Wading in Skubala....

Wading in Skubala

Wednesday, November 08, 2006



You need to be warned that this post contains a bad word. But it does so only because the Bible itself contains a bad word. I never knew that. You don't know it either, because you've been protected from knowing it.

It appears in Philippians 3:8 (which I've recently been working on for my 3rd semester Greek class at seminary). Here it is in the original Greek:

λλ μενονγε κα γομαι πντα ζημαν εναι δι τ περχον τς γνσεως Χριστο ησο το κυρου μου, διν τ πντα ζημιθην, κα γομαι σκβαλα, να Χριστν κερδσω...

The word you want to keep your eye on is "σκβαλα"--pronounced "skubala." Here's a literal translation of the verse.

But indeed I also consider everything to be loss on account of the surpassing knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, on account of whom I forfeited all things; and I consider them shit so that I may gain Christ...

Yes, you heard me right. Skubala means shit. Not only does it literally mean shit--i.e., human excrement--but it also has the same connotation. It is a vulgar word. Paul would not have said it in mixed company unless he expected a reaction.

It's difficult to find Christian sources that discuss skubala, but its use in ancient writings outside of the Bible makes clear that it was considered very impolite. The leading modern Greek lexicon--BDAG, it's called--glosses skubala as "refuse," "garbage," "human excrement,"
"crud," and "crap"--very strong words for this Christian scholarly book.

So the original text of the sacred Scripture contains a dirty word. I don't know about you, but I felt a profound sense of relief when I discovered this.

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  • Ek is selfs nog meer beindruk met Paulus. Vir my het hy oneindig liefde deur sy korrespondensie, sy manier en omgang met mense uitgestraal. Ook het sy "swakheid" my nog altyd begeester om te gaan vir die wenstreep, want dit is presies wat hy in sy volharding gedoen het. Kommentaar op "but I felt a profound sense of relief when I discovered this" - ek presies net soos jy.
    Rynie van Wyk
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