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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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HEARING.1. There are two Gr. verbs (ἀκούω, εἰσακούω) used for ‘hear’ in the Gospels, and they are sometimes rendered in the Authorized and Revised Versions by ‘hearken,’ ‘listen’ ( Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885), ‘come to the ears of,’ ‘to be noised.’ Another verb (παρακούω) is used, Matthew 18:17, and translated ‘refuse to hear’ ( Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885), and Mark 5:36 where the Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 is ‘not heeding’ (mg. ‘overhearing’). The noun (ἀκοή) also occurs, and is rendered ‘hearing,’ ‘fame,’ ‘report,’ ‘rumour.’

2. The most obvious meaning of ‘hear’ is, of course, to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, as opposed to deafness; and in this sense it is used in Matthew 11:5 (Luke 7:22), Mark 7:37. (See Cures, Deaf and Dumb).

Next, perhaps, in order of common usage are such meanings of the word as (a) to have immediate perceptual experience through the organ of hearing—the object being either personal, as Matthew 2:9 ‘Having heard the king,’ or impersonal, as Matthew 11:4 ‘Tell John the things which ye do hear’; (b) to find out (by hearsay), to have information about, learn (i.e. hear of mediately)—the object again being either personal, as Mark 7:25 ‘A woman … having heard of him,’ or impersonal, as Mark 6:55 ‘where they heard he was.’ In connexion with (a) and (b) it is interesting to note the passages in which the experience of Jesus is referred to: e.g. (a) Matthew 8:10 (Luke 7:9) Matthew 21:16; Mat_27:13, Mark 5:36, Luke 8:50; Luke 18:22; (b) Matthew 4:12; Matthew 9:12 (Mark 2:17), John 9:35; John 11:4; John 11:6.

