3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks
The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Eph 5:3–4.
Some commentary on Ephesians 5:4:
Hodge on Eph 5:4:
“4. Nor should there be obscenity. The word here for obscenity is not simply obscenity but whatever is morally hateful. The adjective derived from this word means “deformed,” “revolting,” that which causes disgust, physical or moral. It is the opposite of “good,” which means both beautiful and good. The substantive is equally comprehensive and includes whatever is vile or disgusting in speech or conduct. Lesser evils are expressed by the words foolish talk and coarse joking. The former means talk which characterizes fools—i.e., frivolous and senseless. The latter, according to its etymology and early usage, means “urbanity,” “politeness.” Naturally enough, however, the word came to have a bad sense, and its related adjective means “easily turned,” like the wind; when applied to language or speech, it means not only adroit, skillful, agreeable, witty, but also flippant, satirical, scurrilous. Hence the substantive is used for coarse joking. The former sense is best suited to this passage because it is connected with foolish talking and because the apostle says of both simply that they are out of place, not becoming or suitable. This is too mild a form of expression to be used either of obscenity or of coarse joking in the worse sense of those terms. Paul says these things (foolish talk and coarse joking) do not become Christians; they are out of place. Clearly foolish talk and coarse joking are not the ways in which Christian cheerfulness should express itself, but rather thanksgiving. Religion is the source of joy and gladness, but its joy is expressed in a religious way, in thanksgiving and praise.
Charles Hodge, Ephesians, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), 168.”
Calvin on the same:
“4. Neither filthiness. To those three — other three are now added. By filthiness I understand all that is indecent or inconsistent with the modesty of the godly. By foolish talking I understand conversations that are either unprofitably or wickedly foolish; and as it frequently happens that idle talk is concealed under the garb of jesting or wit, he expressly mentions pleasantry, — which is so agreeable as to seem worthy of commendation, — and condemns it as a part of foolish talking The Greek word εὐτραπελία is often used by heathen writers, in a good sense, for that ready and ingenious pleasantry in which able and intelligent men may properly indulge. But as it is exceedingly difficult to be witty without becoming satirical, and as jesting itself carries in it a portion of conceit not at all in keeping with the character of a godly man, Paul very properly dissuades from this practice. 155 Of all the three offenses now mentioned, Paul declares that they are not convenient, or, in other words, that they are inconsistent with Christian duty.”
Schaff and Lange:
Ver. 4. Neither filthiness, αἰσχρότης.—This evidently includes more than αἰσχρολογία (Col. 3:8). Although the antithesis (εὐχαριστία) points to shameful words (LUTHER), neither the context, which places αἰσχρότης beside μωρολογία nor the word itself require an exclusive reference to speech. Still less is it to be limited to lewd talk. BENGEL refers it also to gestus, etc.
Nor foolish talking, καὶ μωρολογία.—[Textual Note1. Should ἢ be accepted here, we should substitute or for nor, as is done in the case of the next substantive.—R.] According to the New Testament conception of μωρός, “fool” (Matt. 5:22; Ps. 14:1; 53:2), this means godless discourse; it is not merely stultiloquium, insipid talk, silly babbling (CALVIN, [HODGE] MEYER, SCHENKEL). LUTHER hits the meaning with: Narrentheidinge, buffoonery, which denotes what is high-flown, pompous, in loose discourse. See JUETTING: Bibl. Wörterbuch p. 189. [TRENCH, Syn. § 34: “The talk of fools, which is folly and sin together.”—R.]
Or jesting, ἢ εὐτραπελία (from εὐ and τρέπω) means strictly urbanitas, a habit of cultivated people, not without adroitness and not without frivolity. LUTHER: jest. BENGEL aptly says: subtilior ingenio nititur; this refers to the form, the previous term to the purport. The Vulgate is incorrect: scurrilitas. [Comp. TRENCH, § 34. on this word. He refers to “the profligate old man” of the Miles gloriosus (PLAUTUS), who is exactly the εὐτράπελος, and remarkably enough an Ephesian, boasting as though such wit were an Ephesian birthright. See also BARROW’S famous sermon on wit from this text (Vol. 1, Serm. 14), an extract from which is given by EADIE in loco.—R.]
