The book of Ezekiel, chapter 23 contains adult expressions, many people feel uncomfortable reading. You don't usually read such words in a holy book.

What does the Catholic church say about it?


This is not a simple issue as you might think. This video is the reason why I ask the question. That is an Egyptian Christian channel, the program is for a Muslim audience, it talks about what's wrong with the Quran and encourage them to convert to Christianity.

The host was talking about sex in Islam, and how Mohammad married teenagers, a Muslim called and he told the host to read that chapter, the host said I can't do that on Air. All is shown in the video.

What happened afterwards is that Muslims are using that chapter to make fun of the bible, and it got serious. We can't blame them either, the vocabulary used is shocking. Maybe not to you, but to a society not open minded, that chapter could be damaging.

Note that the whore is not just a simple word in Arabic, you know honor killing?

I'm not sure if you know what I'm talking about but I would hope that some pope or priest realized the magnitude of this problem, and tried to address it.

  • What did this person 'make fun of the passage' for, other than it used language suitable for adults? Jun 26 '14 at 15:23
  • How do they respond to Song of Solomon?
    – fгedsbend
    Jun 26 '14 at 17:25
  • Or David & Bathsheba?
    – Geremia
    Jun 26 '14 at 20:35
  • 1
    @Fischer: See this for a Catholic commentary on Ezekiel 23.
    – Geremia
    Jun 26 '14 at 20:39
  • 1
    The video is not in English. I would bet very few people on this site can understand it. Do you actually want a Catholic review of that chapter or a Catholic response to this issue in Egypt (which I would bet most of us are ignorant of). The Bible is regularly being ridiculed around the world. So is the Catholic Church. They simply don't respond to a lot of it.
    – fгedsbend
    Jun 26 '14 at 21:25

One can't give a Catholic Opinion on the bible, but you can at least quote what the comments of the New American Bible state without becoming a heretic:

So corrupt and depraved are the two sisters that their executioners win the esteemed title “righteous,” for they have acted appropriately as agents of the Lord’s judgment. Comments on Ezekiel 23:36-49 NABRE

So, even the Bishops use quotes when referring to the executioners as "righteous", I'm not sure if that's because they're quoting or because they're "quoting" the passage. But

  1. It's not about real women, it's a metaphor from the get-go and
  2. It is what the bible says to do elsewhere to real women and therefore the righteous (i.e. law abiding) thing to do in Hebrew society.

And, as for whether it's read in polite society, like at Catholic Mass. And no, I don't think so, I was checking out the readings on the USCCB website and it looks like jump from Ez 18 to Ez 24. I'd never read this before and it was pretty stunning, if you ever teach 8th graders CCD, this is the kind of biblical passage that'll get their attention, thanks for bringing it to my attention!


Mawia did an excellent job of explaining the meaning of the passage. Let me address the issue of 'adult language'.

The Bible wasn't written for children. There is absolutely no reason to expect that everything in it should be 'family friendly'. If God wants to talk about people's sexual behaviour, then he is going to have to talk about sex, and there's not much point in dressing it up in 'birds and bees' type euphemisms.

You should also note that the idea that talking about sex, adultery, whoring and related matters is 'unseemly' and that genteel people should feel uncomfortable doing it, is only a hundred or so years old. Read sermons or political speeches from 200 years ago and you will find sexual matters freely talked about without anyone being 'uncomfortable'.

Finally, when you say "you don't read such words usually in a holy book", which holy books are you referring to? There aren't that many holy books in the world, and most of them talk about sex.


Marriage is a Metaphor for/Illustration of Christianity/Judaism/Religion

In numerous places in the Bible, you will see a marital relationship (something we can understand—at least a little) used as a metaphor for or illustration of (genuine) religion, that is, a relationship with God.

In the New Testament, Paul talks like this in Ephesians 5:22-33, when he says

Ephesians 5:25 (NASB)
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her

In the latter part of Revelation, the marriage of Christ to his bride (the church) is revealed as the the inevitable future.

Throughout the Old Testament, the Jews' (individual and corporate) relationship with Yahweh is spoken of as the relationship of a wife to her husband. Idolatry is metaphorically called "harlotry" and "adultery" throughout the prophets (e.g. Hosea, Isaiah 23, Jeremiah 3, Micah 1, Nahum 3, 1 Chr 5:25, 2 Chr 21:11-13, etc.).

This passage in Ezekiel 23 is not essentially different from the other places in the Old Testament where Israel's idolatry is condemned, except, perhaps in the graphic nature in which the behavior and its consequences are described. I don't know if the Roman Catholic church has an official position on the question you've asked, but the purpose of the graphic nature of this passage might be to shock us with its unsettling and gruesome character as if to convey the idea that when we make anything but God the top priority in our lives, we are doing just as horrible and awful a thing as is described of these two metaphorical women.

  • The New American Bible (Revised Edition), which is the standard Bible used in American Catholic parishes, points out Jeremiah 3:6 - 9 (usccb.org/bible/jer/3:6) as having parallel ideas Jun 26 '14 at 19:01

Ezekiel 23

25 I shall direct my jealousy against you; they will treat you with fury; they will cut off your nose and ears, and what is left of your family will fall by the sword; they will seize your sons and daughters, and what is left will be burnt.

37 They have been adulteresses, their hands are dripping with blood, they have committed adultery with their foul idols. As for the children they had borne me, they have offered them as burnt sacrifices to feed them.

In this chapter, God is comparing the behavior of Israelites with a whore. Our God YAHWEH is a jealous God, who abhors the worship of other gods. For God, worshiping other gods is equivalent to whoring.

You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3, NIV)

While Israelites were in Egypt they worshiped the Egyptian Gods. Even after God rescued them from the slavery of Egypt, they still worshiped the Cow idol at mount Sinai. After conquering Canaan, they again worshiped the Canaanite gods and goddess. God was getting disgusted with their behavior and compared them to whores. God punished them for their adulterous behavior and let the Assyrians and Babylonians capture them to slavery.

I don't think there is nothing much to say about this chapter other than this simple explanation.

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