Rightly Dividing The Word Of Truth

Q. Though the bible tells us to rightly divide the word of truth (that is itself), why don’t it teach even one method of doing so? Or does it?

A. The phrase “rightly dividing” comes from the King James version of 2 Tim 2:15. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

It has taken on a different meaning than Paul intended when he used there. The Greek word he used literally means “to make a straight cut” as when a carpenter saws a board, or hold a straight course. In the context of Paul’s letter, Timothy was being told to teach the truth directly and correctly. To me this means holding to a literal interpretation of Scripture, resisting the urge to allegorize except where the context of the passage clearly calls for such, as in the case of a parable, for instance.

This is why the Bible doesn’t offer a method for “rightly dividing” it. You don’t need a method of interpretation to read something the way it’s written. Other translations use “accurately handling” or “correctly handling” in place of “rightly dividing”. I think these renderings of the Greek more accurately convey Paul’s meaning.

Some dispensationalists have used the phrase to justify separating the Bible into seven sections or dispensations. They claim that looking at Scripture this way is “rightly dividing” the Word of God, in other words the only correct way to view Scripture. But it seems more likely that Paul was simply admonishing Timothy to “tell it like it is.”

Don’t get me wrong, I like the dispensational approach to interpreting Scripture, I just don’t agree with the way some have co-opted 2 Timothy 2:15 to justify it.

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