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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Conversation

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(דֶּרֶךְ, de'rek way, Psalms 38:14; Psalms 1, 23; Apocrypha and N.T. ἀναστροφή, but τρόπος in 2 Maccabees 20:12; Hebrews 13:5) is never used in the Scriptures in the sense of verbal communication, but always in its now obsolete meaning of course of life or deportment, including all one's words and acts. In Philippians 1:27; Philippians 3:20, a different term is found in the original (πολιτεύομαι, πολίτευμα ), which literally signifies residence, or relations to a community as a citizen. (See CITIZENSHIP).

Orientals are little in the habit of repairing to each other's houses for the purpose of social intercourse, but rather prefer to resort to some spot out of doors, where friends can meet together, and for this purpose the gate of the city is generally chosen. (See GATE). Such was the custom of old, and, accordingly, we find that to each city among the Jews there was an open space near the gate, which was fitted up with seats for the accommodation of the people (Genesis 19:1; Psalms 69:12). Those who were at leisure occupied a position on these seats, and either amused themselves with witnessing those who came in and went out, and with any trifling occurrences that might present themselves to their notice, or attended to the judicial trials, which were commonly investigated at public places of this kind (Genesis 34:20; Ruth 4:11; Psalms 26:4-5; Psalms 127:5). Promenading, so agreeable in colder latitudes, is wearisome and unpleasant in the warm climates of the East, and this is probably one reason why the inhabitants of those climates preferred holding intercourse with one another while sitting near the gate of the city, or beneath the shade of the fig-tree and the vine (1 Samuel 22:6; Micah 4:4).

This mode of passing the time is still customary in the East. "It is no uncommon thing," says Mr. Jowett, "to see an individual or a group of persons, even when very well dressed, sitting with their feet drawn under them, upon the bare earth, passing whole hours in idle conversation. Europeans would require a chair, but the natives here (Syria) prefer the ground; in the heat of summer and autumn, it is pleasant to them to while away their time in this manner under the shade of a tree. Richly-adorned females, as well as men, may often be seen thus amusing themselves."

The Orientals, when engaged in conversation, are, in general, very mild in their demeanor, and do not feel themselves at liberty directly to contradict the person with whom they are conversing, although they may at the same time be aware that he is telling them falsehoods. The ancient Hebrews, in particular, very rarely used any terms of reproach more severe than those of שָׂטָן, satan', meaning "adversary," or "opposer;" רֵיקָה, reykah', paccia, "contemptible;" and sometimes נָבָל, nabal', "fool," an expression which means "a wicked man," or "an atheist," not, as with us, a person deficient in understanding (Job 2:10; Psalms 14:1; Isaiah 32:6; Matthew 5:22; Matthew 16:23). (See FOOL).

When anything was said which was not acceptable, the dissatisfied person replied, "Let it suffice thee" (Deuteronomy 3:26), or "It is enough" (Luke 22:38). In addressing a superior, the Hebrews did not commonly use the pronouns of the first and second person, but instead of "I," they said "thy servant,"' and instead of "thou," they employed the words "my lord." Instances of this mode of expression repeatedly occur in Scripture (as in Genesis 32:4; Genesis 44:16; Genesis 44:19; Genesis 46:34; Daniel 10:17; Luke 1:38). The form of assent or affirmation was, "Thou hast said," or "Thou hast rightly said;" and modern travelers inform us that this is the prevailing mode of a person's expressing his assent or affirmation to this day in some parts of the East, especially when they do not wish to assert anything in express terms (comp. Matthew 26:64). (See AFFIRMATIVE).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Conversation'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/c/conversation.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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