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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(רְמַיָּה, slothful, also deceitful; רָפָה, to be weak, in Niph. to be lazy, Exodus 5:8; Exodus 5:17; עִצְלוּת, indolence, Proverbs 31:27; שַׁפְלוּת, remissness, Ecclesiastes 10:18; שָׁקִט, to rest, Ezekiel 16:49; ἀργός, not working, literally, Matthew 20:3; Matthew 20:6; 1 Timothy 5:13; unfruitful, 2 Peter 1:8; stupid, Titus 1:12; morally, Matthew 12:36; λῆρος, an "idle tale," Luke 24:11). Of the foregoing instances of the use of this word, the only one requiring special consideration is Matthew 12:36, "I say unto you. that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment," where there has been considerable difference of opinion as to the interpretation of ρῆμα ἀργόν, translated "idle word." To the ordinary explanation, which makes the phrase here equivalent to vain, and hence wicked language, J. A. H. Tittman, in an extended criticism (On the principal Causes of Forced Interpret. of the N.T., printed in the Amer. Bib. Repos. for 1831, p. 481- 484), objects that it violates the native meaning of the word, which rather denotes an empty, inconsiderate, and hence insincere conversation or statement, appealing to the context which is aimed at the hypocritical Pharisees. On the other hand, the usual interpretation is supported by the actual occurrence of πονηρόν , wicked, in the parallel Matthew 12:35, and by the usage of other Greek writers, e.g., Symmachus in Leviticus 19:7, for פַּגּולּ, where Sept. ἄδυτον; Xenoph. Mem. 1,2,57; Cicero, de Fat. 12. (See Kuinol, ad loc.) The term is probably intended to be of wide signification, so as to include both these senses, namely, levity and calumny, as being both species of untruth and heedlessly uttered, yet productive of mischief.

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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Idle'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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