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By 9. August 2021November 13th, 2021The eleven disfellowshipping offenses


This study breaks new ground regarding the meaning of the words pleonekteō, pleonexia, and pleonektēs. The concept “greed” (= an insatiable desire for more) did not exist in the Hebrew world of thought, and it did not exist among the first Christians. It is a modern invention without any lexical basis.

The floppiness of English Bible translations and Greek-English Lexicons is seen by the fact that they all put the word “greed” in the mouth of Jesus in Mark 7:22 and Luke 12:15 when the Hebrew language that Jesus spoke did not have any word for “greed.”

The book “Shepherd The Flock Of God” combines “greed, gambling, and extortion” in one and the same point. The reason may be that gambling first was said to be extortion, and later it was changed to greed. In the Shepherd book, greed is only connected with two actions, namely, gambling and exacting too high a bride price.

First Corinthians 5:11 and 6:10 say that being a pleonektēs qualifies for disfellowshipping. The NWT13 translates this word with the expression “greedy people.” But a greedy person does not qualify for disfellowshipping because “greed” is a desire or an emotion, a state of mind, and no one can be disfellowshipped because of their desires, emotions, or states of mind. Therefore, the actual meaning of the noun pleonektēs in 1 Corinthians is the main point of this study.

In order to understand the meaning of Greek words, we need to look at the contexts in which they occur. I will show that neither of the three Greek words that NWT13 translated with a form of the word greed relates to desires and emotions. This means that the term “greed” is not related to any of these three words. But each of the three Greek words relates to concrete actions.


In the Septuagint, pleonekteō “to make dishonest gain,” often involved the use of force. Greek writers in the fourth century BCE and first century CE used the verb with the meaning of “seizing the properties of others,” to “take something by force.” In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the verb is used with the meaning “to take advantage of,” “to exploit,” and I use pleonekteō with the meaning “to exploit.”


In the Septuagint, pleonexia is used with the meaning “dishonest gain,” often acquired by the use of force. In 2 Corinthians 9:5, pleonexia is used with the meaning of “something extorted” or “something exploited.” In the translation of the words of Jesus in Mark 7:22 and Luke 12:15, pleonexia is used, and this is translated by all English translations I know as “greed.” However, the Hebrew language that Jesus spoke does not have a word for greed (= “an insatiable desire for more”), so these translations are wrong.

Because pleonexia in the Septuagint is a translation of the Hebrew word bætsa‘, this must have been the word Jesus used. Because “dishonest gain” in ancient Israel was acquired by the use of force, I use pleonexia with the meaning “exploited gain, and I show that this meaning fits very well in all its ten occurrences in the Christian Greek Scriptures.


The noun pleonektēs was used by the Greek writer Thycudides with the meaning “robber.” Because it occurs only four times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, its meaning cannot be construed on the basis of its context. However, because it is a verbal noun of pleonekteō with the meaning “to exploit,” pleonektēs must have the meaning “exploiter(s)” and not “greedy people,” as is its translation by NWT13. Different constructions supporting the meaning “exploiter” are discussed.


The noun pleonektēs is both a verbal noun and an agent noun. This means that this noun and the other eight nouns and one substantivized adjective that express disfellowshipping offenses do not show what the persons do but show what they are. I show that to qualify for disfellowshipping a person must not be guilty of wrongdoing one, two, or three times. But he or she must be permeated by habitual wrongdoing.

A kleptēs is a person permeated by thievery, an incorrigible stealer.

A methysos is a person permeated by overdrinking, an incorrigible drunkard.

A pleonektēs is a person permeated by the seeking or pursuing of dishonest gain by exploiting and cheating others, an incorrigible pursuer of dishonest gain.

The three words under discussion express the same meaning from different angles:

The verb pleonekteō: “to exploit”

The noun pleonexia: “exploited gain.”

The verbal noun pleonektēs : “exploiter.”

The book for elders “Shepherd The Flock Of God” chapter 12,  point 31, says regarding greed, gambling, and extortion:

  1. Greed, Gambling, Extortion: (1 Cor. 5:10, 11; 6:10; 21; 1 Tim. 3:8; it-1 pp. 789, 1005-1006) Elders do not generally involve themselves in what an individual does with regard to petty gambling solely for entertainment. However, if such petty gambling affects his spirituality or becomes a cause of stumbling for others, counsel should be given. If he does not respond favorably to the counsel and his conduct continues to have a negative effect on him or others, he could not be viewed as exemplary in the congregation. (Isa 65:11; w11 3/1 pp. 12-14; w02 11/1 p. 31; g 3/15 pp. 14-15) If an individual’s gambling reveals a course of greediness, perhaps causing harm to himself or others, and he ignores repeated counsel, judicial action would be appropriate.
  2. An individual continuing in employment directly involved with gambling or employment making him a clear accomplice or promoter of gambling would be subject to judicial action, usually being allowed six months to make the needed adjustments. (lvs pp. 204-209) In questionable cases, consult the Service Department.
  3. If a business gives out prizes or prize money to winners of a contest or to potential customers for advertising, accepting the gift is an individual’s decision to make. However, a person needs to be careful that accepting such a prize does not stir up greed. —Rom. 14:21; 1 Cor. 10:31-33; w73 p. 127; g75 7/8 p. 28.
  4. A Christian who greedily and unrepentantly extorts a high bride prize may be dealt with judicially–1 Cor. 5:11, 13; 6:9, 10; Heb. 13:5; w98 9/15 pp 24-25.

One of the disfellowshipping offenses mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians chapters 5 and 6 is expressed by the Greek noun pleonektēs. The plural form of this noun is translated by NWT13 as “greedy people.” But I translate this noun as “exploiters.” And this is the issue of this study: What is the meaning of the noun pleonektēs and the cognate noun pleonexia, and the verb pleonekteō?

I will make a diachronic study of these three words, i.e., find out how the meaning of these words has been expressed through time before the Christian Greek Scriptures were written. And I will make a synchronic study, i.e., what was the meaning of these three words when the Christian Greek Scriptures were written. This can be found by studying the contexts in which these words occur in the Christian Greek Scriptures.


The language of a people changes through time. The English language four hundred years ago was, for example, very different from modern English. If we accept the internal dating of biblical books and the chronology of these books, we see that the Hebrew Scriptures were written during a period of more than 1,000 years, from the 15th century BCE.

We would expect that during these years, the Hebrew language in the books would have changed considerably. But this is not the case. There is very little difference between the language in the oldest books compared with the youngest ones. It is, for this reason, very difficult to date the biblical books on the basis of their changes in language.

Parts of the Hebrew Bible were translated into Greek from the third century BCE onward, and the result was the Septuagint translation. The verb planekteō occurs in the Septuagint, and we can learn something about its meaning when we analyze which Hebrew verb it translates.

