Abstain from all appearance of evil.
1 Thessalonians 5:22

This verse is interpreted differently by the NIV and almost every modern version going back to the Revised Version and ASV. The NIV’s reading “Avoid every kind of evil,” is representative of all of the modern versions.

“Anyone familiar with translation issues knows that there is more than one proper manner by which to translate many Greek and Hebrew words or phrases into English. Therefore it is incorrect to argue that there is only one correct way to translate certain words.” These words appeared on page 32 of John Ankerberg’s and John Weldon’s mistitled book The Facts on the King James Only Debate. This may be one of the few things that is said in this book that makes a whole lot of sense, but the hypocrites who wrote it do not appear to understand their own words. True to Ankerberg’s character this statement is provided as a convenient way to launch into an underhanded attack against a verse in the KJV, which is followed up by a criticism of the KJV’s handling of 2 Timothy 2:15, which he undoubtedly got from fellow Westcott-Hort only advocate James R. White (it appears that there is nothing in this book that is not a regurgitation of the nonsense put forth by White). The criticism is not only spurious, but it is a contradiction of the statement concerning translation issues. It is obvious that the quote on page 32 is not provided because the authors meant a word of it, and they contradicted it numerous times. On page 16 of the same book, we are told by these hypocrites that 1 Thessalonians 5:22 is an “error in the KJV that has not been corrected.” They go on to say that “all appearances of evil should be “every form of evil,” but no reason or evidence is offered for this being an error, and the evidence that edios, the word in question, can be defined by either appearance or form is deceitfully and conveniently ignored.

Unlike the authors of this silly pseudo-critique of the KJV, I am not going to declare the modern versions to be in error simply because they chose a different word than the KJV or another version does when that word can be justified, unless I have a good contextual reason for doing so. The word in question is eidos. The following is the definition of eidos supplied by the Greek Lexicon of Thayer:

“eidos 1. the external appearance, form, figure shape …. explained by sight i.e. beholding … 2. form, kind …”

Bauer, et al. provides: “eidos 1. form, outward appearance … 2. kind… 3. active seeing, sight …”

Wigram’s Analytical Greek Lexicon of the Greek New Testament defines the noun with the following: form, external appearance, kind, species,, a form, shape, figure; image or statue; hence an idol, image of a god; a heathen god.

Even Kuber’s A Reader’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and a Beginner’s Guide for the Translation of New Testament Greek, which is published by Zondervan of NIV infamy, lists both form and outward appearance as possible meanings in this passage.

It is almost important to note that the original Revised Version inlcuded a margin note that reads: “or appearances,” so the text that inspired all of the later modern versions to alter the interpretation at least acknowledged that both were possible.

Eidos is derived from an unused or obsolete verb that means to see or perceive (eidw). Another form of this obsolete verb, oida, is associated with knowing or perceiving. The base verbal meaning suggests that appearance, i.e. the way that something is perceived or viewed, is the better translation, but “form” or “kind” is a meaning that can and should be derived in some occurrences, and it cannot be ruled out on the basis of the basic meaning of the unused verbal root alone. As anyone, even Ankerberg and his cohort, could see if they looked, eidos has two basic and well attested meanings, and a number of derived meanings. Not only do both “appearance” and “form” work in this passage, but both are clearly scriptural. I would be a hypocrite, a liar, and a scholarly incompetent to say otherwise. What I can and will say is that it requires some spiritual discernment to understand why the KJV translation is the better of the two in this passage.
The Bible tells us to study to shew ourselves approved unto God [2 Tim 2:15]. Ankerberg should have done so, but he has trouble with that verse too, so I suppose that would be asking too much from him. If he had studied the issue, he might have come to understand that the appearance of evil goes far beyond simple abstaining from all types of evil. The latter may apply to anyone living an ascetic lifestyle, but we are not called to be ascetics, we are called to be missionaries. As missionaries of Christ it is not enough that we simply abstain from evil ourselves, but we should present ourselves to the world in a manner that the world will not interpret as evil. This is easier said than done in a world where evil is considered good and good is considered evil, but we are to do our best.

