Cursing

Cursing

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.  Exodus 20:7

And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.  Leviticus 19:12

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.  Deuteronomy 5:11

His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his tongue is mischief and vanity.  Psalm 10:7

Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.  1 Corinthians 5:13

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.  Ephesians 4:29

But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.  Colossians 3:8

 

These are just a few of the verses that are used to prove that cursing or cussing is a sin.  When I say cursing, I’m talking about our modern day definition of it, using four-letter words.  Now would probably be a good time to warn everyone that I’m fixing to be killing several sacred cows.  Let me kill one now right off the bat.  Saying God and Damn in the same breath is not taking the LORD’s name in vain.  Most people have been taught that “GodDamn” is the most terrible of all the curse words and is in direct violation of the 3rd commandment.  This is purely a tradition of men, though.  First of all, God is not his name, so how can anyone take His “name” in vain by saying God followed by a vulgar word?

 

Today, if someone does something nice for someone else, it’s not uncommon for that person to reply by saying “God Bless You,” because you want God to bless them for whatever good deed they did for you.  Saying “God Damn (Fill in the Blank)” is the opposite of God Bless, implying that you wish God to unleash His wrath on something or someone.

 

An excellent example of this concept is Psalm 109 where the entire chapter is basically the Psalmist asking God to damn (curse) his enemy.  Let’s look at a couple of specific verses in this chapter.

 

Psalm 109:8-9
May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.  May his children be fatherless  and his wife a widow.

 

These two verses are an accurate portrayal of what cursing meant in the Bible.  These two verses are basically the Psalmist asking God to end this person’s life.  This is what would have been considered cursing someone during Biblical times, not calling them a four letter word.

 

In our modern day culture cursing is associated with certain words that society as deemed vulgar, but in Biblical times it was literally to speak negative things towards another person, often praying to one’s god for them to carry out some ill intent on their behalf.  This is exactly what is going on here in Psalm 109.  Nowhere in the Bible is the use of specific words defined as sin.  In other words, saying, “shit” is not a sin.  As a matter of fact, Paul used the Greek equivalent of this word in his letter to the Philippians.

 

Philippians 3:8
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,

 

This verse sounds lovely the way most Bibles translate it.  That word translated as rubbish is the Greek word skybalon and translating it as rubbish is about as nice of a way as you could put it.  Strong’s defines it as “any refuse, as the excrement of animals, offscourings, rubbish, dregs.”  This is a vulgar Greek word that would be equivalent to “shit” in our modern English language.  The NET Bible translates the word as ‘dung,’ but here’s what the note for this word says.

 

The word here translated “dung” was often used in Greek as a vulgar term for fecal matter.  As such it would most likely have had a certain shock value for the readers. This may well be Paul’s meaning here, especially since the context is about what the flesh produces.

 

In any event, the word means what must be eliminated. 1Cf. Mark 7:19; Plautus, Truc. 556: “amator, qui bona sua pro stercore habet”—“a lover who treats his goods as dung has them taken out … all that he has is swept outside.”  J. Huby’s comment is exactly right, in spite of the anachronism: “All of that is worth no more than the contents of a garbage can.” 2“Tout cela ne vaut pas plus que le contenu d’une poubelle,” J. Huby, Les Epîtres de la captivité, Paris, 1934, p. 335.  To convey the crudity of the Greek, however: “It’s all crap.” 3The translation of E. Osty, “Pour une traduction plus fidèle du N. T.,” in Ecole de langues orientales anciennes: Mémorial du Cinquantenaire, Paris, 1964, p. 82: “c’est de la crotte.” Also Lang, in TDNT, vol. 7, pp. 446–447 (“Dreck”); M. Dibelius, An die Philipper, 3 d ed., Tübingen, 1937, p. 89; E. Lohmeyer, Der Brief an die Philipper, 12th ed., Göttingen, 1961, pp. 135ff. The idea and the word were retained in the patristic and ascetic tradition (stercus, lutum, βόρβορος = mire) to refer to the world, its allure and its vanity (P. Courcelle, “Les Sources patristiques de Sacy,” in SP, vol. 4, Berlin, 1961, pp. 401ff.). On the verbs σκυβαλίζω and ἀνασκυβαλίζω in the inscriptions, cf. J. and L. Robert, “Bulletin épigraphique,” in REG, 1977, p. 400, n. 423. 4Spicq, C., & Ernest, J. D. (1994). Theological Lexicon of the New Testament (Vol. 3, p. 265). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

 

There is another example in Romans where Paul uses a phrase that today is deemed as profanity.

 

Romans 6:1-2
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

 

The Greek phrase “Me genoito” translated as “By no means” is a Greek expression to convey strong repudiation.  In today’s vocabulary, “Hell No” would be an equivalent expression.

