Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Wicked (2)

WICKED.—Wickedness (πονηρία) is sin contemplated, not in the light of judicial guilt, or even of moral badness, but of the active mischief which it works.

Four Greek words in NT are translated ‘wicked’ in Authorized and Revised Versions .

(1) ἄθεσμος (only in 2 Peter 2:7; 2 Peter 3:17). This describes the man who will not walk according to the lines laid down (τίθεσθαι) for him by others; the man who gratifies his own desires and whims, in defiance of public opinion, or even of Divine regulation.

(2) ἄνομος (Acts 2:23, and nine other times; ἀνομία, sixteen times). This word originally has to do by derivation with the sheep that will not stay in its own pasture (νομός), or the man who breaks through limits (νόμοι) assigned, and hence signifies a lawless man. The thought is similar to that in (1).

(3) κακος. Meaning originally ‘unpleasant’ (cf. Luke 16:5, Acts 28:5, Revelation 16:2), and then ‘failing to answer expectation or fulfil the apparent reason for existence,’ the word comes to mean ‘morally bad’ as opposed to ἀγαθός, morally good (Matthew 21:41; Matthew 24:48, Colossians 3:5 etc.).

(4) πονηρός. This is the usual NT word; and it occurs very frequently, being usually rendered ‘wicked’ or ‘evil.’ It is connected by derivation with toil (τόνος). J. J. Schmidt suggests that, like the word ‘villainy,’ it has drifted from meaning ‘labouring’ and hence ‘lower class’ to ‘degraded’ and thence ‘vicious.’ But it seems more probable that the root thought in πονηρός is ‘causing trouble,’ ‘mischievous,’ and thence ‘actively wicked’ in contrast to χρηστός ‘actively good.’ A vivid picture of the thought involved is found in Matthew 13:24-30; Matthew 13:36-43, where the tares are the fruit of the ‘wicked one,’ ὁ πονηρός. The bad man (κακός) may be content to sin alone, the wicked man (τονηρός) seeks to draw away others also.

1. The causes of wickedness.—(a) The wicked one (Matthew 13:19; Matthew 13:38, Ephesians 6:16, 1 John 2:13-14; 1 John 3:12, perh. Matthew 6:13, etc.). The first great source of evil is apparently the devil. He is the great mischief-maker who disarranges God’s orderly world (κόσμος, Matthew 4:8; Matthew 13:35, etc.), and is ever found in antagonism to Christ’s dominion (Matthew 13:37; Matthew 13:39, 1 John 5:18-20 Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ). (b) Wicked spirits. Scripture reveals to us not only a general, but also an army of wicked spirits who are ever ready to do his work (see Matthew 12:45, Acts 19:12-13, etc.). (c) Fallen human nature. Suggestions from without are reinforced by willingness from within. Depraved human nature (cf. Matthew 7:11) is traitor to Christ (Matthew 15:19, Mark 7:22, Luke 11:39, Romans 1:29). This is the permanent condition of the world apart from Christ (1 John 5:19, Galatians 1:4).

2. Manifestations of wickedness.—The tree of wickedness has many kinds of fruit, by which we detect its character (Matthew 7:17-18): e.g. violence (Matthew 5:39, Acts 17:5, 2 Thessalonians 3:2), hypocrisy (Matthew 22:18), an unforgiving spirit (Matthew 18:32), idleness (Matthew 25:26), unbelief (Hebrews 3:12), self-sufficiency (James 4:16), spite (3 John 1:10); everything, in fact, that is unlike Christ, flourishes in the devil’s Eden—the lost world.

3. The consequences of wickedness.—The ‘children of the wicked one,’ if unredeemed from his service, will share his doom (Matthew 13:49-50; Matthew 25:26; Matthew 25:30, Romans 1:29; Romans 1:32; cf. Ephesians 2:2-3).

4. The remedy for wickedness.—God’s attitude towards the wicked man is not one of implacable anger, but of winning kindness (Luke 6:35). Reconciled through the cross of Christ (Colossians 1:20-21), the wicked man may find complete pardon for the past. Nay more, he may be so renewed in nature as to have no taste for his former way of life (Romans 12:9, Acts 3:26, 1 Corinthians 5:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:22). And further, he may not only be completely ransomed from the slavery in which he was formerly held (Matthew 6:13, John 17:15, 2 Thessalonians 3:3, 1 John 5:18 Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ), but may become actually victorious, through the imparted power of Christ, over the evil one, who is now bitterly antagonistic to his former subject (1 John 2:13-14, Ephesians 6:11-13).

Literature.—Trench, Synonyms; Grimm-Thayer and Cremer, Lexx. s.vv. κκκός, τονηρος.

H. C. Lees.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Wicked (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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