Thursday, August 8, 2013

What does it mean to be “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV)? Does this mean that a person needs to understand the divisions of the Bible?

2 Timothy 2:15 is powerful verse in an inspired letter by the Apostle Paul to the young preacher Timothy. Because of the phrase "rightly dividing the word of truth", people have mistakenly used this verse to teach about difference between the Old and New Testament. A proper understanding of the covenants is paramount to understanding the Bible. However, the question must be asked: Is this verse dealing the the divisions of the Bible?

Is “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” a good translation?
The King James Version is the only popular english version that translates this phrase in this way. Note how this phrase is translated in other versions:
  • correctly handles the word of truth. (NIV)
  • rightly handling the word of truth. (ESV)
  • accurately handling the word of truth. (NASB)
  • handling aright the word of truth. (ASV1901)
It should cause a Bible student to wonder about a particular translation of a passage if it is different than every other version. The word in the Greek New Testament for “rightly dividing” in (2 Timothy 2:15) is “orthotomeó” and according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon it means “to cut straight ways, i. e. to proceed by straight paths, hold a straight course, equivalent to to do right” (

In his Commentary on Timothy and Titus, Dr. Denny Petrillo well explains this phrase in context. He writes:
(Orthotomeo) - To cut straight and rightly; to cut a straight path through the word, giving it the proper interpretation. Because of that, some have said it is the cut between the Old and New Testaments...While this would include the correct treatment of God’s Word, this is not specifically what Paul is dealing with. Paul has the idea of treating the Word correctly. This is done by preaching it. (Petrillo. Emp. Added)
From the text of 2 Timothy one can conclude that Timothy has become discouraged. His discouragement has caused him to become timid (1:7). This timidity may have caused him to neglect his preaching. Paul tells him in (2:15) that he needs to be “rightly handling the word of truth”. The way Timothy would do this would be through powerful Gospel preaching. 

There are differences between the Old and New Testament that one needs to understand. You can read about those differences (here). However, (2 Timothy 2:15) is a passage designed to encourage a preacher to not neglect his preaching of the Word of God!

By Cliff Sabroe - Works Cited: Thayer's Greek Lexicon/, NIV, ESV, NASB95, KJV and ASV1901 Bibles.Commentary on 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus By Denny Petrillo. Image from