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It is strange that fraud and slander are discussed together in the book for elders, “Shepherd The Flock Of God” because the two concepts are unrelated. The reason for this is that the GB has decided that the words “speak to the congregation” in Matthew 18:17 means that the offenses implied are disfellowshipping offenses. Using Sherlockian type reasoning, the current understanding of this Scripture is merely a deduction, based on an amalgam of assumptions and speculative premises, that has resulted in the most outrageous example of doctrinal guesswork on the part of the GB to date! And despite the dubious nature of this argument, on top of the fact that the Scriptural account does not even mention these two offenses, the Shepherd book boldly declares “fraud and slander” to be disfellowshipping offenses as if these two words were lifted directly from the pages of the Bible itself.

The reasoning is as follows: Because the offenses that are implied in Matthew 18:15-17 can be forgiven by one person, they cannot refer to those disfellowshipping offenses that must be considered by a judicial committee. The only two disfellowshipping offenses that can be forgiven by one person is fraud and slander, according to the GB.  However, no scriptural analysis is presented to back up that assertion, and this is because no such scriptural support exists. In fact, the whole convoluted line of reasoning in connection with Matthew 18:15-17 is erroneous.

The concept “fraud” is the crime to get money by deceiving people, and “slander” is a false statement spoken about someone that damages his or her reputation.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word rākil is an umbrella term that can include the idea of “slander,” and so it can rightly be translated as such. But its meaning can also be “gossip,” which is much weaker than “slander.” Whether the strong or weak meaning of a rakil is intended in a particular context is difficult to know.

In the Christian Greek Scriptures, only the noun diabolos can rightly be translated as “slander”. But this word does not occur in a context where disfellowshipping is discussed. NWT13 translates three different Greek words as “slander.”

The NWT13 has the rendering “slander” in five verses. In two of these instances, it may be a biased rendering. The renderings seem to have been chosen to support “slander” as a disfellowshipping offense but without good linguistic backing.

The Greek word katalalia means “evil speech”. However, the specification of what kind of evil speech is meant must be construed on the basis of the context. The word occurs two times, and in both instances, it is translated as “backbiting” by NWT13. It is true that the meaning of “backbiting” comes close to the meaning of “slander.” But the context of those Scriptures does not show the nature of the evil speech, and therefore the rendering “backbiting” is too specific. The neutral rendering “evil speech” would have been a better alternative.

The conclusion is that nowhere in the Christian Greek Scriptures is “slander” shown to be a disfellowshipping offense. Therefore, the entry as such in the Shepherd book is made up and invented by the GB without any basis in the Bible.

The book “Shepherd The Flock Of God” chapter 12, point 24, says regarding fraud and slander:

Fraud, Slander: (Lev. 19:16; Matt. 18:15-17: w97 3/ 15 pp. 17-22: it-1 pp. 870. 989-991; od pp. 136-138 pars. 13-20: lvs p. 163) Fraud is defined as the intentional use of deception, trickery, or perversion of truth for the purpose of inducing another to part with some valuable thing belonging to him or to give up a legal right. Slander is defined as a false report meant to do harm to the good name and reputation of another. Such talk is generally malicious. Slander is not identical to negative gossip. Negative gossip may be true; slander is always false. Negative gossip requires counsel but not judicial action. (w89 10/15 p. 10; it-1 p. 990 par. 2) The congregation would not consider forming a judicial committee unless the offended Christian had taken steps one and two of Mathew 18:15, 16 and had initiated step three as described in Matthey 18.17.—lvs pp. 253-254.


The concepts “fraud” and “slander” are not related in any way. So it is strange that the two are grouped together as one point. The reason for this odd coupling is the Governing Body’s interpretation of the words of Jesus in Matthew 18 15-17 NWT13 as we read in the book Organized to Do Jehovah’s Will (2005) pages 145, 146:


13 Willingness to overlook offenses and to forgive does not mean that we are unconcerned about wrongdoing or that we approve of it. Not all wrongs can be charged to inherited imperfection; nor is it proper to overlook wrongs that go beyond minor offenses. (Lev. 19:17; Ps. 141:5) The Law covenant recognized that some sins are more serious than others, and the same is true in the Christian arrangement.​—1 John 5:16, 17.

