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BABBLER, the tr. of two words in Scripture. One is a phrase found only in Ecclesiastes 10:11, Heb. בַּ֖עַל הַלָּשֹֽׁון, lit. “Lord of the tongues,” but is understood as a charmer or magician. KJV incorrectly translates, “babbler.” It was apparently some sort of common pagan shaman. The other term is the Gr. σπερμολόγος, G5066, literally “picker up of seeds,” or more clearly, “one who maintains himself by picking up bits of scraps.” Apparently this colloquialism was used only in the early Hel. age and is not found in the classical Attic lit. Its only use in the NT is in an offhand remark attributed to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers who listened to Paul’s address on the Areopagus (Acts 17:18). It seems to be a direct quote from one of their attacks upon Paul’s preaching.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

ba`al ha-lashon; the King James Version of Ec 10:11 literally, "master of the tongue"; the Revised Version (British and American) CHARMER; lapistes, the King James Version of Ecclesiasticus 20:7; the Revised Version (British and American) BRAG; spermologos; the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) of Ac 17:18: The latter Greek word is used of birds, such as the crow, that live by picking up small seeds (sperma, "20 seed," legein, "to gather"), and of men, for "hangers on" and "parasites" who obtained their living by picking up odds and ends off merchants’ carts in harbors and markets. It carries the "suggestion of picking up refuse and scraps, and in the literature of plagiarism without the capacity to use correctly" (Ramsay). The Athenian philosophers in calling Paul a spermologos, or "ignorant plagiarist," meant that he retailed odds and ends of knowledge which he had picked up from others, without possessing himself any system of thought or skill of language--without culture. In fact it was a fairly correct description of the Athenian philosophers themselves in Paul’s day.

Ramsay, Paul the Traveler and Roman Citizen, 141 ff.

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