1 Timothy 1:4
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God's work--which is by faith.

New Living Translation
Don't let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don't help people live a life of faith in God.

English Standard Version
nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.

Berean Study Bible
or devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculation rather than the stewardship of God's work, which is by faith.

Berean Literal Bible
nor to give heed to myths and endless genealogies, which bring speculations rather than God's stewardship, which is in faith.

New American Standard Bible
nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.

King James Bible
Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies. These promote empty speculations rather than God's plan, which operates by faith.

International Standard Version
and occupying themselves with myths and endless genealogies. These things promote controversies rather than God's ongoing purpose, which involves faith.

NET Bible
nor to occupy themselves with myths and interminable genealogies. Such things promote useless speculations rather than God's redemptive plan that operates by faith.

New Heart English Bible
neither to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which cause speculation, rather than God's stewardship, which is in faith--

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
And that they would not give heed to fables and to accounts of endless genealogies; these things produce all the more contentions and not edification in the faith of God.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
and occupying themselves with myths and endless genealogies. These myths and genealogies raise a lot of questions rather than promoting God's plan, which centers in faith.

New American Standard 1977
nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.

Jubilee Bible 2000
nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which generate questions other than that the edification of God is by faith.

King James 2000 Bible
Neither give heed to myths and endless genealogies, which cause questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.

American King James Version
Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.

American Standard Version
neither to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questionings, rather than a dispensation of God which is in faith;'so do I now .

Douay-Rheims Bible
Not to give heed to fables and endless genealogies: which furnish questions rather than the edification of God, which is in faith.

Darby Bible Translation
nor to turn their minds to fables and interminable genealogies, which bring questionings rather than [further] God's dispensation, which [is] in faith.

English Revised Version
neither to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, the which minister questionings, rather than a dispensation of God which is in faith; so do I now.

Webster's Bible Translation
Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith; so do.

Weymouth New Testament
and the attention they bestow on mere fables and endless pedigrees, such as lead to controversy rather than to a true stewardship for God, which only exists where there is faith. And I make the same request now.

World English Bible
neither to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which cause disputes, rather than God's stewardship, which is in faith--

Young's Literal Translation
nor to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, that cause questions rather than the building up of God that is in faith: --
Study Bible
Warning against False Teaching
3As I urged you on my departure to Macedonia, you should stay on at Ephesus to instruct certain men not to teach false doctrines 4or devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculation rather than the stewardship of God’s work, which is by faith. 5The goal of our instruction is the love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a sincere faith.…
Cross References
Ephesians 3:2
Surely you have heard about the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you,

1 Timothy 4:7
But reject irreverent and silly myths. Instead, train yourself for godliness.

1 Timothy 6:4
he is conceited and understands nothing. Instead, he has an unhealthy interest in controversies and semantics, out of which come envy, strife, abusive talk, evil suspicions,

2 Timothy 2:23
But reject foolish and ignorant speculation, for you know that it breeds quarreling.

2 Timothy 4:4
So they will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Titus 1:14
and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of men who have rejected the truth.

Titus 3:9
But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, arguments, and quarrels about the Law, because these things are pointless and worthless.

2 Peter 1:16
For we did not follow cleverly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
Treasury of Scripture

Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.


1 Timothy 4:7 But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise yourself rather …

1 Timothy 6:4,20 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes …

2 Timothy 2:14,16-18 Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the …

2 Timothy 4:4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be …

Titus 1:14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn …

2 Peter 1:16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known …


Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and …


1 Timothy 6:4,5 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes …

2 Timothy 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, …


1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was …

1 Timothy 6:3,11 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even …

2 Corinthians 1:12 For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that …

2 Corinthians 7:9,10 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that you sorrowed …

Ephesians 4:12-16 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for …

Titus 1:1 Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according …

Hebrews 13:9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is …

(4) Neither give heed to fables.--These fables ware, no doubt, purely Rabbinical. It was said in the Jewish schools that an oral Law had been given on Sinai, and that this Law, a succession of teachers, from the time of Moses, had handed down. This "Law that is upon the lip," as it was termed, was further illustrated and enlarged by the sayings and comments of the more famous Jewish Rabbis, and in the time of our Lord constituted a supplement to the written Law in the Pentateuch. For centuries this supplementary code was preserved by memory or in secret rolls, and doubtless was constantly receiving additions. It contained, along with many wild and improbable legendary histories, some wise teachings. This strange collection of tradition and comment was committed to writing in the second century by Rabbi Jehuda, under the general name of the Mishna, or repetition (of the Law). Round this compilation a complement of discussions (the Gemara) was gradually formed, and was completed at Babylon somewhere about the end of the fifth century of our era. These works--the Mishna and the Gemara, together with a second Gemara, formed somewhat earlier in Palestine--are generally known as the Talmud. The influence of some of these traditions is alluded to by our Lord (Matthew 15:3).

