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Hmsx_400_f06_f8 - John Boswell Christianity Social Tolerance and Homosexuality Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era

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Unformatted text preview: John Boswell Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century dilfiéo The University of Chicago Press Chicago and London 4 The Scriptures Although it is hard to imagine a more profound change in popular morality than that which took place between the time of the later Roman Empire and the early Middle Ages, relatively little attention has been focused on either the causes or the exact nature of this crucial transition in Western history. Indeed the silence on this seemingly major historical problem is deafening. The transformation of the almost limitless tolerance of Roman mores into the narrowness which characterized, for example, Visigothic Spain—a nation racked by violence and hostility against Jews, heretics, political dissidents, gay people, and other nonconformists—must have been caused, one is left to infer, either by the total disappearance of the Roman population or by the advent of one or both of the two forces which replaced Roman hegemony, Christianity and the barbarians. Since the Roman population did not in fact disappear, it seems safe enough to discount the first possibility. The barbarians did alter European social structures profoundly, although not deliberately, by destroying many of the major urban centers in the West and ruining the communications systems which had linked the capitals of Roman Europe. This severely reduced urban hegemony in the area and reintroduced to most of the continent a predom- inantly rural pattern of life. As the urban-rural dichotomy proposed above would suggest, this may have had some impact on popular morality, especially in regard to gay people, and this is discussed at some length in chap. 7. Christianity also had a major effect on the shift in mores, but its influence on attitudes toward homosexuality was probably less important than is commonly supposed and was certainly more complex and varied than has hitherto been recognized. It is discussed here and in the following two chap- ters under three headings: (I) the importance of the scriptural tradition (i.e., writings received or written by the first generation of Christian leaders) ; (2) social and intellectual factors relating to early Christian opinion on the subject; and (3) the precise nature of theological objections to homosexuality among the church fathers. 91 92 Chapter Four In considering the supposed influence of certain biblical passages on Western attitudes toward homosexual behavior, one must first relinquish the concept of a single book containing a uniform corpus of writings accepted as morally authoritative. The “Bible” was not disseminated in the early church under the form in which it came to be known later. Early Christians read and venerated many books now rejected as apocryphal (e.g., the Epistle of Barnabas, part of the text of the most famous codex of the Bible) and did not generally recognize some which are now regarded as authentic (e.g., the Apocalypse).1 Roman Catholicism did not officially establish the canon of the Bible until the Council of Trent in 1546, although there had been general agreement on the contents of the New Testament at least since the eighth century. The Bible was not the only or even the principal source of early Christian ethics, and the biblical passages purportedly relating to homosexuality had little to do with early Christian misgivings on the subject. Very few in- fluential theologians based objections to homosexual practices on the New Testament passages now claimed to derogate such behavior, and those who did invoked them only as support for arguments based primarily on other authorities. It is, moreover, quite clear that nothing in the Bible would have categorically precluded homosexual relations among early Christians. In spite of misleading English translations which may imply the contrary, the word “homosexual” does not occur in the Bible: no extant text or manu- script, Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, or Aramaic, contains such a word. In fact none of these languages ever contained a word corresponding to the English “homosexual,” nor did any languages have such a term before the late nineteenth century. Neither Hebrew nor Arabic has such a word today, nor does modern Greek, except as they coin words by analogy with the pseudo- Latin “homosexual.” There are of course ways to get around the lack of a specific word in a language, and an action may be condemned without being named, but it is doubtful in this particular case whether a concept of homosexual behavior as a class existed at all. The idea that homosexual behavior is condemned in the Old Testament stems from several passages. Probably the most well known, certainly the most influential, is the account of Sodom in Genesis 19. Sodom in fact gave 1. It is assumed throughout this study that the books of the Bible were composed by those to whom they are commonly attributed. This is of course an extremely simplistic approach to a very complex problem, but it seems not only justified but demanded by the circumstances. It was on this assumption that all patristic and medieval biblical exegesis was based, that medieval moral theology was devised, and that Bible-based legislation was enacted. What is at issue here is not how modern Jews and Christians interpret the Bible but how ancient and medieval ones did, and twentieth-century criticism is manifestly irrelevant to the development of patristic and medieval moral theology. 93 The Scriptures its name to homosexual relations in the Latin language,2 and throughout the Middle Ages the closest word to “homosexual” in Latin or any vernacular was "sodomita." A purely homosexual interpretation of this story is, however, relatively recent. None of the many Old Testament passages which refer to Sodom’s wickedness suggests any homosexual offenses, and the rise of homo— sexual associations can be traced to social trends and literature of a much later period. It is not likely that such associations played a large role in deter- mining early Christian attitudes. On the basis of the text alone, there would seem to be four inferences one could make about the destruction of Sodom: (I) the Sodomites were de- stroyed for the general wickedness which had prompted the Lord to send angels to the city to investigate in the first place; (2) the city was destroyed because the people of Sodom had tried to rape the angels; (3) the city was destroyed because the men of Sodom had tried to engage in homosexual intercourse with the angels (note that this is not the same as [2]: rape and homosexual intercourse are separably punishable offenses in jewish law); (4) the city was destroyed for inhospitable treatment of visitors sent from the Lord. Although it is the most obvious of the four, the second possibility has been largely ignored by biblical scholars both ancient and modern, probably due to ambiguities surrounding homosexual rape. Since 1955 modern scholarship has increasingly favored interpretation (4.), emphasizing that the sexual overtones to the story are minor, if present, and that the original moral impact of the passage had to do with hospitality.3 Briefly put, the thesis of this trend in scholarship is that Lot was violating the custom of Sodom (where he was himself not a citizen but only a “sojourner”) by entertaining 2. Wherever possible the term “sodomy” (“sodomia”) has been exduded from this study, since it is so vague and ambiguous as to be virtually useless in a text of this sort. Its etymology is probably a misprision of history, and it has connoted in various times and places everything from ordinary heterosexual intereoune in an atypical position to oral sexual contact with animals. At some pointsinhistoryit has referred almost exclusively to male homo- sexuality and at others almost exclusively to heterosexual excess. Every effort has been made herein to specify what is meant in documents which employ “sodomy” or its equivalent. In certain circumstances, however, its unqualified use has been unavoidable. If a law, for instance, prohibits “sodomy” without further clarification and there is no secondary evidence to suggest what the legists meant by the term, there is no recourse but to discuss the law as opposing “sodomy.” Or ifa popular satirist vituperates against “sodomy” in a treatise which specifically derogates many forms of suuality, it would be misleading and unjustified to assume a priori that “sodomy” referred to a particular one of these, and it is more accurate to retain its imprecision directly. 3. This theory was most prominently expounded by Bailey but has been taken up sub- sequently by many writers, with varying degrees of acceptance: see John McNeill, 7715 Church and tilt Homosexual (Kansas City, Mo., 1976), pp. 42—50; and Marvin Pope, in The Inlnprgler'r Dictionary qflh: Blbll, Supplementary Volume (Nashville, Tenn., 1976), pp. 415—17. 