Posted by: Ety W. | May 3, 2008

How Many Kinds of Gossip Are There, Anyway?

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Older women likewise, are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips …. Titus 2:3 (NASB)

Hmmm, at face value it would almost seem as though this is saying that it’s okay to gossip as long as it’s not malicious. Common sense should tell us that somehow that isn’t right! This phrase, “not malicious gossips” certainly demands a closer look.

This is one of those times when looking up the Greek is especially helpful, because we see that “malicious gossips” (“false accusers” in KJV) is actually one word in Koine Greek. I discovered this from my Strong’s Concordance. Strong’s references the King James translation, so I looked up both false and accuser, and discovered the same reference number for both.

Malicious gossips – Strong’s 1228 – διαβολος – diabolos = a traducer, specifically Satan. Translated as false accuser, devil, or slanderer in the KJV.

Oh my. I don’t know what a traducer is, but the reference to Satan is worrisome.

Zodhiates1 , in The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, dedicates over three pages to this word’s usage in the New Testament. Of its use in Titus 2:3, he says “one who falsely accuses and divides people without any reason… a slanderer.”1

I was still curious about traducer though. It’s not a word in common usage today, so I turned to the 1828 edition of Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language. Using the online version, I looked up two words, gossip and traducer.

Gossip was interesting. (All definitions here.) Today we correlate it to an adult version of “tattle-tale.” However, 180 years ago, it could simply refer to a friend, neighbor, or even a baptismal sponsor. This would explain the need for the qualifying “malicious,” though the meaning of the word has narrowed over the years.

I also look up traducer, and discovered that it means slanderer or calumniator (“one who falsely and knowingly accuses another of a crime or offense, or maliciously propagates false accusations or reports.”)

I think almost all of us will read that definition and think “Gosh, I would never do that!” Still, in our day to day relationships, we have to admit that it is easy to become irritated or frustrated with some individuals. If the problem is ongoing, there is a temptation to “warn” others about that person. Or worse, make the problem a “prayer request,” being sure to give all the specific details so that everyone will know exactly what to pray about. But is that “doing unto others….” (Matt. 7:12)?

The verse that comes to mind for a situation like this is from the book of first Peter,

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. I Peter 4:10

In other words, love does not expose the sins of others, but keeps them private, trusting God to bring about His perfecting work in their life as well as my own. My public prayer requests should focus on my need for grace in handling the situation, not on the other person’s faults or offenses.

What we see here is an application of the agape love we studied in Love: More Than a Feeling?. It must have been a problem among women at that time, or Paul wouldn’t have addressed it. The question for us is, is it still a problem in the church today?
Content copyright 2008 by If you find it anywhere else, it’s been stolen.
1 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, 1992), p.419



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