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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Murmur, Murmuring

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MURMUR, MURMURING (Lat. murmur, a reduplication of an imitative syllable mur; cf. Gr. μορμύρω).—A low continuous sound, as of a stream or of bees, hence a whispering, something said in a low muttering voice. The verb represents:—

(1) γογγύζὠ, to murmur, say in a low tone; according to Pollux and Phavorinus, it was used of the cooing of doves, like τονθρύζω and τονθορύζω of the more elegant Greek writers. It is found in the Gospels with the accusative of the thing said (John 7:32), with περί τινος (John 6:41; John 6:61; John 7:32), κατά τινος (Matthew 20:11), σρός τινα (Luke 5:30), and μετʼ ἀλλήλων (John 6:43). (2) διαγογγύζω only in Lk. (Luke 15:2; Luke 19:7), where διά seems to give the idea of a general pervasive murmuring through the whole assembly, or perhaps it means alternative murmuring ‘among one another,’ certandi significationem addit’ (Hermann). (3) ἐμβριμᾶσθαι is used in one passage (Mark 14:5) of the disciples murmuring against Mary; it implies that they were moved with indignation. The noun γογγυσμός occurs only once in the Gospels (John 7:12); it as well as γογγύζω and διαγογγύζω are frequently used in LXX Septuagint of Israel in the wilderness.

The word ‘murmur’ appears in itself to have a neutral meaning, the context deciding whether it expresses favour, doubt, or hostility; hence in several cases ‘muttering’ or ‘whispering’ might be a better rendering. For its use in a friendly sense see John 7:31-32, where the murmuring was that of persons who believed on Jesus, and who said, ‘When the Christ shall come, will he do more signs than those which this man hath done?’—a dangerous omen to the Pharisees. The noun γογγυσμός, as used in John 7:12, includes both favour and hostility: ‘There was much murnmring among the’ multitudes concerning him; some said, He is a good man; others said, Not so, but he leadeth the multitude astray.’ It implies a discussion low and whispered, not free and open; it was hardly safe to speak out plainly, for they feared the Jews (cf. John 7:40-41) The development of such differences of opinion is recorded in John 6:52 ‘they strove (ἐμάχοντο) one with another’; John 7:43 ‘there arose a division (σχίσμα) in the multitude because of him’; cf. also John 9:16, John 10:19, John 11:45-46. The sense of doubt and dissatisfaction predominates in John 6:41; John 6:43, as also in John 6:61 ‘his disciples murmured at this,’ namely, at the ‘hard saying.’ There is some uncertainty as to what precisely is here meant: whether the new teaching of life through death (Westcott); the paradoxical nature of the words just spoken by Jesus, the need of eating His flesh and drinking His blood (Godet); His claim to have come down from heaven (Lampe and others); the apparent pride with which He connected the salvation of the world with His own Person (Tholuck, Hengstenberg); or the bloody death of the Messiah (de Wette, Meyer). Dissatisfaction is seen highly intensified in Luke 5:30; Luke 15:2, where the Pharisees and the scribes murmured because He ate with publicans and sinners. Compare also Luke 19:7, where all, apparently even the Twelve, shared in it with a sense of outrage done to propriety; Edersheim calls it a murmur of disappointment and anger; but perhaps Bengel is more correct, ‘ex haesitatione potius quod ad majoreni partem attinet quam cum indignatione.’ Hostile murmuring is found in the parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:11), and in the story of the Anointing in the house of Simon the leper (Mark 14:5).

W. H. Dundas.

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

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