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What is the root definition of the word judge in the below scripture? Does it correlate to the currently accepted definition of judge?

Judge not, that ye be not judged. (Matthew 7:1 KJV)

Currently Accepted Definition**

Form an opinion or conclusion about.

** currently accepted definition via this Google search

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3 Answers 3

The exact word you are asking about is κρίνω, which is actually rarely used in the New Testament, only three times outside the gospels. However many other derivative of the same word translated as ‘judge’, ‘judges’, ‘judgment’ that all carry the same root meaning. I will therefore answer the broader root meaning of them all.

According to Kittel’s TDNT the basic sense in Greek literature is ‘to part,’ ‘to sift,’ which leads to the sense ‘to divide out’, ‘to select’, ‘to value’, with the most common meaning is ‘to decide’. From this root is also means ‘to judge’, ‘to assess’, ‘to go to law, to dispute with’. Also ‘to seek justice,’ or ‘to be accused’.

In the LXX (Greek Old Testament) it is predominantly used for ‘legal’ words. It is used for the Hebrew שׁפט which carries the double sense ‘to rule’ and ‘judge’.

From these roots we can understand that the word, when used is basically to asses and resolve with the implication of being being able to be taken under the idea to ‘rule’. Therefore that basic meaning that can transition into the context of both official judgement and personal judgments carrying a legal tone. Here ‘seeking justice’ can easily become a personal door to bitterness, arrogance, assuming a higher position of ourselves over others, etc.

One verse outside of the gospels that used the exact word in question shows the usage of all these sense all together:

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment (κρίνω ) before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Co 4:3–5, ESV).

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There isn't anything fancy to find here, the word krino means pretty much what it means in English, and has similarly strong legal overtones. "Form an opinion or conclusion about" seems a fair definition, especially as I say when the legal color is factored in.

However, there is deeper point about the literal meaning of this verse. Are we to make no judgements at all? That would be silly, we have to make judgements every second of the day. For example in Luke 7:43

Simon answered and said, I suppose that [he], to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. (Luke 7:43)

Jesus praises Peter for making a judgement (using a form of this same word.) This verse gives the meaning of the verb in action, and is a great illustration of what "judge" means.

So clearly there is something going on with this verse beyond the literal.

However, we don't really need to look far to understand the meaning. It is given in the very next verse:

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (Mat 7:2)

It is essentially a form of the golden rule on steroids. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", instead we have "What you do unto others is what is going to be done unto you", perhaps caveat emptor needs to be appended to the phrase.

Of course, none of this matters for those who live under the gracious forgiveness of sins and redemption of Christ. For those blessed souls the lesson is "whatever you did wrong against others was done unto Christ too." And that is a lesson which is both comforting and disturbing at the same time.

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Most of the time in today's church we are forming an opinion. And, usually, we know very little about the situation or person. So, what is our motive when we judge in this way? Is it love? No. And what does scripture say? It says that if we do not love people who we can see, how can we claim to love God who we cannot see. Also it says that the watching world will know we are of Jesus if we love. If we truly love, we will not judge simply to form an opinion or to size someone up. This is carnal. If we are of God, we are of the Spirit. So, judging in this way is wrong. But if we lovingly discern a problem and admonish another believer to help him or her grow, then it is proper.

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