A good example of this principle is found in 1 Corinthians Paul deals with the issue of eating food that is sacrificed to idols. He explains that we are permitted to eat anything, but that we should not do so if it should give the appearance of evil to the lost who might be led further astray by it. During his lifetime the practice of eating food that had been sacrificed to false gods was common. Christians understood that in essence it meant nothing to eat such food since these false gods were not real, but Paul explains that those who considered them to be real could misinterpret this action and be led astray by it, and therefore it would be better for Christians to abstain from the practice.

1 Corinthians 10
21 Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot
be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.
22 Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?
23 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
24 Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.
25 Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake:
26 For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.
27 If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.
28 But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof:
29 Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?
30 For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?
31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:

This has many applications in our modern lives. I could easily sit at a bar and drink soda pop with some of my old friends from college days. I would not be doing anything evil by drinking the soft drink, but I would be giving the appearance of evil by sitting at a the bar, especially if there were lost people present who know that I am a Christian. Avoiding all appearances of evil is a far greater challenge than merely abstaining from all kinds of evil.

An example from my own life where I have to deal with the issue of giving an appearance of evil is in regard to tinctures that I make. “Every few years or so I have to purchase a bottle or two of grain alcohol to make medicinal tinctures such as lobelia tincture.

Lobelia is a natural sedative that can help with an angina, asthma, or tachycardia attack, and in a slightly larger dose is emetic. It requires both alcohol and vinegar to draw out its properties or it will not work properly. It would be quite impossible to get drunk by drinking it since one would vomit after one or two teaspoons and it tastes about like what one would expect the juice from used cigarette butts to taste like.

Nevertheless, I am stuck with the dilemma of presenting an appearance of evil, because the only places that the alcohol can be purchased are state liquor stores. I always make it a point to let the sales clerk know that I am not buying it for consumption as a beverage, but since I have a Bible quotation on the back of my car, I am still in danger of giving an appearance of evil to anyone who pulls into the parking lot, if I don’t temporarily remove it. Even then, I am quite frequently recognized by people on the street in a few different counties who know me as the preacher who visits hospitals, nursing homes, and other establishments with my therapy dog. I cannot say that I know a way around the problem, but I am warned to try.

Similarly, I used to have to pull through a drive through beer carryout that was covered with large photos of scantily clad women in order to pay for a monthly storage unit rental fee that was owned by the same man. I wondered what the people behind me were thinking as they were reading the scripture passages on the back of the car, and I am sure that they observed that no beer was handed to me, because they were almost certain to be watching for it. Examples relevant to modern life abound.

I suspect that one of the main reasons that the weaker translation is preferred by modern church-goers is associated with the trend of modern churches to replace worship and righteousness with entertainment and prosperity. The churches of America are full of rock and roll bands blaspheming God with musicians that not only give the appearance of evil, but play music that stems from it, and even promote it. Likewise, money grubbing liars and hypocrites are leading their congregations into perdition through the Antichrist prosperity message. These wealth-seeking blasphemers ignore everything that Scripture says about riches and greed and preach the exact opposite of what is clearly stated. The country is full of megachurches like those of John Hagee, the Crouches, Joyce Meyers, Rod Parsley, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, and thousands of wealthy preachers in smaller churches that flash their fancy luxury cars and mansions with no shame or fear of God, and only mock anyone who points out the hypocrisy of their lifestyles to which even the modern Bible perversions admonish. Such preachers are no more likely to appreciate the KJV’s translation of 1 Thessalonians 5:22 than they are to preach a message on the love of money being the root of all evil, Matthew 19:24, or the parallel verses from Mark and Luke concerning that camel getting through the eye of a needle. Of course, there are plenty of KJV-only preachers who ignore these verses too, so the Westcott-Hort only crowd is not alone in their attitude toward the verse.

Other Versions

It is noteworthy that the pre-Westcott-Hort versions almost invariably agree with the King James. Tyndale had “Abstayne from all suspicious thinges,” for this passage, which is a paraphrase of the idea of abstaining from all appearances of evil. Coverdale followed Tyndale word for word, and the Geneva and Bishop’s Bibles had “Absteine from all appearance of euill,” and “Abstayne from all appearaunce of euyll.”

