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The book “Shepherd The Flock Of God” lists “obscene speech” as a disfellowshipping offense. There is no doubt that obscene speech is unbecoming of a Christian. However, that such speech is a disfellowshipping offense is made up and invented by the Governing Body, and it has no basis in the Bible.

The book for elders “Shepherd The Flock Of God” chapter 12,  point 30, says regarding obscene speech:

  1. Obscene speech: (Eph. 5:3-5; Col. 3:8; lvs p.162) Obviously, certain words are more offensive than others. Profanity is any kind of language that profanes. However, obscene speech involves sexually explicit, filthy expressions. (g03 6/8 pp.19-20) Is the speech sexually explicit? Does it persist despite repeated counsel? This would include obscenities used both in written and in oral communication, such as internet chat rooms, phone sex or e-mail. — see 12:15.2.


There are not many articles dealing with obscene speech in the Watchtower literature. The reference in the Shepherd book is to the Awake! magazine of 8 June 2003, page 19:

Abhor Obscene Jesting

Obscene language is not a modern phenomenon. Would it surprise you to learn that people used obscene speech in the days of the apostles, nearly 2,000 years ago? For example, it appears that some in the Colossian congregation used obscenities when angered. They may have done so to attack or hurt others intentionally, perhaps in retaliation. Likewise, many people today use obscene speech in outbursts of anger. Hence, Paul’s letter to the Colossians is relevant in our day. Paul wrote: “Put them all away from you, wrath, anger, badness, abusive speech, and obscene talk out of your mouth.” (Colossians 3:8) Clearly, Christians are admonished to avoid outbursts of anger and the obscene language that so often go hand in hand with anger.

Granted, many use obscenities with no intention of attacking or injuring others. Likely, obscene language is most often used in a casual manner. Vile expressions thus become deeply entrenched in everyday speech. Some even find it hard to communicate without the use of expletives. Oftentimes, obscene language is even used to elicit laughter. But should such obscene jesting be viewed as a lesser, more tolerable offense? Consider the following.

Obscene jesting is shocking language intended to amuse others. Today obscene jesting is mostly sex-oriented. And many who consider themselves decent people find such language entertaining. (Romans 1:28-32) It is not surprising, then, that both natural and unnatural sexual behaviors are the subject matter of many professional comedians. Obscene jesting is featured in many movies as well as in television and radio programs.

The Bible is not silent on the subject of obscene jesting. The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus: “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people; neither shameful conduct nor foolish talking nor obscene jesting, things which are not becoming. (Ephesians 5:3, 4) Clearly, obscene language, regardless of its intent, is offensive to God. It is bad. It is speech that injures.

The Greek word eutrapelia is translated as “obscene jesting” in NWT13. The meaning of the word, according to Louw and Nida, is “coarse jesting involving vulgar expressions and indecent content — ‘vulgar speech, indecent talk.’” NIV translates the word with “coarse joking.”

This article contains good advice against obscene speech, and it is obvious that the use of such language is unbecoming of a Christian. But the article does not say anything about taking judicial action if a member of the congregation is using such language. However, the discussion of obscene speech in the Shepherd book has a reference to chapter 12, point 15 (2) in the same book:

Immoral Conversations Over the Telephone or the Internet: A practice of engaging in immoral conversations over the telephone or the Internet, including “sexting,” can involve obscene speech or gross uncleanness, either of which can be a basis for judicial action. lf such conduct occurred on a few isolated occasions, judicial action may not be necessary. Counsel from two elders may be sufficient to handle such minor uncleanness. The elders should inform the coordinator of the body of elders of the situation. However, such conduct may escalate in gravity and by frequent repetition become gross uncleanness with greediness requiring judicial action, especially if the individual had been previously counseled. The elders must use good judgment in determining whether the wrongdoing has escalated to a point warranting judicial action.—w06 7/15 pp. 30-31.

Comparing chapter 12, point 30, with point 15 (2), it seems that “obscene speech” refers to the words of one person, while “immoral conversations” refers to communications between two or more persons. Immoral conversations are not said to be synonymous with “obscene speech,” but “can involve,” or include such, according to the quotation.

Therefore, the cross-reference between the two points in the Shepherd book is meant to convey that “obscene speech” must be treated in the same way as “immoral conversations.” Thus, if obscene speech were to ‘escalate in gravity or frequency,’ the perpetrator of such speech can be disfellowshipped. The reason given to justify disfellowshipping in such situations is that the speech can be defined as “gross uncleanness with greediness.”

There are two big problems both with points 15 (2) and 30:

  • The expression “gross uncleanness with greediness” is an artificial construction that was made up and invented by the Governing Body. It has no basis in the Bible whatsoever.[1]
  • The disfellowshipping offenses, “immoral conversations” and “obscene speech” are also made up and invented by the GB, because there is no basis for these in the Bible.

[1]. See my book My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body pages 210-217.


Obscene speech is listed as a disfellowshipping offense in the Shepherd book. But this disfellowshipping offense is made up and invented by the Governing Body, and it has no basis in the Bible.

Rolf Furuli

Author Rolf Furuli

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