John Peter Lange et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 179.”
“4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, hwhich are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
Neither filthiness; obscenity in discourse, filthy communication, Col. 3:8. Nor foolish talking; affectation of foolish, vain speech, (whether jocose or serious,) unprofitable to the hearers. Nor jesting; either the same as the former, as may seem by the disjunctive particle nor, which may be by way of explication; or (which is of kin to it) scurrility in discourse, which is many times, by them that are addicted to it, called by the name of urbanity, or jesting: for all that jesting is not here condemned appears by 1 Kings 18:27; Isa. 14:11. Which are not convenient; viz. for saints. But rather giving of thanks; i. e. to God for mercies received, which will better cheer up and recreate the mind than foolish talking and jesting can.
Matthew Poole, Annotations upon the Holy Bible, vol. 3 (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1853), 675.”
Above, Poole uses 1 Kings and Isaiah 14 to support the idea that not all ‘jesting’ is condemned:
27 And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.”
The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 1 Ki 18:27.
“Neither filthiness (v. 4), by which may be understood all wanton and unseemly gestures and behaviour; nor foolish talking, obscene and lewd discourse, or, more generally, such vain discourse as betrays much folly and indiscretion, and is far from edifying the hearers; nor jesting. The Greek word eutrapelia is the same which Aristotle, in his Ethics, makes a virtue: pleasantness of conversation. And there is no doubt an innocent and inoffensive jesting, which we cannot suppose the apostle here forbids. Some understand him of such scurrilous and abusive reflections as tend to expose others and to make them appear ridiculous. This is bad enough: but the context seems to restrain it to such pleasantry of discourse as is filthy and obscene, which he may also design by that corrupt, or putrid and rotten, communication that he speaks of, ch. 4:29. Of these things he says, They are not convenient. Indeed there is more than inconvenience, even a great deal of mischief, in them. They are so far from being profitable that they pollute and poison the hearers. But the meaning is, Those things do not become Christians, and are very unsuitable to their profession and character. Christians are allowed to be cheerful and pleasant; but they must be merry and wise.
Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2316.”
“5:4 and filthiness/filthy-speecha and foolish-talkingb or wittiness/coarse-joking,c which (are) not proper,d
LEXICON—a. αἰσχρότης (LN 88.149) (BAGD p. 25): ‘filthiness’ [El, NTC, Rob, We; KJV, NASB], ‘indecent behavior’ [LN], ‘shameful deed’ [LN], ‘indecency’ [Lns], ‘ugliness, wickedness’ [BAGD], ‘obscenity’ [WBC; NIV], ‘shameless (talk)’ [AB], ‘shameful talk’ [NIC], ‘obscene (talk)’ [NAB, NRSV], ‘obscene (language)’ [TEV], ‘foul (talk)’ [NJB], ‘coarse (talk)’ [REB], ‘coarse (language)’ [TNT]. This noun denotes action which is in defiance of social and moral standards together with the resulting shame, disgrace, and embarrassment [LN].
b. μωρολογία (LN 33.379) (BAGD p. 531): ‘foolish talking’ [El, MM, Rob, We; KJV], ‘foolish talk’ [BAGD, LN, WBC; NIV], ‘foolish speech’ [NIC], ‘foolish (words)’ [LN], ‘foolish (language)’ [TNT], ‘silly talk’ [AB, BAGD, Lns, NTC; NAB, NASB, NRSV], ‘stupid talk’ [LN; REB], ‘salacious talk’ [NJB], ‘profane (language)’ [TEV].
c. εὐτραπελία (LN 33.34) (BAGD p. 327): ‘wittiness’ [Lns], ‘jesting’ [El, Rob, We; KJV], ‘levity’ [NIC], ‘flippant talk’ [REB], ‘coarse jesting’ [BAGD; NASB], ‘coarse joking’ [NIV], ‘coarse jokes’ [NJB], ‘buffoonery’ [BAGD], ‘vulgar language’ [LN; TEV], ‘vulgar speech, indecent talk’ [LN], ‘vulgar talk’ [NRSV], ‘ribald talk’ [AB], ‘suggestive talk’ [NAB], ‘suggestive language’ [TNT]. This noun is also translated by a descriptive phrase: ‘wittiness in telling coarse jokes’ [NTC]. This noun denotes coarse joking which involves vulgar expressions and indecent content [LN].