14 Jesus outlined a specific procedure for solving serious problems that may arise between fellow Christians. Note the steps that he set out: “If your brother commits a sin, [1] go and reveal his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, [2] take along with you one or two more, so that on the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. If he does not listen to them, [3] speak to the congregation. If he does not listen even to the congregation, let him be to you just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector.”​—Matt. 18:15-17.

15 In view of the illustration that Jesus subsequently gave, recorded at Matthew 18:23-35, it appears that one of the sins considered at Matthew 18:15-17 involves financial or property matters, such as failing to repay a loan or committing fraud. Or the offense might be slander, which seriously affects someone’s reputation.

16 If you have evidence that someone in the congregation has committed such a sin against you, do not be hasty to turn to the elders, asking them to intervene on your behalf. As Jesus counseled, speak first with the one against whom you have the complaint. Try to resolve the matter between just the two of you without involving anyone else. Keep in mind that Jesus did not say ‘go only once and reveal his fault.’ Therefore, if the person did not admit the wrong and ask forgiveness, it may be good to consider approaching him again later. If the matter can be resolved in this way, the one who sinned will certainly appreciate that you have not told others about his sin or marred his good reputation in the congregation. You will have “gained your brother.”

17 If the one who committed the offense accepts responsibility, seeks forgiveness, and takes steps to right the wrong, there is no need to carry the matter further. Although the sin was serious, an offense of this kind can be settled between the individuals involved.

18 If you are not able to gain your brother by revealing his fault “between you and him alone,” then you may do as Jesus said, “take along with you one or two more,” and speak with your brother again. Those whom you take with you should also have the objective of gaining your brother. Preferably, they would be witnesses of the alleged wrongdoing, but if there are no eyewitnesses, you may choose to ask one or two more to be witnesses to the discussion. They may have experience in the matter at issue and may be able to establish whether what occurred was truly a wrong. Elders chosen to act as witnesses do not represent the congregation, since the body of elders has not specifically assigned them to do so.

19 If the matter has not been resolved after repeated efforts​—you spoke with him alone and you went to him with one or two others—​and you feel that you cannot let it pass, then you should report the matter to the overseers of the congregation. Remember that their goal is to maintain the peace and cleanness of the congregation. Having approached the elders, you will want to leave the matter in their hands and trust in Jehovah. Never should you allow the conduct of someone else to stumble you or to rob you of your joy in Jehovah’s service.​—Ps. 119:165.

20 The shepherds of the flock will investigate the matter. If it becomes evident that the person has indeed committed a serious sin against you and is unrepentant and unwilling to make reasonable and appropriate amends, it may be necessary for a committee of overseers to expel the wrongdoer from the congregation. Thus they protect the flock and safeguard the cleanness of the congregation.​—Matt. 18:17.

There are three serious problems with expelling a Witness because of slander, 1) The account in Matthew 18 does not specifically say that “slander” was one of the offenses; the GB only surmised that it “might be slander” 2) Even if “slander” had been implied, no passage in the Christian Greek Scriptures says that slander is a disfellowshipping offense, and 3) There is nothing in the context showing that the sins alluded to in Matthew 18:15-17 refer to disfellowshipping offenses.[1]

[1]. My article “A man of the nations, a tax collector” in the category “Shunning not based on the Bible” has a detailed analysis of Matthew 18:15-17 showing that the interpretation of the GB is wrong.


The Shepherd book list “slander” as one disfellowshipping offense and “deliberate, malicious lying, bearing false witness” as a different disfellowshipping offense. Because there are some similarities between these offenses, it is important to know the differences.

The Watchtower, public edition No 1, 2016, page 5, has the following comments on “lying and slander.”


WHAT IS IT? Saying something false to someone who is entitled to know the truth. Lying can include misrepresenting or distorting facts in order to mislead a person, omitting key information to deceive someone, and exaggerating the truth in order to give a false impression.

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS: “Jehovah detests a devious person, but His close friendship is with the upright.” (Proverbs 3:32) “Now that you have put away deceit, each one of you speak truth with his neighbor.”​—Ephesians 4:25.


WHAT IS IT? Uttering false and malicious statements that injure a person’s reputation.

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS: “A troublemaker causes dissension, and a slanderer separates close friends.” (Proverbs 16:28) “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out, and where there is no slanderer, quarreling ceases.”​—Proverbs 26:20.

