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There is some debate as to the accuracy of various English translations of this verse.

1 Timothy 6:10 (Textus Receptus)
ῥίζα γὰρ πάντων τῶν κακῶν ἐστιν ἡ φιλαργυρία ἡς τινες ὀρεγόμενοι ἀπεπλανήθησαν ἀπὸ τῆς πίστεως καὶ ἑαυτοὺς περιέπειραν ὀδύναις πολλαῖς

Is Paul saying that the love of money is the root of all evil or all kinds of evil?

Also, please explain the relative merits/weaknesses of the position(s) you discuss.

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    Sorry. I was focusing on the "all evil" and "all kinds of evil" and didn't pay adequate attention to the first part. My question was always about "the love of money." – mojo Feb 8 '14 at 13:59
  • People do all kinds of crimes to get their hands on money. They murder, they steal, etc. – Constantthin Dec 16 '18 at 22:05
  • They comit adultery, they defraud, they lie, they don't honour the day of rest, etc. so I would say that is has to be "all kinds of evil", because people can also do all these bad things for "love". – Constantthin Dec 16 '18 at 22:14
  • About 3/4 of all 28 Bible translations, on Bible Hub, has "all kinds/sorts of evil". – Constantthin Dec 16 '18 at 23:19
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Because of an edit made in your post, it is important to note that money itself is not being called the root of all evils (nor all sorts of evils) in this passage, it is the love of money that is problematic, as the edit to the question has clarified.

With that said, 1 Timothy 6:10 is a difficult text to translate. A literal translation of the text would read like so:

For a love of money is a root of all evils; some [people] in reaching for it have strayed from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

My initial thoughts concerning this translation is that using a literal translation makes this verse less 'quote-worthy'. People like to quote individual verses in the Bible without their surrounding context. If you don't use the definite article and helping words, this verse doesn't make much sense standing alone. This makes it less 'quote-worthy' unless one also reads the surrounding context.

I don't believe making a verse into something easier to quote is a good motivation for adding helping words to clarify it, but it also isn't really changing the meaning in context, it is merely adding terms to clarify it.

Translating the indefinite noun ῥίζα

Despite this literal reading, translators agree virtually unanimously on translating 'root' as a definite noun in this passage, and as you have observed, they often disagree on whether to translate πάντων τῶν κακῶν as 'of all kinds/sorts of evil/s' or literally as 'of all evils' (based on a survey of major English translations). However, using the definite article often forces these same translations to add 'kinds/sorts' to avoid the text making the (obviously) false assertion that the love of money is the root of all evils, which I believe is the motivation behind inserting these helping words.

Possible readings

Daniel Wallace (who was one of the principal translators on the NET Translation Committee) points out in Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament that there are six (6) possible readings of this verse (p. 265):

  1. “the love of money is a root of all evils”
  2. “the love of money is the root of all evils”
  3. “the love of money motivates all evils”
  4. “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils”
  5. “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils”
  6. “the love of money motivates all kinds of evils”

Wallace elaborates,

The reason for these six possibilities is that first, it is difficult to tell whether ῥίζα is indefinite (options 1 & 4), definite (2 & 5), or qualitative (3 & 6), and secondly, πάντων may mean “all without exclusion” (1, 2, & 3) or “all without distinction” (4, 5, & 6).

Logically, it would be difficult to say that ῥίζα is definite, for then the text would be saying either (1) the only root of all evils is the love of money or that (2) the greatest root (par excellence) of all evils is the love of money. These are the options if πάντων means “all without exclusion.” However, the definite idea would fit if πάντων means “all without distinction.”

Grammatically, it would be difficult to take ῥίζα as indefinite, since this is the least attested meaning for the anarthrous pre-verbal [predicate nominative] in the NT. However, grammatically the most probable option is to see ῥίζα as qualitative. The idea would be either that all evils can be motivated or initiated by the love for money or that all kinds of evils can be motivated by the love for money. The qualitative idea makes no comment about anything else that might motivate or produce evil. It simply states that loving money does motivate/produce all (kinds of) evils (p. 265).

Despite Wallace's conclusion based on the analysis of this particular text, it is also notable that the NET translators point out that "there is no parallel for taking a construction like this to mean 'all kinds of' or 'every kind of.' The normal sense is 'all evils.'" The next section of this post will thus analyze the occurrences of πάντων τῶν κακῶν elsewhere.

