Profanity, A Bible Study, part 1
First, the data gathering phase.
Ephesians 4:29-32 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
What does the context suggest that “corrupting” or “unwholesome” means?
Here’s the entry in BAGD Greek-English lexicon for the word translated “corrupting” or “unwholesome”
1. lit. of such poor quality as to be of little or no value, bad, not good
A. in the prim. sense spoiled, rotten (of spoiled fish Antiphanes Com. [IV BC] fgm. 218, 4 K. [in Athen. 6, 225f]) of rotten fruits (PFlor , 9 figs; Theophr., HP 4, 14, 10 of worms that infect olives) of grapes that lie on the ground and rot Hs 2:4.
B. of poor quality bad
a) of living matter, fish Mt 13:48 (s. BAR 19, ’93, 52; it is of semantic significance that these fish have just been caught and would therefore not be rotten or spoiled, whereas Antiphanes in the ref. cited above [1a] declaims about fish that have been in the marketplace too long).—Of plants and their products (Aristoph., Theophr. et al.; PFay 119, 4; 6) that are of inferior quality: trees, Mt 7:17f; 12:33a; Lk 6:43b; fruit Mt 12:33b; Lk 6:43a. Unless the proverb contains hyperbolic diction, ‘rotten’ would be an inappropriate rendering, since ‘rotten’ trees would either not bear any fruit at all or at the most fruit of such poor quality as to be inedible.
b) of stones unusable, unfit, bad, stones of poor quality
2. bad or unwholesome to the extent of being harmful, bad, evil, unwholesome, in a moral sense an evil word, evil speech Eph 4:29
Ephesians 5:3-5 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous ( that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
All of the words in bold above occur only here in the NT. Again, what does context suggest they mean?
Depending on your translation, the English word “profane” occurs about 75x in the Bible, usually of desecrating a holy place or blaspheming the name of God. All but once or twice it translates this Hebrew word:
(chalal) vb. pollute, defile, profane; —
Niphal 1. reflex. pollute, defile oneself a. ritually, by contact with dead. b. sexually.
2. Passive, be polluted, defiled, of holy places, name of God and even God himself.
Piel 1. defile, pollute: a. sexually, (the father’s bed); a woman. b. ceremonially, profane, the altar by a tool; sacred places; the holy land; sacred things; the sabbath; and so the sanctity of the prince of Tyre who made himself God, and his holy places. c. the name of God, God himself. d. defiles or profanes his inheritance by giving it over to Babylon; the princes of the sanctuary by giving them to Chaldeans.
2. violate the honour of, dishonor,
or this Greek word:
(Bebelow) to cause someth. highly revered to become identified with the commonplace, violate sanctity, desecrate, profane the Sabbath
“Obscene” occurs once and translates this word:
(aischrologes) speech of a kind that is generally considered in poor taste, obscene speech, dirty talk (Aristot., EN 4, 8 [1128a], contrasts the preference for obscenity in older drama with the more refined taste of later times and argues that obscenity, can be expected from those of servile nature but not from a cultured gentleman. Clem. Al., Paed. 2, 6, 52 might properly be defined as story-telling involving such unseemly deeds as adultery or pederasty. aivscro,j=obscene: Ps.-Demetr. Eloc. 151). Obscene expressions would also be used to flavor derogatory remarks (s. Aristot. above); hence the rendering scurrilous talk (Polyb. 8, 11, 8; 31, 6, 4; BGU 909, 11f ) is pertinent Col 3:8, esp. since blasphemy (=‘defamation) immediately precedes. The gener. sense dirty talk fits D 5:1, which could apply to ribald stories as well as scurrilous talk.
And now, here’s the context to constrain the lexicon:
Colossians 3:5-15 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Results to come in few days. Any thoughts on these? Any other verses you think should be considered in seeking principles to govern a Christian’s use of words considered obscene?