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A Fear of Whales

I want to talk a bit about some f***ing profanity.

I feel strange doing it. I find myself asking “Really? This is the most important thing to talk about right now?” But I honestly think it is. Not as an end in and of itself, but as a means to an end. There are some topics I really feel aught to be talked about, and I feel that I can not do them justice without using words which may not be appropriate for children.

(incidentally if you are a child reading this please go read something else, and if you are easily offended by profanity please grow up, get a pair, and keep reading because this S*-t is biblical)

There is of course no list of “Bad words” in scripture. If there were, they would be words like “Mamzer” and”Raca” not “bastard” as the bible was not written in 21st century English. The Recourse our Sunday School teachers take then is to argue that we shouldn’t use any words that are considered offensive, in whatever society we happen to be living in.

But the bible doesn’t follow that rule! Both the Hebrew “Mamzer” and the Greek “Raca” can be found in scripture[1]. both words refer to illegitimate children, both are more offensive to their cultures than the word “bastard” is to ours. Matthew 5:22 says:

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Here Jesus clearly speaks against flippant profanity. But not so much that he feels compelled to refer to the “R-Word”. Instead he essentially says “You’re right you probably shouldn’t say “bastard”. You shouldn’t call people morons[2] either” the irony though. Is that no translator I’ve found has been so bold as to translate it that way, so we censor it by leaving an untranslated Greek word in our English bibles. I daresay if Jesus wanted the blow softened he could have done that himself.

So do we stop there? Should we take Jesus word on the subject as final and literal?

Maybe we shouldn’t say bastard or moron because those are bad words, Jesus just said them each once so that we wouldn’t have any doubt which words were the bad ones.

But if that’s the case Jesus must have changed his mind because later in Matthew he does refer to people as Morons (6 times[3])

If we look holistically at scripture we can see a clear pattern emerging. biblical authors (Jesus included) are not afraid to use harsh language and profanity to get a point across, they do not pepper their speech with expletives, but neither do they censor themselves. The prophet Isiah said in 64:6:

But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteous acts are dirty tampons ; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.

The Hebrew reads “‘iddah beged” literally meaning “menstruation cloth”

In Galations 5:12 Paul wishes the Judiazers would cut their dicks off

In Mark 7:27 Jesus appears to use an ethnic slur

In 1 Kings 18:27 Elijah taunts the worshipers of Baal that perhaps their god won’t answer because he’s taking a dump

And Ezekiel 23:20… Well… Even I won’t say that one. you can look it up…

Perhaps the most impressive instance of biblical profanity though is Philipians 3:8

Yea doubtless, and I count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and consider it a pile of shit, that I may win Christ,

The Greek word being “skubalon” which is refers literally to excrement, particularly that of animals. Josephus used the word this way, along with Strabo and Aretaeus. Philipians however is the first instance on file of it being used metaphorically to refer to a worthless and profane experience, Implying that Paul not only approves of this kind of swearing, he actually invented it!

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1. Deuteronomy 23:2 contains “Mamzer”, Matthew 5:22 contains “Raca”
2. Literaly. “Morons” from the greek μωρός (Moros)
3. Matt 7:26, 23:17, 23:19, 25:2, 25:3, and 25:8

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