JUDAISM

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BIBLICAL JUDAISM
STAGES IN THE EVOLUTION OF THE JUDAIC TABOO ON HOMOSEXUALITY

950-586 B.C. separatist anti-Canaanite prohibition of incestuous and sacral male homosexuality (and cultic transvestism of both sexes)
538-332 B.C. assimilation para-Zoroastrian prohibition of intermarriage with non-Jews prohibition of male in general
332 B.C.- 193 A.D. separatist anti-Hellenizing prohibition of male homosexuality as tantamount to murder (in Hellenistic Judaism, secondary condemnation of lesbianism) death penalty for sexual relations with non-Jews

The history of Judaism in the Persian period suffers from the paucity and unreliability of the sources. The major collection of documents is the three books of (First and Second) Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah. It is generally agreed that they originally formed one book, which was given its final form by the author of Chronicles, the so-called “Chronicler”. Contemporary scholarship assigns Chronicles to the second half of the third pre-Christian century. No fact of Old Testament criticism is more firmly established than the untrustworthiness of the Chronicler as historian. “He distorts facts deliberately and habitually; invents chapter after chapter with the greatest freedom; and what is most dangerous of all, his history is not written for its own sake, but in the interest of an extremely one-sided theory. In passing judgment on his account of the Ezra-Nehemiah period ... where his account is not supported by any other witness, the matter is settled, strictly speaking, without further discussion”.[1] The Chronicler’s narrative is purely tendentious: his purpose in writing the entire pseudo-history was “to show that all the institutions of the true ‘Israel’, as they existed in the third century B.C., and as they had been established by Moses and David, were restored complete when the exiles returned” from Babylon.[2] The last phase of Old Testament history is thus as fictitious as the first, even if the mythical and legendary elements so prominent in Genesis are absent from Ezra and Nehemiah.

Only slightly more information is supplied by Josephus in the Jewish Antiquities, which carries the story from the time of Nehemiah and Ezra to the end of the Persian period and beyond. The modern historian has therefore even for the last centuries of Old Testament history only tendentious, self-serving and unreliable sources. This fact is not entirely surprising in view of the natural wish of the Jerusalem priesthood to conceal or falsify the true circumstances of the supposed “restoration of the Mosaic Law” to its pristine authority and vigor. The obscurity that hangs over the Persian period is not accidental, because only then did Judaism assume its normative, Biblical form–which, it is true, the priestly authors ascribed to the remote antiquity of the age of Moses. The actual debates within the inner circle of religious innovators as to what were the “true traditions” could not have been preserved because they would have confessed the late and heterogeneous origin of the enactments. Likewise the Chronicler uniformly suppressed all reference to the subordination of Jerusalem and Judah to the north“to the authorities in Samaria. The “unique dearth of all information concerning the Persian period” can be explained only in terms of the need to deny the political and religious past and to create a fictitious one in the interest of the Jewish community and the Jerusalem priesthood.[3]

The Pentateuch was edited in a clumsy and inconsistent manner; its main object was to draft a constitution for the Jewish community that would be ratified and enforced by the Persian autho­ri­ties. For more than two centuries critical scholarship has struggled to uncover the source of par­ticular narratives and laws by identifying peculiarities of language and style. What is certain is that the community which received the code as a divine mandate had no training in logic or in literary analysis. Dialogue with religious foes of the homophile movement is largely fruitless because the other side either insists that the Levitical statutes are an authentic revelation to Moses on Mt. Sinai, or holds that “all that matters is what is believed today.” In either case, for homophile apologists to concede one or the other is tantamount to losing the argument.

On the other hand, attempts to reconstruct the sequence of events suffer from the apologetic and parenetic tendencies of Jewish historiography, as well as from the usual Protestant errors and biases that limn the development as linear and in some sense final. The history of the Jewish people, for nearly the whole of its existence a client people politically and culturally dependent upon larger, more powerful and influential nations, has to be read as one of divergence and conver­gence, of separatism and assimilation, of the wish to maintain a distinct identity while participating in the economic and cultural life of the dominant power. This analysis is particularly true in regard to the evolution of the Jewish attitude toward homosexuality from the First Commonwealth (ca. 950-586 B.C.) to the redaction of the Mishnah (A.D. 193). The implacable hostility of the priests of Jahweh to the Ishtar-Tammuz cult, the influence of Zoroastrianism, and then the military and cultural struggle against Hellenization all played a role in the crescendo of homophobia that was to become the heritage of Christianity when the new faith broke from Judaism to begin its victorious progress through the Roman Empire.

THE PENTATEUCH, CONSTITUTION OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY

Contrary to traditional belief, the Law of Moses could not have existed at the time when the Israelites invaded the land of Canaan, nor during the period of tribal amphictyony, nor even at the beginning of the First Commonwealth. The paramount cultural influence during all that time was Egyptian, and the Egyptians had no law codes–only laws. It was only in the last century of the old kingdom (680-586 B.C.) that Babylonian influence replaced Egyptian, and since the Babylonians codified their laws (the Code of Hammurabi being the most celebrated example) the client people followed suit. The first stage in this evolution is the book of Deuteronomy that was supposedly discovered in the Temple in the reign of King Josiah (622 B.C.).

NEHEMIAH

The composition of the Pentateuch in the form in which it became a sacred text belongs to the Persian period, and its motivation was external. It stemmed from the wish of the Jewish community living under Persian rule to gain autonomy.

The Babylonians and after them the Persians had annexed Judah (the former southern king­dom) to the province of Samaria (the former northern kingdom) and placed it under the authority of that governorship. Its status was not to change until 445 B.C. when Artaxerxes I commissioned his Jewish cupbearer Nehemiah as governor of Judah. When Nehemiah began to construct a wall around Jerusalem, ho was creating the fortifications needed by a provincial capital–a capital for the former southern kingdom which effectively deprived Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, of a segment of his province.

To secure the recognition of provincial autonomy by the Persian authorities, the Jewish community needed a written constitution–not absolutely new, but compiled by the scribes from surviving texts and traditions. In the form that subsequently became canonical it dates from the beginning of the fourth century, and is the work of Ezra the Scribe and the descendants of the priestly caste still residing in Babylon. In the last analysis it was a pious fraud, although its priestly editors could not have conceived it as such: it derived its authority from the historical fiction that it had been dictated by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai–a belief that critical scholarship unanimously rejects. From beginning to end it was a self-serving forgery with political aims: to affirm the claims of the Jewish community to the territory of Palestine, and to consolidate the role of the priesthood as its ruling elite.

EZRA AND HIS REFORMS

In 1910 Charles Cutler Torrey claimed that contrary to the above analysis, Ezra promulgated the Penta­teuch only in 398 B.C. This would place its redaction into the beginning of the fourth century, but would not alter the conclusions formulated above. The final, authoritative text, as adopted by both Jews and Samaritans (who split off about 336 to form their own, autonomous religious com­munity) forbade male homosexual acts under pain of death, and made both the active and the passive parties equally culpable. This legal enactment was the nucleus of the modern concept of “homo­sexuality.” In the eyes of the priests of Yahweh, the client who frequented the pagan temple and the hierodule who served him sexually or otherwise were equally abominable. By adopting a theo­logical definition that abolished the active-passive dichotomy, the Mosaic law created the fiction that the partners in a homosexual act were doing the same thing, even if in the real world their roles were complementary. The manner of execution is not specified; the Talmud later pre­scribed execution by the sword (decapitation), or under certain conditions by stoning or strangling. The penalty of burning at the stake is not Biblical and not Jewish. The Pentateuch made no mention of lesbianism, probably for the reason that homosexual acts between women could not figure in a cult in which the officiants (the qadoš and the kelebh) and the worshippers were equally male.

The significance of the Persian period for the evolution of the Jewish attitude toward homo­sexuality is that only then did Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 become part of the Mosaic Law, the con­stitu­tion of the sacral community that formed on the ruins of the Judean state after its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. During the two centuries of Persian rule, it is true, homosexuality did not preoccupy the leaders of the Jewish community. Intermarriage with non-Jews was their major worry, and in the reign of Artaxerxes II Mnemon (397 B.C.) the book of Ezra (9:1-10:44) has the children of Israel assemble humbled and penitent to hear that they must no longer “join in affinity with these abomination-laden peoples” with the appeal to God: “Wouldst not thou be angry with us till thou wilt have annihilated us down to the last remnant and survivor?” (9:14) They then enter into a formal covenant the first clause of which is “that we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons” (10:31). Not homosexuality but inter­marriage is the principal offense to the deity, but this sexual offense is dreadful enough to bring down the unsparing wrath of God on the entire nation. On this Torrey commented in 1896: “Race exclusiveness is not brought about suddenly and violently, by a wave of the hand. Whether the Chr[onicle]r’s purpose in this part of the narrative was to account for this same exclusiveness, or to work in its interests” he preferred to leave outside of speculation.[4] In order to prove that it was “demanded by the Jewish Law” this prohibition was read into Leviticus 18:21 and 20:2-6, which formally ban the sacrificing of children to Moloch. Subsequently, when Judea became independent thanks to Roman protection, the “Hasmonean Sanhedrin” (ca. 140 B.C.)[5] made sexual intercourse between Jews and non-Jews a crime punishable by death. Perhaps in deference to the belief that “God is long-suffering with all sins except fornication” later passages in the Talmud and the commentators added that the culprit was not even to be hailed before a court but to be lynched by vigilantes on the spot!

Also included in the Pentateuch was the book of Genesis, which modern scholarship dismisses as pseudo-history, or at best a historical novel, which at times includes two incompatible versions of the same event. This work–probably assembled in the fifth century–recounts the destruction of Sodom and three other “cities of the plain.” The final version of the legend of Abraham devotes two and a half chapters of the fifteen (one-sixth of the whole narrative) to Sodom and its vicissitudes, incorporating the legend of Lot, Abraham’s nephew. Lot has the same function throughout the narrative: he is continually rescued from the misfortunes that befall him because of his residence in Sodom. In short, it is a Bedouin folk tale about the perils of city life. In chapter 14 Abraham is depicted as a Bedouin sheikh with an armed retinue that saves Lot when the cities of the plain are overwhelmed by an invading coalition. In the second half of chapter 18 he pleads for the city which God has determined to destroy. The crucial incident involving the two visitors, Lot and his daughters, and the “men of Sodom” (ch. 19) was adapted from the account of the outrage at Gibeah in Judges 19. Even though no homosexual act occurs in either narrative, the episode of Lot in Sodom with its doubly miraculous dénouement offered the point of departure for the myth that four of the five cities were divinely punished for the depravity of their inhabitants, although the Biblical account says nothing about the other three.<ref[12] John Boswell began his case that mainstream Christians were no more hostile to homosexuality than adultery or fornication with the spurious argument derived from Bailey (1955) that the Sodomites were punished for inhospitality rather than homosexuality by claiming like Bailey that “to know” in Hebrew meant “to get acquainted with a stranger” so as not to feel threatened by his presence, although in the same chapter Lot offers to the Sodomites his daughters “who had not yet known a man” (Genesis 19), which was of course the normal sense of the word. In any case all Jewish tradition interprets Genesis as well as the outrage at Gibeah (Judges) parallel to the Sodom story as a discussion of homosexuality. The Bailey/Boswell thesis is tendentious nonsense popular with Dignity and other neo‑Christian homosexual circles. This is a communication from Lester Segal, Rabbi and Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts‑Boston:

The upshot of Genesis 19:4‑11 is that although the Sodomites were, to judge from the context, bi‑sexual (after all, Lot offers them his daughters), the meaning of verse 5, “that we may know them” is: to be sexually intimate with. (1) Although the “sin” of Sodom need by no means have been limited to homosexuality (2) there is, Bailey notwithstanding, no getting away from the meaning of “that we may know them” as sexual intimacy. This is the essence of Nahum Sarna's view of the matter, who also emphasizes the clear Pentateuchal legislation regarding homosexuality (3).
Let me add the following three observations:
1. With respect to the verb “know” in the context of Genesis 19, it is I think of some relevance to note that in verse 8, the same Hebrew verb is used by Lot when he says: “See I have two daughters who have not known a man”–a not uncommon Hebrew biblical way of referring to an unmarried woman.
2. For the likely variety of Sodomite wrongdoing, see e.g. Genesis 13:13, Ezekiel, 16: 49‑50. These are cited by Bailey, too, p. 9.
3. Bailey, p. 37, acknowledges the legislation in Leviticus, despite the problems he finds in ascertaining the precise other ancient Near Eastern practice in this regard. With respect to Leviticus, I consider it highly unlikely–purely as a matter of the realities that law codes are prone to reflect that “they (i.e. the relevant verses in Leviticus) are simply items of abstract legislation designed to provide against a future possible occurrence of the offenses penalized” (Bailey, p. 29).
</ref> However, the aition took two variants: that the Sodomites practiced sexual vices among themselves, or that they violated the laws of hospitality by assaulting and violating strangers who set foot on their territory. The second variant was extensively developed in midrashic writings well into the Middle Ages.

*Critical scholarship has established that Sodom never existed[6] and that the entire story is a geographical legend conceived by the mythopoetic mind of the ancients, although crypto-fundamentalists are still vainly searching for the site of the ruined cities.[7] The two and a half chapters devoted to Sodom are so riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions that they amount to a fairy tale, not a credible account of a historic event. But the first variant as suggested in Genesis 19 joined with destruction by “brimstone and fire”[8] reinforced all the paranoia latent in the pro­hi­bition of male homosexuality in Leviticus, and powerfully contributed to what I have dubbed the “sodomy delusion.” Moreover, the association with Abraham, the first monotheist who rejected idolatry and worshipped the true God, made the Sodom legend part of the heritage of all three “Abrahamic religions”: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.[9]

The notion sometimes found in modern rationalist interpretations of the Old Testament that the Jews prohibited homosexuality because they were too few in number to defend their territory against hostile neighbors, is less creditable than the one that the Greeks tolerated and even institutionalized pederasty beginning in the seventh century because they suffered from chronic overpopulation and had either to restrict the birthrate of their propertied classes or to colonize or conquer new territories for settlement. There is no direct evidence for underpopulation in Israel before the Persian period. Josephus says only that in the reign of Xerxes Nehemiah, seeing that the city [Jerusalem] had a small population, urged the priests and Levites to leave the countryside and move to the city and remain there...; he also told the people who cultivated the land to bring tithes of their produce to Jerusalem in order that the priests and Levites, having a perpetual source of livelihood, might not abandon the Temple service (Jewish Antiquities, XI 181-182).

At no time in late antiquity was there a general appeal to Jews residing in the Diaspora to return to their native land, and they definitively abandoned it after the second Christian century, when the center of Jewish life moved to Babylonia. Underpopulation in Greece after the Renaissance is men­tion­ed in Polybius and elsewhere to the effect that a few districts in Greece were depopulated and un­cultivated in the Roman period. Both the Jews and the Greeks–despite the differences in their sex­u­al morality“were numerous enough to create extensive diasporas in the pre-Christian era that could exert a powerful impact upon the cultural development of the entire Mediterranean basin which the Roman Empire later incorporated. But those differences led inevitably to a conflict of cul­tures lasting many centuries in which the moral beliefs of the one prevailed over those of the other.

*There is no suggestion that a falling birth rate was ever a problem in that era, or that the prohibition (of male, though not of female homosexuality) had other than purely religious motives–to forbid all rites associated with Canaanite idolatry. Needless to say, the law could not be enforced apodictically, it required the police power of the Persian state, and specifically the authority which at the behest of the Jewish authorities the governor exercised to dispossess, flog or execute whoever disobeyed their commandments. At that time, to be sure, the Mosaic Law had no binding force save for the adherents of the Jewish cult, and its followers were but one of many subject peoples scattered across the vast realm of the King of Kings. So undistinguished were they that no Greek author before Alexander the Great mentions them in any connection. The Greek name of the territory, Palaistin, was taken from the Philistines who occupied the coastal cities. It was only in the Maccabean era (beginning in 142 B.C.) that Jewry achieved not only political independence once again but a visible role in world history.


The critical school further demonstrated early in this century that the account of the creation of Adam and Eve in the first chapter of Genesis is derived from an earlier Babylonian myth in which, however, there were three pairs of primal human beings, one heterosexual, the other two homosexual and lesbian, as we should now say. This formulation is independently attested in Berossus and in the myth of Aristo­phanes in Plato’s Symposium. The author of the narrative in Genesis suppressed the latter two pairs, leaving the Jewish (and Christian) creationist with no way of explaining attraction to one’s own sex except as the Vendidad imagined it–as an urge implanted by the Devil.[10] Thus the book of Genesis bequeathed to the Abrahamic religions an exclusively heterosexual concept of human sexuality and implicitly consigned homosexuality to the realm of demonic interference in God’s universe.

The events of the Persian period therefore set the stage for the rise of Jewish and then Christian homo­phobia, but do not explain the escalation to such paranoid intensity in later times. The influence of Zoroastrianism, which also forbade male homosexuality in language similar to that of Leviticus, may have reinforced the long-standing antipathy to the sexual rites in Canaanite idolatry. But under Persian rule homosexuality (in any of its variants) was no threat to the Jewish religion, at least it is never mentioned in the sources. The author of Chronicles (and of Ezra-Nehemiah) in fact suppresses all mention of the qdašim in passages where they figure in the book of Kings. This sup­pression, in contrast with the episodes in Genesis and Judges, may, however, announce the onset of the belief that homosexual behavior should be not only forbidden but unmentionable. It would mark the beginning of homosexual invisibility in history–of which the last chapter is still to be written. Given the general dishonesty and unreliability of the Chronicler, such a falsification would be perfectly compatible with his historical method. If in the four canonical gospels Jesus never alludes to the subject, it is because the Judaic milieu had for centuries relegated it to the unspeak­able. So invisibility has a Biblical precedent and sanction like all the rest of the “sodomy delusion.”

Thus while the Persian period remains obscure in many respects, subsequent history leaves no doubt that over those two centuries Biblical Judaism came to reject and penalize male homo­sexuality in all forms, and that Jewish religious consciousness deeply internalized this taboo. It became a distinctive feature of Judaic sexual morality, setting the worshippers of the god of Israel apart from the gentiles whose gods they despised. The stage was set for the confrontation between Judaism and Hellenism, which had developed a totally different set of institutions and values grounded in the practice of paiderasteia which mythology ascribed to the Greek gods and heroes. The age-asymmetrical homosexuality of the Greeks must have particularly exacerbated the abhorrence of incest that is the overriding principle of Judaic morality. Following the onset of the Hellenistic period in 332 B.C., this antagonism grew marked and bitter, and hardened into the later implacable condemnation and persecution by the Christian Church.

The underlying paradox of sexual psychology is the simple fact that it is impossible to know what another human being feels. One may observe the sexual behavior of others directly or indirectly through narratives, jokes and the like, but one can never experience either the sexual urge that compels others to behave as they do, or the sexual pleasure that they derive from actions that strike the observer as ridiculous, demeaning, and degrading. This incomprehension joined with the proximity of the sexual organs to the urinary system and the end of the gastro-intestinal tract makes for oscillation between ridicule and disgust. The Greeks seem to have experienced disgust only mini­mally and therefore relished the humorous aspect maximally, in contrast with the Judaic mentality that found every aspect of homosexuality too disgusting for public mention even in a humorous or satiric context. The invisible wall separating the two cultures generated the intense, paranoid homophobia that accompanied the Judean resistance to Hellenization in the Maccabean period and was bequeathed to Christianity when it broke from Judaism to become an independent world religion.

