At 1 Tim 6:9--in the midst of a disquistion on what Timothy must shun if he is to maintain his status as a man of God (vv. 6-12)-- the author of the epistle specifically warns his charge against becoming enamoured of money by noting that those who desire to be rich ( µ ) inevitably end up becoming enmeshed with (µ ) a particular phenomenon which plunges men into ruin and destruction, namely, µ. But what, according to the author of 1 Timothy, is this phenomenon? Judging by the all but universal rendering of the noun in commentaries and in translations with the psychologically laden word "temptation",(1) is assumed to be the experience of "a powerful allurement, experienced subjectively and brought on by the prospect of pleasure or advantage, to do evil".(2) Or, to put this simply, it is the "seduction or enticement [of believers] to sin". Yet, despite the frequency with which this view of the meaning of peirasmos in 1 Tim 6:9 is mooted or maintained, I am not convinced that "seduction/enticement [of believers] to sin" is actually the meaning with which the author of 1 Timothy employed the noun.
My doubts on this matter are grounded in two considerations. In the first place, the employment of µ with this sense by the author of 1 Timothy would be wholly out of keeping with what both antecedent and contemporary usage shows was the noun's established semantic range. For in virtually all of the known pre-150 CE instances of µ,(3) including those found in the New Testament and other early Christian writings,(4) the meaning of the noun is limited to "a trial" "a test", and always, when applied to God or mortals, denoted "a putting to the proof of integrity or faithfulness".(5) Never, despite claims to the contrary, does it mean "an enticement or inner psychological allurement, brought on by the prospect of pleasure or advantage, to do evil".(6) So it seems unlikely, unless, of course, we see the author of 1 Timothy intentionally imputing a new meaning to the noun, that µ is used in 1 Tim 6:9 to signify "seduction or enticement [of believers] to sin".(7)
In the second place, the reasons that have led exegetes and translators of 1 Tim 6:9 to suppose that the µ spoken of there means "seduction or enticement [of believers] to sin" are suspect. Behind the supposition stand three interlocking assumptions: (a) the syntax of the verse indicates that the µ spoken of there is something that is being glossed by the author of 1 Timothy with the nouns and µ;(8) (b) the nouns and µ are viewed by the author of the epistle exclusively in terms of things which seize men unexpectedly and act upon them against their will;(9) and (c) the verbal phrase µ which governs µ (as well as its reputed glosses and µ) means "falling into" in the sense of "becoming seduced and victimized by", and therefore indicates that the µ spoken of in 1 Tim 6:9 is being portrayed as the fate of anyone who "desires riches" (µ ).(10) In other words, since the verse is seen as saying something very much like
Anyone of us who ardently wishes to be rich is being overpowered and entrapped by ruinous lusts,(11)
then the noun µ must mean something like "seduction or enticement [of believers] to sin".
But is it really the case that the phenomena governed by µ are presented within 1 Tim 6:9 as synonymous with one another? If the expression µ in the phrase µ µ µ is not hendiadys,(12) then the repetition of before and µ, . might actually indicate that the and the µ spoken of there are meant to be seen as things both distinct from one another as well as separate in content from the phenomenon designated as µ. So these terms, however their meanings are intended here to be construed, may not be conditioning the meaning of µ in any way.
More importantly, even if µ is indeed intended to be seen in some kind of synonymity with one or the other or even both of the images conjured up by the nouns and µ, it is still questionable that µ here bears the meaning "seduction or enticement [of believers] to sin". For and µ (and their cognates), while certainly used to denote things which seize men unexpectedly and act upon them violently and against their will,(13) are, notably, also employed to denote certain unholy or forbidden acts in which believers nevertheless willfuly engage. At Jos 23:13, for instance, we find signifying "idolatry".(14) And at Num 11:4, Ps. 105:14 (LXX) µ denotes the "sinful murmuring" against God in which Israel indulged when they became dissatisfied with the way God was leading them through the wilderness.(15) Now if this is the case here with and µ, that is, if in 1 Tim 6:9 means "the sin of idolatry" and µ "illicit grumblings against the constraints of God", then the effect of glossing µ with these terms would actually be to define the µ spoken of in our verse, not as something which besets and beleagures men, but in terms of a proscribed action willfuly undertaken by believers.
