2 Timothy 2:23
But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.
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(23) But foolish and unlearned questions avoid.—The Greek word translated “unlearned” is better rendered ignorant. These “questions” which, as we have seen above, the false teachers, with whom Timothy was so much thrown, loved to put forward for discussion, could hardly be termed “unlearned”—much useless learning being often thrown away in these disputing of the schools—but were rather “pointless,” “stupid,” as well as foolish. The nature of these questions of controversy has been discussed above.

Knowing that they do gender strifes.—Knowing—as thou dost—from sad and frequent experience, what conflicts, heart-burnings, estrangements, these abstract questions between rival teachers and rival sects engendered.

2 Timothy 2:23-25. But foolish and unlearned questions — Or unimportant subjects of inquiry and debate; avoid, knowing that they gender strifes — Or contentions in the church; and certainly it is a most important part of the duty of a Christian minister to guard against all occasions of offence and mischief. For the servant of the Lord must not strive — Or contend eagerly and passionately, as do the vain wranglers spoken of in the preceding verse; but be gentle — Or mild, forbearing, and long-suffering; unto all men; apt to teach — Chiefly by patience and unwearied assiduity. In meekness — Of which he has always need; instructing those who oppose themselves — Or who set themselves in opposition to the doctrines of the gospel; if peradventure — Or by any means; God may give them repentance to the acknowledgment — The belief and profession; of the truth — In these verses, “the apostle seems to have had Christ’s example as a teacher in his eye, proposing it as a model to all who are employed in teaching. The virtues here mentioned, our Lord generally exercised in teaching. Yet, on some occasions, he departed from his usual mildness, and with great severity reproved notorious sinners; such as the scribes and Pharisees. In the same manner, the prophets and apostles used strong speech in checking obstinate offenders; while those who showed any candour and honesty in their opposition to the truth, they instructed with the greatest meekness.” — Macknight. That they may recover themselves — Or rather, may awake, and deliver themselves; out of the snare of the devil — In which they have lain sleeping, and, as it were, intoxicated. “In order to understand this beautiful image,” says Doddridge,” it is proper to observe, that the word ανανηψωσιν properly signifies to awake from a deep sleep, or from a fit of intoxication, and refers to an artifice of fowlers to scatter seeds impregnated with some drugs intended to lay birds asleep, that they may draw the net over them with the greater security.” Who are taken captive by him — Greek, εζωγρημενοι, caught alive. The word denotes the action of a fisher, or hunter, who takes his prey alive in order to kill it; which is properly applied to Satan’s insnaring men in order to destroy them. And the snares in which he takes them are those prejudices, errors, lusts, and vices, in which he entangles, and by which he detains them his captives, in the most shameful bondage, danger, and misery, while they have been dreaming, perhaps, of liberty and happiness.

2:22-26 The more we follow that which is good, the faster and the further we shall flee from that which is evil. The keeping up the communion of saints, will take us from fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness. See how often the apostle cautions against disputes in religion; which surely shows that religion consists more in believing and practising what God requires, than in subtle disputes. Those are unapt to teach, who are apt to strive, and are fierce and froward. Teaching, not persecution, is the Scripture method of dealing with those in error. The same God who gives the discovery of the truth, by his grace brings us to acknowledge it, otherwise our hearts would continue to rebel against it. There is no peradventure, in respect of God's pardoning those who do repent; but we cannot tell that he will give repentance to those who oppose his will. Sinners are taken in a snare, and in the worst snare, because it is the devil's; they are slaves to him. And if any long for deliverance, let them remember they never can escape, except by repentance, which is the gift of God; and we must ask it of him by earnest, persevering prayer.But foolish and unlearned questions avoid; - see the notes at 2 Timothy 2:16; compare the notes at 1 Timothy 1:4, 1 Timothy 1:6; 1 Timothy 4:7. The word "unlearned," here, means "trifling; that which does not tend to edification; stupid." The Greeks and the Hebrews were greatly given to controversies of various kinds, and many of the questions discussed pertained to points which could not be settled, or which, if settled, were of no importance. Such has been the character of no small part of the disputes which have agitated the world. Paul correctly says that the only effect of such disputes is to engender harsh contention. Points of real importance can be discussed with no injury to the temper; but people cannot safely dispute about trifles. 23. (Tit 3:9.)

unlearned—Greek, "undisciplined"; not tending to promote the discipline of faith and morals (Pr 5:23). "Uninstructive"; in contrast with "instructing" (2Ti 2:25), and "wise unto salvation" (2Ti 3:15).