94 Chapter Four unknown guests within the city walls at night without obtaining the per- mission of the elders of the city. When the men of Sodom gathered aroundto demand that the strangers be brought out to them, "that they might know them,” they meant no more than to “know” who they were, and the city was consequently destroyed not for sexual immorality but for the sin of inhospitality to strangers. Numerous considerations lend this argument credibility. As Bailey pointed out,‘ the Hebrew verb “to know” (171:) is very rarely used in a sexual sense in the Bible (despite popular opinion to the contrary): in only ten of its 943 occurrences in the Old Testament does it have the sense of carnal knowledge. The passage on Sodom is the only place in the Old Testament where it is generally believed to refer to homosexual relations. jesus himself apparently believed that Sodom was destroyed for the sin of inhospitality: “Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the' dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city” (Matt. 10:14—15, iqv; cf. Luke 10: 10—12). There are, moreover, numerous other references in the Old Testament to Sodom and its fate, and scholars have failed to accord this facet of the con- troversy the importance it deserves. Sodom is used as a symbol of evil in dozens of places,6 but not in a single instance is the sin of the Sodomites specified as homosexuality.a Other sins, on the other hand, are explicitly mentioned. Ecclesiasticus says that God abhorred the Sodomites for their pride (16:8), and the book of Wisdom advances the same theory (19: 13—14) that Bailey and others have more recently propounded."I In Ezekiel the sins of Sodom are not only listed categorically but contrasted with the sexual sins of jerusalem as less serious: “As I live, saith the Lord God, Sodom thy sister hath not done . . . as thou hast done. . . . Behold, this was the iniquity of thy 4.. Bailey, pp. 2—3. The Lxx makes no implication of carnal knowledge but uses a Greek expression connoting simply “making the acquaintance of,” “becoming familiar with”: "a-uyyevcfipeda adv-01‘s"; this is in marked contrast to the verbs employed in reference to Lot’s daughters (“Evacrav” and “Xp'ricracrae ”), which clearly refer to sexual behavior. 5. 15.3., Deut. 29:23, 32:32; Isa. 3:9, 13:19;_Ier. 23:14., 4.9118, 50:40; Lam. 4:6; Ezek. 16:46—4B;Amos4.:11;Zeph. 2:9; Matt. 10:15; Luke 17:29;Rom. 9:29; 2 Pet. 2:6;Jude 7. Considering the number of references to the “wickedness” of Sodom in subsequent Scrip- ture, it is rather difficult to believe that none of them would have placed the “wickedness” squarely in a homosexual context if such were indeed the understanding of it. 6. Some authors mistakenly interpret Jude 7 as a homosexual allusion, but there is absolutely no justification for this: see below, p. 97. 7. Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom are considered apocryphal by Protestants and Jews. Regardless of the dispute over the OT canon, these works certainly antedate the tradition of Sodom's homosexuality and indicate a more ancient tradition. 95 The Scriptures sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and the needy” (16:48—49, KJV). I One must also bear in mind that such Old Testament writers were responding to the same story which some modern interpreters still claim “obviously” refers to “homosexuality” and that they were on a far more intimate footing than modern writers with both the language and life-style of the people involved. Their refusal to see the account 'as a 'moral about homosexual behavior cannot be lightly diSregarded, especially in the face of so little evidence to support a homosexual interpretation. Indeed only one argument can be advanced to demonstrate any Sexual desire on the part of the Sodomites: that Lot’s offering his daughters to the men must suggest some anticipation on their part of sexual satisfaction. This argument, however, does not stand close scrutiny. Bailey :commentsp Its connection with the purpose (whatever it was) for which the citizens demanded the production of his guests is purely imaginary. lVo doubt the surrender of his daughters was simply the most tempting bribe Exit could offer on the spur of the moment to appease the hostile crowd, . . . This action, almost unthinkable in modern Western society, was con- sonant with the very low status of female children at the time and was not without its parallels even in the more “civilized” Roman world: Ammianus Marcellinus recounts (19.10) a similar instance where the Roman consul Tertullus offers his children to an angry crowd to save himself. There is no sexual interest of any sort in the incident. . Even more striking is a passage in judges (19:22ff.) obv10usly strongly influenced by, if not modeled on, Genesis 19. In this story the Lev1te of Ephraim and his concubine are unable to find hospitality in Gibeah until an old man—a “foreign resident” just like Lot (19: 16)——-takes them into his home. The subsequent outrage perpetrated by the men of Gibeah exactly parallels what happened in Sodom—they not only gather around the door of the old man‘s house but use the same words as the Sodomites: I Bring the man out that we may know him “ 9—and the old man even offers his daughter as a bribe. But jews and Christians have overwhelmingly failed to interpret this story as one of homosexuality,“3 correctly assessmg it as a moral about \_ 3. P. 6. The Bibi: dz Je’nualzm observes that “the honor ofa woman was at that time'of less value than the sacred duty of hospitality” (“l’honneur d’une femme avait alors moms de prix que le devoir sacré de l’hospitalité"). ’ u n 9. “Nedaenu”; the Lxx renders it "yvcfiiiev," the Vulgate abutamur. I t . h 10. In the Middle Ages “sodomy” was occas1onally imputed to the Benjaminites «in t1 e basis ofJudges 19, as in the documents of the Counc1l of Paris of 11.1). 329, whic ps0 attributed the Flood to “sodomy” (see MGH, Legum, sec. 3, 0011611111, 2. a, p. 634., capitu um 34,). As noted, however, “sodomy” at the time covered a multitude of sins. 95 Chapter Four inhospitality, as did the Levite himself, who recounted the incident to the Israelites he called upon to avenge him without any hint of sexual interest (in him) on the part of the men of Gibeah.ll Moreover, it is anachronistic to imagine that the sexual preoccupations of later ages were major issues in such Old Testament stories as that of Sodom. The parallel story in Joshua 6 is eloquent testimony to the paramount im- portance of hospitality in relation to sexual offenses: the city of Jericho, like Sodom, was completely destroyed by the Lord, and the one person spared was a prostitute ithough prostitution is prohibited in both Leviticus (19:29) and Deuteronomy (23: 17)—because she offered hospitality to the messengers of Joshua. Some modern readers may have difficulty imagining that a breach of hospitality could be so serious an offense as to warrant the destruction of a city. According to Genesis, of course, the Lord was already inclined to punish the Sodomites before the angels arrived there (which is why they were sent). It should be remembered, moreover, that in the ancient world inns were rare outside of urban centers, and travelers were dependent on the hospitality and goodwill of strangers not just for comfort but for physical survival. Ethical codes almost invariably enjoined hospitality on their adherents as a sacred ob- ligation. Among the Greeks Zeus himself was the protector of guests, as the epithet “Zea; Eévtos” testifies: 1” “For Zeus’s care is every stranger. . . ."13 Stories of divine testing of human piety by dispatching beggars or way- farcrs to demand the sacred right of hospitality (“ theoxeny”) are a common- place of folklore in many cultures and occur elsewhere in the Old Testament as well (e.g., immediately before the Sodom story in Gen. 18; cf. Dcut. 23: 3—4. [Kjv]: “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congre- gation of the Lord: even to their tenth generation they shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord for ever: because they met you not with bread and water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt”). In nearly all such stories evil persons appear either as neighbors or other townsfolk who do not fulfill their obligation and are punished, violently or by exclusion from some divine benefice, while the solitary upright family is rewarded with a gift or a proph- ecy of misfortunes to come.” Genesis r9 obviously belongs in this context, 1 1. “And the men of Gibeah rose against me, and beset the house round about upon me by night, and thought to have slain me: and my concubine have they forced, that she is dead " (KJV). The Bible dc Jinnah": notes, “ Iei encore le devoir sacré de l’hospitalité passe avant 1e respect de l’honneur d'une femme." 12. Iliad 13.625; Odyflq 9.271; Aeschylus Agammnan 61—62. 362, etc. 13. Odyssey 6.20711, 14.57ff. In discussing the types of human love Plutarch places hos- pitality (rel £svtx6v) toward strangers second after love for family, and before friendship (Moralia 7 38D). 14. For modern rcaders the most familiar example of the sacred duty of hospitality may be that of Hunding and Siegmund in Wagner‘s Die Wullcu‘re, where the former feels bound 97 The Scriptures no matter how many modern commentators may have ignored it, and a sexual element, if present at all, was probably intended only as the concrete expression of the Sodomites’ lack of hospitality.15 "On the sinners, however, punishments rained down not without violent thunder as early warnmg; and deservedly they suffered for their crimes, since they evinced such bitter hatred towards strangers. Others had refused to welcome unknown men on their arrival, but these had made slavcs of guests and benefactors" (Wisd. 19 :13— 14, JB)- I ‘ Although the original understanding of the story of Sodom surv1ved in some circles until well into the Middle Ages, the increasing emphasis of Hellenistic Jewish and Christian moralists on sexual purity gave rise in late Jewish apocrypha and early Christian writings to associations of Sodom with sexual excesses of various sorts. Thus the Epistle of Jude: “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (7, KJV). In these early accretions to the story there is no hint of homosexuality: “strange flesh” hardly suggests homoeroticism. The Jewish tradition to which Jude alludes was a legend that the women of Sodom had intercourse with the angels.” But in an intellectual environment vehemently opposed to the casual hedonism of the Hellenistic world, many issues which had not been specifi- cally sexual became so; this was the case with marital questions such as adultery and onanism and with homosexuality.” It was a short step for those predisposed to object to Graeco-Roman gender blindness from the “strange flesh” (“oupKdg é-re’pag”) of the Sodom story to the “alien intercourse” (“tufts dfleopog,” homosexual relations) which some early fathers vociferously condemned. On the other hand, Genesis 19 was not a principal source of early Christian hostility to homosexual relations, although it eventually gave a name to those who took part in them. This was partly due to misgivings about the Old Testament’s authority, especially among Christians of non—Jewish ancestry, and partly due to the survival of more authentic interpretations of to provide hospitality to the latter despite the enmity between them. For the gods as wayfarers, a clamic example is provided by Ovid in the story of Baucis and 'I‘hil'emon (Metamorphoch 8). Far Eastern parallels are provided by the author of the art1cle 1n the Entyclapadla Biblica, s.v. “Sodom and Gomorrah.” See also Jakob Grimm, Deutxclw Mythologie (Gettingen, 1835), pp. xxxiv—xxxvii, 312—14.. ' I 15. Cf. the Encyclopedia Judaica, s.v. "Sodom and Gomorrah"; '17:: jewtsh Engtloptdm, s.v. "Sodom." 