Magnus Hirschfeld, Die Homosexualität des Mannes und des Weibes (1914), pp. 812-814:

That the legal provisions of Leviticus and Deuteronomy against homosexual intercourse are in no wise to be ascribed to Moses is now fully recognized by Old Testament scholarship. It is the merit of Stade and Kautzsch to have brought chronological order into the highly confused strata of the Jewish priestly code.–The oldest part, although only of seventh-century origin, is for them the so-called “Book of the Covenant” (Exodus 20:24-32:19). This forbids only (22:18) lewdness with animals and punishes it with death. – The second oldest stratum is the core of Deuteronomy (ch. 5 and 12-26), which as the fiction of a farewell address of Moses to the people was found by the priest Hilkiah under King Josiah in the Temple in Jerusalem (2 Kings 22-23). It contains among other things prohibitions of the exchange of clothing by the sexes (22:5) and against castration (23:2), which was customary in the Phoenician-Syrian cults, “because they are an abomination to Jahweh”. Further, among the Israelitish girls there shall be no “consecrated one” in the service of a heathen divinity, nor should there be a “consecrated one” among the Israelitish youths. Likewise the hire of a harlot shall not be brought into the house of Jahweh on the occasion of any vow as “the price of a dog”, since both are an abomination to Jahweh (23:19). Temple prostitution in both forms is, to put it briefly, forbidden, but no penalty imposed in laws that agree with the historic data of the Books of Kings which originated about 600. Stade [fn. Geschichte des Volkes Israel. 1887. p. 657] is even of the opinion that this prohibition of the hierodules was only later inserted into the primitive text of Deuteronomy. The year 586 brought ruin to Judah: the small Jewish state succumbed to the superior might of the neo-Babylonian (Chaldean) army under Nebuchadnezzar II, Jerusalem and the Temple went up in flames, King Zedekiah and a portion of the people were exiled to Babylon, a small remnant fled with Jeremiah to Egypt. In Babylon a part of the exiles adopted the local religion. As a reaction to this there came into being the so-called “Holiness Code”, of which a preparatory draft is extant in Ezekiel (ch. 40-48), whose composition by the prophet himself at Tel-abib on the river Chebar is subject to no doubt. Here too it is only temple prostitution (Ezekiel 43:7-9) that is forbidden. The Holiness Code, which probably arose likewise on Babylonian soil in the priestly circle there, we now have to seek in the section of Leviticus chapters 17-26. With regard to the prohibitions that interest us here we must however probably assume that, since these are repeated in two variants (Lev. 18:22-30 and 20:13-16), the first version, which forbids homosexual intercourse to men and sexual intercourse with animals to both sexes as an abomination and an outrage, but likewise threatens only an extirpation from the people (exolothreuth_setai ek tû laû), which can be understood as mere expulsion from the land, contains the older jurisprudence of the Holiness Code.
Only the second version (Lev. 20:13-16) expressly demands the death penalty for the above-named crime, which is here even to extend to the animal involved. This version, which deviates too strongly from the first to be regarded as a merely emphatic repetition by the same author, must unhesitatingly be placed on the account of the final redaction of the Priestly Code, which is dated by Kautzsch into the end of the sixth century. Ezra brought this Priestly Code with him in 458 to Judea, but its official promulgation and the formal self-obligation of the Jerusalem community to its norms occurred only in 444 (Nehem. ch. 8).
The view was earlier expressed [fn. among others by H. Michaelis, Die Homosexualität in Sitte und Recht. 1907. p. 25] that the Jewish Priestly Code in harmony with Jahweh’s legendary promise to the mythical ancestor of the people (Gen. 22:17) that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens and the sand in the sea believed that it had to resort to such draconic measures against male homosexual intercourse in order to forestall even the slightest unfruitful expenditure of procreative matter. But the reason is to be sought in another area. Jahweh, originally only the tribal god of the tribe of Judah, was promoted by his priests to a universal god beside whom the tribal gods of the other peoples, the Baal-Berit at Shechem, the Moabitic Kamosh, the Ammonite Milcom, the Phoenician Tammuz and others were degraded to idols. Jahweh dwelt at Jerusalem and was to be honored only there, every other cult site and cultic form was to him, i.e. his priests, an abomination. For this reason first of all alongside the abolition of worship at high places the abolition of Temple prostitution was also demanded. When after the fall of the Jewish state the hierarchy replaced the secular kingdom, the regulations that hitherto had applied solely to the service in the Temple were extended to the entire people as the “denizens of Jahweh”. Thus there arose what Holtzmann sharply characterizes as the “almost repellent mingling of juridical and purely ethical-religious questions that constitutes the signature of later Jewish scribal learning”. And with what fanatical radicalism the Jewish priests also proceeded in other respects is proven by the (Ezra ch. 9-19) decreed and ruthlessly executed dissolution of all mixed marriages between Jews and the neighboring, tribally related peoples which had its roots in the exclusive worship of Jahweh.

The foregoing paraphrase perfectly summarizes the state of the question in 1913, when Hirschfeld was assembling his magnum opus. Since then many further studies and analyses have been published, but the corpus of texts on which the history of Judaism in the Persian period is based–Ezra and Nehemiah, the Third Book of Esdras, and the Jewish Antiquities of Josephus–remains essentially the same. As it happens, there are two sets of questions, the historical and the literary. For the historical we possess only a few, highly tendentious sources whose truthfulness critical scholarship rejects. More can be done with the literary documents, but these cannot be perfectly correlated with the historic events.

The one issue that has not been fully explored, although mentioned by pious commentators for more than a century, is the possible Zoroastrian influence on these verses of the Pentateuch. In his commentary on Leviticus (1872), M. M. Kalisch mentioned that according to the Vendidad, “sodomy is always practised on the instigation of the devs [demons], who are especially addicted to it, and in this manner multiply their own accursed race.” The Vendidad (VIII, 31) describes the offense as a sin beyond expiation: whoever commits the crime “is a dev, a worshipper of the devs, an instrument of the devs, he is a harlot of the devs, who is like unto a dev and is himself a dev, he is already before death a dev and after death an invisible monster.”

A further major development, as it happened, was the inclusion of the story of the destruction of Sodom in the cycle of legends relating to Lot and Abraham. Hosea had alluded to Admah and Zeboiim, Isaiah to Sodom and Gomorrah, Ezekiel to Sodom–but none of these authors specifically associated their destruction with the patriarch or his kin. The compiler of Genesis inserted into the narrative a version of the Sodom legend (chapter 19) based on the account of the outrage at Gibeah in Judges 19, even though the earlier chapter 14 incorporates a tale adapted from an Akkadian text referring to Babylon. This chapter depicts Abraham as a Bedouin sheikh with a retinue of 318 men who comes to the rescue of the Cities of the Plain after Lot is taken prisoner and emerges from battle a conqueror–the possessor of the Holy Land which God then promises to his descendants. A further passage (chapter 18) combines two sources in an exceptionally awkward manner to make Abraham plead for the Sodomites before the city’s obliteration by brimstone and fire (= burning sulphur, evidently an allusion to a volcanic eruption in the region east and south of the Dead Sea). None of the three segments in its present form could have been written at any one time and place in the history of Israel, but inconsistent and illogical as they are, they form part of the sacred text which modern apologists vainly attempt to explain away in reply to the obstinate stance of the fundamentalists. And just because the story comprises a sixth (two and a half chapters out of fifteen) of the cycle of Abraham, the first monotheist who rejected paganism and idolatry and wor­shipped the true God, it entered the heritage of all the Abrahamic religions, serving as an exemplary text for their condemnation of homosexuality.

Thus while the Persian period remains obscure in many respects, subsequent history leaves no doubt that over those two centuries Biblical Judaism came to reject male homosexuality in all forms and to penalize the active as well as the passive partner, in contrast with earlier folk beliefs which stigmatized only the latter. Jewish religious consciousness deeply internalized this taboo, which became a distinctive feature of Judaic sexual morality, setting the worshippers of the god of Israel apart from the gentiles whose gods they despised. The stage was set for the confrontation between Judaism and Hellenism, which had developed a totally different set of institutions and values grounded in the practice of paiderasteia which mythology ascribed to the Greek gods and heroes. The age-asymmetrical homosexuality of the Greeks must have particularly exacerbated the abhor­rence of incest that is the overriding principle of Judaic morality. Following the onset of the Hellen­istic period in 332 B.C., this antagonism grew marked and bitter, and hardened into the later im­plac­able condemnation and persecution by the Christian Church.


HELLENISTIC JUDAISM, 332-40:
HOMOPHOBIC REJECTION OF GREEK LOVE COMPLETION OF THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES: THE PROPHETS AND HAGIOGRAPHA

Post-Exilic Judaism denied physical love between David and Jonathan as well as other possible positive Old Testament allusions. In part because of a great number of variants in its Septuagint version, Samuel is textually difficult; attempts to emend b_h_r to h_b_r (I, 20:30) to show that Saul cursed Jonathan as “the hetairos [passive partner] of the son of Jesse [David]” and to prove that David and Jonathan “kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David spent” [I, 20:41] by reinterpreting higdal from “exceeded” (in emotion) to “ejaculate” do not convince most scholars, although I 18:1 and 26 do at least imply homoeroticism, if not homosexual acts, between the heroes.1[11]

Several passages in the Old Testament refer to qedəshim (“holy ones”) who were male temple prostitutes(I Kings 15:12, 22:46, II Kings–23:7). Despite repeated campaigns to root them out, these prostitutes continued to serve their male clients for at least four centuries of Israel’s existence, flourishing for a time in a wing of the Jerusalem Temple itself. Scholarly interpretations seeking to link them with some kind of generalized Near Eastern sacralization of sex as fertility are problematic since union with them by other males (their only plausible clientele) was by definition sterile. ... On one occasion they are referred to as ”dogs” (Deut. 23:18), an appellation paralleled in Semitic texts from other regions. Some scholars employ the Greek term hierodules for both the male and female temple prostitutes.2[12]

Sometime after the return from Babylon in 538, priests and scribes split between what may be crudely characterized as aristocratic, Hellenized, but on some points literalist, Sadducees and allegorical, moral­istic, “bourgeois,” nationalistic Pharisees. Probably as early as the outbreak of the Maccabean revolt in 167 and probably by 142 when the Hasmoneans came to power, though there are no clear references before c. 100, those parties formed. Neither questioned the Torah’s “multiply and be fruitful;” both felt that their controlled heterosexuality, ritual punctiliousness, and other virtues ranked them above corrupt, contaminated Gentiles. For the Essenes, a lower-class fringe group, we have no clear reference by name before Josephus and Pliny the Younger, although some Dead Sea scrolls date as early as the second century B.C. Philo Judaeus (c. 20 B.C.–c. 45 A.D.) did mention the “therapeutae” who seem to be of similar philosophical persuasion but of a higher social class. More chaste and self-righteous than either of the leading schools, Essenes and despairing poor including those around John the Baptist demanded stricter morals, perhaps summed up in the Sermon on the Mount’s admonition against even lusting after sex, and put their faith in an imminent Messiah who would end their tribulations. In some ways Jesus may have been sterner than the Pharisees he attacked and the Sadducees who judged him:

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew, 5: 27-28)

All Jewish sects condemned sodomy, partly to set themselves off from Gentiles, and subscribed to the Holiness Code’s death sentence for “men who lie with men:”

According to the Holiness Code of Leviticus (in its present form, probably of the fifth century B.C.), “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination (to’eva): they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 20-13, reinforcing the earlier prohibition in 18:22). From this dire injunction, which applies to male homosexuals only, stem all later Western laws prescribing the death-penalty for sodomy. Although our sources are silent as to how frequently the Levitical penalty was enforced (the method was probably stoning), it was endorsed, with new arguments, by some later Jewish rigorist thinkers, notably Philo of Alexandria (first century of our era) ... . The aversion of the religious leaders of the Jewish community after the return from the Babylonian captivity to the “abominable customs” of their heathen neighbors, combined with the Zoroastrian prohibition of homosexual behavior, inspired the legal novellae added to the Holiness Code of Leviticus in the fifth century before the Christian era that were to be normative for Hellenistic Judaism and then for Pauline Christianity, and the designation of homosexual relations as an “abomination” or an “abominable crime” in medieval and modern sacral and legal texts echoes the wording of the Old Testament.3Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag Talmudic sages worried that Jews might be infected by this sin so common among Gentiles, especially Greeks, but casuistically required two witnesses to a warning before the act, thus rendering conviction virtually impossible. No record exists of stoning or other executions for sodomy although in such a polygamous society with slavery and segregation of women it must have been rife even among the non-Hellenized majority.

THE JEWISH DIASPORA

The Hellenistic era, which for Jewry began with Alexander’s capture of Jerusalem in 332, saw the growth of a far-flung Diaspora around the Mediterranean. Jews migrated to new foundations like Alexandria in Egypt and Antioch in Pisidia. Not a wholly new phenomenon, this extended the earlier diaspora that had existed within the 127 provinces of the Persian Empire extending “from India to Ethiopia” (Esther 1:6).

REACTION TO HELLENIZATION

In the Hellenistic era, Judaism split into sects. The aristocratic and Hellenized Sadducees were given to a literalist interpretation of the Pentateuch, which after its reworking, ascribed to Ezra (f.c. 458) had become normative for the Jewish community. The moralistic, nationalistic, and “bourgeois” Pharisees, if that term can be applied to the Judea of the second century, allegorized scripture. An elite group among them also Hellenized. Their sons even frequented the gymnasium established by Jason, brother of the conservative High Priest Onias III, near the Temple in Jerusalem with their foreskins sewn back together (1 Maccabees X:XX). Those parties probably existed as early as the outbreak of the Maccabean revolt in 167–sparked by opposition to the Hellen­izing policies of the Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes–and almost certainly by 142 when the Hasmoneans (a dynasty sprung from the Maccabees, descendants of the rural priest Mattathias, who had led the uprising against the Hellenizers) took advantage of Roman protection to form an independent state, the kingdom of Judea, known as the Second Commonwealth. Neither party questioned the Torah’s injunction to “Be fruitful and multiply;” both believed their marriage?oriented heterosexuality, ritual punctiliousness, and above all their worship of the one true God to rank them above the Gentiles who worshipped false gods and goddesses and wallowed in shame­ful and degrading vices of which pederasty was one of the most heinous. Although certain Hellenized Jews in Alexandria and Asia Minor frequented gymnasia and probably indulged in Greek–style pederasty, who tended to marry for the first time at 18 girls of 15, Jews approved poly­gamy and harems replete with concubines as well as wives. All Jewish sects, including later and lesser splinter groups such as the Essenes, rejected and condemned male homosexuality in accordance with the provisions of the Holiness Code.

THE MACCABEAN UPRISING

In 175 B.C.E. Judean priestly and lay nobility, eager to enjoy the benefits of Hellenistic civilization, seized on the ascent to power of Antiochus IV (176–164) Epiphanes (God-manifest) as the occasion to carry out a “reform.” They first had the High Priest Onias III’s brother Joshua, who assumed the Greek name Jason, depose Onias by purchasing the high priesthood for himself by offering Antiochus considerably more than the usual tribute of 300 talents. Jason then offered Antiochus -- as impecunious as all Seleucid sovereigns since the Peace of Apamea in 188 imposed tribute to Rome upon them -- another 150 talents for “permission to establish by his authority a gymnasion and a body of youth for it, and to enroll the men of Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch. … He at once shifted his country-men over to the Greek way of life” (2 Macc. 4:9-10; see also 1 Macc. 1:13). The high priest paid for sacrifices to Hercules at Tyre. His brother outbid him by offering to collect more tribute for Antiochus. Riots and massacres ensued after the  .???

Thus Jason and the reform party transformed Jerusalem into a Hellenistic city named Antioch (in honor of the ostensible “founder,” Antiochus IV). They organized the citizen-body, probably recruited from the upper priestly families and gentry interested in “modernizing” the society. The establishment of a gymnasion and an ephêbion were essential to the city’s Hellenistic constitution. These provided education appropriate for the training of young men for participation in the citizen-body, according to the usual Greek pattern. The gymnasion was built directly under the citadel on the temple hill itself. “The noblest of the young men” were induced “to wear the Greek hat” (the sun hat symbolic of Hermes), and “the priests were no longer intent upon their service at the altar. Despising the sanctuary and neglecting the sacrifices, they hastened to take part in the unlawful pro? ceedings in the wrestling arena after the call to the discus, disdaining the honors prized by their fathers and putting the highest value upon the Greek forms of prestige” (2 Macc. 4:12, 14-15). Hellenizing Jews ashamed of the symbol of their traditional covenant with God, now embarrassingly evident when they participated in the games naked, sought to “remove the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant” (1 Macc. 1:15).5[13]

Soon after at the small town of Modein northwest of Jerusalem, the aged priest Mattathias slew the Seleucid officer who had raised a pagan altar and the Jew who complied with his order to sacrifice at it. The rebels against the “abomination of desolation” fled to the hills. Mattathias’ four sons led by Judas took charge, called Hasmoneans after the old priest’s grandfather or Maccabeans after Judas “the hammer” or “the hider,” the etymology being a bit uncertain. Forced by Rome out of Egypt, which he had just almost overrun in hopes of bolstering his fisc, the embittered Antiochus pillaged the Temple in 168, razed the walls, and ensconced a garrison of Greeks and Hellenized Syrians in a citadel erected near the Temple which was consecrated to the Olympian Zeus to whom swine’s blood was offered on the altar. The Torah was burnt and harlots were introduced to the Temple in which a statue of Zeus was erected. Unable to suppress the Jewish revolt because he was busy fighting the Parthian uprising, Antiochus sent against Judas generals who failed and in any case retired upon his death (164).

Judas liberated Jerusalem, demolished the gymnasium, and cleansed the Temple, rebuilding it exactly three years after its desecration, but he could not dislodge the garrison. In the confusion surrounding the accession of Demetrius, Jason managed to consolidate his power by making peace with the Hasidim, the “pious party” who had at first opposed his insistence on fighting on the Sabbath and a treaty with Rome.

INDEPENDENCE OF JUDEA UNDER ROMAN PROTECTION

In 142 Judas’s brother Simon secured independence by capturing and demolishing the citadel and dates began to be reckoned from “the first year of Simon, High Priest, commander and leader of the Jews.” After his son John Hyrcanus (135-105) had resisted renewed Seleucid incursions and gained finally their alliance, he converted the Idumaeans, bringing prosperity but quarrelling with the Pharisees who condemned his combination of the high priesthood and temporal power. His sons’ support of the Sadducees provoked Pharisaic criticism. Pompey intervened in the bitter succession dispute of his sons and sacked Jerusalem, slaying twelve thousand including the priests at the altar. Neither Gabinius nor his successor Crassus who plundered the Temple could restore order. In 51, thirty thousand Jews were enslaved for supporting the Parthians. Judea suffered in the wars between Caesar and Pompey. Mark Antony finally aided the rise to power of Herod who married a niece of Antipater, one of the last Hasmoneans, but later in a fit of jealousy murdered her.

