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Greek Word Study - Guile

If you had to sum up a man's whole character in a single line, what words would you choose? Jesus summed up Nathanael in this way: “an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile” (John 1:47). I find it fascinating that the sum total of what we know of this disciple is simply this—“no guile.”

The Greek word for “guile” was dolos (DOH loss). It originally referred to bait for fish, and later included any cunning contrivance for deceiving or catching. In fact, the ancient Greek name for a mousetrap was “a wooden dolos.” From this beginning the word dolos came to mean “guile” – using clever deceit to accomplish one’s own purposes.

The Greeks seem to have approved dolos. The famed Trojan Horse was a dolos to gain entrance to the city of Troy and conquer it. One of their greatest heroes, Odysseus, used dolos to escape the giant Cyclops, while back home his sweet wife Penelope was using dolos to fend off her would-be suitors. All these stories were told with pride.
But in the Bible dolos is never approved. To the contrary, David said, “Blessed is the man in whose spirit there is no dolos” (Psalm 32:2). Jesus warned against the evil which comes out of the heart—murder, adultery, guile (Mark 7:22). It was with guile that the Jewish leaders plotted to kill Jesus (Mark 14:1) and they finally succeeded, crucifying the One in whose mouth no guile was found (1 Peter 2:22). If we are to wear His name, we too must put away all malice, guile, and insincerity (1 Peter 2:1).

As always, there are two roads. The easy road was traveled by Elymas the sorcerer, that “son of the devil, full of all guile” (Acts 13:10). The nobler road was traveled by Jesus, and by his disciple in whom there was no guile.