16. Bailey, pp. 11—16. > v 17. For one example of this, see John Noonan, Canlruejzhon: A Hutorj qfllx Treatment [7] III: Catholic Theologians and Canonistr (Cambridge, Mass, 1965), pp. 33f‘f. ; cf. chaps. 5, 6 below. 98 Chapter Four the story’s meaning. The extremely ascetic and antisexual Origen, for in- stance, who allegedly castrated himself to avoid sexual temptation, nonethe- less refrained from any comments about homosexuality when analyzing the story, seeing it simply in terms of hospitality: “Hear this, you who close your homes to guests! Hear this, you who shun the traveler as an enemy! Lot lived among the Sodomites. We do not read of any other good deeds of his: . . . he escaped the flames, escaped the fire, on account of one thing only. He opened his home to guests. The angels entered the hospitable household; the flames entered those homes closed to guests ” (Homilia Vin Genuim [P6, 1 2: 188—89]).” The only sexual matter relating to Lot which the influential theologian chose to comment on was the incestuous behavior of Lot’s daughters, and he wrote at some length on whether or not this could be justified (1893.). Likewise Saint Ambrose, although he believed there was sexual interest on the part of the Sodomites, saw the moral issue as primarily one of hospitality: Lot “placed the hospitality of his house—sacred even among a barbarous people—above the modesty [of his daughters].”19 John Cassian rejected or ignored the supposed homosexual import of Sodom’s fall and claimed that it was occasioned by gluttony,” and many subsequent Christian authors completely ignored any sexual implications of Sodom’s fate (e.g., Saint Isidore of Seville, in his Sententiae 42.2 [PL, 83:647]). As late as the fourteenth century Piers Plowman voiced the opinion that “the awful catastrophe that came on the Sodomites was due to overplenty and to pure sloth.”m The word “sodomite” occurs twice in the King James translation of the Old Testament in contexts which imply sexual sins.“2 Even if these were accurate translations, the word would not necessarily imply homosexuality, since by the early seventeenth century “sodomy” referred to “unnatural” sex acts of any type and included certain relations between heterosexuals—- anal intercourse, for instance. But in fact these are simply mistranslations of 18. Cf. Chrysostom‘s commentary (PG, 542405): “ Tm? 53 81Kaiou Tali-mu 1'1‘7]! ddafcviav Ivy/\téawptv Kai. rip! W171! tips-Him" r 19. “Praeferebat domus suae verecundiae hospitalem gratiam, etiam apud barbaras gentes inviolabilem,” De Abraham 1.6. 52 (PL, 14:440). 20. Doubtless influenced by Ezek. 16:49: l‘Sodomitis causa subversionis atque luxuriae, non vini crapula, sed saturitas exstitit panis," D: cumbiamm instilum 5.6 (PL, 49:217—18). Cf. Augustine De nuplii: e1 comupis'cenlia 2.19 (PL, 44:456), and the comments of Peter Cantor, app. 2 below. 21. Piers 1h: Plowman, passus 14., lines 75—78, trans. Margaret Williams (New York, 1971), p. 230. 22. Deut. 23: 17: “There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.” 1 Kings 14:24: “And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord cast out before the children of Israel.” 99 The Scriptures a Hebrew word for temple prostitute. The word “kadash” (plural “ka- déshim”) literally means “hallowed” or “sacred,” referring to prostitutes in pagan temples. There is no reason to assume that such prostitutes serviced persons of their own sex. The word itself implies no such thing, and there is so little evidence about practices of the time that inferences from history are moot. Mistranslations of this word began very early. The Jewish scholars who efl'ected the Septuagint translation into Greek in the third and second centuries 13.0. apparently had considerable difficulty in rendering “kadash” in Greek: they employed no fewer than six different terms to translate the one Hebrew word.“3 The uncertainty of the Jewish translators themselves is further reflected in the imprecision of many of the Greek words they chose 2* and the fact that in at least one case they misrepresented the gender of the Hebrew."5 None of the terms which appear in the Septuagint as translations for “kadash” would have suggested homosexuality to the theologians of the early church, who relied almost exclusively on the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The Vulgate rendered the terms as “effeminati” and “scortator.”28 Only the former could be taken as relating to gay sexuality, but in fact almost no theologians invoked these passages as condemnations of homosexual behavior until after the mistranslation of the words into English. They are wholly irrelevant to the development of attitudes toward homosexuality in medieval Christendom.”7 23. Deut. 23: 18: “015K Earat nopvsu’wv”; 1 (Lxx: 3) Kings 14:24: “Kai min/6:071:39 £ycvfi917," 15:12: “Kai ddzflcv 1&9 “Amie” (the Hebrew indicates masculine here), 22 :47: "Kai fle’pmaov 'rDii ElvstnMa'ypz'vau"; 2 (4) Kings 23:7: "Kai. Kagtvtsv Tdv aixov Td‘pv KaB'qaip," (the Hebrew is simply transliterated here); Hos. 4:14: “Kai [1.de 161v Ten/\copc'vwv 5911011." , 24. Fig, the transliteration of 2 (4) Kings 23:7, or the hapux legomzmm, now virtually untranslatable except by comparison with the Hebrew, of 1 (3) Kings 22:47. 25. 1 (3) Kings 15:12, feminine in the Creek, is masculine in the Hebrew. In Hosea the Greek renders a Hebrew feminine form (” kadeshot ") ambiguously ;Je'rome, apparently hav- ing only the Greek text, put this into Latin as "effeminati”-inadvertently stigmatizing persons who were in fact female for being feminine. 25. Precisely what is meant by “effeminati” is indeterminable. The word is used for all but one (Deut. 23: 18; 17 in the Vulgate) of the occurrences of “kadash” in the Vulgate, " Whoremonger” is probably the meaning of“scortator" here (Deut. 23: 17), although the Creek is ambiguous and could refer either to a man who had recourse to or was himselfa prostitute. 27. In a very few cases writers cited one of these passages as corroboration of antihomo— sexual feelings, but never as authority for them. Clement of Alexandria, for instance, did refer to Deut. 23: 18 in the Paedugogm (see app. 2), but he also invoked passages which no one else regarded as related in any way to homosexuality (e.g., Jer. 12:9); and it was his animal argument, not his exegesis, which was repeated by those under his influence. 100 Chapter Four The only place in the Old Testament where homosexual acts per se are mentioned is Leviticus: Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. [18:22] If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. [20: 13, KJVPB The Hebrew word "toevah" (Halifln), here translated “abomination,”’° does not usually signify something intrinsically evil, like rape or theft (discussed elsewhere in Leviticus), but something which is ritually unclean for Jews, like eating pork or engaging in intercourse during menstruation, both of which are prohibited in these same chapters. It is used throughout the Old Testament to designate those Jewish sins which involve ethnic contamination or idolatry and very frequently occurs as part of the stock phrase “toevah ha-goyim,” “the uncleanness of the Gentiles” (e.g., 2 [4.] Kings 1623). For example, in condemnations of temple prostitution in- volving idolatry, “toevah” is employed (e.g., 1 [3] Kings 14:24.), while in prohibitions of prostitution in general a different word, “zimah,” appears (e.g., Lev. 19:29). Often “toevah” specifically means “idol,”3° and its connection with idolatry is patent even within the context of the passages regarding homosexual acts. Leviticus 18 is specifically designed to distinguish the Jews from the pagans among whom they had been living, or would live, as its opening remarks make clear—“After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I shall bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances” (3, KJV). And the prohibition of homosexual acts follows im- mediately upon a prohibition of idolatrous sexuality (also “toevah”):"1 “And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God. . . ” (21, KJV). Chapter 20 begins with a prohibition of sexual idolatry almost identical with this, and like 18, its manifest (and stated: 20 : 3—4.) purpose is to elaborate a system of ritual “cleanliness” whereby the Jews will be distinguished from neighboring peoples. Although both chapters also contain prohibitions (e.g., against incest and adultery) which might seem to stem from moral absolutes, 23. Lxx: “Kai iii-rd. a'paévos 01') KOLFJIBTiU‘” Koi-r-rlv yuvaixoc fifiéAuyiia ydp E'a-riv" (18:22); "Kai 6; (iv Katii-rlgfi its-rd u'paevos Kot'rrlv yuvaixés, fiSéAuyiia e'nol'rlaav dwo'repor euva‘rodafiwoav, E'voxoi eimv" (20: 13). 