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Be Ready In Season and Out of Season (2 Timothy 4:2)

“Be ready in season and out of season.” I am little bit surprised at how few translations give readers a modern, understandable phrase for 2 Timothy 4:2. Most translations read as follows:

preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (ESV; cf. NASB, NKJV, NIV, TNIV)

I have to admit that if I had not heard a number of lessons on being ready “in season and out of season,” I don’t know that I would exactly know what this phrase meant. There are only two Greek words behind the translation of the phrase “in season and out of season.” I think this is a case of translations being over slavish to the traditional rendering and I do not think that many readers would understand this sentence on their own. There are a few translations that make modern adjustment.

proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. (NRSV)

Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. (NLT)

proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. (HCSB)

Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction. (NET)

I think these are better options than the traditional “in season or out of season.” The NRSV and NLT are best, in my opinion. I am not thrilled with the HCSB and NET here because “whether convenient or not” makes the text sound like we are talking about preaching whether it is convenient or not to the preacher. But the context seems to communicate that Timothy was to preach even if the circumstances are favorable or not. The NRSV and NLT include the phrase “the time” while the HCSB and NET omit this phrase. I think the omission leads to the potential misunderstanding.

I wish the ESV would have followed the rendering of the NRSV. I am shocked that the TNIV kept the traditional rendering rather than updating the phrase. No translation is perfect and every translation seems to lapse into occasions of traditional or archaic renderings.