Bible Vulgarities & Obscenities
These lists are meant to identify possible problems in the Bible, especially problems which are inherent in a literalist or fundamentalist interpretation. Some of the selections may be resolvable on certain interpretations–after all, almost any problem can be eliminated with suitable rationalizations–but it is the reader’s obligation to test this possibility and to decide whether it really makes appropriate sense to do this. To help readers in this task, these lists are aimed at presenting examples where problems may exist given certain allowable (but not always obligatory) assumptions. It should be kept in mind that a perfect and omnipotent God could, should, and likely would see to it that such problems did not exist in a book which s/he had inspired. It should also be kept in mind that what is and is not a vulgarity or obscenity is to some extent a matter of opinion. You are entitled to disagree with the author that these are, in fact, vulgarities or obscenities.
What is and what is not vulgar or obscene is, of course, an individual matter. By current Christian standards, however, the verses that follow would likely be considered inappropriate, if not vulgar or obscene, were they in any setting other than the Bible.
GE 4:17 Cain’s wife would likely have been his sister. (Note, assuming that Cain was, say, 100 years older than his wife, his wife could possibly have been a niece rather than a sister.)
(KJV) GE 17:10-14, 23-27, 21:4, 34:15, 17, 22, 24, EX 4:26, 12:44, 48, LE 12:3, DT 10:16, 30:6, JS 5:2-5, 7-8, JE 4:4, 9:25, LK 1:59, LK 2:21, JN 7:22-23, AC 7:8,10:45, 11:2, 15:1, 5, 24, 16:3, RO 2:25-29, 3:1, 30, 4:9-12, 15:8, CO 7:18-19, GA 2:3, 7-9, 12, 5:2-3, 6, 11, 6:12-13, 15, EP 2:11, PH 3:3, 3:5, CN 2:11, 3:11, 4:11,TS 1:10 Various references to circumcision, some quite vulgar.
(KJV) GE 17:11, 14, 23-25, EX 4:25, LE 12:3, DE 10:16, JS 5:3, SA 18:25, 27, SA 3:14, JE 4:4, HA 2:16 Various references to foreskins, some rather vulgar.
GE 9:22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness.
GE 19:4-8 A group of sexually depraved men demands that Lot turn over to them his two male visitors. Lot offers his two virgin daughters instead.
GE 19:30-38 Lot’s daughters have sexual intercourse with him while he is drunk and both become pregnant by their father.
GE 24:2-9, 47:29 “… put your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the Lord ….” (Note: This means “put your hand under my testicles,” which is the manner in which oaths were taken at the time; “testament,” “testify,” and “testicle” have the same root.)
GE 29:16-30 Jacob marries both Leah and her sister Rachel. He has children by both Leah and Rachel’s maid Bilhah, but Rachel remains barren. Due apparently to Rachel’s generosity to her husband, the Lord eventually allows Rachel to conceive.
GE 34:1-2 Shechem defiles Dinah.
GE 34:13-29 Hamor, his son, and the men of their village agree to be circumcised so as to be allowed to marry the daughters of the Israelites. On the third day, “when they were sore,” the Israelites kill Hamor, his son, and all the men of the village, and plunder their wealth, taking their wives and children, thus getting revenge for the defiling of Dinah.
GE 35:22 (KJV) “Reuben went and lay with Bilhah, his fathers concubine.”
GE 38:9 Onan “spills his seed” on the ground rather than fulfill his obligation to his widowed sister-in-law to father a child by her.
GE 38:13-19 Tamar plays the role of a harlot in order to have sexual intercourse with her father-in-law. She conceives and twins are born.
GE 39:7-23 The wife of Joseph’s master tries to get Joseph to go to bed with her. He refuses, and flees leaving his “garment in her hand.” She claims that Joseph tried to rape her, and Joseph ends up imprisoned.
EX 20:26 “Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.”
LE 15:16-19 (KJV) “And if any man’s seed of copulation go out from him, then he shall wash all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even. And every garment, and every skin, whereon is the seed of copulation, shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the even. The woman also with whom man shall lie with seed of copulation, they shall both bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the even. And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean ….”
NU 31:17-18 “… all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.” (Note: How did they determine which girls were virgins, and what did they do with them after they kept them alive for themselves? This is not a pretty picture.)
NU 31:31-40 32,000 virgins are taken by the Israelites as booty of which thirty-two are set aside as a tribute for the Lord.
DT 21:10-14 With the Lord’s approval, the Israelites are allowed to kidnap “beautiful women” from the enemy camp to be their trial wives. If, after having sexual relations, a man has “no delight” in his wife, he can simply let her go.
DT 23:1 (KJV) “He that is wounded in the stones [testicles], or hath his privy member [penis] cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord.”
DT 28:15, 30 If you do not obey the voice of the Lord, the Lord will cause another man to “lie with” your wife-to-be.
JS 5:3 “… the Hill of Foreskins.”
JG 8:30-31 Gideon had many wives as well as a concubine.
JG 19:22-29 A group of sexual depraved men beat on the door of an old man’s house demanding that he turn over to them a male house guest. Instead, the old man offers his virgin daughter and his guest’s concubine (or wife): “Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine; let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do with them what seems good to you; but against this man do not do so vile a thing.” The man’s concubine is ravished and dies. The man then cuts her body into twelve pieces and sends one piece to each of the twelve tribes of Israel.
JG 21:11-12 “This is what you shall do; every male and every woman that has lain with man you shall utterly destroy. And they found … four hundred young virgins who had not known man by lying with him; and they brought them to the camp ….” (Again, how did they determine which girls were virgins? This is not a pretty picture.)
JG 21:14-23 The 400 virgins captured above prove to be insufficient, so the Benjaminites hide in the vineyards and kidnap “the daughters of Shiloh” as they come out to dance and celebrate.