Slander can be defined as “a false spoken statement about someone that damages his or her reputation,” while malicious lying includes “saying something false that is deliberately harmful, harboring ill will or enmity.” In this study, the focus is on slander. In most situations, “slander” and “malicious lying” are different. But in other instances, slander can be carried out by telling malicious lies.

Slander in the Hebrew Scriptures

The Hebrew verb kal has, according to Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon the meaning “go about, from one to another (for trade for gossip).” One can trade merchandise, and one can trade words. The meaning “gossip” is weaker than “slander,” and does not include an attempt to damage a person’s reputation. The corresponding noun kīl has the meaning ”slander” according to BDB and ”slander, gossip” according to The Concise Hebrew-Aramaic Dictionary of Koehlenberger and Mounce.

Below is the translation of Leviticus 19:16 (NWT13) with the noun kīl.

16“‘You must not go around spreading slander kīl among your people. You must not stand up against the life of your fellow man. I am Jehovah.

In view of the context, it is likely that the meaning ofkīl in this verse is “slander” rather than its weaker connotation “gossip.” The LXX renders kīl in this verse with the Greek word dolos, which means “deceit, cunning.” Spreading deceit about someone is very close to spreading slander about him or her.

Slander in the Christian Greek Scriptures

In the NWT13, a form of “slander” is used five times. Three of them are translations of the Greek word diabolos, one is a translation of dysfēmeō, and one is a translation of blasfēmia. The five scriptures are as follows:

1 Corinthians 4:13:

when slandered (dysfēmeō), we answer mildly.

1 Timothy 6:4:

4 He is obsessed with arguments and debates about words. These things give rise to envy, strife, slander (blasfēmia), wicked suspicions.

John 6:70:

70 Jesus answered them: “I chose you twelve, did I not? Yet one of you is a slanderer (diabolos).”

1 Timothy 3:11:

11 Women should likewise be serious, not slanderous (diabolos), moderate in habits, faithful in all things.

2 Timothy 3:3:

3 having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers (diabolos), without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness.

Titus 2:3:

3 Likewise, let the older women be reverent in behavior, not slanderous (diabolos), not enslaved to a lot of wine, teachers of what is good.

I will now discuss the different Greek words.


This word occurs only one time in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Louw and Nida define the word in this way: “to attribute ill repute or bad reputation to.”  Mounce defines the word in the following way: “to use ill words, to reproach, revile, 1 Cor 4:13.”

As exemplified in the disparate definitions above, there is not always a consensus between lexicons on the meaning of Biblical words. One lexicon includes the idea of slander in its definition, while the other lexicon does not. It is not clear that dysfēmeō in 1 Corinthians 4:13 should be rendered by “slandered.” The contrast to the verb dysfēmeō in that verse is the verb parakaleō, which has a range of meanings and references. The definition of the UBS Greek lexicon is:

urge; encourage, speak words of encouragement; request, ask, appeal to; console, comfort, cheer up; invite, summon.

The Greek word dysfēmeō is a negative word while parakaleō is a positive word. The following contrasts between the two words are found in the English translations that I have on my computer:

Table 1.1 The renderings of dysfēmeō by different translations

New World Translation 2013 “When slandered, we answer mildly.”
New World Translation 1984 When being defamed, we entreat.
New International Version “When we slandered, we answer kindly.”
New American Bible “When slandered, we respond gently.”
New Jerusalem Bible “When we are insulted, we give a courteous answer.”
New King James Version “When defamed, we entreat.”
New Revised Standard Version “When slandered, we speak kindly.”
New Living Translation Bible We appeal gently when evil things are said about us.”
Word English Bible Being defamed, we entreat.

Why does NWT13 use “slander” for dysfēmeō in 1 Corinthians 4:13?

As 1 Corinthians 4:12 shows, the bad things that are being done are done directly against the Christians. However, when a person is slandering someone, his words are meant to injure a person’s reputation. To achieve that, the slanderer does not speak to the person himself but to someone else regarding him, because injuring the person’s reputation in the eyes of others is the slanderer’s objective. Therefore, since the Greek word rendered as “slandered” in 4:13 is directed at the Christian himself, the meaning “slander” does not seem to be fitting here.

The meaning of dysfēmeō is also using ill words and reproaching. The word in 4:13 is present middle, participle, masculine plural, nominative. This means that the word can have a passive rendering. The word parakaleō is present active, indicative, 1 plural. I suggest the following translation, “When being reproached, we are comforting.”

