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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Lip

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LIP.—This word, in the plural, is found in the Gospels only in Matthew 15:8 || Mark 7:6, where it stands for χείλεσιν in a free quotation from the LXX Septuagint . It is rendered by Authorized Version , ‘This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me’ (cf. Isaiah 29:13). St. Matthew, who quotes oftenest from the LXX Septuagint , does so here (Matthew 15:8 f.), even though it departs considerably from the Hebrew. But he modifies its phraseology so as to improve it, and to bring out the prophet’s thought more clearly than would be done by a literal translation of the Hebrew. (See Toy, NT Quotations from the OT). The expression ‘honoureth me with their lips’ is explained by some as an allusion to the Jewish custom of putting the tassel of the tallith to the lips during worship, as a sign that the Law was accepted, not as of duty only, but as the enthusiastic preference of the heart (cf. Job 31:27, where putting the hand to the lips is an act of astral worship; and the Oriental salutations in which putting the hand to the lips is supposed to have been originally a sign and assurance of sincerity; see Jewish Eneye. art. ‘Lip’). Others explain this clause, in relation to the entire passage, as intended to put in sharp contrast a worship of God, or a form of religion, that is taught of men (cf. ‘teaching teachings which are precepts of men,’ Matthew 15:9), and a worship that is really according to the teachings of God’s word, i.e. which springs from a devout and trusting heart (cf. ‘But their heart is far from me, Matthew 15:8, with the suggestion of emptiness in Matthew 15:9In vain do they worship me,’ etc.).

It would seem from the OT that the lips had come to be regarded as a sort of originating centre of life and morals. We read of ‘lying lips’ (Psalms 31:18), of ‘the lip of truth’ (Proverbs 12:19), of ‘unclean lips’ (Isaiah 6:5), and of ‘the poison of asps’ as ‘under the lips’ (quoted in Romans 3:13); and in the NT also, of ‘the fruit of the lips’ (Hebrews 13:15), and of ‘lips that speak no guile’ (1 Peter 3:10), etc.

But whatever be the implied allusion or exact meaning of the words here, this much is certain, that our Lord in speaking to His own contemporaries said, ‘This prophecy of Isaiah was concerning you’—language that would seem to require us to interpret the passage so as to make it include and describe the unbelieving Jews of His day, and, probably, all people of all times who were, or are, or will yet be, guilty of offering to God a worship in which they do not draw near to Him in heart.

Geo. B. Eager.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Lip'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/l/lip.html. 1906-1918.

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