T. PIERCE BROWN
In 2 Kings 2:23-24 we find the story of some young men who said to Elisha the prophet and said, “Go up thou bald head,” and he cursed them and some bears came out of the woods and “tare 42 of them.” Critics of God and skeptics of various kinds have raised such questions as “Was it not unusually cruel for the prophet to destroy 42 children for a mere childish act of calling the prophet a bald head?” Of course the prophet had no power to call bears out of the woods to destroy them. It was an act of God against a rebellious group of young men who had no respect for God or his prophet. It was not a group of little children who were simply having a little fun with a man’s bald head.
Years ago when I was directing a Bible camp, the young people had a closing program at which they had what we may call a “roast” of some of the teachers and the director. They said, “Brother Brown is a famous man. So famous that they named a town inArkansasafter him. It is called Bald Knob.” In my judgment, they meant no disrespect for me or my bald head, and did not deserve a bear or a skunk to come out of the woods and do any damage to them. It was a totally different situation in the case of Elisha.
A consideration of this story led me to make a more extended study of cases of ridicule in the Bible and I was very surprised to learn that there are about a dozen different words to describe the kinds and degrees of ridicule that may be carried on, or have been carried on. They are translated by such terms as “laugh to scorn,” “revile,” “reproach,” “upbraid,” “blaspheme,” “mock” and various other terms. Their meanings range all the way from describing what the boys were doing in my case where they were gently alluding to Bald Knob and implying that it was named after me, to the case where those at the foot of the cross were blaspheming the son of God. Of course, even in my situation, it would have been possible for some of them to have been making fun of my baldness in a disrespectful or derogatory manner in an effort to cause me hurt or embarrassment. Each of us may have known of some person who pretended that he was merely joking, but said some slighting, disrespectful or hateful things to or about some other person. It is similar to the situation in Proverbs 26:19, “So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?” But we should be aware that there are all sorts of different degrees of ridicule or “making fun” of a person, and it may be of interest or value for us to examine some of the words or expressions that express some of them. We will not list them in any particular order but may suggest the relationship between some of them.
First, there is “blasphemeo (blas-fay-meh’-o).” It means to vilify; specially, to speak impiously, and is probably the strongest term of ridicule, translated blaspheme, defame, rail on, revile, speak evil. It is the term in Mark15:29, “And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days.”
Second, there is gelao (ghel-ah’-o). It means to laugh. It is found in Luke 6:25, “Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.” It does not necessarily mean to laugh in derision or ridicule, but could be used in that sense if one was only gently “poking fun” at another. If one was laughing in derision, or in a mocking way, the word would be katagelao (kat-ag-el-ah’-o), which literally means, “laugh down.” It is similar to what we call a “put-down” and is found in Matthew9:24, “He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn.”
Third, there is mukterizo (mook-tay-rid’-zo). It means to make mouths at, i.e. ridicule. It is very similar to our use of “stick up your nose at.” It is found in Galatians 6:7, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
Fourth, note that it is similar to ekmukterizo (ek-mook-ter-id’-zo). The “ek” is a preposition added to it to make it more intensive. It means to sneer outright, or deride. We may note that in the previous verse in Galatians 6:7, the idea is not that one overtly derides God, he simply “turns up his nose” at what God says and pays no attention to it. But ekmuketerizo is found in Luke16:14, “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.
Fifth, we find empaizo (emp-aheed’-zo). It is very similar to mukterizo and means jeer at, i.e. deride. If one can distinguish between “sneer at” and “jeer at” that would fairly well describe the difference between these two words. Empaizo is a little stronger of the two terms. It is found in Luke 14:29, “Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him.”
Sixth, we find katalalos (kat-al’-al-os). It means talkative against, i.e. a slanderer or a backbiter. It is a combination of two words and literally means “talk down.” It is found in Romans 1:30, “Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents.
Seventh, we find oneidizo (on-i-did’-zo). It means to defame, i.e. rail at, chide, taunt. It is translated by such expressions as cast in teeth, suffer reproach, revile, upbraid. It is found in Mark 15:32, “Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.” It is also used about Jesus in Matthew 11:20, “Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not.” So we can see that a person can “upbraid” another and not be wrong. Of course when a person “upbraided” Christ, they were wrong, but it was not the same as blaspheming him or scoffing at him.
The seventh is dusphemeo (doos-fay-may’-o). It is found only in 2 Corinthians 6:8 and means to bring into ill repute, to insult, to slander, to speak ill of. We may note that it is similar to blasphemeo, but not quite as strong. The reference is 1 Corinthians4:13, “Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.”
The eighth is chleuazo (khlyoo-ad’-zo). It means literally, to throw out the lip, i.e. jeer at. It is very similar to mukterizo, discussed above. It is translated mock in such places as Acts17:32, “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.”
The ninth is simply an intensive form of cheluazo, and is diachleuazo (dee-a-khlew-ad’-zo). It is found only in Acts 2:13 and means to deride, to make fun of, to mock, to sneer. The only difference we can find in the last two is that this one is simply a harsher term. Acts2:13says, “Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.”
The tenth is loidoreo (loy-dor-eh’-o). It means to reproach, i.e. vilify and is translated- revile. John 9:28, “Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples.” Note that it is also used to describe what Paul is said to have done in Acts 23:4, “And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest?” We can see that it is not as strong as some of the other words, like blasphemeo, that may be translated “revile.”
We hope that this brief survey of some of the words that indicate various types of ridicule may be helpful to you. Both from the Greek and English use of such words, we should realize that some types of what might be called “ridicule” or “making fun of” are not always bad or sinful. Those of us who are bald may laugh at others who are in the same category, and joke with them about their hairs being numbered without being hateful, vicious or cruel. Or we can do as the young men did in Elisha’s case and ridicule in such a fashion that we defame or injure one of God’s people, and deserve the kind of punishment those young men got for disrespect to God. When I was a young preacher, I never remember anyone referring to me as T. Pierce or T.P. It would have been considered disrespectful. Now even young people can call me T. P. or wigwam without meaning to be disrespectful. I could not imagine as a young preacher my speaking to persons like Foy Wallace, Guy Woods or Gus Nichols and saying, “Hello, Foy, or Guy or Gus.” But those of us who are older need to realize that even if we do not appreciate the undue familiarity of some, they do not always mean disrespect.
T. Pierce Brown
1068 Mitchell Ave.