TO THE PURE
ALL THINGS ARE PURE: panta men kathara tois katharois: (Lk 11:39,
40, 41; Acts 10:15; Ro 14:14; 14:20 1Cor 6:12; 6:13, 10:23; 10:25 10:31
1Ti 4:3 4:4)
Everything is clean to those who are clean (GWT)
Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure (NLT)
Everything is wholesome to those who are themselves wholesome (Phillips)
A person who is pure of heart sees goodness and purity in everything
To the pure [in heart and conscience] all things are pure (Amp)
MacArthur sums up this passage noting
that "Paul gives two divinely inspired evaluations of false teachers in the
Cretan churches, evaluations that apply to false teachers in any age.
First he assesses their inner lives and finds them to be corrupt. He
then assesses their outer lives and finds them to be hypocritical and
Titus: Moody Press)
Spurgeon - The pure—where
shall we find them? Where are they born? We answer: no men are born this
way. “Who can bring a clean thing from an unclean thing? No one!” (Job
14:4) As our parents have sinned, we their children are born with
tendencies to sin. We are impure even from birth. There are none pure
but those who are made so by a second creation. The first time they are
marred upon the wheel. They must go under the Creator’s hand a second
time; they must feel the power of the purifying Spirit of God creating
them anew before they can be called pure at all. And these are not
absolutely pure. Even in those who are entitled to be called “pure in
heart” (Matt 5:8), there remains impurity. If any man shall question
that, let him remember 1 John 1:8—“If we say that we do not have sin, we
deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” There is sin in the best
of men. If they do not perceive it it must be because they are blinded
with a foolish self-conceit, for in the purest heart there still remains
connected with it the old nature and the impurity inherited from the
first Adam. This makes life a perpetual conflict until life’s close.
Still, we name men by their predominant characteristics. The partial
impurity of a good man does not entitle him to be called impure. If the
master principle within him, the reigning principle, is purity, he is a
pure man. A man may once in his life have spoken an untruth; he may have
been surprised into saying that is a thing which is not. But if the
general tenor of his life is stern integrity, we do not therefore
condemn him and brand him as a liar. Otherwise, where are the men living
upon earth who would be worthy of a name implying praise? The godly have
been made pure by regeneration, and they are pure, though not absolutely
MacDonald sounds a note of caution in
the interpretation of this verse and gives a well reasoned exposition,
If we take the words
to the pure all things are pure
out of context as a statement of absolute truth in all areas of life, we
are in trouble! All things are not pure, even to those whose minds are
pure. Yet people have actually used this verse to justify vile
magazines, suggestive movies, and even immorality itself. Let it be
clearly understood that this verse has absolutely nothing to do with
things that are sinful in themselves and condemned in the Bible...This
proverbial saying must be understood in the light of the context. Paul
has not been speaking about matters of clear-cut morality, of things
that are inherently right or wrong. Rather, he has been discussing
matters of moral indifference, things that were ceremonially defiling
for a Jew living under the law but that are perfectly legitimate for a
Christian living under grace. The obvious example is the eating of pork.
It was forbidden to God’s people in the OT, but the Lord Jesus changed
all that when He said that nothing entering into a man can defile him
(Mk 7:15). In saying this He pronounced all foods clean (Mk 7:19). Paul
echoed this truth when he said: “But food does not commend us to God;
for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the
worse” (1Cor 8:8). When he says: “To the pure all things are pure,” he
means that to the born again believer all foods are clean, but to those
who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure . It is not what a
person eats that defiles him but what comes out of his heart (Mk 7:20 21
22 23). If a man’s inner life is impure, if he does not have faith in
the Lord Jesus, then nothing is pure to him. The observance of dietary
rules won’t do a thing for him. More than anything else he needs to be
converted, to receive salvation as a free gift rather than trying to
earn it through rituals and legalism. The very minds and consciences of
defiled people are corrupted. Their mental processes and their moral
powers are defiled. It is not a question of external ceremonial
defilement, but of inward corruption and depravity. (MacDonald,
W., & Farstad, A. Believer's Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments.
Nashville: Thomas Nelson)
(katharos; English = catharsis = purifying,
cleansing, a term used in psychology and counseling for a cleansing of
the mind or emotions - a "soul cleansing" if you will; cathartic
= any substance used to induce purging or to cleanse a wound or infected
are in order to make it pure; Cathar = member of a medieval sect
which sought the purging of all evil from its members) literally
describes that which is free of dirt and thus clean. It describes
that which is free from admixture or adulteration and thus is pure.
From a biblical standpoint the concept of cleansing is deeply rooted in
both the Old and the New Testaments. As discussed more below under the
Levitical laws heavy emphasis was placed on ceremonial cleansing and
thus contact with any unclean animal, substance, person, or place was
strictly forbidden. By the time Christ came this preoccupation with
ceremonial cleanness had unfortunately displaced true worship with many
of the Jews, most notably the Pharisees. It is not surprising then that
the New Testament focuses mainly on an inward cleanness (heart,
conscience), rather than on an external or ceremonial cleanness.
It is also worth
noting that katharos is related to the Latin castus, from which
we get chaste. The related word chasten refers to discipline given in
order to cleanse from wrong behavior.
blameless, innocent, unstained with the guilt and is used to describe
that which is ceremonially or ritually pure or clean (in a "Levitical
sense"). For example Moses records...
