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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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The ordinary uses of this word require no illustration. But the very serious passage in may suitably be noticed in this place. In the Authorized Version it is translated, 'I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment.' The whole question depends upon the meaning, or rather the force, of the term rendered 'idle word,' concerning which there has been no little difference of opinion. Many understand it to mean 'wicked and injurious words;' but this interpretation has been examined with much nicety by Dr. Tittmann, and shown to be untenable. He contends that we must necessarily understand by the phrase a certain kind of words or discourse, which, under the appearance of sincerity or candor, is often the worst possible, and 'condemns a man,' because it is uttered with an evil purpose. The meaning of the expression, then, seems to be void of effect, without result, followed by no corresponding event. Therefore 'idle words' are empty or vain words or discourse, i.e. void of truth, and to which the event does not correspond. In short, it is the empty inconsiderate, insincere language of one who says one thing and means another. This Tittmann confirms by a number of citations; and then deduces from the whole that the sense of the passage under review is: 'Believe me, he who uses false and insincere language shall suffer grievous punishment: your words, if uttered with sincerity and ingenuousness, shall be approved; but if they are dissembled, although they bear the strongest appearance of sincerity, they shall be condemned.'





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Idle'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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