3. The suggestive uses of the word, however, are those in which more complex experiences than the previous ones are signified by it. (a) The first usage to be named under this head is where the verb ‘to hear’ is used to mean the receiving of inward communications. For example, Jesus predicts the coining of the hour ‘when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God’ (John 5:25; John 5:28). Again He uses the word to describe His own experience in relation to the revelation of the truth which He received from the Father and made known to men, ‘As I hear, I judge’ (John 5:30); ‘The things which I have heard from him (that sent me), these speak I unto the world’ (John 8:26)—these as well as John 8:40 and John 15:15 are instances in point. The Evangelist John, speaking of Jesus, says, similarly, ‘What he hath seen and heard, of that he beareth witness’ (John 3:32). In two places Jesus refers to the occurrence of this experience in the case of others: ‘Ye have neither heard his voice at any time,’ He says to His Jewish audience, ‘nor seen his form’ (John 5:37); ‘Every one that hath heard from the Father, and hath learned, cometh unto me’ (John 6:45). Finally, the inward communication may be far otherwise than Divine in its source. To the Jews, Jesus is reported by the Evangelist John as having said, ‘Ye do the things which ye heard from your father’ (John 8:38), and later on in the same chapter (v. 44) their father is declared by Him to be the devil. It is characteristic that all the above usages are found in the Fourth Gospel. (b) In a few contexts the word ‘hear’ is used with reference to God’s attitude to prayer. For example, we read that at the grave of Lazarus ‘Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou heardest me. And I knew that thou hearest me always’ (John 11:41-42). In His teaching with regard to prayer Jesus warns His hearers against using vain repetitions, ‘as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking’ (Matthew 6:7). To Zacharias the angel Gabriel is reported as having said, ‘Fear not, because thy supplication is heard’ (Luke 1:13). [εἰσακούω is the verb used in both the preceding contexts]. The man, blind from his birth, whom Jesus cured on the Sabbath, thus addressed the Jews, ‘We know that God heareth not sinners; but if any man be a worshipper of God and do his will, him he heareth’ (John 9:31). (c) Another context may be noticed here, viz. that one in which Jesus, describing the function of the Spirit, says of Him, ‘He shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak’ (John 16:13). (d) In certain passages emphasis is placed on the privilege of ‘hearing’ or ‘becoming acquainted with’ the gospel. ‘Blessed are your eyes,’ said Jesus to the disciples, ‘for they see; and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which ye see, and saw them not; and to hear the things which ye hear, and heard them not’ (Matthew 13:16-17, Luke 10:24). The duties attached to this privilege may be grouped in the following way—(1) in respect to the exercise as such: ‘He that hath ears to hear, let him hear’ (Matthew 11:16; Matthew 13:9; Matthew 13:43, cf. Mark 4:9; Mark 4:23; Mark 7:16, Luke 8:8; Luke 14:35); (2) in respect to that which the attention is given to: ‘Take heed what ye hear’ (Mark 4:24); (3) in respect to the manner of hearing: ‘Take heed therefore how ye hear’ (Luke 8:18). (e) In a large number of passages, especially in the parable of the Sower, ‘hearing’ either implies one or other of certain richer experiences, or it is explicitly connected therewith as a prefatory experience. (1) Sometimes the experience implied, or mentioned as that in which ‘hearing’ fulfils itself (or does not fulfil itself), is understanding or learning. For example, referring to the multitude generally, Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Therefore speak I to them in parables: because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand’ (Matthew 13:13, Mark 4:12, Luke 8:10). (See art. Seeing). ‘Hear and understand, Not that which entereth into the mouth defileth the man; but that which proceedeth out of the mouth, this defileth the man’ (Matthew 15:10, Mark 7:14). ‘With many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it’ (Mark 4:33), etc. (2) Sometimes the experience is believing. For example, some of the Samaritans are reported as having said to the woman who conversed with Jesus at the well, ‘Now we believe, not because of thy speaking: for we have heard for ourselves’ (John 4:42). ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you,’ said Jesus to the Jews, when they were seeking to kill Him, ‘He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life’ (John 5:24). ‘This is an hard saying,’ said many of the disciples after Jesus had spoken of Himself as the bread which came down from heaven, ‘who can hear it?’ (John 6:60). Cf. also the references in John 10 to the sheep ‘hearing’ the voice of the Good Shepherd. (3) Sometimes the experience is doing, bearing fruit, or keeping. For example, the verses at the close of the Sermon on the Mount, ‘Every one which heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them … Every one that heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them not’ (Matthew 7:24; Matthew 7:26, Luke 6:47; Luke 6:49).* [Note: In connexion with this passage it is worth noting that the point of difference between the ‘rock’ and the ‘sand’ as foundation is just that between ‘hearing and doing’ and ‘hearing and not doing.’ The basal element is the same in both cases—‘hearing,’ but that which gives it the cohesiveness and permanence of rock is ‘doing’—habitual obedience.] ‘He that was sown upon the good ground, this is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; who verily beareth fruit and bringeth forth,’ etc. (Matthew 13:23, Mark 4:20, Luke 8:15). When it was told Jesus that His mother and His brethren stood without desiring to see Him, He said, ‘My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God and do it’ (Luke 8:21). When a certain woman out of the multitude said to Jesus, ‘Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the breasts which thou didst suck,’ He answered, ‘Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it: (Luke 11:28, cf. John 12:47).

The above divisions represent the main usages of the word ‘hearing.’ It is interesting to notice the contexts in which (i.) the interest displayed in anticipation of hearing is described, and these may he collected together without further remark: Matthew 12:42 (Luke 11:31), Matthew 13:17 (Luke 10:24), Mark 3:8 (cf. Matthew 4:25, Mark 3:20 etc.), Luke 5:1; Luke 5:15; Luke 6:17; Luke 15:1; Luke 19:48; Luke 21:38; Luke 23:8; and (ii.) those in which certain emotional results are described as resulting from ‘hearing,’ e.g. wonder, astonishment, amazement, etc., joy, rejoicing, gladness, etc., indignation, wrath, etc., sorrow, fear, trouble, perplexity, offence (see articles on most of these subjects).

In conclusion, it may be pointed out that the antinomy which is found throughout Scripture and is testified to by the human consciousness in connexion with religious experience, viz. between ‘man’s working out and God’s working in,’ appears in what is said about ‘hearing’ in the Gospels. For along with exhortations addressed to men to ‘hear’ and to fulfil that experience in understanding, believing, and doing, there occurs a saying of Jesus like this, ‘Every one that hath heard from the Father and hath learned, cometh unto me’ (John 6:45). The ‘ability to hear’ (Mark 4:33, John 6:60) implies an inward communication from God and an exercise of man’s natural faculties.

Literature.—Grimm-Thayer’s Gr Lex. s.vv.; Moulton-Geden’s Gr. Concordance, etc.; see also Literature appended to art. Seeing.

A. B. Macaulay.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Hearing'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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