Balaam and the Ass by Rembrandt 1626
And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way, Numbers 22:23.
Someone might think in this age of hyper-sensitivity that someone in the art crowd would object to having a beast of burden labeled as an ass which is a word often used in street or vulgar language for the rear end or buttocks of a person. Such a sensitivity might move them to relabel Rembrandt's work. The answer is that as silly as the art crowd has become, their respect for a great work of art and the timelessness of its label prevent them from tampering with such a word. They are not as silly as some modern preachers who blush at the word ass and call Balaam's ass a donkey.
In the space of time since the introduction of the King James Bible to the English-Speaking People, the street names for about every private part of the human body and the private acts of marriage or fornication have received a revolving door of nicknames often culled from the names of everyday items, animals, fruits and vegetables, or innocuous verbs. I am sure that there has never been an age where 8th grade school boys didn't titter to each other over a bible passage being read that triggered their vulgar sense of humor.
Does anyone seriously believe that the Spirit of God was caught by surprise when ass became a vulgar street word? Do you think that the Father pines in heaven grieved that such a dirty word is in his bible? Are we to stay on alert for every time a bible word is perverted to some street slang and change our bible? I have a sufficiently shameful and sinful past that I can sit here at my computer and drum up any number of words that are in a King James Bible but have double meanings that convey a wide variety of unsavory meanings.
A friend of mine who received his education at Tennessee Temple related to me one of his professor's objections to the King James Bible. The professor cited The Song of Solomon 5:4; My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him. He told my friend that if he took a King James Bible literally he would believe that the woman defecated on the floor. I personally doubt that the man's professor was that stupid. What I don't doubt is that the professor had an unholy mind that delighted in 8th grade puerileness.
It is impossible to speak to any group of people for an extended period of time and to not say something that could be a double entendre or have a secondary unclean connotation. Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled, Titus 1:5. When a person has an unclean spirit, they will struggle with all such double entendres or with any secondary connotation that may pop into their head.
Must we correct our bibles to appease such people? Our King James Bible is a marvel of purity when we consider the many subjects that it must cover. It says, Adam knew his wife, her flowers upon her, privy member; we have a bible that can be read in a family altar setting and speak to each person on each person's level.
Occasionally, the word of God takes a more direct and forceful track. We have such phrases as seed of copulation, teats of her virginity, and opened thy feet to every one that passed by, and multiplied thy whoredoms. Until the last generation or so, every child had seen animals copulating. They were well aware of nursing. When children are old enough to ask about such phrases, a wise parent will have a way to explain them to a child without setting off the kind of passions that modern day sex education sets off.
The earlier a child is able to identify his or her body parts with the word of God, the earlier that child can develop a healthy respect for that body part. Is there any wiser way to say "privy member"? Could any name do better to convey the sense of it remaining private and holy and yet outright name an organ of the body?
Must we bow to a generation of preachers who find parts of the bible to be dirty? If the Holy Ghost has been pleased to anoint services in which the word ass has been used, and in which a verse like Song of Solomon 5:4 was quoted, what else can we say of a preacher who feels compelled to change such wording other than that he is "holier than thou"? The King James Bible is as holy as God. It is his word.