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Chapter Summary

Foul language had no small place in the ancient world. It wounded the victims of iambic poetry; it burst off the comic stage; it was whispered and shouted in religious rites; it was scrawled crudely on walls and written cleverly in poems. From Plato to the Emperor Julian there was a sense that foul speech was lowly and slavish, contrary to moral earnestness. But the concerns that so many Greek and Roman moralists had about foul language are notably absent from the Hebrew scriptures, from Jesus? sayings, and from Paul?s authentic letters. Sirach, the Didache, and Colossians make brief mentions of foul language. Ephesians is more expansive than Colossians, and Clement of Alexandria has quite a lot to say about this topic. Clement of Alexandria accused the followers of Prodicus of using foul language, and Theodoret connected them to the nudist Adamites.

Keywords: ancient world; foul language; Greek moralists; Hebrew scriptures; Roman moralists



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