Slander or Libel?

It is a common occurrence that we at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly and Outside the Camp are accused of saying or believing things that we do not say or believe. When asked for proof, the accusers suddenly go silent. We have then rightly accused the accusers of slander.

At times, we encounter pseudo-intellectuals who meet our accusation with something like this: "By the way, you're not accusing me of slander, you're accusing me of libel. Slander pertains to the spoken word, and libel pertains to the written word." They say this as if we are ignorant of the difference between the two, and their setting us straight serves as proof of their intellectual superiority.

Are we incorrect in saying that those who write false accusations about us are slandering? Of course not.

The word "slander" is used in two different ways. In the common, non-legal usage, "slander" means a false accusation. This is how the Bible uses it. In the narrow legal definition that is only useful in a court of law, "slander" is defamation in transient form (such as spoken words, signs, or gestures) that injures the character or reputation of the person defamed, as opposed to "libel," which is defamation in intransient form (such as printed words, pictures, radio, television, or film) that injures the character or reputation of the person defamed. And there are very specific legal conditions that must be met in order for something to truly be slander or libel in the legal sense.

Would our pseudo-intellectual accusers impose the legal definition on the Scriptures? Would they say that the Scriptures that speak of slander or slanderers are only applicable in the legal sense of the definition? Here are some Scriptures that speak of slander and slanderers:

You shall not go [as] a slanderer among your people; you shall not stand up against the blood of your neighbor; I [am] Jehovah. (Leviticus 19:16)

because of the slanderer's voice and the blasphemer, before the face of the enemy and avenger. (Psalm 44:16)

[Whoever] secretly slanders his neighbor, I will cut him off; I will not endure him who has high eyes and a proud heart. (Psalm 101:5)

He who hides hatred [with] lying lips, and he who sends out a slander, he [is] a fool. (Proverbs 10:18)

One going with slander is a revealer of secrets, but the faithful of spirit keeps a matter hidden. (Proverbs 11:13)

The words of a slanderer [are] greedily swallowed; yea, they go down [into] the innermost chambers of the belly. (Proverbs 18:8)

Do not slander a servant to his master, that he not curse you, and you be found guilty. (Proverbs 30:10)

They [are] all rebellious revolters, walkers [in] slander. All of them [are as] bronze and iron; they are corrupters. (Jeremiah 6:28)

Let everyone be on guard against his neighbor, and do not trust any brother. For every brother will supplant, and every neighbor will walk as a slanderer. (Jeremiah 9:4)

In you are men of slander in order to shed blood, and in you they eat on the mountains. In your midst they do unchaste acts. (Ezekiel 22:9)

slanderers, God-haters, insolent, proud, braggarts, devisers of evil things, disobedient to parents, (Romans 1:30)

Likewise, [their] wives [are to be] reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. (1 Timothy 3:11)

without natural feeling, unyielding, slanderers, without self-control, savage, haters of good, (2 Timothy 3:3)

aged women likewise in reverent behavior, not slanderers, not being enslaved by much wine, teachers of good, (Titus 2:3)

Would our pseudo-intellectual accusers say that these Scriptures speak only of defamation in transient form, such as spoken words, signs, or gestures, that meet the legal criteria for a lawsuit? Would they say that when God's Word speaks against slander and slanderers, these passages have nothing to do with written words, pictures, radio, television, or film? Where does God's word speak against libel as opposed to slander? Perhaps these pseudo-intellectuals would point to the Ninth Commandment:

You shall not testify a witness of falsehood against your neighbor. (Exodus 20:16)

But these pseudo-intellectuals would be stuck in the pit they created, since the Ninth Commandment speaks specifically about false testimony of a false witness. So if the pseudo-intellectuals were consistent, they would have to say that the Ninth Commandment just applies to when there is a legal proceeding in which a person is called to testify as a witness and this witness gives false testimony. It cannot be talking about lying in general or even slander or libel outside of the setting of a witness testifying against his neighbor. This, of course, is absurd. This talks about any lying words against one's neighbor and encompasses all lying.

