three pairs of lovers with space

THE JUDEO-CHRISTIAN REACTION BY PARKER ROSSMAN

 

The following is the one of the sections of the seventh chapter of Dr. Parker Rossman’s Sexual Experience Between Men and Boys (originally published in 1976), entitled "The Uses of History", and introduced here. Rossman was a divinity professor, so he was much more knowledgeable about what he wrote here than he was of other ancient history.

 

The Judeo-Christian Reaction

The Predication of St. Paul by Joseph-Benoît Suvée, ca. 1779: St. Paul's fulminations against non-marital sex were to be the clearest biblical authority for brutal suppression of Greek love

The Christian religion took over the Roman world, preaching a gospel of love which would transform evil into good. Once in power, the Church sought to transform society’s morals by imposing upon all, by law, the view that sex was sinful and could be redeemed and allowed only within Christian marriage. Indeed, it was better to repress all sex desires and abstain from all intercourse - although as St. Paul said, “It is better to marry than to burn.” Pederasty, polygamy, along with a positive attitude toward various sexual pleasures had long existed among the Hebrews, but as their vocation as a specially-called people of God was clarified, Jews rejected the sexual aspects of the religions that surrounded them, including the pederasty of Baal and temple prostitution of boys and girls. These efforts at purification never completely succeeded,[1] but nevertheless had a strong influence on the early Christians, who reacted against Roman cruelty and vice. Many early Christians were slaves and would have been highly conscious of the sexual abuse of young slaves. It is not clear whether the New Testament condemnation of homosexuals[2] is addressed against adult deviants, for feminized men were generally despised in the ancient world, or only against such abuse of boys. It is perhaps impossible to sort this out, since the Christian movement proposed the celibate monk as the ideal man. “If the New Testament references to homosexuals refer to gays,” one pederast writes, “then it is striking and astonishing that there are no pederast references also among lists of sins, since the world in which Jesus and the early Christians lived was rife with pederasty.”[3] Jesus seems to have proclaimed a revolutionary love ethic - as illustrated also by his treatment of prostitutes - which sought to transform vice rather than condemn it. There was a pro-pederast Gnostic party in the early church which taught that within the context of the ‘Greek experiment’ love of boys could be holy and Christian. A pederast monk told me that such a tradition has come down through the underground in some monasteries, where the Greek and Roman pederast classics were preserved through the Dark Ages. Such monks, and some priests, bishops and popes, have been practicing pederasts motivated not only by the Creek philosophy of paiderastia, but also by the view that Jesus intended Christian love to beautify all human relationships. The monk suggested that several incidents in the New Testament may have been censored by minor language adjustments during the Gnostic controversy. When Jesus told his followers to go ‘the second mile,’ the monk asks, did he not know that to command one to carry his cloak was a common way for a Roman soldier to solicit sex of a boy. Also, the monk reports, this tradition contains the view that the Roman centurion who pleads with Jesus for help in curing his slave boy was a pederast - for why else would such a high official go to such trouble for an adolescent slave? Further, the centurion came to Jesus apologetically, for he knew that the Jews around Jesus would be horrified that Jesus would even speak to a pederast. Yet, said the monk: “Jesus evidently blessed the pederast and his adolescent lover with one of his rare miracles because of the quality of their love. Do we have evidence here of another experiment that failed?”[4]

Theodosius I, the Roman emperor who instigated the systematic persecution of paganism, including pederasty (late 4th century silver disc in the Real Academia de la Historia, Madrid)

When the Gnostics were defeated in church councils, the Church took a hard line, “shifting from an ethic of love to one of law, in part because the emperors feared under-population, and came to believe the superstition that earthquakes and natural disorders were caused by deviant sexual relationship. In A.D. 390 Emperor Theodosius proclaimed that men guilty of such deviant acts should be burned at the stake.[5] Classic literature was then destroyed or censored; for example, erotic poetry about boys became altered as if to be about girls. The explicit sexual references in the love of David and Jonathan in the Bible were obscured. Such attempts to repress pleasurable sex simply backfired, and sexual culture became schizophrenic, as it is today. Beneath public moral life there is, and always has been, an underworld where any type of sex is allowable because all sex is sinful.” Today, as the Church seeks to reaffirm a positive attitude toward sex for pleasure as well as for procreation, gay activists are challenging the Church to re-examine its understanding of Christian love as applied to deviants, and there is confusion in Christian ethics on many sexual questions.

 

[1] See J. Schirman, “The Ephebe in Medieval Hebrew Poetry,” Safared 15 (1955) pp 55 ff. [Author’s footnote]

[2] For example: Romans 1:26, 1 Cor. 6:9 [Author’s footnote]. It is strange that the two alternative interpretations he gives these passages are both at odds with their unambiguous condemnation of all male homosexual acts and also with what he had only just reported about the Christians condemning all sex outside of Christian marriage.

[3] On this subject see P. J. Achtemeier, “St. Paul, Accommodation or Confrontation”, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Union Theological Seminary, 1957, p. 103. [Author’s footnote]

[4] On this subject see J. Martignac, “Le Centurion de Capernaum,” Arcadie, March 1975, p. 127, essay on the centurion, and E. Gillabert, Le Colosse auxpieds d’argil (Paris: Metanonae, 1975), a book by a neo-Gnostic publisher [Author’s footnote]. Since these were published, an excellent article by Donald Mader on this subject, “The Entimos Pais of Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10”was published in Paidika I (Amsterdam, 1987)  pp. 27-39.

[5] Actually, this edict of Theodosius I only condemned those who took the passive role. They had already been condemned in an earlier law of AD 342, though it is likely that Theodosius’s edict was much more actively enforced. Those who took the active role in homosexual acts were not condemned until the Code of Justinian was issued in 529, by when Christianity was far more deeply entrenched. The texts of all the laws is given in The Laws of the Christian Roman Emperors.

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