Finally, it is not as certain as is generally alleged that "falling into" µ [ µ] in the sense of "becoming seduced and victimized", as the traditional exegesis of 1 Tim 6:9 reads µ µ, ., is an adequate or an accurate rendering of what the author of 1 Timothy claims is the result of µ . Contemporary usage of the expression µ shows that, while often employed with the sense of "falling victim to", or "coming into the clutches of" some undesirable fate,(16) the phrase also bore the meaning "to become involved with" something or someone and, more importantly, "to become engaged in doing" or "to end up committing" some action or error.(17) Accordingly, there is, then, the possiblity that when the author of 1 Timothy claims that those among the faithful who "desire riches" consequently and inevitably µ µ [ µ], he is not intending the µ he speaks of (let alone the envisioned and the µ) to be taken as something that lures or overpowers or ravages anyone. On the contrary, he would be portraying this µ (as well as the and the µ he speaks of) as something Christians who "desire to be rich" do, that is, something they perpetrate. And if this is the case, then µ would hardly mean "seduction or enticement [of believers] to sin".
But what, if anything, indicates that and µ are intended by the author of 1 Timothy to be seen as the sins of idolatry and murmuring respectively, and that µ is to be taken in such a way that any of the terms which the phrase governs is being portrayed as something which µ actively carry out? There is, notably, the striking consideration that in 1 Tim 6:10 our author specifically designates "desiring to be rich" as nothing less than engaging in apostasy ( ).(18) In the light of this designation, and all the connotations of sinning with a high hand and of consciously turning away from obedient service to God with which it tags what is envisaged by our author when he speaks of wealth obsessed Christians µ µ µ,(19) it would be difficult to see these things in any other way.
There is, then, strong reason to doubt that in 1 Tim 6:9 µ means "seduction or enticement [of believers] to sin". But if not this, what then does µ mean? My suggestion is this: µ is here being used with the sense with which it is employed in the LXX of Exod 17:7, Deut 6:16; 9:22, and Ps 94(95):8 and elsewhere, namely, not only a "testing of fidelity" but, more specifically, "a testing of God's fidelity".
This suggestion has three things standing in its favour. It avoids giving to the noun a meaning for which there is otherwise no attestation. It is consistent with the noun's known usage.(20) And most importantly, it is consonant with the theology of the Epistle. For according to the author of 1 Timothy, the activity of "desiring to be rich"--the activity which, for the faithful, is identified in 1 Tim 6:9 as tantamount to µ--represents a wholesale challenge to God's power and his concern for his people. In our author's presentation of things, µ involves both doubting and consciously falling away from a point of faith which in 1 Tim. 6:1-8 is claimed to be incumbent upon all who would serve God, namely, that God does indeed provide all that leads believers to "contentment".(21) And this sort of challenge is, as Exod 17:7, Deut 6:16, 9:22, and Ps 94(95):8 declare (cf. also Matt 4:5-7//Luke 4:9-12; Acts 5:9; 1 Cor 10:9; Heb 3:8), the epitome and essence of "putting God to the test".(22) Indeed, I should not wonder that what we actually have in the use of µ in 1 Timothy is an explicit reference to the prototypical "testing of God", namely, Israel's strivings with God at Massah and Merribah and the series of its grumblings against Yahweh which culminated at the wilderness of Paran (cf. Num: 13-14), wherein the members of the wilderness generation demanded proof of God's providential concern for them and toyed with turning to other sources of security. For, as Ps 105:32-40 (LXX) and other Old Testament traditions note,(23) these events were specifically identified as "a snare".(24) They arose specifically because the Israelites allowed themselves to be overcome by faithless and (ultimately) injurious "cravings".(25) And, just as "desiring to be rich" is said in 1 Tim 6:9 to do to Christians, the wilderness generation's strivings and grumblings against God resulted in that generation's being plunged into or .(26)
In the light of all this, I would argue, then, that the thought actually expressed in 1 Tim 6:9 is not as, for instance, the RSV construes it:
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.