And what about all of the Scriptures that mention talking, speaking, saying, or hearing? Can all of them only be applicable in situations in which there is verbal communication? Here are some examples from Psalms and Proverbs:

Help, O Jehovah, for the godly ceases to be; for the faithful fail from among the sons of men. They speak vanity, each man with his neighbor; [with] flattering lips and a double heart they speak. Jehovah shall cut off all with flattering lips and the tongue that speaks great things; who say, We shall be strong by our tongue; our lips [are] our own; who [is] lord over us? (Psalm 12:1-4)

At the hearing of the ear they listen to me; the sons of foreigners shall bow down to me. (Psalm 18:44)

For I have heard the slander of many; fear [is] all around; because [they are] fixing [plots] together against me, they planned to take away my life. (Psalm 31:13)

My soul shall make its boast in Jehovah; the humble shall hear and be glad. (Psalm 34:2)

And they open their mouth wide against me; they say, Aha! Aha! Our eyes have seen. (Psalm 35:21)

Let those who delight in my justification shout and rejoice; and they shall say without ceasing, Jehovah be magnified, delighting in the peace of His servant. And my tongue will speak of Your righteousness and of Your praise all the day. (Psalm 35:27-28)

My tears have been my food by day and by night, while [they] say to me all the day, Where [is] your God? (Psalm 42:3)

[Ones] vexing me reproach me with crushing in my bones, when they say to me every day, Where [is] your God? (Psalm 42:10)

We have heard with our ears, O God; our fathers have told us the work You did in their days, in the days of old. (Psalm 44:1)

Hear this, all peoples, give ear, all those living in the world, (Psalm 49:1)

Hear, My people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you; I [am] God, your God. (Psalm 50:7)

Cause me to hear joy and gladness; the bones You have crushed will rejoice. (Psalm 51:8)

And man will say, Truly, a fruit [is] to the righteous; truly, [there is] a God judging in the earth. (Psalm 58:11)

They make themselves strong [in] an evil plan; they talk of laying snares secretly; they say, Who shall see them? (Psalm 64:5)

Come, hear, and let me recount, all you who fear God, what He has done for my soul. (Psalm 66:16)

The Lord said, I will bring back from Bashan; I will bring back [My people] from the depths of the sea; (Psalm 68:22)

Let them be turned back for a reward of their shame, those who say, Aha, aha! Let all those who seek You rejoice, and be glad in You; and let those who love Your salvation forever say, Let God be magnified. (Psalm 70:3-4)

I said to the boastful, Do not boast; and to the wicked, Do not lift up the horn. (Psalm 75:4)

I will open my mouth in a parable; I will pour forth dark sayings of old, those which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. (Psalm 78:2-3)

I have said, You [are] gods, and all of you [are] sons of the Most High. (Psalm 82:6)

I will hear what Jehovah God will say; for He will speak peace to His people, and His saints; but let them not turn again to folly. (Psalm 85:8)

I will sing of the mercies of Jehovah forever; I will speak with my mouth Your faithfulness to all generations. For I have said, Mercy shall be built up forever; You shall establish Your faithfulness in the heavens. (Psalm 89:1-2)

You turn man to dust, and say, Return, O sons of men. (Psalm 90:3)

And my eye shall look on my enemies; my ears shall hear the evildoers who rise up against me. (Psalm 92:11)

For He [is] our God; and we [are] the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice, (Psalm 95:7)

Say among the nations, Jehovah reigns; and, The world shall be established, it shall not be moved; He shall judge the peoples in uprightness. (Psalm 96:10)

Zion heard and was glad; yea, the daughters of Judah rejoiced because of Your judgments, O Jehovah. (Psalm 97:8)

