Friday, August 06, 2004

Dr. Hodges on 1 Timothy 6:10

It is a pleasure to have such erudite friends as Jeff Hodges who writes:

Dear Bill,

I'll give you some information on the Greek behind the love-of-money verse, then speculate a bit on the meaning.

I'm using The New Greek-English Interlinear New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1990), trs. Robert K. Brown and Philip W. Comfort, ed. by J. D. Douglas. They also provide a sidebar with the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). My dictionary is A Concise
Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament
(United Bible Societies, 1971), ed. Barclay M. Newman, Jr. I'd prefer to use a dictionary with more expanded definitions, but I'm not in my office.

My Greek transcription does not distinguish between alphas and etas or between omicrons and omegas. Apologies.

1 Timothy 6:10

hriza gar panton ton kakon estin ha philarguria, has tines oregomenoi apeplanathasan apo tas pisteos kai heautous periepeiran odunais pollais.

For a root of all evils is the love of money, of which some, craving, were led away from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

hriza (a root) gar (For) panton (of all) ton (of the)kakon (evils) estin (is) ha (the) philarguria (love of money), has (of which) tines (some) oregomenoi (craving) apeplanathasan (were led away) apo (from)tas (the) pisteos (faith) kai (and) heautous (themselves) periepeiran (pierced) odunais (with sorrows) pollais (many).

Here's the NRSV:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

As you can see, the Greek term for "love of money" is "philarguria." This word literally means "love of silver," but that doesn't seem any worse than "love of money." The "phil-" part of "philarguria" is from either "phileo" or "philos." The latter, "philos," just means "friend," which doesn't sound so weighty to our ears. The former, "phileo," can mean "love" or "have deep feelings for."

The term "oregomenoi," translated as "craving," is from "oregomai," which means "be eager for, long for, desire," and that gets us closer to the problem, I suppose.

Given these definitions, I take it that money would likely not have been considered an appropriate object of one's deep feelings, so anyone having deep feelings for money would be suffering from a craving -- a longing for money.

There might be a couple of things lurking in the background here.

First, the emphasis upon love of money leading to loss of faith and being pierced with pain might be a veiled reference to Judas, who is presented as having betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver -- a sort of 'original sin' at the beginnings of Christianity, perhaps.

BV: Interesting. That might explain why the love of money is singled out. Or perhaps the love of money stands in for craving generally. 'Love of money' would then be a synecdoche, a trope -- in the 'lit-crit' as opposed to philosophical sense -- whereby a (proper) part does duty for a whole.

Second, if we look at verse 9, we see that there is expressed the concern that those desiring to be rich will fall into temptation. Here "desiring" is "boulomenoi," which is from "boulomai," which means "want, desire, wish," and that, again, doesn't sound so bad to our ears. The term for "to be rich" is "ploutein," which comes from "plouteo," which means "be rich; grow rich." Properly understanding the verse perhaps lies in knowing the ancients' conception of "the rich." Basically, the critique of the rich would
be that they obtained their wealth at the expense of other people. Economics was considered a zero-sum system, and those desiring to be rich were putting love of money (a pathological craving?) before love of other people. To love and strive for money was to actively harm others by reducing their share in society's wealth.

BV: Mike Gilleland a while back cited a Church father (St. Jerome?) who implied that the economy is a zero-sum game. I don't buy that myself at least not with respect to today's economy: the economy is not like a pie such that the more I grab, the less is left for you.

So, love of money was considered bad, but why should the love of money be the root of all evil? Actually, the verse says that the love of money is "a root," not "the root." Still, wouldn't there be some evils unrelated to love of money? For instance, the original sin of Adam and Eve had nothing to do with money, and in Christian thinking, the desire to gain the knowledge to become as gods was surely was the main root of all evil in the world.

BV: Does the Greek clearly show 'a root'? Or is it ambiguous as between 'a root' and 'the root'? The Latin radix allows both readings -- though I'm not sure.

Perhaps the idea lying behind all of this is that of striving for inappropriate status and power. But why not say so directly? But even then, is that a root of ALL evil?

Note that the NRSV interprets the Greek as "a root of all kinds of evil," which certainly lessens the verse's difficulty for us.

BV: Unfortunately, 'all kinds of' is ambiguous in English. It could mean just what it says, or is could mean 'some kinds of' or 'many kinds of.' If you ask me what animals live in the Sonoran desert, I can get away with saying, 'all kinds' but not, 'every kind.' The second expression but not the first would put you in counterexample mode: 'So you got zebras and giraffes hanging around your backyard?'

I'm afraid that I haven't gotten us very far, but perhaps there's some useful information here.

BV: There is indeed. Thanks for contributing.




Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges [Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley]
Department of English Language and Literature
Korea University
136-701 Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu
South Korea