An unusual amount of city building and a big influx of Greeks aggravated tensions in Palestine; parasitic cities preyed on Jewish peasants. From the outbreak of the Maccabean revolt, which was never really stamped out, poorer Jews persisted in fighting their Hellenized upper class as well as their Greek masters. After the Maccabees, who at their height ruled an area comparable to modern Israel, succumbed in 63, the Romans installed the repressive Herod in 41, reducing the size of his kingdom and favoring the Greek cities over the Jewish countryside.

In addition to the High Priest, who was the official head of the Sanhedrin, the Pharisaic group maintained its separate leadership. This was entrusted to the great men of the house of Hillel, Rabban Gamaliel the Elder and his son Rabban Simon. One of the functions exercised by the Sanhedrin was that of municipal council of Jerusalem. Whether Jerusalem as it existed at the end of the Second Temple era can be regarded as a city with the constitution of a hellenistic polis is more than doubtful. It had no cultural-social institutions in the Greek manner, such as gymnasia; nor were regular popular assemblies, held at a set time and place, among its constitutional characteristics. The members of the Sanhedrin, which served as the municipal council, were not chosen by democratic election; but we must bear in mind that considerable changes had occurred during the development of the hellenistic cities of the East and that they had moved away from the traditional democratic system of the polis. On the other hand, the governing institutions of Jerusalem adopted, at least outwardly, some of the accepted terminology of the Hellenistic East. Thus the Sanhedrin began to be referred to as Boulê and its members as Bouleutai. Some of the characteristics of Greek city organization also found their way into Jerusalem; as in other cities of the empire, we have records of the existence of decaprotoi: a com­mittee of notables concerned in particular with the management of municipal finances. In contrast to Jeru­salem, which in its organization and institutions bore little resemblance to a polis and continued to develop, for the most part, in accordance with Jewish tradition, Tiberias was an example of a city with an absolute Jewish majority that, from the very beginning, was built and organized on the Greek polis pattern. Tiberias had its Boulê and its popular assemblies, although in regard of its Jewish character, the city sometimes held its assemblies in the synagogue. At the head of the city’s executive stood an archon, and control of economic life was entrusted to an agoranomos. The city also contained a large stadium.6 [14]


FURTHER DEVELOPMENT OF HOMOPHOBIA

In the same year, 1855, two significant events occurred. Jacob Bernays published in the first volume of the Jahresbericht des jüdisch-theologischen Seminars «Fraenckelscher Stiftung» in Breslau an article which proved that the poem of pseudo-Phocylides was a Jewish forgery of the first pre-Christian or the early part of the first Christian century. This didactic work, which condemns not only male homosexuality but also lesbianism (v. 192), shows that Judaism was already extending the prohibitions of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 by analogy to female homo­sexuality. At the same time Adolf Hilgenfeld, writing in Zeitschrift für die historische Theologie, 25: 453, concluded that Romans 1:18-32 was absent from Marcion’s text of the epistle and that the passage, which makes no mention of Christ or the Church, was in all likelihood a Jewish diatribe against idolatry interpolated in toto into the Pauline work.

These findings imply that Judaism had already anticipated in full the later Christian stance toward homosexuality, generalizing the prohibition and exemplifying its divine sanction by the destruction of Sodom. The carping criticisms of pagan philosophers who denounced pederasty on what must in retrospect seem rather feeble grounds (“excessive pleasure,” “neglect of one’s civic duties”) played no role in their polemics. Later texts in the first-century authors Philo Ju­daeus and Josephus Flavius–who were writing for pagan readers–confirm this analysis: Juda­ism formally condemned all sexual expression outside of lawful marriage, even holding that marital intercourse should be solely for the purpose of procreation. There was nothing left for St. Paul or St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas to invent: the complex of beliefs was inherited by Christianity from Hellenistic Judaism at the very moment that it separated from the earlier faith to become an independent religion.

These documents further undermine the claim of Canon Derrick Sherwin Bailey, Father John McNeill and Professor John Boswell that Christianity was not intrinsically homophobic at its origin. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Judaic condemnation of homosexuality formed part of the constitution of the primitive Church, and only the weakness and political marginality of the early Christian communities prevented them from enforcing it by law, though very likely within their own ranks they ostracized or excommunicated individuals whom they discovered to be guilty of “unnatural vice.”

Not only did Judaism introduce its distinctive sexual morality into the Hellenistic world, Greek-speak­ing Jews even created a new terminology with which to stigmatize reproved and for­bidden conduct. Pagan Greek authors had contrasted aselges (abstract asélgeia) for active sexual mis­conduct with ak?thartos (abstract akathars?a) for passive behavior, in line with the active/ passive dichotomy that prevailed in their thinking; but under the influence of Hebrew zen_th Hellenistic Judaism redefined pórnos “male prostitute” and porne?a “prostitution” to subsume both categories, which Christian Latin (the Latin used by Christian authors from the close of the second century onward) then rendered by fornicator and fornicatio, whence English fornication. These terms do not simply mean “sexual intercourse between persons not joined in marriage,” as later usage, particularly in English, would have it. They encompass all forbidden sexual acts and modes of sexual congress, and it is under these designations that one should look for condemnations of homosexuality in later authors, even if they do not use such words as paid­erasteía or malakía. The Judeo-Christian tradition had to create a whole new terminology with which to categorize prohibited sexual activity; it did not inherit one from the pagan authors or even from vulgar Greek or Latin speech, and these usages remained foreign to pagan Greek and Latin authors down to the end of antiquity. Thus the line of development is Biblical Hebrew > Jewish Hellenistic Greek > New Testament Greek > Christian Latin, which evolved in the Middle Ages into what is commonly called Church Latin and in turn shaped the sexual terminology of the vernacular languages of Western and Central Europe.

A further contribution of Hellenistic Judaism to the evolution of homophobia was its emphasis upon the particular heinousness of sexual immorality. The Judaism of the intertes­tamental period held that God was long-suffering with all sins except fornication (asserted in several passages, in particular Bereshith Rabbah 26:5 on Genesis 6:2). This dictum implied that homosexual activity was not just an offense to the deity; it was also an immediate threat to the continued existence of the community. Such a mentality led inevitably to the strictures of Justinian in his Novellae 77 and 141, and to the paranoid conception of homosexuality that echoes down to the twentieth century, when judges have formally ruled that even trivial homosexual acts should be punished because of the “social danger” which they represented–a classic instance of the conversion of religious beliefs into quasi-sociological justifications of intolerance.

In the Hellenistic Diaspora, within three generations Greek had become the native language of the Jews who settled in the newly founded colonies, and not only did they translate the canonical texts of their religion into Greek, but they even composed new ones modeled upon the earlier scriptures, often in a pastiche of the translation Greek of the Septuagint. These writings in Greek were ultimately rejected by the Synagogue, but they were adopted in part by the nascent Christian Church, and even those books which the Catholic Church repudiated as inauthentic continued to be copied and translated well into the Middle Ages, as shown by versions in such languages as Ethiopic, Armenian and Church Slavonic that in some instances preserve a lost Greek original. The so?called apocrypha and pseudepigrapha of the intertestamental period are classic instances of the naïveté and credulity of the religious mind, as they were ascribed to authors who supposedly had lived many centuries earlier and could scarcely have known Greek-to Solomon, to the patriarchs of Genesis from Enoch to the twelve sons of Jacob, even to Adam himself. That the primitive Christians could even momentarily have taken them to be genuine attests to the simplicity of their faith.

Rejected in toto by the Protestant theologians after the Reformation and excluded from Pro­testant editions of the Bible from the eighteenth century onward, these extracanonical writings were increasingly neglected even by modern scholarship, so that in the 1935-45 period there was virtually no study of them. Then the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 and the Gnostic papyri at Nag Hammadi in 1946 revived interest in the documents of the intertestamental period, with the result that Canon Derrick Sherwin Bailey collected passages from them in his work.56 Largely dependent upon an English translation of the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha published in 1913, Bailey was as helpless and uncritical in interpreting these texts as he was in many other places in his diatribe, but his work marked a beginning in an area that merits further and more competent investigation.

The Sibylline Oracles is a collection of apocalyptic writings forged in Greek hexameter verse in imitation of the heathen Sibylline books by Jews and later by Christians in their efforts to win heathens over to their faith. A passage written between 163 and 45 B.C. in Egypt, declares that the Romans “will launch on a course of unjust haughtiness. Immediate compulsion to impiety will come upon these men. Male will have intercourse with male and they will set up boys in houses of ill?fame and in those days there will be a great affliction among men” (III, 183?87). The same work contrasts the Jews favorably to all other nations: “They are mindful of holy wedlock, and do not engage in impious intercourse with male children, as do Phoenicians, Egyptians, and Romans, specious Greece and many nations of others, Persians and Galatians and all Asia, transgressing the holy law of immortal God, which they transgressed” (III, 595-600). The Greeks are singled out for particular reproach: “Avoid adultery and promiscuous intercourse with males” (II, 762?64).

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah also contributed to the development of the taboo on homosexuality. Originally a geographical myth explaining the barrenness and salinization of the area surrounding the Dead Sea, it underwent a process of growth that can be explained only by the association of ideas which such a phenomenon evoked in the mythopoetic consciousness of the ancients. The core of the legend is the notion of sterility, which evoked two etiological explanations: punishment for inhospitality and for sexual depravity. Jewish sages reiterated the story that the plain surrounding the Dead Sea had once been a lush garden with superabundant vegetation, but that in their prosperity the Sodomites refused all hospitality to those who set foot on their territory and were justly punished by the destruction of their city, whose territory was turned into an eternal wasteland.

But the notion of sterility also evoked the myth of retribution for sexual immorality, with the lex talionis decreeing that those who had “wasted their seed” in non-procreative acts should be punished by the eternal barrenness of their land. It is impossible to say just when each of the two interpretations of the aition of the destruction of Sodom began. It is certain only that the geological phenomena on the shores of the Dead Sea existed in the thirteenth pre-Christian century, when the invading Israelite tribesmen were beginning their conquest of Canaan, and that earthquakes occurred intermittently in Palestine and volcanic eruptions on the territory south and east of the Dead Sea. The further development of the sexual motif in the intertestamental period is attested in the book of Jubilees, 16:5?6 (composed in Hebrew between 163 and 140 B.C., but preserved only in an Ethiopic translation):

And in this month the Lord executed his judgments on Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Zeboiim, and all the region of the Jordan, and he burned them with fire and brimstone, and destroyed them unto this day, even as I have declared unto thee all their works, that they are wicked and sinners exceedingly, and that they defile themselves and commit fornication in the flesh, and work uncleanness on the earth. And in like manner God will execute judgment on the places where they have done according to the uncleanness of the Sodomites, like unto the judgment of Sodom.

This is the first text in which destruction by fire is named not just as the punishment of the Cities of the Plain, but as the fate of any commonwealth that tolerates homosexual activity in its midst. Elsewhere the book of Jubilees asserts (20:5-6):

And [Abraham] told [his sons and grandsons] of the judgment of the giants, and the judgment of the Sodomites, how they had been judged on account of their wickedness, and had died on account of their fornication, and uncleanness, and mutual corruption through fornication.
And guard yourselves from all fornication and uncleanness, And from all pollution of sin. Lest ye make our name a curse, And your whole life a hissing. And all your sons to be destroyed by the sword, And ye become accursed like Sodom, And all your remnant as the sons of Gomorrah.

Yet another work paralleling the story of the Deluge and the Sodom legend is the Testament of Naphtali, which forms part of the so-called Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, a Hellenistic work compiled in Greek from earlier Hebrew and Aramaic sources, some of which figure among the Dead Sea scrolls. The book purports to be a collection of testaments left by the twelve sons of Jacob inspired by their father’s deathbed blessing in Genesis 49; early recognized as a forgery, it was excluded from the Old Testament canon of the Church, but continued to be copied and read, as it is preserved in the original and in Armenian and Church Slavonic translations. With a complex history that includes both Jewish and Christian interpolations, the Greek version of the text probably reached its final form only in Christian circles in the middle of the second century. It had embroidered the Biblical episode to read:

The Gentiles went astray and forsook the Lord, and changed their order and obeyed stocks and stones, spirits of error. But ye shall not be so, my children, recognizing in the firmament, in the earth, and in the sea, and in all created things, the Lord who made all things, that ye become not as Sodom, which changed the order of nature. And likewise the Watchers also changed the order of their nature, whom the Lord cursed at the flood, on whose account he made the earth without inhabitants and fruitless. These things I say unto you, my children, for I have read in the writing of Enoch that ye yourselves also shall depart from the Lord, walking according to all the lawlessness of the Gentiles, and shall do according to all the wickedness of Sodom” (3:3?4:1).

Almost comically, the second allusion is to one of the unambiguously polytheistic episodes of the primal history embedded in the text of Genesis (and acutely embarrassing to the medieval Jewish commentators because it was the prototype of the union of the Holy Ghost with Mary which in the logic of Christian theologians conferred upon Jesus two natures, the divine and the human), which is here turned into a denunciation of paganism. The two catastrophe myths of Genesis, the universal deluge and the conflagration apocopated to a mere four cities in the vicinity of the Dead Sea, are here paralleled in accordance with the Jewish tradition that ascribed common elements of depravity to both (later Jewish tradition and commentary blamed both on sexual misconduct, among other sins).60 That the Testament of Naphtali directly inspired the passage in Romans 1:18?32 beginning “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven” is proven by the Greek words that connect the two episodes in both: homoios de kai, attested in all manuscripts of the pseudepigraphic text of Naphtali but corrupted to homoios te kai in some New Testament witnesses.

The other source of the passage in Romans is a denunciation of idolatry in Wisdom of Solomon (14:12?27), a work composed in Hebrew but expanded in its Greek version, which became part of the Apocrypha:

For the devising of idols was the beginning of fornication, And the invention of them the corruption of life. Among the evils flowing from the worship of idols are: Defiling of souls, confusion of sex, Disorder in marriage, adultery, and wantonness. For the worship of those unnameable idols Is the beginning and cause and end of every evil.

Thus Judaism not only condemned homosexual behavior, but identified it as a vice resulting from paganism and idolatry, a notion that has perplexed modern commentators on Romans who are unable to grasp the logic by which the author derives from heathen religious practices what is to them self?evidently a biological or psychological phenomenon.

THE LEGACY OF HELLENISTIC JUDAISM

In conclusion, Hellenistic Judaism supplied four sources of homophobia to the later Christian tradition:

1) The emphasis which it placed upon the particular heinousness of sexual immorality, which had been foreign to the Greek religious mentality;

2) The creation of a new Greek vocabulary with which to stigmatize homosexual and other tabooed erotic behavior;

3) The uncompromising condemnation of male homosexual activity as expressly forbidden by God, and judged worthy of the death penalty and ranked just below murder;

4) The reinterpretation of the Sodom legend to stress the homosexual depravity of the inhabitants as the sole and sufficient motive for the supernatural destruction of the city.

Thus not only the Biblical but even the intertestamental texts read by the early Christians and the Church fathers reinforced the apodictic condemnation in the book of Leviticus. All of the foregoing themes found expression in the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha and in the writings of Philo Judaeus and Josephus Flavius, which, composed in Greek, even though repudiated and forgotten by the Synagogue, fell into the legacy of Hellenistic Judaism to the nascent Christian Church.

These findings leave no doubt whatever that Judaism had already anticipated in full the later Christian stance toward homosexuality, generalizing the prohibition and exemplifying its divine sanction by the destruction of Sodom. Other texts in the first-century authors Philo Judaeus and Josephus Flavius–the second of whom was writing for pagan readers–confirm this analysis: Judaism formally condemned all sexual expression outside of lawful marriage, even holding that marital intercourse should be solely for the purpose of procreation. There was nothing left for St. Paul or St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas to invent: the complex of beliefs was inherited by Christianity from Hellenistic Judaism at the very moment that the new faith separated to become an independent religion.

THE FOUNDING OF CHRISTIANITY

Upon Herod’s death in 4 B.C. revolts broke out everywhere, one in Jesus’s neighborhood. Gamaliel the Elder ( ) summed up the feelings of the Jewish majority: “This empire gnaws at our substance through four things: its tolls, its bath buildings, its theaters, and its taxes in kind” ( ). Remembering their success against Antiochus, the Jews rose against Rome. Ministering not long after the brutal repression, Jesus may have resembled a liberation priest more than a communist.7[15]

Summarizing nineteenth century German scholarship of David Friedrich Strauss and Bruno Bauer that emphasized Jesus’s Jewish background of Messianic expectations of triumph over oppressors and denouncing Renan’s “French lyricism” that depicted Jesus as a do-gooder, Schweitzer portrayed the Gospels as an undecipherable puzzle of contradictory traditions of the early Church, among which Christ (the anointed Messiah) contrasted with the historical Jesus of Nazareth, about whom virtually nothing, including even the Sermon on the Mount, is certain.8[16]It is almost impossible to ascribe words or deeds, except trial and crucifixion, with certainty to Jesus.

Two centuries ago Jeremy Bentham took an even more radical position:

On this whole field in which Moses legislates with such diversified minuteness and such impassioned asperity, Jesus is altogether silent, Jesus from whose lips not a syllable favourable to ascetic self-denial is by any of his biographers presented as having ever issued, Jesus who among his disciples had one to whom he imparted his authority, and another on whose bosom his head reclined and for whom he avowed his love, Jesus, who in the stripling clad in loose attire found a still faithful adherent after the rest of them had fled, Jesus, in whom the woman taken in adultery found a successful advocate, Jesus has on the whole field of sexual irregularity preserved an uninterrupted silence.9[17]
While the references to the life of Christ are few in the Talmud, they are inevitably insulting. Jesus was the illegitimate child of a soldier called Panthera. He performed His miracles by magic, which He had learnt in Egypt. After His death, which was a legal condemnation in which He was given every chance to prove His innocence, His body was stolen by His disciples in order to invent the story of the Resurrection. He was a ‘deceiver of Israel’ and His teaching was evil. The Talmud and Midrash have little more than this, but it is evident that common Jewish stories went far further, and that all the main elements of the ‘Sepher Toldoth Jeshu’ were in existence from a very early date. There are explicit references in Origen [quoting the pagan Celsus] to some of the stories. Jesus collected a band of malefactors around Himself, and with these He lived the life of a bandit up and down Palestine. More references are to be found in Tertullian, who speaks of the libels on Jesus as the ‘son of a carpenter or furniture maker, the destroyer of the Sabbath, the Samaritan possessed of a devil.’ Eusebius expresses his disgust that ‘when a writer belonging to the Hebrews themselves [Josephus] has transmitted from primitive times in a work of his own, this record concerning John the Baptist and our Saviour, the Jews should proceed to forge such memoirs against them.’ The passage he is referring to is that alluding to Christianity which many now think to be original and not an interpolation. In any case, it existed in the copies of Josephus in the fourth century.10[18]

If, however, we should understand racha as passive homosexual (rakh), not translated by King James and m_ros = n_bh_l translated as “fool,” which could mean the active homosexual as seen in the use of nebh_l_h (folly) to describe the attempted homosexual outrage at Gibeah in Judges, “council” as equivalent to Knesset = Sanhedrin),11[19] then we can translate as follows: “But I say unto you that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment: and whoever shall say to his brother, Racha [cinaedus] shall be liable to the Sanhedrin: but whosoever shall say, “Thou fool [pederast or active sodomizer] shall be liable to hellfire” (Matthew 5:22). In this passage thus understood, so obscure in all existing translations, Jesus harshly condemned any pointing of the finger at active or passive male homosexuals. This interpretation is hardly inconceivable in view of His acceptance of such despised persecuted groups as prostitutes, Samaritans, lepers, prisoners, and the demented, though most likely He expected homosexuals, like prostitutes, to desist and follow him.