The meanings of certain Greek words in Classical Greek may be similar or different from the meanings of their counterparts in the Christian Greek Scriptures. But by looking at the Greek authors, we can find the meaning of planekteō as used by these authors.

The sources we can consider are the Hebrew Bible and the relationship between the Hebrew text and its translations in the Greek Septuagint. We can also look at the use of the words in Classical Greek. The works of Philo from the first part of the first century CE may also be sources to consider.

The meaning of pleonekteō in the Septuagint

The verb pleonekteō occurs two times in the Septuagint, the noun pleonexia occurs six times; the noun pleonektēs does not occur. Below are the two passages with pleonekteō and one with pleonexia. I quote from NWT13:


Jeremiah 22:17

That your heart and eyes are set only on your dishonest gain (bætsa‘; pleonexia).

Ezekiel 22:27

Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing prey; they shed blood and kill people to make dishonest gain (H: bātsa‘ bætsa‘; G: pleonexia, pleonekteō).

Habakkuk 2:9

Woe to the one who makes evil gain (H: bātsa‘ bætsa‘; G: pleonekteō, pleonexia). for his house.

Ezekiel 22:27 and Habakkuk 2:9 have the Hebrew verb bātsa‘ (to make dishonest gain) as an infinitive construct with the noun bætsa‘ (dishonest gain) following. The Septuagint translates the verb bātsa‘ with the Greek verb pleonekteō, and this shows that pleonekteō is used with the meaning “to make dishonest gain.” The Hebrew noun bætsa‘ is translated by the Greek noun pleonexia, and this shows that pleonexia has the meaning “dishonest gain” in the Septuagint.

The use of pleonekteō,  pleonexia, and pleonektēs in old Greek sources

Thycudid (c 460-396) was a reliable historian. He used pleonekteō with the sense “to increase one’s possessions,” and “to take advantage of.” He used the noun pleonektēs with the meaning “robber,” and he used pleonexia with the meaning “the will to press one’s advantage.[1] Gorgias of Leotinoi in Sicily (483-475 BCE) used pleonekteō with the meanings: “to seize the goods of others,” “to seek something by force,” “to do violence to.”[2]

Philo of Alexandria (c. 15 BCE- c. 50 CE) wrote his books in the first part of the first century CE. In his book De Specialibus Legibus 1, 173, he uses pleonexia with the meaning “seizing the property of others.”[3]

The common denominator of the Septuagint and the old Greek sources is that pleonekteō has the meaning of pursuing dishonest gain, often by the use of force, and pleonexia has the meaning “dishonest gain (acquired by force).” Thycudid used pleonektēs with the meaning “robber,” which also collocates with “dishonest gain.”

A synchronic study of pleonekteō in the Christian Greek Scriptures

The verb pleonekteō occurs four times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, and I quote the NWT13:

2 Corinthians 2:11

11 so that we may not be overreached by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his designs.

2 Corinthians 7:2

2 We have corrupted no one; we have taken advantage (pleonekteō) of no one.

2 Corinthians 12:17, 18

17 I did not take advantage (pleonekteō) of you through any of those whom I sent to you, did I?… 18 Titus did not take advantage (pleonekteō) of you at all.

The NIV uses the verb “outwit” in 2:11 and “exploit” in 7:2 and 12:17, 18 instead of “take advantage of.” The verb pleonekteō in these passages refers to the wrong action of gaining something at the expense of others. And in view of the meaning of pleonekteō  in the Septuagint “to make dishonest gain” and do this by force, the rendering “exploit” clearly is fitting.

This more precise aspect of the meaning of pleonekteō also is fitting in 1 Thessalonians 4:4-6 (NWT84)

4 that one of YOU should know how to get possession of his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in covetous sexual appetite (pathos “passion” and epithymia “lust”) such as also those nations have which do not know God; 6 that no one go to the point of harming  (hyperbainō) and encroach (pleonekteō) upon the rights of his brother in this matter.

Paul admonishes the Thessalonians not “to encroach upon the rights his brother in this matter.” The word “encroach” has the meaning “to intrude on the rights of another person,” “to take advantage of or exploit another person.” And the reference is “in this matter.” Which matter? Every Christian has the right to live a life in sanctification and honor. If a Christian gives in to “covetous sexual appetite,” he may try to get another Christian, male or female, to have sexual relations with him, thus destroying his or her right to live a life in sanctification and honor. In this way, he would be taking advantage of or exploiting the other Christian.

We should note the use of the verb hyperbainō (“to transgress, sin against”). This indicates that the connected verb pleonekteō implies the act of sinning against someone. Because of the use of the verb pleonekteō both in the Septuagint and in the Christian Greek Scriptures, I suggest the rendering “to exploit” rather than “to take advantage of.”

The Greek-English Lexicon of Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich defines the verb pleonekteō as “take advantage of, outwit, defraud, cheat,” and as we have seen, these meanings are confirmed by both by the Septuagint, the old Greek sources, and the Christian Greek Scriptures.

The meaning of the verb pleonekteō  in the Christian Greek Scriptures and in Greek sources from BCE is the same: “take advantage of, outwit, defraud, and cheat.” Therefore, I use the all-embracing term “to exploit.”


[1]. G. Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, Volume VI (TDOT), page 266.

[2] . Ibid., page 267.

[3] . Ibid, page 270.


All Greek-English lexicons of which I am aware show that pleonexia is an abstract noun with the meaning “greed.” And all English translations of which I am aware use “greed” to translate pleonexia in most cases. However, in this section, I dispute this universal agreement, and I submit that pleonexia does not have the meaning “greed” in any passage of the Christian Greek Scriptures.

I have already shown that in Jeremiah 22:17 in the Septuagint, pleonexia has the meaning “dishonest gain,” and that Philo of Alexandria, who wrote his books in the first part of the first century CE, used pleonexia with the meaning “seizing the property of others.” This shows that pleonexia was viewed as a concrete noun and not as the abstract noun “greed” presented in today’s lexicons. I will argue that pleonexia in the Christian Greek Scriptures has the meaning “exploitation,” which accords with the meaning of the verb pleonekteō (“to exploit”). I will now look at the evidence.

The noun pleonexia used with the meaning of “something extorted” or “something exploited”

The noun pleonexia occurs ten times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. In five of these passages, pleonexia occurs without any defining context (Mark 7:22; Luke 12:15; Romans 1:29; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5) So, we need to look at the five passages that have some context for help in determining the lexical meaning of that Greek word. One of these is particularly illuminating, and that is 2 Corinthians 9:5; I quote from NWT13:

5 So I thought it necessary to encourage the brothers to come to you ahead of time and to get your promised bountiful gift ready in advance, so that this might be ready as a generous gift, and not as something extorted.