Let Israel say now that His mercy [endures] forever. Let the house of Aaron say now that His mercy [endures] forever. Let those who fear Jehovah say now that His mercy [endures] forever. (Psalm 118:2-4)

I was glad when they said to me, Let us go into the house of Jehovah. (Psalm 122:1)

Because of my brothers and my companions, I will now say, Peace [be] in you. (Psalm 122:8)

Then our mouth was full of laughter, and our tongue [with] joyful shouting; then they said among the nations, Jehovah [will] work great [things] with these. (Psalm 126:2)

All the kings of the earth shall thank You, O Jehovah, because they have heard the Words of Your mouth. (Psalm 138:4)

Their judges have been dashed against the rock; they shall hear my words for they are pleasant. (Psalm 141:6)

They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, and talk of Your might; (Psalm 145:11)

My son, hear your father's instruction, and do not forsake the law of your mother; for they [shall be] an ornament of grace to your head, and chains for your neck. My son, if sinners lure you, do not be willing. If they say, Walk with us, let us lie in wait for blood, let us secretly lurk for the innocent without cause, (Proverbs 1:8-11)

Do not say to your neighbor, Go and come back again, or, Tomorrow I will give, when you have it beside you. (Proverbs 3:28)

Sons, hear the instruction of a father, pay attention to know understanding, for I give you good teaching; do not forsake my law. For I was my father's son, tender and an only [one] in the sight of my mother. And he taught me and said to me, Let your heart cling to my words; keep my commands and live. (Proverbs 4:1-4)

Oh my son, hear and receive my sayings, and the years of your life [shall be] many. (Proverbs 4:10)

My son, pay attention to my words; stretch your ear to what I say; (Proverbs 4:20)

Then hear me now, O sons, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. (Proverbs 5:7)

Hear instruction, and be wise, and do not refuse it. (Proverbs 8:33)

In all labor there is profit, but the talk of the lips [tends] only to poverty. (Proverbs 14:23)

Hear advice and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter end. (Proverbs 19:20)

[It is] a snare [to] a man to say rashly, A holy thing, and after the vows to inquire [about it]. (Proverbs 20:25)

Stretch your ear and hear the words of the wise, and set your heart to my knowledge, (Proverbs 22:17)

My son, hear, you, and be wise, and advance your heart in the way. (Proverbs 23:19)

For their heart studies violence, and their lips talk of mischief. (Proverbs 24:2)

For it is better [that] he shall say to you, Come up here! than that you should be put lower before a noble whom your eyes have seen. (Proverbs 25:7)

Only fools would apply these words narrowly to verbal communication. People speak to each other in many ways, including verbal and written communication. God speaks to us in His Word, which can be verbally preached and physically heard or which can be written down and physically read.

Speaking (yes, speaking - even though I'm writing) of this, what would the pseudo-intellectuals say about the preaching of the gospel? After all, the Holy Spirit through Paul says (yes, says - even though it is in writing) this:

For everyone, whoever may call on the name of [the] Lord will be saved. How then may they call on [One] into whom they have not believed? And how may they believe [One] of whom they have not heard? And how may they hear without preaching? (Romans 10:13-14)

What is this "hearing"? What is this "preaching"? Who would restrict this "preaching" to the verbal communication of the mouth? Who would restrict this "hearing" to the physical reception of the sound waves coming from the verbal communication of someone's mouth? Preaching can be in written form, and hearing can be reading the preached word. We would never say that a person cannot be saved without physical reception of the sound waves coming from the verbal communication of a preacher's mouth. A person can be saved when he reads the book of John. The written book of John is preached to the person who reads the book.

So we go back to the distinction between slander and libel. Only those who want to split legal hairs, straining at gnats while swallowing camels, would say that written false accusation is not slander. God's Word calls all false accusations slander, no matter what form they are in. So who do we want to go with -- the narrow legal definitions from pseudo-intellectuals, or God's Word? I'll go with God's Word every time.


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