Rather, it is:
But those among the putative faithful who desire to be rich act like the wicked wilderness generation, involving themselves in not only the ancient offense of putting God to the test, but idolatry and misguided and unprofitable murmurings against God, all of which sink men into utter ruin.
1. See, e.g., J.N.D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (London: A. &. C. Black, 1963) 137; M. Dibelius and H. Conzelmann, The Pastoral Epistles (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1972) 84; A.T. Hanson, The Pastoral Letters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966) 68; L. Oberlinner, Die Pastoralbriefe: erste Folge: Kommentar zum Ersten Timotheusbrief (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1964) 282; G.W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992) 255-56; G. Fee, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1984) 144-45; C. Spicq, Les Épitres Pastorales (Paris: J. Gabalda, 1969) 563; and the translations of the verse in the RSV, the NRSV, the RV, the NEB, the REB, the NAB, and the JB.
3. As has often been observed, before (and for that matter after) the middle of the second century of our era, the noun µ is primarily confined to literature in the Greek biblical tradition where it appears with some frequency. It occurs thirteen times in the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (Exod 17:17; Deut 4:34; 6:16; 7:19; 9:22; 29:3(2); Ps 94(95):8; and Eccles 3:10; 4:8; 5:2, 13; 8:16 if we accept as authentic the reading of Alexandrinus in Eccles 3:10; 4:8; and 8:16 [B and Sinaiticus have µ], of Sinaiticus in 5:13 [A and B have µ], and of the three main textual witnesses in 5:2), seven times in the Apocrypha of the Septuagint (Sir 2:1; 6:7; 27:5, 7; 36(33):1; 44:20; 1 Macc 2:52), twice in the Pseudepigrapha (TestJos 2:7; Fragment of Greek Jubilees W on Jub. 10:8 [text in Fragmenta Pseudepigraphorum Quae Supersunt Graeca, A.M. Denis, ed., Vol. 3 of Pseudepigrapha Veteris Testamenti Graece, A.M. Denis and M. DeJonge, eds. (Leiden: Brill, 1970) 87]), and once in the extant fragments of non-Septuagintal Greek versions of the Hebrew Scriptures (Symmachus, Gen 44:15). [For New Testament and other early Christian references, see the next note].
But we should also note that µ is not altogether absent from pre-150 C.E. "secular" literature. It occurs there at least ten times. µ appears once in a work entitled De differentia vocabulorum, attributed to the (probably) second century B.C.E. grammarian Ptolemaeus of Ascalon (Sigma 146 in De differentia vocabulorum, ed. V. Palmieri in Annali della Facolta di Lettere e Filosofia dell' Universita di Napoli 24 [1981-1982] 191-225), once in the preface of the first century C.E. physician and pharmacologist Pedanius Dioscorides' Materia Medica (Mat. Med. Praef. 5.12), once in the first century Alexandrian grammarian Aelius Herodianus' Partitiones, (Partitiones 110.5, ed. J.F. Boissonade, Herodiani paertitiones [London, 1819]), three times in what I take to be a pre-2nd century C.E. commentary by an anonymous author on Aristotle's Art of Rhetoric (In Anonymi in Aristotelis Artem Rhetoricum 98.29 [on Rhet. Book II.iv (1381b) 27]; 102.29 [on Rhet. Book II.v (1383a) 17]; 103.9 [on Rhet. Book II.v.(1383a) 18]), once in an a pre-2nd century anonymous commentary on Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics (Anonymi in Aristotelis Ethica: In Ethica Nichomachea Commentaria 454.10 [on Nichomachean Ethics Book VII.xiii (1153b) 17]), once in an early Scholion on Euripides' Hecuba (Scholia in Eupripdes, sch Hecuba 1226 which appears in cod. Vat. 909), once in the Syntipas (Ed. V. Jernstedt and P. Nikition, Memories de l'Academie Imperiale des Sciences de St. Petersbourg, 8me Serie, Classe des Sciences historico-philologique, Tome XI. No. 1. (1912) 124), an anonymous first century C.E. Arabian Nights, and once in the Cyranides ( or ) (Cf. F. de Mely and C.-E Ruelle, Les Lapidaries de l'antiquite et du moyen age, II: Le Lapidaries grecs, (Paris, 1898) 40 line 24), a first century C.E. work on magical curative powers of plants, stones, and animals.