Also notable is that by his own admission, Wallace's analysis only consisted of similar constructions in the New Testament corpus. This can often produce a short-sighted view of the linguistic use. A fuller study should compare similar grammatical constructions in all contemporary and other early Greek literature. Unfortunately, I do not have the time nor inclination to conduct such a study for an answer on BH.SE (such an answer would be for publication in a peer-reviewed journal or book). Even so, a cursory search for πάντων τῶν κακῶν was conducted of classical Greek literature (still not the ideal corpus in all cases, but it can still shed light on this).

Delimitation: I am only searching for the phrase πάντων τῶν κακῶν in the Perseus Digital Library. I am not searching for all anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominatives to see if they are best understood as definite or not, nor am I searching for other key terms and phrases within the verse (doing so should be done for a complete analysis of this issue, but is the stuff of dissertations and academic publications, not answers on SE).

Occurrences of πάντων τῶν κακῶν in other Greek texts

1 Timothy 6:10 is the only occurrence of this phrase in the New Testament corpus, however, the phrase πάντων τῶν κακῶν occurs in six (6) verses in the Septuagint (LXX):

All of the occurrences of πάντων τῶν κακῶν in the Septuagint appear to best be translated as 'all the evils'. Many instances occur with a genitive pronoun (e.g. 'all their evils'), but even so, none of these instances seem to be best understood as 'all sorts/kinds of evils'.

Next I searched the Perseus Digital Library for instances of this phrase in other early Greek literature and found twenty-four (24) occurrences (I did this search with software, but you can do the same search online for free, this will link directly to the search results; note that the text of interest was one of these occurrences, i.e. 1 Timothy 6:10). I only took a cursory glance at the results due to time constraints (although I did personally translate several of them, but my analysis of the first ten results was admittedly much more thorough than that of the last fourteen). In most of these cases, the more literal translation also seems preferred (i.e. not adding 'kinds/sorts of').2 The few where adding 'sorts/kinds of' may be preferable for translation (the English translation on the Perseus Digital Library opted for the literal translation in these as well—this is more or less a concession on my part from my analysis of the Greek text) are listed below:

  • Isocrates, Against Callimachus 18:11 — Isocrates refers to Xenotimus as the 'author of all evils', which is a problematic assertion without qualifying it with 'sorts/kinds of' as in 1 Timothy 6:10. Even so, it can be translated literally as hyperbole, but this at least argues for translating πάντων as 'all without distinction.'
  • Lysias, Against Simon 3:20 — Lysias calls Simon the author 'of all the evils', but in context these 'evils' seem to have an immediate referent, allowing for a literal translation (which may also be the case in the letter to Timothy).

Final Analysis

I could spend a lot more time on this, and one probably should to better grasp this issue. But based on my cursory analysis, I'll conclude with some of my thoughts (I here assume knowledge of the textual context, as I did not specifically address it in my answer):

  1. The point of this passage in context seems to be that loving money motivates or produces evils.
  2. Whether the helping words 'kinds/sorts of' should be added depends on how you understand the context. A literal reading could be supported without these helping words if it were an intentional hyperbole or if you understand 'all the evils' to refer to the 'harmful desires' that cause people ruin and destruction (v. 9), as well as other earlier listed vices. However, not using the definite article and helping words makes the text less 'quote-worthy' and thus more dependent on its surrounding context (which isn't a bad thing in my opinion).
  3. Wallace's analysis of the New Testament corpus seems to jive well with my cursory analysis of other Greek corpora. That is, the definite idea fits since πάντων can mean 'all without distinction' in Greek literature.
  4. There is some ambiguity between saying that 'all evils can be motivated or initiated by the love for money' or that 'all kinds of evils can be motivated by the love for money' (i.e. the translation difference does not result in a huge change in meaning either way).
  5. I believe that the context should be the final guide, which leads me to support the following translations, the first of which I believe a footnote should help explain, as demonstrated below:

For the love of money is the root of all evilsa. Some people in reaching for it have strayed from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

a 'all evils' in this passage is either an example of hyperbole or it refers to those 'evils' listed in vv. 4-9.