29. The connotations of this word, alien to both the Hebrew and Greek originals, have greater significance than may be immediately apparent. 30. E.g., Isa. 44:19; Ezek. 7:20, 16:36;Jer. 16:18; cf. Deut. 7:25—26. 31. See 2 (4) Kings 16:3, where this practice is specifically condemned as Dj‘utl nilyh. 1 oi The Scriptures their function in the context of Leviticus 18 and 20 seems to be as symbols of Jewish distinctiveness.32 This was certainly the interpretation gizjn them by later Jewish commentaries, for example, that of Maimonides. As moral imperatives the same matters are taken up elsewhere in. the Old Testament (e.g., in Exod. 20 or Deut. 4. and 10) without the ritualistic concerns which appear to underlie these chapters.“ I - . . The distinction between intrinsic wrong and ritual. impurity is even mors finely drawn by the Greek translation, which distinguishes in toevah itself the separate categories of violations of, law or Justice, (alloy.th and infringements of ritual purity or monotheist1c worship (BSEAvypa). T12: Levitical proscriptions of homosexual behavior fall in the latter category, In the Greek, then, the Levitical enactments against homosexual behav1or 32. The argument that the invocation of the death penalty for the acts in question is significant of their unique enormity is unconvincing. It presupposes that the relation of the penalty to Severity of the crime in 01' strictures may be determined w1th sufficient conSIstency to outweigh the obvious import of the distinction between toenah and other sorts of crimes. The tradition of Jewish exegesis argues against this: the Mishnah generally ignores the occurrence or nonoccurrence of specific penalties in. the OT and, comments on the gravity of ofl‘enses according to their similarity to other forbidden activ1t1es. Thus incest, bestiality, blasphemy, soothsaying, violation of the Sabbath laws, intercourse with a betrothed Virgin, cursing one’s parents, sorcery, and filial disobedience are all listed in the Talmud,.Sanhedr1n 7.4, as deserving the death penalty, although only two or three specifically incur such punishment in the 01'. Obviously the Jewish commentary did not regard the stated punishment (or lack thereof) as an index of moral graVity. Cf. Noonan, 0. 50. Although Philo and other Hellenized Jews regarded homosexual aets as Singularly reprehens1ble, the general exegetical tradition is much better exemplified by the Mishnah s attitude, which regarded male homosexuality as punishable along 'w1th-all other idolatrous or ritually impure behavior; and by such later authorities as Maimonides, who specifically and repeat- edly equated homosexual acts with matters like the hybridization of cattle, which had long since become morally indifl'erent in the Christian tradition. _ 33. See, e.g., The Code quaimonides, bk. :5, TheBook ofHohneu, 21.3. I 1 34. It might also be observed that there is considerable room for doubt about preeise y what is being prohibited. The Hebrew reads literally, “You.shall_not sleep the sleep of a woman with a man.” Jewish moralists have debated for a millennium about exaetly what constitutes “ the sleep ofa woman“ and who is technically a “ man”: see, e.g., in the Talmud, Sanhedrin 7.4.53A; and Maimonides’ commentary in the Code _5.1.14. Moreover, sinee the actions of the kadeshim were specifically labeled as towah (e.g., in I. [3] Kings 1?:24), one might well infer that the condemnations in Leviticus were in fact aimed at curbing temple prostitution in particular rather than homosexual behaVior in general. This was not the usual understanding of the laterJewish tradition, but it is suggested by the Lxx, upon which Christian moralists drew. I 35. See Lxx translations of Deut. 7225726, 3 Kings 14:24.; 4. Kings 16:3; 'Isa.“4.4-: 119, Jer. 16: 18 ("toavot" here, being more general and serious than the preceding niv at shikutz," is rendered "dv0}1.ia,” “fl8s’/\uyiia” then being used. to render the preceding term), and Ezek. 7 : 20; cf. the rendering in Ezek. 16:36 and the‘juxtap'osition in 8:6 and 9. 35. This division is maintained in the NT: Saint Paul uses "avolua. to designate sin or injustice in general—e.g., Rom. 2:12, 4:7; _2 Cor. 6:14,; 2 ,Thess. 227.; Heb. i:g—,an.d “fl3é)iuyp.a" or its derivatives in reference to idolatry or Violations ofJewish ritual purity in particular—Rom. 2:22; Titus 1:16. 102 Chapter Four characterize it unequivocally as ceremonially unclean rather than inherently evil. This was not lost on Greek-speaking theologians, many of whom con- sidered that such behavior had been forbidden the Jews as part of their distinctive ethical heritage or because it was associated with idolatry,“ not as part of the law regarding sexuality and marriage, which was thought to be of wider application. The irrelevance of the verses was further emphasized by the teaching of both Jesus and Paul that under the new dispensation it was not the physical violation of Levitical precepts which constituted "abom- ination” (“Bfié/luypa”) 3“ but the interior infidelity of the soul. Even where such subtleties were not well understood, however, the Levitical proscriptions were not likely to have much effect on early Christian morality. Within a few generations of the first disciples, the majority of converts to Christianity were not Jews, and their attitude toward Jewish law was to say the least ambivalent. Most Christians regarded the Old Testament as an elaborate metaphor for Christian revelation; extremely few considered it morally binding in particular details. Romans and Greeks found Jewish dietary customs distasteful and squalid and had so profound an aversion to circumcision, the cornerstone of Mosaic law, that large and often bloody conflicts resulted from their efforts to extirpate it.” It would have been difficult to justify the imposition of only thOSe portions of Leviticus which supported personal prejudices, and even without circumcision it is difficult to imagine the wholesale adoption by the Graeco-Roman world of Levitical laws which prohibited the consumption of pork, shellfish, rabbit—all staples of Mediterranean diet—or of meats containing blood or fat. Thorough reaping and gleaning of fields, hybridization, clothing of more than one type of fabric, cutting of the beard or hair ‘D—all were condemned under Jewish law, and all were integral parts of life under the Empire. Viewed through the lenses of powerful modern taboos on the subject, the prohibition of homo- sexual relations may seem to have been of a different order: to those condi- tioned by social prejudice to regard homosexual behavior as uniquely enormous, the Levitical comments on this subject may seem to be of far 37. E.g., Eusebius of Caesaria Prazparatianis evangelicae libri quinduirn 4.16 ("De antiqua hominum immolandorum consuetudine," PG, 21:276); and the Apostolic Constitutions (as below). 38. Luke 16:15, Rom. 2:22, Titus 1:10—16. 39. For a briefbutjudicious summary ofRoman anti-Semitism, see A. N. Sherwin-White, Racial Pnjudi'u in Imperial Roma (Cambridge, 1967). For a recent review of the vast literature on this subject, see K. R. Slow, “The Church and the Jews," in Bibliographical Essays in Mzdizval szi'sh Studizs (New York, 1976), esp. pp. 114—17. 40. It was in fact about the time that the Christian religion became popular that the custom ofshaving became universal in the Roman world, and beards were not popular again until the reign of Hadrian. Some Christian writers, notably Clement of Alexandria, did object to shaving, but none made much fuss about cutting the hair of the head. 103 The Scriptures greater weight than the proscriptions surrounding them. But.the ancient world, as has been shown, knew no‘such hostility to homosexuality. The Old Testament strictures against same-sex behavior would have seemed to most Roman citizens as arbitrary as the prohibition of cutting the beard, and they would have had no reason to assume that it should receive any more attention than the latter. ' h In fact non-Jewish converts to Christianity found most of the prov151pns of Jewish law extremely burdensome, if not intolerable, and a fierce dispute racked the early church over whether Christians should be bound by it or not. The issue was finally resolved at the Council of Jerusalem (ca. A.D. 49; see Acts 1 5). After long and bitter debate within the highest ranks of the Christian community, it was decided that pagan converts to the Christian faith would not be bound by any requirements of the Mosaic law—including circumcision—with four exceptions: they were to “ abstain from pollutions of idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from fornication. “- An apostolic letter was sent to Gentile Christians informing them of this deCiSion and specifically censuring efforts of Jewish Christians to impose Jewish law on them beyond theSe matters. _ Neither “pollutions of idols” nor “fornication” was or could be inter- preted as referring to homosexuality. The former alluded to food which had been sacrificed to idols and was afterward often served at meals in pagan homes, as is made clear in the apostolic letter itself (v. 29) and elsewhere in the New Testament (e.g., Acts 21 :25, 1 Cor. 8:10). Although there is mine ambiguity about the Greek word “nopvela.” here translated. “fornicationi it is clearly distinct from the term “flBé/liryiui,” under which the .Lev1t1cal proscriptions of homosexuality are comprised. .Iiomosexualitya is nearly always distinguished from “fornication” in patristic literature, although sometimes subsumed under “adultery” (“potxela”). In the New Testament itself(e.g., 1 Cor. 6:9 and 1 Tim. 1 : 10) each ofthe latter is listed as a category “' ’ ' ’ ‘ ' ‘ m1ch Kill. no veins” (15:29; cf. 2o). 