Just recently George Howard, Professor of Religion at the University of Georgia, published the text of a Hebrew translation of the Gospel of Matthew that was included in a Jewish polemical work of the late fourteenth century. This was the Ebhen bohan (Touchstone) of Shem Tobh ben Yishaq ibn Shaprut, written in Christian Spain about 1380 and revised during the subsequent quarter-century. Howard’s edition and translation is titled The Gospel of Matthew according to a Primitive Hebrew Text (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1987).

Matthew 5:22 appears on pp. 18-19, with the English rendering:

But I say to you, he who angers his companion is guilty of judgment; he who calls his brother inferior shall be guilty of judgment before the congregation; (he) who calls him a fool is guilty of the fire of Gehenna.

The word here rendered “inferior” is p_h_t, which means “less, lesser” but can also be understood as the passive participle “broken”, which is equivalent to Latin fractus, used by Cicero and later writers in the sense of “swishy, effeminate”. The second-century rhetorician Quintilian speaks, for example, of the fractus incessus “swishy walk” of obvious pathics. It is possible, therefore, that the Hebrew translator of Matthew connected rachâ with rakh “soft, effeminate” and rendered it by the word that under Latin influence had come into use in Late Hebrew. The Latinism in Hebrew was cleverly chosen as a mirror image of the Hebrew loan word in Hellenistic Greek.

A better rendering of the Hebrew would be:

But I say unto you,

that whosoever angers his companion is liable to judgment;

and whoever shall call his brother effeminate shall be liable to judgment before the congregation;

and whosoever shall call him fool is liable to the fire of Gehenna.

The importance of this text lies in its being the first independent, pre-modern (and relatively early) confirmation of my interpretation of rachâ, the mysterious word in the Greek text of Matthew’s gospel, as a term of derision for the pathic the passive-effeminate homosexual. Its implication is that Jesus forbade his followers to engage in queer-baiting, advice unfortunately not taken in the ensuing 1900 years. But it also refutes the widely-heralded notion, which goes back to Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), that “Jesus said nothing on the subject of homosexuality”.

Whatever he thought about homosexuals, Jesus’s sect at least initially during the break from Judaism often demanded a denial of family ties:

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew X, 34-37)

He repeated the same theme further on:

And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredful, and shall inherit everlasting life. (Matthew XIX, 29)

“One’s ‘kin’ were no longer one’s family but the members of the sect:”12[20]

But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. (Matthew XII, 48-50)

Luke’s (XIV, 26) words are unambiguous:

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

How many disciples were celibate and did the married ones forsake wife and children?

A few have seen homoeroticism between Jesus and his youngest and most beloved disciple St. John, usually depicted as still beardless or his spending the night baptizing in the nude Lazarus.

According to the playwright Christopher Marlowe (1564-93), as reported by the informer Richard Baines, “St. John the Evangelist was bedfellow to Christ and leaned always in his bosom, that he used him as the sinners of Sodoma.” The only clear precedent for this assertion known thus far is the confession of a libertine of Venice who was tried about 1550 for believing, among other heresies, that St. John was Christ’s catamite (cinedo di Cristo) ... . In a curious episode preserved only in a late fragment, Jesus spends a night naked with a youthful disciple, inducting him into the mysteries ... . 13[21]

Using rabbinical, apocryphal, and pagan sources such as Porphyry or Celsus some have suggested that Jesus may have been primarily a magician, at least until his final year, when he may have come to consider himself the Jewish Messiah as the Synoptics indicate, at all times working miracles (like his contemporaries Apollonius of Tyana or Simon Magus the Samaritan.), whom first after his crucifixion Paul and John transformed into Christ.

Jesus the magician was the figure seen by most ancient opponents of Jesus; ‘Jesus the Son of God’ was the figure seen by that party of his followers which eventually triumphed; the real Jesus was the man whose words and actions gave rise to these contradictory interpretations. ‘Jesus the Son of God’ is pictured in the Gospels; the works that pictured ‘Jesus the Magician’ were destroyed in antiquity after Christians got control of the Roman Empire. We know the lost works only from fragments and references, mostly in the works of Christian authors. Hence modern scholars, trying to discover the historical Jesus behind the Gospel legends, have generally paid no attention to the evidence for Jesus the Magician and have taken only the Gospels as their sources.14[22]

Stressing analogies such as Apollonius instead of the Mysteries of Isis and Mithra, which seem to have exerted maximum influence later during the third century,15[23]Smith attempted to reconstruct

the lost picture from the preserved fragments and related material, mainly from the magical papyri, that New Testament scholarship has generally ignored. M. James’ The Apocryphal New Testament prints fragments of some twenty lost works about Jesus and references to many more of which only titles are known.16 [24]

Jesus Prophet and then Messiah appears more clearly in the Synoptic Gospels especially in John, the true embodiment of “the Son of God.” Perhaps Jesus moved from one to another or was at once magician, prophet, Messiah, and Christ.

Epileptic or not but as fanatic after as before his conversion, St. Paul ardently denounced heretics and Jews as well as sexual sinners: “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections  ... men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet” (Romans 1: 26-27). Boswell misinterpreted I Cor. VI, 9, which the King James Version following Tyndale translated as “neither effeminate nor abusers of themselves with mankind,” by claiming that malakoi and arsenokoitai were not Greek “technical terms for passive and active pederasty” as is commonly correctly assumed in exegeses in part because these passages echo the Holiness Code (Lev. XVIII, 22 and XX, 13) which is as old as the Sodom story.17[25] Though he used “against nature,” Paul’s uncompromising hostility differed qualitatively from the strictures of some Classical, Hellenistic, and Imperial Roman physicians and philosophers all of whom advocated conforming to nature by prescribing sexual restraint whereas Christians ideally demanded total abstention and mortification of the flesh. Paul, who according to Clement of Alexandria was married, denounced sex as sinful, to be tolerated only within marriage for those too weak to abstain because it was essential for the perpetuation of mankind. “Marry (but not a Jew) or burn!” Paul did, however, relegate wife, children, and servants to the authority of the father who owed them love and careful supervision. Reciprocal duties bound family and father whose authority was modeled on God’s. In accord with homophobic Jewish traditions, perhaps of Zoroastrian more than Hellenistic and Roman inspiration, and in any case inflamed by their hatred of Greco?Roman rule and culture, he condemned all “unnatural” pleasures of the flesh: bestiality, adultery, fornication, and homosexuality in any and all forms.

Nothing remotely like the New Testament’s doctrine of salvation or the death of God stemming from Paul can be found in Jewish literature. He substituted “an irreversible rebirth into innocence for the continual moral struggle, guided by the Torah, which for Jews gave life its significance.” Jesus’s death became not an interruption of his mission but its whole point. … By such inch-by-inch projections it is hoped that a bridge can be constructed between the Christian salvation myth and a respectable Jewish background, without recourse to Hellenistic mystery?cults. … In the Hebrew Bible this world, having been created by God is regarded as good. … At the opposite extreme is the literature of the gnostic sects that flourished around the time of the emergence of Christianity; in its view this world is evil, the creation of an evil power. Some of the pre-Christian gnostic sects were Jewish in origin, in the sense that they parasitically drew on the Bible for their mythic content. But they were profoundly un-Jewish in the way they used this content. They took the view that this world was created by the Jewish God, but he was an evil god . … It seems truer to say that the gnostics were the first anti-Semites who, like later anti?Semites, were fascinated by the materials of Judaism and fashioned their world view out of a love?hate relationship with Judaism. Included in the present edition of the Pseudepigrapha is a gnostic work, the Apocalypse of Adam, from the library of gnostic texts found in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1946. This is certainly a fascinating work, most probably an example of pre-Christian gnosticism a genre often declared to be nonexistent by scholars who refuse to accept that Pauline Christianity was influenced by gnosticism. But whether it belongs in a compilation of Jewish Pseudepigrapha is very questionable. The Apocalypse of Adam, despite its biblical material, is profoundly anti-Bible, regarding the Jews as the chosen people of an evil God. Including it here is like in­cluding the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion in an anthology of modern Jewish litera­ture. ... Pauline Christianity has gone still further into despair, so much further that it is lost to Judaism. It believes that the world has gone so wrong that the Torah has become irrelevant and inadequate; even in doubt is whether this world is the scene of man’s destiny. Like gnosticism, Christianity has a descending Son of God, come to rescue humanity, but here

Christianity, unlike gnosticism, introduces ideas taken from the mystery cults: the Son of God has come not to impart gnosis but to die a sacrificial death. Only participation in this mystery can save. … Both gnosticism and Christianity are radically dualistic systems, seeing this world as captured by the power of Darkness in the course of its war against the power of Light. In this cosmic war, both gnosticism and Christianity identified the Jews as the earthly representatives of the power of Darkness. The Pseudepigrapha and the Dead Sea Scrolls, both of which envisage a war between good angels and bad angels, and which may be thought of as a first step away from the unified, humanistic outlook of both the Hebrew Bible and rabbinic Judaism, nevertheless represents a milder form of dualism than that in either gnosticism or Christianity; a despair still controlled by loyalty to Torah and Covenant cannot be equated with a despair that has entered the abyss, and depends so heavily on salvation from on high. When Christianity adopted the standpoint of gnosticism and the mystery-cults, it made a decisive break with Judaism. We cannot hope to smooth away the Jewish-Christian conflict byreducing it to a family quarrel between groups that are basically akin.18[26]

While Maccoby oversimplified in seeing a consistency in the early Church that did not exist before the ecumenical councils defined orthodoxy and the rebel sect became the established church he was nonetheless essentially correct in denying any fundamental continuity between mainstream Judaism and Christian orthodoxy. Indirectly by stressing Christian irrationality and dualism he also refuted the usually popular thesis that Christianity preserved the best of Greco-Roman rationalism as well as of Jewish orthodoxy. In fact the pagan philosophers and sages as well as the emperors and administrators recognized that this was an abominable departure from all that was worthy in Hellenism and the mos maiorum.

The “urge to purify the world through the annihilation of some category of human beings imagined as agents of corruption and incarnations of evil” is well explored by Cohn, contributing to “studies in the dynamics of persecution and extermination” produced by the University of Sussex. Fantasies gripped not merely “marginal elements in society free-lance intellectuals and semi-intellectuals, landless, rootless peasants, the poorest, most desperate elements in the urban population  ... [but]  ... what we would now call the Establishment.”19[27] Motivated in part by avarice and sadism, suspicion and accusations bedeviled the still small, scattered groups of Christians. Tacitus expressed the upper class attitude that the Christians were “notoriously depraved” (Annals, XV, 43). Late in the second century Minucius Felix, possibly the earliest Latin Apologist, recorded what pagans were saying from the beginning of that century:

I am told that, moved by some foolish urge, they consecrate and worship the head of a donkey, that most abject of all animals. This is a cult worthy of the customs from which it sprang! Others say that they reverence the genitals of the presiding priest himself, and adore them as though they were their father’s ... . As for the initiation of new members, the details are as disgusting as they are well known. A child, covered in dough to deceive the unwary, is set before the would-be novice. The novice stabs the child to death with invisible blows; indeed he himself, deceived by the coating dough, thinks his stabs harmless. Then it’s horrible! they hungrily drink the child’s blood, and compete with one another as they divide his limbs. Through this victim they are bound together; and the fact that they all share the knowledge of the crime pledges them all to silence. Such holy rites are more disgraceful than sacrilege. It is well known, too, what happens at their feasts ... . On the feast-day they foregather with all their children, sisters, mothers, people of either sex and all ages. When the company is all aglow from feasting, and impure lust has been set afire by drunkenness, pieces of meat are thrown to a dog fastened to a lamp. The dog springs forward, beyond the length of its chain. The light, which would have been a betraying witness, is overturned and goes out. Now, in the dark, so favourable to shameless behaviour, they twine the bonds of unnameable passion, as chance decides. And so all alike are incestuous, if not always in deed at least by complicity; for everything that is performed by one of them corresponds to the wishes of them all ... . Precisely the secrecy of this evil religion proves that all these things, or practically all, are true [Octavius cap. ix and x].

Such charges against Christians became common: If the passage in Minucius Felix stood alone one might suspect the author of rhetorical exaggeration; but other sources bear him out in almost every detail. The first really great writer of the Latin church, Tertullian, was familiar with these same accusations, and in the year 197 he set out to refute them. He describes how, in his own town of Carthage, a criminal who normally earned his living dodging wild beasts in the arena had recently been hired to display a picture of the donkey-god. It showed a creature with ass’s ears and a hoofed foot, but standing erect, dressed in a toga and carrying a book; and it bore the inscription “The god of the Christians, ass-begotten.” Tertullian’s answer is ridicule: “We laughed at the name and at the shape.” Mockery is also his response to the tales of incestuous orgies, infanticide and cannibalism. If these tales were true, he comments, a would?be Christian would be confronted with some curious demands: “You will need a child of tender years, who does not know what death means, and who will smile under the knife. You will need some bread to soak up the blood; also some candlesticks and lamps, and some dogs, and some scraps of meat to make them jump and upset the lamps. Above all, be sure to bring your mother and sister. But what if the mother and sister will not comply, or if the convert has none?  ... I suppose you cannot become a regular Christian if you have neither mother nor sister?”

Minucius Felix and Tertullian provide the fullest evidence for the suspicions under which the Christians laboured, but by their time the suspicions were already traditional. The most damaging can be detected already in the comments of the younger Pliny in 112 or 113. Installed as Governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor, Pliny had the task of examining some former Christians he found there; and he wrote to the emperor asking how they were to be treated. These people, he reported, admitted that they used to attend meetings where they took nourishment together; but they insisted that, whatever others might say, the nourishment was an innocent one. There is little doubt what lies behind this cryptic phrase: Pliny had been trying to establish whether Christians did or did not practise collective cannibalism. By 152 the Christian apologist Tatian, writing for the benefit of the pagan Greeks, thought it necessary to state explicitly, “There is no cannibalism amongst us.” In the same decade Justin Martyr also refers repeatedly to these slanders. In his Apology he asks how a glutton who enjoys eating human flesh could possibly bring himself to a welcome death, as Christians did; for would it not deprive him of his pleasure? And in his Dialogue with the Jew Trypho he asks whether, like the Gentiles, the Jews believe that Christians eat human beings. Justin recognizes, too, that this particular accusation does not stand alone: when Christians are accused of cannibalism they are also commonly accused of promiscuous and incestuous orgies. It remained for Athenagoras, around 168, to find the appropriate technical terms for these imaginary offences: alongside “Oedipean mating”, “the Thyestean feast”. The name is highly significant: the children of Thyestes were killed by his brother Atreus and served up to him at a banquet. If the cannibalistic feasts in which Christians were believed to indulge could be called “Thyestean”, that means that the supposed victims were not adults but children. And that is confirmed both by Minucius Felix and by Tertullian.
Tertullian might make fun of such beliefs, but they were really no laughing matter. They were very widespread, both in the geographical and in the social sense. Christian apologists referred to hem as flourishing in all the main areas where Christians were to be found–North Africa, Asia Minor, Rome itself; and not only amongst the unlettered populace, either. In the 160’s M. Cornelius Fronto made a speech accusing the Christians of infanticide, cannibalism and incest–and Fronto was not only a famous orator and an influential senator but the tutor and adviser of the emperor Marcus Aurelius. It is quite possible that Fronto influenced Marcus Aurelius in his persecution of the Christians, which was severe. And in the frightful persecution which struck the Christians at Lyons towards the end of his reign these same accusations certainly played an important part. ... The authorities and the populace collaborated in the persecution. Officially banned from public places and in effect outlawed, the unfortunate Christians were hounded by the mob, beaten and stoned in the streets; after which they were arrested and thrown into prison. At this point pagan slaves belonging to the prisoners were arrested and tortured to obtain incrimi­nating statements; and in the end some asserted that their masters killed and ate children and indulged in promiscuous and incestuous orgies. They would never have voiced such accusations without prompt­ing–which suggests that the persecutors had from the start planned to saddle the Christian com­mun­ity with these crimes. The Christians were horribly tortured first, both in prison and in the amphi­theatre. But nothing could induce them either to deny the faith they held or to admit to crimes they had never committed. As one of them, called Attalus, was being roasted alive in an iron chair, he still cried to the crowd: “What you are doing is indeed to eat men, but we do not eat men, nor do we do any­thing wicked.” And the woman Biblis also cried out under torture: “How would such people eat children ... ?”
Ritual murder and cannibalistic feasts belonged to one particular, traditional stereotype: the stereotype of the conspiratorial organization or secret society engaged in a ruthless drive for political power.20[28]

Many of the varied and conflicting Christian attitudes owed far more to much maligned antimaterialist Gnostics than to rational Graeco-Roman asceticism–even the “counter?culture” of Cynic, Stoic, and Neo?Platonic varieties–or long dormant, Torah prescriptions of death for sodomites. Until late in the twentieth century with the discoveries of papyri at Nag Hammadi and elsewhere, we knew Gnostic writings primarily through their Christian enemies of the second and third centuries, who in turn accused them of homosexuality and sexual abandon, as the Christians themselves were accused by Jews and pagans. They supposedly depicted Jahweh as a malevolent deity ruling the corrupt world he created.