d. imperfect act. indic. (impersonal) of ἀνήκω (LN 66.1) (BAGD 2. p. 66): ‘to be proper’ [BAGD, Lns], ‘to be fitting’ [BAGD, LN, NIC, WBC; NASB, TEV], ‘to befit’ [Rob, We], ‘to be right’ [LN], ‘to be convenient’ [KJV]. The negated verb οὐκ ἀνῆκεν ‘it is not proper’ is also translated ‘to be improper’ [AB, NTC], ‘to be unbecoming’ [El], ‘to be out of place’ [NAB, NIV, REB], ‘to be entirely out of place’ [NRSV], ‘to be no room for’ [TNT], ‘to be wrong’ [NJB]. The relative clause ἃ οὐκ ἀνῆκεν ‘which are not proper’ is translated: ‘all this is wrong for you’ [NJB], ‘these things are out of place’ [REB].
QUESTION—What is meant by αἰσχρότης ‘filthiness/filthy speech’?
1. It refers to filthy conduct in general [Alf, BAGD, Cal, Ea, EGT, El, Ho, IB, ICC, ISBE, ISBE2, LJ, LN (88.149), My, My-ed, NCBC, NTC, Rob, TNTC, We; KJV, NASB]: obscene behavior. It refers, in general, to shameless, immoral conduct [EGT, ISBE2], ethical uncleanness [ISBE2], or to anything that is morally hateful or disgusting, in either speech or conduct [Ho, LJ]. It refers to anything which opposes the purity of the believer [Ea], anything that is indecent [Cal, Ea], anything that is inconsistent with the modesty of believers [Cal]. The context obviously limits the reference of this noun to uncleanness and sins of the flesh [El].
2. It refers to filthy speech [AB, Ba, CBC, EBC, ECWB, LN (33.34, 33.379), Lns, MNTC, NIC, Rob, St, TD, TH, WBC, WeBC; all versions except KJV, NASB]: obscene talk. The fact that this term is separated from the vices of 5:3 [ECWB] and is connected to the two sins of speech here [ECWB, TD, WBC, WeBC] indicates that Paul uses it as equivalent to αἰσχρολογία ‘obscene speech’ [ECWB, TD, TH, WBC, WeBC]. The noun αἰσχρότης ‘filthy speech’ can be used as a synonym of αἰσχρολογία ‘obscene speech’ [AB, EBC]. The last two vices illuminate the αἰσχρότης ‘filthy speech’, showing that it is not general conduct [WBC], but obscene conversation which the word here denotes, as the Col. 3:8 parallel with its αἰσχρολογία ‘obscene speech’ suggests [WBC, WeBC].
QUESTION—What is meant by μωρολογία ‘foolish talk’?
1. This noun refers to idle ‘chit-chat’ or frivolity [Ba, Ho, LJ, Lns, My, NIC, WBC]. This is talk which is not suited to instruct, edify, or profit anyone [Ba]. The context indicates that both μωρολογία ‘foolish talk’ and the following noun, εὐτραπελία ‘wittiness/coarse joking’, have sexual connotations [Lns, WBC]. This is the frivolous, senseless talk of fools [Ho], empty thoughtless chatter [LJ].
2. This noun refers to talk characteristic of those the Bible describes as fools [Alf, Ea, ECWB, My-ed, NCBC, TD]. This refers to any talk which is offensive to Christian decency and sobriety [Ea]. The ‘fool’, as the Bible presents him, is a man who acknowledges no standards of morality and rejects belief in God [NCBC]. It is talk which no longer discerns between right and wrong, foolish and wise, or noble and base [ECWB, NCBC]. It is a reference to false teaching [TD].
