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Watch your mouth: What the prohibitions of foul speech say about Colossians and Ephesians.

Hultin, J. (2009) Watch your mouth: What the prohibitions of foul speech say about Colossians and Ephesians. In: British New Testament Society Conference, 3 - 5 September 2009, University of Aberdeen, Scotland



This afternoon I would like to talk about two of the earliest Christian texts that forbid foul language, namely, the deuteroPauline epistles Colossians and Ephesians. For the modern interpreter of these texts, it is not immediately clear what such prohibitions would have meant in the ancient world. We know what it means to "watch our mouth" or to "keep it clean." But in the ancient Mediterranean foul language was used at religious rites for the pleasure of the gods; it was shouted at victorious generals during their triumphal parades; it was used in state-sponsored drama. Were Colossians and Ephesians talking about those uses of foul language? Nor is it clear what sort of moral logic undergirds these strictures. So in this talk I would like to do three things. First, to situate the prohibitions of Colossians and Ephesians in their ancient context—to figure out what sort of speech they were talking about and why they were against it. Second, to consider the ways Colossians and Ephesians differ from each other. And third, to explore what their moral stances tell us about how these early Christians conceived of their identity and mission.

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