The online NWT (Study Edition) has the following comments in the margin:

Not as something extorted: The Greek word here rendered “something extorted” is usually translated “greed” or “greediness.” (Lu 12:15; Ro 1:29; Eph 4:19; 5:3; Col 3:5) Therefore, the Greek expression indicates that Paul and his coworkers did not take up a collection with the wrong motive, in a spirit of greed. Paul did not pressure the Christians in Corinth into contributing to the relief work. He gave them no reason to feel as if someone had exploited them or extorted the funds from them. The giving was to be voluntary, out of a generous and cheerful heart.—2Co 9:7.

These comments are interesting, particularly because pleonexia is translated by “extortion” and the comments also connect pleonexia with exploitation. Table 1.1 shows how different translations render pleonexia in 2 Corinthians 9.5

Table 1.1 Different renderings of pleonexia in 2 Corinthians 9:5

New American Bible Exaction
New Jerusalem Bible Imposition
New King James Version Grudging obligation
New Living Translation Grudgingly
New Revised Version Extortion
Word English Bible Greediness
American Standard Version Extortion

Different commentaries on the verse have tried in different ways to show that Paul used pleonexia in the usual sense of “greed” also in 2 Corinthians 9:5. But these arguments are forced and unnatural. This is because, as the above quote serves to illustrate, Bible commentaries have no other recourse but to force an explanation in keeping with how pleonexia is “usually translated,” that is, as “greed” or “greediness”. However, the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:17, 18 strongly argue in favor of the meaning of pleonexia as “extortion” or “exploitation” in 9:5. I quote from NWT13:

17  I did not take advantage (pleonekteō) of you through any of those whom I sent to you, did I? 18 I urged Titus and I sent the brother with him. Titus did not take advantage (pleonekteō) of you at all, did he? We walked in the same spirit, did we not? In the same footsteps, did we not?

The NIV uses the word “exploit” instead of “take advantage,” and the NWT13 could, in accord with their translation in 9:5, have used the rendering “extort” in 2 Corinthians 12:17, 18 as well. The important point in our context is that pleonexia in the Christian Greek Scriptures, in one instance, clearly has the meaning of “extort” or “exploit.” Could pleonexia have this meaning in the other nine instances as well?

The Hebrew word translated by pleonexia by the Christian writers

The noun pleonexia occurs in Mark 7:22 and Luke 12:15, where Jesus is quoted. Jesus spoke Hebrew, and both Mark and Luke translated the words of Jesus into Greek. So the question is which Hebrew word was originally used by Jesus that was later translated into Greek as pleonexia.

Franz Delitzsch translated the Christian Greek Scriptures into Classical Hebrew, using the idioms of the Hebrew Scriptures. He translated pleonexia with ’ahabat bætsa‘ (“love of dishonest gain”) in Mark 7:22 and with ’betsō‘a bātsa‘, (“seeking dishonest gain”) in Luke 12:15. Why did he use these translations?

The first important point to keep in mind is that there is no Classical Hebrew word with the meaning “greed” (= “an insatiable desire for more”). NWT13 has the rendering “greed” only one time in the Hebrew Scriptures, namely, in Proverbs 20:21. Here is a pual participle of the verb bāhal, and according to Koehlenberger and Mounce the meaning of this verb is “to detest, disdain, feel an attitude of loathing.” The meaning of the pual form is said to be “to be gotten by greed.” A footnote in NWT84 shows that the reading of the pual form is uncertain. If the “u” of the pual form is replaced by “o,” the meaning is “to hasten, which would fit well as a possible rendering in Proverbs 20:21.But in any case, there is no noun in Classical Hebrew with the meaning “greed.”

The second important point is that the mother tongue of Mark and Luke was Hebrew, and Greek was their second language. The quotations in the Christian Greek Scriptures from the Hebrew Scriptures are mostly taken from the Septuagint, and this means that the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures were heavily influenced by the Greek text of the Septuagint.

And as I have shown above, the Septuagint has the noun pleonexia that is translated from the Hebrew noun bætsa‘ with the meaning “dishonest gain.” Both the lack of a noun meaning “greed” in the Classical Hebrew and the Septuagint rendering of bætsa‘ by pleonexia, strongly support the conclusion of Delitzsch that Jesus used the noun bætsa‘ (“dishonest gain,” “exploited gain”) and not an unknown word meaning “greed.”

The sloppy nature of many renderings in English Bible translations is seen in the following way: Since Classical Hebrew does not have a word for “greed,” Jesus could not have used the word “greed,” as is the impression given by almost all English Bible translations.

I have listed below the ten NWT13 passages where pleonexia occurs. In parenthesis, I have listed my translations and the translations of Delitzsch. My comments on some of the translations are seen in the footnotes.

When we scrutinize each passage, we see that my rendering “exploitation” and Delitzsch’s rendering “dishonest gain” fit very well in each case, even better than the rendering “greed.”

Mark 7:22

22 acts of adultery, greed (RF: “exploited gain,” D: ’ahabat bætsa‘, “love of dishonest gain”), acts of wickedness, deceit, brazen conduct, an envious eye, blasphemy, haughtiness, and unreasonableness.

Luke 12:15

15  Then he said to them: “Keep your eyes open and guard against every sort of greed (RF: “every sort of exploited gain,” D: ’betsō‘a bātsa‘, “seeking dishonest gain”) because even when a person has an abundance, his life does not result from the things he possesses.”

Romans 1:29

29 And they were filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed (RF: “exploited gain,” D: ræsha‘ bætsa‘, “dishonest gain of wickedness”), and badness, being full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice, being whisperers.

2 Corinthians 9:5

 So I thought it necessary to encourage the brothers to come to you ahead of time and to get your promised bountiful gift ready in advance, so that this might be ready as a generous gift, and not as something extorted (RF: “something exploited,” D:  matnat kilāi “gift of deceit”[1]).

Ephesians 4:19

 19 Having gone past all moral sense, they gave themselves over to brazen conduct to practice every sort of uncleanness with greediness (RF: “by exploitation[2],” D: ’betsō‘a bātsa‘, “ by seeking dishonest gain”), .

Ephesians 5.3

 Let sexual immorality and every sort of uncleanness or greediness (RF: “exploited gain,” D: ’ahabat bætsa‘, “love of dishonest gain”), not even be mentioned among you, just as is proper for holy people;

Colossians 3.5

5 Deaden, therefore, your body members that are on the earth as respects sexual immorality, uncleanness, uncontrolled sexual passion, hurtful desire, and greediness (RF: “exploited gain,” D:  habbætsa‘, “dishonest gain”[3]), which is idolatry.

