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Greek Word Study - Babbler

It was not enough for Caligula to be emperor of the whole Roman Empire. He also wanted to be worshipped as a god. While some of the provinces were willing to add him to their list of gods, Judea refused to worship any but the one true God. To push the matter along, Caligula got the idea of erecting a huge gold-covered statue in the temple in Jerusalem. (What was he thinking? Was the man crazy?)

Actually, the idea was not his own. Caligula was following the advice of Helicon, his Egyptian courtier and bootlicker. The Jewish writer Philo says Helicon was “a scorpion in the form of a slave, a scrap retailer, a piece of riffraff.” These were not flattering terms!

The word Philo used for “scrap retailer” was spermologos (sper mo LOG ass). It literally meant a “seed picker,” like the gutter-sparrows that picked up spilled seed in the market place. Then it came to apply to men who were lowly scavengers, collecting and selling scraps. Finally, it was an insulting term for men who had no ideas of their own, but picked up and parroted scraps from others.

When the philosophers of Athens heard Paul preaching they belittled him: “What is this babbler trying to say?” (Acts 17:18). With this word they accused Paul of being a “seed picker” – a scrap peddler, a mindless babbler with only discarded bits of ideas. In this accusation they were totally wrong.

But every preacher should ask himself, “Would they be wrong about me?” Am I a mere plagiarist? Do I do my own thinking? Am I feeding the flock with discarded scraps? Surely one of the greatest possible insults for any preacher of God's Word is this: “He's just a seed picker”