Leviticus 6:11 'Then he shall
take off his garments and put on other garments, and carry the ashes
outside the camp to a clean (LXX
= katharos) place.
Exodus 25:11 "And you shall
overlay it (the Ark of the Covenant) with pure (LXX
= katharos) gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and you shall
make a gold molding around it.
an adjective that figuratively is used in both the OT and the NT to
describe the state of one's heart. When a person is
in heart and mind, his or her perspective on all things is pure, and
that inner purity produces outer purity. As discussed above, true purity
lies not in adherence to external commandments of men but in the inner
purity of the redeemed, regenerated heart.
used to modify conscience (clean, clear) and religion
writes that katharos means "clean, pure, free from the adhesion
of anything that soils, adulterates, corrupts, and in an ethical sense,
“free from corrupt desire, sin, and guilt.
K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans)
writes that "katharos has two shades of
meaning. Some suggest that it also means unmixed or unalloyed or
unadulterated or sifted or cleansed of chaff. In other words, to be pure
means you have no added mixture of any foreign element. Thus, what our
Lord was really saying here is, “I desire a heart that is unmixed in
its devotion and motivation. Pure motives from a pure heart.”Either
way, it has to do with attitudes, integrity, and singleness of heart as
opposed to duplicity and double mindedness (MacArthur, J. The Only Way
to Happiness: The Beatitudes. Chicago: Moody Press)
writes that in classical Greek...
The adjective katharos (derivation
obscure, probably nothing to do with Latin castus) is common from Homer
onwards, and means: (a) originally, clean, in a physical sense as
opposed to rhuparos = dirty (e.g. pure, clean water, Eur. Hippolytus
209); (b) clean, in the sense of free, without things which come
between, as opposed to pleres or mestos, full (e.g. en katharo, Homer
Il. 23, 61); (c) ritually clean, as opposed to akathartos, unclean; (d)
in a religious sense, morally pure (e.g. katharos adikias, Plato,
Republic 6, 496d; katharos cheiras, Hdt., 1, 35)...
In the LXX katharos renders 18
different Heb. equivalents, but by far the most frequent is tahôr, in
the sense of ritual purity. Occasionally the LXX also translates the
Heb. naqî, pure, innocent (Job 4:7), and zakak, to be bright, pure,
innocent (Job 15:15) by katharos. (Brown,
Colin, Editor. New International Dictionary of NT Theology. 1986.
gives a good background summary of the general terms clean and unclean
The concept of cleanness and
uncleanness has roots in the ritual worship of Israel. God chose
to identify some things and actions as "unclean." Individuals in an
unclean condition were not permitted to participate in Israel's worship.
But such individuals could be cleansed and again take part in worship.
The ceremonial concepts of cleanness and uncleanness were also used to
clarify the concepts of sin and atonement. It is this moral aspect of
the terms that the prophets emphasized. Israel was spiritually and
morally unclean and had to look to the future, hoping for God to act and
bring supernatural inner cleansing.
The religious leaders of Jesus' day were blind to the emphasis of the
prophets. They focused on the ritual minutia. Jesus announced that
cleanness and uncleanness are matters of the heart. He did away with the
old classification of clean and unclean foods. This lesson was
reiterated to the young Hebrew-Christian church through Peter's vision.
God now deals with the heart: the OT symbols have been supplanted by the
realities they symbolized but could never accomplish. (Richards,
L O: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Regency)
(commenting on Mt 5:8 "pure in heart") explains that in secular Greek
usage katharos "was often used of metals that had
been refined until all impurities were removed, leaving only the pure
metal. In that sense, purity means unmixed, unalloyed, unadulterated.
Applied to the heart, the idea is that of pure motive-of
single-mindedness, undivided devotion, spiritual integrity, and true
J: Matthew 1-7 Chicago: Moody Press)
- In its positive form (katharos,
an adjective meaning pure) it is commonly used in housing contracts to
describe a house that is left clean and in good condition. But its most
suggestive use is that katharos is used of that ceremonial
cleanness which entitles a man to approach his gods. Impurity, then, is
that which makes a man unfit to come before God, the soiling of life
with the things which separate us from him. Katharos "originally simply
meant clean as opposed to soiled or dirty. Later it came to have certain
most suggestive uses. It was used of corn that has been winnowed and
cleansed of all chaff. It was used of an army which had been purified of
all cowardly and undisciplined soldiers until there was nothing left but
first-class fighting men. It was used of something which was without any
debasing admixture. So, then, a pure heart (as in 2Ti 2:22
is a heart whose motives are absolutely pure and absolutely unmixed. In
the heart of the Christian thinker there is no desire to show how clever
he is, no desire to win a purely debating victory, no desire to show up
the ignorance of his opponent. His only desire is to help and to
illumine and to lead nearer to God. The Christian thinker is moved only
by love of truth and love for men. (Galatians
5 Commentary - William Barclay's Daily Study Bible)
his comments on Mt 5:8 (note)
The Greek word for pure is
katharos, and it has a variety of usages, all of which have
something to add to the meaning of this beatitude for the Christian
(i) Originally it simply meant clean,
and could, for instance, be used of soiled clothes which have been
(ii) It is regularly used for corn
which has been winnowed or sifted and cleansed of all chaff. In the same
way it is used of an army which has been purged of all discontented,
cowardly, unwilling and inefficient soldiers, and which is a force
composed solely of first-class fighting men.
