Paul Cussed, Didn't He?

Paul Cussed, Didn't He?

Some have argued that Paul’s use of skybala (Phil 3.8), a word translated as rubbish or refuse, is justification for saying more earthy terms for the word. Is this true?

This is somewhat speculative. While I don’t have major qualms with translating the word with a harsher word, I don’t think this justifies using language at liberty like this.

If Paul were at liberty to use such language wouldn’t we see more evidences of it than we do. I mean, he goes pretty buck on the Corinthians and Galatians. You would think that with the anger and emotion he was feeling he would let an f-bomb drop or something. ((Of course, “f-bomb” is contextual, but you get the gist.))

What is wrong with saying all things are as refuse? Is this not earthy and picturesque enough?

  • Stephen
    Posted at 09:24h, 20 February Reply

    I personally have no problems with using this kind of language in the way Paul has intended. One should understand, though, that Paul goes on to explain his use of the word–his zeal for God’s law was literally that vulgar compared to knowing Jesus.

    Another example, I’ve been told that a literal translation of one of the Hebrew words for “dung” actually is “shit.” The reason? The word connotes something so vile, so profane, that there is no English equivalent other than this cuss word! And I’ve also been told that this word is used in the same sense that Paul is using here; namely that sin is so profane and vile to God compared to His mercy and grace. And no, I don’t know what that word is, I’d sure like to know. There’s a bunch of them in my Hebrew lexicon but I just am not sure which one it is.

    It has, however, become a source of amusement for my family (the cuss words of choice back home are the tamer ones; y’know, “damn,” “hell,” and the aforementioned s-bomb). My granddaddy (the main culprit) has taken to replacing his s-bombs by saying “Hebrew.” And usually during football games. ;-)

    But none of this justifies what we’re talking about here, namely the casual cussin’ we’re seeing among the brethren. If anything, the Biblical example only underscores that such language is inappropriate.

  • Rich Clark
    Posted at 10:13h, 20 February Reply

    I agree. It seems the real issue with cussing is carelessness in our speech. Clearly, in Paul’s case, he was taking extreme care and wanted to make an extreme point.

    You’re right Matt. The absence of any similar instances anywhere else in scripture shows us that s-bombs, f-bombs, etc. ought to be reserved for moments when they are truly, truly necessary.

    To answer your last question, I don’t think refuse would be enough. We need to to translate as closely as possible to what Paul was trying to say. So if that means saying “poop” or “crap” or “s**t” or even adding a footnote simply saying “Here, Paul uses a vulgar word for dung, which many at the time would have been repelled by,” I think it’s important we do that. Paul is making an important rhetorical maneuver, and so is God. Who are we to judge it inappropriate?

    Of course, I’m just starting elementary greek, so what do I know?

  • Stephen
    Posted at 12:02h, 20 February Reply

    Hang in there bro, it only gets better!

  • The Traveler
    Posted at 12:16h, 20 February Reply

    I concur,

    We are given Biblical precedence for cursing and cussing but in a context. The words are first used appropriately.. the “f word” is a crude reference to sexual relations and I can think of no conceivable “proper” usage fo such a word. Paul used “rubbish” correctly to mean something vile he did not just pick a foul word off the shelf. Anathema was used appropriatly and is equivilent to our “damn them to hell”.

    Its the casual usage of these terms especially when used incorrectly that is the problem. On my blogy you will find some strong language… but I am careful to use it in the same context Paul and the Prophets used.

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