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Jewish Scripture And Earliest Christianity

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Chapter Summary

Many Christians and Jews in late antiquity took for granted that God disapproved of foul language. Christians and Jews did not derive their morality of foul speech from their scriptures; and the Christians? aversion to foul speech did not stem from the teachings of Jesus. Ben Sirach 23:12?15 calls foul speech ?sinful,? and says that it is liable to humiliate a person if one has the habit of using it. The Epistle of James is particularly anxious about sins of the tongue. Some of what James says is commonplace for Jewish wisdom literature. The Didache represents the first clear Jewish or Christian warning that foul speech will lead to sexual sins. In the authentic Pauline letters there is no comment that directly addresses decency in language. One passage in the undisputed Pauline epistles that could pertain to the corrupting power of ?evil speech? is 1 Cor 15:33.

Keywords: Ben Sirach; Didache; early Christian writings; Epistle of James; foul language; Jesus; Jewish wisdom literature

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