3. This noun refers to both of the above kinds of talk [Cal, El]. This refers to talk which is either unprofitable or wickedly foolish [Cal]. Trench is probably right in adding to the ordinary meaning of idle, aimless, foolish talk a reference to the sin and vanity of spirit which is typical of the talk of fools [El].
4. This noun refers to stupid chatter or silly twaddle [EBC, NTC, TH, TNTC]. This is the kind of talk one would expect to hear from a drunkard or a fool [NTC, TH, TNTC].
QUESTION—What is the function of the particle ἤ ‘or’?
1. This disjunctive particle sets off εὐτραπελία ‘wittiness/coarse joking’ as a different kind of speech from μωρολογία ‘foolish talk’ [AB, Alf, Ea, El, Rob]. The particle helps prepare the way for the play on words in the contrast of εὐτραπελία ‘wittiness/coarse joking’ and εὐχαριστία ‘thanksgiving’ [Rob].
2. This sets off εὐτραπελία ‘wittiness/coarse joking’ as a species of μωρολογία ‘foolish talk’ [Ba, Cal, Can, EBC, ECWB, Lns, St, We]. The force of the ἤ ‘or’ between these two nouns may be paraphrased as ‘foolish talking’ or ‘ready wit’ [We].
QUESTION—What is meant by εὐτραπελία ‘wittiness/coarse joking’?
1. This is used in what pagans regarded as the good sense of the term [Alf, Ba, Cal, ECWB, El, Ho, NIC, Rob, TD, TNTC, We, WeBC]: wittiness or jesting. The meaning here is evidently ‘jesting’ or ‘levity’, the reference being to that which is light and trifling in conversation [Ba] and which could lead, all too often, to the borderline of impropriety [Rob, TNTC]. Still, the word itself, here, appears untainted [Rob]. The Greek term εὐτραπελία ‘wit’ was often used by pagan writers for that ready and ingenious pleasantry in which intelligent and able men properly indulge. But as idle talk is frequently concealed under the garb of jesting or wit, the apostle condemns it as a part of μωρολογία ‘foolish talk’ [Cal]. This is a kind of ‘joking’ which is versatile and finds occasion for wit or levity in anything, however sacred. Where μωρολογία ‘foolish talk’ is coarse and brutal, εὐτραπελία ‘wittiness’ is refined and deadly [ECWB].
2. This is used in the bad sense of the term [AB, BAGD, Can, Ea, EBC, EGT, IB, ICC, ISBE, LJ, LN, Lns, MNTC, My, My-ed, NCBC, NTC, Si, St, TH, WBC]: coarse or vulgar joking. Both μωρολογία ‘foolish talk’ and εὐτραπελία ‘wittiness’ are probably allusions to coarse joking, the cheapest kind of wit [St]. This is clever, polished, witty talk which has a tendency to be harmful and sinful. It can be suggestive, ribald [LJ], and scurrilous [LJ, My]. The determinative content of 5:3 [EBC] indicates the apostle seems to refer to wit in connection with licentious speech [ICC, Lns], lewdness and coarse joking [Ea, EBC, LJ, Lns, My-ed, NCBC, TH, WBC], or double entendre [Ea, EBC, LJ, My-ed, TH, WBC]. The writer is not condemning good clean merriment [IB, My-ed], but to the practice of making jokes of indecency [IB].
Glenn Graham, An Exegetical Summary of Ephesians, 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2008), 418–421.”
“3. We come now to the third sin enumerated, ‘ and jesting,’ eutrapelia.
Here we must state this matter. Is all jesting unlawful and misbecoming of Christians?
[1.] My answer must be negative; for honest recreation and moderate laughter, to fit the mind for serious things, is certainly lawful: Eccles. 3: 4, ‘There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh;’ and honest and pleasant discourses are, at fit times and opportunities, lawful and edifying, as they tend to maintain cheerfulness of mind, and alacrity of spirit, which is profitable both to our health and duty: Prov. 17:22, ‘A merry heart doth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones.’ Why then should we not exercise our tongues facetiously, as well as any other member? But then—
[2.] I must tell you that, in recreating our spirits with pleasant and delightful discourse, it is an hard matter to keep within the bounds of lawful and allowed mirth. There is an easy passage from what is allowed to what is forbidden: ‘The fool’s heart is in the house of mirth,’ Eccles. 7: 4, 5; whereas the house of mourning is more profitable for us in this mixed estate.
