P*ss Says Elijah

As celebrations of the four-hundredth year of the King James Version continue this month, it is time to reflect on how its language has influenced modern-day English. I recently finished my course on the Prophets, and as I was reading the wonderful stories of Elijah, I remembered the shock I first experienced when reading 1 Kings 21.21 as a child. In the words of Elijah: “Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel.” I had been raised with the certain knowledge that the “p-word” was cussing, if not downright swearing. What was it doing in the mouth of a righteous prophet? Then I realized even Saint Peter, according to Mark 14.71, “began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak” just before the cock crowed.

The Bible defies expectations. Today it has become a highly politicized document. The “Family Values” camp loves to cite select passages of the Bible but tends to ignore those juicy bits that contradict their 1950’s outlook. The Bible is a book of surprises. It suffers at the hands of its own apotheosis. I know biblical scholars who argue that the Bible should no longer be singled out as a special book, but we do owe it a debt of gratitude. If modern-day people want to revere the Bible, they should do so with an awareness of its context.

Recently a friend posted a comment on Revelation online, wondering why people found it so scary. In the many replies, several worried commenters noted how signs for the apocalypse are beyond ripe and the fruit is ready to fall from the tree. When I interjected that Revelation was a response to first-century Christian persecution couched in the language of apocalyptic literature, I was quickly corrected by others who noted that since Revelation is coming true right now, it must, ipso facto, be a future prediction. We revere the Bible without hearing it. Until we learn to actually read and appreciate the Bible in its context, I’ll have to take my side with the prophets of old. After all, p*ss says Elijah.

Be careful little mouth what you say...

4 thoughts on “P*ss Says Elijah

  1. Another of my favourites is in 2 Kings 18.27, when the Assyrians show up to trash talk and demoralise Hezekiah in Jerusalem:

    But Rab–shakeh said unto them, Hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?

    The Bible is full of colourful, salty idioms that often get lost on us because we’re not expecting them. Earlier this year, I had to organise a scavenger hunt of choice verses from the KJV for the parish bulletin. I’ve always been a bit disappointed with myself that I didn’t include some of these juicier bits.


    • rey

      It would have been funny if instead of eternal torment in fire the concept of hell had ended up being a place where you eat your own dung and drink your own piss for all eternity.


  2. Wow, you go some fundie friends on-line? I am impressed — I have not pulled that off yet! Smile
    It is very good to know our voice is heard by them.

    You said,

    I know biblical scholars who argue that the Bible should no longer be singled out as a special book, but we do owe it a debt of gratitude.

    I think a better translation of these scholars would be:

    The Bible books should not be singled out as singularly special books.

    Likewise, if we “owe it a debt of gratitude” [not something I think of compiled anthologies], then we also owe it a huge debt of distain and contempt for all the evils it has wrought. Sure I get the good that any book can be used for, but the scholars (just like you) are showing its misuse and abuses for centuries while religious professionals try to protect its “special” category.


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