It is a precept or caution of the same nature with those, 1 Timothy 1:4 4:7; and 2 Timothy 2:16. The repetition of this precept of the apostle four times in these two short Epistles, lets us know how important a thing he judged it, that ministers of the gospel should not spend their time in their discourses to their congregations, in things that tend nothing to the building up of their hearers in faith or holiness, being either old wives’ fables, like the stories in the popish legends, or the apocryphal stories of Bel and the Dragon, Tobit and his dog, and the swallows dunging in his eye, &c.; or sifting out genealogies, or vain and impertinent discourses, or idle, fruitless questions, which tend not to edifying, but to satisfy curiosity, and increase strife and ungodliness; which kind of preaching the apostle also had defamed, 1 Timothy 6:4, as the issue of pride, and ignorance, and dotage, and here he calls such questions

unlearned in the same sense, because impertinent to the end of preaching. The vanity of human nature, and their non-subjection to the will of God, appeareth much in this, that notwithstanding the unreasonableness of such preaching, and the direct opposition of it to the so often repeated precepts of the apostle, and to Titus, Titus 3:9, and Paul’s proposing of his own example to the contrary, 1 Corinthians 2:1-4; yet for many years in the times of popery the people were fed with little besides these husks; and too many yet, either out of pride, to show their parts and reading, or ignorance of the mysteries of godliness, and the true end of preaching, or dotage about unprofitable speculations and niceties, can find little better food than these husks for poor people’s souls.

But foolish and unlearned questions avoid,.... Such as have no solid wisdom in them, and are foreign from the Gospel, the wisdom of God in a mystery, and are not useful and unedifying; such ought to be avoided, publicly and privately; they should not be started in the public ministry, nor attended to in private conversation; as being unworthy of the notice of a minister of the Gospel wise and learned, and useless to the church, and to his hearers.

Knowing that they do gender strife; about words, and contentions, which break the peace of churches, and hinder the profit of souls, and the progress of the Gospel.

But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.
2 Timothy 2:23 is in contrast (δέ) with 2 Timothy 2:22. As in 1 Timothy 1:4; 1 Timothy 6:4, ζητήσεις are brought forward as the characteristic of heresy. Paul calls them μωραὶ καὶ ἀπαίδευτοι] μωραί, Titus 3:9.

ἀπαίδευτοι, properly, “uninstructed;” in N. T. ἅπ. λεγ.; more frequently found in LXX. and Apocrypha, but only in reference to persons. It is synonymous with μωρός (כְּסִיל); even here, where it refers to things, it is synonymous with μωρός (= ineptus). There is no just ground for Hofmann’s supposition, that it is to be derived here not from παιδεύεσθαι, but from παιδεύειν, and hence that it means “unsuited for educating spiritually” (Mosheim, Heydenreich, Mack, Matthies).

On παραιτοῦ, comp. 1 Timothy 4:7; 1 Timothy 5:11.

εἰδώς does not give the reason why Timothy should follow the exhortation (equivalent to “since, or because, you know”); it forms part of the exhortation in the sense: “as you know (consider);” comp. Titus 3:11; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Colossians 3:24; Colossians 4:1.

ὅτι γεννῶσι μάχας] μάχαι, Jam 4:1, synonymous with πόλεμοι; opposed to εἰρήνη, 2 Timothy 2:22.