(iii) It very commonly appears in
company with another Greek adjective—akēratos. Akēratos can be used of
milk or wine which is unadulterated with water, or of metal which has in
it no tinge of alloy.
So, then, the basic meaning of
katharos is unmixed, unadulterated, unalloyed. That is why this
beatitude is so demanding a beatitude. It could be translated:
Blessed is the man whose motives are
always entirely unmixed, for that man shall see God.
It is very seldom indeed that we do
even our finest actions from absolutely unmixed motives. If we give
generously and liberally to some good cause, it may be that there
lingers in the depths of our hearts some contentment in basking in the
sunshine of our own self-approval, some pleasure in the praise and
thanks and credit which we will receive. If we do some fine thing, which
demands some sacrifice from us, it may well be that we are not
altogether free from the feeling that men will see something heroic in
us and that we may regard ourselves as martyrs. Even a preacher at his
most sincere is not altogether free from the danger of self-satisfaction
in having preached a good sermon. Was it not John Bunyan who was once
told by someone that he had preached well that day, and who answered
sadly, “The devil already told me that as I was coming down the pulpit
5 Commentary - William Barclay's Daily Study Bible)
Here are the 27
uses of katharos in the NT translated clean(12), clear(3),
innocent (1), pure(10 + 1x in KJV only)...
Matthew 5:8 (note)
"Blessed are the pure in heart (see representative uses in the
Septuagint below), for they shall see God. (Comment: Jesus is
speaking not just of pure motives, but also of pure or holy deeds. As
Puritan Thomas Watson once said "Morality can drown a man as fast as
vice." and "A vessel may sink with gold or with dung". You can say,
“I’m a very religious person and want to please God,” but if your
deeds are not according to His Word and they do not reveal a real
purity, it does not matter.)
Matthew 23:26 "You blind
Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the
outside of it may become clean also.
Matthew 27:59 And Joseph took
the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
Luke 11:41 "But give that
which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for
John 13:10 Jesus said to him,
"He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely
clean; and you are clean, but not all of you."
John 13:11 For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this
reason He said, "Not all of you are clean." (Comment:
Katharos is used figuratively in a moral or spiritual sense to
describe that which is free of wrongdoing and is thus "pure", "clean" or
"good" in God's sight.)
John 15:3 "You are already
clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. (Comment:
Thayer explains that here "the idea which Christ expresses figuratively
is as follows: `he whose inmost nature has been renovated does not need
radical renewal, but only to be cleansed from every several fault into
which he may fall through contact with the unrenewed world")
Acts 18:6 And when they
resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them,
"Your blood be upon your own heads! I am clean. From now on I
shall go to the Gentiles."
Acts 20:26 "Therefore I
testify to you this day, that I am innocent of the blood of all
Romans 14:20 (note)
Do not tear down the
work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean,
but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. (Comment:
In a Levitical sense katharos here speaks of a use of which is not
forbidden or which imparts no uncleanness.)
1 Timothy 1:5 But the goal of
our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience
and a sincere faith.
1 Timothy 3:9 but holding to
the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.
2 Timothy 1:3 (note)
I thank God, whom
I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I
constantly remember you in my prayers night and day,
2 Timothy 2:22 (note)
Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and
peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are
defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and
their conscience are defiled.
Hebrews 10:22 (note)
let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having
our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed
with pure water.
James 1:27 This is pure
and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit
orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by
1 Peter 1:22 (note)
Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a
sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,
(KJV - "see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently"
- NAS does not translate katharos).
katharos characterizes the Bride of Christ and the things of heaven.
What a glorious future we have to look forward too, beloved!
Revelation 15:6 (note)
and the seven angels who had the seven plagues came out of the temple,
clothed in linen, clean and bright, and girded around their
breasts with golden girdles.
Revelation 19:8 (note)
And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and
clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
Revelation 19:14 (note)
And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen,
white and clean, were following Him on white horses.
Revelation 21:18 (note)
And the material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure
(katharos) gold, like clear (katharos) glass.
Revelation 21:21 (note)
And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the
gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure
gold, like transparent glass.
There are 131 uses
of katharos in the
- note the concentration in books like Exodus and Leviticus: (Gen 7:2f,
8; 8:20; 20:5f; 24:8; 44:10; Exodus 25:11, 17, 23, 28f, 31, 36,
38f; 27:20; 28:13f, 22, 36; 30:3f, 35; 31:8; 37:2, 10, 29; 39:15, 30,
37; Leviticus 4:12; 6:11; 7:19; 10:10; 11:32, 36f, 47; 13:6, 13,
17, 34, 37, 39ff, 58; 14:4, 7ff, 49, 53; 15:8, 12f; 17:15; 20:25; 22:7;
24:2, 4, 6f; Num 5:17, 28; 8:7; 9:13; 18:11, 13; 19:3, 9, 12, 18f; Deut
12:15, 22; 14:11, 20; 15:22; 23:10; 1 Sam 20:26; 2 Chr 3:4f, 8; 4:16,
20f; 9:15; 13:11; Ezra 2:69; 6:20; Neh 2:20; Job 4:7, 17; 8:6; 9:30;
11:4, 13, 15; 14:4; 15:15; 16:17; 17:9; 22:25, 30; 25:5; 28:19; 33:3, 9,
26; Ps 24:4; 51:10; Prov 8:10; 12:27; 14:4; 20:9; 25:4; Eccl 9:2; Isa
1:16, 25; 14:19f; 35:8; 47:11; 65:5; Jer 4:11; Ezek 22:26; 36:25; 44:23;
Dan 7:9; Hab 1:13; Zech 3:5; Mal 1:11). Here are some representative
Genesis 7:2 And of the
clean cattle take in to thee sevens, male and female, and of the
unclean cattle pairs male and female.
