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

6 Answers 6


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).


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.


It is apparent that "judge not least ye be judged does not mean the same thing to everybody". Now Jesus must have had a real meaning in mind when he said that. I suggest we have to look at his other teachings to discern what that might be.

Also, I think he showed us by example what it means. He was crucified by Jewish and Roman authorities, yet He said on the cross " Forgive them Father for they know not what they do- he did not judge them did he? Perhaps another way of saying it is "Love your enemy" which, in my opinion, is better said by saying "Don't hate your enemy".

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I am going with Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon def. which in my opinion hits the root meaning of this word and it's usage in the afore mentioned passage. "of those who judge severely (unfairly), finding fault with this or that in others". This is to me the true meaning of this word in this text of passage. and its rightly divided as such.


Judgement or dividing right from wrong is already done for us through the Word of God (John 12:48). We are to use this judgement firstly to compare our lives with the Word of God (1 John 1:9) and agree with God that I have judged myself and found to be against the Word of God. This is how I have continued to grow as a Christian. I have been judged by the Word in an area of my life and I don't line up so I confess (judge) and let the Supreme Judge do what only He can do. We cannot judge the intent of the heart for others and sometimes it is hard for us to do that with our own hearts. 1 Kings 8:39 only God can discern our motives and thought but we can judge the actions but we are to be careful that we don't judge unjustly or with biases. God judges but then gives us grace and mercy to help make a decision out of love. (Romans 5:8)

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There are so many shades and colors of the word 'Judge' in the Bible as found over 700 times. There's 1 whole book of the Bible entitled "Judges" for it was written at a time when God raised up judges to lead His people. As Christians, God expects us to exercise judgment (Psa37:30) "The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment." A righteous person will talk of judgment. He will not REFUSE to judge. He will talk judgment. There are major variation of the word 'judge' namely : 1) 2919 (krinō) originally meant "separate" typically refers to making a determination of innocence or guilt, as used in Matth 7:1 which is a divine judgment. 2) 8199 (shaphat) used in 1 king 3:9 when Solomon asked wisdom from God which meant specifically to decide controversy, discriminate between persons in civil, political, domestic and religious questions. 3) 350 anakrinó used in 1 Corinth 2:15 which refers to scrutinize, i.e.(by implication) investigate, interrogate, determine by asking question, discern, examine, judge, search. Good example of this is the Bereans (Acts 17:11) who examine the scriptures to verify Paul's teaching.

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    "1) 2919 (krinō) originally meant "separate" typically refers to making a determination of innocence or guilt, as used in Matth 7:1 which is a divine judgment." ◄ That is your assertion, but you've not proven it. You need to demonstrate how you arrived at that conclusion, since, after all, the original question asked about the definition of the word "judge" in Matt. 7:1. Please don't simply tell us what you know; please tell us how you know it.
    – user862
    Jun 8, 2016 at 15:28

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