1 Thessalonians 2:5

5 In fact, you know that we never used flattering speech or put on any false front with greedy motives (RF: “exploiting gain,” D: ’betsō‘a bātsa‘, “seeking dishonest gain”), God is witness![4]

2 Peter 2:3

3 Also, they will greedily exploit (RF: “exploited gain,” D: ’betsō‘a bātsa‘, “seeking dishonest gain”), you with counterfeit words. But their judgment, decided long ago, is not moving slowly, and their destruction is not sleeping.[5]

2 Peter 2.14

14 Their eyes are full of adultery and are unable to desist from sin, and they entice unstable ones. They have a heart trained in greed (RF: “trained in exploiting gain,” D: melummad bætsa‘, “being trained in seeking dishonest gain”). They are accursed children.

We should keep in mind that even though the Christian Greek Scriptures is written in Greek, the setting is the Jewish nation with its laws and regulations. The writers of the different books were all Jews, and their horizon of understanding was closely related to their Jewish upbringing.

The tenth commandment (Exodus 20:17) has a prohibition against coveting, and the verb hāmad with the meaning “desire” is used. Corresponding to the verb is the noun hæmæd. But its five occurrences are used in the sense of “desireable” and not of human desire. The Greek word corresponding to hāmad is epithymeō (“long for; desire; covet; lust for”), which occurs 16 times, including in Romans 13:9. The verb can refer to positive and negative things: a longing for eating food or coveting the wife of one’s neighbor.

The noun corresponding to the verb epithymeō is epithymia. This word occurs 37 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, and according to Louw and Nida, the meaning is “to greatly desire to do or have something.” The word “greed” is defined in the marginal note to Ephesians 3:5 in the online NWT (Study Edition) as “an insatiable [= impossible to satisfy] desire to have more,” and this is a good definition for the English word “greed”. However, while both epithymia and “greed” can refer to a strong desire, the difference between the two is that “greed” is an insatiable desire, while the desire expressed by epithymia can be satiated or satisfied.

The NWT13 translates pleonexia with “greed.” But as I have shown above, this is a wrong translation because there is no lexical basis for this meaning. In the Jewish world of thought, there was no noun that expressed the idea of “greed” (= “an insatiable desire for more”). The Christian Greek Scriptures were written by persons who were a part of that Jewish world of thought, and so there is also no word in these Scriptures that can rightly be translated as “greed.” Colossians 3:5 uses both the word epithymia and pleonexia, and this shows that there is a difference in meaning between the two words. NWT13 correctly translates epithymia with “desire” and it translates pleonexia incorrectly as “greed.”

There is no word in Classical Hebrew with the meaning “greed” (= “an insatiable desire for more”), and so neither did the writers of the Hebrew Scriptures carry over any word with the meaning “greed” that would require a translation into their Christian Greek Scriptures. Therefore, the meaning of pleonexia is not “greed” but rather, “exploited gain.”

[1]. The verb kal has the meaning “crafty, deceitful, knavish,” and I take the noun kilai as a derivation from this verb with the meaning “deceit.”

[2]. The Greek preposition en has a great number of uses. In this verse, I take it in the instrumental sense. The mentioned persons “practice every sort of uncleanness by exploitation” — by “unfairly use of different things for their own advantage.”

[3]. The element ha before bætsa‘ is the article. After the article, the consonant is doubled.

[4]. The phrase “or put on any false front with greedy motives” is a paraphrase rather than a translation.. The Greek text has two substantives, profasis (“false motive; pretense; pretext; excuse”) in dative after en, and pleonexia (“exploited gain”) in the genitive case. The NWT84 has the literal rendering “or with a false front (profasis) for covetousness (pleonexia)” My rendering of the phrase is “or with a pretext for exploiting gain.”

[5]. I take the preposition en as showing the reason for the false words, namely, to acquire “exploited gain.” My translation is: “for the sake of exploited gain they make profit of you by false words.”


There is also a concrete noun that is related to the verb pleonekteō, namely, pleonektēs. This noun occurs four times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, three times in 1 Corinthians 5:10, 11, and 6:10, where disfellowshipping is discussed, and one time in Ephesians 5:5.

The verb pleonekteō gives meaning to the noun pleonektēs

Because the noun occurs only four times, we cannot construe any meaning on the basis of the context. However, pleonektēs is a verbal noun that is derived from the verb pleonekteō, and the meaning of the verb can help us construe the meaning of pleonektēs.  English examples of verbal nouns are  “speaker” from “speak” and “rider” from “ride.” Verbal nouns are also nomen agentis (“agent nouns”), and they refer to a characteristic or an occupation. For example, the Greek word alieus (“fisherman”) comes from the verb alieuō (“to fish”) and hiereus (“priest”) comes from the verb hierateuō (“to serve as a priest”). Both alieus and hiereus show what the persons are and not what they do.

Supporting the view that pleonektēs is an agent noun is its ending -tēs. Regarding the ending -tēs in Classical Greek, Wiktionary says: “tēs: Added to verb stems to form masculine agent nouns.”[1] The index in A Grammar of the New Testament of Other Early Christian Literature by Blass, Debrunner, Funk, page 299, has the entry, “tēs: nomina agentis in 109(8).” Paragraph 109 (8) lists several nouns ending in –tēs and says that “these words…were formed with almost the same facility as verbal forms.” There are also other Greek endings that can form agent nouns from verbs, for example -tōr and –os.

The fact that pleonektēs is the verbal noun made from the verb pleonekteō, shows that pleoleonektēs has the substantivized meaning of the verb pleonekteō. The basic meaning of pleonekteō is “to exploit,” and therefore, the verbal noun pleonektēs must have the meaning “exploiter,” i.e., one who exploits others.

It is interesting that the members of the GB support the principle behind the arguments above. How so? Point 31 in the Shepherd book says:

If an individual’s gambling reveals a course of greediness, perhaps causing harm to himself or others, and he ignores repeated counsel, judicial action would be appropriate.

Greed is a desire or a state of mind, and because we cannot read the minds of others, we cannot know whether or not a person is greedy, i.e., “has an insatiable desire for more” in any given situation. The quotation above, however, directs the attention away from attempting to read minds to observable concrete actions. The quotation shows, for example, that if the person’s gambling is “causing harm to himself or others,” these actions can be interpreted as evidence that the person is greedy.

Thus, the GB and I agree that the disfellowshipping offense expressed by pleonektēs is connected with overt actions. The difference is that the GB believes that the disfellowshipping “offense” is the desire of greed itself, in which case there could be a great number of unspecified actions showing that the person is greedy. I believe that pleonektēs refers to one specific action, namely exploitation. The consequences of the two different views will be discussed later.