Genesis 8:20 Then Noah built
an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every
clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
Genesis 20:5 "Did he not
himself say to me, 'She is my sister '? And she herself said, 'He is my
brother.' In the integrity (Hebrew = tom = completeness,
uprightness, Lxx = katharos) of my heart (Lxx = katharos kardia = "pure
heart" - also in Genesis 20:6) and the innocence of my hands I have done
Psalm 24:4 He who has clean
hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to
falsehood, And has not sworn deceitfully.
Psalm 51:10 Create in me a
clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit in my inward parts.
Proverbs 20:9 Who can say, "I
have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin "?
Isaiah 1:16 "Wash yourselves,
make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My
sight. Cease to do evil,
Malachi 1:11 "For from the
rising of the sun, even to its setting, My name will be great among the
nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name,
and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great
among the nations," says the LORD of hosts.
In an interesting
comparative study Barclay writes that...
A word is always known by the company it keeps. There are four Greek
words with which katharos is often closely associated. (a) There
is alethinos, which means 'real', 'genuine', as opposed to that which is
unreal and, as we would say, a fake. (b) There is amiges, which means
'pure', 'unmixed'. This word is used, for instance, of pure, unalloyed
pleasure. And it is used of a roll which has in it the work of only one
author. (c) It is used with akratos. This is the word that describes
pure wine or pure milk which has not been adulterated by water. It is
pure in the sense of 'neat', completely unadulterated. (d) It is used
with akeratos, which is the word that describes unalloyed gold, hair
which has never been shorn, an unmown meadow, a virgin whose chastity
has never been doubted. Now all these words basically describe something
which is pure from every taint and admixture of evil. (Barclay,
William: New Testament Words:. Westminster John Know Press, 1964)
(1500's) once wrote the following on the subject of spiritual cleansing
Sleep with clean hands, either kept clean all day by integrity or washed
clean at night by repentance.
(author of The Calvary Road) who was a leader in the great East African
revival during which a dominant theme was constant cleansing from sin
We do not lose peace with God over another person's sin, but only over
our own. Only when we are willing to be cleansed, will we have His
Macbeth contains a most powerful plea for moral cleansing as Macbeth
says to a physician...
Canst thou not minister to a mind diseas'd, Pluck from the memory a
rooted sorrow, Raze out the written troubles of the brain, And with some
sweet oblivious antidote Cleanse the stuff'd bosom of that perilous
stuff Which weighs upon the heart?
To which the doctor replied...
Therein the patient
Must minister to himself (Macbeth V, iii, 22).
(pas) means everything.
The Jews by the time of
Jesus and Paul, had thousands of rules
and regulations, which branded things (food, activities, etc) as unclean.
When Judaism and Gnosticism joined hands even the body became unclean
and the natural instincts of the body were held to be evil. The
inevitable result was that long lists of sins were constantly being
created. It became a sin to touch certain things. It became a sin to eat
certain foods as discussed above, etc. Things which were either good in
themselves or quite natural became defiled. The thought was that, by
doing or not doing certain things, a person was able, by his own power
and merit, to please and reconcile himself to God, which is another name
for "works righteousness".
Hiebert quoting the Scottish theologian
Patrick Fairbairn says that those who trust in "works righteousness"
"have a fountain of pollution which spreads itself over and infects
everything about them. Their food and drink, their possessions, their
employment, their comforts, their actions—all are in the reckoning of
God tainted with impurity, because they are putting away from them that
which alone has for the soul regenerating and cleansing efficacy."
To reiterate, it is a man's heart which makes the difference. If he is
pure in heart, all things are pure to him. If he is unclean in heart,
then he makes unclean everything he thinks about or speaks about or
This text has often been misused—made to mean what was never in the
apostle’s mind. He does not mean that a wrong thing becomes right to a
pure-minded man; that is the very opposite of what he does mean. He
means that when men’s minds are pure, other matters become pure to them,
but when their minds are impure then they use these things for impurity.
BUT TO THOSE
WHO ARE DEFILED AND UNBELIEVING NOTHING IS PURE : tois de memiasmenoiskai apistois
ouden katharon (RPPMPD): (Pr 21:4; Hag 2:13; Zec 7:5; 7:6 Mt
15:18; Ro 14:20; 14:23 1Cor 11:27, 28, 29)
nothing is wholesome to those who are themselves unwholesome and who
have no faith in God (Phillips)
Nothing is pure to the tainted minds of disbelievers (NEB)
but a person whose own heart is evil and untrusting finds evil in
But nothing is clean to corrupt unbelievers (GWT)
But to those who are full of sin and do not believe, nothing is pure
but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure (NIV)
their very minds and consciences are defiled and polluted (Amp)
but to those who have been corrupted and lack faith, nothing can be pure
comments that "Their moral pollution taints
everything with its own quality. The purest things become suggestors and
ministers of impurity.
