2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV):

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

What is the original Greek word and its connotation here? To me this could mean:

  1. Presenting oneself to God as self-approved after coming to some revelation.
  2. God proving out to the person (via Scriptural study) that they are already approved since the foundation of the world, and they can have confidence in that fact.
  3. Some 3rd option I have not considered.
  • Just a note here since this is mentioned incompletely in two answers: "study" has an archaic meaning of being diligent, which is likely the intended meaning of the verse
    – Max Xiong
    Jan 13, 2023 at 22:57

3 Answers 3


σπούδασον - aorist active imperative 2nd person singular of σπουδάζω

The senses of how this word is used in the New Testament is the best indication of the meaning. (graphs generated with Logos Bible Software.)

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The Hebrew words σπουδάζω translates in the Septuagint (LXX) shows some of the connotations of the word.

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Thus, σπουδάζω can have a sense of fear and most definitely a sense of urgency, a lack of hesitation.

σεαυτὸν - yourself makes the meaning of the imperative reflexive.

δόκιμον - accusative masculine singular adjective of δόκιμος

The meaning is much deeper than approved. It means tested and shown to be genuine. It's used for refining metals to purify them.

Senses of use in the New Testament

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Hebrew words δόκιμος translates in the LXX

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παραστῆσαι - aorist active infinitive of παρίστημι

Senses in the New Testament

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This is a very similar picture to Rom. 12:1-2. The presentation is to God (τῷ θεῷ) not people; thus only genuine can be approved. It reflects the idea of a sacrifice without blemish, but also reflects how God can refine. It shows the urgency of how temptation and sin can make someone unworthy as God's worker. Paul went on with more detail.

  • Thank you for your answer. Oct 18, 2021 at 20:36
  • Your welcome Keenan.
    – Perry Webb
    Oct 18, 2021 at 20:48

The word “study” in this passage does not mean to pursue knowledge by reading, etc. Rather, it is the Greek verb “SPOUDAZO,” and this Greek word means “make haste...to exert oneself, endeavor, give difference” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon).

It involves much more than just taking in knowledge. The Liberty Bible Commentary states, “Study (Gk. SPOUDAZO) is not the normal word you think of as a student but a word used of a workman meaning ‘give diligence,’ ‘endeavour,’ or ‘exert oneself.’” This is the reason the word “workman” was used later in this same verse.

This Greek word was used eleven times in the New Testament, and this is the only time it was translated “study.” It was translated “forward” (Galatians 2:10), “endeavoring” (Ephesians 4:3), “endeavored” (1 Thessalonians 2:17), “endeavor” (2 Peter 1:15), “do thy diligence” (2 Timothy 4:9 and 21), “diligent” (Titus 3:12 and 2 Peter 3:14), “diligence” (2 Peter 1:10), and “labour” (Hebrews 4:11)

The most common way this verse is interpreted is to say that if we study well, God approves of us and what we have done. It is more correctly interpreted that through our study, we prove to ourselves that we have been approved, or accepted, of God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

The English word “shew” was translated from the Greek word “PARISTEMI,” and PARISTEMI means “to stand beside, i.e....to exhibit, proffer, (specially) recommend, (figuratively) substantiate” (Strong’s Concordance). It is through our study that we substantiate or exhibit that we are already accepted in Christ (Ephesians 1:6).

Studying doesn’t make us more accepted by God, nor does our lack of study make us less accepted by God. By our study, we will be made more aware that God has already accepted us, and our lack of study will make us less aware of that.

  • +1 good research
    – Perry Webb
    Oct 18, 2021 at 1:14
  • Thank you for your answer. Oct 18, 2021 at 20:36

The KJV version is slightly misleading in 2 Tim 2:15 - a better, more literal version is perhaps given by BLB:

Hasten to present yourself approved to God, a workman not ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

The highlighted verb is παρίστημι (paristémi) which occurs 41 times in the NT and which BDAG offers the following meaning:

to cause to be present in any way ... (c) 'present' become almost equivalent to make, render, eg, Eph 5:27, 2 Tim 2:15, Col 1:22, 28, etc.

Ellicott offers these comments about the verse:

(15) Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed.—Timothy, and those in the position of Timothy, were to show themselves approved unto God, by turning others, over whom they possessed influence, from the pursuit of vain and unprofitable things. Then their work would be the work of workmen tested by trial, and would be found to have stood the test. (Comp. here 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, where the final testing of the work done by God’s workmen, such as Timothy, is spoken of in very clear, heart-searching language.) His own words in the First Epistle to the Corinthians were evidently in St. Paul’s mind when he wrote down this direction to Timothy.

Similarly, Gill has this:

Study to show thyself approved unto God,.... The Alexandrian copy reads, "to Christ"; see Romans 16:10. Not unto men, as pleasing them; for such who study to please men, are not the servants of Christ; and sometimes those that are approved to and by men, are disapproved of by God and Christ: but unto God, showing all fidelity and uprightness; speaking out the Gospel openly, and freely, with all sincerity, as in the sight of God; commending themselves to him, and to every man's conscience, by manifestation of the truth; and such will hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant" another day.

The verse itself provides the basis for such divine approval:

  • "a workman not ashamed", that is, the Gospel worker is to avoid scandals and anything that would bring the Gospel work into disrepute
  • "accurately handling the word of truth", that is, the Gospel worker is one who has a good, deep and accurate knowledge of the Scripture than can be used to teach other about the message of the Bible. See also 2 Tim 3:14-17 -

14 But as for you, continue in the things you have learned and firmly believed, since you know from whom you have learned them. 15 From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work.

  • +1 good research
    – Perry Webb
    Oct 18, 2021 at 1:13
  • Thank you for your answer. Oct 18, 2021 at 20:36

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