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The terms “Gross uncleanness” and “Uncleanness with greediness” are made-up and invented by the GB and have no basis in the Bible.

However, the GB tries to show that these two expressions are based on the Bible. The arguments for this are completely untenable. Ephesians 4:19 is used to justify the expression “Uncleanness with greediness.” But the actions mentioned in the verse refer to people of the nations (v. 17), and therefore they cannot be applied to Christians. Moreover, one lexicon says that “greediness” (pleonexia) in the NT always refers to material gain, and therefore “greediness” is restricted in meaning. Even if “greediness” could be connected with “uncleanness,” disfellowshipping is never connected with uncleanness in the NT, so the expression “Uncleanness with greediness” is a chimera created by the GB and, therefore, cannot justifiably be used as an umbrella term for different disfellowshipping actions.

The GB has forged ahead in the opposite direction of sound Biblical exegesis. Instead of first going to the Bible to find which actions warrant disfellowshipping, they decide which actions deserve disfellowshipping and then they go to the Bible to find support for this. A glaring example of this is the application of “Passion-arousing heavy petting.” In the book for elders from 1991, this action was put under the umbrella term “Loose conduct” (asēlgeia). But in The Watchtower of 2006 and in the book for elders of 2019 this action is put under the umbrella term “Uncleanness with greediness.” What is the reason for this difference? The term “Uncleanness with greediness” was not yet invented in 1991.

The terms “Gross uncleanness” and “Uncleanness with greediness” are not found in the New Testament. Nevertheless, the GB uses these terms as umbrella terms for particular actions that they have decided are disfellowshipping offenses. The GB gives the reader the impression that the umbrella terms are based on the NT. But the nature of the arguments simply is unbelievable. The arguments are so weird that we have to wonder how Bible teachers could ever resort to creating laws based on their own human standards. Let us see. First I will quote the book for elders and The Watchtower, and then I will analyze the arguments. The book “Shepherd The Flock Of God” 12.14 says:

Gross Uncleanness, Uncleanness With Greediness: (2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19: Eph. 4:19) Galatians 5:19-21 lists many vices that are not classed as por·nei´a but that could lead to one’s being disqualified from God’s kingdom. Among them are uncleanness (Greek. a-ka·thar·si´a). When one practices uncleanness to a serious degree, it can be grounds for disfellowshipping from the Christian congregation. Elders should use good judgement in discerning whether the conduct is minor uncleanness that can be handled by counsel or is gross uncleanness that requires the formation of a judicial committee. w06 7/15 pp. 29-31; w83 3/15 p. 31; lvs p. 249.

The Watchtower of 15 July 2006, page 30, says:

Uncleanness (Greek, a-ka·thar-si’a) is the broadest of the three terms rendered “fornication,” “uncleanness,” and “loose conduct.” It embraces impurity of any kind—in sexual matters, in speech, in action, and in spiritual relationships. “Uncleanness” covers a wide range of serious sins. As recorded at 2 Corinthians 12:21, Paul refers to those who “formerly sinned but have not repented over their uncleanness and fornication and loose conduct that they have practiced.” Since “uncleanness” is listed with “fornication and loose conduct,” some forms of uncleanness warrant judicial action. But uncleanness is a broad term that includes things that are not of a judicial nature. Just as a house may be somewhat dirty or completely filthy, uncleanness has degrees. Paul said, according to Ephesians 4:19, that some individuals had “come to be past all moral sense” and that “they gave themselves over to loose conduct to work uncleanness of every sort with greediness.” Paul thus puts “uncleanness . . . with greediness” in the same category as loose conduct. If a baptized person unrepentantly practices “uncleanness. . . with greediness,” he can be expelled from the congregation on the grounds of gross uncleanness.

