Although word studies should not be solely relied upon for interpreting the Scriptures, they lead us in the right direction. After all, without knowing what words mean, this sentence would have no meaning.
In an effort to hone my understanding on the word skubala, I spent some time in the library with some good lexicon friends. Some of the comments to my posts have affirmed the fact that if Paul used a derogatory word, then we should be willing to translate it that way. As stated before, the definition of skubala to refer to a present-day derogatory word is contested. So, in an effort for clarity here is what I found:
– Liddel’s definition: dung, filth, refuse
– Greek Lexicon of Roman and Byzantine Periods by E.A. Sophocles: refuse, chaff, dung, excrements
– BDAG: useless or undesirable material that is subject to disposal, refuse, garbage (in var. senses, ‘excrement, manure, garbage, kitchen scraps’
– Latin Vulgate translates: feci
– Luther translates: DreckWhile these are helpful, I was most helped by an article in Kittel’s dictionary that explains the word. I saved it for last, because it fills out the word a little better than any four letters could do. For those who are not into this sort of parsing of words, I think if you read the quote below, your mind might change.
– Kittel: dung, muck. “In the transf. sense the word is used of persons and things to denote pitiful and horrible remains, a corpse half-eaten by fishes…Under Hellenism popular pessimism uses the term for man’s corruptibility…In general the word carries with it the thought of what is worthless and useless, also abhorrent and unclean. [Sirach 27.4] uses the images of lumps of manure remaining in the sieve to illustrate the refuse, i.e. the impurity and wickedness in the mind of man.”
Sure, you might be able to quickly convey an idea of what skubala is, but it is the job of the teacher and preacher to paint this picture for his congregation. Again, I think the issue boils down to something a little deeper than we would like to think. I will deal with this in my next post or so.