These two things (defiled and unbelieving) appear to go together.
Now it was denied some time since that every unbeliever is unclean in
his life, and I think there is some ground in the denial. I would not
like to say that I believe every infidel, every rejecter of the religion
of Christ is a man unfit for the social circle and a sinner against the
laws of decency. I do not believe it. Honestly, I must say that there
are some men who have denied God, and yet somehow they have been a vast
deal better than their creed. They have managed to walk in a consistency
of moral conduct toward man which has almost been worthy to be set up as
an example to Christians. I believe such cases are not the rule, and
that candor, when it has made the admission that I have made, is
compelled to add that this is an extraordinary thing, and cannot have
been produced by the creed, for the creed itself of the godless is
necessarily logically and properly the creed of the unbelieving,
producing sin. Why should they obey a law if they do not believe in a
lawgiver, or if they only believe in a lawgiver who will not punish and
who cannot reward? When men have denied God, they have surely given up
the sanction that would lead them to anything like purity. If they live
as most of them do live, it cannot be said that they are inconsistent
with their creed. Yet, indeed, as a rule, and as a rule without
exception—having said what I have said (and I do not contradict
myself)—the unbelieving heart is a defiled heart for all that. The
defilement of the unbeliever lies always God-ward, even when it is not
apparent man-ward. When the unbeliever, somehow or other, keeps his
garments clean before his fellow men, yet before his God what is he? He
is one who has cast off all obligations to his Maker, who denies all
responsibilities to his King. There is a defilement there, which, I
venture to say, is even greater, if looked at in a right light, than any
form of defilement that becomes perceptible by men as between
themselves. But notice in this text that it seems to correct a good deal
of the mental philosophy we have heard of. For instance, I have heard it
asserted that conscience is God’s vicegerent among men. I have often
heard expressions from the pulpit, and read them in books, that led me
to infer that every fallen man had got not only something good in him,
but some strong principle almost akin to the Divine. I believe in the
fall of man, and I believe it to be total, and that conscience is a
power that has fallen with all the rest, and that there does not exist
in the world a pure conscience except so far as God has purified it by
the work of His Spirit. Conscience itself is a defiled thing. So far
from being a representative of God, I could not think for a moment of
comparing it with that ever-blessed and pure being. The fact is that
conscience, although it must practically be to man his guide, is not a
safe one ever, for the true guide of every man is the Bible, the
revealed will of God. That is true and pure and right, but my conscience
may often be a dark conscience, an ignorant conscience, a perverted
conscience. My business is not to follow my conscience as I find it, but
to go to God and ask Him to enlighten my conscience and guide it.
= the state of being tainted,
polluted, corrupted, defiled or stained by) means literally to dye with another color. Figuratively miaino describes a
that is morally contaminated, corrupted, tainted, tinged and polluted.
In a ceremonial or cultic sense it means to defile or make unclean or to
Jude uses miaino
in a physical and a moral sense of the one's flesh defiled by
licentiousness and so to corrupt morally.
this note on miaino writing that it is "a. Neutrally this word means “to
paint in color.” b. Censoriously it means “to stain,” first literally,
then in a cultic sense, i.e., with guilt or demonic processes. Washings
are designed to remove such stains. In the OT defilement is with alien
cults, dead bodies, etc., and unclean persons can stain others or holy
objects. The LXX uses miaino for “to declare unclean.” Since the NT no
longer thinks in cultic terms, the word is very rare....Miasmos.
This is “defilement” as an action or state, first cultic, then moral.
The one NT use is in 2Peter 2:10, in which it is licentious passion that
G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. Theological Dictionary of the New
that miaino in secular Greek is used with a "primary sense ‘to stain’ (as of dye
[Il. 4, 141]) (which ) prepares the way for the transferred sense of
causing defilement through socially or cultically unacceptable behavior.
It is well to keep in mind in connection with the use of this term and
cognates that in the Greco-Roman world harmonious relations with the
transcendent realm were understood to be dependent on careful observance
of certain moral and ritual proprieties. Individuals were subordinate to
interests of the community and violations of standard moral and
ceremonial expectations could jeopardize the delicate balance between an
entire populace and its deities. In our literature only in transferred
pictures an abiding condition or lasting state -- their consciences
became defiled at a point in time in the past and are still in that
condition. And because of this moral pollution of their "mind and
conscience", everything they see, say and do is potentially tainted.
NIDNTT notes that
in Classic Greek...
The basic meaning
of miaino is to colour something by painting or staining it. In this
sense the word is morally and aesthetically neutral. But from Homer on
it is also used metaphorically for causing oneself or other people or
places to be “stained”, i.e. unclean, with defilement that needs
deliberate ritual cleansing. And in a broader moral sense miaino is used
for profaning religion and justice (Aeschylus), sullying one’s father’s
fame (Euripides), and polluting one’s soul (Plato). miasma, meaning the
defilement resulting, and miasmos, meaning the defiled state, have a
corresponding range of physical, cultic and moral meaning, while
amiantos signifies freedom from defilement in both the moral and the
In the LXX, miaino
frequently renders forms of tame', “defile”, especially in ritual
contexts in Lev., Num. and Ezek. In Lev. 13:3 the meaning of miaino is
declarative, “to pronounce unclean.” Since the OT does not contrast
ritual and moral defilement, as modern scholarship tends to do, but
rather assimilates the two, seeing both as contraventions of God’s
revealed will, it is no surprise to find miaino used also of the
defilement which moral and spiritual transgressions cause (e.g. Isa.
