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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Lie; Lying

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lı̄ , ( שׁקר , sheḳer (usually, e.g. Isaiah 9:15 ; Zechariah 13:3 ), or כּזב , kāzabh verb (Job 34:6 ; Micah 2:11 ); ψεῦδος , pseúdos (John 8:44 ; Revelation 21:27 ), "to speak falsely," "to fabricate," "to make a false statement"; ψεύδομαι , pseúdomai , in Acts 5:3 , Acts 5:4 ):

1. Lying Defined:

In its very essence, a lie is something said with intent to deceive. It is not always a spoken word that is a lie, for a life lived under false pretenses, a hypocritical life, may be a lie equally with a false word (Jeremiah 23:14 ). A vain thing, like an idol, may be a lie (Isaiah 59:4 ), as also a false system (Romans 3:7 ). Error, as opposed to truth, is a lie (1 John 2:21 ). The denial of the deity of Jesus Christ is regarded as "the" lie (1 John 2:22 ).

The origin of lies and lying is traced to Satan who is called "a liar, and the father thereof" (John 8:44 ; Acts 5:3 ). Satan's dealing with Eve (Gen 3) furnishes us with a splendid illustration of the first lie, so far as we have any record of it.

2. A R acial Sin:

The whole race is guilty of this sin: "The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies" (Psalm 58:3 ). It is a part of the old Adamic nature, "the old man" (Colossians 3:9 ), which the believer in Jesus Christ is called upon to put off. So prominent a factor is it in the experience of the race that among the condensed catalogue of sins, for the commission of which men are finally condemned, the sin of lying finds its place: "All liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone" (Revelation 21:8 the King James Version).

3. God's Attitude to It:

God's attitude toward this sin is strongly marked throughout both the Old Testament and New Testament. The righteous are called upon to hate lying (Proverbs 13:5 ), to avoid it (Zephaniah 3:13 ), to respect not those who lie, and utterly reject their company (Psalm 40:4 ; Psalm 101:7 ), to pray to be delivered from it (Psalm 119:29 ). The wicked are said to love lying (Psalm 52:3 ), to delight in it (Psalm 62:4 ), to seek after it (Psalm 4:2 ), and to give heed to it (Proverbs 17:4 ). Lying leads to worse crimes (Hosea 4:1 , Hosea 4:2 ).

4. The Penalty:

The punishment to be meted out to liars is of the severest kind. They are positively and absolutely excluded from heaven (Revelation 21:27 ; Revelation 22:15 ), and those who are guilty of this sin are cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8 ). We are reminded of the awful fate meted out to Ananias and Sapphira when they lied to God and man (Acts 5:1-11 ). God will "destroy them that speak lies" (Psalm 5:6 ), and "he that uttereth lies shall not escape" (Proverbs 19:5 ), yea "a sword is upon the liars" (Jeremiah 50:36 the King James Version). The liar is thereby debarred from rendering any true and acceptable worship unto the Lord ( Psalm 24:4 ).

The Scriptures abound with illustrations of lying and the results and penalties therefor. A careful study of these illustrations will reveal the subtlety of falsehood. Sometimes a lie is a half-truth, as set forth in the story of Satan's temptation of Eve (Genesis 3 ). Cain's lie (Genesis 4:9 ) was of the nature of an evasive answer to a direct question. Jacob's deception of his father, in order that he might inherit the blessing of the firstborn, was a barefaced and deliberate lie (Genesis 27:19 ). The answer which Joseph's brethren gave to their father when he asked them concerning the welfare of their brother Joseph is an illustration, as well as a revelation, of the depth of the wickedness of hearts that deliberately set themselves to falsify and deceive (Genesis 37:31 , Genesis 37:32 ). Even good men are sometimes overtaken in a lie, which, of course, is no more excusable in them than in the wicked; indeed, it is more shameful because the righteous are professed followers of the truth (David in 1 Samuel 21:2 ). What more striking example of the heinousness of lying in the sight of God can we have than the fate which befell Gehazi who, in order to satisfy a covetous desire for possessions, misrepresented his master Elisha to Naaman the Syrian whom the prophet had healed of his leprosy: "The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow" (2 Kings 5:22-27 )? The story of Peter's denial of his Lord, and his persistent asseverations that he did not know Him and was not one of His followers, makes us shudder to think that it is possible for a follower of Christ so far to forget himself as not only to lie, but buttress lying with swearing (Matthew 26:72 ).

5. Pseudos United with Other Words:

Throughout the Scriptures we find pseudos joined to other words, e.g. "false apostles" ( ψευδαπόστολος , pseudapóstolos , 2 Corinthians 11:13 ), so called probably because a true apostle delivers the message of another, namely, God, while these "false apostles" cared only for self. Such are from Satan, and, like him, they transform themselves into angels of light, and sail under false colors. We read also of "false prophets" (ψευδοπροφήτης , pseudoprophḗtēs , Matthew 7:15 ; compare Jeremiah 23:16 f),thereby meaning those who falsely claim to bring messages from God and to speak in behalf of God. Mention is made also of "false brethren" ( Ψευδάδελφος , pseudádelphos , 2 Corinthians 11:26 ), meaning Judaizing teachers, as in Galatians 2:4 ; "false teachers" (ψευδοδιδάσκαλος , pseudodidáskalos , 2 Peter 2:1 ), men whose teaching was false and who falsely claimed the teacher's office. We read further of "false witnesses" (ψευδόμαρτυς , pseudómartus , Mk 26:60); by such are meant those who swear falsely, and testify to what they know is not true. So, too, we find mention of the "false Christs" (Ψευόχριστοι , pseudóchristoi , Matthew 24:24 ; Mark 13:22 ). This personage does not so much deny the existence of a Christ, but rather, on the contrary, builds upon the world's expectations of such a person, and falsely, arrogantly, blasphemously asserts they he is the Christ promised and foretold. It is the Antichrist who denies that there is a Christ; the false Christ affirms himself to be the Christ. Of course there is a sense in which the man of sin will be both Antichrist and a false Christ. See FALSE CHRISTS ; FALSE PROPHETS ; FALSE SWEARING , FALSE WITNESS .


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Lie; Lying'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/isb/l/lie-lying.html. 1915.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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