Article no. 36

"TAKEN CAPTIVE BY HIM AT HIS WILL"

2 Timothy 2.24-26

"And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledgement of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will."

The Authorised Version conveys the meaning that those who oppose themselves, and are taken captive 'by the devil at his will, may recover themselves from his snare, if God gives them repentance and brings them to acknowledge the truth. With this in view the Lord's servant must patiently instruct even those who oppose the Gospel, In the modern versions these verses are rendered in a variety of ways and the reader may be left wondering which is correct. In this instance the text is not affected by alternative readings given in manuscripts that were not available to the earlier translators.

The alterations adopted by the modern versions arise here from differences of opinion regarding the meaning of the same underlying text, and the argument hinges upon the words translated "him" and "his" at the end or verse 26.

Because the pronouns are different (AUTOS and EKEINOS) some interpreters have insisted that they must refer to different persons. "Those who oppose" are said to be' "taken captive by him at his will", and the question arises, "taken captive by whom, at whose will?" EKEIN0S may be used either to distinguish or to emphasize and those who regard it as "distinguishing" in this verse make it refer to God in verse 25. The Berkeley Version has "be freed from the snare of the devil under whom they had been taken captive, to do His will", meaning that they were captured by the devil, but freed to do the will of God.

Some insist that the pronoun 'him' in 'taken captive by him' should refer back to the Lord's servant in verse 23. This was the assumption of the revisers or 1881 and the Revised Version reads, "... out of the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by the Lord's servant unto the will of God". Similar renderings were adopted by the, Twentieth Century N.T., Basic English and J.B. Phillips .

It should not be assumed that the earlier translators overlooked the problem. Matthew Pool has a useful note on the passage in 1685 and expresses a strong preference for making both pronouns refer to the devil as in the Authorised Version. Bengel comments on the passage in 1745 and warmly advocates the alternative rendering eventually adopted by the 1881 revisers.

In fact the reader is on safe ground in regarding the A.V. as the correct rendering of this passage. EKEINOS is not invariably used to distinguish between "this one" and "that one" or "the former" and "the latter", It is often used for emphasis. In either case its use tends to isolate and fix attention upon the person or thing referred to, EKEINOS does not stand in such contrast to AUTOS as to denote necessarily a different person, The writer emphasizes his point by an emphatic form of the pronoun, signifying that the opponents of the Gospel were not only taken captive by the devil, but held in bondage by that one. The emphatic pronoun is like an accusing finger identifying the adversary.

There is no grammatical necessity to refer EKENOU back to any antecedent earlier than AUTOU, and both may be assumed to relate to the devil, He exerts his evil will to ensnare and capture the souls of men, and God exercises His will in enabling "the servant of the Lord" to lead even "those who oppose themselves" to repent and acknowledge the truth of the Gospel. The Authorised Version expresses the underlying Greek text with remarkable fidelity, simplicity and intelligibility. It is interesting to notice that the A.V. rendering is followed by the text of the New American Standard Version, the Revised Standard Version, the New English Bible and many others. This is an indication that many modern scholars feel constrained to agree that the A.V. translators handled this passage correctly and that the Revisers of 1881 and the editors of other modern versions were mistaken.

 

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