41. A-rrexeaBai (LSonflv-rwv Kat aLiLu-rog Kai. m p ' _ . _ r n 42. See, e.g., Apostolic Constitutions 26 (so, 1:984), where such a distinction is care u y drawn: 7) ZoSdpwv dyup'ri'a is classified as flSMUKm, thile ‘ITOPVft-U. is d‘iscpssed iii a com: pletely separate category, dSLKla. (Cf. the common triple prohibition: on ‘ITOPVEUIGHS, (tip imixeiiaus, of; noiSodiflop‘rjaeig,” which occurs in the Epistle of Barnalfisl, emeln s Pazdagogus, the Apostolic Constitutions, etc.‘S’ee also Damascene Sac-rd para ad2.1‘i tr-G, 96:248]: “wept 'rropvei'as‘, Kai imeelas‘, Kat apaevoxorrias.’ ) In Latin the same istinc ion was maintained: fomimtio referred only to heterosexual indulgence; ‘sodornta_ or pen-catimi contra naturam either constituted a form of adulterium or an abormriatio. Beginning in the eighth century some prominent theologians did subsume homosexual behaVior underlfolmu'atio, but by the period of the Scholastics the older use again prevailed. For a particu ar y c ear Scholastic definition of the various terms, see Albertus Magniis Summa theologiac, 2.28.1 22:14:, in Opera, ed. August Borgnet (Paris, 1895), 33:400. Aquinas also distinguished {omit-altar from vitia contra naturam, considering the generic name for such sms to be lunma. see is Summa theologiae 2a.2ae.154..1i. 104 Chapter Four quite separate from the words which modern translators have taken to refer to homosexuality,“3 and the word “nopvda” occurs in diScussions of sexual immorality as a specific type of behavior, not as the general designation for such activity.“ It can be argued, moreover, that even the four exceptions listed in Acts were imposed upon new Christians not by way of moral judgment on the acts involved but simply to facilitate interaction between pagan-born and Jewish members of Christian communities (by encouraging the former to eschew behavior whose profanity might particularly offend Jews adhering to Levitical precepts).45 This point of view is supported by scriptural evidence (e.g., 1 Cor. 10:32) as well as by the almost complete silence on the issue of strangled meat and blood in subsequent Christian moral teaching ‘°——a silence which would be perplexing if the church had considered the excep- tions mentioned at the Council of Jerusalem to be binding moraljudgments. The struggle over the issue of Gentile Christians and the Mosaic law was such a profound trauma for the early church that once it was resolved there was no thought of trying to bind new Christians—even converts from Judaism—by its proscriptions. Saint Paul urged Christians not to be “en- tangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5: 1—2) or to'give “heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth,” for “ unto the pure all things are pure ” (Titus i : 14—15). In fact he went sofaras to assert that “if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing” (Gal. 5:2). Almost no early Christian writers appealed to Leviticus as authority against homosexual acts.‘7 A few patristic sources invoked Levitical prece- 43. The most common Latin gloss of the Middle Ages regarded immundi'tia (e.g., in 2 Cor. 12 : 21) as the generic designation for “unnatural” sins and distinguished it specifically from fornicatiu (PL, 192:39). Cf. commentary by Aquinas in Summa as above (n. 42). 44. E.g., 2 Cor. 12:21: “dxaflapai’g xal wopvci’g Kai dacAyclq”; Gal. 5: 19: “nopvcia, dka9apai'a, dae’A-yua." For a medieval understanding of these terms, see Aquinas Summa 2a.2ae.154.i.5~6. 45. See esp. the notes to the very clear 18 translation of the passage in Acts. This was certainly the medieval understanding; see, e.g., Aquinas Summa 2a.2ae.154.2.i. 46. But see below, p. 365. 47. Clement of Alexandria is an exception to this as to most generalizations, as are the Apostolic Constitutions, a fourth-century work whose influence in the matter was minimal, since they were hortatory rather than preceptive, never enjoyed wide acceptance as apostolic, and were not known in the West until the sixteenth Century. A fascinating effort to demon- strate the common basis of Mosaic and Roman law is preserved in a manuscript edited by M. Hyamson, Mosaicamm a! Romanamm legum collatiu (London, igig), useful as a text for Roman law; but its influence on the Christian community was negligible (only three manuscripts survive, and Hincmar of Reims is the only theologian of note to cite it). It is highly selective in its use of Levitical material. Other medieval uses of Leviticus are equally misleading. Isidore of Seville (Originu 6.3) claimed Mosaic law was the origin of Western law, but he lived in a country which punished observance of the fundamental precepts of that law—Circumcision and dietary proscriptions—with death. [05 The Scriptures dents about eating certain animals in relation to homosexuality, but they did so incorrectly and offered the Levitical law only as a symbol of how God felt about the animals. They did not suggest for a minute that the dietary laws be observed in their entirety. It would simply not have occurred to most early Christians to invoke the authority of the old law to justify the morality of the new: the Levitical regulations had no hold on Christians. and are mani- festly irrelevant in explaining Christian hostility to gay sexuality. Even Ill-the case of the exceptional Christian theologians who did refer LeViticus 18:22 or 20:13, the opinions therein cannot be seen as the origin of their attitudes, since they rejected the vast majority of Levitical precepts, retaining only those which suited their personal prejudice. Their extreme selectivity in approaching the huge corpus of Levitical law is clear eVidence that it was not their respect for the law which created their hostility to homosexuality but their hostility to homosexuality which led them to retain a few passages from a law code largely discarded. . If the Old Testament had no specific positive role in creating early Christian attitudes toward homosexual acts, may it not have had.a negative role? Would not the complete silence on the subject of gay sexuality and the predication of all Old Testament moral legislation on a heterosexual model have predisposed Christians to reject homosexuality as alien to God-s plan, no matter how they vieWed the authority of Jewish law? The assumption that the creation of humankind through heterosexual union in GeneSis and the subsequent emphasis On marriage throughout the Old Testament demon- strates tacit rejection of gay sexuality is insupportable in a modern context, and it does not seem to have occurred to early Christians. It does not figure in any polemic on the subject and would have constituted an extremely weak argument if it had. In fact intense love relations between persons of the same gender figure prominently in the Old Testament—cg, Saul and DaVid, David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi—and were celebrated throughout the Middle Ages in both ecclesiastical and popular literature as examples of extraordinary devotion, sometimes with distinctly erotic-overtones. Moreover, in an age which employed symbols and myths to explain all its fundamental truths, it would have been obvious even to the most naive that. in order‘to account for the origins of the human race the writer of Genesis would 'ln- evitably describe the creation of the separate sexes which produce offspring and would comment on the nature of the union which brings about pro- creation. One would no more expect an account of gay love than of friend- ship in Genesis: neither could produce offspring, neither had and neither would contribute to the story of the peopling of the earth. Moral codes are generally silent on the subject of homosexuality, for reasons described at length above. The laws of Rome have no more to say about 106 Chapter Four homosexual relations than those of Israel, and they regulate marriage as thoroughly, if with different purposes and assumptions. Yet no one would imagine that this silence in Roman law betokened the absence of interest or knowledge regarding homosexual behavior. If all that survived of Roman literature were laws ambiguously denigrating homosexual liaisons of some sort and a wealth ofregulations safeguarding the purity ofmarriage, historians might well imagine that gay sexuality was unknown or severely repressed in Rome. Such an inference would be wholly wrong in the case of Rome and has scantjustification in analysis ofsocieties from which little crotic literature survives. What is more to the point is the fallacy of selective inference which under- lies this approach. Certainly opposition to homosexual behavior was not seen by most non-Jews as the hallmark of the Jewish religion : Jews were most noted for their dietary and ritual distinctiveness and for the practice of circumcision. Since all three of these were abandoned wholesale by the Christian community within less than 100 years of the inception of the religion, it seems hardly likely that lingcring prejudice against this or. that particular action could be ascribed to thc ovcrwhelming force of the Jewish tradition. Saint Paul, whose commitment to Jewish law had taken up most of his life, never suggested that there was any historical or legal reason to oppose homosexual behavior: if he did in fact object to it, it was purely on the basis of functional, contemporary moral standards. A There are three passages in the writings of Paul which have been supposed to deal with homosexual relations. Two words in 1 Corinthians 6 : g and one in 1 Timothy 1 : 10 have been taken at least since the early twentieth century to indicate that “homosexuals” will be excluded from the kingdom of heaven.” The first of the two, “pakaxér” (basically, “soft”), is an extremely common Greek word; it occurs elsewhere in the New Testament with the meaning “sick” ‘9 and in patristic writings with Senses as varied as “liquid,” “cowardly,” “refined,” “weak willed,” “delicate,” “gentle,” and “debauched.”50 In a specifically moral context it very frequently means “licentious,” “loose,” or “wanting in self-control.”"’l At a broad lcvel, it 48. For a more detailed examination of the significance of the words in question, see app. 1. 