Thursday, 28 February 2008

What Part of "All" Do You Not Understand?

George W. Knight, III, in his often disappointing commentary on 1 Timothy in the New International Greek Text Commentary series, attempts to argue that the "all men" passages of 1 Tim 2 is best understood as "all kinds of men."

He writes, "It is also the most natural understanding in a number of the Pauline passages where an absolute universalism is a virtual impossibility and a reference to all kinds of individuals is more likely." He then cites six passages which he thinks are better interpreted as all kinds. Here's the list, and you judge for yourself if "all kinds of people" really is the best interpretation. Fill in the blank accordingly.


Rom 12:17b—Take thought for things honorable in the sight of _____________.
A. all kinds of people.
B. everybody

Rom 12:18—If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with __________________.
A. all kinds of people.
B. everybody

2 Cor 3:2—Ye are our epistle, written in our hearts, known and read by ____________.
A. all kinds of people.
B. everybody

Phil 4:5— Let your forbearance be known unto ___________________.
A. all kinds of people.
B. everybody

1 Thes 2:15— who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove out us, and pleased not God, and are contrary to ________________.
A. all kinds of people.
B. everybody



Knight's problem is that he thinks that if a text cannot possibly mean "all people" in an unqualified literal sense (as in the above examples), then the text must resort to meaning "all kinds of people (but not necessarily all people without exception." He fails to understand that "all people" can be taken more generally, in a non-literal fashion, as constrained by obvious practical considerations.

Paul was not saying in Rom 12:18, for example, that Christians should be at peace with all kinds of people such as Muslims, Japanese, red-headed children, etc—but not necessarily all people without exception. No, he was saying that Christians should be at peace with everybody with whom they possibly come in contact, without exception.

This latter meaning is adequately conveyed by the term everybody, so long as it is applied with some degree of common sense.

5 comments:

Rev. James M. Leonard said...

Knight goes on to say that "all kinds of" especially fits with Titus 3:2. How in the world he came to this conclusion, who knows!

Titus 3:1-2 reads, Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward ALL MEN.

Surely, this cannot be read as "to show true humility to ALL KINDS OF MEN (BUT NOT NECESESSARILY ALL)."

Rev. James M. Leonard said...

Knight goes on to claim that Gal 3:28 supports the notion that "all" means "all kinds of."

Again the passage reads, "There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye ALL are one man in Christ Jesus."

Of course, in this text, Paul is saying that each and every one of those whom he is addressing is in Christ. To read this passage as if Paul is saying, "Every kind of you (but not necessarily all)" is most unnatural.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Excellent work James!

You have established the fact that the apostle Paul oten used the expression "all men" to convey a meaning that's both collective AND distributive. John Goodwin raises a similar argument in his book, Redeption Redeemed. For if it's not distributive, then like you said, there would be people for whom these principles would not apply, which would ultimately overturn Paul's point. (I've personally witnesed this argument stun Calvinists.)

Boms said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Boms said...

Maybe, just maybe, we will have a clearer idea of what Paul was trying to say to Timothy in this passage by asking why he wrote Timothy in the first place?

Was Timothy becoming a "Calvinist pastor on the Sly," trying to sneak-in doctrines not unlike Limited Atonement at his church in Ephesus? If this was what Paul was trying to dissuade Timothy from doing, then maybe, just maybe, it would be correct to interpret Paul's passage to mean "all individuals."

But if Timothy's problem was one of being timid or shy in proclaiming the Gospel of CHRIST (The Good News of CHRIST, The Good News: CHRIST!) because he may have thought that he was not qualified enough due to his Gentile background (something that Paul goes into greater lengths in his second letter to the same person), then MAYBE, JUST MAYBE...

...Paul wrote these words to Timothy to encourage him get past his insecurities regarding his being a Gentile, and to remind Timothy that this Gospel is for all kinds of men: Jews AND Gentiles.

Context, a very handy thingy that.

How would you react if someone were to ask, "What Part of MEN Do You Not Understand?" in order to falsely teach that the Gospel is not for women?

Grace & Peace.