answer to add the context.
    – Perry Webb
    Sep 11, 2021 at 12:43
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    I added in more Hebrew.
    – Perry Webb
    Sep 11, 2021 at 17:09
  • Thank you so much. Sep 12, 2021 at 3:22

3 Answers 3

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I consulted two sources, and quote from them now regarding what 'dunamis' in the text really means, in context of the whole passage. Bear in mind that some, if not most of the many identifying marks of hypocrites from verse 1 through to 9 can apply to those who "have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof". It shows that such ones can wheedle their way into houses, having the power to lead silly women astray, capturing them with sins and lusts. Yet despite their apparent great knowledge and learning, they never know the power of the truth. Matthew Henry's Commentary says regarding verse 5:

"...howsoever plausible their form of godliness is, they deny the power of it. When they take upon them the form which should and would bring along with it the power thereof, they will put assunder what God hath joined together; they will assume the form of godliness to take away their reproach, but they will not submit to the power of it, to take away their sin...

"A form of godliness is a very different thing from the power of it; men may have the one and be wholly destitute of the other, yea, they deny it, at least practically in their lives...

"[Re. vss 8 & 9] ...comparing them to the Egyptian magicians who withstood Moses... When Moses came with a divine command to fetch Israel out of Egypt, these magicians opposed him. Thus those heretics resisted the truth and like them were men of corrupt minds..." (p 1895, middle column)

Note the connection between those hypocrites in the congregation and their power to lead others into sin along with them, and their parallel in ancient Egypt - magicians with powers that appeared supernatural, yet they were heretics with corrupt minds. Two types of negative power are mentioned in the whole passage, which opposes the positive power of the truth of the gospel to deal with sin.

Now I quote from an Appendix in another source, which deals with the synonymous words for 'power'. This is an Appendix re. 2 Timothy 3:5:

"1. dunamis = inherent power; the power of reproducing itself: from which we have Eng. dynamics, dynamo, &C. See Acts 1.8

  1. kratos = strength (as exerted); power put forth with effect, and in government; from which we have the Engl. theocracy, government by God; aristocracy, government by the best; democracy, government by the people. The Greek enkrateia = mastery over one's self = self-control, or having one's self reigned in (from krateia, a rein)." (The Companion Bible, Bullinger, Appendix 172, p 191)

Interestingly, both those Greek words can have application in verse 5. There is inherent power in the truth of the gospel of Christ, primarily its power over sin and death. (Obviously, governmental power is not applicable. Nor is inherent, reproductive power.) Then there is the power of self-control which genuine Christians have. But these hypocrites use the gospel as a ruse to creep into homes to satisfy sinful lusts, instead of reigning them in.

Context, and the meanings attached to those two Greek words, imply that those hypocrites do not show the power of God's truth to have dealt with their sin. Conversely, their end-game is to satisfy sinful lusts through cunning, so they have power to lead others astray.

The point about the power of those magicians who opposed Moses seems to warn that supernatural, miraculous powers cannot, in themselves prove the power of God is at work, for those ones are stated to be a warning, in context of those hypocrites who claimed to have the power of God, but whose lives showed they denied it. They remain in their sin, they like it that way, and they try to lure others into sin with them. No wonder Christians are warned to steer totally clear of such hypocrites!

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    Thank you so much for your research and response to my question. Sep 12, 2021 at 3:52
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As you alluded to, the understanding of the use of the word ‘dynamis’ lies in the context, and you claim it ”appears to be out of context”. So I’ll concentrate on the context and not the Greek [choice of] word.

HAVING A FORM OF GODLINESS, BUT DENYING THE POWER THEREOF: This is the nineteenth characteristic Paul listed that would be prevalent in the last days. The people Paul mentioned are very religious, but their religion is only a “form.” The Greek word for “form” here is “MORPHOSIS,” and it means a semblance, an outward shape, appearance, or silhouette. There is no reality to their religion.

The word “power” was translated from the Greek word “DUNAMIS.” Here, it refers to the “power which those who only have an outward semblance of piety toward God and not the inward reality, refuse to allow access to their lives that they might be saved” (Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, Volume 2, p. 145).

