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Read Introduction to 1 Timothy


4 nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.


Verse four describes the nature of errors taught at the Ephesian church.


nor give heed to fables [myths]

Ephesus was a center for mystery religions in the first century (the temples of Hadrian, Trajan, and the great temple of Diana). False teachers brought fables to the church. “Give heed” is literally to hold to. These people gave assent to fables. Some in Ephesus were teaching myths. Myths were legendary stories about the gods of the Roman Empire, but they also carried the idea of false stories. These myths may have also been fictitious Jewish stories (cf. the Jewish Book of Jubilees). A myth stands in contrast to objective historical truth set forth by the apostles (1 Tim 4:4, 7; Tit 1:14; cf. 2 Pe 1:16). It may have been legendary interpretations of the Old Testament.

and endless genealogies,

A genealogy is a list of descendants. Jews interpreted Jewish genealogies allegorically. People used genealogies to legitimize someone in a group. They were tedious in teaching them. They used genealogies without termination, which may also mean without object, making them useless.

which cause disputes

Existing false teachers in Ephesus caused “disputes,” which was strife about words (1 Tim 1:6-7; 6:4; 2 Tim 2:23; Tit 3:9). Their promotion of these speculations promoted controversy in the church.

rather than godly edification

“Edification” is from a word meaning economy or administration. The word in the original consists of two words: house and law. The idea is to administer the affairs of a household. The thought here is that God has a plan, administration, or economy for believers (Eph 1:10; 3:2, 9; Co 1:25), as stated in propositional statements. False teachers were not administrating doctrine properly. Sometimes, the Greek word meant stewardship. Stewardship of true doctrine stands in distinction from controversial speculation. False doctrine distorts God’s stewardship by moving the congregation away from meat that builds their souls.

which is in faith.

“Godly edification” comes “in [or by] faith.” Faith is the sphere in which God’s administration functions.


False teaching distracts people from what they should know.


There is a great need for Christians to focus on God’s revelation, His truth presented in extant propositions. People love to pursue novelty, which makes them vulnerable to false teaching. To pursue tangent or irrelevant doctrines blunts what God has said in His Word. Sidetracking into false teaching promotes controversies and fruitless discussions. It also leads to strife among believers. All this stands in contrast to God’s economy or how He manages things (next verse, 1 Tim 1:5). False teaching does not further God’s work in the church.

Heresy was a plague on the first-century church, and it is widespread today in churches. Attack from within the church is much more dangerous than from without.