Endless genealogies.--Genealogies in their proper sense, as found in the Book of the Pentateuch, and to which wild allegorical interpretations had been assigned. Such purely fanciful meanings had been already developed by Philo, whose religious writings were becoming at this time known and popular in many of the Jewish schools. Such teaching, if allowed in the Christian churches, St. Paul saw would effectually put a stop to the growth of Gentile Christendom. It would inculcate an undue and exaggerated, and, for the ordinary Gentile convert, an impossible reverence for Jewish forms and ceremonies; it would separate the Jewish and Gentile converts into two classes--placing the favoured Jew in an altogether different position from the outcast Gentile.

In the Gentile churches founded by the Apostles, for some years a life and death struggle went on between the pupils of St. Paul and his fellow Apostles and the disciples of the Rabbinical schools. In these earnest warnings of his Pastoral Epistles the great Apostle of Gentile Christianity shows us, how clearly he foresaw that if these Jewish fables and the comments of the older Jewish teachers were allowed to enter into the training of the new-formed congregations, the Church of Christ would shrink, in no long space of time, into the narrow and exclusive limits of a Jewish sect. "Judaism," writes the anonymous author of Paul of Tarsus, "was the cradle of Christianity, and Judaism very nearly became its grave."

Which minister questions.--Disputings, questions of mere controversy, inquiries, which could not possibly have any bearing on practical life.

Rather than godly edifying which is in faith.--The rendering of the reading in the more ancient authorities would be: rather than the dispensation of God which is in faith; or, in other words, the introduction into Church teaching of these Jewish myths--these traditions of the elders, these fanciful genealogies--would be much more likely to produce bitter and profitless controversy than to minister to God's scheme of salvation, designed by God, and proclaimed by His Apostles.

So do.--The Apostle, in 1Timothy 1:3, begins this sentence of earnest exhortation, but in his fervour forgets to conclude it. The closing words would naturally come in here: "For remember how I besought thee when I left thee behind at Ephesus, when I went on to Macedonia, to discourage and firmly repress all vain teaching, which only leads to useless controversy, so I do now;" or, so I repeat to you now. (This is better and more forcible than the words supplied in the English version: "so do.")

Verse 4. - To give for give, A.V.; the which for which, A.V.; questionings for questions, A.V.; a dispensation of God for godly edifying, A.V. and T.R. (οἰκονομίαν Θεοῦ for οἰκοδομίαν Θεοῦ); so do I now for so do, A.V. Fables (see 1 Timothy 4:7). If the spirit which gave birth to the fables of the Talmud was already at work among the Jews, we have a ready explanation of the phrase. And that they were Jewish fables (not later Gnostic delusions) is proved by the parallel passage in Titus 1:14, "Not giving heed to Jewish fables." The prevalence of sorcery among the Jews at this time is a further instance of their inclination to fable (see Acts 8:9; Acts 13:6; Acts 19:13). Endless genealogies. What was the particular abuse of genealogies which St. Paul here condemns we have not sufficient historical knowledge to enable us to decide. But that they were Jewish forms of "vain talking," and not Gnostic, and related to human pedigrees, not to "emanations of eons," may be concluded from the connection in which they are mentioned in Titus 3:9, and from the invariable meaning of the word γενεαλογία itself. It is true that Irenaeus ('Contr. Haer.,' lib. 1.) applies this passage to the Valentinians and their succession of eons (Bythus, Nous, Logos, Anthropus, etc. - in all thirty, male and female); and so does Tertullian, who speaks of the seeds of the Gnostic heresies as already budding in St. Paul's days ('Advers Valentin.,' cap 3. and elsewhere), and Grotius supports thin explanation ('Comment.,' 1 Timothy 1:4). But it was very natural that Irenaeus and Tertullian, living when the heresies of Valentinus, Marcion, and others were at their height, should so accommodate St. Paul's words - which is all that Irenaeus does. On the other band, neither Irenaeus nor Tertullian shows that γενεαλογία was a word applied to the emanations of the eons in the Gnostic vocabulary. The genealogies, then, were Jewish pedigrees, either used literally to exalt individuals as being of priestly or Davidic origin (as the pedigrees of the Desposyni, or later of the princes of the Captivity), or used cabbalistically, so as to draw fanciful doctrines from the names composing a genealogy, or in some other way which we do not know of (see the writers 'Genealogies of Christ,' 1 Timothy 3. § 2:1; and note C at the end of the volume). Endless (ἀπέραντος); found only here in the New Testament and so one of the words peculiar to the pastoral Epistles, but used in the LXX. for "infinite," "immeasurable." It means either "endless," "interminable," or, "having no useful end or purpose;" οὐδὲν χρήσιμον (Chrysostom). But the former ("interminable") is the better rendering, and in accordance with its classical use. Questionings (ζητήσεις or ἐκζητήσεις, R.T.). (For ζητησις, see John 3:25; Acts 25:20; and below, 1 Timothy 6:4; 2 Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:9; and for the kindred ζήτημα, Acts 15:2; Acts 18:15; Acts 23:29; Acts 25:19; Acts 26:3.) The reading ἐκζήτησις is only found here. A dispensation of God. This version arises from the Greek οἰκονομίαν, which is the reading of the R.T. and almost all manuscripts. The T.R. οἰκοδομίαν ισ thought to be a conjecture of Erasmus, which, from its much easier sense, was taken into the T.R. Taking the reading οἰκονομίαν, the phrase, "a dispensation of God which is in faith," must mean the gospel as delivered by revelation and received by faith. These fables and genealogies address themselves, the apostle says, to the disputatious, itching curiosity of men's minds, not to their faith. The substance of them is matter of doubtful disputation, not revealed truth. "The dispensation" is better English than "a dispensation." So do I now; or, as the A.V., so do, is the conjectural filling up of the unfinished sentence which began "as I exhorted thee." But it is much more natural and simple to take ver. 18 as the apodosis, and the intermediate verses as a digression caused by St. Paul's desire to show how exactly the charge was in agreement with the true spirit of the Law of God. Neither give heed to fables,.... Old wives' fables, 1 Timothy 4:7 or Jewish fables, Titus 1:14 the traditions of the elders; anything that was not true; or if it was, yet idle, vain, trifling, and unprofitable:

