1Thes 4:4 Can SKEUOS be used as a euphemism for male genitalia?

From: Jay Adkins (JAdkins264@aol.com)
Date: Wed Mar 29 2000 - 07:30:01 EST


Reading the following article I found on the web made me take another look
at a term I struggled with once before.

The New Testament and Greco-Roman Mystery Religions by: Greg Herrick,

"D. The Cults of Thessalonica and the Thessalonian Correspondence

F. F. Bruce, while dealing with the various options, understands the term
skeu'o" in 1 Thessalonians 4:4 to refer to the male sex organ, but bases
his interpretation primarily on the LXX reading of 1 Samuel 21:5.(10)
Donfried understands the term to mean the same, but bases his
interpretation on the affinities between 1 Thessalonians and the mystery
religion background of the city.(11) Given the strength of these parallels
between Paul's letter and the citations from the mystery religions in the
city of Thessalonica, I tend to think that Donfried's argument is stronger
for it deals with the text in its immediate historical context first. All
Bruce is doing is opening the way for skeu'o" to refer to male genitalia by
indicating that it has such a use in the LXX.

In general I think that Donfried proceeds on safe ground in his comparisons
of the mystery religions with the letters to the Thessalonians. Certainly
his work provides, as he indicates, some of the general background to texts
such as 1 Thes. 1:10 and 4:5. "

10 F. F. Bruce, 1, 2 Thessalonians, Word Biblical Commentary, 83.

11 K. P. Donfried, "The Cults of Thessalonica and the Thessalonian
Correspondence," NTS 31 (1985): 341, 42.

Since I have neither of these commentaries to read the entire context, I am
somewhat at a loss. I have read Louw & Nida, but found no reference to
SKEUOS as a euphemism for male genitalia. My only translation of the LXX 1
Kings 21:5 uses the term 'weapons.' Even accepting that it could be used
in this manner, does it fit the context in 1 Thes 4:4? All the
translations I have use either 'wife', 'vessel' or 'body' and many have a
footnote suggesting the other possibility. When I first looked at this I
thought the context better fit 'wife' and translated as follows:

4 each of you know to take a wife for yourself in purity and honor,

If male genitalia is preferred, how would it then be translated? Is this
why 'vessel' is used? That would seem an odd euphemism to me.

Sola Gratia,
Jay Adkins
Always Under Grace!

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