[3.] In the use of it, all due circumstances must be observed; as—
(1.) In the matter. On the one side, filthiness and sin must not be matter of jesting; for that always is matter of grief and shame to us, whether we reflect upon it as committed by ourselves or others. It is a dunghill mirth that must have somewhat unclean to feed it. On the other side, nothing sacred. It is profane and impious for men to abuse scripture, to vent the conceptions of their light and wanton wits. No; there must be still a care, as of Christian sobriety, that nothing sinful, so of Christian piety, that nothing sacred, may be the matter of our mirth.
(2.) For the manner. It must be harmless to others, not making sport with their sins or miseries; for that is against charity, which ‘rejoiceth not in evil,’ ouk epicharekakei, 1 Cor. 13:6. Especially not to mock at parents, magistrates, and others whom for their age, gifts, or office we are bound to reverence. Yea, we must consider what others are able to bear, not making ourselves merry with their infirmities, nor using such offensive jests and tart reflections on their personal imperfections as may provoke them to wrath and anger.
(3.) For the measure. Not excessive wasting the time in vain, especially not habituating the mind to levity; that is scurrility when men accustom themselves so to vain jesting that they cannot possibly be serious; they can as well be immortal as serious. This hardeneth the heart in impenitency, and maketh some men look like professed jesters rather than Christians. They have hardened themselves in the excess of a jocular way, that a man cannot tell whenever they are serious. And so, for the warning of the world, God hangeth up some in the chains of this sin, as well as others as instances for gluttony, whoredom, and drunkenness.
(4.) For the time. Not when God calleth us to mourning or more serious employments should it be taken in hand. To be jesting in public calamities is to affront God’s providence. And business must not give way to sport. Our true mirth lieth in our duty, and that must have the chief place, especially in its season.
(5.) The end and use must not be forgotten. Our great end is to serve and glorify God, and everything that we do must have respect to it, and be proportioned by it. As the apostle speaketh of other passions of soul: 2 Cor. 5:13, ‘If we be beside ourselves, it is for God; if we be sober, it is for your sakes.’ In all tempers he minded the glory of God and their good. So in other passions; sorrow is allowable, as it worketh repentance unto salvation; so mirth, as it doth exhilarate the spirits for the service of God, and as it may be useful to our great end; it is therefore to be allowed only so far as it is concomitant with, and subservient unto better things.”
There are some other evils of the tongue here forbidden, the hurt whereof does not so plainly appear.
1. Talkativeness, or much speaking. Some are ever talking, and are never in their element but when prattling; and when once they loose, it is as hard to stop them as to stop a flood, and turn it another way. Of it I say,
(1.) It is a sign of a loose and frothy heart, where the fear of God hath little place, Eccles 5:2; for that would make our words few, true, weighty, and useful. When God has given us two ears, and but one tongue, that we may be swift to hear and slow to speak, it is a pregnant evidence of a naughty heart, to be swift to speak and slow to hear.
(2.) It is the fool’s badge, Eccles 5:3. Talkative persons, for want of acquaintance with themselves, thinking to shew themselves wise, ordinarily present a fool to the company. They will have a flood of words, who have hardly a drop of good sense or judgment; so that they are just a voice, and no more. They that are given to much speaking, can hardly speak either true or well; which made an orator ask a double fee of a talkative scholar, one to learn him to speak well, another to learn him to hold his peace. It is the character of a virtuous woman, that “she openeth her mouth with wisdom,” Prov 31:26. Her mouth is not always open, but duly shut, and discreetly opened.
