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Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology


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In the Old Testament, "mouth" (Heb. peh [ Joshua 10:18,22 ), a well (Genesis 29:2,8 , 10 ; 2 Samuel 17:19 ), a sack (Genesis 42:27 ), or a lion's den (Daniel 6:17 ). "Mouth" also refers to the biological organ, whether human (Exodus 4:11-12 ) or animal (Numbers 22:28 ). It is used for the necessities of human life, eating and drinking (Psalm 78:30 ; Daniel 10:3 ), or for intimate contact, kissing (Job 31:27 ; 1 Kings 19:18 ). The idiomatic phrase "mouth to mouth" means to speak personally and in a straightforward fashion with another (Jeremiah 32:4 ). Unity is expressed by the phrase "one mouth" (1 Kings 22:13 ; cf. Romans 15:6 ).

The anthropomorphic phrase "mouth of God" refers to God's revelation and sustenance for humankind (Deuteronomy 8:3 ; Jeremiah 9:12 ). Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 when Satan tempts him and reveals that life is more than what one puts in his or her mouth. Rather, true existence originates from "every word that comes from the mouth of God" ( Matthew 4:4 ). Whether one acknowledges it or not, God's immanence is necessary for existence.

The mouth is the means for expressing what is in one's heart. The association of the Law and the mouth is often made because it is with the mouth that one expresses the essence of his or her religious belief.

In the New Testament, "mouth" (Gk. stoma [ Romans 3:14 ).

The concept that the mouth reveals the true nature of the heart is consistent with what Jesus taught: "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34 ; NRSV ). Jesus points out that it is not the food that goes into the mouth that defiles, but the words that come out of the mouth because they come "from the heart" (Matthew 15:17-18 ).

In Colossians 3:8 Paul tells the Colossians to get rid of filthy speech from their mouths. He also says that the confession of the mouth, "Jesus is Lord" ( Romans 10:7-10 ), reveals the belief in one's heart. It is not the confession that redeems a person, but the belief of the heart, where the confession originates.

Revelation sometimes uses "mouth" in a literal sense (NRSV e.g., 14:5) but most references are used in an apocalyptic, symbolic way. In this apocalyptic framework, fire (9:17-18; 11:5) and a two-edged sword (1:16) come out of the mouth. Additionally, other apocalyptic imagery is found (13:2,5, 6; 16:13; 19:21).

Eric W. Adams

See also Anthropomorphism ; Confess, Confession ; Person, Personhood

Copyright Statement
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49516-6287.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.

Bibliography Information
Elwell, Walter A. Entry for 'Mouth'. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. 1996.

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