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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Murmuring

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The non-classical ‘vernacular terms’ (H. A. A. Kennedy, Sources of NT Greek, 1895, p. 38 ff.). γογγυσμός and γογγύζειν are used seven times in the Septuagint in reference to Israel in the wilderness. The verb is used in the same connexion in 1 Corinthians 10:10 -‘Neither murmur ye, as some of them murmured, and perished by the destroyer,’ the allusion being apparently to the rebellion of Korah against the authority of Moses and Aaron, which was followed by the punishment of violent death (Numbers 16). The OT reference and the evil of partisanship which had become conspicuous at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:6; 1 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 4:18 f.) suggest that the ‘murmuring’ the Apostle had in mind was that of schismatic discontent in the Church, rather than that of complaint against Providence because of the limitations of the human lot-the sense which the term most naturally suggests to us.

The second Pauline passage where the term occurs (‘Do all things without murmurings and disputations’ [Philippians 2:14]), follows an appeal for Church harmony (Philippians 2:1-4; cf. Philippians 4:2) and is obviously a warning similar to that of 1 Corinthians 10:10. The quotation from the Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:5 Septuagint ) in the following verses hints that the history in the wilderness is again in the author’s mind.

The ‘murmurers’ of Jude’s letter (Judges 1:16) are the false teachers who have crept into the Church and are fostering discontent for their own advantage, challenging (Church) authority and railing at ‘dignities’ (Judges 1:8). Again there is a reference to the incident of Korah (Judges 1:11).

The murmuring of the Grecian Jews against the Hebrews (Acts 6:1)-a complaint against Church administration-is the only instance where murmuring has not a conspicuous reproof. Even here the language of the Apostles (Acts 6:2; Acts 6:4) may hint censure.

In 1 Peter 4:9 (‘using hospitality one to another without murmuring’) the reference appears to be to the grumbling against the obligation, imposed by Church tradition, of mutual hospitality among Christians (cf. the communistic spirit of Acts 2:44). The Authorized Version translation ‘without grudging’ (so also Weymouth) misses the above significance.

The term thus appears to have been used by the NT writers in a specific sense (suggested by the classical instance of Korah) of disloyalty in one way or another to the Church, its traditions, its harmony and unity. 1 Corinthians 10:10 and Judges 1:16 suggest that, as in the case of Korah, such murmurings are really against God Himself.

H. Bulcock.

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

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