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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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Telling a falsehood with the intent of deceiving.

—Biblical Data:

Lying is most vigorously condemned in the Law: "Keep thee far from a false matter" (Exodus 23:7); "Neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another" (Leviticus 19:11). Regarding the false oath see see PERJURY. Lying on the witness-stand to harm another is a crime specially mentioned in the Decalogue (Exodus 20:16), and the punishment is that the false witness be dealt with as the one witnessed against would have been dealt with if guilty (Deuteronomy 19:15-21). Regarding lying in fraudulent dealing FRAUD AND MISTAKE.

Lying is abhorred throughout Scripture as an offense against the holy God who "lieth not" (1 Samuel 15:29; Psalms 89:34-35); it is "an abomination of the Lord" (Proverbs 12:29). "He that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight" (Psalms 101:7; comp. 24:4 and 15:2). "They speak falsely every one with his neighbor; with flattering lips and with a double heart. . . . The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips" (Psalms 12:3-4, Hebr. [A. V. 2-3]). "Speak ye every one the truth to his neighbor . . . love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord" (Zechariah 8:16-17). "The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth" (Zephaniah 3:13). With the Psalmist, one should "hate every false way" and "abhor lying" (Psalms 119:104,128,163).

—In Apocryphal and Rabbinical Literature:

Ben Sira warns against the habit of lying as even worse than theft, because it brings ruin and disgrace (Ecclus. 20:24-26; comp. 7:12-14); he warns also against duplicity of tongue (ib. 5:9,14; 28:13), which "is a snare of death" ("Didache," 1:4). The spirit of lying is one of the seven evil spirits in man (Test. Twelve Patr., Reuben, 3). "Hate lying in order that the Lord may live among you and Belial flee from you," warns Dan (ib. Dan, 1-6). Especially emphatic are the Rabbis in condemning lying. "God's seal is truth" (Shab. 55a; Gen. R. ). "He who changes his word acts as if he were worshiping other gods" (Sanh. 92a). Among the "three God hateth is he who speaks the thing he means not," "with duplicity of tongue" (Pes. 113b). "Liars can not behold the majesty of God" (Soṭah 42a). "To conceal the truth, or to deceive others by creating a false impression, even for a good purpose, is a transgression of the command, 'Thou shalt keep thee far from a false matter'" (Shebu. 31a). To pretend an affectionate feeling in order to win the good opinion of another is sinning against truth (Tos. to B. Ḳ. 7:8). The Shammaites declared it sinful even to lavish, at the wedding-feast, laudations on a bride which are not in harmony with the truth, as, for instance, to call her beautiful when she is ugly (Ket. 17a). "In case of doubt, train thy tongue always to say 'I do not know,' lest thou be caught in an untruth" (Ber. 4a). "Never tell a child 'I shall give you so-and-so' unless you actually will give it to him; else the child will learn to utter untruths himself" (Suk. 46b). "Canaan, in his last will, told his children not to speak the truth" (Pes. 113b). "Let thy 'yea' be 'yea' and thy 'nay' 'nay'" (B. M. 49a). "Truth will abide; falsehood will not abide" (Shab. 104a). In case a life depends upon your telling a falsehood, as, for instance, when a robber or murderer inquires after one he pursues, the law permits lying (Ned. 2:4; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, 232, 14; see also Hypocrisy; Truth). In the Daily Prayers the silent prayer begins with the words, "My God, keep my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking falsehood!" (Ber. 17a); and at the beginning of the Morning Prayers are recited these words, taken from Tanna debe Eliyahu Rabbah 21: "At all times man should be God-fearing in secret also, and ever confess the truth and speak the truth in his heart."

  • Hamburger, R. B. T. s. Wahrhaftigkeit;
  • F. Perles, Bousset's Religion des Judenthums, pp. 71-74, Berlin, 1903.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Lying'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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