Not to be confused with this closed question, is our use of cultural criticisms (eg some from the list of Carlin's 7 words) approved\allowed\encouraged because Jesus (and later Paul) used cultural equivalents?

For example, Jesus called the Scribes and Pharisees "hypocrites" several times during His ministry (Matthew 15, 22, 23, Luke 12, etc).

Wikipedia points-out:

hypokrites was a technical term for a stage actor and was not considered an appropriate role for a public figure. In Athens in the 4th century BC, for example, the great orator Demosthenes ridiculed his rival Aeschines, who had been a successful actor before taking up politics, as a hypokrites whose skill at impersonating characters on stage made him an untrustworthy politician. This negative view of the hypokrites, perhaps combined with the Roman disdain for actors, later shaded into the originally neutral hypokrisis. It is this later sense of hypokrisis as "play-acting", i.e., the assumption of a counterfeit persona, that gives the modern word hypocrisy its negative connotation.

Being called a hypocrite was about as horrid an insult as one could level against a public figure in Christ's day.

Paul called the church in Corinth worse than the Gentiles, and arrogant.

Paul also called Peter effectively a Gentile, and frequently used the word "anathema" or "accursed" in his writings describing those who would pervert the Gospel for their own ends.

Were these merely cases of calling a spade a spade (regardless of the language chosen to do so), or is it an encouragement/permit to use similar language at least when confronting sin?

  • Would you say any cuss word in the presence of Jesus? If your answer is yes, then I think you need to strengthen your walk with him.
    – dcreight
    Aug 30, 2012 at 15:33
  • 2
    "Hypocrite" "accursed" and "arrogant" may be negative words, but they are not 'cuss words' by any definition. Epithets are not always negative. Aug 30, 2012 at 15:56
  • In the passage you refer to, Paul does not call Peter 'effectively a Gentile' - he says he lives like a Gentile. It's also very important to note that 'Gentile' is not an insult in this context - Paul has spent a lot of time arguing that Gentiles should not be looked down on. Aug 30, 2012 at 15:57
  • There are no cuss words in the Bible. Someone tried to make this strange argument here and then when I explained that it was not true he voted my somewhat scholarly and objective answer down - as far as I can tell only because I could not support his desire to cuss: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/2286/…
    – Mike
    Aug 31, 2012 at 5:25
  • 1
    Ok - now it seems a pretty difficult question. I will think about it. Not sure offhand. Cheers.
    – Mike
    Aug 31, 2012 at 14:15

1 Answer 1


Sorry for the long post but the question is complex, so I have answered according to various aspects.

The Bible is pretty clear about using 'foul' language, but what is 'foul' is not always clear. However since the bible endorses brotherly love, if words that you feel free to say at home, offends someone at work, or church, then they should be said at home only.

Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. (NIV Ephesians 5:4)

The new testament is never legalistic, so it expects each person to apply a verse like this and there is no need for others to define in great detail what it means by actually listing the words. Regarding Carlins 7 cuss words (I had to look that up) even most non-Christians would define most of them as obscenities.  Basically, if a teacher in a high school could get into trouble for saying a certain word every day in their regular teaching, it is probably viewed as an obscenity by a large population.  

But all humor aside, I think the key idea with obscenity is that it offends.  Even if the Bible did not say, do not use offensive language, it is already given that we should do our utmost not to offend our brother. Obscenities are just those words, not evil in themselves, that are generally understood as offensive.  Of course many words lay on the border of offensive or non.  I am often surprise that some words I use, are considered offensive by some people at my own church.

What makes a word offensive? I think what happens is when we are bitter or angry in a sinful 'cursing' sense we tend to refer to certain word to express our wicked curse.  Although the words themselves could be said by a child without any anger at all, the frequency of their use as a continuer for wicked cursing, by wicked men, eventually bring about a strong cultural opposing to the word itself.  It is these word which would make our talk unwholesome and unloving.

Now as we approach sin, or things we can hate, while being a loving Christian, we are naturally wanting to use words that properly express our disgust.  These are the types of words that Jesus and thenApostle used. Non of these words were considered offensive, but being called by them, would obviously offend, but in a good way.  For example sinner is not a offensive word, but many would be offended if you came up to them and said, 'Hi, did you know you are are a wicked, blaspheming, sinner?'

So the only question remaining is when can we use words that although not offensive in themselves, are greatly offensive to those we use them?  I think this is something each person must decide according to their faith and proper evaluation of their own attitudes.  For example, at home I would say very sharp words about a certain Christian group. I would say they are mostly all deceived. Their leader is a devil.  They have always been filthy blasphemes who hate Christians, etc.  I would say that to my wife as she would not be offended.  At my church I would  not say these things so sharply, as I may offend.  At work I would not say them as it may be considered as harassment and even worth being disciplined.  I would not say these things on this website as it violates the purpose of the site.

Jesus, the Apostles and even regular Christians may be forced to publically use very offensive language because of what is at stake.  For example if false teachers, are deceiving members of a congregation, very harsh language may be needed to rebuke them.  If we just said, well they have their opinions, but we think we are right, others might think it is ok, to consider lies, in place of faith in Christ.  Since the stakes are so high, leaders may need to let people know, chose them, or chose us, there is no in between. One is good, the other is scum, one if righteous, the other wicked.  When it reaches climatic situations like this,** holy men will use the most offensive language, without ever needing to use words that are actually offensive in themselves.**

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .