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Mounce Archive 16 - When Experiences Make Translating Difficult

Categories Mondays with Mounce

Everyone needs a break once in a while, and Bill Mounce is taking one from his weekly column on biblical Greek until September. Meanwhile, we’ve hand-picked some classic, popular posts from the “Mondays with Mounce” archive for your summer reading and Greek-studying pleasure.

This post explores translating the term "ἔργον ἀγαθόν". Mounce explains how our own perceptions can make us prefer one translation over another.

You can find the original post here.

One of the more interesting expressions in the Pastorals is ἔργον ἀγαθόν, “good deed.” It occurs 6 times.

  • Women are to be clothed in good deeds (1 Tim 2:10).
  • A widow shows herself to be godly by devoting herself to good deeds (1 Tim 5:10).
  • If you cleanse yourself from what is impure, you are prepared for any good deed (2 Tim 2:21).
  • Scripture equips Timothy for every good deed (2 Tim 3:17).
  • The false teachers deny their claim to know God by their deeds (ἔργοις), and are therefore unfit for any good deed (Titus 1:16).
  • Christians are to ready to do every good deed (Titus 3:1).

Is “deed” the right word? It sounds a bit like the Wizard of Oz or a boy scout to me. So what about the obvious, “good work”? But now the problem is more theological. If you take the phrase out of context, it moves in the direction of works salvation.

(Continue reading the entire post here.)


William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous works including the recent Basics of Biblical Greek Video Lectures and the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek. He is the general editor of Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV.

Learn more about Bill’s Greek resources at and visit his blog on spiritual growth at

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