OR

For the love of money motivates/produces all kinds of evil(s). Some people in reaching for it have strayed from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

I am aware of some non sequitur logic in my final analysis, however due to time constraints I decided I needed to end this answer. I hope the work that has been done is a good start for your continued study of this passage.


1 Alternate reading labeled 10:3f in Alfred Rahlfs and Robert Hanhart, eds., Septuaginta: SESB Edition (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006), Es 10:3f.

2 I originally thought that Demosthenes' For the Megalopolitans 16:24 (c. 352 B.C.E.) contained a similar construction as that in the first letter to Timothy (c. 62-76 C.E. at the earliest), or properly said, I thought the letter to Timothy contained a similar phrase as that found in Demosthenes' political oration. However, only the English translation was similar, the Greek text itself was dissimilar except in the use of the phrase πάντων τῶν κακῶν. The specific Greek text of interest is "...καὶ ταύτην ἀρχὴν οὖσαν πάντων τῶν κακῶν, τὸ μὴ 'θέλειν τὰ δίκαια πράττειν ἁπλῶς", where the English translation used by the Perseus Digital Library has "...the root in fact of all evil—is unwillingness to act justly under all circumstances." However, a more literal translation would read "...and originates all evils, is the unwillingness to observe justice uniformly." Retrieved from http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=urn:cts:greekLit:tlg0014.tlg016.perseus-grc1:24.

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    Hugely helpful! Thanks, Daи. Two thoughts: (1) we'd love to have "native speaker" testing here! Sadly, there are no native Koine speakers available to interview. Perhaps we rely too heavily on grammar categories and dictionary entries when the impression on native speakers would be quite different. (2) Older commentators were often (usually?) immersed in Greek classics in a way that our contemporaries mostly aren't. Both Lock, ICC, and White, Expositor's Greek, opt for definite ῥίζα adding classical parallels. Maybe "root par excellence"? – Dɑvïd Feb 8 '14 at 10:41
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    Well my preferred translation is that same wording with the root 'par excellence', but I ran to hyperbole or contextual referents rather than letting it stand. My search of the classics certainly would support that as well, but I wish I had more time to do all the analysis I know I should. Thanks for the insight! – Dan Feb 8 '14 at 13:36
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1 Tim 6:10 does not begin with "for the love of money" but rather with "A root of all evil". This is done for emphasis. He is focused on the ill effects of covetousness in people's lives, not on the money itself. So given the context, "evil" here is not "diabolicalness" but rather "problems". And "root" is not literal but rather figurative for "source".

What occasions his exhortation is that there are prosperity preachers afoot:

1Ti 6:4  He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,  1Ti 6:5  Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.  1Ti 6:6  But godliness with contentment is great gain.  1Ti 6:7  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  1Ti 6:8  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.  1Ti 6:9  But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.  1Ti 6:10  For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

  • preachers preach a prosperity gospel
  • love for money is aroused in the listeners
  • deals go sour, offences and law suits ensue   So love for money is destructive. Avarice is a fool's game. Love for money is every bit the adder as is booze and just as addictive. Instead he teaches contentment and the great boon it is.

Now we know that trouble did not begin with the invention of money. Trouble is woven into the warp and woof of life:

Job_14:1  Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.

Paul gives no indication that he wants to confine trouble to just love for money. He wants Timothy to dope-slap the prosperity preachers, steer the people from their harmful message and to nurture contentment. In order for Tim to see the urgency he has pointed out the endless misery that comes when people's hearts are set on gain.

Someone said, "There is no problem you have that is so great and so horrible that alcohol can't make it worse". Paul would say the same about avarice.

KJV unless otherwise noted.

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Is it possible that the error lies in our own eisegesis? We inserted the definite article, 'the' where there was no definite article. Even if there was a definite article, Hebrews-using-Koine-Greek thinking did not work that way. So when one says that the love of money is "A" root of all evil you could understand the logic is that there are many different rooots for all kinds of evil. But in English it would flow more smoothly to say "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil." So the NIV is right for style and flow but the KJV is right for a word-for-word translation except that the word "the" is put there before "root."

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It's a depiction of the results from "material based, simple greed" and all the variants of material greed (all kinds of), wanting more, coveting. It rottens the soul, so to speak.The context is provided also by the result, ie reaching for it, some people have strayed from the faith...

