Beware the Evil Eye

Photo by Peter Forster

“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Jesus, Mark 7:21 – 23).

Jesus says, the things that defile us come from within (Mark 7:21). Then he gives an extensive list of these evil things. “Envy” is included in verse 22, but literally, Jesus is warning us of the “evil eye.” (See KJV, ASV, D-R, ERV, and the Geneva Bible.) Most of the modern English Bibles simply say “envy,” but the “evil eye” is more than that.

The Greek Jesus uses for “evil eye” is ophthalmos poneros (ὀφθαλμὸς πονηρός – our words “ophthalmology” and “porn” come directly from them.) Jesus warned, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” (Matthew 5:29)! An eye that causes you to sin is certainly an “evil eye,” but to understand this phrase, we need to study poneros.

There are many different Greek words translated “evil” in English. Kakos and poneros describe just two varieties of evil. A kakos person is the opposite of a “good” or “beautiful” person. On the other hand, a poneros person delights in causing evil, perverseness, and making trouble for his neighbor. Proverbs 4:16 says, 

“For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; 

      they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.”

The old bishop, R.C. Trench writes: 

The [kakos person] may be content to perish in his own corruption, but the [poneros person] is not content unless he is corrupting others as well.[1]

Watch out! A person with an “evil eye” is looking for trouble – not just for himself, but especially for others. Evil!


[1] Trench, R. C. (1880). In Synonyms of the New Testament (9th ed., improved., p. 316). Macmillan and Co.

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