The construction of a single unit in 1 Corinthians 5:9 supports the meaning “exploiter”

Verse 9 in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 has a construction that supports the meaning “exploiter” for pleonektēs.  I quote 5:8, 10, from NWT84:

9 In my letter I wrote you to quit mixing in company with fornicators, 10 not [meaning] entirely with the fornicators of this world or (ē) the greedy persons (pleonektēs) and [kai]  extortioners (harpax) or (ē) idolaters.[2]

I have marked the conjunction “and” in brown because this is the important word of the construction. In the Greek text, the noun pleonektēs has the article, and it is followed by the conjunction “and” and the substantivized adjective harpax without article. Robertson and Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, page 105, has the four words tois pleonektais kai harpaxin in Greek letters, and we read:

These form a single class, coupled by the single article and the kai “and” separated from each of the other classes by ē.

The Greek letter ēta (ē) means “or.” The NWT84 correctly puts “or” after “the fornicators (pornois) of this world” and after “extortioners” (harpax). This shows that Paul in verse 9 mentions three different classes, 1) pornois, 2) pleonektēs and harpax, and 3) eidōlolatrais. What does it mean that pleonektēs and harpax constitute one single class?

Louw and Nida, A Greek-English Lexicon Based on Semantic Domains in the Gramcord electronic version has a table of words showing what “one singe class” means.

Table 1.2 linguistic units coupled by kai

ouranos kai gē Heaven and earth Mark 13:31
limnē tou pyros kai theiou Lake of fire and sulphur Revelation 20:10
argyrion kai khrysion Silver and gold Acts 20:33
koinōneō haimatos kai sarkos Share blood and flesh Hebrews 2:14
akhlys kai skotos piptei Mistiness and darkness fell Acts 13:11
Ho nomos kai hoi profētai The law and the prophets Matthew 5:17

As a comment to the first entry in table 1.2, Louw and Nida write:

a more or less fixed phrase equivalent to a single lexical item.

The point here is that the words that are bound together with “and” (kai) complement each other so closely that they function together as one unit. The words do not have exactly the same meaning, but they have meanings that are of the same kind and complement each other.

If we apply this to the two Greek words pleonektēs and harpax, these words must also be of the same “class” or kind and complement each other in order to constitute one linguistic unit. The meaning of harpax is easy to find. The verb harpazō means, according to Mounce Greek Dictionary, “to seize, as a wild beast, take away by force, snatch away.” And the meaning of the adjective harpax is, “ravenous, ravening as a wild beast; met. rapacious, given to extortion and robbery, an extortioner.”

Because the basic meaning of harpax is to take something away by the use of force, I prefer the rendering “robber” for this word. Because Paul makes the words harpax (“robber”) and pleonektēs into one unit, and harpax means taking something away by force, we will expect that pleonektēs has a meaning of the same kind, close to the meaning of harpax.

The term “to exploit” means “to use someone or something unfairly for your own advantage”[3], and an exploiter is someone who does this. The ideas of unfairly using something to one’s own advantage and taking something from someone by force share the connotation of exacting gain from someone without their consent and so may function as one unit. In other words, “exploiters” and “robbers” would make an excellent pairing to form a single unit.

However, the terms “greedy people” and “robbers” would not function well as two parts of one unit because greediness is an excessive desire, a state of mind, while robbery indicates different actions by the use of force. Therefore, that Paul couples the words pleonektēs and harpax into one single unit is strong evidence in favor of taking pleonektēs as having the meaning “exploiter.”

Being permeated by serious wrongdoing

In 1 Corinthians 6:9,10, ten disfellowshipping offenses are listed, as seen in table 1.3. The nouns pornos and moikhos both refer to sexual immorality. The noun moikhos refers to adultery, and pornos refers to sexual immorality in general and can include moikhos. The nouns malakos and arsenokoitēs both refer to homosexual actions. This means that there are seven different kinds or classifications of disfellowshipping offenses that are listed by Paul: Sexual immorality, idolatry, theft, exploitation, drunkenness, reviling, and extortion or robbery.

Table 1.3 List of disfellowshipping offenses in the NT

pornos A man or woman who engages in sexual immorality. (1 Cor. 6:9)
eidōlolatrēs One who takes part in idol worship. (1 Cor. 6:9)
moikhos A person who commits adultery. (1 Cor. 6:9)
malakos The passive male partner in homosexual intercourse. (1 Cor. 6:9)
aresenokoitēs The male partner in homosexual intercourse. (1 Cor. 6:9)
kleptēs A thief. (1 Cor. 6:10)
pleonektēs Exploitation (Wrongly written in the Shepherd book as “Greed,” 1 Cor. 6:10)
methysos A drunkard (wine) (1 Cor. 6:10)
loidoros A reviler, an abusive person. (1 Cor. 6:10)
harpax A rapacious person, a robber. (1 Cor. 6:10)

I will now take a closer look at the nature of the seven different kinds of disfellowshipping offenses. The important point is that the disfellowshipping offenses are listed as nouns and not as verbs. Verbs describe actions, and nouns describe characteristics. This means that the expression “disfellowshipping offenses” that I have used many times may be somewhat misleading. How so?

As I have shown above, the nouns are verbal nouns as well as nomen agentis (“agent nouns”). The word harpax (“extortion”) is an adjective. It is substantivized and functions as a verbal noun and a nomen agentis. The characteristic of verbal nouns is that they express the verbal action in a nominal way. An alieus (“fisherman”), a word coming from alieuō (“to fish”) is not a person who has been fishing one, two, or three times. But a fisherman is one whose occupation is fishing.

In a similar way, a kleptēs (“thief”) is not a person who has stolen on one, two, or three occasions. But as John 12:6 (NWT13) says that Judas was a thief because “he used to steal money put in it [the contribution box].” This means that to qualify for disfellowshipping, a person must be permeated by one or more of the actions described by the agent nouns. Such actions have now become a part of his or her personality. That is the reason why the term “disfellowshipping offenses” can be misleading because it is really the bad personality of the person that qualifies for disfellowshipping and not the action itself. But I am not aware of any other term that can better describe the seven nomen agentis.

That the agent nouns in 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 describe persons who are permeated by the actions described by them is seen in the revised Norwegian (above), Danish (in the middle), and Swedish (below) New World Translations:

9 Vet dere ikke at de som gjør urett ikke skal arve Guds rike? Ikke bli villedet. De som praktiserer seksuell umoral, [those who are practicing sexual immorality] de som tilber avguder, de som er utro mot ektefellen sin, menn som praktiserer homoseksuelle handlinger [men who are practicing homosexual actions] eller lar seg bruke til dette.

 Er I ikke klar over at uretfærdige mennesker ikke vil komme til at arve Guds rige? Lad jer ikke vildlede. De der lever et seksuelt umoralsk liv [those who are living a sexually immoral life], tilbeder afguder eller begår ægteskabsbrud,  mænd der lader sig bruge til homoseksuelle handlinger, mænd der lever som homoseksuelle [men who are living as homosexuals].