The other early TR-based translations also agree with the KJV interpretation. The Reina Valera of 1602 with revisions of 1865 has “toda apariencia de mal.” The original 1602 has “especie,” which is the Spanish equivalent of the Latin versions “specie.” In both languages the word might mislead English speakers. The primary meaning of the Latin and Spanish equivalent is sight or appearance, and species or kind is a secondary meaning.

Apparently the revisers of 1865 thought that the meaning of especie as “appearance” needed to be clarified more sharply. The modern versions returned to the more ambiguous term, which is much more likely to be interpreted as “kind” or “form” in the modern tongue than it was in 1602. The Latin specie is understood by the Vulgate translation of Knox as saying “all that has a look of evil about it.” Similarly the Douay Rheims translation of the Vulgate has “From all appearance of evil refrain yourselves.” Not surprisingly the modern Confraternity translation of the Vulgate, which is slipped into most more recent editions of the New Testament section of Douay Rheims Bibles, while only the Old Testament section is actually the Douay Rheims, has changed this verse to read “Keep yourselves from every kind of evil.” It should not be necessary to explain why the Catholic clergy would not like the old reading. What group that professes to be Christian is less likely to avoid all appearances of evil?

The French Ostervald has “de tout ce qui a quelque apparence de mal,” and the French Martin has “toute apparence de mal.” Luther’s Bible has “Meidet allen bösen Schein.” The Italian Diodati has “da ogni apparenza di male.”

Not surprisingly, The modern French, Spanish, Italian, and German translations match up with the modern English versions. The historical trend in Bible versions in all languages has been to weaken, strain, pervert, and chop up Scripture, not to preserve it, so this is to be expected. I checked a multitude of modern English versions and the New Life Version, surprisingly, is the only one that agreed with the KJV in this verse. The pseudo-King James Version, not surprisingly, (NKJV) did not.


We cannot say that the translations pushed by these two wannabe critics are in error based upon philological evidence. We are to avoid every kind of evil and this verse does tell us that, but the way that it is stated is not only weak compared to the much deeper translation offered by the King James Bible, but it is a statement that should be seen as rather obvious. Of course we are to avoid all kinds of evil. Did Paul really need to remind anyone of that? Taking care not to cause others to stumble by just giving an appearance of evil, is a concept that is not so obvious, and a far more difficult one to live by, and one that the church of Corinth had to hear almost as much as the modern Laodicean church of today does.

The weaker interpretation became in vogue about the same time that two demon conjuring men who proclaimed the Bible to be mythology came on the scene named Westcott and Hort, as well as Bible-scoffers like Julius Wellhausen. It was the same time that Freud, Marx, Darwin, and Blavatsky all attacked the Bible and Christianity itself. It has become the interpretation of the modern church of greed, money grubbing, self-gratification, and self-indulgent opulence. It is the interpretation of the purpose driven apostasy, that of the 501(c)3, pro-United Nations, pro abortion, and pro-sodomite and lesbian churches. It is the interpretation of the atheist scholars of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale universities and their witchcraft-promoting, Jesus-hating divinity schools. It is, of course, the interpretation of the churches and ministries that are under the control of the prince of the power of the air like those of TBN, FOX, and men like John Ankerberg. What is most important about this example from this Anker Series book is that it is another proof that the authors are hypocritical, dishonest, incompetent, and spiritually undiscerning. I will bring up the statement of Ankerberg and Weldon concerning the “incorrectness of arguing that there is only one correct way to translate certain words” more in the future.


Ankerberg, John & John Weldon. The Facts on the King James Only Debate. The Anker Series.
Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1996.
Kubo, Sakae. A Reader’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and a Beginner’s Guide for the Translation of New Testament Greek. Andrews University Monographs, vol. IV.
Berrien Springs, Mich.: Andrews University Press, 1975.
Wigram, George V. The Analytical Greek Lexicon of the New Testament. Peabody, mass.:
Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. 1983 ed. (originally published 1852).

John Hinton, Ph.D.
Bible Restoration Ministry
A ministry seeking the translating and reprinting of KJV equivalent
Bibles in all the languages of the world.