The original Greek word bla·sphe·miʹa and the verb bla·sphe·meʹo basically indicate defamatory, calumnious, abusive language. As noted under the heading BLASPHEMY, the Greek word bla·sphe·miʹa has a broader meaning than the present English word “blasphemy.” In English, only when such speech is directed against God, not against his creatures, is it properly termed “blasphemy.” (Mt 12:31) Concerning this, The Popular and Critical Bible Encyclopædia and Scriptural Dictionary says: “Our English translators [that is, primarily those of the KJ] have not adhered to the right use of the term. They employ it with the same latitude as the Greek; but it is generally easy to perceive, from the connection and subject of a passage, whether blasphemy, properly so called, be meant, or only defamation.”—Edited by S. Fallows, 1912, Vol. I, p. 291.
Thus, while the King James Version uses “blasphemy” and “blasphemed” in Acts 18:6, Colossians 3:8, 1 Timothy 6:1, and Titus 2:5, later translations say “slander,” “abusive talk [or “speech”],” “reviled,” “defamed,” “abused,” “spoken of abusively,” and similar expressions. (See RS, AT, NW, and others.) However, the King James Version does recognize this distinction elsewhere in the Greek Scriptures.
As the following texts and surrounding verses show, at the time of his impalement abusive speech was directed against Christ by passersby, who said, “Bah! You would-be thrower-down of the temple and builder of it in three days’ time, save yourself by coming down off the torture stake.” Similar words came from one of the evildoers alongside. (Mr 15:29, 30; Mt 27:39, 40; Lu 23:39) Paul and his fellow Christians were objects of such speech by those who falsely construed their purpose, message, and Christian conscience (Ac 18:6; Ro 3:8; 14:16; 1Co 10:30; 1Pe 4:4), yet they themselves were to “speak injuriously of no one,” and by their conduct gave no true grounds for their work or message to be spoken of abusively. (Eph 4:31; Col 3:8; 1Ti 6:1; Tit 2:5; 3:2; compare 2Pe 2:2.) Even the angels “do not bring . . . an accusation in abusive terms, not doing so out of respect for Jehovah.” (2Pe 2:11) But such talk can be expected from those who indulge in loose conduct, those who are proud and mentally diseased over questionings and debates, and those who disregard or disrespect God’s appointments.—1Ti 6:4; 2Pe 2:10-12; Jude 8-10.
The word ga·dhaphʹ is used in a corresponding way in the Hebrew Scriptures. Evidently originally referring to inflicting violent physical injury, it is used figuratively to mean “speak abusively,” that is, harm with reproachful words. (Nu 15:30; 2Ki 19:6; Eze 20:27) The Hebrew word na·qavʹ, basically meaning “pierce; bore” (2Ki 12:9; 18:21), has the sense of blaspheming in the account where the son of an Israelite woman was said to have ‘abused’ Jehovah’s name. (Le 24:11, 16) In these cases harsh or coarse speech is indicated, directed against either Jehovah God himself or his people. A study of the context makes clear the nature of such “abusive speech.”—See EXECRATION; MALEDICTION; REVILING.