and endless genealogies; not of deities, as the Theogony of the Gentiles, or the ten Sephirot or numbers in the Cabalistic tree of the Jews, or the Aeones of the Gnostics and Valentinians, which are said to proceed from one another, as some have thought; but both the public and private genealogies of the Jews, which they kept to show of what tribe they were, or to prove themselves priests and Levites, and the like; of which there was no end, and which often produced questions and debates. By reason of their captivities and dispersions, they were much at a loss to distinguish their tribes and families. Some care Ezra took of this matter, when the Jews returned from the Babylonish captivity. It is said (a), that ,

"ten genealogies (or ten sorts of persons genealogized) came out of Babylon; priests, Levites, Israelites, profane (or unfit for the priesthood, though they sprung from priests) proselytes, freemen (servants made free), bastards, Nethinim or Gibeonites, such whose father was not known, and those that were took up in the streets.

These Ezra brought up to Jerusalem thus distinguished, that they might be taken care of by the sanhedrim, and kept distinct; but these would often intermix and cause disputes; and sometimes these mixtures were connived at through partiality or fear (b).

"Says R. Jochanan, by the temple, it is in our hands, (the gloss adds, to discover the illegitimate families of the land of Israel,) but what shall I do? for lo, the great men of this age are hid (or impure): in which he agreed with R. Isaac, who said, the family that is hid, let it be hid. Abai also saith, we have learned this by tradition, there was a family of the house of Tzeriphah, beyond Jordan, and a son of Zion, (a famous man, a man of authority,) set it at a distance, (proclaimed it illegitimate,) by his authority. And again, there was another, and he made it near (or pronounced it right) by his power. Again, there was another family, and the wise men would not discover it.

By which we may see what management there was in these things, and what a foundation was laid for questions and debates. Of these public and private genealogies; see Gill on Matthew 1:16, to which may be added what R. Benjamin says (c) of some Jews in his time, who were the Rechabites, and were very numerous, and had a prince over them of the house of David; and, adds he, they have a genealogical book, , "and extracts of questions", which I should be tempted to render "clusters of questions", which are with the head of the captivity; and this comes very near to what our apostle here says. And when it is observed, that Herod, that he might hide the meanness of his descent and birth, burnt all the genealogical writings in the public archives (d), it must be still more difficult to fix the true account of things; and for the loss of the genealogical book, the public one, the Jews express a very great concern: for they say (e), that "from the time the book of genealogies was hid, the strength of the wise men was weakened, and the light of their eyes grew dim. Says Mar Zutra, between Azel and Azel, (that is, between 1 Chronicles 8:38 and 1 Chronicles 9:44) there is need of four hundred camel loads of commentaries.

So intricate an affair, and such an endless business was this. And this affair of genealogies might be now the more the subject of inquiry among judaizing Christians, since there was, and still is, an expectation among the Jews, that in the times of the Messiah these things will be set aright. Says Maimonides (f),

"in the days of the King Messiah, when his kingdom shall be settled, and all Israel shall be gathered to him, , "they shall all of them be genealogized", according to his word, by the Holy Ghost, as it is said, Malachi 3:3 he shall purify the sons of Levi, and say, this is a genealogized priest, and this is a genealogized Levite; and shall drive them away who are not genealogized (or related) to Israel, as it is said, Ezra 2:63. Hence you learn, that by the Holy Ghost they shall be genealogized, those that arrogate and proclaim their genealogy; and he shall not genealogize Israel but by their tribes, for he shall make known that this is of such a tribe, and this is of such a tribe; but he shall not say concerning such an one he is a bastard, and this is a servant; for so shall it be, that the family that is obscure shall be obscure.

