Scatology Theology


Scatology (noun): the study of or preoccupation with excrement. In literature, “scatological” is a term used to describe works that make particular reference to excretion or excrement, as well as to toilet humor. (Wikipedia)

The following is not typical subject matter for me. As a mom of 8- and 9-year-old boys, I’m usually trying to minimize the amount of potty talk and humor going on in my house. (My husband’s advice: “Honey, it’s a losing battle.”)

How is it that boys instinctively know, seemingly from birth, that passing wind is funny? I’ve also observed through my cross-cultural missionary work that potty humor appears to be a universal human phenomenon.

I began pondering the potty world yesterday after my friend Brian posted a link to an excellent, nuanced article from Christianity Today’s Hermeneutics blog by Karen Swallow Prior called, “Ben & Jerry’s ‘Schweddy Balls’ and Scatological Humor.”

(If you haven’t already given up reading this post in disgust, I encourage you to stop and read Prior’s article at this point.)

In her article, Prior points out that even the Apostle Paul used scatology when writing his Letter to the Philippians. In chapter 3, Paul writes:

“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ…” (v.8)

For the sake of decorum (I suppose), most modern translations of the Bible like the NIV (above) choose words like “rubbish” to describe what Paul thinks of his previous curriculum vitae. But a better rendering of the Greek word “scubala” used by Paul (very intentionally, I believe) is: “doo doo.”

I was reminded how, in a similar vein, the prophet Isaiah wrote:

“All of us have become like one who is unclean,

and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;

we all shrivel up like a leaf,

and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6, NIV)

Again, most modern Bible translations fail to capture Isaiah’s intention in describing how the Lord views our righteous acts: in the original Hebrew, the term “filthy rags” literally means “rags that have been used to absorb a woman’s menstrual flow.”

Lastly, I thought of the story of David and Saul told in 1 Samuel 24. Saul and his army of 3000 are hunting David down. David and his men are hiding in a cave. Saul providentially picks that particular cave to utilize as an old school public restroom. While Saul is squatting down, doing his business, David sneaks forward and cuts off a corner of Saul’s garment. He thinks, “This is going to be the best trophy ever! I’m going to totally humiliate Saul with this!” (David actually quickly repents of his action, convicted of his sin of bringing shame on “the Lord’s anointed.” But the point is still clearly made.)

Does anyone else find it fascinating that God would choose to use scatology in His divinely-inspired word? (Or does this just prove that I’m not any different from my 8- and 9-year-old sons?) Can anyone think of any other scatological references in the Bible?

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