But what of the accusation of promiscuous and incestuous orgies? The usual explanation is that the pagans confused the main body of Christians with certain Gnostics who really did indulge in such practices. Yet when one examines the evidence in detail, it tends to disintegrate. The earliest source, Justin Martyr, merely says that he does not know whether various Gnostic sects indulged in the nocturnal orgies of which Christians were accused. Irenaeus, writing after the persecution at Lyons had already taken place, merely says of one particular Gnostic sect–the Carpocratians–that, being indifferent to good and evil, they were promiscuous, and thereby brought discredit upon the Christians, with whom they were confused. Clement of Alexandria, writing around 200, is the first to attribute to these Carpocratians erotic orgies such as had long been attributed to the Christians; while Eusebius, writing more than two centuries later, does little more than repeat these earlier sources. But whatever this obscure Gnostic sect may or may not have believed or practised, it can hardly account for the constant and widespread accusations against the main body of Christians.21 [29]

Whatever its relation to Zoroastrianism, gnostic dualism differed fundamentally from Platonic or any other Greek philosophy except perhaps the little understood Orphism: The history of religions knows various ideas of the activity of two more or less independent deities or principles which are made responsible for the differing situations in the world. One of the best known is the Iranian Zoroastrian dualism, which sets a good and an evil god at the beginning of world history and views this history as dominated by the conflict between the two, until the good god with help of his adherents at the end of time carries off the victory. This dualism is however essentially ethically oriented, since it lays decisive importance upon religious and moral attitude and outlook, and the opposites “good” and “evil” do not coincide with those of “spiritual” and “corporeal” or “material”, but also are interwoven with the latter. We shall see that this dualism had a great influence upon developing Gnosis. It is otherwise with the more strongly philosophically oriented dualism of Plato, which was of great importance for Greek thought and then for the whole of late antiquity. It knows the two levels of existence: the spiritual eternal ideas and their transitory material (spatial) counterparts, which form the cosmos; the latter do indeed signify a loss of being, but nevertheless belong to the good part of the creation (for the bad part Plato ultimately made an “evil world soul” responsible). This “ontological” or “metaphysical” dualism is likewise, as we shall show, a presupposition of the gnostic. Finally one might also refer to the Indian dualism between Being and Appearance or Becoming, which has frequently been adduced as a parallel to Gnosis but which because of its quite different orientation does not come into question (it has points in common rather with the Platonic). There is also a series of other dualisms (apart from the still more widely spread simple conceptions of duality), which are formulated in more or less radical, mixed or dialectic form and whose typology belongs to the interesting field of work of the comparative study of religion; in our context those named are sufficient.

The gnostic dualism is distinguished from these above in the one essential point, that it is “anti-cosmic”; that is, its conception includes an unequivocally negative evaluation of the visible world together with its creator; it ranks as a kingdom of evil and of darkness. The identification of “evil” and “matter”, which is not to be found in Iranian and Zoroastrian thought, occurs in Gnosis as a fundamental conception. In Greek thought also–apart from certain Orphic teachings, which however are of uncertain date–there is no such anticosmic development of the dualism of spirit and body. The Greek conception is unmistakably “procosmic”, and no less a person than Plotinus (3rd century A.D.), the leading figure of the late or Neoplatonism, defended this position over against the gnostic depreciation of the cosmos. In his first treatise “On providence” it is said, with a clearly anti-gnostic point: “No-one therefore may find fault with our universe on the ground that it is not beautiful or not the most perfect of the beings associated with the body; nor again quarrel with the originator of its existence, and certainly not because it has come into existence of necessity, not on the basis of a reflection but because the higher being brought forth its likeness according to the law of nature.” [Enneads III, 2, 3] If the world also is not perfect, since it has only a share in the highest being and is troubled by matter, it is nevertheless as a product of the world plan “so beautiful that there is no other that could be more beautiful than it.” [Ibid. III, 2, 12] The same is true of man: he is “to this extent a complete vessel as it is granted to him to be perfected.” [Ibid. III, 2, 9] A treatise especially written “Against the Gnostics” takes issue in particular with their view that the cosmos and its creator are evil.22[30]

About women and heterosexuals, gnostics like Christians held ambiguous, often contradictory theories:

The equal standing of women in cultic practice in the gnostic communities appears to have been relatively widespread, as we have already seen (there is probably a polemical reference to this in the First Letter to Timothy; cf. also Paul in First Corinthians [I Tim. 2, 11 f.; I Cor. 14, 34 ff.] On the other hand there is evidence in some branches of the denigration of women and the rejection of marriage. These differing attitudes may perhaps find an explanation in the fundamental conception which at times crops up in the sources, namely that bi?sexuality is an evil of the earthly world and a mark of its lost unity, in contrast to the complete annulment of division in the Pleroma as portrayed by the male?female couplings of heavenly beings. Frequently bi?sexuality became something of an ideal for Gnosis; it is attributed among others to the highest being. The Mandaic Eve speaks to Adam in the following instructive statement: “When there was no unevenness (or: inequality), (then) we had (but) one form. We had (but) one form and we were both made as a single mana (spirit) Now, where there is no evenness (or: equality), they made you a man and me a woman.” [Right Ginza III]
In the Gospel of Philip this division of the sexes is made out to be the woman’s (i.e. Eve’s) fault (perhaps simulating the fall of Sophia from the unity of the Pleroma) and is connected with the origin of mortality. That unity is life, separation death is a guiding principle of gnostic thought. “When Eve was (still) in Adam, there was no death. When she separated from him, death arose. When she (or it, death) enters him again and he (Adam) takes her (or it, death) to himself, there shall be no (more) death.” [Nag Hammadi Codex II 3, 68 (116), 22?26] “If the woman had not separated from the man, she would not have died with the man. His separation became the beginning of death. Therefore Christ came that he might set right again the separation which arose from the beginning and unite the two, and give life to those who died in the separation and unite them.” [Nag Hammadi Codex II, 3,70 (118), 9?17] The devaluation of the woman and what is female which finds expression here is certainly compensated by the activity of women in the life of the community and the large role which is ascribed to the female aspect in gnostic mythology (cf. Sophia, Barbelo and others), but in the final analysis we are left with the traditional assessment, standard in antiquity, of the woman as a creature subordinated to the man. Consequently there are only the beginnings of an emancipation. That this is the case is clear from certain evidence which regards a redemption of the woman as possible only on the condition of her metamorphosis into a man. Of course a part is played by the idea that for the union with the original heavenly image (often depicted as female) of the soul the returning partner (the copy) must belong to one sex, predominantly the male; hence the change is assumed for the sake of the unity to be recovered. At the end of the Gospel of Thomas the following episode takes place: “Simon Peter spoke to them (the disciples): ‘Let Mary (Magdalene) leave us, for women are not worthy of life.’ Jesus said: ‘Behold, I shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” [Nag Hammadi Codex II 2, log. 114] The same view is also held by the Naassenes and Valentinians; the former maintain that all who reach “the house of the (good) God” “become bridegrooms, being rendered wholly male through the virgin spirit.” [Hippolytus, Refutatio V 8, 44] The Valentinian Theodotus believed that the “see of light”, so long as it was still unformed (i.e. uneducated, untrained), is a “child of the female”, but when it is formed (i.e. trained), it is changed into a man and becomes a son of the (heavenly) bridegroom; no longer is it weak and subjected to the cosmic powers, but having become a man, it becomes a male fruit. [Clem. Alex., Ex Theodoto 79] As such it can enter into the Pleroma and unite with the angels. “Therefore it is said that the woman is changed into a man and the community here below (on earth) into angels.” {Ibid., 21, 3} One must bear in mind that in Greek “angel” (i.e. messenger) has the masculine gender. In Valentinianism, at least with Heracleon and Theodotus, the “male”, as it was created in Adam, [cf. Gen. 1, 27] is the “elect” of the angels, the “female” which corresponds to Eve represents the “calling” of the pneumatics, who must be brought up to the male “elect” in order to become part of the Pleroma and attain again to the angelic status.23[31]

Reinforcing the Gnostic influence against Judaism and Hellenism were the popular mystery religions eschewing reason and practicality in favor of spiritual escapism, of which Christianity appeared to be only one to Roman pagans. Universalist, like Christianity, they cut across ethnic lines to attract different groups. Mithra, for example, soldiers, Isis and the Magna Mater women, and Christianity urban lower classes.

The mass of religions at Rome finally became so impregnated by neo-Platonism and Orientalism that paganism may be called a single religion with a fairly distinct theology, whose doctrines were somewhat as follows: adoration of the elements, especially the cosmic bodies; the reign of one God, eternal and omnipotent, with messenger attendants; spiritual interpretation of the gross rites yet surviving from primitive times; assurance of eternal felicity to the faithful; belief that the soul was on earth to be proved before its final return to the universal spirit, of which it was a spark; the existence of an abysmal abode for the evil, against whom the faithful must keep up an unceasing struggle; the destruction of the universe, the death of the wicked, and the eternal happiness of the good in a reconstructed world ... . The cults of Asia and Egypt bridged the gap between the old religions and Christianity, and in such a way as to make the triumph of Christianity an evolution, not a revolution. The Great Mother and Attis, with self-consecration, enthusiasm, and asceticism; Isis and Serapis, with the ideals of communion and purification; Baal, the omnipotent dweller in the far-off heavens; Jehovah, the jealous God of the Hebrews, omniscient and omnipresent; Mithra, deity of the sun, with the Persian dualism of good and evil, and with after-death rewards and punishments–all these, and more, flowed successively into the channel of Roman life and mingled their waters to form the late Roman paganism which proved so pertinacious a foe to the Christian religion. The influence that underlay their pretensions was so real that there is some warrant for the view of Renan that at one time it was doubtful whether the current as it flowed away into the Dark Ages should be Mithraic or Christian. ... The spread of the Oriental religions ... was due to merit. In contrast to the cold and formal religions of Rome, the Oriental faiths, with their hoary traditions and basis of science and culture, their fine ceremonial, and excitement attendant on their mysteries, their deities with hearts of compassion, their cultivation of the social bond, their appeal to conscience and their promises of purification and reward in a future life, were personal rather than civic, and satisfied the individual soul ... . With such a conception of latter-day paganism, we may more easily understand its strength and the bitter rivalry between it and the new faith, as well as the facility with which pagan society, once its cause was proved hopeless, turned to Christianity. The Oriental religions had made straight the way. Christianity triumphed after long conflict because its antagonists also were not without weapons from the armory of God. Both parties to the struggle had their loins girt about with truth, and both wielded the sword of the spirit; but the steel of the Christian was the more piercing, the breastplate of his righteousness was the stronger, and his feet were better shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.
Nor did Christianity stop there. It took from its opponents their own weapons, and used them; the better elements of paganism were transferred to the new religion. As the religious history of the empire is studied more closely  ... the triumph of the church will, in our opinion, appear more and more as the culmination of a long evolution of beliefs. We can understand the Christianity of the fifth century with its greatness and weaknesses, its spiritual exaltation and its puerile superstitions, if we know the moral antecedents of the world in which it developed. ...
It is our belief that the main point to be cleared up is the composite religion of those Jewish or Jewish-pagan communities, the worshipers of Hypistos, the Sabbatists, the Sabaziasts and others in which the new creed took root during the apostolic age. In those communities the Mosaic law had become adapted to the sacred usages of the Gentiles even before the beginning of our era, and monotheism had made concessions to idolatry. Many beliefs of the ancient Orient, as for instance the ideas of Persian dualism regarding the infernal world, arrived in Europe by two roads, the more or less orthodox Judaism of the communities of the dispersion in which the gospel was accepted immediately, and the pagan mysteries imported from Syria or Asia Minor. Certain similarities that surprised and shocked the apologists will cease to look strange as soon as we reach the distant sources of the channels that reunited at Rome ...
Religion was no longer regarded as a public duty, but as a personal obligation; no longer did it subordinate the individual to the city-state, but pretended above all to assure his welfare in this world and especially in the world to come. The Oriental mysteries offered their votaries radiant perspectives of eternal happiness. Thus the focus of morality was changed. The aim became to realize the sovereign good in the life hereafter instead of in this world, as the Greek philosophy had done. No longer did man act in view of tangible realities, but to attain ideal hopes. Existence in this life was regarded as a preparation for a sanctified life, as a trial whose outcome was to be either everlasting happiness or everlasting pain.

As we see, the entire system of ethical values was overturned.

The salvation of the soul, which had become the one great human care, was especially promised in these mysteries upon the accurate performance of the sacred ceremonies. The rites possessed a power of purification and redemption. They made man better and freed him from the dominion of hostile spirits. Consequently, religion was a singularly important and absorbing matter, and the liturgy could be performed only by a clergy devoting itself entirely to the task. The Asiatic gods exacted undivided service; their priests were no longer magistrates, scarcely citizens. They devoted themselves unreservedly to their ministry, and demanded of their adherents submission to their sacred authority.
All these features that we are but sketching here, gave the Oriental religions a resemblance to Christianity, and the reader of these studies will find many more points in common among them. .. 24 [32]

As Christianity prospered, evolving from radical sect to established church, more educated and traditional Fathers borrowed increasingly from Stoics and Neo?Platonists, at first in a shallow, selective fashion, using their ideas as windowdressing for a religion fundamentally at odds with mainstream Classical as well as Jewish tradition. Gentile Christians rejected Judaism.

With the destruction of the Temple the Christians were convinced that all that there was of promise and encouragement in the Old Testament had passed to them. They disinherited the Jew from his own sacred books at the very moment when these provided his only comfort. All the Law and the promises led on to Christ the Messiah. Rejecting Him, the Jew lost also all share in them. ‘Judaism,’ says Ignatius, ‘is nothing but funeral monuments and tombstones of the dead.’ The Christian did not even allow him any further merit in the actual observance of the Law. It was only a mass of frivolities and absurdities, except as a preliminary to the Gospel. By some mysterious process all that was good in Judaism had become evil.25 [33]

Brown contradicted his assertion that “in moral matters the Christians made almost no moral innovations” before the fourth century by pointing out that Galen “was struck by the sexual austerity of the Christian communities in the late second century.”26[34]

Often unclear and even contradictory, the views of the Fathers, especially if one includes Christian gnostics, diverge almost as much as those of modern Christian sects and denominations. Valentine, who visited Rome and Alexandria in 135/6, and his more famous disciple Marcion, who condemned even marriage and was expelled from Rome in 144, supposedly preached and practiced free love as being mandated by their faith. Denouncing Yahweh as an evil god who had created the material world, some Gnostics were accepted as Christians while others were regarded as heretics, the greatest, Origen of Alexandria (c.185-c.254), being on the borderline. Pagans and Christians persecuted these soi-disant Christians for believing that women as well as men should be allowed uninhibited sex, though Christians themselves suffered from the same charge.

Few of the early Christians were sex?positive, but many deemed homosexuality and bestiality more sinful than fornication and adultery. Following Jesus’s “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” and Paul’s “Obey the powers that be,” early Christians, Jewish or not, had attacked only Jews as Christkillers as well as for obstinately refusing to accept the Messiah. The Epistle of Barnabas (c. 100) and Tatian (c. 150) anathematized sodomites ( ). Claiming that their gods were originally devils, the first Apologist, Justin Martyr (c.100-c.167) attacked the pagans. Other mainstream Christians like Irenaeus (f.c. 150) of Lyons, denounced with disgust homo­sexuality among heretical sects which, thinking they were free of sin and in a state of grace, believed they could do no wrong. Minucius Felix (f. c. 200) reproached the Romans for condoning licentious sex, by which he understood pederasty (28.10). The anti?Semite Clement of Alexandria (c.150-c.216) fulminated against gays more than other Pre-Nicaean Fathers, whom persecution apparently softened although we must remember that because the others were silent does not mean they approved it, bracing his sexual strictures with Platonic concepts about nature and Stoic ones word for word from Musonius Rufus about mutual fidelity in marriage.

Boswell failed to recognize the importance and mainstream position of the Councils of Elvira (306) and Ancyra (314), which condemned homosexuality on the eve of toleration and the edicts against it of Constantine’s sons, like their father heads of the Church.27[35] An impressive homophobic literature grew up. The bishop of Constantia Epiphanius (c.315-402) condemned sexual libertinism, alleging that at a banquet members of Christian groups, held women in common and did not restrict their sexual activity to one partner. Another group practiced masturbation and other groups homosexuality.28 [36] John Chrysostom (d. 407) and Augustine (354-430), than whom none were more orthodox, mainstream, and influential, ferociously denounced sodomy far more than fornication or even adultery.

By this time in the East, “the role of the Christian church in the cities had been overshadowed by a radical new model of human nature and human society created by the ‘men of the desert.’“29 [37] Up to the fourth century the Orthodox Church was becoming Romanized, but then it fell under the influence of monks, but not ones whose “monastic paradigm drew on the more radical aspects of the pagan philosophic counterculture, most notably on the magnificently asocial lifestyle of the Cynics, and on a long Judeo-Christian past.” 30 [38] Rather like the earliest Christians they overturned Classical and Judaic traditions to practice a Buddhistic destruction of body, denial of nature, and rejection of the world. Greek bishops prescribed early marriages, already prevalent in the West, to prevent adolescent promiscuity. “Early marriage was proposed for the young of both sexes as a breakwater that could shield Christian men from the choppy seas of adolescent promiscuity.”31[39] “The fifth century was marked by barbarian invasion in the West and dogged organization of rising population and a consequent rising misery in the East,” making asceticism and other-worldly escapism more appealing. 32[40] In any case the sect had now become a triumphant Church, adopting upper class Roman viewpoints especially in the West and little troubled by anchorites and stylites.

Gregory of Nyssa excoriated licentious, luxurious households (P. G. 46468B) and Basil, another Cappadocian, condemned homosexuality and bestiality during the 370’s (Ep., 188, can. 7, and 217 can. 62-3). Chrysostom deemed pederasty so prevalent among the urban wealthy that one of the main benefits a youth gained on entering a monastery was to escape the “hideous disease” that threatened to make “the female sex ... superfluous” (Adv. oppugnatores vitae monasticae 3.16 (PG 47.377)) and attacked the public baths in Antioch.33[41]

Fourth century pagans echoed the Christians in attacking homosexuality. The homophobic historian Ammianus Marcellinus praised his hero Julian the Apostate for renouncing sex after the death of his wife, attacked the monks for pederastic aggression, denounced the citizens of Antioch for degeneracy, and even proscribed the writings of Archilochus. (31.9.5) 34[42] Julian’s mentor and friend Libanius, who also taught St. Basil and John Chrysostom, depicted erastei proferring gifts to eromenoi who humiliated them and sympathizing with friends similarly rebuffed (Twenty-Fifth Oration, 26 and 27). This boring rhetorician, more of whose works have survived than of any writer in antiquity, described homoeroticism as a disease (Fifty-Third Oration, 10). A critic of Christian­ity, the historian Eunapius, who was born at Sardis in 347 and studied and taught at Athens, where he became a priest for the Eleusinian Mysteries, mentioned in his Lives of the Sophists a teacher in Constan­tinople who was accused of “diabolicalism,” presumably homosexuality ( ), henceforth often linked to the devil.

The change was not quite as abrupt as certain Victorian or modern gays have asserted: “Christianity destroyed beyond all possibility of reconstruction the free, frank sensuality of paganism. It convicted humanity of sin, and taught men to occupy themselves with the internal warfare of their flesh and spirit as that which is alone eternally important.”35[43] Foucault, Veyne, and Rousselle showed that Stoicism, Neoplatonism, and medicine was inhibiting pagan joie de vivre and Boswell that considerable pederasty endured after the triumph of the early Christians who did not universally condemn pederasty as worse than adultery or fornication before the thirteenth century. Nevertheless, however long it took, there was a sea change between Archaic Greeks enjoying life and nature including love and medieval Christian renunciation of nature and demands for chastity.

The triumphant Christians, with the Emperors as their agents, wasted little time in persecuting Jews, heretics, and sodomites and in destroying books and art works. From the time of Constantine (306-337) nude figures disappeared from art.36[44] Although even the eastern cities declined in size and wealth during the anarchy of the third century, gymnasia reduced doubtless in numbers and wealth nevertheless survived and continued their key role in fostering pederasty even after Constantine’s conversion. Ephebes disappeared after 325 and sources no longer mention gymnasia after 380.