9 Vet ni inte att orättfärdiga människor inte ska ärva Guds rike? Bli inte vilseledda. De som lever ett sexuellt omoraliskt liv [those who are living a sexually immoral life], de som tillber avgudar, de som är otrogna mot sin äktenskapspartner, män som utövar homosexualitet [men who are practicing homosexuality]. eller underkastar sig sådant.

The English NWT13 is not so explicit as the Scandinavian translations. But the expression “those who are sexually immoral” implies that the reference is not to one or a few actions but to what these people are. And the expression “men who practice homosexuality” clearly refers to many actions that continue.

9 Or do you not know that unrighteous people will not inherit God’s Kingdom? Do not be misled. Those who are sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, men who submit to homosexual acts, men who practice homosexuality.

I will bring a quotation showing that the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses 60 years ago understood that only those who were permeated by wicked actions should be disfellowshipped. The Watchtower of  July 1, 1963, page 411, says:

Therefore, the ones who are hardened in wrongdoing are the ones who are disfellowshiped. It is where serious violations of Jehovah’s righteous requirements have become a practice that this measure is takenFirst John 3:4 states: “Everyone who practices sin is also practicing lawlessness.” So dedicated Christians who become practicers of lawlessness in the Christian congregation today are disfellowshiped.

I will also bring a quotation indicating that those who were members of the Governing Body 40 years ago understood the difference between being permeated by a wicked action and doing a wicked action one or a few times. The Watchtower of  May 1, 1983, page 8, says regarding the word “drunkards” in 1 Corinthians 6:10:

First, it should be noted that there is a difference between being unwittingly overtaken by drinking too much on one occasion and being a drunkard—making it a practice to become intoxicated.

Merriam-Webster defines “drunkard” as “one who is habitually drunk.” This definition corroborates the definition of the nomen agentis methysos as “one who is permeated by overdrinking,” or of pleonektēs as “one who is permeated by exploitation.”

But the problem is that the elders are not taught and do not understand the real meanings of the disfellowshipping offenses listed by Paul. My experience is that if a Witness is guilty of a particular wrongdoing two or three times or more, even if there are several months between the incidences, the person most likely will be disfellowshipped.  But this is a violation of Paul’s description of the nature of the disfellowshipping offenses.

A new trend that seems to have been developing is disfellowshipping after the first time of wrongdoing. This is seen in the case of Gry Nygård who was disfellowshipped in 2018 because of one wrongdoing that even was not proven.[1]

[1]. See the article “The disfellowshipping of Gry Nygård — a violation of Bible principles” in the Category “Disfellowshipping.”

Greed is a desire or a state of mind, and no one can be disfellowshipped because of his state of mind.

Greed is not found in the list of disfellowshipping offenses in 1 Corinthian 6:9, 10, and therefore a Witness cannot be disfellowshipped because of greed.

The word pleonektēs should not be translated as “greedy people” but as “exploiters.”

A person can only be disfellowshipped when he or she is permeated by exploitation.


The pleonektēs as an idolater — does it speak in favor of the meaning “greedy people”?

The connection of pleonektēs and pleonexia to idolatry is found in Ephesians 5:5 and Colossians 3:5, and I quote from NWT13:

Ephesians 5:5

 For you know this, recognizing it for yourselves, that no sexually immoral person or unclean person or greedy person (pleonektēs), which means being an idolater, has any inheritance in the Kingdom of the Christ and of God.

Colossians 3:5

 Deaden, therefore, your body members that are on the earth as respects sexual immorality, uncleanness, uncontrolled sexual passion, hurtful desire, and greediness (pleonexia), which is idolatry. 

In the margin of Colossians 3:5 in the online NWT (Study Edition) we find the following:

Greediness, which is idolatry: The Greek word ple·o·ne·xi’a, here rendered “greediness,” denotes an insatiable desire to have more. (See study note on Ro 1:29.) Paul explains that greediness is actually idolatry because a greedy person makes the thing desired his god, putting it above the worship of Jehovah. The Greedy person makes the satisfying of his desires his chief aim in life.—See study note on Eph. 5:5

On the basis of Paul’s words in Colossians 3:5, the following argument can be made: The noun pleonexia is an abstract noun with the meaning of “greed” in the Christian Greek Scriptures. When “greed” (pleonexia) in this verse is said to be idolatry, and a pleonektēs in Ephesians 5:5 is said to be an idolater, pleonektēs must have the meaning “greedy person” and not “exploiter.”

The premise is that pleonexia is already established in the Christian Greek Scriptures as an abstract noun with the basic meaning “greed.” If this were correct, the argument above would be conclusive. But the premise does not hold up because the study above shows that pleonexia has the meaning “exploited gain” and never has the meaning “greed.”

But what does it mean that an “exploiter” (pleonektēs) is an idolater? The explanation in the marginal note is good except for one point. I would rewrite the explanation this way: “Paul explains that exploitation is actually idolatry because an exploiter makes the thing that is the object of his desire, focus and pursuit his god, putting it above the worship of Jehovah.” So it is not the desire of “greed” that is idolatry, but the action of exploiting someone for personal gain that is idolatry. Worshipping a god is not a desire but consists in actions that put an object above the living God. When a person acquires the object of his desire by means of exploitation, this object has become his god.

The pleonektēs and the righteousness of God

The issue of the inspiration of the text of the Bible is absent from the committees of Bible translators, and it is not taken into consideration when words are chosen for the texts of the verses. However, the committee who translated NWT13 and the members of the Governing Body, who had the final say in the choices of words for this translation, claim to believe that the whole Bible is inspired by God.[1] Therefore, they should have considered how God’s righteousness would be influenced by their choices of words.

[1]. The members of the Governing Body will say that they believe in the inspiration of the Bible. But their writings show that they no longer believe in the full inspiration of the Bible. See the article “The Governing Body rejects the full inspiration of the Bible” in the category “The Governing Body.”

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:8-9

8 For if the trumpet sounds an indistinct call, who will get ready for battle? 9 In the same way, unless you with the tongue use speech that is easily understood, how will anyone know what is being said? You will, in fact, be speaking into the air.

The principle in Paul’s words is very important, and we can apply it to 1 Corinthians 5:9-13. The persons who are described in these verses are, according to verse 13, “wicked” (poneros). This is a strong word that is applied to Satan the Devil, and Paul says that the mentioned wicked persons must be expelled or removed from the Christian congregation.

And now we can apply the principle of Paul’s words that if a person does not use speech that is easily understood, he is speaking into the air. If a person cannot be clearly identified as wicked, it is against Jehovah’s righteousness to disfellowship such a person. So the question is: How can a “greedy person” be identified? Greediness is an insatiable desire to have more of something. But because we cannot read the minds of our brothers and sisters, how can we know that any of them is greedy and, therefore, wicked?