This is the same word that Jesus used in referring to the baptism of the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:8. Therefore, this includes, but is not limited to, those who refuse the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

From such hypocrites Timothy was told to turn away. In Acts 19:8-9, there is a personal example from the life of Paul where he separated the disciples from those who denied the power of the Gospel. This was in Ephesus. When Paul first arrived there, he went into the Jewish synagogue and preached boldly for three months. But when some of the Jews hardened their hearts and began to speak evil of Paul’s way, he separated those who believed and moved into the school of Tyrannus, ministering there for two years.

There were a number of times Paul told his followers to withdraw from ungodly people: Romans 16:17, 1 Corinthians 5:11, 2 Thessalonians 3:6, and 1 Timothy 6:5. The Apostle John also did the same thing in 2 John 10.

As long as those in the synagogue were open, Paul stayed and shared the Gospel, but when they opposed what he was saying, Paul left and took all the disciples with him. The synagogues of Paul’s day allowed visitors and members of the congregation to minister, as portrayed in Acts 13:5. Paul here was suggesting that if any ministered against their gospel (denying its ‘dynamis’) that they should go elsewhere.

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    Dave: a very good answer, +1. Correct their religion it is only a "form" --it is hollow.Their “form of godly devotion” is a false front so that they may give a “holy” appearance to a selfish, immoral course of life. As God’s Word says: “They publicly declare they know God, but they disown him by their works because they are detestable and disobedient and not approved for good work of any sort.”​Titus 1:16. Sep 11, 2021 at 19:28
  • It was a good answer. I thank you for taking time to post your response. Sep 12, 2021 at 3:54
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The most significant reference is Rom. 1:16 about the power [δύναμις] of God for salvation. The Hebrew words translating δύναμις in the New Testament emphasize the idea of strength.

David H. Stern a Messianic Jew, wrote this commentary.

Most religion today is mere outer form, words and ritual without power; contrast 1C 2:4–5. Non-Messianic Judaism too must remain an outer form of religion lacking the spiritual power people want and need, so long as it continues to deny him who is the only way to the Father (Yn 14:6) and to the Holy Spirit (Ro 8:9–10), the source of that power (1:7 above). -- Stern, D. H. (1996). Jewish New Testament Commentary : a companion volume to the Jewish New Testament (electronic ed., 2 Tim. 3:5). Clarksville: Jewish New Testament Publications.

However, Jesus was more specific and accused the Sadducees of denying this power (Matt. 22:29). Thus, how the Sadducees interpreted Scripture is a more specific example. For Matt. 22:29, both Hebrew translations use גְּבוּרָה.

In this context the best Hebrew translation of δύναμις seems to be יְכוֹלֶת. However, כֹּחַ is good, or even גְּבוּרָה. For some reason the translation of Rom. 1:16 seems better.

אֵינֶנִּי בּוֹשׁ בִּבְשׂוֹרַת הַמָּשִׁיחַ, שֶׁהֲרֵי הִיא כֹּחַ הָאֱלֹהִים לְהוֹשִׁיעַ אֶת כָּל מִי שֶׁמַּאֲמִין, אֶת הַיְּהוּדִי בָּרִאשׁוֹנָה וְגַם אֶת הַלֹּא–יְהוּדִי; -- ha-Berit ha-ḥadashah. (2000). (Rom. 1:16). Israel: The Bible Society in Israel.

כִּי אֵינֶנִּי בּוֹשׁ מִבְּשׂוֹרַת הַמָּשִׁיחַ בַּאֲשֶׁר גְּבוּרַת אֱלֹהִים הִיא לִתְשׁוּעַת כָּל־הַמַּאֲמִין -- Franz Julius Delitzsch. (n.d.). Delitzsch Hebrew New Testament (Rom. 1:16).

Note: Franz Delitzsch [1813-1890) predates modern Hebrew.

לִכְאוֹרָה בַּעֲלֵי יִרְאַת שָׁמַיִם, אַךְ כּוֹפְרִים בְּתָקְפָּהּ. הִתְרַחֵק מֵאֵלֶּה -- (2 Tim. 3:5, ha-Berit ha-ḥadashah)

וַאֲשֶׁר דִּמְיוֹן חֲסִידוּת לָהֶם וּמְכַחֲשִׁים בְּכֹחָהּ וְאַתָּה סוּר מֵאֵלֶּה׃ -- (2 Tim. 3:5, Delitzsch).

