With the beginning of our new series from George Whitefield regarding profanity, the question is begged “what is profanity?” which is a very good question. We here a The Old Dead Guys have discussed this at length and are not really sure we can nail down a satisfactory answer. There seems to be several factors involved here not the least of which is regional norms. For instance the f----- bomb is used by many as an adverb or adjective, so in that context are those who use those types of words being profane in spite of the repulsiveness some may have to the word(s) themselves?
Isn’t that type of word or phrase a synonym of another which when used is not found to be offensive? Now I personally think that “profanity” is, in most cases, the refuge of a weak mind and that many who use such words do so from an inability to express themselves adequately. Yet even the otherwise “well educated” will use this type of guttural language. But again this does not help us in defining what profanity is.
Webster’s 1828 states of profane as:
1. Irreverent to any thing sacred; applied to persons. A man is profane when he takes the name of God in vain, or treats sacred things with abuse and irreverence.
2. Irreverent; proceeding from a contempt of sacred things, or implying it; as profane words or language; profane swearing.
3. Not sacred; secular; relating to secular things; as profane history.
4. Polluted; not pure.
5. Not purified or holy; allowed for common use; as a profane place.
As in Ezek.42:20. and 48:15.
6. Obscene; heathenish; tending to bring reproach on religion; as profane fables.
As used in 1 Tim.4:7 .
Profane is used chiefly in Scripture in opposition to that which is holy, or qualified ceremonially for sacred services. Its first mention ‘chalal’ is seen in Gen 6:1 in the word “began” and speaks of a general growth toward profaneness or disobedience toward God and his established order as “man began to multiply on the face of the land.” It wasn’t the multiplying that was profane for that was God’s command to man in the Garden but their profaneness was that the “wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gen 6:5).
The NT uses ‘bebeloo’ as in Mt 12:5 or Acts 24:6 to describe the act of profaning a thing or (more often) ‘bebelos’ (1 Tim1:9: 4:7; or Heb 12:6) to describe a profane person. And as you might expect a profane person can and often does profane a thing or bebelos leads to bebeloo.
So that we see a common thread being that something is profane when is in opposition to that which is holy or set apart for that which is holy or of God himself.
But that does not help us much with words that are used which most of us would rather not hear. And that is where we will pick up next week.