A charge of wrongdoing. The one accused is called to account.
One Hebrew word rendered “accusation” (sit·nahʹ) comes from the root verb sa·tanʹ, meaning “resist.” (Ezr 4:6; compare Zec 3:1.) The most common Greek word for “accuse” is ka·te·go·reʹo, carrying the idea of ‘speaking against’ someone, usually in a judicial or legal sense. (Mr 3:2; Lu 6:7) At Luke 16:1 the Greek word di·a·balʹlo, rendered ‘accuse,’ may also be translated ‘slander.’ (Int) It is related to di·aʹbo·los (slanderer), root of the word “Devil.”
The Greek term translated ‘accuse falsely’ in Luke 3:14 (sy·ko·phan·teʹo) is rendered ‘extort by false accusation’ in Luke 19:8. It literally means “take by fig-showing.” Of the various explanations of the origin of this word, one is that in ancient Athens the exporting of figs from the province was prohibited. One who denounced others, accusing them of attempting to export figs, was termed a “fig-shower.” The term came to designate a malignant informer, a person who accused others out of a love of gain, a false accuser, a blackmailer.
One might be called to account and charged with wrong, yet be entirely innocent, blameless, the victim of a false accuser. Hebrew law, therefore, set forth the responsibility each one in the nation had to bring to account wrongdoers, and at the same time it adequately provided protection for the accused. A few examples from the Mosaic Law will serve to illustrate these principles. If a person had any knowledge respecting a crime, he had to bring the accusation before the proper authorities. (Le 5:1; 24:11-14) The authorities, in turn, were to “search and investigate and inquire thoroughly” into the accusations to determine their validity before administering punishment. (De 13:12-14) An observer was not to hide wrongdoing or fail to bring an accusation against a guilty one, even if the person was a close relative like a brother, son, daughter, or marriage mate. (De 13:6-8; 21:18-20; Zec 13:3) The testimony of two or three witnesses was required, and not just the word of a single accuser.
The Law of Moses also gave the accused the right to face his accuser before a court of justice in order that the truth of the charges might be fully established. (De 19:16-19; 25:1) A classic instance of this was the case of the two prostitutes who, with a baby, appeared before wise King Solomon for him to decide which one was its mother.
Roman law likewise required the accusers to appear in court. So, when the Roman citizen Paul stood trial before governors Felix and Festus, his accusers were ordered to appear also. (Ac 22:30; 23:30, 35; 24:2, 8, 13, 19; 25:5, 11, 16, 18) Paul’s appearance before Caesar in Rome, however, was on his own appeal that he might win an acquittal, and not that he might accuse his own nation. (Ac 28:19) Not Paul, not even Jesus, but Moses, by his conduct and by what he wrote, accused the Jewish nation of wrongdoing.
Three Hebrews were accused of not worshiping Nebuchadnezzar’s gold image and were pitched into the furnace. The accusation was true, though based on a bad law. However, they were innocent of wrongdoing, and upon appeal to the Supreme Court of Heaven they were cleared of any guilt by Jehovah. (Da 3:8-25) Similarly, Daniel was delivered from death, and the accusers who hatched the plot against him were thrown to the lions. (Da 6:24) The word “accused” in these two accounts translates an Aramaic phrase literally meaning “had eaten the pieces [of flesh torn from the body],” and it may also be rendered “slandered.” (Da 3:8; 6:24; ftns) Opposers of the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem wrote a letter accusing the builders of wrongdoing, and a ban against the work based on the false accusation was imposed, a ban that was later proved unlawful. (Ezr 4:6–6:12) In like manner the religious leaders sought out ways of accusing Jesus as a lawbreaker. (Mt 12:10; Lu 6:7) They finally succeeded in having the innocent man arrested, and at the trial they were most vehement in their false accusation of the Righteous One, Jesus. (Mt 27:12; Mr 15:3; Lu 23:2, 10; Joh 18:29) These examples show how wrong it is to accuse others falsely, especially if the accusers are in positions of authority.
In the Christian congregation, overseers and ministerial servants not only should be innocent of bearing false witness against others but must be free from accusation themselves. (1Ti 3:10; Tit 1:6) Hence, if accusations are brought against an older man, there should be two or three witnesses to back them up. (Mt 18:16; 2Co 13:1; 1Ti 5:19) The whole congregation must be free from accusation (1Co 1:8; Col 1:22), though this does not mean they will be free from false accusations, for, indeed, the great Adversary, Satan the Devil, is “the accuser of our brothers . . . who accuses them day and night before our God!”