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ἐλεγμόν is generally translated in 2 Tim 3:16 as reproof or conviction, which to me is a negative connotation. However the same is translated in Heb 11:1 as evidence, proof.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: [2 Timothy 3:16 KJV]

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. [Hebrews 11:1 KJV]

According to Bible Hub, the meaning is as follows,

Thayer's Greek Lexicon STRONGS NT 1650: ἔλεγχος

ἔλεγχος, ἐλέγχου, ὁ (ἐλέγχω);

  1. a proof, that by which a thing is proved or tested (τό πρᾶγμα τόν ἔλεγχον δώσει, Demosthenes 44, 15 (i. e. in Philippians 1:15); τῆς εὐψυχίας, Euripides, Herc. fur. 162; ἐνθαδ' ὁ ἔλεγχος τοῦ πράγματος, Epictetus diss. 3, 10, 11; others): τῶν (or rather, πραγμάτων) οὐ βλεπομένων, that by which invisible things are proved (and we are convinced of their reality), Hebrews 11:1 (Vulg.argumentumnonapparentium (Tdf.rerumarg.nonparentum)); (others take the word here (in accordance with the preceding ὑπόστασις, which see) of the inward result of proving viz. a conviction; see Lünem, at the passage).

  2. conviction (Augustine,convictio): πρός ἔλεγχον, for convicting one of his sinfulness, 2 Timothy 3:16 R G. (Euripides, Plato, Demosthenes, others; the Sept. chiefly for תּוכַחַת.)

These are only 2 verses in which this word is used. My question therefore is could 2 Tim 3:16 "reproof or conviction" be translated as evidence or truth as opposed to a telling off? if not why not?

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The OP's information is confirmed that the noun ἔλεγχος only occurs in two places, 2 Tim 3:16 and Heb 11:1. Its meaning from BDAG is:

  1. the act of presenting evidence for the truth of something, proof, proving, eg, Heb 11:1, ie, faith is a proving (or conviction about) unseen things = faith means to be sure about things unseen (in contrast to confidence in the temporal)
  2. the act of charging a person with wrongdoing, accusation. [This meaning not used in the NT but widely used outside the NT in Koine Greek documents. BDAG lists numerous such references.]
  3. expression of strong disapproval, reproof, censure, correction, eg, 2 Tim 3:16.

Thus, these meanings are established here (as elsewhere in BDAG) from a huge amount of 1st century Koine Greek literature, much much more than just the NT, that is contemporaneous with the NT language.

The above meanings are consistent with most Bible translations, viz, something like (BLB):

  • 2 Tim 3:16 - Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
  • Heb 11:1 - Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not being seen.
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    Interesting that a 'conviction' is the act of convincing (presumably the public) that a defendant is guilty. The word 'convince' satisfies both the meanings highlighted by the OP. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 16:02
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Reproof is a poor choice of word for this, which means something that you say or do to show that you disapprove of someone's bad or silly behaviour. Reprove means to scold, rebuke, tell off, reproach.

reproof (rɪˈpruːf) or reproval an act or expression of rebuke or censure [C14 reproffe, from Old French reprove, from Late Latin reprobāre to disapprove of; see reprobate]

There are better words for reproof (G2008 ἐπιτιμάω). Elenxon ἔλεγξον however, means to convict with proof, not merely find fault with or disapprove.

Cambridge Grk Testament commentary: ἔλεγχος. “Demonstration,” or “test.” the evidence of things not seen] The word rendered “evidence” means “demonstration,” or “test.”

RV Heb 11:1 the proving of things not seen; KJV the evidence of things not seen.

The noun form occurs only a couple of times, but the verb many times:

Matthew 18:15 V-AMA-2S
GRK: σου ὕπαγε ἔλεγξον αὐτὸν μεταξὺ
NAS: , go and show him his fault in private;
KJV: tell him his fault between thee
INT: of you go reprove him between

John 16:8 he will ἐλέγξει convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.

Abbott-Smith Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament:

ἐλέγχω ,

[in LXX chiefly for H3198 hi.;]

  1. in Hom., to treat with contempt.

  2. to convict: c. acc, Matthew 18:15 (RV, show him his fault), Titus 1:9; seq. περί , John 8:46; John 16:8, Judges 1:15; pass., James 2:9.

  3. to reprove, rebuke: 1 Timothy 5:20, 2 Timothy 4:2, Titus 1:13; Titus 2:15, Revelation 3:19; pass., seq. περί , Luke 3:19; ὑπό , Hebrews 12:5 (LXX).

  4. to expose: Ephesians 5:11; pass., John 3:20, 1 Corinthians 14:24 (RV reprove, mg. convict), Ephesians 5:13 (RV, as 1 Co, l.c., of. AR on Ephesians 5:11; MM, Exp., xii; cf. ἐξ -, δια -κατ -ελέγχομαι ).†

SYN: ἐπιτιμῶ G2008, expressing simply rebuke, which may be undeserved (Matthew 16:22) or ineffectual (Luke 23:40), while ἐλ . implies rebuke which brings conviction (v. Tr., Syn., § iv).

ἔλεγχος , -ου , ὁ

(ἐλέγχω ),

[in LXX: freq. in Pr, Jb (H3198) Wisdom of Solomon 5:1-23, Sirach 3:1-31, etc.;]

a proof, test: Hebrews 11:1.†

2Timothy 4:2

ESV preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
Berean BIB: κήρυξον Preach τὸν the λόγον· word; ἐπίστηθι be ready εὐκαίρως in season ἀκαίρως· [and] out of season; ἔλεγξον, convict, ἐπιτίμησον, rebuke, παρακάλεσον, [and] exhort, ἐν with πάσῃ complete μακροθυμίᾳ patience καὶ and διδαχῇ. instruction.

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The Greek word 'elegchos' is used in 2 Tim.3:16, and there the word means reproof with regard to 'conviction'.

The Greek word 'elegchos' is also used in Heb. 11:1, with the same meaning of 'conviction', but the corresponding English word 'evidence' is used.

All this does is show that 'conviction' means proving by evidence so as to convince. To be convicted is to be convinced, by proof, of ....whatever. Hence, John wrote of men who were "convicted ['elegcho'] by conscience, walking away, one by one" (John 8:9). This was a public demonstration by Jesus that the accusers of the woman needed to be convinced that she ought not to be stoned to death. The result was that, one by one, the men became convinced of that subtle reproof.

This shows the interchangeability of the English words, 'reproof' and 'evidence' when it comes to the Greek word 'elegcho', which basically means "to convict". The process of conviction may involve reproof and evidence.

Source - Young's Analytical Concordance, 8th edition

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