Lavish pagan cult had been intertwined with particular values and a particular social order in the cities’ upper classes. During the fourth century, those classes narrowed further, while service to the home town lost almost every connection with the old “love of honour,” spread widely within a competitive local elite. Pagan cults found their funds reduced and their ceremonies threatened, while the old forms of civic education no longer survived to support them. After 325, we hear no more of the training of a city’s youth as “ephebes” with the accompanying pagan ceremonial. By the 380s, nothing more is heard of the civic gymnasium and its officials. The reduction in the cities’ incomes may have influenced their disappearance, but Christian attitudes may also have played a part. “The physical side of education languished in a Christian environment”: in the cities, it had been linked with naked exercise, paganism and consenting homosexuality. The eventual “collapse of the gymnasia, the focal point of Hellenism, more than any other single event brought in the Middle Ages.” 37[45]

In 326 Constantine ordered the books of heretics hunted out and destroyed. An edict of 333 mentioned that the “impious books” of Arius, like those of Porphyry earlier, had been obliterated.38[46] This was one of a series of decrees issued by Constantine and his successors to destroy books. Bishops directed the burning of books on their own initiative, probably long before Theodoret, bishop of Cyrrhus in Syria, wrote c.450 of a heretic named Tatian:

This [fellow] also composed that gospel called “By the four,” cutting off the genealogies and such other things as show that the Lord was, as for his body, a descendant of David. Not only the adherents of his party used this [gospel], but also those [Christians] who followed the apostolic teachings [i.e., were of my party], but who did not recognize the rascality of the composition, but simply used the book as a compendium. I myself found more than two hundred such books revered in the churches of my own [diocese], and collecting them all, I did away with them and introduced instead the gospels of the four [canonical] evangelists.39[47]

In 342, less than thirty years after the so?called Edict of Milan, by which Constantine granted toleration and imperial favor to Christians, his sons, Constantius and Constans, an exclusive homosexual who surrounded himself with barbarian soldiers selected more for their looks than their military ability (as the plotters who overthrew him alleged) decreed the avenging sword for sodomites in a violent polemic curiously misinterpreted by Boswell as a measure outlawing “gay marriages:”

When a man submits to men, the way a woman does, what can he be seeking? where sex has lost its proper place? where the crime is one it is not profitable to know? where love is sought and does not appear? We order statutes to arise, and the laws to be armed with an avenging sword, that those guilty of such infamous crimes, either now or in the future, may be subjected to exquisite penalties. (Theodosian Code, IX, 7, 3; Justinian Code, 9, 9, 30)

Theodosius I (379-395), who outlawed paganism in 390, in 391 imposed for homosexuality death by public burning, more excruciating than Constantius’s and Constans’s penalty of the sword. In an edict praising the Vicar of the Prefecture of Rome, Theodosius stated:

We shall not suffer the City of Rome, the mother of all virtues, any longer to be defiled by the pollution of effeminacy in males and the rustic vigor inherited from her founding fathers, weakened through the unmanliness of her people, to become a reproach for the ages either to her founders or to her rulers, to Orientius whom we love and cherish, Praiseworthy therefore is your practice of seizing all who have committed the crime of treating their male bodies as though they were female, submitting them to the use becoming the opposite sex, and being in no wise distinguishable from women, and - as the monstrosity of the crime demands - dragging them out of the brothels (it is shameful to say) for males  ... in the sight of the people shall the offender expiate his crime in the avenging flames that each and everyone may understand that the dwelling place of the male soul should be sacrosanct to all and that no one may without incurring the ultimate penalty aspire to play the part of another sex by shamefully renouncing his own. Issued on the Ides of May (=May 14, 390) in the Hall of Minerva. (Mosaicarum et Romanarum Legum Collatio)

Once again effeminates, transvestites, transexuals, and passive prostitutes suffered the extreme force of the law. The very harshness of the penalty, as in other cases in this age, betrays the difficulty of enforcement. The law lay unenforced from May to August, allowing male prostitutes and owners of male bordellos time to escape.40[48] to the contrary Augustine’s Confessions (397) reported that, in spite of the law they operated boldly in great numbers at Carthage. Longing for the return of an uncorrupt Golden Age, Theodosius hearkened back to the virility so prized in the traditions of the founding of Rome and of the Empire, and attacked effeminate prostitutes. That “the sojourn of the masculine soul must be sacrosanct” seems, however, to imply a Christian origin, as does the penalty of fire, previously unused by Roman law but associated by Christians and Jews with Sodom.41[49] Constans’ and Theodosius’ laws, though limited, set horrible precedents encouraged by Augustine’s admonitions in his Confessions (III, 18) that states should chastise sodomites.

It was Augustine ... who gave the final stamp of authority to the idea that sex is licit only in marriage and then only for the purpose of procreation, thus excluding not only homosexual and heterosexual “fornication,” but also sexual enjoyment as an end in itself even within marriage. By thus allowing for sexual union, though within narrow limits, Augustine tempered the rigidly ascetic view, found in Paul and others, that one must try to abstain from sex altogether, thereby forging an ethos acceptable to the Christian State, which required procreation to swell the ranks of tax?paying peasants and fighting soldiers ... . Medieval theologians believed (ostensibly following Augustine) that Christ had delayed his Incarnation because of his great grief at the prevalence of sodomy. A world ridden with this terrible vice was not fit to receive its Saviour. Accordingly the Sodomites had finally to be killed en masse just before the Nativity. 42[50]

Indeed, Augustine was the first to articulate homosexual guilt:

And what was it that I delighted in, but to love, and be loved? but I kept not the measure of love, of mind to mind, friendship’s bright boundary: but out of the muddy concupiscence of the flesh, and the bubblings of youth, mists fumed up which beclouded and overcast my heart, that I could not discern the clear brightness of love from the fog of lustfulness. Both did confusedly boil in me, and hurried my unstayed youth over the precipice of unholy desires, and sunk me in a gulf of flagitiousness. Thy wrath had gathered over me, and I knew it not. I was grown deaf by the clanking of the chain of my mortality, the punishment of the pride of my soul, and I strayed further from Thee, and Thou lettest me alone, and I was tossed about, and wasted, and dissipated, and I boiled over in my fornications, and Thou heldest Thy peace, O Thou my tardy joy! Thou then heldest Thy peace, and I wandered further and further from Thee, into more and more fruitless seed-plots of sorrows, with a proud dejectedness, and a restless weariness ... . But while in that my sixteenth year I lived with my parents, leaving all school for a while (a season of idleness being interposed through the narrowness of my parents’ fortunes), the briers of unclean desires grew rank over my head, and there was no hand to root them out. When that my father saw me at the baths, now growing towards manhood, and endued with a restless youthfulness, he, as already hence anticipating his descendants, gladly told it to my mother; rejoicing in that tumult of the senses wherein the world forgetteth Thee its Creator, and becometh enamoured of Thy creature, instead of Thyself, through the fumes of that invisible wine of its self-will, turning aside and bowing down to the very basest things ... . Behold with what companions I walked the streets of Babylon, and wallowed in the mire thereof, as if in a bed of spices and precious ointments. And that I might cleave the faster to its very centre, the invisible enemy trod me down, and seduced me, for that I was easy to be seduced. … For there is an attractiveness in beautiful bodies, in gold and silver, and all things; and in bodily touch, sympathy hath much influence, and each other sense hath his proper object answerably tempered. Worldly honour hath also its grace, and the power of overcoming, and of mastery; whence springs also the thirst of revenge. But yet, to obtain all these, we may not depart from Thee, O Lord, nor decline from Thy law. The life also which here we live hath its own enchantment, through a certain proportion of its own, and a correspondence with all things beautiful here below. Human friendship also is endeared with a sweet tie, by reason of the unity formed of many souls. Upon occasion of all these, and the like, is sin committed, while through an immoderate inclination towards these goods of the lowest order, the better and higher are forsaken, – Thou, our Lord God, Thy truth, and Thy law. For these lower things have their delights, but not like my God, who made all things; for in Him doth the righteous delight, and He is the joy of the upright in heart. … In those years when I first began to teach rhetoric in my native town, I had made one my friend, but too dear to me, from a community of pursuits, of mine own age, and, as myself, in the first opening flower of youth. He had grown up of a child with me, and we had been both school-fellows and play-fellows. But he was not yet my friend as afterwards, nor even then, as true friendship is; for true it cannot be, unless in such as Thou cementest together, cleaving unto Thee, by that love which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us. Yet was it but too sweet, ripened by the warmth of kindred studies: for, from the true faith (which he as a youth had not soundly and thoroughly imbibed), I had warped him also to those superstitious and pernicious fables, for which my mother bewailed me. With me he now erred in mind, nor could my soul be without him. But behold Thou wert close on the steps of Thy fugitives, at once God of vengeance, and Fountain of mercies, turning us to Thyself by wonderful means; Thou tookest that man out of this life, when he had scarce filled up one whole year of my friendship, sweet to me above all sweetness of that my life. Who can recount all Thy praises, which he hath felt in his self? What diddest Thou then, my God, and how unsearchable is the abyss of Thy judgments? For long, sore sick of a fever, he lay senseless in a death-sweat; and his recovery being despaired of, he was baptised, unknowing; myself meanwhile little regarding, and presuming that his soul would retain rather what it had received of me, not what was wrought on his unconscious body. But it proved far other? wise: for he was refreshed, and restored. Forthwith, as soon as I could speak with him (and I could, so soon as he was able, for I never left him, and we hung but too much upon each other), I essayed to jest with him, as though he would jest with me at that baptism which he had received, when utterly absent in mind and feeling, but had now understood that he had received. But he so shrunk from me, as from an enemy; and with a wonderful and sudden freedom bade me, as I would continue his friend, forbear such language to him. I, all astonished and amazed, suppressed all my emotions till he should grow well, and his health were strong enough for me to deal with him as I would. But he was taken away from my frenzy, that with Thee he might be preserved for my comfort; a few days after in my absence, he was attacked again by the fever, and so departed. At this grief my heart was utterly darkened; and whatever I beheld was death. My native country was a torment to me, and my father’s house a strange unhappiness; and whatever I had shared with him, wanting him, became a distracting torture. Mine eyes sought him every where, but he was not granted them; and I hated all places, for that they had not him; nor could they now tell me, “he is coming,” as when he was alive and absent. I became a great riddle to myself, and I asked my soul, why she was so sad, and why she disquieted me sorely: but she knew not what to answer me. And if I said, Trust in God, she very rightly obeyed me not; because that most dear friend, whom she had lost, was, being man, both truer and better than that phantasm she was bid to trust in. Only tears were sweet to me, for they succeeded my friend, in the dearest of my affections. And now, Lord, these things are passed by, and time hath assuaged my wound. May I learn from Thee, who art Truth, and approach the ear of my heart unto Thy mouth, that Thou mayest tell me why weeping is sweet to the miserable? Hast Thou, although present every where, cast away our misery far from Thee? And Thou abidest in Thyself, but we are tossed about in divers trials. And yet unless we mourned in Thine ears, we should have no hope left. Whence then is sweet fruit gathered from the bitterness of life, from groaning, tears, sighs, and complaints? Doth this sweeten it, that we hope Thou hearest? This is true of prayer, for therein is a longing to approach unto Thee. But is it also in grief for a thing lost, and the sorrow wherewith I was then overwhelmed? For I neither hoped he should return to life nor did I desire this with my tears; but I wept only and grieved. For I was miserable, and had lost my joy. Or is weeping indeed a bitter thing, and for very loathing of the things which we before enjoyed, does it then, when we shrink from them, please us? But what speak I of these things? for now is no time to question, but to confess unto Thee. Wretched I was; and wretched is every soul bound by the friend? ship of perishable things; he is torn asunder when he loses them, and then he feels the wretchedness which he had ere yet he lost them. So was it then with me; I wept most bitterly, and found my repose in bitterness. Thus was I wretched, and that wretched life I held dearer than my friend. For though I would willingly have changed it, yet was I more unwilling to part with it than with him; yea, I know not whether I would have parted with it even for him, as is related (if not feigned) of Pylades and Orestes, that they would gladly have died for each other or together, not to live together being to them worse than death. But in me there had arisen some unexplained feeling, too contrary to this, for at once I loathed exceedingly to live and feared to die. I suppose, the more I loved him, the more did I hate, and fear (as a most cruel enemy) death, which had bereaved me of him: and I imagined it would speedily make an end of all men, since it had power over him. Thus was it with me, I remember. Behold my heart, O my God, behold and see into me; for well I remember it, O my Hope, who cleansest me from the impurity of such affections, directing mine eyes towards Thee, and plucking my feet out of the snare. For I wondered that others, subject to death, did live, since he whom I loved, as if he should never die, was dead; and I wondered yet more that myself, who was to him a second self, could live, he being dead. Well said one of his friend, “Thou half of my soul”; for I felt that my soul and his soul were “one soul in two bodies”; and therefore was my life a horror to me, because I would not live halved. And therefore perchance I feared to die, lest he whom I had much loved should die wholly. (Confessions, II, 2, 6, 8, 10; IV, 7?10)

Sodomites, however, were not merely in the Church from the earliest times, but several became martyrs, and as chastity became required for bishops they had the advantage of not being held back by love of women from being promoted to the episcopate. Sergius, the Commandant of a school for recruits to the Roman army in Syria, and his assistant Bacchus, were envied because of their favor they enjoyed with Emperor Maximin. When he came to inspect their academy, neighbors denounced them for being Christians. The emperor was startled when his protegés refused to sacrifice to Jupiter as he requested. Arrested and tortured, they stood fast by their faith, being paraded through Antioch in women’s garb which they stoically endured, saying that taking off their old clothes symbolized shedding their old habit and the women’s robes they compared to the “mantle of salvation and garments of gladness.” Bacchus, who expired first under the lash, appeared in a dream to Sergius, who had to endure a nine mile march with nails thrusting through his shoes into his feet before being beheaded after further torture in 303. The relics of Sergius were soon deposited with those of Bacchus so that they could lie together. A stately church was erected c. 431 in the town renamed Sergiopolis. They became especially honored among the Orthodox. In the Greek Church erected for them by Justinian in Constantinople, as in many others later throughout Slavdom, they were portrayed on horseback, as befitted officers leaning towards each other that their haloes touched with their parallel mounts rubbing noses. In St. Mark’s in Venice they appear across from each other gazing into each other’s eyes. Although the various Lives (Analecta Bollandiana, Tomus XIV, 1895, 373-395; Acta sanctorum, October, iii, 833?883) try to obscure it, they appear to have been lovers, who may have renounced further physical contact after their conversion; the term erastes appears in one manuscript as Boswell, who called my attention to these saints, assures me. Then as now many gay couples belonged to a hostile Church without giving up their love for each other.

When Theodosius II codified the laws of the fourth and early fifth centuries in 438, he omitted the reference restricting the anti?gay law of his grandfather to male whores of the bordellos, thus condemning all passive, but not yet active gays (Codex Theodosius, IX, 7.5). Thus homosexuality as such condemned by Paul and his Old Testament models was not condemned by Roman law until after the fall of the West in 476. Nevertheless, Fathers, particularly the Gallic monk Salvian in De Gubernatione Dei, written between 439 and 453, alleged in Old Prophetic fashion that God sent the morally pure Germans, who did not practice sodomy, to punish the Romans, sullied among other corruptions by sodomy.

Latin texts (Juvenal, Satires II and XIII; Tacitus, Germania, 12; and Salvian, De gubernatione Dei, VII, 18 ff.) attest to the diffusion of the Classical idea of decline from a mythical Golden Age into an era of softness and vice–including same-sex relations. 43

The historian Procopius alleged that Justinian I (527-565) persecuted sodomites, Jews, and heretics to acquire money (Secret History). Justinian, the sponsor of the most remarkable legal code in antiquity, which is impregnated with Christianity, consigned sodomites who caused “famines, earthquakes, and pestilences” to the flames, decreeing these “extreme punishments,” however, only for those who did not mend their ways (Novella 77). Novella 141 in 559, recalling God’s punishment on Sodom and Paul’s condemnation of “debaucheries between men,” ordered the homosexuals of Constantinople, active as well as passive, to confess sincerely to the Patriarch to reform their morals or suffer the legal penalties, i.e., the flames prescribed in the earlier novella. “When a man gives himself to a husband like a woman who rejects all virility.” Once more the law struck only passives, continuing the pagan tradition of not condemning homosexuals as such, and the passage refers to existing laws not rigorously enforced.</blockquote> <p style="line-height: 120%;">Greek and Roman laws had condemned adultery, because it confused paternity, and fornication with free women, that likewise diminished a woman’s value, especially a virgin’s and therefore the property rights of the man to whom she belonged. They did not condemn bestiality at all and homosexuality only when it involved force, threat of force, or undue influence and only when a free citizen was harmed. Emperor Philip the Arab attempted unsuccessfully to prohibit male prostitution among free?born males. Christian laws naturally continued to condemn adultery and fornication, especially with virgins, without exemptions for slavery, although it is hard to believe they were enforced against masters. They punished sodomy and bestiality with greater ferocity and perhaps stricter enforcement first attacking male prostitutes, then all passives, and finally daring to attack even pederasts. Unlike the ante-Nicene Fathers, who sought to isolate sodomites by excommunication, a Christian version of the Classical practice of ostracism, the Church triumphant, led by Augustine, Chrysostom, and Salvian advocated physical extermination–the final solution to the sodomite problem.

Mobs could be as lethal as Emperors, often slaughtering the officially protected Jews, whom they considered Christkillers. In 415 the greatest female scholar of antiquity, the pagan Hypatia, who succeeded Theon as professor at Alexandria, fell victim to a mob goaded by monks inspired by St. Cyril, the bishop of Alexandria. Even under the attacks of mobs and clergy pederasty, homosexuality, and bisexuality continued though diminished. The pederastic tradition endured into the reign of Justinian. An advocate in Constantinople, Agathias of Myrina in Aeolis (c.536? 582) who continued Procopius’s history to 558, composed the Daphniaca, brief erotic poems in epic meter, and collected a Cycle of New Epigrams featuring those from dead as well as living poets, including himself, that was to be incorporated into the Greek Anthology.

Of all the heterosexual romances, only in the fourth-century Chaereas and Callirhoe by Chariton of Aphrodisias did the love result in immediate marriage. A long series of misadventures, however, separated the lovers before they could consummate their marriage with almost the same result as in the others: each had to defend his virtue through many importunities during their long separation. In the face of these new adversities they showed the same heroism, endurance, and faithfulness with a strictly reciprocal sexual fidelity.

Ovid, Virgil, and Statius referred to a Hellenistic model for what has come down to us only in a very late alteration by the “divine” Musaeus, a fifth?century grammarian of whom we know nothing else and who put the final form on this poem of love and death of 340 lines. In this story of love at first sight, which is both an idyll and a small?scale epic Leander swam the Bosporus and scaled the tower where Hero awaited him with a lantern. This passionate tale of early teenage romance, paralleled by Ovid’s Pyramus and Thisbe, which also had a Hellenistic model, also ended tragically when Leander drowned in the swollen waves of the rough mid?winter sea after Hero’s lamp flickered out and he lost his way. The grief-stricken heroine jumped to her death.