4. Not including 1 Tim 6:9, µ appears twenty times in the New Testament (Mark 14:38; Matt 6:13; 26:41; Luke 4:13; 8:13; 11:4; 22:28, 40, 46; Acts 15:26 (D E), 20:19; 1 Cor 10:13 (twice); Gal 4:14; Heb 3:8; Jas 1:2, 12; 1 Pet 1:16; 2 Pet 2:9; Rev 3:10). In the so called Apostolic literature composed before 150 C.E. µ appears at least four times: once in the Didache (Did. 8.2), once in Hermas (Hermas Man. 9.7), once in Polycarp's Epistle to the Philippians (at 7.2.5), once in a fragment of Ignatius' To Polycarp (Fragment 25, from e cod. Florent. Laur. 6.4 [Ad Polycarpum] in J.H. Crehan, "A New Fragment of Ignatius' Ad Polycarpum', Studia Patristica 1 [T. & U.] 63 , p. 24). The number of instances rises to nine if we accept a relatively early date for both the Acts of Paul, where the noun appears four times (Acta Pauli et Theclae 25:6; 25:9; 40:7; Recenscion C Codex E 5:14), and 2 Clement, where µ appears once (2 Cor. 39:7).
5. On this, see C.F.D. Moule, "An Unresolved Problem in the Temptation Clause in the Lord's Prayer', RThRev 33 (1974) 66-70; J.V. Dahms, "Lead Us Not Into Temptation", JETS 17 (1974) 223-230, and especially J.B. Gibson, The Traditions of the Temptations of Jesus in Early Christianity (Oxford D.Phil. thesis, 1993) 52-63, where--with the exception of the instances found at Ptolemaeus of Ascalon's De differentia vocabulorum, in Anonymi in Aristotelis Artem Rhetoricum 98.29; 102.29; 103.9, Anonymi in Aristotelis Ethica: In Ethica Nichomachea Commentaria 454.10, and in Scholia in Eupripdes, sch Hecuba 1226--all of the liguistic evidence referred to in notes 2 and 3 above is set out and examined. This conclusion regarding the semantic range of µ is also supported by H. Seesemann, ", .", TDNT 6 (1968) 23-36, with slight reservations. For in his eyes, there are three instances, namely, Acts 15:26 DE, and Acts 20:19, where µ (in the plural in Acts 20:19, and 2 Pet 2:9) means nothing more than "dangers" (", .", 29 n. 35). See also J.H. Korn, : Die Versuchung des Glaubigen in der grieschischen Bible (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1937).
6. Contra, e.g., BAGD, 640-41, where the citations of Cyranides [page 40, line 24], Sir 33:1, 44:20, 1 Macc 2:52, T.Jos. 2:7, Mark 14:38//Matt 26:41//Luke 22:40, Matt 6:13//Luke 11:4, Luke 8:13, 22:38, Acts 20:19, 1 Cor 10:13, 1 Pet 1:6, and Jas 1:2 are adduced to show that µ = "enticement to sin". But as Moule ("An Unresolved Problem", 70-71) and Dahms ("Lead Us Not Into Temptation", 223-230 show (cf. also my Traditions of the Temptations of Jesus, 52-63), these instances do not actually indicate any such thing. On this, see also (especially with respect to the biblical instances of the noun's use), J. Jeremias, The Lord's Prayer (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1964) 29.
7. It is, I think, important to note that this observation would be intensified if, as conservative scholarship argues, 1 Timothy is genuinely Pauline, since an employment of µ to mean "seduction/enticement to sin", and not "test" is quite contrary to Paul's usage of the term.
8. Cf., e.g., Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 255-56; Fee, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1984) 145. For an earler statement of this view, see J.E. Huther, The Pastoral Epistles (Edinburgh: T. & T. Calrk, 1881) 226.
