Webster's new World Dictionary, Concise Edition (1960) lying open on a desk

Casuistical: Wednesday Words

I’ll admit today’s word came from a piece authored in 1905, but even so it threw me for a loop!

Casuistical: of, relating to, or practicing casuistry.

Hmm. Very unhelpful, if I may say so. I must admit that I have never knowingly delved into the field of casuistry.

Casuistry: interpreting ethical principles or religious doctrine to resolve a specific case of conscience or behavior.

Okay, we’re an iota closer to understanding.

Here’s a bit of the context surrounding where I stumbled on casuistical:

The real “micrology” of the Rabbis appears, however, not so much in this enummeration as such, as in the consideration of the cases in detail, the discussion what actions do or do not fall under the several classes named, and sometimes also in the casuistical evasion of a prohibition . . . The prohibition to tie or untie a knot was too general, so it became necessary to define the species of knots referred to.

S. R. Driver, “Sabbath,” A Dictionary of the Bible, 1905, as cited in Ernest Fremont Tittle’s “The Gospel According to Luke: Exposition and Application,” 1951.

“Casuistry departs from ethical approaches that work deductively from rules thought to have clear applications in all circumstances. Casuistry takes rules into account but begins with the moral and practical features of each case” (see Britannica for more on this topic).

So for example, is it sinful to walk my dog on Sunday?

  • Sunday is the Sabbath, which means no work should be done.
  • Walking my dog is, in my opinion, often work.
  • My dog needs to be walked so she doesn’t use the floor as a toilet, as well as for physical and mental exercise.
  • We can’t ignore Proverbs 12:10, which says, “The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel” (NIV).

Therefore, in this case, I should walk my dog every day, including Sundays. Even though it’s work.

Perhaps I practice casuistry more often than I thought!

And perhaps we could all use it more frequently this year by giving others the benefit of the doubt. If we really understood why they did something, perhaps we’d have a whole lot more grace and mercy for their behavior! It is, after all, what we hope to receive ourselves.

I think Paul said it quite well in his letter to the church in Ephesus:

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

Ephesians 4:2

And there you have it, the first Wednesday Words post of the New Year.


Check out Wednesday Words to find out about my vocabulary expansion project, and join along!

Write a post using any form of the word “casuistical,” then put a link to your post in the comments below. I’d love to read your thoughts!

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