The first line in brown shows the logical fallacy the GB uses to make some forms of uncleanness disfellowshipping offenses, which is indicated by the words “judicial action.” 1 Corinthians 6:10 shows that persons that are permeated by fornication (porneia) should be disfellowshipped. But nowhere in the NT is “loose conduct” (asēlgeia) shown to be a disfellowshipping offense. It is obvious that the argument that uncleanness, loose conduct, and fornication are mentioned together does not make “some forms of uncleanness” disfellowshipping offenses.

That three words are mentioned together does not make them equivalent or interchangeable. The translations “loose conduct” (NWT84) and “brazen conduct” (NWT13) are not good renderings, particularly not “brazen conduct.” I translate the word as “unrestrained lust.” A simple explanation for why the three words are mentioned together is that “unrestrained lust” (asēlgeia) is what leads to “sexual immorality” (porneia), and sexual immorality leads to uncleanness (akatharsia).

The next weird argument is seen in the lines in brown: Ephesians 4:19 is used as evidence for the expression “uncleanness with greediness.” First, the quotation does not reveal that the mentioned “some individuals” does not refer to the Christians but to people of the nations. This alone shows that the words of the verse cannot be applied to disfellowshipping offenses in the Christian congregation. Second, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology says regarding  pleonexia and cognate words, “The actions denoted by them . . . always appear to be directed towards material gain.” If this is correct, we get “uncleanness…with a desire for material gain” instead of “uncleanness…with greediness.” Third, even if pleonexia includes more than material gain and we have the expression “uncleanness…with greediness,” this is a description of the pagan nations and not a technical expression for Christians. Fourth, the words of Ephesian 4:19 is not connected with disfellowshipping.[1]

[1]. A detailed discussion of Ephesian 4:19 and “uncleanness with greediness” is found in My Beloved Religion—And The Governing Body, pages 209-215.

The GB has made-up and invented the umbrella term “Uncleanness with greediness.” This term is claimed to be based on the Bible, but it is not. Different actions that are not mentioned in the Bible are subsumed under this umbrella term as disfellowshipping offenses.

The book for elders “Shepherd The Flock Of God” 12.15, 1-5 has a list of actions that are viewed as “Uncleanness with greediness.” The book says that “this is not an exhaustive list.”

The following actions are listed, and they will be discussed in turn:

  • Momentary Touching of Intimate Body Parts or Caressing of Breasts.
  • Immoral Conversations Over the Telephone or the Internet.
  • Viewing Abhorrent Forms of Pornography.
  • Misuse of Tobacco or Marijuana and Abuse of Medical, Illicit, or Addictive Drugs.
  • Extreme Physical Uncleanness.

The application of “momentary touching of intimate body parts or caressing of breasts” is a glaring example of the arbitrariness of the decisions of the members of the GB, who continue to forge ahead in the opposite direction of sound biblical exegesis. The Shepherd-book references The Watchtower of 15 July 2006, pages 29-31, in connection with “Uncleanness with greediness.” As examples of  “momentary touching…” the article of 2006 mentions “passion-arousing heavy petting on numerous occasions.” This action, according to the article,  is put under the umbrella term “Gross uncleanness” (akatahrsia). However, in the book for elders “Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All Your Flock” that was published in 1991, “passion-arousing heavy petting…” was put under the umbrella term “Loose conduct” (asēlgeia). What is the reason for this discrepancy? The term “gross uncleanness” was not yet invented in 1991, but the members of the GB needed a biblical reference, and they used what they had—the term “Loose conduct.”

The arbitrariness of the decisions of the members of the GB is seen by the fact that certain actions claimed to be disfellowshipping offenses were at one time listed as “Loose conduct” (asēlgeia) and another time are listed as “Gross uncleanness.”


The conclusion is that under the pretext that the umbrella term “Uncleanness with greediness” is based on the Bible, several actions that are not mentioned in the Bible are listed as disfellowshipping offenses. This is a clear example of how the GB has made-up a number of human commandments that have no basis in the Bible.

Rolf Furuli

Author Rolf Furuli

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