In later Greek writing several pieces of contest literature appeared debating the relative merits of boys and women as love objects. Such a debate is featured in the novel Leucippe and Clitophon by Achilles Tatius (perhaps second century of our era). 44

In Leucippus and Clitophon by Achilles Tatius (c. 450?), Clinias, unable to dissuade his lover, the hero Menelaus, from marriage, gave him good advice about how to win girls. Having never had sex with a woman, Menelaus called a boy’s kiss simple and natural, unlike the deceitful, licentious, and soft one of a woman. The central theme of a subplot is the rapturous love of the girl who remained a virgin by impressing the leader of a gang of pirates who captured her. Thus the romantic lovers typically kept themselves virgin until marriage; even alone in a cave they only embraced and kissed. They had to be pure in heart as well as physically until marriage, and love each other with equal intensity.

Thus there begins to develop an eroticsdifferent from the one that had taken its starting point in the love of boys, even though abstention from the sexual pleasures plays an important part in both. This new erotics organizes itself around the symmetrical and reciprocal relationship of a man and a woman, around the high value attributed to virginity, and around the complete union in which it finds perfection. 45

Christopher Marlowe (1564?1593), a better dramatist than historian, summed up the inspiration gays have drawn from the Greek and Roman examples. And his claim that the following were at least bisexual cannot be disproved: Great Alexander loved Hephaestion, The conquering Hercules for Hylas wept, And for Patroclus stern Achilles drooped. And not kings only, but the wisest men: The Roman Tully Cicero loved Octavius, Grave Socrates, wild Alcibiades.

NOTES on HELLENISTIC JUDAISM 1. Johansson (n.d.).

2. Dynes (1985) 78.

3. Ibid. 27, 4?5.

4. Boswell began his case that mainstream Christians were no more hostile to homosexuality than adultery or fornication with the spurious argument derived from Bailey (1955) that the Sodomites were punished for inhospitality rather than homosexuality by claiming like Bailey that “to know” in Hebrew meant “to get acquainted with a stranger” so as not to feel threatened by his presence, although in the same chapter Lot offers to the Sodomites his daughters “who had not yet known a man” (Genesis 19), which was of course the legal euphemism. In any case all Jewish tradition interprets Genesis as well as the outrage at Gibeah (Judges 19) parallel to the Sodom story as a discussion of homosexuality. The Bailey/Boswell thesis is tendentious nonsense, albeit popular with Dignity and other neo?Christian homosexual circles. This is a communication from Lester Segal, Rabbi and Professor of History at U-Mass./Boston: </span></p>

The upshot of Genesis 19:4?11 is that although the Sodomites were, to judge from the context, bi-sexual (after all, Lot offers them his daughters), the meaning of verse 5, “that we may know them” is: to be sexually intimate with. 1 Although the “sin” of Sodom need by no means have been limited to homosexuality 2, there is, Bailey notwithstanding, no getting away from the meaning of “that we may know them” as sexual intimacy. This is the essence of N. Sarna’s view of the matter, who also emphasizes the clear Pentateuchal legislation regarding homosexuality. 3. Let me add the following three observa­tions: 1. With respect to the verb “know” in the context of Genesis 19, it is I think of some relevance to note that in verse 8, the same Hebrew verb is used by Lot when he says: “See, I have two daughters who have not known a man”–a not uncommon Hebrew biblical way of referring to an unmarried woman. 2. For the likely variety of Sodomite wrongdoing, see e.g. Genesis 13:13, Ezekiel, 16: 49?40. These are cited by Bailey, too, p. 9. 3. Bailey, p. 37, acknowledges the legislation in Leviticus, despite the problems he finds in ascertaining the precise other ancient Near Eastern practice in this regard. With respect to Leviticus, I consider it highly unlikely purely as a matter of the realities that law codes are prone to reflect that “they (i.e. the relevant verses in Leviticus) are simply items of abstract legislation designed to provide against a future possible occurrence of the offenses penalized” (Bailey, p. 29). 6. M. Stern in Ben-Sasson (1976) 251. 7. Horsley (1985). 8. Schweitzer (1906). 9. Crompton (1985) 259-260. <p style="line-height: 120%;">10. Parkes (1934) 110?111.

11. Johansson (1984) following Schulthess (1922).

12. Goody (1983) 87. M. Stern in Ben?Sasson (1976) 251.

13. Dynes (1985) 19.

14. Smith (1978) vii.

15. Harnack (1957).

16. Smith (1978) 2.

17. Johansson (1981) 1?7.

18. Maccoby (1984) 39?42.

19. Cohn (1975) xvi?xvii.

20. Ibid. 1?4; 7.

21. Ibid. 9.

22. Rudolph (1987) 59?61.

23. Ibid. 270?272.

24. Cumont (1911) viii?xii; xxi?xxiii.

25. Parkes (1934) 84.

26. Brown in Veyne (1987) 260, 263, 266.

27. Dynes in Johansson (1981) 9.

28. Lauritsen in Johansson (1981) 18.

29. Brown in Veyne (1987) 287.

30. Ibid. 289.

31. Ibid. 304.

32. Ibid. 290.

33. Ibid. 298.

34. Symonds (1873) I 292.

35. Ibid. II 162.

36. De Ridder and Deonna (1924) 110.

37. Fox (1986) 669-670.

38. Smith (1978) 1?2.

39. Ibid. 2.

40. Bernay?Vilbert (1975) 453 to the contrary.

41.

42. Dynes (1985) 12?13.

43. Ibid. 40.

44. Ibid. 37.

45. Foucault (1986) 232.




JUDAISM FROM HEROD THE GREAT TO THE MISHNAH 40 B.C.-200 A.D.

Herod the Great assumed power in the year 40 B.C. An Idumean by ancestry, as a faithful client of Rome and a philhellene he acted in the tradition of Hellenizing predecessors but without rejecting or suppressing Judaism in its peculiar customs. Under Roman protection he expanded the kingdom of Judea, rebuilt the Temple munificently in contemporary Hellenistic style, encouraged the Pharisees, and conformed to Judaic principles. Converts multiplied and with the population upswing more emigrated abroad for prosperity was confined to the elite. Within his family, however, Oedipal rivalry was overt and violent. Herod executed not one but three of his sons in the belief that they were trying to usurp the throne, the last shortly before his death in 4 B.C.

The homophobia of Palestinian and Hellenistic Judaism never abated. It doubtless intensified the contempt and hatred in which Diaspora Jews held their pagan neighbors. That the Greek gods passionately loved boys and set an example for their worshippers must have exacerbated the horror in which they were held by pious Jews. In Alexandria, the center of Jewish religious as well as Greek intellectual life in the Hellenistic Diaspora, the opinionated and eccentric Philo Judaeus (ca. 20 B.C.-ca. 45 A.D.), an eyewitness to anti-Jewish riots in the reign of Caligula, denounced pederasty in unsparing terms. Not limiting himself to the traditional Jewish denunciation of it as an “abomination,” he was the first to fuse the Judaic and Platonic condemnations by inventing the notion that homosexuality was a “crime against the law of nature,” by which in fact he meant no more than the so-called Mosaic Law which Ezra and the “men of the Great Assembly” had compiled some four centuries earlier. Plato had imagined that animals did not have relations with members of their own sex, and also, quite independently, that it was against nature not to procreate, but he never suggested that there was a law (nomos) that forbade such conduct. The law of nature was a Greek and Stoic conception; Hebrew and Aramaic did not even possess a word for “nature,” and its absence from the Pentateuch meant that it could play no role in Jewish theology proper, then or later. However, in the Hellenic sphere the elevation of nature to a universal norm of human conduct–transcending the laws and customs of particular peoples–had become a major preoccupation of the Platonic tradition in the wake of the conquests of Alexander the Great, which ended the cultural isolation of the Greeks and made them masters of a multitude of ethnic groups, for which they had to devise and administer suitable legal codes. Hence they were forced to seek a norm which reason and experience taught to be univerally valid and binding. The other criticisms which pagan philosophers had made of pederasty were beside the point for the Jewish theosophist for whom divine ordinance had made it a crime. Philo’s most significant borrowing from the storehouse of Greek philosophical concepts was the Stoic law of nature. By transferring the prohibitions of Leviticus 18 and 20 from the Mosaic Law into the framework of natural law, Philo made them a categorical imperative for all mankind. Homophobic authors of recent decades often imagine that the ancients believed in some fundamental law coexistent with the universe itself, parallel to Newton’s, which intercourse with one’s own sex violates in a manner so outrageous as to reach the nec plus ultra of depravity and horror, a shameless scorn of the moral norm binding upon every living creature. But Philo’s writings are Hellenic in form only; the content remained entirely Judaic. No Greek philosopher had ever urged the death penalty for pederasty, or would have encountered much approbation for such a proposal; for Philo it was a jus receptum. His adroit disguising of peculiarly Jewish beliefs and concepts in Hellenic and even specifically Platonic terms made his ideas intelligible and palatable to Greek readers. Although he he never refers to Jesus and his followers and is himself never mentioned in the New Testament, it is nevertheless not without some justification that he has been called “the father of Christianity.” With much more claim to be dubbed “the father of homophobia,” he unquestionably ranks as one of the most evil men of all time.

Philo Judaeus culminated six centuries of Jewish homophobia (both increased if not begun by Zoroastrian influence), which St. Paul was to transmit to Christianity. The Alexandrian theosophist’s work On the Special Laws denounced homosexuality in clearly Biblical terms, however much like other Diaspora thinkers he may on other topics have been influenced by concepts superficially borrowed from Plato and later Greek forerunners of asceticism. Their injunction against “debasing the coinage of nature” merely urged self-control in sexual matters to improve one’s way of life, not the death penalty for pederasty:

Much graver than the above [non-procreative sex with women] is another evil, which has ramped its way into the cities, namely pederasty. In former days the very mention of it was a great disgrace, but now it is a matter of boasting not only to the active but to the passive partners, who habituate themselves to endure the disease of effemination, let both body and soul run to waste, and leave no ember of their male sex?nature to smoulder. Mark how conspicuously they braid and adorn the hair of their heads, and how they scrub and paint their faces with cosmetics and pigments and the like, and smother themselves with fragrant unguents. For of all such embellishments, used by all who deck themselves out to wear a comely appearance, fragrance is the most seductive. In fact the transformation of the male nature to the female is practised by them as an art and does not raise a blush. These persons are rightly judged worthy of death by those who obey the law, which ordains that the man?woman who debases the sterling coin of nature should perish unavenged, suffered not to live for a day or even an hour, as a disgrace to himself, his house, his native land and the whole human race. And the lover of such may be assured that he is subject to the same penalty. He pursues an unnatural pleasure and does his best to render cities desolate and uninhabited by destroying the means of procreation. (Loeb ed., Philo, VII, 497, 499)

Philo further reinforced the taboo on male homosexuality by asserting that it was the crime for which the Biblical Sodom had been punished by a rain of brimstone and fire. He thus reiterated the interpretation of Genesis 19 that had gained currency during the struggle against hellenization in the second pre-Christian century, and made it part of the homophobic legacy of Judaism to the Church fathers. The two beliefs–that homosexuality “violates the law of nature” and that “Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for their homosexual depravity”–became and remain the backbone of the homophobic tradition in Western civilization to this day.

By the beginning of the Christian era Judaism had become notably intolerant of forbidden sexual activity, perhaps because this drew a clear line of demarcation between Jewish and pagan mores. The non-canonical treatise of the Talmud Derekh erets rabbah 56a (the name means literally “The Way of the Earth”; it is a treatise on good manners which in its present form was composed about the third century, though the nucleus of the work is older) asserts that the Jew who has sexual relations with a non-Jew violates 14 separate commandments of the Torah, and the Talmud itself ordains that the offender should not even be brought before a tribunal, but should be put to death by vigilantes on the spot (b.Sanhedrin 82b). Philo is no less vindictive toward those guilty of homosexual activity, asserting that “the man?woman who debases the sterling coin of nature should perish unavenged, suffered not to live for a day or even an hour, as a disgrace to himself, his house, his native land and the whole human race,” and adding that “he pursues an unnatural pleasure and does his best to render cities desolate and uninhabited by destroying the means of procreation” (On the Special Laws, III, 38?39). Thus Philo gave the classic formulation to the paranoid mentality that became almost standard practice in later centuries: that those guilty of homosexual activity should not even be tried by a court of law, but should be assaulted and lynched by an outraged populace.

Even the ideologically colorless Josephus (37-ca. 105), the protégé of the Roman Emperor Vespasian, writing an apologia of Judaism meant for pagan readers, could assert:

The Law recognizes no sexual connection except the natural union of man and wife, and that only for the procreation of children. The sexual connection of males with males it abhors, and it punishes any guilty of such an offense with death.... The Law orders all offspring to be brought up, and forbids women either to cause abortion or to make away with the foetus; a woman convicted of this is regarded as an infanticide, because she destroys a soul and diminishes the race (Contra Apionem, II, 199, 202).

The significance of this passage–overlooked by so many authors struggling with the problem of the sources of Christian doctrine on sexual morality–cannot be overestimated. At the very moment when Christianity was emerging from Hellenistic Judaism, the latter had already formulated a moral code that limited sexual expression to heterosexual marriage and there solely for the purpose of procreation, and forbade abortion and infanticide. There was nothing left for St. Paul or St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas to invent. They could, it is true, add their own motivations and morbid fantasies, but the fundamental belief system was adopted from Hellenistic Judaism without modification, even when many other provisions of the Mosaic Law were discarded forever. The distinctive feature of Christian sexual morality–the one which it does not share with Judaism–was its asceticism, but this by its very nature could be no more favorable to homosexual expression than the Judaic code, although in due time it gave exclusive homosexuals a convenient pretext for evading marriage and the burdens of heterosexual life–as Judaism with its positive emphasis upon marriage and procreation had never done. In fact, the only character in the Old Testament whom the sources show never to have married was Jeremiah, who lived at the very end of the First Commonwealth. Marriage and fatherhood were the norm for the religious elite of Judaism quite as much as for the untutored layman.

Judaism alone, however it detested the sexual practices of the heathen, could never have inflicted upon the Greco-Roman world the homophobia that was to become the heritage of Western civilization. For this purpose a new religion was needed, a religion that incorporated the philosophical core of Judaism into a cult that would be embraced by the whole of Mediterranean civilization. The victorious competitor in the struggle to convert the Greeks and Romans to monotheism abandoned nearly all the ritual precepts of the Mosaic Law, but kept its code of sexual morality intact, if anything made it more rigorous by superimposing an ascetic ideal which Judaism lacked.

The internal development of Judaism followed its own course. The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by Titus in the year 70, and the failure of Bar Kokhba’s revolt under Hadrian some sixty years later spelled the end of Biblical Judaism. In the wake of these catastrophes the Jewish sages were forced to recontruct their cult, and embodied its new constitution in the Mishnah, a law code composed about 193 under the leadership of Rabbi Judah the Prince. Redoubling the earlier fiction that the Pentateuch had been given had been given to Moses on Mount Sinai, it purported to enact an “oral law,” equally ancient and authoritative and duly transmitted by the religious teachers of Jewry down to its own time. Written in Hebrew in the last phase of its existence as a spoken language, this text became the authoritative code of Rabbinic Judaism and remains so, in later adaptations that incorporated and codified the jurisprudence of subsequent generations of scholars and interpreters.

Judaism turned its back on Hellenism to become an ever more closed society in the Roman Empire and in Babylonia, a “nation within a nation,” living by its own distinctive laws and customs and interposing insuperable barriers between itself and the surrounding gentile world. Distancing themselves and their followers ever more from the Christian faith that was making inroads into Greco-Roman paganism, the religious leaders of post-Biblical Judaism elaborated the precepts of the Mosaic Law into one of the most neurotic-compulsive belief systems ever devised by the human mind, in which taboo and ritual hovered over all aspects of daily life. The dietary laws in particular ensured that social intercourse between Jew and Gentile could never become intimate, since the one could not eat the other’s food. While Christianity adopted the asceticism of Eastern religions, which remained alien to Judaism, and ever more glorified abstinence and virginity, Judaism en revanche imitated those taboos of the Hindu religion which forbid members of different castes to eat together. Gay Christian apologists who appeal to the Church’s abandonment of the Jewish dietary laws are ignoring not just the unmistakable continuity but also this fundamental divergence in the evolution of the two faiths in late antiquity.

Nothing occurred during all this time that could have relaxed the scriptural ban on male homosexuality in any way. It was duly incorporated in the Mishnah as a crime worthy of death. The prohibition was linked with two groups of statutes, one aimed at breaches of patriarchal authority and power (the domination of younger age-cohorts by their elders) and the other forbidding idolatry and magic (non-Judaic, heathen religious practices) [b. Sanhedrin 53a]. The penalty was death by stoning, as in other sexual offenses (the Johannine story of the “woman taken in adultery” reflects this usage). Both the active and the passive partners were held culpable and equally worthy of death, in contrast to the relative indifference or even approbation accorded the active male homosexual in many other cultures [b. Sanhedrin 54a-55a]. Moreover, a later passage [b. Sanhedrin 73a] held that one intending to perpetrate the crime is “to be saved [from sinning] even at the cost of his life.” Several texts in the Midrashic literature of the early Christian centuries, in particular Bereshith Rabbah 26:5 on Genesis 6:2, asserted that God is long-suffering with all sins except fornication. This belief implied that homosexual sodomy–as the most heinous form of sexual immorality–threatens the community with immediate and dire retribution if it is not prevented or punished. It is analogous to the paranoid notion in incipient stages of schizophrenia that unless some particular act occurs (or does not occur) a catastophe, even the destruction of the cosmos, is imminent. Hence the pathetic dogma in later times that those who engage in sodomy are “trying the patience of God by their unnatural crimes.” Echoing Philo Judaeus in The Special Laws, and very likely reflecting contemporary practice within Jewish communities, this last provision of the Mishnah held it legitimate to kill another individual to prevent him from committing the offense, in explicit opposition to bestiality where no such preventive rigor is ordained. The post-Biblical Judaic tradition in regard to homosexual behavior was crescendo, not diminuendo: it reinforced and amplified the Biblical sanctions, anticipating later belief and practice in Western culture, where violence against persons believed to be sodomites (or homosexuals) came to be condoned as a tacit norm for which the perpetrator should not be held criminally responsible.

So the intolerance of homosexuality in Palestinian and Hellenistic Judaism not merely weathered the challenge of Greek paiderasteia, it even gained intensity, acquired a new rationale, and formed part of the “legacy of the dying Judaism to the nascent Christian Church.” In the clash of two codes of sexual morality it was Judaism, however defeated and humbled by Roman arms, that emerged victorious thanks to Christian retention of the provisions of the book of Leviticus and of the anti-Hellenizing interpretation of the “sin of Sodom.”

