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2 Thessalonians 3:3 NASB

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.

Some translations, like the NASB include “evil one” (with “one” in italics) whereas other translations, like the Darby only keep “evil.” Should 2 Thessalonians 3:2 be translated as Paul saying he believes the Lord will protect the Thessalonians against evil (which implies harm?) or that he believes they will be protected from the evil one (their salvation will remain intact)?

It’s interesting that this verse follows his ask that they pray for him and his fellow workers to be rescued from perverse and evil men specifically.

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The correct translation is "from the evil."

>"2 and that we may be delivered from the unreasonable and evil men, for the faith [is] not of all; 3 and stedfast is the Lord, who shall establish you, and shall guard [you] from the evil;" (2 Thes. 3:2-3, YLT)

Both 1st and 2nd Thessalonians are generally agreed to have been written approx. 50-51 AD. This places the time of the letters during the period when the Jews were troubling the assemblies of God. It continues the subject from 1 Thessalonians praising their faithfulness in the face of tribulations and is a reference back to 2 Thess. 1:4-6 about the tribulation and persecutions from the Jews. The evil then of 2 Thes. 3:3 was the troublesome and painful suffering they were caused by the Jews out of Jerusalem (1 Thess. 2:14; Acts 14:2; 17:5-8, 13).

Excerpt from the Pulpit commentary makes excellent point -

"The word "evil" may be either masculine or neuter: if masculine, then it denotes "the evil one;" if neuter, then "evil" in general. There is nothing in the word itself to determine its meaning; this must be learned from the context. Most commentators (Calvin, Bengel, Olshausen, Hofmann, Macknight, Ellicott, Eadie, and Bishop Alexander) suppose that the evil one is meant; and it is so rendered in the R.V.: "Guard you from the evil one." But it is better to take the word abstractly "evil" in general, whether evil persons or evil things; as a contrast to "every good word and work" (2 Thessalonians 2:17). So Alford, Lunemann, De Wette, Jowett, Lillie. There is the same difference of opinion with regard to the words in the Lord's Prayer: "Deliver us from evil;" or "from the evil one" (R.V.). Here, also, notwithstanding the high authorities on the opposite side, we consider that our Lord's words are not limited to the evil one, but are to be taken generally - "evil" in the widest sense, as being much more forcible. 2 Thessalonians 3:3" Source: Biblehub

It is always best to keep the scriptures in the time frame in which they were written and to stay with the context / subject matter.

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Here is the Greek text (undisputed) of 2 Thess 3:3 with my overly literal translation:

Πιστὸς δέ ἐστιν ὁ Κύριος, ὃς στηρίξει ὑμᾶς καὶ φυλάξει ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ. = But faithful is the Lord who will strengthen and keep you from the evil.

The last word in this verse is πονηροῦ (ponerou) which is a genitive masculine singular adjective. Therefore, what noun or implied noun does the adjective modify? We have the following possibilities as listed in the standard versions:

  • "evil one" (ie, Satan), NIV, NLT, ESV, BSB, NKJV, NASB, LSB, CSB, HCSB, ASV, ERV
  • "evil" (generally), BLB, KJV, Aramaic, CEV, DRB, YLT, WBT

[Note that we cannot have "evil men" as per the previous verse because πονηροῦ is singular. Similarly, "evil things" is equally unacceptable.]

Either of the above two possibilities, "evil" (generally), or, "evil one", is acceptable; the latter being more probable if the article is taken as a substantive pronoun (as is often the case on the Greek).

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Note: I mistakenly dealt with the wrong verse (v2 instead of v3) in 2 Thess. 3. I intend to delete my answer soon.

The overwhelming majority of translators render the phrase in question as "evil men" or "evil people." This includes at least two versions of NASB:

  • NASB - that we will be rescued from troublesome and evil people; for not all have the faith.
  • NASB1995 - and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.

The reason that this phrase can't be understood as the noun "evil" or even as "the evil one" is that the Greek word for evil (πονηρός) is followed by antropon which means "men." So in this case the word is clearly an adjective.

If a translator omits "men" or renders the word as "the evil (one)" it is probably in an effort to make the passage conform to the Lord's Prayer in Mt. 6:13, where the word is πονηροῦ and there are indeed several ways to interpret "deliver us from evil."

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  • This is factually incorrect because (1) the word "anthropon" does NOT follow the word "ponerou", and, (2) I could find no translation that translate the final word as "evil men" or "evil people" - such would be grammatically incorrect anyway. Further, I think you answer above is about v2 NOT v3.
    – Dottard
    Jan 26, 2023 at 22:47
  • I plead old-age-related dyslexia regarding the confusion of verses. I intend to delete my answer after a day or two in self-imposed stocks for my errors. The big question is how @Dottard came by his moniker when he is consistently so sharp mentally. Jan 27, 2023 at 1:30
  • Your kindness is flattering but let me assure you my senor's moments are quite frequent.
    – Dottard
    Jan 27, 2023 at 2:49
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This question is answered in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-7. Dottard is correct in the proposed translation. This is also the understanding of πονηροῦ in Sirach 4:20 and Deuteronomy 23:10

But faithful is the Lord who will strengthen and keep you from the evil. Deuteronomy 23:10 Translation by Dottard

When you go out as an army against your enemies, guard yourselves against anything impure. NET Deuteronomy 23:9

כִּֽי־תֵצֵ֥א מַחֲנֶ֖ה עַל־אֹיְבֶ֑יךָ וְנִ֙שְׁמַרְתָּ֔ מִכֹּ֖ל דָּבָ֥ר רָֽע׃ WTT Deuteronomy 23:10

ἐὰν δὲ ἐξέλθῃς παρεμβαλεῖν ἐπὶ τοὺς ἐχθρούς σου καὶ φυλάξῃ ἀπὸ παντὸς ῥήματος πονηροῦ Deuteronomy 23:10 LXX

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Somebody told a story. This story is likely to have been passed on by word of mouth, then transcribed, then translated. Some of these steps happened multiple times, and there have likely been edits and revisions in the various stages of the story's life. My answer is therefore that we have no realistic way of knowing exactly what the intention of the person who originally came up with the story was. They may not even have had any intention with regard to the question you're asking.

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