I use the list of the seven different disfellowshipping offenses listed in 1 Corinthians, chapters 5 and 6. The expression “greedy person” does not fit the other six concrete disfellowshipping offenses because greed is an abstract desire that is difficult to identify. The words “greedy person” can be compared to a trumpet that “sounds an indistinct call.” It is against God’s righteousness to introduce an ambiguous term into the serious situation of disfellowshipping, causing innocent persons to be thrown out of the congregation.

Table 1.4 The seven disfellowshipping offenses listed in 1 Corinthians chapters 5 and 6

Sexually immoral person
Greedy person


In the book for elders, “Shepherd the Flock of God,” the term “greed” plays a prominent and pivotal role in justifying many of the punitive actions the GB has directed the elders to take against certain members of the congregation. However, this study has shown that everything that book says about greed is wrong. And the points about “greed” can therefore be compared with a trumpet that sounds an indistinct call. And most important, these points devaluate the righteousness of God.


[2]. I did not quote NWT13 because this translation does not mark the difference between kai (“and”) and ē (“or”). It does not show that pleonektēs and harpax constitute one single unit but indicates that they constitute two different units. This translation is unreliable in many verses because it often does not render the nuances and subtleties of the original text.



Almost all Bible translations render the noun pleonexia as “the greedy” or “greedy people” or similar words. Therefore it is important to compare these renderings with my rendering “exploiter.”

Why do almost all Bible translations render pleonektēs as “greedy person” or similar?

The question in the heading is, of course, impossible to answer because it would require personal information from each translator or team of translators. But some general observations on the thinking and procedures of Bible scholars may throw some light on the question.

We have a saying, “Old habits die hard,” and its meaning is that the longer we do something, the more ingrained it becomes, and the harder it is to change.

Bible translators use Word books and Lexicons where the meanings of the words of the original text of the Bible are found, and there are several fine Greek-English lexicons where in-depth studies of Greek words are presented.

However, the only way to get a good understanding of the meaning of a word in the Christian Greek Scriptures is to study the contexts where the word occurs in these Scriptures. If a word occurs many times, its basic meaning and its references may be quite easy to find. If a word occurs only a few times, it is more difficult to find its meaning.

Of the three words I have been studying, pleonekteō, pleonektēs, pleonexia, the verb pleonekteō occurs only five times. But the contexts quite clearly indicate its meaning as “take advantage of” or “exploit.” The noun pleonektēs occurs four times, but none of the contexts can help us pinpoint its meaning. Still, because it is the verbal noun of the verb pleonekteō, it must have the meaning “exploiter.” The noun pleonexia occurs ten times, and in one passage, the meaning clearly is either “extortion” or “exploitation.” In the two instances where the word Jesus used is translated by pleonexia, he could not have used a Hebrew word with the meaning “greed” because no such Hebrew word exists. Therefore, the evidence suggests that Jesus used the word bætsa‘ with the meaning “dishonest gain, #exploited gain.”

What do Bible translators do when they consider the rendering of a word like pleonektēs where the contexts in the Christian Greek Scriptures does not pinpoint its meaning? They consult Greek-English lexicons, and they look at other Bible translations to see how other translators have rendered the word. Doing so in connection with pleonektēs, what do they find? Predictably, they find the same renderings of “greed” and “greedy person” or similar expressions that have been handed down over the years. And so they follow this same inertial pattern without any questions or scrutiny because “Old habits die hard.”

The reason why I have rejected this translation and opt for the renderings “to exploit,” “exploited gain,” and “exploiter” is that I have made a detailed linguistic analysis of pleonekteō, pleonexia, and pleonektēs, and I have no tradition to defend. An analysis like mine is not found in any of the Greek-English lexicons, but the authors have merely followed the tradition that they find in older Greek-English lexicons and Bible translations.


I show in chapter 5, entitled “Disfellowshipping offenses” in my book My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, the treatment of Greek and Hebrew words by the members of the Governing Body is amateurish. They show that they have no idea of the principles of lexical semantics—how we today can find the meaning of the words of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek text of the Bible. And they are not competent to do such word studies themselves. Their method is to look in Greek-English and Hebrew/Aramaic-English lexicons, and when they find a meaning that fits the latest theological teaching they want to promote, they chose this meaning.

I would like to mention that this stands in sharp contrast to the members of the first New World Bible Translation Committee, some of whom were Bible scholars. They made a number of lexical studies and found meanings of Greek and Hebrew words that were not found in lexicons. They also made grammatical studies and came up with original conclusions that were not written in the extant grammars. These scholarly studies continued for many years after the New World Translation was completed, and some of them were published in the Watchtower literature in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.

The lack of competence of the members of the present GB in determining the actual meanings of Hebrew and Greek words has had enormous consequences for Witnesses who are disfellowshipped because of a wrong understanding of particular words in the original text of the Holy Scriptures.

Confusing “greed” with “covetousness”

The lack of scholarly competence by the members of the GB is seen in the entry “covetousness” in Insight on the Scriptures, volume 1, page 1006. We read:

Covetousness. When greediness has as its object that which belongs to another, it becomes covetousness. In the Christian Greek Scriptures the same Greek word is used for “greediness” and “covetousness.”

This definition is clearly wrong, and it contradicts the definition of “greed” given in the marginal note to Colossians 3:5 in the online NWT (Study Edition): Greed is “An insatiable desire for more.”

A dictionary defines “greed” in the following way:

1. greed – excessive desire to acquire or possess more (especially more material wealth) than one needs or deserves.
2. greed – reprehensible acquisitiveness; insatiable desire for wealth (personified as one of the deadly sins).[1]

And the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, defines it this way:

Greed (or avarice) is an uncontrolled longing for increase in the acquisition or use of material gain (be it food, money, land, or animate/inanimate possessions); or social value, such as status, or power.

These definitions accord with the definition in the marginal note of NWT (Study Edition). The word “insatiable” is defined this way: “(especially of a desire or need) too great to be satisfied.”[2] I will now look at how the word epithymia (“covetousness”) is used in the Christian Greek Scriptures. But first I quote the definition of epithymia in The Greek-English Lexicon of Bauer, Arndt. and Gingrich:

  1. As a neutral term, as predom. in secular GK…desire for other things… desire for much business…desire for the soul.
  2. In a good sense…have a longing for something…eagerly desire…great longing.
  3. In a bad sense as a desire for someth. forbidden (as early as Plato).

I will give a few examples of points 2 and 3:

Luke 22:15

 15 And he said to them: “I have greatly desired (epithymia) to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;

Philippians 1:23

 23  I am torn between these two things, for I do desire (epithymia) the releasing and the being with Christ, which is, to be sure, far better.