47:6; Ezek. 14:11; Hos. 6:11(10)). Disregard for God’s law in general
and sexual license in particular are highlighted as sources of
defilement in this latter group of passages. In the canonical LXX miasma
occurs three times, in the apocryphal books miasma is found four times,
miasmos twice, and amiantos five times; and each word denotes defilement
in both its ritual and its moral aspects, just as miaino does.
Here are the five
uses of miaino in the NT...
John 18:28 They led Jesus
therefore from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they
themselves did not enter into the Praetorium in order that they might
not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.
Titus 1:15 To the pure, all
things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving,
nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.
Hebrews 12:15 (note)
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of
bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;
(Comment: How does bitterness defile? A bitter attitude has an
impact on our relationship with other persons polluting not only their
lives but also our own.)
Jude 1:8 Yet in the same
manner these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject
authority, and revile angelic majesties.
much more common in the
where it is found about
103 times (Gen 34:5, 13, 27; 49:4; Ex 20:25; Lev 5:3; 11:24, 43f; 13:3,
8, 11, 14f, 20, 22, 25, 27, 30, 44, 59; 15:31f; 18:24f, 27f, 30; 20:3;
21:1, 3f, 11; 22:5, 8; Num 5:3, 13f, 19f, 27ff; 6:7, 9, 12; 19:13, 20;
35:34; Deut 21:23; 24:4; 2 Ki 23:8, 10, 13, 16; 2 Chr 29:19; 36:14; Job
31:11; Ps 79:1; 106:39; Isa 43:28; 47:6; Jer 2:7, 23, 33; 3:1f; 7:30;
Ezek 4:14; 5:11; 7:22, 24; 9:7; 14:11; 18:6, 11, 15; 20:7, 18, 26, 30f,
43; 22:3f, 11; 23:7, 13, 17, 30, 38; 24:13; 36:17; 37:23; 44:25; Dan
7:26; 11:31f; Hos 5:3; 6:10; 9:4; Hag 2:13f).
Below are a few
representative uses in the
Note that in the
miaino frequently renders forms of the Hebrew verb
tame - 02930
which means to defile, especially in ritual contexts in the books of
Leviticus, Numbers and Ezekiel. Miaino is also used of the defilement
which moral and spiritual transgressions cause (e.g. Isa. 47:6; Ezek.
14:11; Hos. 6:10 - see below). Israel's blatant disregard for God’s law
in general and unfaithfulness to Jehovah as manifest by sexual license
in particular are highlighted as sources of defilement in these OT
Genesis 34:5 Now Jacob heard
that he had defiled (Hebrew =
tame - 02930 = to become
unclean; Lxx = miaino) Dinah his daughter; but his sons were with his
livestock in the field, so Jacob kept silent until they came in.
Genesis 49:4 (Jacob on his
death bed speaks of Reuben as) "Uncontrolled as water, you shall not
have preeminence, Because you went up to your father's bed; Then you
defiled it-- he went up to my couch.
Leviticus 11:24 'By these,
moreover, you will be made unclean: (Hebrew =
tame - 02930 = to become
unclean; Lxx = miaino) whoever
touches their carcasses becomes unclean until evening,
Leviticus 11:44 'For I am the
LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am
holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean (Hebrew =
tame - 02930 = to become
unclean; Lxx = miaino) with any of the swarming things that
swarm on the earth.
2 Chronicles 36:14
Furthermore, all the officials of the priests and the people were very
unfaithful following all the abominations of the nations; and they
defiled (Hebrew =
tame - 02930 = to become
unclean; Lxx = miaino) the house of the LORD which He had
sanctified in Jerusalem.
Psalm 106:39 Thus they
became unclean (Hebrew =
= to become
unclean; Lxx = miaino) in their practices, And played the
harlot in their deeds.
Isaiah 47:6 "I was angry with
My people, I profaned (Hebrew =
chalal - 02490 = to become
unclean; Lxx = miaino) My heritage, And gave them into your hand.
You did not show mercy to them, On the aged you made your yoke very
Ezekiel 14:11 in order that
the house of Israel may no longer stray from Me and no longer defile (Hebrew =
tame - 02930 = to become
unclean; Lxx = miaino)
themselves with all their transgressions. Thus they will be My people,
and I shall be their God,"' declares the Lord God."
Hosea 6:10 In the house of
Israel I have seen a horrible thing; Ephraim's harlotry is there, Israel
has defiled (Hebrew =
tame - 02930
= to become unclean; Lxx = miaino) itself.
from a = without +
= believing, faithful) in the active sense as used in this context
refers to one who disbelieves the gospel of Christ, another way of
saying he or she is an unbeliever or an infidel. They are faithless.
(oudeis from ou = absolute negation + dé = but +
heis = one) means literally "but absolutely not one".