SA 5:6-9 The Lord afflicts Philistines with tumors in their “secret parts.”
SA 18:27 So that David might be allowed to marry the king’s daughter, the king asks David to bring him 100 Philistine foreskins. David does the job right and brings the king not 100, but 200, foreskins of murdered Philistines.
SA 19:24 “And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night.”
SA 3:7 (KJV) “Wherefore hast thou gone in unto [a euphemism for sexual intercourse] my fathers concubine?”
SA 6:14, 16, 20-23 David dances and exposes himself to his maids. (His wife, Michal rebukes him for having done so, and as a consequence she is made barren.)
SA 12:11-12 The Lord is going to punish David for his sin by taking his wives and causing his neighbor to have sexual relations with them in public.
SA 13:1-14 King David’s son, Amnon, rapes his half-sister, Tamar.
SA 16:22 Absalom “went into his father’s concubines” in the sight of all Israel.
KI 1:1-4 David was old, and although covered with clothes, could not get warm. A beautiful, young virgin is brought in to be his concubine and nurse. But alas, he was so old and infirm that he “knew her not.”
KI 11:3 Solomon (allegedly the wisest man ever) had 700 wives and 300 concubines.
KI 6:29 “So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him,’ but she had hidden him.”
KI 18:27, IS 36:12 (KJV) “… eat their own dung and drink their own piss.” (Note: Although correctly translated according to the oldest Hebrew manuscripts, piss and pisseth have been re-translated to something more “godly” in all versions since the KJV.)
CH 11:21 Rehoboam had eighteen wives and sixty concubines.
ES 2:2-17 King Ahasuerus holds a sexual contest with “fair young virgins” to pick a new Queen (after having been spurned by Queen Vashti).
PR 5:19 (KJV) “… Let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.”
SO 1:13 “My beloved is to me a bag of myrrh, that lies between my breasts.”
SO 2:3 “I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.”
SO 5:4 (KJV) “My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.”
SO 7:1-2 “… the joints of your thighs are like jewels ….”
SO 7:7-9 “You are stately as a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its branches. Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine ….”
SO 8:10 “… and my breasts were like towers.”
IS 3:17 “The Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will uncover their secret parts.”
IS 13:15 “Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their … wives will be ravished.”
IS 20:2-4 The Lord himself apparently commands his servant to go naked for three years.
IS 57:8 “Behind your doors and doorpost … you uncovered your bed, you climbed into it and opened it wide; you made a pact with those whose beds you love, and you looked on their nakedness.”
LA 4:21 “… thou shalt be drunken, and shalt make thyself naked.”
EZ 4:12 (KJV) “And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight. And the Lord said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread ….”
EZ 4:15 (KJV) “… I have given thee cows dung for mans dung, and thou shalt prepare thy bread therewith.”
EZ 16:7 “… You grew up and … arrived at full maidenhood; your breasts were formed … yet you were naked and bare.”
EZ 16:8 “Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.”
EZ 16:22 “… you were naked and bare, kicking about in your blood.”
EZ 16:36 “… your shame was laid bare and your nakedness uncovered in your harlotries with your lovers ….”
EZ 16:37 “Therefore I am going to gather all your lovers, with whom you took pleasure, those you loved as well as those you hated. I will gather them against you from every side and will strip you in front of them, and they will see all your nakedness.”
EZ 16:39 “… they will strip you of your clothes, … and leave you naked and bare.”
EZ 23:3 “They played the harlot in Egypt; they played the harlot in their youth; there were their breasts fondled and their virgin bosoms handled.” Or, as the KJV puts it: “they bruised the teats of their virginity.”
EZ 23:8 (KJV) “… in her youth they lay with her, and they bruised the breasts of her virginity, and poured their whoredom upon her.”
EZ 23:10 “They stripped her naked, took away her sons and daughters and killed her with the sword.”
EZ 23:17 (KJV) “And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their whoredom, and she was polluted with them ….”
EZ 23:18 (KJV) “So she discovered her whoredoms, and discovered her nakedness: ….”
EZ 23:20-21 (RSV) “Yet she increased her harlotry … and doted on her paramours there, whose members [i.e., sexual organs] were like those of asses and whose issue was like that of horses. Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressed your young breasts.”
EZ 23:29 (KJV) “… and shall leave thee naked and bare: and the nakedness of thy whoredoms shall be discovered, both thy lewdness and thy whoredoms.”
EZ 23:34 “You shall … pluck out your hair, and tear your breasts.”
HO 1:2 (KJV) “And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom.'”
HO 2:2 (KJV) “… let her … put away her whoredoms out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts ….”
HO 2:3 “Otherwise I will strip her naked and make her as bare as the day she was born.”
HO 13:16 “They shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.”
AM 2:16 “‘Even the bravest warriors will flee naked on that day,’ declares the Lord.”
MI 1:8 “I will go stripped and naked.”
MI 3:2-3 “… who pluck off their skin …, and their flesh from off their bones; Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them; and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron.”
NA 3:5 ” I am against you,’ says the Lord … , and will lift up your skirts over your face; I will show the nations your nakedness and kingdoms your shame.'”
HA 2:15 “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies.”
MA 2:3 The Lord says that he will spread dung upon the faces of the priests.
MK 14:51-52 A young man discards his clothing and flees naked.
JN 21:7 (KJV) “Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fishers coat unto him, for he was naked, and did cast himself into the sea.”
AC 19:13-16 Seven Jewish exorcists are overpowered by a man with a demon and flee naked and wounded.
RE 16:15 When Jesus comes again, he will come like a thief in the night so that those who do not have their clothes [on] will go naked and be shamefully exposed.
RE 17:16 “They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.”
Compiled by Donald Morgan