 

The idea today that saying certain words is a sin is just not accurate.  Sin has never been attributed to specific words, so to call the use of certain words a sin when the Torah does not is adding to the Word, which is a sin.  Cursing was never about using socially unacceptable words; it was about speaking negativity into the life of an enemy.

 

I’m sure by now some of you are ready to throw me off a bridge for blasphemy, let me clarify what I’m saying.  Should we be going around dropping F-bombs and using other explicit words?  No, but we also should not condemn people who do.  They may use words that are socially unacceptable, but they are not sinning by using a four letter word either.  2 Kings 18:27 talks about men eating their own excrement and drinking their own urine.  1 Kings 12:10 uses crude, vulgar humor to speak about the size of another man’s penis. And as we saw above, Paul also used vulgar language at times when he wanted to grab the reader’s attention.  Here’s the thing, vulgarity is a social sin, not a Biblical one.

 

Like I said, though, as believers we should not be going around using profanity all the time, even if it’s not a sin, and I’ll use part of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians as an example to illustrate why we shouldn’t.

 

1 Corinthians 11:5
But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since that is one and the same as having her head shaved.

 

You may be asking what this has to do with vulgar language.  In our teaching “Head Coverings and Women in Pauline Communities” I talked about how women covering their heads while praying is not something found in Torah and what Paul’s motives were for making this statement in regards to the social and cultural norms of the time.  It was all about the appearance these women were giving.  These women were not sinning by removing their veils, but by doing so, they were giving all believers in Y’shua a bad name because of how others in their culture would have perceived them without their head coverings.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:6
Abstain from all appearance of evil.

 

This verse along with Paul’s reasoning for making his statement in verse 5 above are why we should not make a habit of using vulgar language.  Regardless of what these words mean to us or what they may have meant 100’s of years ago, today our culture as a whole looks down on the use of profanity and vulgarity.  For that reason alone we should “abstain from the appearance of evil.”  Paul was dealing with social issues causing the appearance of evil, and that is the same thing that we have today with using four letter words.  No, it’s not a sin to use curse words and no, we should not judge someone based on what is considered a social sin, but that doesn’t make it right or acceptable to curse like a sailor.

 

Luke 6:45
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

 

The last part of this verse spoken by Y’shua illustrates that a person will speak based on what is in their heart.  In our culture today, saying a four letter word after you stub your toe is considered worse than saying someone is an idiot.  It’s the second phrase that shows what is in someone heart, though.  We are quick to judge someone for using a four-letter word while we sit idly by and let other people speak negativity about or into someone’s life.  We should be more appalled by hearing a person call another person an idiot than we are an individual who says shit after stubbing their toe because it’s a matter of what is in our hearts that our mouths speak.

 

Simply using foul language is not going to damn your soul.  There is a time and place for it, such as my use of “damn” in the previous sentence or Paul’s uses in the examples above.  However, if you believe that it’s OK for vulgar words to be part of your everyday vocabulary, then you are not going to be a very effective witness.  Just because something is not a sin according to Torah does not make it right.  We have to read and understand the Bible with the same social and cultural understanding of the original audience.  However, we have to apply that understanding to our lives in relation to our current social and cultural norms.  That means in a culture that views women with uncovered heads as adulterous, women should cover their heads, and in a culture that views vulgarity in a negative light, we should not make using such words part of our everyday vocabulary, even if it is not a sin according to Torah.

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References   [ + ]

1. Cf. Mark 7:19; Plautus, Truc. 556: “amator, qui bona sua pro stercore habet”—“a lover who treats his goods as dung has them taken out … all that he has is swept outside.”
2. “Tout cela ne vaut pas plus que le contenu d’une poubelle,” J. Huby, Les Epîtres de la captivité, Paris, 1934, p. 335.
3. The translation of E. Osty, “Pour une traduction plus fidèle du N. T.,” in Ecole de langues orientales anciennes: Mémorial du Cinquantenaire, Paris, 1964, p. 82: “c’est de la crotte.” Also Lang, in TDNT, vol. 7, pp. 446–447 (“Dreck”); M. Dibelius, An die Philipper, 3 d ed., Tübingen, 1937, p. 89; E. Lohmeyer, Der Brief an die Philipper, 12th ed., Göttingen, 1961, pp. 135ff. The idea and the word were retained in the patristic and ascetic tradition (stercus, lutum, βόρβορος = mire) to refer to the world, its allure and its vanity (P. Courcelle, “Les Sources patristiques de Sacy,” in SP, vol. 4, Berlin, 1961, pp. 401ff.). On the verbs σκυβαλίζω and ἀνασκυβαλίζω in the inscriptions, cf. J. and L. Robert, “Bulletin épigraphique,” in REG, 1977, p. 400, n. 423.
4. Spicq, C., & Ernest, J. D. (1994). Theological Lexicon of the New Testament (Vol. 3, p. 265). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

Posted on September 29, 2015 in Answering Tough Questions

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