Rom 13:14

14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not be planning ahead for the desires (epithymia) of the flesh.

1 Pet 2:11

11  Beloved, I urge you as foreigners and temporary residents to keep abstaining from fleshly desires (epithymia), which wage war against you.

The first two examples show a positive use of epithymia and the last two examples show a negative use. The noun epithymia occurs 37 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. But in none of these occurrences is there a contextual example of the desire (epithymia) approaching the level of greed, i.e. being “too great to be satisfied.” This shows that the word “covetousness” (epithymia) has nothing to do with “greed.” When the Insight lexicon and the marginal note to Romans 1:29 in the Online NWT (Study Edition) show that “covetousness” and “greed” can be interchangeable, that is clearly wrong.

Covetousness can be a weak or strong, positive or negative, desire to acquire something that belongs to another. And this desire can be satisfied upon the acquisition of the thing coveted. Greed, on the other hand, is a strong negative desire that is insatiable or too great to be satisfied.”

The consequences of translating pleonektēs with “greedy people”

Those who become Witnesses study the Bible for several months before they are baptized. During this time, they work hard to be able to put on the new personality. What they learn at the meetings helps them to continue to work on their new personality. And the fellowship with other members of the congregation is also helpful in this regard.

Because of imperfection, however, some members of the congregation will sometimes have wrong desires, and some of them may at times be guilty of covetousness. But that members of the Christian congregations should be guilty of “greed” — experiencing strong or insatiable desires that cannot be satisfied — would hardly ever occur. Yet “greed” plays an important and pivotal role for the members of the GB in connection with disfellowshipping offenses.

As I have shown above, the members of the GB have confused greed with covetousness. Because of this, “greed” can be used in reference to many Christians. But when used in the correct biblical sense, “greed” can rarely be attributed to Christians.

In addition to the fact that greed is an extreme desire that we would not expect Christians to have, how can we know that one is a greedy person—that he or she is experiencing “an insatiable desire to have more”? Because the elders cannot read the minds of the congregation members, they cannot know when someone has such an extreme internal desire. The instructions from the GB to the elders is to look for actions that may indicate such an excessive desire. However, there are scores upon scores of actions that can be interpreted as evidence of greed —but need not indicate greed.

If we believe that the Bible is inspired by God, we must also believe that the disfellowshipping offenses that Paul was inspired to write down must be clear and easy to identify. This would exclude anything that falls under the category of a “desire” as being a disfellowshipping offense, regardless of how strong that desire might be. But this is exactly what the members of the GB claim, that the insatiable desire “greed” is a disfellowshipping offense. The elders have also been granted by the GB the authority to interpret when a member of the congregation “may” be guilty of greed. This means that Witnesses can be disfellowshipped on the basis of the gut feelings of the members of a judicial committee. This leads to confusion and injustice!

The consequences of translating pleonektēs with “exploiter”

How can we view the rendering “exploiter” in the light of Jehovah’s personality? A basic principle underlining God’s justice is that no one should be declared guilty on the basis of assumptions. This is seen in his law to Israel that two or three eyewitnesses were necessary to prove that someone was guilty of wrongdoing. This requirement is reiterated in the Christian Greek Scriptures.

The first point to keep in mind is that the rendering “exploiter” from a linguistical point of view is based on the evidence of “two or three witnesses.” How so? The contexts of the verb pleonekteō show that its basic meaning is to exploit someone. The word pleonektēs is the verbal noun of pleonekteō, and its ending -tēs shows that it is an agent noun as well. This means that the verbal meaning of pleonekteō is substantivized by pleonektēs. And because pleonekteō has the meaning “to exploit” its verbal noun pleonetēs, which also is an agent noun, must have the meaning “exploiter.”

The second point to keep in mind is that the witness in favor of the rendering “exploiter” is not ambiguous in any way. And such a clear witness accords with God’s personality. If we look at table 1.5, we see that the word “exploiter” fits in well with the other disfellowshipping offenses and that it is just as clear as the other six words. But “greedy person” (singular of the NWT13 rendering “greedy people”) does not fit because it is ambiguous and lacks a concrete definition.

Table 1.5 The seven disfellowshipping offenses listed in 1 Corinthians chapters 5 and 6

Sexually immoral person
Exploiter (not “greedy person”)

Disfellowshipping is something that rarely should happen. But in extreme situations, when a Witness is permeated by one of the actions mentioned by Paul, this is necessary. In such a situation with exploitation, the judicial committee has a concrete case to consider, and their decision is not based on guesswork or on their gut feelings. This is also an important reason why the rendering “exploiter” in contrast with “greedy person” accords with the personality of Jehovah. He desires that all his servants, including those who have deviated from his laws, be treated in a just way.




The primary reason why the GB has made “greed” a disfellowshipping offense is that the members of the Governing Body do not understand the principles of lexical semantics, how the meaning of a Greek word can be found. And the lack of modesty on the part of the members of the GB—not recognizing their limitations in the area of lexical semantics—has led to the creation of many Scripturally unsanctioned disfellowshipping offenses. Like the proverbial “bull in a china shop,” the members of the GB, apparently quite oblivious to the destruction they are leaving in their wake, continue to trudge ahead trampling on Christian freedom by creating ever newer disfellowshipping offenses. These manmade disfellowshipping offenses, all based on the GB’s ignorance of the principles of lexical semantics, are needlessly destroying the delicate spirit and lives of many of Jehovah’s sheep who may have strayed, but who need assistance instead of the unbiblical practice of shunning.

The important Greek word in this discussion is pleonektēs. This is a verbal noun of the verb pleonekteō. When we compare the use of this word in the Septuagint and the Christian Greek Scriptures, we find that its meaning is “to seek out and pursue unjust gain by exploiting someone.” A verbal noun has the same meaning as the verb it is derived from, but this meaning is substantivized, which means that the meaning of the verb is attached to a person or thing.

In 1 Corinthians 6:10, pleonektēs refers to a person who deserves to be disfellowshipped. So, the actions of the verb pleonekteō have now become an integral part of the personality or characteristic of the person who deserves to be disfellowshipped. Therefore, the definition of pleonektēs is: “A pleonektēs is permeated by the seeking or pursuit of dishonest gain by exploiting others, an incorrigible pursuer of dishonest gain.”

The members of the GB do not understand that the verbal noun pleonektēs expresses the same actions as the verb pleonekteō. And the consequence of this incompetence and mishandling of the Greek word pleonektēs is that Witnesses are disfellowshipped because of their emotions and desires, their state of mind. This is a clear violation of the Holy Scriptures. An accurate translation of pleonektēs in 1 Corinthians 5:11 would be “exploiters” instead of “greedy people.”

Rolf Furuli

Author Rolf Furuli

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