49. E.g., Matt. 11:8; cf. 4:23, 9:35, 10:1. 50. Dio Chrysostom, e.g., applies it to the demoralizing effect wrongly presumed to attend learning (66.25); in Vettius Valens (113.22) it refers to general licentiousness; Epictetus, a contemporary of Paul, used it to dcscribe those too “ softheaded " to absorb true philosophy (Discourse: 3.9). 51. Note that Aristotle explains exactly what he understands to be the moral significance 107 The Scriptures might be translated as either “ unrestrained” or “wanton,” but to assume that either of these concepts necessarily applies to gay people is wholly gratuitous. The word is never used in Greek to designate gay people as a group or even in reference to homosexual acts generically, and it often occurs in writings contemporary with the Pauline epistles in reference to heterosexual persons or activity.52 What is more to the point, the unanimous tradition of the church through the Reformation, and of Catholicism until well into the twentieth century,“3 has been that this word applied to masturbation. This was the interpretation not only of native Greek speakers in the early Middle Ages“. but of the very theologians who most contributed to the stigmatization of homOsexuality.55 No new textual data effected the twentieth-century change in translation of this word: only a shift in popular morality. Since few people any longer regard masturbation as the sort of activity which would preclude entrance to heaven, the condemnation has simply been transferred to a group still so widely despised that their exclusion does not trouble translators or theologians. The second word, “&paevoxoim1,” is quite rare, and its application to homosexuality in particular is more understandable. The best evidence, however, suggests very strongly that it did not connote homosexuality to Paul or his contemporaries but meant “male prostitute” until well into the fourth century, after which it became confused with a variety of words for disapproved sexual activity and was often equated with homosexuality. The remaining passage, Romans 1:25—27, does not suffer from mistrans- lation, although little attention has been paid to the ramifications of its wording: “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise, also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is of “Mum's in the Nicomachzan Ethic: 7.4.4—“unrestraint” in respect to bodily pleasures, a moral defect hardly peculiar to gay people in the eyes of Aristotle or anyone else 1n the ancient world. 52. 13.3., in Plutarch’s Eroliko: 753; cf. 751, where even "paAUade‘"—a word with clearer relation to passive sexuality in men (see chap. 3: Caelius Aurelianus, a late imperial physician, called passive men "malthacoe”)———is applied to heterosexuality. 53. See, e.g., H. Noldin, Summa theologiaz mamli: scholamm uxui (Leipzxg,.194o), "De sexto praecepto," 1:29; cf. the Catholic Encyclopedia (1967 ed.), s.v. “masturbation.” I ’ 54. See, e.g.,Jejunator Poenitenliale (PG, 88: 1893): “'chatirws‘ Kai. "Eel- pgflpxtagfis Eva: Elfin, (III. 8‘Q4)0PQI€' “(‘1’ 7.) 8H3. O‘Kilas XEIPéS E'VEPYDUPG’W‘ 7’ 8L mDTplflf-s- 55. At least from the time of Aquinas on, all moral theologians defined “moll1t1a” or “mollicies” (the Latin equivalent of "paAaKla”) as masturbation: see Summa theologmz 2.2.154.11, Resp., and Vincent of Beauvais Speculum doctrinal: 4.162. 108 Chapter Four unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet” (Kjv).5“ It is sometimes argued that the significance of the passage lies in its connection with idolatry: i.e., that Paul censures the sexual behavior of the Romans because he associates such behavior with orgiastic pagan rites in honor of false gods.“ This might seem to be suggested by the Old Testament condemnations of temple prostitution. Paul may have been familiar with temple prostitution, both hom05exual and heterosexual, and it is reasonable to conjecture that he is here warning the Romans against the immorality of the kaderhim. The fact that the overall structure of the chapter juxtapOSes the sexual activities in question with the superstitious beliefs of the Romans adds further credence to this theory, as do possible Old Testament echoes. Under closer examination, however, this argument proves to be inade- quate. First of all, there is no reason to believe that homosexual temple prostitution was more prevalent than heterosexual or that Paul, had he been addressing himself to such practices, would have limited his comments to the former. Second, it is clear that the sexual behavior itself is objectionable to Paul, not merely its associations. Third, and possibly most important, Paul is not describing cold-blooded, dispassionate acts performed in the interest of ritual or ceremony: he states very clearly that the parties involved “burned in their lust one toward another” (“E'ficxaiieqoau ('1! 'rfi 6pé§ci afi-rdiv (is mijons”). It is unreasonable to infer from the passage that there was any motive for the behavior other than sexual desire. On the other hand, it should be recognized that the point of the passage is not to stigmatize sexual behavior of any sort but to condemn the Gentiles for their general infidelity. There was a time, Paul implies, when monotheism was offered to or known by the Romans, but they rejectedit (vv. 19—23) .55 The reference to homosexuality is simply a mundane analogy to this theological 56. Although Paul does not invoke or explicitly allude to any previous scriptural attitudes toward homosexuality, these verses resemble or echo a number ofother passages (in addition to the Testament quayhmli: see below, n. 65). A general similarity to Wis. 12:23—27 is often pointed out, but glosses and commentators have generally failed to notice that v. 26 is remarkably similar to a passage in Ezek. 7:20: “'Evmav 1015101) 551mm min-ii. 11151-025- (is dxaaupcriuv. " This line in Ezekiel relates to idolatry and may be an indication that there is some connotation of temple prostitution involved in Paul’s comments, although no such deduction is necessary. 57. E.g., by Herman van de Spijker, Die gleicligeirhleclitliche Zuneigung (Freiburg, 1968), pp. 825. 58. The idea that pagans had once had a chance at salvation is a commonplace of Semitic religious polemic: see the Qur’an 11:33. All subsequent exegesis assumed that the pagans could have known the truth if they had wished to (e.g., Theodorct: "Ei ydp 51‘] yvu'wat afrrdv {flovkfia'qauv rots Helms iii: flKovon'a'qoav vépmg,” Interprttulia Efiixtalae ad Romano: 1 [90, 82:63]). sin; it is patently not the crux of 109 The Scriptures this argument. Once the point has been made the subject of homosexuality is quickly dropped and the major ar ument resumed (vv. 285.). _ §Nhat is even more important, the persons Paul condemns are manifestly not homosexual: what he derogates are homosexual acts comrriiitétedistity) apparently heterosexual persons. The whole pomt of Roman:1f It, h]: traue, ath stigmatize pers0ns who have rejected their calling, gottenho t of the a}: “- they were once on. It would completely undermine lthe1 .t rius h o gite ment if the persons in question were not ‘l‘lnz’i’turaily16 1:]: mt: htCiZmpp‘; hat sex in the same way they were natura y inc 1 .idered used the Romans to sin was not that they lacked what Pau cons "- pioper inclinations but that they had them: they held the truitih, Eigtth unrighteousness” (v. 18), because “they did not see fit to retain im e” v. 28 . I ‘ Matisse: of thg verses, overlooked by modern scholarsh1p,fd111d nplt :s:2::re the attention of early Christian writers. Noting that Paul care 11 ly c a, asaint ized the persons in question as having abandoned the natura use, John Chrysostom commented that Paul thus . observing of their women that they “did change the natural use.” No one can claim, he points out, that she came to this because she was precluded from lawful intercourse or that because she was unable to satisfy her desire she fell into this . monstrous depravity. Only those possessmg something can change it . . . . Again, he points out the same thing about the saying they “left the natural use of the woman. h d with these words every excuse, charging .that they not only a [legitimate] enjoyment and abandoned it, gomg after a different one, 59 but that spurning the natural they pursued the unnatural. deprives them of any excuse, . . men, in a different way, " Likewise he casts aside ' ‘ sented a con enital hysical Although the Idea that harrihsihlelaliigldijifiiiec world 60——argid unddhbtedly well known to Chrysostom-it is not clear that Paul distinguished in his1 thoughts or writings between gay persons (in the sense of peamalrlient SCXEZI preference) and heterosexuals who Simply engaged‘in perio 1c .Ofléosmxh a behavior. It is in fact unlikely that many Jews of his day recognize ' distinetion, but it is quite apparent that—whether or not he was awlare o t eir existence~Paul did not discuss gay persons but only homosexua ad: com mitted by heterosexual persons. ' ‘1 (pa, 601415—22). . h ostom In E in‘alam ad Romanm, homiy i V I - 62 glazisand Aristot’le had both suggested variations on this idea, and it was a common place of Roman medicine. characteristic was widesprea I 10 Chapter Four There is, however, no clear condemnation of homosexual acts in the verses in question. The expression “against nature” is the standard English equivalent of Paul’s Greek phrase “rrapcl. 