|Saul of Tarsus–––apostle, martyr, prophet, doctrinal expounder, defender of the faith, witness of Christ to the Gentiles, and not afraid to use some good old vulgarity now and then.|
Anyone who’s read Paul knows that he was not afraid to, at times, be not only rather snippy, but also rather blunt. One of my favorite examples is Paul’s impassioned words in Philippians 3. After indicating that Christians “worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh,” Paul, with his trademark sarcasm, goes on to say:
If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. (Phil. 3:3–9 NRSV)
One thing that non-Greek readers might miss, however, is the word used by Paul that is translated above as “rubbish.” The word (in its nominative form) is σκύβαλον (skubalon). In Attic Greek it means “dung,” specifically dog crap (Liddell & Scott’s Greek–English Lexicon, 641). In Koine it means the same thing: animal excrement, but also refuse, garbage, etc. (or so according to the dictionary on my Accordance software).
According to my New Testament professor, by Paul’s time the word had become the vulgar form of the word for excrement–––in other words, the “S” word.
So, put another way, Paul is literally saying is that his prestigious Jewish heritage and pedigree meant dogs**t to him after his conversion to Christianity.
Not the kind of language one typically associates with an apostle. But, then again, Brigham Young was known to not infrequently use salty language, so I suppose we can cut Paul a little slack.
Also, for some really funny scatological humor in the Hebrew Bible, one need look no further than the delightfully ironic story of Ehud and Eglon in Judges 3, which involves some pretty awesome bathroom humor (it’s especially clear in the Hebrew), and Elijah’s mockery of the priests of Baal in 1 Kings 18:27 (again, it’s clear in the Hebrew).