To those who are pure all things are pure; to those who are impure and
unbelieving, everything becomes impure. Only a few things by way of
specimen. First, let us think of the attributes of God. To the believer
in Christ, whose heart is pure, how glorious God is! And every time we
think of Him, adore Him, and have fellowship with Him, we grow purer for
it. The true believer cannot think of God and draw nearer to Him without
becoming more like his God. But look at the unbeliever. Oftentimes his
very thoughts of God have been themselves defiled by the defilement of
his understanding—irritating him, filling him with wrath and abhorrence.
He does not delight in the holiness of God; he says it is severity. “How
can a man be happy with such laws to bind him?” He does not delight in
the wisdom of God in providence. He thinks things are ordered very much
amiss, seeing they do not all conduce to his pleasure in the ways of
sin. Now take another. It is so with God, but it is equally so with the
gospel. The doctrines of the gospel are to the believer very pure. There
is not one of them that does not have a practical effect upon his life.
I take the doctrine of election. If He has chosen us, He has chosen us
to be a peculiar people zealous of good works, and the special love we
feel binds us to special service. So with the doctrine of
redemption—that He has redeemed us by his precious blood. The inference
from it is, “You are not your own … you were bought at a price;
therefore glorify God with your body” and in your spirits, which are His
(1 Cor 6:20). Take the sweet doctrine of final perseverance: “The
righteous holds on to his way” (Job 17:9). Now the godly man feels that
he must live so as to prove that he is a godly man by persevering, and
he looks for daily grace to hold him on and to keep him to the end. He
blesses that infinite affection that does not turn aside from him, and
he feels drawn to it by constant watchfulness. But take the effect of
these truths upon the unbelieving and the impure. Why, you know how they
will pervert election. How often men have made that a coverlet for the
worst licentiousness! As for the redeeming blood, how many have made the
cross, which is the tree of life, to be the tree of death to them! It
has become “an odor from death to death” to them (2 Cor 2:16).
BUT BOTH THEIR MIND AND
CONSCIENCE ARE DEFILED: alla memiantai (3SRPI) auton kai o nous kai e
suneidesis: (1Co 8:7; Heb 9:14; 10:22)
for his dirty mind and rebellious heart color all he sees and hears.
Indeed, their minds and their consciences are corrupted (GWT)
In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted (NIV)
Their very minds and consciences are corrupted (NRSV)
The thinking of those people has become evil and their knowledge of what
is right has been ruined (ICB)
their very minds and consciences are diseased (Phillips)
both their minds and their consciences are tainted (NAB)
the corruption is both in their minds and in their consciences (NJB)
but on the contrary their very minds and consciences are polluted (WNT)
But - See
value of observing this
term of contrast.
conscience are defiled - The world likes to make jokes that are
filled with innuendos. There are all kinds of jokes where the plays on
words are meant to put filthy pictures in your minds. But if a person is
“pure” (literally, “cleansed”), then there are a lot of those kinds of
jokes that are going to go right over their head because they’re not
looking for the impure things. For a person who is “defiled” (literally,
“stained”), just about everything in life can be turned into something
filthy and dirty. When a person has exposed their mind to pornography,
it begins to color how they look at everything in life. Everything
becomes “impure”. There is no longer any way of looking at a person of
the opposite sex without putting something perverse into the picture.
When Jesus comes into your life, He gives you a new start, a new
beginning. He is able to wash your mind and give you a chance to start
looking at life in a pure, clean way.
(nous) is the God given faculty of perceiving and
understanding and is the channel through which truth reaches the heart.
Paul says that believers "have the
of Christ." (1Cor 2:16) Although present-day
believers are typically not concerned with Jewish ritual observances,
the principle is still applicable. We should be more concerned about
renewing our mind and focusing it on Jesus than observing a list of
rules that have no biblical support.
from sun = with and oida
= to know) (click
study of conscience) is literally "a knowing with" or a co-knowledge (with
oneself) which is the witness borne to one's conduct by their
is that instinctive sense of right and wrong that produces guilt when
is the "soul as distinguishing between what is morally good and bad,
prompting to do the former and shun the latter".
is the inner judge that accuses and condemns us when we have done wrong
and approves and commends us when we have done right (Ro 2:14, 15-note).
As Paul implies in this verse it is possible to sin against the
so that it becomes “defiled”.
does not convict the way it should normally and is one step closer to
that seared...conscience that Paul
wrote about (1Ti 4:2).
This man has no moral compass to navigate the
treacherous sea named "Moral Relativism" and his boat being dangerously
adrift in the sea of "No Absolutes".
Jones wrote that "Conscience is a small, still voice that makes minority reports.
Someone added "Conscience is also what makes a boy tell his mother before his sister
Morley said about conscience -
Pop used to say about the Presbyterians, 'It don't prevent them
committing all the sins there are, but it keeps them from getting any
fun but of it.'
General Omar Bradley was more serious in commenting on conscience -
The world has achieved brilliance without conscience, he conceded. "Ours
is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants."
On the subject of
conscience Martin Luther declared before the court of the Roman
Empire at Worms in 1521 -
My conscience is captive to the Word of God. ... I am more afraid of my
own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the
great pope, Self.
When a person
comes to faith in Christ, his conscience becomes acutely sensitive to
sin. No longer as a Christian can he sin with impunity. The story is
told about an old Indian chief who was converted. Later a missionary
Chief, how are you doing spiritually? Are you experiencing victory over
"It's like this," the chief replied. "I have two dogs inside me: a good
dog and a bad dog. They are constantly fighting with each other."