2. Idle speaking, Matt 12:36. The tongue was given to man to be for the honour of God, and the good of himself and neighbour. Though our words, then, be not evil in themselves, they are evil because they are idle; that is, words spoken to no good purpose, tending neither to the honour of God nor the good of ourselves or others: neither to his moral good, to make him more holy, nor to his civil good, as not being upon the necessary concerns of human life, nor his natural good, to maintain the moderate cheerfulness of society. It may be comprehended under foolish talking, rash, raving, and impertinent discourse, doing no good to the hearers, but bewraying the folly of the speaker.
3. A trade of jesting, Eph 5:4. It is not sinful to pass an innocent jest for begetting of moderate cheerfulness. The wise man tells us, “There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh,” Eccles 3:4. It may in some cases be necessary to cheer the spirits, as a cordial is to restore them, or a pleasant gale of wind to purify the air. It was not unbecoming the gravity of the prophet to mock Baal’s priests, and to say, “Cry aloud; for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is on a journey; or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awakened,” 1 Kings 18:27. But sinful are,
(1.) Offensive jests, which tend to the shewing a despising of our neighbour, to the irritating or provoking of him. And indeed it is often seen, that those who are much given that way, their conversation is most offensive, sparing neither friend nor foe, and will rather lose their friend than their jest.
(2.) Profane jests, either making a mock of sin, or of that which is holy, particularly wresting and abusing scripture, to express the conceits of their light and wanton wits. It is a dangerous thing to jest in such matters.
(3.) People’s being immoderate in jesting. To make every word a jest is liker the stage than Christian gravity. This is as absurd as to present a man a dish of salt to feed on; a little of it is good for seasoning, but to give it for the whole entertainment, is absurd.”
“Eph 5:4. Neither filthiness; obscenity in discourse, filthy communication, Col 3:8. Nor foolish talking; affectation of foolish, vain speech, (whether jocose or serious,) unprofitable, to the hearers. Nor jesting; either the same as the former, as may seem by the disjunctive particle nor, which may be by way of explication; or (which is of kin to it) scurrility in discourse, which is many times, by them that are addicted to it, called by the name of urbanity, or jesting: for all that jesting is not here condemned appears by 1 Kings 18:27; Isa 14:11. Which are not convenient; viz. for saints. But rather giving of thanks; i.e. to God for mercies received, which will better cheer up and recreate the mind than foolish talking and jesting can.”
“Neither filthiness (Eph 5:4), by which may be understood all wanton and unseemly gestures and behaviour; nor foolish talking, obscene and lewd discourse, or, more generally, such vain discourse as betrays much folly and indiscretion, and is far from edifying the hearers; nor jesting. The Greek word eu)trapeli/a is the same which Aristotle, in his Ethics, makes a virtue: pleasantness of conversation. And there is no doubt an innocent and inoffensive jesting, which we cannot suppose the apostle here forbids. Some understand him of such scurrilous and abusive reflections as tend to expose others and to make them appear ridiculous. This is bad enough: but the context seems to restrain it to such pleasantry of discourse as is filthy and obscene, which he may also design by that corrupt, or putrid and rotten, communication that he speaks of, Eph 4:29. Of these things he says, They are not convenient. Indeed there is more than inconvenience, even a great deal of mischief, in them. They are so far from being profitable that they pollute and poison the hearers. But the meaning is, Those things do not become Christians, and are very unsuitable to their profession and character. Christians are allowed to be cheerful and pleasant; but they must be merry and wise. The apostle adds, But rather giving of thanks: so far let the Christian’s way of mirth be from that of obscene and profane wit, that he may delight his mind, and make himself cheerful, by a grateful remembrance of God’s goodness and mercy to him, and by blessing and praising him on account of these. Note, 1. We should take all occasions to render thanksgivings and praises to God for his kindness and favours to us. 2. A reflection on the grace and goodness of God to us, with a design to excite our thankfulness to him, is proper to refresh and delight the Christian’s mind, and to make him cheerful. Dr. Hammond thinks that eu)trapeli/a may signify gracious, pious, religious discourse in general, by way of opposition to what the apostle condemns. Our cheerfulness, instead of breaking out into what is vain and sinful, and a profanation of God’s name, should express itself as becomes Christians, and in what may tend to his glory. If men abounded more in good and pious expressions, they would not be so apt to utter ill and unbecoming words; for shall blessing and cursing, lewdness and thanksgivings, proceed out of the same mouth?”
