Come lay your carnal weapons by

… an arresting line from the Sacred Harp (1991 Denson revision), #404, Youth Will Soon Be Gone, suggesting perhaps:




adj. carnal: relating to physical, especially sexual, needs and activities: carnal desire. (NOAD)

But in SH404 it comes from St. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (KJV):

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh … For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal

And it all depends on what the compilers of the King James Version meant by carnal, which is evidently not what comes first to modern minds.

(Image in #1 from today’s Daily Jocks ad, for “$10 Mystery Underwear”. Ah, sweet mystery of underwear!)

The line from SH404 is especially striking because it has the only occurrence of the word carnal and the only occurrence of the word weapon(s) in the Sacred Harp — this in a song that can fairly be described as deadly serious:

(#2) Ominous warnings to frivolous, Godless youth

As sung at the Sixth Ireland Sacred Harp Convention (2016):


When the Palo Alto Sacred Harp group was led in this song last Sunday, I was immediately struck by the word choices; well, I’m a linguist and also something of a scholar of sexuality.

Carn-y vocabulary. Earlier on this blog:

on 2/18/18 in “Putting the carnal in Carnival”

on 3/5/19 in “carnitas”, with a brief survey of carn– related expressions, including Sp. carne ‘meat’

To which I now add, from NOAD:

noun carny (also carnie or carney): (a) [usually as modifier] North American informal a carnival or amusement show: a carny atmosphere. (b) a person who works in a carnival or amusement show. [clipping of carnival + suffix -y]

The 2 Corinthians 10 text. Apparently this is St. Paul’s defence of his ministry. First, I give you the whole thing in the KJV version. (I am sadly reminded of why I came to recoil from Bible readings many years ago; this passage is an interpretive minefield.)

10 Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you:

But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:

(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

Then in a modern translation, in the NIV (New International Version):

10 By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you — I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away!

I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

Though this is scarcely transparent — to my mind, verse 5 is still a head-scratcher — it at least somewhat clarifies the intended opposition in verses 3 and 4, between the worldly (the physical, the carnal) and the spiritual (the divine).

So: no actual flesh, no meat, and certainly no man-meat.

One Response to “Come lay your carnal weapons by”

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