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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Lie, Lying

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1. In the OT. The simple lie, which is a deliberate suppression of the truth in conversation, was condemned by the Levitical code as contrary to the character of holiness demanded by, and becoming to, the people of Israel’s holy God ( Leviticus 19:11 f., cf. Leviticus 6:2 f.). Perjury, as an aggravation of the ordinary sin, was emphatically condemned, and stringently punished in the legislative enactments of Israel ( Exodus 23:1 , Deuteronomy 19:16-20 ). There can be no doubt that the moral consciousness of the Hebrews was alive to the sinfulness of deceit ( Proverbs 19:22; Proverbs 21:28; Proverbs 24:28; Proverbs 25:18; Proverbs 30:5-6; cf. Isaiah 58:11 AVm [Note: Authorized Version margin.] ). The lying selfishness of Cain, and the reprehensible deception practised by Abraham, are recorded by the historian in a tone which reveals his attitude towards such acts ( Genesis 4:9; Genesis 20:2-16; Genesis 12:11-20; cf. 2 Kings 5:20-27 where Gehazi’s punishment is the reward of his thoughtless levity at a time of national gloom, as well as of his deceitful conduct and words). The moral reprobation of falsehood reaches its climax in the utterances of the prophets. According to these teachers, it is at the foundation of all human depravity ( Hosea 7:13; Hosea 12:1 , Micah 6:11 f.). Truth can be arrived at and spoken only by those who are in personal touch with the sacred Fountain of truth (cf. Isaiah 6:5-8 ). Indeed, some of the most emphatic declarations as to the moral attributes of Jehovah are based on the belief that He is above all else the God of truth ( Num 23:19 , 1 Samuel 15:28; cf. Psalms 89:35 , Ezekiel 24:14 , Malachi 3:6 f.; see 2 Timothy 2:13 , Titus 1:2 ). Hence the enormity of the guilt of those teachers who had not Jehovah as the source of their inspiration, though they might speak in His name, who pandered to the prevailing moral degeneracy ( Jeremiah 5:31; Jeremiah 6:13; Jeremiah 29:9 , Ezekiel 13:6; cf. Wis 14:28 ff. etc.), or who encouraged their hearers in idolatry with its debasing ritual ( Jeremiah 16:19 , Jonah 2:8; cf. Psalms 31:6 ).

A curious phenomenon in the OT is the bold speculation which sought to explain the authorship of the lying instruction by which Jehovah’s enemies were seduced to their own destruction. The fatuity of Ahab’s conduct, and its fatal consequences, are detailed in the light of this conception (1 Kings 22:1-53 ), while, with a still more unequivocal directness, Samuel is said to have been counselled by God to deceive Saul ( 1 Samuel 16:1 f.). In both instances the historian is evidently interpreting events by the ideas current in his day.

2. In the NT. Falsehood is here traced back to its source in the principle of evil. Jesus attributes its origin to Satan ( John 8:44; cf. Acts 5:3 , Revelation 12:9 ). Membership in the Christian body postulated a new creation ‘in righteousness and holiness of truth’ ( Ephesians 4:24 f.) and forbade one member to lie to another ( Colossians 3:9 ).

The denial of the Messiahship of Jesus is characterized by the Johannine author as a lie (1 John 2:22 ), while the same writer makes self-deceit the cause of that Pharisaic complacency which he so unsparingly condemns ( 1 John 1:8 ff.). The Pauline representation of paganism bases its degrading moral Influence on the fact that it is founded essentially on a lie ( Romans 1:22 ).

The awful fate which awaits ‘all liars’ (Revelation 21:8 ) is the outcome and direct development of the OT judgment of this sin, for it fundamentally estranges the guilty from Him whose ‘word is truth’ ( John 17:17; cf. Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:16 , and see Psalms 51:6; Psalms 24:4; Psalms 119:160 ). Cf. also Truth.

J. R. Willis.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Lie, Lying'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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