John Brown of Haddington:
“IV. Whatsoever tends both to the injuring truth and our own and neighbour’s good name, as, 1. An excessive readiness to speak in company; by which we manifest the frothiness and pride of our heart, and mark ourselves fools, Eccles 5:2-3; Eccles 10:14; Prov 14:23; Prov 10:19; Prov 12:23; Prov 13:3,6; Prov 15:2,14; Prov 17:27; Prov 29:11,20. 2. Idle talk, which has no tendency to promote any good end, either civil or religious, Matt 12:36; Eph 5:4. 3. Inordinate jesting, Eph 5:4. 4.”
“‘there is a kind of smiling and joyful laughter…which may stand…with the best man’s piety.’”
“Wit without innocence will offend others; innocence without wit is foolishness. Prudentia sine simplicitate malitia; simplicitas sine prudentia stultitia, — Wit without innocence is wickedness; innocence without wit is foolishness. Whosoever hath the one and wants the other, must needs be guilty of folly or of dishonesty. Lest we be too crafty, and circumvent others, let us keep the innocency of the dove; lest we be too simple, and others circumvent us, let us keep the wisdom of the serpent.”
The above quotes furnished by R. Andrew Myers
Heidelberg Catechism q 112:
Q & A 112
Q. What is the aim of the ninth commandment?
A. That I never give false testimony against anyone, twist no one’s words, not gossip or slander, nor join in condemning anyone rashly or without a hearing.1 Rather, in court and everywhere else, I should avoid lying and deceit of every kind; these are the very devices the devil uses, and they would call down on me God’s intense wrath.2 I should love the truth, speak it candidly, and openly acknowledge it.3 And I should do what I can to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name.4
1 Ps. 15; Prov. 19:5; Matt. 7:1; Luke 6:37; Rom. 1:28-32 2 Lev. 19:11-12; Prov. 12:22; 13:5; John 8:44; Rev. 21:8 3 1 Cor. 13:6; Eph. 4:25 4 1 Pet. 3:8-9; 4:8”
Fishers Catechism on the 9th Commandment:
“Q. 1. What does this command forbid in general?
A. Whatsoever is prejudicial to truth.
Q. 2. What are we to understand, by that which is prejudicial to truth?
A. All falsehood and lying of whatever kind, James 3:14 — “Lie not against the truth.”
Q. 3. What is the formal nature and meaning of a LIE?
A. It is voluntarily to speak or express what we know to be false, as the old prophet at Bethel did to the man of God, 1 Kings 13:18.
Q. 4. How is a lie aggravated?
A. When it is uttered with a design to deceive, and to harm others by it; like the devil, when he said, “Ye shall not surely die. — Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil,” Gen. 3:4, 5″
The Larger catechism:
“Q. 144. What are the duties required in the ninth commandment?
A. The duties required in the ninth commandment are, the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbor, as well as our own; appearing and standing for the truth; and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things whatsoever; a charitable esteem of our neighbors; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for and covering of their infirmities; freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocency; a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them; discouraging talebearers, flatterers, and slanderers; love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requireth; keeping of lawful promises; studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report.
Q. 145. What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbors, as well as our own, especially in public judicature; giving false evidence, suborning false witnesses, wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, outfacing and overbearing the truth; passing unjust sentence, calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked; forgery, concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calleth for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others; speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful or equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of the truth or justice; speaking untruth, lying, slandering, backbiting, detracting, talebearing, whispering, scoffing, reviling, rash, harsh, and partial censuring; misconstructing intentions, words, and actions; flattering, vainglorious boasting, thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others; denying the gifts and graces of God; aggravating smaller faults; hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession; unnecessary discovering of infirmities; raising false rumors, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defense; evil suspicion; envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any; endeavoring or desiring to impair it, rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy; scornful contempt, fond admiration; breach of lawful promises; neglecting such things as are of good report, and practicing, or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering what we can in others, such things as procure an ill name.”
Turretin on the 9th Commandment