9. , it is claimed, is used here literally and non- allusively, and is to be taken along the lines of a "snare", that is, "a hunter's (deadly) trap", and µ of the overbearing, disruptive, and ordinarily irresistable "passions" or "lusts" which attack men and render them helpless in their wake. Cf., e.g., Kelly, Pastoral Epistles, 137; Knight, Pastoral Epistles, 256; E.F. Scott, The Pastoral Epistles (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1936) 75.
10. Cf., e.g., J.M. Bassler, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996) 107.
11. Compare Moffat's translation:
Those who are eager to be rich get tempted and trapped in many senseless and pernicious propensities, that drag men down to ruin and destruction.
12. As suggested by J. Carmignac, Recheches sur la "Notre Père (Paris: Letousey et Ané, 1969) 273-74.
13. On this, see J. Schneider, ", ," TDNT 5 (1967) 593-596.
14. See also Ps. 68:23. The association of with the sin of idolatry is strengthened when we take into account the fact that this is the meaning the noun's primary synonym, , frequently bore. On this, see G, Stälin, Skandalon. Untersuchengen zur Geschichte eones biblische Bergriffs (1930) 98-104.
15. See also Num 11:34-35; 33:16-17; Deut 9:22. On the nature of Israel's "murmuring", and its relation to faithlesness, see B. Gerhardsson, The Testing of God's Son (Matt. 4:1-11 and Par.) (Lund: Gleerup, 1966) 46-47.
16. See C. Spicq, Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, 3 Vols. (Peabody: Mass.: Hendrickson, 1994) 3:1-2.
17. See Polybius, Hist. 3.47.6; 3.48.8; Plutarch, De cohibenda ira 460.D.2; De suprestitione 171.F.1.; Aristophanes, The Clouds 384. In the instance from Aristophanes, the expression means "to let or allow oneself to be hoodwinked" and contains an emphasis on the volitional or consentual aspect of the activity denoted by µ .
18. On this as the intent of 1 Tim 6:10, see H. Braun, ", .", TDNT 6 (1968) 228-253, esp. 249, contra Kelly (Pastoral Epistles, 132, 138) and D. Guthrie (The Pastoral Epistles [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984] 114) who take as meaning "have been led astray". As Braun notes (see also BAGD, "") the verb here is passive in form but active in meaning.
19. On the connotations of , see Braun, ", .", 228-253.
20. One might add that taking µ with the meaning " testing God's fidelity" is also consistent with the meaning with which and , the noun's cognates, were frequently used. On this, see Seesemann, ", .", 26-36.
21. This seems clear not only from how, as we have seen, 1 Tim 6:10 functions with respect to 1 Tim 6:9, but also from the fact that when in vs. 11 Timothy is urged as a man of God to shun the sins of those indulging in avarice ( , , ), the necessity of his doing so is grounded in the fact that he would be shown to be bereft of , , , , and µ if he did not.
It should also be noted that the sentiment I claim is being expressed here, namely, that µ (or, as it is expressed in 1 Tim 6:10, ) involves denying and challenging God, is an ancient biblical theme evident not only in writings displaying a Deuteronomistic point of view (see, for instance, Deut. 8:11-18), but also in the Wisdom literature. Cf. Prov 30:8-9
Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, "Who is the LORD?" (RSV)
22. Seesemann, ", ., 27-28.
23. Cf. Deut. 7:16; Ps 78.
24. The word for "snare" in Ps. 106(105) is , which, as we have seen (above, note 13) is a synonym of . On this, see also G. Stählin, ", .", TDNT 7 (1971), 341-342.
25. Cf. Exod 16:2-3; Num 11:4-10, 13; 21:4-5; Ps 78(77):18-22, 27-31; 106(105):14; Wis 16:2; 19:11.
26. See, for instance, the stories of the fate of those who "put God to the test" in Deut 8:11-18; Num 11, 14; Pss 78(77); 106(105); Wis 1:1-18. See also the connection between "testing God", "idolatry" (i.e., seeking security in something other than Yahweh), "a snare", and the resultant destruction of God's elect in Ex 23:33; 34:12; Jos 23:13; Jdg 2:3; 8:27; Pss 78; 95.