The conclusion is not that the rendering “when slandered” is wrong per se, but that it does not seem to fit the context of 4:13. To be sure, slander is not spoken directly to its intended victim, but ‘reviling’ and ‘reproaching’ are (4:12). Therefore, there is a strong contextual leaning in favor of the rendering “when being reproached” instead of “when slandered” (4:13).

blasfēmeō, blasfemia, blasfēmos

The meaning of the verb blasfēmeō according to UBS Greek lexicon is:

speak against God, blaspheme; speak against, slander, insult

As in the case with the verb dysfēmeō, the context must help us find the best English rendering.

According to 1 Timothy 1:20, Hymeneus and Alexander were handed over to Satan, thus being disfellowshipped, “so they should be taught not to blaspheme (blasfēmeō).” The object of their blasphemy is not stated, and it is not said that they were disfellowshipped because they were blaspheming. According to 2 Timothy 2:17, 18, and 4:14,15, Hymeneus and Alexander were disfellowshipped because they were actively spreading false teachings. In the Christian Greek Scriptures the substantive blasfemia occurs 15 times. But the word is not connected with disfellowshipping. The adjective blasfēmos occurs four times, and neither is it connected with disfellowshipping.

In 1 Timothy 6:4, there is no context that can show how blasfemia should be rendered. In such situations, it is best to choose a rendering that is neutral. Otherwise, one may read something into the text that is not there.

Below are the renderings of the 15 occurrences of the noun blasfemia in the NWT13:

Table 1.2 The renderings of blasfemia by NWT13

Matthew 26:65 the blasphemy
Mark 3:28 blasphemies
Mark 7:22 blasphemy
Mark 14:64 blasphemy
Luke 5:21 blasphemies
John 10:33 blasphemy
Ephesians 5:31 abusive speech
Colossians 3:8 abusive speech
1 Timothy 6:4 slander
Jude 9 abusive terms
Revelation 2:9 blasphemy
Revelation 13:1 blasphemous (names)
Revelation 13:5 blasphemies
Revelation 13:6 blasphemies
Revelation 17:3 blasphemous (names)

Why does NWT13 use “slander” for dysfēmeō in 1 Corinthians 4:13 and for blasfemia in  1 Timothy 6:4? This question becomes more pressing when we compare the renderings of NWT84 and NWT13.

Table 1.3 A comparison between NWT13 and NWT84

1 Corinthians 4:13 NWT13 13  when slandered, we answer mildly; we have become as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things, until now.
1 Corinthians 4:13 NWT84 13  when being defamed, we entreat; we have become as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things, until now.
1 Timothy 6:4 NWT13  he is puffed up with pride and does not understand anything. He is obsessed with arguments and debates about words. These things give rise to envy, strife, slander, wicked suspicions,
1 Timothy 6:4 NWT84  he is puffed up [with pride] not understanding  anything, but being mentally diseased over questionings and debates over words. From these spring envy, strife, abusive speeches, wicked suspicions.

There is no linguistic reason for translating blasfemia as “slander” in 1 Timothy 6:4, and while the rendering “slandered” in 1 Corinthians 4:13 is not wrong, the context speaks against this rendering, inasmuch as slander would not be addressed to the person being slandered, but rather, to others about the one being targeted for such slander.

The only reason I can see for the use of “slander” in NWT13 is to support “slander” as a disfellowshipping offense. If the word “slander” does not occur in the Christian Greek Scriptures, it would be harder to sell “slander” as a disfellowshipping offense. Particularly the use of “slander” in 1 Timothy 6:4 would seemingly support it being a disfellowshipping offense.

The members of the GB argue that the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21 are disfellowshipping offenses. The words “envy” (fthonos) and strife (eris) in 1 Timothy 6:4 are also found in Galatians 5:19-21 as works of the flesh. The word blasfemia is not listed among the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21, but if it occurs together with two other works of the flesh, say in 1 Timothy 6:4, it must also be one of the works of the flesh, and thus, also a disfellowshipping offense, according to the GB’s apparent line of reasoning. Indeed, by changing the translation of blasfemia from its NWT84 rendering as “abusive speeches,” to its new NWT13 rendering “slander,” an argument can now be made in favor of “slander” being a disfellowshipping offense.