4515mm” which was first used in this context by Plato. Its original sense has been almost wholly obscured by 2,000 years of repetition in stock phrases and by the accretion of associations inculcated by social taboos, patristic and Reformation theology, Freudian psychology, and personal misgivings. The concept of “natural law” was not fully developed until more than a millennium after Paul’s death,81 and it is anachronistic to read it into his words. For Paul, “nature” was not a question of universal law or truth but, rather, a matter of the character of some person or group of persons, a char- acter which was largely ethnic and entirely human: Jews are Jews “by nature,” just as Gentiles are Gentiles “by nature.”” “Nature” is not a moral force for Paul: men may be evil or good “by nature,” depending on their own disposition.” A possessive is always understood with “nature” in 61. PhiloJudaeus and a few of the Greek fathers clearly entertained some notion of over- riding laws of "nature," violation of which was inherently sinful even for those ignorant of the law of God. Even in Philo, however, there is considerable overlap of divine law, “ natural law," human legislation, and other sources of moral insight: see H. A. Wolfson, Phila: Foundations of Religious Philosophy in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Cambridge, Mass., 1947), 2:3035. Among the fathers influenced by or familiar with Philo’s (or similar) ideas the confusion was increased rather than diminished, and in the West there was little clear apprehension of the concept until the High Middle Ages. The writings attributed to Paul show no familiarity with such associations of “nature,” and if some familiarity had been present, it would indicate little about Paul’s attitude, since the tradition itself was so con- fused. A strikingly similar passage in Plutarch (Moralia 751), for instance, uses "1rapd. Maw" and “aux-6M1!” together in discussing homosexuality, but it is hardly illuminating. The latter term is juxtaposed with “dva.¢p68trog,” an exprenion which would have been meaningless to Paul, and “11an qSiiow" is used later in the same work (761E) to describe— with obvious approbation—courage in women. Cf. 7550: “'H ydp $601.; napavopei-rat yvvamoxparovue'm." 62. Gal. 2: 15: “find; 45:56:; 'IouSai‘ot"; Rom. 2 : 27: “e‘x dw’aews dxpoflva-rla.” (literally, “uncircumcision by nature”). 63. Eph. 2 : 3: “ rs’xva nfidau 6pyy‘s” ; Rom. 2: 14: “ ¢ulou rd. 1-06 véuov arma‘iow." The only instance in which “ nature " seems to have a moral significance for Paul greater than simply " human nature" is 1 Cor. 1 1 z 14 (KJV) : “ Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?” But it would be fatuous to imagine that “nature” even in the most idealized sense could have an effect on the length of a man's hair. Idealized natural ethical systems would be more apt to prohibit cutting one’s hair than to invoke “nature” as proof of the desirability of short hair. Clearly Paul here uses “nature” in the sense of custom, tradition, or ethical heritage, ignoring (or rejecting) the usual dichotomy in Greek between custom and nature (xp-fims and ¢dUL§; e.g., in Ignatius t0 the Trallians: "01} Kurd. xpfiaw nil/“d. Kurd. dainty,” 1 : 1). He thus fuses the concept of mores with that of innate character. The enormously complicated question of the relationship between Mm; and V6,“); enters into this discussion as well. By Paul’s time much of the earlier meaning of " vciuos ” had been—somewhat “logically—subsumed under " $15015.” Biblical scholars have barely begun to wrestle with what NT writers understood by these terms, whose meaning even Pauline writings: it is not ‘ ' , the Jews’ “nature” or the Gentiles “nature” (“When ye knew not God i, M nature [i.e., by their nature] are no gods, Gal. 4:8, Kjv). nature of the pagans in question. Thi . - similar passage in the Testament of Naphtali, a roughly contemporary docu ment whose comment on this subjec I influence on) Paul’s remarks.86 “The Gentiles, i 11 The Scriptures ‘nature” in the abstract but someone’s “nature,” 1 “nature” or even the pagan gods , ye did service unto them which by ' d as the personal “ ” R mans 1:26, then, should be understoo I ' Nature m 0 s is made even clearer by the strikingly t was obviously influenced by (if not an deceived and having aban- doned the Lord, changed their order. . . . [Be ye not therefore] 1i]? SodomCi which changed the order of its nature. Likewise also the Watchers change ftheir nature . . .” (3.3.4—5).°7 . thf‘:::fn:t” is, moreover, a somewhat misleading translation of the prep- (( I ), ‘K 'n 0 osition u mpg." In New Testament usage flapu. connotes, 1 pp f”. ”) 9“ but, rather, “more than, in excess 0 , tion, for example, what the King 39 tion to” (expressed by “ Kurd . . . “cs immediately before the passage in q I ‘ I James renders as “more than” (the creator) is the same preposmon. in Attic is hotly disputed. For illuminating studies, see W. J. Beardslee, 771.: Use ofd’YEIZ' in ' ‘ - kins Moral Values and Politieal ' - k Lter ture Chicago, 1918), A. W. H. Ad , ' I . gellifiugfrmfilulicrilijnt Cine; (L(()nd0n, 1972); and Andre Pellicer, Natura: etude semantique et historique du mot latin (Paris, 1966), pp. 17—35. A 64. “'EBovAEtioa-ri ‘ro'ig $15061. It." 050w 0:015. misganiigxcfit; aiid talie origin of the Testament of Naphtali are the sub Ject of lively controversy. Opinions range from those favoring Jewish authorship p053] .asteljirlyl' ' ' ‘ " discipeo ain au. 1 h e esting Christian composition by a _ I chéetiinitizsfrilggngients 0f Naphtali in the caves at Qumran, some COnnCCthD.Wltl}ll-Lhz Ftissene O munity there has been generally assumed, but the looseness of the relations 1p e.w::n Sign Semitic fragments and the Greek text, as well as the numerous Christian elements 31:10 re: Greek make more precise identification difficult. Marc Philonenko ma e a siong‘ctamnls Essend authorship with few Christian additions (Les gfigpglatwm #7337;st Ly fife more ' ' Paris 1 o ut was su des Douze Patriarehes et les Manusmts de Qumran [ , E uh“ I h. h“ d" Tmamn“ " gese u: ' merits of urgen Becker (Untersuehungen zur . as g ' :tgxiiifil’adtilhmhen [Leilden, 1970]). Probably the issue Will not be solved Without further documentation and the best that can be argued at present is that there is some connec ion : between the Pauline writings and the testament. .S B‘le, .12—21. ‘ I ‘ ’ 'A ‘ I (6: “529:1; ailing-iioéwa Kai dtfie’wa Ktiptov nnogoav Tng‘raftv agng.’. . . Mgmgz: ' . ' " ’ ' ' (a); «1151's. i uolws E Kat 0L 'ypn'yopm I my Eosoflu’ "T‘s awning: fiafgr’eek Versiqu of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchy, ed. ' ition should be supplemented With that of imilarity of wording ’ would hardly seem " Note the theme of infidelity, parallel to ' daewg ail-rim. . . . ‘flharles (Oxford, 1908), pp. 149—50 (this ed Th M. de Jonge, Testornenta XII Patriarchan [Leiden, 1964], p. 54). e s I - n u n I . and context down to such details as the use 0f“1r)la.v€w and aspesz to admit of coincidence. . 68. This is, e.g., the word Jesus uses in 0 ’ _ A ' “ is for 0u " Luke 9:50; cf. 11:23, Ka‘r Eugv. \ I n u n h Ui‘g’gflAlthngh in certain stock phrases such as rrapa. Sofav contrary to may be t e bserving that "he that is not against you [xafl' 112 Chapter Four Finally, this exact same phrase—“nape ¢Jotv”—is used later ’n h epistle to describe the activity of God in saving the Gentiles- “1F t ifszhme wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature and we:- 1r tffoii contrary to nature [napd tfiu’o’w] into a good olive tree: how much moi"g ahell these, which be the natural branches, be grafied into their own olive frse 3” (Rom. 11.124, KJV). Since God himself is here described as actin “a 6" nature,” it is inconceivable that this phrase necessarily connft gamsl turpitude. Rather, it signifies behavior which is unexpected uni: "lam different from what would occur in the normal order of thiri S' “bla ’ 0d nature,” perhaps, but not “immoral.” There is no implicatiof of theyon travening of "natural law” in Paul’s use of this phrase 7° and for Elio'n- tians familiar with all of the books which now comprise the New Testa “S- the phrase may have had no negative implications at all; in 2 1123:]: 2:12, for example a similar e m h , passag e 10 s “nat ” u .71 p y ural as a term of Paul believed that the Gentiles knew of the truth of God but r ' d ' and likeWise rejected their true “nature” as regarded their sexual ejeae' It g0ing beyond what was “natural” for them and what was a rovaciJ 1:fetmfis’ Jews. It cannot be inferred from this that Paul considered nige hgmocgdti: attrzlsction or practice morally reprehensible,“ since the passage strongly imp ies that he was not discussing persons who were by inclination gay and b t . , . . . gsarfieggdepn‘g of ‘nlppa’Z’ With the accusative, this is a much less frequent usage than th 0 moret an or ‘b " ‘ ' e "walla" With the ac . I eyond.' In the majority of the twenty-four oceurrences of and i u f h I cusative in the Pauline epistles “ beyond " is the only pofiible translat- tmnfln ta do t em it is quite as admissible as "against." This very phrase is in fact fr ml" . I a e into Latin as beyond" nature rather than "against" it' Rufinus uoteecge'm y as givmg ex‘sra naturam” rather than “contra” (Cammmlan'a in Epitlalutiii adSR “gen $474 175),, 2:1 'the Codex BOerneriani translates the Greek as “secus nat "Tam: ertul ian s et in sexus ultra naturae" (FL, 2:987) “mm. CL 70. The English “extralegal ” ofl‘e m ' ‘ ‘ ' ‘ hm, rather, laCk of reference to it. rs so e parallel, in that it implies not violation of the law at ngeeldizgusmgn‘begow. The resemblance between "'rfiv thuLodiav fiy 58a. 77']: whim): ” I . : an a. txotipcvot utoao'v distxt'as‘" at 2 P ‘ noticed by those familiar with both epistles. CL 2 i 13 would Pmbably have been 2. B ' ' ' ' ' sev76“: c:yond thilsa phrase there is certainly very little in the passage to justify the horror and words I nsulre t t homosexuality has often elicited from the Christian communit Th broad Irans ated by the KJV as "vile affections”—"7ra'.07] dript'as"—are words yf e in erpretation. The term “miflos” can I 0 very fading, an ex I appy to almost any human activit ——a perience, an endeavor~and has no