One of the key texts in which the Greek verb orthotomeo appears is
2 Tim. 2:15. The KJV translates orthotomeo with the phrase "rightly dividing."
The ASV says "handling aright." The RSV says "rightly handling."
Many expositors of the scriptures have assumed that Paul is informing
Timothy to make a proper division of the Old and New Testaments. We can be
certain that such is not what the apostle is telling Timothy to do in this text.
In ancient Greek orthotomeo literally meant to "cut a path in a straight
direction, or to cut a road across country in a straight direction." (BDAG, p.722)
Paul is using orthotomeo figuratively. This figurative use means, to guide along a
straight path, that is, do not deviate to the left or right by quarreling about words;
it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. The context of 2 Tim. 2, especially
verses 14 and 16, seems to lead to this conclusion. Many of the modern translations
make this clear. The NRSV says, "rightly explaining." The NIV 2011 says, "correctly
handles." The HCSB says, "correctly teaching." Each of the aforementioned
translations recognize the figurative use Paul is making of the Greek verb.
Timothy, the "man of God" (1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 3:17) has the responsibility to
be certain that he deals honestly with the sacred writings. (2 Cor. 2:17; 4:2) He
must be careful not to believe, teach, or practice anything that is not in harmony
with God's will. He must boldly and unashamedly present God's message, handling
it accurately and explaining it correctly.
We live at a time, as was true in Timothy's day, when many spurious doctrines
and practices abound among the Lord's people and in the religious world at large.
The issues should be addressed, but we must be careful not to be led into a
discussion of foolish and insignificant matters. We should also avoid endless
controversies that are not substantive in nature.
We must do as Paul instructed Timothy, orthotomounta ton logon tes aletheias;
hold a straight course (as you correctly explain) the word of truth, and do not be
detoured by unfounded opinions that result from godless chatter.