The "Lust of the eyes", one of the 3 basic temptations so I think it does not mean here that the love of money is the root of all evils. So for this temptation, these things do not last, they will pass away but it is probably the one thing that has motivated far more evil in the world and is often the root cause for man's big problems.

We are meant to be in the world, not of the world. This is a common problem for people of the world but since our ultimate focus is for the what comes after, we should know that the things gather in this life are for just a "time" and that this temptation should be impotent.

Perhaps the ultimate rebuttal? Matt 16:26, "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?"

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If πάντων τῶν κακῶν is taken together, as πάντων just qualifying the κακῶν, serving its adjective, then it will be translated like "of all evils"; but if τῶν κακῶν is taken as genetivus partitivus, then it will be translated as "of all [representatives] of the [class] of the evils". The first is a looser statement, as just saying "a lot of evil things, virtually all of them, is rooted on love of money", whereas the second is a more philosophically provoking and paradoxical statement that there is no evil that is not rooted on love of money. Now, for a soul-shattering and soul-benefiting discussion, of course it is incomparably better to choose the second, paradoxical statement, for paradoxes are always more divine than banalities, the former being noble and aristocratic, whereas the latter - vulgar and peasantly. So, let's leave to peasants what belongs to peasants, and let's go philosophical.

Now, is this Heraclitusque paradox that all evils without exception are rooted on love of money defensible? Yes, it is. One may object thus: evil first originated in a spiritual reality with the rebellion of angels of one of the highest ranks, and at that time there was no money, ergo, the Pauline statement belies itself; and also, evil crept in humanity with Adam's lapse, and at that situation of paradise there was no money to love for him, ergo, the Pauline statement belies itself again.

However, if one understands deeper and ontologically what the "love of money" means, then one can see perfectly that St Paul's paradox shines spotlessly, more brightly than the sun. What is the "love of money" about? It is not about, or primarily about, buying self-gratifying pleasures by it, but primarily it is about self-sufficiency. The final cause of accumulating money, is, thus, not pleasure, but a state of self-sufficiency, when one does not need and require help and supply from anybody else. There is a deep-rooted desire in human essence to have such a self-sufficiency as to have access to everything that he desires without asking anybody, in short and more precisely, a deep-rooted desire to be happy without any gratitude to somebody or something providing this happiness, for by being self-sufficient, I provide happiness to myself. But exactly this is the ontological error committed first by Satan and then by Adam, whom Satan seduced and deceived by a promise: "you will be like gods", that is to say, as self-sufficient as God, without needing His grace and presence as the only source of the happiness and bliss. Thus, desire of money, when it substitutes in the deepest recesses of human heart the desire towards communion with God, the only provider of true happiness, is the root of all sins, for in all sins there is the same incentive - to be happy without God. Thus, Paul's statement should be understood in a strong, exclusive and paradoxical sense and given a philosophical credit no less than to any great paradoxical statements by Parmenides or Heraclitus.

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The entire bible should be interpreted with the mindset that every problem a human faces is due to the original problem illustrated in Genesis. Adam was told by the serpent that God was afraid that if Adam ate from the wrong tree that Adam would become like God knowing good and evil.

God, while absolutely a real being also represents himself as the source of all life. Adam is his action was raising himself to God status in his mind. Adam chose to make himself like God, to be the source of all he needs. Hence why the curse involves Adam working to live. Adam because he wanted to be God now has to provide all his needs which he will find out real quick that he can't.

Every problem throughout the bible is linked to the self exaltation of man. Instead of depending on God to be the source and provider man decides to take on the role and they find themselves with all sorts of problems.

This verse is no different then everything else. The love of money which is dependance on money or your own ability to get money (world's way) is putting both things before God, which ironically is not only the problem of the OT hebrew people, but also the 1st commandment.

When god says dont put other gods before me he's not just talking about other religious gods like bale and others, but don't put sickness, health, love, work, jobs, money, your own ability in front of him.

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    My question is primarily about translation, not exegesis. Other than being perhaps technically inaccurate to link every conceivable evil to the love of money, Paul's meaning is pretty much the same either way. – mojo Dec 17 '18 at 12:40

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