2 Timothy 2:23. ἀπαιδεύτους: ignorant. An ignorant question is one that arises from a misunderstanding of the matter in dispute. Misunderstandings are a fruitful source of strife. Cf. 1 Timothy 6:4.

παραιτοῦ: refuse, i.e., Such questions will be brought before you: refuse to discuss them. The A.V., avoid might mean merely, Evade the necessity of meeting them.

γεννῶσι: There is no other instance of the metaphorical use of this word in the N.T.

μάχας: in the weaker sense of contention, quarrel, as in 2 Corinthians 7:5, Titus 3:9; but not Jam 4:1.

23. But foolish and unlearned questions] But those foolish and ignorant questionings steadily refuse; as above ‘beware their bad doctrine; their foolish questioning decline.’

unlearned] The word occurs nowhere else in N.T., its meaning ‘indoctus’ and then ‘ineptus’ is seen in Proverbs 8:5, ‘Ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.’ Hence its appropriate union here with ‘foolish.’ ‘Ignorant’ has a shade of moral fault very frequently, which makes it a better rendering than ‘unlearned.’ Cf. Psalm 49:10, ‘the ignorant and foolish’ (Pr.-B. V.).

questions] ‘Questionings,’ see note on 1 Timothy 1:4.

avoid] ‘Decline,’ see note on 1 Timothy 4:7 where the form of the sentence is very similar to 2 Timothy 2:22.

knowing] Seems to require some such addition as ‘as thou dost’ to render the original; ‘knowing that’ being a weak and colloquial phrase by itself.

2 Timothy 2:23. Μωρὰς καὶ ἀπαιδεύτους, foolish and unlearned) For thou oughtest παιδεύειν, to instruct, 2 Timothy 2:25, and to be wise, 2 Timothy 3:15; comp. foolish, Titus 3:9.—μάχας, strifes) Ibidem.

Verse 23. - Ignorant questionings for unlearned questions, A.V.; refuse for avoid, A.V.; gender for do gender, A.V. Ignorant (ἀπαιδεύτους); only here in the New Testament, but not uncommon in the LXX., applied to persons, and in classical Greek. Unlearned is quite as good a rendering as ignorant. It is a term applied properly to ill-educated, ill-disciplined people, and thence, by an easy metonymy, to the questions such persons delight in. Questionings (ζητήσεις); see 1 Timothy 1:4, note, and Titus 3:9. Refuse (παραίτου); "have nothing to do with" (see 1 Timothy 4:7; Titus 3:10). Gender (γεννῶσι). This is the only place in the New Testament where γεννάω is used in this metaphorical sense, unless Galatians 4:24 is included. (For the sentiment, see 1 Timothy 6:4, "Whereof cometh envy, strife," etc.) Strifes (μάχας); compare μάχας νομικάς, "fightings about the Law" (Titus 3:9); and "wars and fightings" (James 4:1, 2). Compare, too, the verb λογομαχεῖν, in ver. 14. Nothing can be more emphatic than St. Paul's warnings against foolish and angry controversies about words, and yet nothing has been more neglected in the Church, in all ages. 2 Timothy 2:23Foolish (μωρὰς)

In Pastorals only here and Titus 3:9. Μωρός means dull, sluggish, stupid: applied to the taste, flat, insipid: comp. μωρανθῇ have lost his savor, Matthew 5:13. In Pastorals never substantively, a fool, but so in 1 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Corinthians 4:10. Comp. ἄφρων, 1 Corinthians 15:36.

Unlearned (ἀπαιδεύτους)

Rev. ignorant is better; but the meaning at bottom is undisciplined: questions of an untrained mind, carried away with novelties: questions which do not proceed from any trained habit of thinking.

Questions (ζητήσεις)

Better, questionings. See on 1 Timothy 6:4.

Avoid (παραιτοῦ)

See on 1 Timothy 4:7. Better, refuse or decline.

Gender (γεννῶσι)

Only here in Pastorals. In Paul, metaphorically, 1 Corinthians 4:15; Plm 1:10; Galatians 4:24.

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