111. Should we withdraw from difficult people? 1Tim. 6:5

According to the King James Version, Paul gives the direct advice to Timothy to withdraw from difficult people. (1Tim. 6:5) Modern versions do not include this order. What would be the reason?

1Tim. 6:3 – 5  “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings. Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”

This version is found in the following manuscripts:

5 Uncial manuscripts namely: uncial No. 061 ±450 A.D.; Atous Laurae, 800; Angilicus and Porphyrianus, 850 en Mosquensis 900 A.D.

17 Minuscule manuscripts dating between ±1050 to 1550 A.D.

A Greek lectionary dating ±950.

8 Ancient Translations: A Gothic Translation dating ±350; Aramaic 450; two Syriac Translations dating 450 and 650; three Old Latin translations dating between 400 and 950 A.D. as well as an Ethiopic translation dating 1350 A.D.

10 Church Fathers, from Irenaeus who died in 202, to John – Damascus (749).

Most modern Versions do not include this order. These correspond with the following manuscript evidence:

6 Uncial manuscripts: Sinaiticus, ±350; uncial No. 048, 450 A.D.; Alexandrinus, 450; Bezae, 450; Augiensis, 850; Boernerianus, 850;

5 Minuscule manuscripts between 850 en 1050 A.D.

12 Ancient Translations: Sahidic ±250; Bohairic 350; Gothic, 350; Ethiopic 1050, and the Vulgate, 400; as well as 7 Old Latin Translations between the years 450 to 859 A.D.

Origen who died in 254 and left us a commentary on every verse of the New Testament, as well as Ambrose who died in 397 both quote this verse without this order.

Though some early Church Fathers do refer to this order, the manuscript evidence strongly leans to the original autograph being without this order.

But next we should examine whether this order is typical to the Paul. Would he have given the young church leader in Ephesus the advice to withdraw from difficult people, or would he rather advise him to confront them?

Let us look into comparable advice in the first letter to Timothy:

“…stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer.” (1Tim. 1:3)

Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1Tim. 4:11-12)

Do not rebuke an older man harshly,” (1Tim 5:1)

Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.” (1Tim. 5:20)

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth.” (1Tim. 6:17)

Even when Paul insists that prayers should be made for all people, these cannot be brought to faith without confronting them with the gospel.

This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1Tim. 2:3-4).

Not in a single case do we find even a hint that the minister should shy away from difficult people or even harsh sinners. Why would Paul then advise Timothy to withdraw from people who would like to gain material wealth from the gospel? It does not fit at all in the ethos of the epistle or the instructions given to Timothy. The second epistle to Timothy bears the same attitude.

One cannot but ask from where this order might come?

Paul knew the order of Jesus to shake off the dust of one’s feet. That is what he and Barnabas did in Antioch. “…So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium.” (Acts: 13:51) But this can only be done after the sinners had been confronted and they had rejected the gospel.

This could not be the origin of such an order by Paul.

We do read that Paul advises Timothy to flee from sin, (1Tim. 6:11) but nowhere to flee from sinners! The order to withdraw from sinners surely is not a principle true to Paul.

Looking at the manuscript evidence as well as the typical principles taught by Paul, this order surely is foreign to Paul. We can only conclude that it had not been part of the original autograph. Someone must have added it to his personal manuscript and in that way it had been inserted into following copies.

God bless,


Comments at the bottom of this page or via e-mail to bibledifferences@gmail.com are welcome.

About Herman of bibledifferences.net

The reasons for the differences between older Bibles like the King James Version and newer Bibles like the New International Version have fascinated me ever since my studies in Theology at the University of Pretoria in the seventies. I have great respect for scribes through the ages as well as Bible translators, so there must be good reasons for the differences. With more than 5600 Greek manuscripts and more than 19000 manuscripts of ancient translations to our disposal, the original autographs of the New Testament can be established without doubt. I investigate the reasons behind the differences and publish the facts in a post on my blogs www.bibledifferences.net (Afrikaans: www.bybelverskille.wordpress.com) to enable my readers to judge for themselves. Personally I love to make an informed decision based of facts. That is why I endeavor to provide that same privilege to the readers of my blogs. Since 1973 I am married to my dear wife and greatest friend, Leah Page, founder director of Act-Up Support (www.actup.co.za) a prayer ministry for families struggling with drug-, occult- and other dependencies. We are blessed with two daughters and two sons, four grand sons and two grand daughters. God is alive and omnipotent! Glory to His Name! Herman Grobler.
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2 Responses to 111. Should we withdraw from difficult people? 1Tim. 6:5

  1. MTJames says:

    Though I don’t often attend to people’s opinions about Scripture, preferring rather to perform my own contextual analysis, I read the above article hungrily. As far as I can discern, the only withdrawing from church members we are directed to do is when they persist in blatant sin despite undergoing church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:1-18). This is not to be undertaken without much prayer and soul-searching, lest the believer surrender to the sins of pride and presumption.

    As far as textual omissions and additions are concerned, I believe the only faultless texts are the lost, original autographs. In most instances, errors are relatively innocuous, as they were accidentally included by godly men of pure motives. As to the rare insertion of heretical passages, they stand out like black spots against Scripture’s pure light.

    God the eternal Word is fully able to minister His redemptive message to sinful humanity despite human interference. To say otherwise is akin to saying we could dim His glory with our pathetic attempts at self-aggrandizement.

    • Thank you for the comment MT,
      I agree with you concerning the fact that we should not easily refrain from difficult people.
      But my concern was whether that was really the advice Paul gave Timothy as is stated in the King James Version.
      By the way, in more than 100 differences I studied so far, the only difference I found that touches on Christian Doctrine is Revelation 22:14.
      You mention the insertion of “heretical passages”. Could you please point out any that you deem that way? I would like to study those verses and find the real facts behind them.

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