A Question I Was Asked:

Is It 'Sound Mind,' or 'Self-Control'?

I am alarmed at the way some Bible translations alter things in some texts. 2 Timothy 1:7 is now ended differently in some renditions and the meaning seems to be altered, Is it 'sound mind' or 'self-control'? Surely these two things are not the same. Any clarification?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Yes, the NKJV states this verse thus:

For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

I think the above is how most of us have generally considered it. However, some versions do now vary this and 'self control' or 'self discipline' become more favoured than 'sound mind,' but there are other variations too. Let us see just some examples of these:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but one of power, love, and self-discipline. (ISV).

For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline. (ASV).

For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-control. (BBE).

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (NIV).

Okay. The Greek word usually translated as 'sound mind' here is 'sophronimos.' It is word number G4995 in the Strong's Concordance system. There are varying shades of meaning to this word but my substantial agreement here is with the major Bible commentators. Barnes states that 'sophronimos' here means sober discretion and prudence, well-balanced, seeing things in good perspective. Or, as I might add, not subject to flights of fancy. Clarke agrees with this view, as do Gill, Matthew Henry and JFB. I too fully support this view of 'sophronimos' as reflected in 'sound mind,' still preferred by most English translations.

So my honest opinion is to agree with the questioner that 'self-control,' 'discipline' and 'self-discipline' are not ideal ways to express 'sophronimos,' however, since this Greek word does have some variation of meaning I would not go as far as to say that 'self-control,' 'discipline' and 'self-discipline' are mistranslations, yet, in my view, there is a subtle change of meaning which is unsafe. I agree with those Bible commentators most favoured by evangelical Christianity who supported the view that 'sound mind' pretty much sums up Paul's meaning in his letter to Timothy. 'Sound mind,' then, has more to do with good, logical reasoning, balance and common sense. I believe that 'self-control,' for example, takes one in a slightly different direction, especially as that expression is now often used here in the West (emotional control). Generally, I support the NIV but not a single translation into English is perfect and I don't back those translations, including the NIV, which have dumped 'sound mind.' That is my view, and I have studied Greek, but not necessarily everybody who has also studied Greek would agree.

Robin A. Brace. August 25th, 2014.