The Greek word diabolos is rendered as a form of “slander” in John 6:70, 1 Timothy 3:11, and 2 Timothy 3:3 in NWT13. Are these good renderings? The meaning of the word is “slanderer, slanderous” according to the Greek-English Lexicon of Bauer. Arndt, and Gingrich. The word occurs 35 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, and in 31 of these cases, the reference is to Satan the Devil, who is the slanderer par excellence.

Because the meaning of diabolos is “slanderer,” this word can be used in translation. Women should not be “slanderous” (diabolos), according to 1 Timothy 3:11 and Titus 2:3. In John 6:70, Jesus said that one of the 12 he had chosen as apostles was a diabolos. In this case, the word could have been translated either as “a devil” or “a slanderer” as do NWT13 and NWT84. In 2 Timothy 3:3, Paul describes one of the characteristics of humans in the last days as being diabolos (“slanderers”).

It is important to note that the four instances where the English words “slanderer(s) and “slanderous” are correctly used, they are not connected with disfellowshipping offenses.

kataleleō, katalalia, katalalos

The word katalalos occurs just one time in the NT, namely in Romans 1:30. The meaning of the word, according to Louw and Nida, is:

(derivative of καταλαλέω ‘to speak evil of,’ 33.387) one who engages in speaking against or insulting — ‘slanderer, one who insults.’ ψιθυριστάς, καταλάλους ‘(they are) gossipers and slanderers’ Ro 1:29-30.

Below is a quotation from Romans 1:29-32 (NWT13) describing ungodly people.

29 And they were filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, and badness, being full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice, being whisperers,30 backbiters, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, schemers of what is harmful, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, false to agreements, having no natural affection, and merciless. 32  Although these know full well the righteous decree of God—that those practicing such things are deserving of death—they not only keep on doing them but also approve of those practicing them.

As Louw and Nida show, the elements of the word katalalos mean ‘evil speaking.’ However, Romans 1:29-32 provides no context indicating which kind of evil speaking Paul had in mind. NWT13 and NWT84 translate the word as “backbiters,” NIV translates it as “slanderers,” and NAB as “scandalmongers.” The verb katalaleō occurs five times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, three times in James 4:11, where NWT13 translates the verb as “speak against.” In 1 Peter 2:12, NWT13 uses “accuse (you)” and in 3:16, “speak against.” In the absence of a more detailed contextual background, all these neutral renderings of katalaleō are appropriate and accurate.

The noun katalalia occurs two times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. In 2 Corinthians 12:20, both NWT13 and NWT84 translate katalalia as “backbiting,” and both translations have the same rendering in 1 Peter 2:1. The word “backbiting” is defined as “unpleasant and unkind words that are said about someone who is not there.”[1] This means that “backbiting” has a meaning that comes close to “slander.”

The problem with the rendering “backbiting” for katalalia is that it is much too specific. As I have shown, the core meaning of the Greek word is “evil speech,” and the context does not reveal the side of the evil speech referenced, that is, which kind of evil speech it is. To use the English word “backbiting” can be compared to rendering into another language the English word “car” by using “Ford” or “Volvo.”  In any case, the words katalalia, katalaleō, and katalos are not said to be disfellowshipping offenses.

The discussion above has shown that the only Greek word that can rightly be translated as a form of “slander” is diabolos. However, this word does not occur in a context of disfellowshipping. The Greek word that is translated as a form of “backbiting” literally means “speak evil of; evil speech.” Using an English form of backbiting is too specific and has no real linguistic basis. In the final analysis, neither “slander” nor “backbiting” are listed as disfellowshipping offenses in the Christian Greek Scriptures.



The concepts “fraud” and “slander” are discussed together in the Shepherd book because the members of the GB believe that Jesus spoke about disfellowshipping offenses in Matthew 18:15-17, and fraud and slander are the only disfellowshipping offenses that the members of the GB could think of that might fit the words of Jesus. However, these views were pulled out of thin air and have no biblical basis.

The NWT13 renders the words dysfēmeō and blasfemia one time each as “slander,” but this rendering is questionable, and the same is true of the Greek word rendering “backbiting” (katalalia).

The conclusion is, the members of the GB have made up and introduced “slander” as a disfellowshipping offense without any basis in the Bible.

Rolf Furuli

Author Rolf Furuli

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