Monday, December 08, 2014

Greek Words for Gossip: "Phluareo" and "Phluaros" (Part One)

For the last three posts, we have been learning about two related words, psithurismos and katalalia, which figure in to our understanding of gossip in the New Testament. Today, we pick up a new set of words commonly translated "gossip" in the New Testament.

Calling Out Diotrophes

2. Phluareo and phluaros. The second set of Greek words that are often translated in English with the word “gossip” is the verb phluareo and its adjectival form phluaros. In 3 John, the “apostle of love” announces his intention to call out Diotrephes, an overbearing leader in the local church. “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously [phluaron] about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church” (3 John 9-10). Apparently, Diotrephes was making groundless accusations about John. BAGD defines phluareo  as “talk nonsense (about), bring unjustified charges against.”73 John uses it in conjunction with poiei logois ponairois, literally, “making evil words.” John Stott draws attention to the connection between Diotrephes’ words and his motives:

Diotrephes evidently regarded John as a dangerous rival to his own assumed authority in the church and sought to undermine his position by slanderous gossip. . . . Self-love vitiates all relationships. Diotrephes slandered John, cold-shouldered the missionaries, and excommunicated the loyal believers because he loved himself and wanted to have the pre-eminence. Personal vanity still lies at the root of most dissensions in every local church today.74
Not All "Against-Speaking" Is Gossip

It is important to notice that John is not gossiping about Diotrephes even though he is also offering an evaluation of and accusation about Diotrophes’ behavior. John speaks from love for the church and for Diotrephes. He has a position of authority as an apostle that requires him to discern actions and even motives such as these. John’s charge is not groundless nonsense, as Diotrephes clearly does love being preeminent, and John will say these things to his face. Not all “against-speaking” is gossip.


[73] BAGD 862.

[74] John R. W. Stott, The Epistles of John, TNTC 19 (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1983), 227-228.

Previous Posts in "Toward a Definition of Gossip"