The Larger Context

Preceding this passage has the topic:

 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15, ESV)

The pitfalls of those who fail at this lead up to the passage in question.

Following this passage leads up to:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16–17)

And, "preach the word" in 4:2.

The Immediate Context (2 Tim. 3:1-9)

The context jumps around describing a godless society that has civil laws derived from the Law of Moses and Christs teaching, even the external ritual of worship (giving the outward appearance/form of godliness), but essentially caught up in sin without the ability (δύναμις) to resist. Thus, Romans 1:16 and Rom. 8 is missing in their lives.

 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power [δύναμις] of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Rom. 1:16–17, ESV)

 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (Rom. 8:5, ESV)

Here is a prime description of science; always increasing in knowledge, but never reaching the end, never reaching absolute truth. The honest scientist acknowledges, "The more we know the more realize what we don't know."

 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. (2 Tim. 3:7, ESV)

Definitions

  1. δύναμις has the idea of can. Denying δύναμις means can't. It means saying miracles can't happen, etc.

And Jesus said to them, “Can [δύνανται, יְכוֹלִים] the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. (Matt. 9:15, ESV)

And Jesus said to them, “Can [δύνανται, יְכוֹלִים] the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. (Mark 2:19, ESV)

And Jesus said to them, “Can [δύνασθε, יְכוֹלִים] you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? (Luke 5:34, ESV)

He also told them a parable: “Can [δύναται, הֲיוּכַל] a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? (Luke 6:39, ESV)

Nathanael said to him, Can [δύναταί, יָכוֹל] anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” (John 1:46, ESV)

This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can [δύναται, יָכוֹל] do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can [δύναται, יָכוֹל] a man be born when he is old? Can [δύναται, יָכוֹל] he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:2–4, ESV)

Nicodemus said to him, “How can [δύναται, יִתָּכְנוּ] these things be?” (John 3:9, ESV)

Senses of δύναμις in the New Testament (Logos Bible Software)

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Hebrew words δύναμις translates in the Septuagint (LXX).

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  1. εὐσέβεια is the word using in the LXX to translate יִרְאַ֣ת fear/respect)

εὐσέβεια, ας, ἡ (Pre-Socr., Aeschyl.+; inscr., pap. as ‘piety, reverence, loyalty, fear of God’) in our lit and in the LXX only of the duty which man owes to God piety, godliness, religion ... -- Arndt, W., Gingrich, F. W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (1979). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature : a translation and adaption of the fourth revised and augmented edition of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schrift en des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur (p. 326). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

σέβω—1. act. (Pind.+) worship -- BADG, p. 746.

εὐσεβέω (trag.+; inscr., pap., LXX) be reverent, respectful, devout -- BADG, p. 326.

As used to Translate Hebrew in LXX

enter image description here

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  • Thank you for all the research you posted. Sep 12, 2021 at 3:46
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    @Crytstal I'm assuming you can read Hebrew with Hebrew alphabet. I struggle with Hebrew written in Roman alphabet, probably because I only read it and don't speak it.
    – Perry Webb
    Sep 12, 2021 at 12:26
  • Perry, I am taking a Hebrew Biblical class from the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies. I have a Old Testament Bible written in Hebrew called the Israel Bible, and recently purchased a couple of New Testaments written in Hebrew, plus I have software The Transliterated New Testament in Greek and Hebrew. I am still learning. I highly recommend The Torah: A Mechanical Transliteration by Jeff A. Benner. I am using it along with my class. The Artscroll Library has their books printed in Hebrew and English and the Chumash (interesting Bible). All are good sources. Chabad.org has many resources. Sep 13, 2021 at 16:02
  • Note כֹּחַ = Ko'ach
    – Perry Webb
    Sep 13, 2021 at 16:13
  • I've read Dr. Dr. Eli Lizorkin Eyzenberg's commentaries on John and Genesis.
    – Perry Webb
    Sep 13, 2021 at 16:21

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