Or else the genealogical account of their traditions may be meant, which they trace from Moses to Joshua, from Joshua to the elders, from the elders to the prophets, from the prophets to the men of the great synagogue, and from one doctor to another (g), which to pursue is endless, tedious, and tiresome:

which minister questions; as the traditions of the elders, and the genealogical account of them did; the Talmud is full of the questions, debates, contentions, and decisions of the doctors about them:

rather than godly edifying, which is in faith; and which is the principal end of preaching, hearing, and conversation; and that may be called "godly edifying, or the edification of God", as it may be rendered, which he is the author of, and which he approves of, and is by, and according to his word; or that in which souls are built up an habitation for God, and are built up in faith and holiness, and by an increase of every grace: and this is "in faith", not only in the grace of faith, but by the doctrine of faith, on which the saints may build one another, and by which they are edified through the faithful ministration of it by the ministers of the word; when fabulous stories and disputes, about genealogies, are useless and unedifying: not that the apostle condemns all genealogies, such as we have in the writings of the Old Testament, and in the evangelists, nor all inquiries into them, and study of them, which, rightly to settle, is in some cases of great importance and use, but the private and unprofitable ones before mentioned. Some copies read, "the dispensation of God, which is in faith"; meaning the dispensation of the mysteries of grace, which are in the doctrine of faith, which becomes a faithful steward of them, and not fables and genealogies, which issue in questions, quarrels, and contentions,

(a) Misn. Kiddnshin, c. 4. sect. 1.((b) T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 71. 1. & Hieros. Kiddushin, fol. 65. 3.((c) Massaot, p. 83. (d) Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 1. c. 7. (e) T. Bab. Pesachim, fol. 62. 2.((f) Hilchot Melacim, c. 12. sect. 3.((g) Pirke Abot, c. 1. sect. 1, &c. 4. fables—legends about the origin and propagation of angels, such as the false teachers taught at Colosse (Col 2:18-23). "Jewish fables" (Tit 1:14). "Profane, and old wives' fables" (1Ti 4:7; 2Ti 4:4).

genealogies—not merely such civil genealogies as were common among the Jews, whereby they traced their descent from the patriarchs, to which Paul would not object, and which he would not as here class with "fables," but Gnostic genealogies of spirits and aeons, as they called them, "Lists of Gnostic emanations" [Alford]. So Tertullian [Against Valentinian, c. 3], and Irenæus [Preface]. The Judaizers here alluded to, while maintaining the perpetual obligation of the Mosaic law, joined with it a theosophic ascetic tendency, pretending to see in it mysteries deeper than others could see. The seeds, not the full-grown Gnosticism of the post-apostolic age, then existed. This formed the transition stage between Judaism and Gnosticism. "Endless" refers to the tedious unprofitableness of their lengthy genealogies (compare Tit 3:9). Paul opposes to their "aeons," the "King of the aeons (so the Greek, 1Ti 1:17), whom be glory throughout the aeons of aeons." The word "aeons" was probably not used in the technical sense of the latter Gnostics as yet; but "the only wise God" (1Ti 1:17), by anticipation, confutes the subsequently adopted notions in the Gnostics' own phraseology.

questions—of mere speculation (Ac 25:20), not practical; generating merely curious discussions. "Questions and strifes of words" (1Ti 6:4): "to no profit" (2Ti 2:14); "gendering strifes" (2Ti 2:23). "Vain jangling" (1Ti 1:6, 7) of would-be "teachers of the law."

godly edifying—The oldest manuscripts read, "the dispensation of God," the Gospel dispensation of God towards man (1Co 9:17), "which is (has its element) in faith." Conybeare translates, "The exercising of the stewardship of God" (1Co 9:17). He infers that the false teachers in Ephesus were presbyters, which accords with the prophecy, Ac 20:30. However, the oldest Latin versions, and Irenæus and Hilary, support English Version reading. Compare 1Ti 1:5, "faith unfeigned."1:1-4 Jesus Christ is a Christian's hope; all our hopes of eternal life are built upon him; and Christ is in us the hope of glory. The apostle seems to have been the means of Timothy's conversion; who served with him in his ministry, as a dutiful son with a loving father. That which raises questions, is not for edifying; that which gives occasion for doubtful disputes, pulls down the church rather than builds it up. Godliness of heart and life can only be kept up and increased, by the exercise of faith in the truths and promises of God, through Jesus Christ.
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