- To remove erroneous, vulgar, obscene, or otherwise objectionable material from (a book, for example) before publication.
- To purify; to clear from anything noxious, offensive, or erroneous; to cleanse; to purge.
- to expurgate (something, such as a book) by omitting or modifying parts considered vulgar.
- to modify by abridging, simplifying, or distorting in style or content.
Etymology: Bowdler + ize; named after English physician Thomas Bowdler (1754–1825). In 1818 he published ‘The Family Shakespeare’, a censored version of the bawdy works of William Shakespeare, expurgating “those words and expressions which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family.”
Recently I was alerted to someone in the “Christian manosphere” linking to some purportedly “Christian” hardcore pornography. Is “Christian-pornography” an oxymoron? Thanks to Hollywood and our “Sex, drugs, & Rock ‘n’ Roll” promoting entertainment culture, our nations have been saturated with the sexualization of just about everything lately. However the church has traditionally been the force in society that desexualizes everything. Well … until recently.
Rev. Tommy Nelson famously produced a series of filmed messages re-pornifying a part of the Bible.
The yarn-spinning, joke-telling Texan travels the country using the Bible’s Song of Solomon as God’s definitive message on dating, marriage and sexual intimacy. … He explained words like pomegranate, vineyard and garden are layered in sexual imagery. Raisin cakes represent aphrodisiacs. And the phrase “let his left hand be under my head and his right hand embrace me” means begetting has begun.
So does the Bible deal with the primary focus of our generation, sex?
Jack, over at Σ Frame recently said:
Just to point this out… the Bible has R and X rated content in prose and PG language.
Is that true? And how does that work?
We shall ponder this curious matter of whether the Bible has been expurgated of its sexual mojo and whether there is merit to “brining the sexy back”. But first, as I stroke my beard and try to think of a wise and orderly way to open this subject, please smooth down your pornstache and prepare your mind.
Sirach 26:10(NRSV) Keep strict watch over a headstrong daughter, or else, when she finds liberty, she will make use of it. … 12 As a thirsty traveler opens his mouth and drinks from any water near him, so she will sit in front of every tent peg and open her quiver to the arrow.
Since Protestants don’t generally recognize the apocryphal books as part of the Bible, then perhaps without too much sacrilege we can then speculate about the above apocryphal passage and try to surmise what the ancient Hebrew author was trying to say … and why he didn’t just say it in plain English. Is the tent peg a literal tent stake? Could the quiver and arrow be figurative terms? Are you pervs already presuming it to be something sexual? Part of the issue is that there is a change in language over time and through translation. But is it possible that those who have translated the text have bowdlerized it by rendering Hebrew figures of speech in literal English? I’m not an ancient Hebrew father, but, their lives, back then, must have been pretty carefree if their biggest worry for a rebellious daughter was that she’d go out and sit in front of all the tent pegs and gather up arrows in her quiver. Godfearing fathers in today’s oversexualized culture have to worry about their daughters becoming sluts!
The translation problems may lie in the fact that Bible translators don’t generally deal in dirty words. Nor may the authors have chosen to use dirty words if they existed. The whole concept of “dirty words” is even sort of a cultural phenomenon. Is any particular word unwholesome? Or do words only convey the shared meaning and connotations we allow them, making the words themselves inert, unless you use them in an unwholesome way. Take for instance “the F-word” the queen mother of all dirty words. Is saying it like saying an incantation to summon evil? If I say “fuck” in a forest and nobody hears me, is it a sin? What if I’m heard? Or does sin come from disobedience and evil intentions?
For what it is worth, I had heard an urban legend regarding the etymology of the word “fuck” but after studiously researching the truth of the matter, the origin of the word is still mostly shrouded in mystery and is the subject of many speculations. The reason many folks use it as an expletive is because people have been conditioned not to say it in polite conversation, and so people often say it to emotionally express that they are not having a polite conversation moment. However, what is deemed as dirty conversation varies with the culture. God Himself remains unchanging, nor is the Omniscient naïve about any subject, including the two sexes He created. God has seen every sinful act ever committed. We don’t need to play coy at church. However, we should be careful in our speech since we will all be judged by our own words.(Matthew 12:34-37)
Many Christians seem to not want to ever speak to their children about sex, assuring that their children are either dangerously ignorant about sex or learn about it entirely from our perverted world instead.
Another translation problem may be that pornographic text could be made up of entirely inert words, which could be interpreted in another sense.
Give me your lovin’. Give it to me. Oh yeah, you’re the best. Oh yeah, I love what you do to me. Oh God I’m coming!
Was that people having sex or some new praise song lyrics? Would we know the difference if we read something like that in the book of Psalms?
Bible translators, generally like their life’s work to be accepted and not doubted or denounced, and so they have a personal incentive to not make their translation seem risqué. And modern translators may have additional financial incentive to get their translation adopted by denominations and the general public. So the incentives are always there to make God’s words more palatable and less objectionable.
Starting in the earliest church which began in a Roman society heavily influenced by Gnostics, Stoics, and Cynics, who viewed natural physical sexual acts and passions as inherently evil, there has been a push to further desexualize Christianity. And so today many risk-averse Christian leaders are also sex-averse cloistered and naïvely aloof in their ivory towers. While Hollywood usually focuses on the Roman orgies and the sexual decadence and corruption of Rome, the Roman church fathers were the olden day conservatives who along with other conservative sects tried unsuccessfully to stop the moral liberality that contributed to the weakening and eventual collapse of the empire.
Long story short, the human sex drive is stronger than most people’s drive to follow religious dogma, so unless you ignore the Pericope Adulterae and enforce God-given sexual law with dreadful force, society will steadily slip towards depravity.
Martin Luther lamented, when the civil Crown quit executing all adulterers, that his country was headed down a moral slippery slope … to … today’s Germany.
But does the Bible teach us more about sex, besides commands like killing all adulterers? Yeah! Proverbs 5 is an entire chapter about sex. For example:
Proverbs 5:15 Drink water from your own cistern,
And flowing water from your own well.
16 Should your springs overflow into the street,
Streams of water in the public squares?
17 Let them be yours alone,
And not for strangers with you.
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
And rejoice in the wife of your youth.
19 Like a loving doe and a graceful hind,
Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
Be exhilarated always with her love.
20 For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress,
And embrace the breasts of a foreigner?
So is Solomon telling us to not drink any water that isn’t from our own well, and not to let strangers have a drink from our well? Not even a cup of cold water given in Christ’s name? Or was Solomon using sexual euphemisms where the husband has a fountain and his wife has a well or cistern, because in that case then the commands are sensible and in keeping with the law of God. I have never even heard of a Christian man claiming they only drink water from their own well. So how can we apply these passages if they are bowdlerized and we are kept from understanding their wisdom? Well that’s where our free membership benefits kick in! I just explained it to you, for free. I may not fully understand it, but such as I have give I thee.
I think the correct position is to re-sexualize the Bible where it has clearly been desexualized, but otherwise to not sexualize the Bible just to make it more titillating to the sexually immoral.