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1 Timothy 1:6

ESV Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion,
NIV Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk.
NASB Some people have strayed from these things and have turned aside to fruitless discussion,
CSB Some have departed from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion.
NLT But some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions.
KJV From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;

What does 1 Timothy 1:6 mean?

Paul again refers to "certain persons" (1 Timothy 1:3) rather than using specific names. These people had diverted from the pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith mentioned in the previous verse (1 Timothy 1:5). The Greek term Paul uses here is exetrapēsan, indicating deviation or missing the mark. In medical contexts, the same word was used to describe dislocated limbs. In other words, these false teachers had gotten their beliefs "bent out of shape," into something unnatural and unhealthy.

"Vain discussion" can also be translated as "empty talk," including the idea of random, unimportant discussion. Paul's point here is not to criticize serious study of the Law. Rather, he is condemning a legalistic, shallow focus on the Law, and the wrong uses of it. Myths—traditions—and genealogies had taken priority over the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and the true teachings of the gospel.

In upcoming verses, Paul will point out that the Law is lawful when used "lawfully." In a very literal sense, in the original Greek, Paul is saying that the Law is a good thing when used as it is really meant to be used (1 Timothy 1:8). However, twisting the Law becomes a sin when it's used to promote false teachings or actions. Paul, here as elsewhere, emphasizes a distinction between the benefits of Scripture and the deceptions of those who misinterpret it. Scripture is flawless (Psalm 19; 2 Timothy 3:16–17), yet its readers often misunderstand it in "flawed" ways. Errors in interpretation are not errors in the Word of God.
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