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In 2 Timothy 4:7 (and 1 Timothy 6:12) there's a famous phrase "fight the good fight." I can find a number of examples (here, here, and possibly here) where this seems to be quoted as "worthwhile fight" or "well worthwhile fight" but I can't find any translations that use this phrasing. Does anyone know the source of this phrasing? If it's not in a major translation, perhaps it comes from a well-known commentary or sermon? The earliest usage of this phrase in the context of Timothy that I can find is George Betts Swann's Sermons Volume 4 from 1920.

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  • Yes the reason I ask is because it appears in a song lyric, but no that's not the original source of the wording, since one of the linked commentaries is much older than the song.
    – Noah
    Oct 3, 2022 at 17:44
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    Both times see Biblehub the word is καλον Strong 570, which is translated 'good' over 76 times (in the KJV, see Robert Young) and otherwise 'better' or 'honest'. It is once translated 'worthy' (that worthy name James 2:7). Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 3, 2022 at 18:03
  • Good point, "worthy fight" also appears a lot, though again not in any major translations.
    – Noah
    Oct 3, 2022 at 18:26

2 Answers 2

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Op, asked: "I can find a number of examples where this seems to be quoted as "worthwhile fight" or "well worthwhile fight" but I can't find any translations that use this phrasing. Does anyone know the source of this phrasing? If it's not in a major translation, perhaps it comes from a well-known commentary or sermon?"

According to Merriam-Webster the first time this phrase worthwhile was used was in 1662.

Op, here's some other information for you:

From: https://synonym.tech/

Worthwhile replaced

  •   good fight 
    
  •   worthy fight 
    

Definitions for Worthwhile

  • (adjective) sufficiently valuable to justify the investment of time or interest Synonyms for phrase
  •   good battle 
    
  •   important battle 
    
  •   worthy battle 
    

I too have not seen that used in any translations. Like you said it's usually fight the good fight.

Good is from the word; 2570 kalós – attractively good; good that inspires (motivates) others to embrace what is lovely (beautiful, praiseworthy); i.e. well done (appealing).

Worthwhile has a connotation of being anything for a cause. Everybody's trying to make their cause or fight worthwhile these days.

For Paul to say that the it is a worthwhile fight seems to open him or anybody else for that matter to choose a fight that is worthwhile.

God has certainly given him his course to fight the good fight of faith.

Acts 20:24 But I consider my life of no value to me, if only I may finish my course and complete the ministry I have received from the Lord Jesus--the ministry of testifying to the good news of God's grace.

There are many worthwhile things to stand for, but Paul makes it very clear to Timothy in the previous verses Don't get involved in Civilian affairs, stay the course.

2 Timothy 2:4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him.

In God's eyes the good fight of faith was truly good even though in others eyes it was not.

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"Good fight" is a phrase unique to Paul's letters to Timothy as follows:

  • 1 Tim 1:18 - Timothy, my child, I entrust you with this command in keeping with the previous prophecies about you, so that by them you may fight the good fight
  • 1 Tim 6:12 - Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession before many witnesses.
  • 2 Tim 4:7 - I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Note specifically, that this "good fight" is the fight of faith (1 Tim 6:12). Paul expands on this idea in Eph 6:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

13 Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness arrayed, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

This well-known metaphor of the "Christian Soldier" is used again in Rom 13:12 -

The night is nearly over; the day has drawn near. So let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Paul like this idea and returns to again in 2 Cor 6:7 -

in truthful speech and in the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left;

... and again in 2 Cor 10:4 -

The weapons of our warfare are not the weapons of the world. Instead, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

Thus, "the good fight of faith" is a military metaphor for the Christian life using Christ's weapons of faith, hope, truth, righteousness, salvation, the sword of the Spirit, the gospel, etc.

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    But what of the question's query as to 'worthwhile' ? ?
    – Nigel J
    Oct 4, 2022 at 8:20
  • @NigelJ - one might need to nominate an instance of this "unusual" translation.
    – Dottard
    Oct 4, 2022 at 9:19

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