"Which dog wins?" asked the puzzled missionary.
"Whichever one I feed the most," retorted the wise old man. His
conscience was being shaped by the Scriptures.
set out the importance of a clear conscience "To have a guilty conscience is a feeling. Psychologists may define it as
a guilt complex, and may seek to rationalize away the sense of guilt,
but once it has been awakened through the application of the law of God,
no explanation will quiet the insistent voice of conscience.
(miaino) describes a
that is morally contaminated, corrupted, tainted, tinged and polluted.
perfect tense pictures the lasting state -- their consciences
became defiled at a point in time in the past and are still in that
condition. And because of this moral pollution of their "mind and
conscience", everything they see, say and do is potentially tainted.
Even the purest things become as
Vincent phrases it
"the purest things become suggestors and ministers of impurity.
way "The mind and conscience, being defiled, defile everything they
do." So here is the point -- when you see men attributing impurity
to non-moral things, this action reveals their inner character -
defiled, unbelieving, with defiled minds and consciences. The only hope
for these men is "the blood of Christ" which alone can cleanse their
defiled consciences "from
dead works to serve the living God" (Heb 9:14)
A man comes to his decisions and forms his
conclusions by using two faculties. He uses intellect to think things
out; he uses conscience to listen to the voice of God. But if his
mind is warped in such a way that it can see the unclean thing
anywhere, and if his conscience is darkened and numbed by his continual
consent to evil, he loses his ability to make correct moral judgments,
and is unable to make true distinctions between good and evil. If he lets
impurity infect his mind, he sees all things through a mist of
uncleanness. His mind soils every thought that enters into it. His
imagination turns to lust every picture which it forms. His whole inner
being is polluted and perverted.
Vine says that the "Conscience
is the faculty which, unless defiled, hardened, and seared, enables men
intuitively and without reflection to discern good and evil, commending
the former and prompting to do it, condemning the latter and prompting
to avoid it. Where these faculties are defiled there can be no purity."
Gill adds that that regarding these
"there is nothing in them, or that belongs to them, that is pure;
their mind or understanding, which conceives and judges of things, and
forms notions of them; and the conscience, which draws conclusions from
them, are both defiled with sin; and what then must the thoughts, the
words and actions of such persons be? it matters not what they do, or
abstain from, what they touch, taste, or handle, or if they do not, they
sin in all they do."
Spurgeon - There are men in
the world with defiled understandings and defiled
consciences. They cannot judge rightly; their understanding is defiled.
They “put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isa 5:20). There are
thousands in this world who deliberately judge amiss, and who, when they
sit down even to think of a question (which we cannot often bring them
to do), naturally come to a wrong conclusion because the scales in which
they weigh are out of gear. The measure that they use is not the measure
of the sanctuary. Their understanding is defiled. And even when they
bring their moral sense to bear upon some question, they are inevitably
mistaken because their conscience itself has become defiled also. A sad
state for men to be in, but into this state each man, according to his
degree, is brought until his will turns unto God and is rectified by the
great Spirit. We are all impure—impure in every part. “The whole of the
head is sick, and the whole of the heart is faint” (Isa 1:5). We are all
fallen. In manhood’s vast temple there stands not a solitary pillar that
is quite erect. Here and there, there are masses that seem as though
they stood as once they were, to let us know how grand a thing human
nature might have been. But there is enough upon the whole to let us see
that it is all in ruin, and in such ruin that unless He who built it at
first shall put forth His omnipotent power and use again the old fiat
that created the world, it will still be a ruin and desolation—a den of
all manner of unclean things.
Matthew Henry adds that
"To good Christians that are sound in the faith and thereby purified
all things are pure. Meats and drinks, and such things as were forbidden
under the law (the observances of which some still maintain), in these
there is now no such distinction, all are pure (lawful and free in their
use), but to those that are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure;
things lawful and good they abuse and turn to sin; they suck poison out
of that from which others draw sweetness; their mind and conscience,
those leading faculties, being defiled, a taint is communicated to all
In Our Daily Bread we read a
devotional entitled "A Cleansed Conscience" - The much-loved children's story
Pinocchio is about a wooden puppet whose nose grows long when he tells a
lie. His friend Jiminy Cricket chirps, "Let your conscience be your
guide." Pinocchio follows his advice, repents, and returns to Geppetto
his creator, where he is given a heart of flesh and is freed from his
There's a principle in this story for God's children. If we don't listen
to that voice deep down inside that tells us what we should and should
not do, we live in bondage. But a cleansed conscience brings freedom.
Some people have no strong basis for making godly decisions. Their
conscience is weak, and they can be easily swayed by the behavior of
others. Then there are those whose conscience is defiled. The standard
by which they measure good and evil is corrupted, polluted, and impure
(Titus 1:15). But saddest of all are those who have a "seared"
conscience (1 Timothy 4:2). They have resisted that inner voice for so
long that they no longer hear what it has to say.
But you ask, "How can we have a cleansed conscience?" We must repent of
our sin and return to our Creator. We must ask Him to conform our
desires and behavior to His Word and then be careful to obey it.—David
There is a treasure you can own
That's greater than a crown or throne;
This treasure is a conscience clear
That brings the sweetest peace and cheer.
Conscience is a trustworthy
compass when God's Word is your true north.