mo 1 l ' Y hand, “(h-Lida" Clear] . ra co oration whatever. On the other y refers to dishonor. The uestio ' Wh ' ’ from the act itself from 60d, . q n is, ence arises the dishonor— . s attitude toward it or f h ' ' w ', , rom t e attitude of the com P Wllllelllzlllt alttemplting to demonstrate the relevance of classical usage which [6113:1233]; writin :1th y to tl e last ofthe three, it is possible to get a good cross-referehce from the Pauline g iernse ves. in 2 Cor. 6:8 “GTLIJLIG.” is employed in the sense ofill repute in contrast 113 The Scriptures since he carefully observed, in regard to both the women and the men, that they changed or abandoned the “natural use“ to engage in homosexual activities. In sum, there is only one place in the writings which eventually became the Christian Bible where homosexual relations per se are clearly pro- hibited—Leviticus—and the context in which this prohibition occurred rendered it inapplicable to the Christian community, at least as moral law. It is almost never cited as grounds for objection to homOSexual acts (except allegorically; see chap. 6). The notion that Genesis ig—the account of Sodom’s destruction—condemned homosexual relations was the result of to wickedness. It refers in fact to the servants of God, who are thought ill of by the world. In 1 Cor. i 5:43 the same meaning occurs—"What is sown in dishonor rises in glory"—a.nd the pejorative sense is as ironic as in the first passage. In 2 Cor. ii :21 the sense again re— quires that it is “the others" who consider the Christians worthy of reproach. In 1 Cor. 1 i : 14 it is a question of a man's wearing his hair long, which is seen as a "shame." It is possible that this constitutes a case of the shame being inherent in the act, but it seems more likely that the “shame” is the opprobrium of the community. Rom. 9:21 and 2 Tim. 2:20 both use the word in reference to pots. Probably the best interpretation of the phrase " pots made for dishonor" is that they are chamber pots. Few people would be prepared to assert that chamber pots are morally reprehensible, so again “ tirtpia" refers to human values. People find chamber pots unpleasant, and they are therefore considered "ignoble." The passions, therefore, to which God has given over the pagans are most probably ” degrading ” rather than evil, in that they incur the disrespect of society (cf. v. 24.: they “dishonor their own bodies among themselves”). This is confirmed by the otherwise mysterious reference at the end of this discussion to the “recompense” such men receive “in themselves," "which was meet.” Moreover, jerome clearly understood the word in this sense (he translated it as “ ignominia"), as did subsequent Greek exegetes. Theodoret observes that “ ignominy is the ultimate punishment" (“Ttuwpla ydp ond-n] . . . fidrtuia,” PG, 82 :63). There are only two other words of possible moral value in the passage. One is "whim," translated accurately by the Kjv as “error.” This word occurs in NT eleven times, four of them in the writings ascribed to Paul. It is patent that Paul uses it only in the sense of a mistake, never with any associations of moral turpitude. The other word is “doxmwmivq,” charmingly rendered in the KJV as “ that which is unseemly." " Huxnuoouvq " occurs in the Lxx as a noun, but in the NT only a related verb and adjective appear. In I Cor. i2223 it appears in reference to the "uncomely” parts of the body, which nevertheless have “more abundant comeliness.” In i Cor. 13: 5 the verb " doxnuovs‘i” is translated byjerome as “est ambitiosa," by the iqv “behave itself unseemly," by the nsv “is arrogant," by the Confraternity (following the Douay) “is ambitious.” (A negative has been deleted from both the Greek and the English to avoid confusion.) 1 Cor. 7:36 ofiers in the KJV “behaveth himself uncomely." The allusion is to a father who does not give his virgin daughter in marriage, and there can certainly be no question of moral failure here, despite Jerome’s translation as "turpem se videri." The matter could be better viewed in terms of what is most becoming or seemly. In point of fact the noun in question is merely a privative of "opium," which has many meanings, all revolving around the basic concept of appearance or form. As has been observed, Paul does not associate it with any Clearly discernible moral concept, and it has here, as elsewhere in his works, the idea that what is going on does not make a good appear- ance—completing the idea that pagans render themselves liable to social opprobrium by engaging in such activities. I 15 Chapter Four brought under the power of any,” 6: 12), did not cause scandal, and did not distract Christians from the service of the Lord (“that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction,” 7:35, all iqv). There is no inherent reason why unions between persons of the same sex could not have met these moral criteria, but it may well be argued that the complete silence of Christian writers on the subject and the exclusively heterosexual focus of New Testament comments on sexuality reflect general disapproval of homosexuality on the part of jesus or the early church. Such a conclusion fails to take cognizance of the historical circumstances surrounding the formulation of early Christian sexual ethics. It is hardly surprising that Jesus and Paul, in responding to questions put to them regarding marriage, the family, and divorce, would frame their answers in terms of heterosexual relationships. Their intent was manifestly not to explain or legislate on the whole range of human affections, and they made no pretense of providing moral guidance on all forms of love. They simply answered troublesome questions about heterosexual marriage submitted to them by persons attempt- ing to establish a new sexual morality in 50cieties where there were no social services for the widowed or orphaned; no legal guarantees of protection for unwed mothers or alimony for divorcees ; no effective means of birth control except abstinence, abortion, or abandonment of unwanted children. Gay relationships, whether sexual or not, occasioned no legal difficulties, left no one defenseless or unprovided for, created no unwanted pregnancies or illegitimate offspring, and were not eVen likely to produce property-settle- ment problems. That early Christian writers did not feel called upon to comment explicitly on such relationships is no more surprising than their failure to mention household pets and is at least comparable to, if not sub- sumed under, the complete absence from their literature of references to the type of romantic passion which is the basis for marriage in all industrialized societies. Few Christian theologians before the twelfth century made any references to what is today called "falling in love”; the phenomenon would seem to have been completely unknown to Jesus and his followers and to most of the church until the rise of what is loosely termed "courtly love” in the twelfth century. The Greek word for romantic love (Epwg)—-one of the most common words among Greek speakers throughout the ancient world—does not occur in the New Testament. It does not, hOWever, seem likely that the founders of the Christian church did not know of “romantic love," or that they rejected it as immoral. It appears in fact overwhelmingly probable that they considered it irrelevant to basic questions of Christian doctrine, something which those who accepted the teachings of Jesus would be able to regulate for themselves without causing harm to others or being insensitive to the needs of weaker or legally I 17 The Scriptures disadvantaged members of society. Chrysostom carefully notes that in derogating homosexual behavior among the pagans Saint Paul did not describe people who “had fallen in love and were drawn to each other by passion” but only those who “burncd in their lust one toward another. Enduring love between persons of the same gender, albeit erotic, may have seemed quite a different matter. ,377 Thc New Testament offered only an outline of social .action. In general only the most pressing moral questions are addrCSSed by its authors. Details of life appear only to illustrate larger points. No effort 15 made to elaborate a comprehensive sexual ethic: Jesus and his followers simply responded to situations and questions requiring immediate attention. They Idld not comment extensively on friendship, although Jesus apparenttly considered it the highest form of human commitment (John 15:13—14),7 and of the few comments in the Gospels on human familial love many. appear to be negative. The New Testament takes no demonstrable position on homosexuality. To suggcst that Paul’s references to excesses of sexual-indulgence involvmg homosexual behavior are indicative of a general position in oppOSItion to same-sex eroticism is as unfounded as arguing that his condemnation of drunkenness implies opposition to the drinking of Wine. At the very most, the effect of Christian Scripture on attitudes toward homosexuality could be described as moot. The most judicious historical perspective might be that it had no effect at all. The source of antigay feelings among Christians must be sought elsewhere. ' ' d in app. 2): "01} ydp (Ii-raw, 5-H. . In Epulolam ad Romanos, homily 4. (translate I A I I I A ' , I ” ‘pZ-frg'rioav Kai. e‘ireav'y'qaav ci/l/l‘rflwv, ti,“- ('fexavfinaav (v 1'” opefa ame as flanker); n 78. The relationship between this sort of “friendship,” which appears to re er to e “friendship " that all good men should extend to each other and the personal attachments Jesus felt for such Gospel figures as Lazarus and Saint John, is unclear. ...
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Hmsx_400_f06_f8 - John Boswell Christianity Social Tolerance and Homosexuality Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era

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