The Apostle quotes two phrases here. The first is usually understood as a quote of Numbers 16:5 (or Nahum 1:7).
The second one, however, is a ‘mystery’ to academics. Nobody knows what the apostle was quoting. Some have proposed that it’s alluding to certain passages, but none really fit. Some have even suggested that he was combining the thoughts of two different passages into one. However, it sounds very much like a direct quote.
In most Bibles it reads like this:
‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.’ –NIV
So, what is the answer to this little mystery?
Well, maybe we have it.
While it’s certainly true that we should turn away from wickedness, our theory is that this is actually a mistranslation. However, not a modern mistranslation, but an ancient one!
You see, the word which appears above as ‘turn away’ is translated from the Greek, which our project believes was likely translated from an Aramaic original. Now, in the Aramaic manuscripts, the word used is ܘܢܦܪܘܩ (wnprwq) and it has two completely different meanings.
It can indeed mean to abstain, or to leave off and abandon something. However, it can also mean to be rescued, saved, or most interestingly of all: to be ransomed. The correct meaning is deduced from the context.
Once you realize this fact, you can see how an ancient Greek translator (who turned the original Aramaic letter of Paul into Greek) could make a simple mistake – he could simply chose the wrong meaning. Once you change the word from abstains to saves, it becomes very obvious what Paul was quoting.
Literally, in Aramaic, it says:
ܐܶܢܽܘܢ ܘܢܶܦ݂ܪܽܘܩ ܡܶܢ ܥܰܘܠܳܐ ܟ݁ܽܠ ܕ݁ܩܳܪܶܐ ܠܰܫܡܶܗ ܕ݁ܡܳܪܝܳܐ
he-them saves from evil all who-call-to his-name of-the-lord
He saves all who call on the name of the Lord.
The ancient Greek translation, therefore, has two errors. It says ‘abstain from evil’ instead of ‘saves from evil,’ and it says ‘Christ’ instead of ‘the Lord’. If we fix both errors, then the Greek text would say something like:
Everyone calling on the name of the Lord will be saved from evil.
Any experienced Bible reader can immediately identify this quote. It’s not hard. It’s obviously a paraphrase of Joel 2:32:
‘...all who call on the name of the Lord will be the ones who are saved’
This verse is also quoted by Peter in Acts 2:21 and by Paul again in Romans 10:13. Here in 2 Timothy, Paul simply adds that we’re being saved from evil.
The only English Bibles to fix this error is ours and the 1933 Lamsa Bible. For everyone else, this quote is a mystery.