Jewry itself had undergone vast changes since the days of Persian rule. No longer confined to a narrow strip of territory on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, or even concentrated on it, it had formed a diaspora extending from Mesopotamia in the east to Spain and Gaul in the west. The notion that the Levitical enactments against homosexuality were motivated by the need to defend an underpopulated territory corresponds to no historical fact. Like the Greeks, the Jews were a far-flung nation, but unlike them they founded no colonies or city-states of their own. Everywhere they remained a client people living in the midst of a gentile population. Judaism was a proselytizing religion, and so it gained many converts who were not descended from the community that had formed in Palestine in the Persian period. Most important, after the second century Hebrew was no longer a spoken language, and Palestine ceased to be the center of Jewish life. The major Jewish teachers and thinkers were to live elsewhere, to be sure, in the midst of thriving and prosperous communities, but speaking other native tongues and little by little adapting themselves to a permanent diaspora. In fact, the diaspora became the Jew’s natural habitat; his economic life grew ever more complementary to that of his gentile neighbors. The internal evolution of Judaism was strongly influenced by the culture of the host people; but the Judaic code of sexual morality was fixed forever. What it had been in late antiquity it remained until the Enlightenment opened the doors of European society in the eighteenth century and began the process of assimilation.

JUDAISM IN BABYLONIA AND THE ROMAN EMPIRE 200 A.D.-565 A.D.

This chapter will deal with Judaism in the Roman Empire and in Babylonia from the completion of the Mishnah through the Christianization of the Empire to the death of Justinian. During that time, from one of many competing religions it became the sole religion other than Christianity tolerated within the Roman Empire.

Of Jewish intellectual life in the Roman Empire proper the principal monument is the Palestinian Talmud, which contains the deliberations of the sages living in Palestine under Roman rule.

Of Jewish writing in Hellenistic Greek or in Latin from this period nothing has survived. Only in the tenth century does Jewish intellectual activity emerge in the West, in a radically changed setting, now in France, the Rhineland, and Italy, all countries of Latin Christianity, and as part of medieval cultural life.

However, in Babylonia under Sassanid rule the Jewish sages speaking an Eastern Aramaic dialect compiled a far more influential Gemara, the commentary on the Mishnah which further elaborated its interpretation of the Law of Moses in the direction of the most neurotic-compulsive system of religious observances and taboos ever devised by the human mind. The Biblical prohibition of male homosexuality was reiterated with precise definitions and qualifications that remained part of Jewish morality even when Jewry, now without a state and with only the memory of a homeland, evolved into a scattered network of communities living in a diaspora that stretched from the westernmost provinces of the Roman Empire to the western frontier of China.

The jurists of the Talmud supplemented the legislation of the Pentateuch and the Mishnah. They held that in homosexual intercourse, a minor could not be considered capable of committing the offense, as either the active or the passive partner, just as in rape. If a boy under the age of nine has intercourse with an adult male, this act is not qualified as intercourse, and even the adult is not to be punished following the rule that the active and passive partners are equally guilty. Later judges, however, ruled that the adult should be flogged. If a boy between nine and thirteen has intercourse with an adult male, the older partner is to suffer the death penalty while the younger goes unpunished. The rule applies to the boy whether he is the active or the passive partner in the act.

A Noachide (non-Jewish human being) is equally guilty if he commits the said offense. His sexual involvement is deemed equal to that of an Israelite with an adult partner; but his sexual act with a boy, unlike an Israelite’s, is punishable. A Noachide need not be warned of the gravity of the offense and may be tried by a single judge and on the testimony of one witness. He is to be executed by decapitation, and under certain conditions by stoning or strangling. Noachides may testify for or against one another, but not for or against an Israelite. A minor, a deaf-mute, and an imbecile are not to be punished, since they are not subject to the law.

Any penetration, however slight, constitutes the offense. The rule adopted was that the definition of carnal knowledge of a woman applies also to a man. Apart from the minor incapable of intercourse, an impotent male cannot be punished either, even if he inserts his penis with the aid of his hand, because he derives no pleasure from the act.

The jurists add that no punishment for any offense can be inflicted without the warning of two witnesses. If the offense was unintentional, the offender is not to be punished but is to make a sacrifice. However, absence of intent must be proven from beginning to end, and if there was intent at any stage of the act, the culprit is excluded from the right of performing a sacrifice.

The sages of the Talmud further adopted certain prohibitions intended to prevent the likelihood of an offense of this nature. Two bachelors are not to sleep together under a single cover, a Jewish infant is not to be entrusted to a heathen for purposes of tutoring or of instruction in a craft, for all non-Jews (as idolaters) are under suspicion of pederasty. Mixed bathing, too, fell under certain restrictions. The jurists further added a rule condemning lesbian relations, even though they escape mention in the Pentateuch.

Thus, on the basis of the written law (the Pentateuch compiled at the beginning of the fourth pre-Christian century) and the oral law (the Mishnah and Gemara assembled during the first five centuries of the Christian era), the Jewish law of sexual offenses was formulated and elucidated on the basis of rulings in individual cases. Nothing suggests that the notion of exclusive, involuntary homosexuality entered the minds of the Jewish sages as either motivating or exculpating the behavior which they condemned. They judged the culprits guilty solely for having committed the act. They also appended their own condemnation of lesbianism, but never ranked it in severity with male homosexuality (pederasty).

Of some current interest is a passage in Sifra, the earliest commentary on the book of Leviticus, the nucleus of which probably dates from the second half of the third century, although the oldest surviving manuscripts are only from the eleventh. In effect, it applies the juris­prudence of the Mishnah to its starting point. The commentary on Leviticus 18:3 asserts that among the moral failings of the heathen peoples against which the prologue to the code proper warns the Israelite were that “men made marriage contracts with men and women with women”. The Jewish sages had thus fully anticipated–or knew only too well–the evil practice which John Boswell hopes to commend as a lost part of Christian tradition in his forthcoming book.

These formulations possess a wider interest than their relevance to the Jewish law and the rabbinical courts which enforced it. In later centuries similar definitions and rulings became part of the law of sodomy or buggery in Western Europe, and some remain in force to this day. All legal authorities, Jewish and Christian, regarded homosexual behavior as criminal, and took no interest in the mental state of the deliberate (or habitual) perpetrator. The foundation had been laid for some fourteen hundred years of intolerance, against which the gay rights movement with its apologetic concept of exclusive homosexuality is still struggling.


THE FOUNDING OF CHRISTIANITY

Upon Herod’s death in 4 B.C. revolts broke out everywhere, one in Jesus’s neighborhood. Gamaliel the Elder ( ) summed up the feelings of the Jewish majority: “This empire gnaws at our substance through four things: its tolls, its bath buildings, its theaters, and its taxes in kind” (  ). Remembering their success against Antiochus, the Jews rose against Rome. Ministering not long after the brutal repression, Jesus may have resembled a liberation priest more than a communist.7</span>

Summarizing 19th century German scholarship of David Friedrich Strauss and Bruno Bauer that emphasized Jesus’s Jewish background of Messianic expectations of triumph over op­pres­sors and denouncing Renan’s “French lyricism” that depicted Jesus as a do?gooder, Schwei­t­zer por­trayed the Gospels as an undecipherable puzzle of contradictory traditions of the early Church, among which Christ (the anointed Messiah) contrasted with the historical Jesus of Nazareth, about whom virtually nothing, including even the Sermon on the Mount, is certain.8 It is almost impossible to ascribe words or deeds, except trial and crucifixion, with certainty to Jesus.

Two centuries ago Jeremy Bentham took an even more radical position:

On this whole field in which Moses legislates with such diversified minuteness and such impassioned asperity, Jesus is altogether silent, Jesus from whose lips not a syllable favourable to ascetic self?denial is by any of his biographers presented as having ever issued, Jesus who among his disciples had one to whom he imparted his authority, and another on whose bosom his head reclined and for whom he avowed his love, Jesus, who in the stripling clad in loose attire found a still faithful adherent after the rest of them had fled, Jesus, in whom the woman taken in adultery found a successful advocate, Jesus has on the whole field of sexual irregularity preserved an uninterrupted silence.9 While the references to the life of Christ are few in the Talmud, they are inevitably insulting. Jesus was the illegitimate child of a soldier called Panthera. He performed His miracles by magic, which He had learnt in Egypt. After His death, which was a legal condemnation in which He was given every chance to prove His innocence, His body was stolen by His disciples in order to invent the story of the Resurrection. He was a ‘deceiver of Israel’ and His teaching was evil. The Talmud and Midrash have little more than this, but it is evident that common Jewish stories went far further, and that all the main elements of the ‘Sepher Toldoth  Jeshu’ were in existence from a very early date. There are explicit references in Origen [quoting the pagan Celsus] to some of the stories.
Jesus collected a band of malefactors around Himself, and with these He lived the life of a bandit up and down Palestine. More references are to be found in Tertullian, who speaks of the libels on Jesus as the ‘son of a carpenter or furniture maker, the destroyer of the Sabbath, the Samaritan possessed of a devil.’ Eusebius expresses his disgust that ‘when a writer belonging to the Hebrews themselves [Josephus] has transmitted from primitive times in a work of his own, this record concerning John the Baptist and our Saviour, the Jews should proceed to forge such memoirs against them.’ The passage he is referring to is that alluding to Christianity which many now think to be original and not an interpolation. In any case, it existed in the copies of Josephus in the fourth century.10

If, however, we should understand racha as passive homosexual (rakh), not translated by King James and moros = nobhol translated as “fool,” which could mean the active homosexual as seen in the use of nebhalah (folly) to describe the attempted homosexual outrage at Gibeah in Judges, “council” as equivalent to Knesset = Sanhedrin),11 then we can translate as follows: “But I say unto you that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment: and whoever shall say to his brother, Racha [cinaedus] shall be liable to the Sanhedrin: but whosoever shall say, “Thou fool [pederast or active sodomizer] shall be liable to hellfire” (Matthew 5:22). In this passage thus understood, so obscure in all existing translations, Jesus harshly condemned any pointing of the finger at active or passive male homosexuals. This interpretation is hardly incon­ceiv­able in view of His acceptance of such despised persecuted groups as prostitutes, Samaritans, lepers, prisoners, and the demented, though most likely He expected homosexuals, like pro­stitutes, to desist and follow him.

George Howard, Professor of Religion at the University of Georgia, published the text of a Hebrew translation of the Gospel of Matthew that was included in a Jewish polemical work of the late fourteenth century. This was the Ebhen bohan (Touchstone) of Shem Tobh ben Yishaq ibn Shaprut, written in Christian Spain about 1380 and revised during the subsequent quarter-century. Howard’s edition and translation is titled The Gospel of Matthew according to a Primitive Hebrew Text (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1987).

Matthew 5:22 appears on pp. 18-19, with the English rendering:

But I say to you, he who angers his companion is guilty of judgment; he who calls his brother inferior shall be guilty of judgment before the congregation; (he) who calls him a fool is guilty of the fire of Gehenna.

The word here rendered “inferior” is pahot, which means “less, lesser” but can also be understood as the passive participle “broken”, which is equivalent to Latin fractus, used by Cicero and later writers in the sense of “swishy, effeminate”. The second-century rhetorician Quintilian speaks, for example, of the fractus incessus “swishy walk” of obvious pathics. It is possible, therefore, that the Hebrew translator of Matthew connected rachâ with rakh “soft, effeminate” and rendered it by the word that under Latin influence had come into use in Late Hebrew. The Latinism in Hebrew was cleverly chosen as a mirror image of the Hebrew loan word in Hellenistic Greek.

A better rendering of the Hebrew would be:

But I say unto you, that whosoever angers his companion is liable to judgment; and whoever shall call his brother effeminate shall be liable to judgment before the congregation; and whosoever shall call him fool is liable to the fire of Gehenna.

The importance of this text lies in its being the first independent, pre-modern (and relatively early) confirmation of my interpretation of rachâ, the mysterious word in the Greek text of Matthew’s gospel, as a term of derision for the pathic–the passive-effeminate homosexual. Its implication is that Jesus forbade his followers to engage in queer-baiting, advice unfortunately not taken in the ensuing 1900 years. But it also refutes the widely-heralded notion, which goes back to Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), that “Jesus said nothing on the subject of homosexuality”.

Whatever he thought about homosexuals, Jesus’s sect at least initially during the break from Judaism often demanded a denial of family ties:

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew X, 34-37)

He repeated the same theme further on:

And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredful, and shall inherit everlasting life. (Matthew XIX, 29)
“One’s ‘kin’ were no longer one’s family but the members of the sect:”12 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. (Matthew XII, 48-50)

Luke’s (XIV, 26) words are unambiguous:

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. How many disciples were celibate and did the married ones forsake wife and children?

A few have seen homoeroticism between Jesus and his youngest and most beloved disciple St. John, usually depicted as still beardless or his spending the night baptizing in the nude Lazarus.

According to the playwright Christopher Marlowe (1564?93), as reported by the informer Richard Baines, “St. John the Evangelist was bedfellow to Christ and leaned always in his bosom, that he used him as the sinners of Sodoma.” The only clear precedent for this assertion known thus far is the confession of a libertine of Venice who was tried about 1550 for believing, among other heresies, that St. John was Christ’s catamite (cinedo di Cristo). … In a curious episode preserved only in a late fragment, Jesus spends a night naked with a youthful disciple, inducting him into the mysteries. … 13

Using rabbinical, apocryphal, and pagan sources such as Porphyry or Celsus some have suggested that Jesus may have been primarily a magician, at least until his final year, when he may have come to consider himself the Jewish Messiah as the Synoptics indicate, at all times working miracles (like his contemporaries Apollonius of Tyana or Simon Magus the Samaritan.), whom first after his crucifixion Paul and John transformed into Christ.

Jesus the magician was the figure seen by most ancient opponents of Jesus; ‘Jesus the Son of God’ was the figure seen by that party of his followers which eventually triumphed; the real Jesus was the man whose words and actions gave rise to these contradictory interpretations. ‘Jesus the Son of God’ is pictured in the Gospels; the works that pictured ‘Jesus the Magician’ were destroyed in antiquity after Christians got control of the Roman Empire. We know the lost works only from fragments and references, mostly in the works of Christian authors. Hence modern scholars, trying to discover the historical Jesus behind the Gospel legends, have generally paid no attention to the evidence for Jesus the Magician and have taken only the Gospels as their sources.14

Stressing analogies such as Apollonius instead of the Mysteries of Isis and Mithra, which seem to have exerted maximum influence later during the third century,15 Smith attempted to reconstruction XX??

the lost picture from the preserved fragments and related material, mainly from the magical papyri, that New Testament scholarship has generally ignored ... M. James’ The Apocryphal New Testament prints fragments of some twenty lost works about Jesus and references to many more of which only titles are known.16

Jesus Prophet and then Messiah appears more clearly in the Synoptic Gospels especially in John, the true embodiment of “the Son of God.” Perhaps Jesus moved from one to another or was at once magician, prophet, Messiah, and Christ.

Epileptic or not but as fanatic after as before his conversion, St. Paul ardently denounced heretics and Jews as well as sexual sinners: “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections … men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet” (Romans 1: 26?27). Boswell misinterpreted I Cor. VI, 9, which the King James Version following Tyndale translated as “neither effeminate nor abusers of themselves with mankind,” by claiming that malakoi and arsenokoitai were not Greek “technical terms for passive and active pederasty” as is commonly correctly assumed in exegeses in part because these passages echo the Holiness Code (Lev. XVIII, 22 and XX, 13) which is as old as the Sodom story.17 Though he used “against nature,” Paul’s uncompromising hostility differed qualitatively from the strictures of some Classical, Hellenistic, and Imperial Roman physicians and philosophers all of whom advocated conforming to nature by prescribing sexual restraint whereas Christians ideally demanded total abstention and mortification of the flesh. Paul, who according to Clement of Alexandria was married, denounced sex as sinful, to be tolerated only within marriage for those too weak to abstain because it was essential for the perpetuation of mankind. “Marry (but not a Jew) or burn!” Paul did, however, relegate wife, children, and servants to the authority of the father who owed them love and careful supervision. Reciprocal duties bound family and father whose authority was modeled on God’s. In accord with homophobic Jewish traditions, perhaps of Zoroastrian more than Hellenistic and Roman inspiration, and in any case inflamed by their hatred of Greco?Roman rule and culture, he condemned all “unnatural” pleasures of the flesh: bestiality, adultery, fornication, and homosexuality in any and all forms.

GNOSTICISM AND CHRISTIANITY

Nothing remotely like the New Testament’s doctrine of salvation or the death of God stemming from Paul can be found in Jewish literature. He substituted “an irreversible rebirth into innocence for the continual moral struggle, guided by the Torah, which for Jews gave life its significance.” Jesus’s death became not an interruption of his mission but its whole point. … By such inch?by?inch projections it is hoped that a bridge can be constructed between the Christian salvation myth and a respectable Jewish background, without recourse to Hellenistic mystery?cults. … In the Hebrew Bible this world, having been created by God is regarded as good. … At the opposite extreme is the literature of the gnostic sects that flourished around the time of the emergence of Christianity; in its view this world is evil, the creation of an evil power. Some of the pre?Christian gnostic sects were Jewish in origin, in the sense that they parasitically drew on the Bible for their mythic content. But they were profoundly un?Jewish in the way they used this content. They took the view that this world was created by the Jewish God, but he was an evil god  ... . It seems truer to say that the gnostics were the first anti?Semites who, like later anti?Semites, were fascinated by the materials of Judaism and fashioned their world view out of a love?hate relationship with Judaism. Included in the present edition of the Pseudepigrapha is a gnostic work, the Apocalypse of Adam, from the library of gnostic texts found in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1946. This is certainly a fascinating work, most probably an example of pre-Christian gnosticism–a genre often declared to be nonexistent by scholars who refuse to accept that Pauline Christianity was influenced by gnosticism. But whether it belongs in a compilation of Jewish Pseudepigrapha is very questionable. The Apocalypse of Adam, despite its biblical material, is profoundly anti-Bible, regarding the Jews as the chosen people of an evil God. Including it here is like including the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion in an anthology of modern Jewish literature. … Pauline Christianity has gone still further into despair, so much further that it is lost to Judaism. It believes that the world has gone so wrong that the Torah has become irrelevant and inadequate; even in doubt is whether this world is the scene of man’s destiny. Like gnosticism, Christianity has a descending Son of God, come to rescue humanity, but here Christianity, unlike gnosticism, introduces ideas taken from the mystery-cults: the Son of God has come not to impart gnosis but to die a sacrificial death. Only participation in this mystery can save. … Both gnosticism and Christianity are radically dualistic systems, seeing this world as captured by the power of Darkness in the course of its war against the power of Light. In this cosmic war, both gnosticism and Christianity identified the Jews as the earthly representatives of the power of Darkness. The Pseudepigrapha and the Dead Sea Scrolls, both of which envisage a war between good angels and bad angels, and which may be thought of as a first step away from the unified, humanistic outlook of both the Hebrew Bible and rabbinic Judaism, nevertheless represents a milder form of dualism than that in either gnosticism or Christianity; a despair still controlled by loyalty to Torah and Covenant cannot be equated with a despair that has entered the abyss, and depends so heavily on salvation from on high. When Christianity adopted the standpoint of gnosticism and the mystery?cults, it made a decisive break with Judaism. We cannot hope to smooth away the Jewish?Christian conflict by reducing it to a family quarrel between groups that are basically akin.18

While Maccoby oversimplified in seeing a consistency in the early Church that did not exist before the ecumenical councils defined orthodoxy and the rebel sect became the established church he was nonetheless essentially correct in denying any fundamental continuity between mainstream Judaism and Christian orthodoxy. Indirectly by stressing Christian irrationality and dualism he also refuted the usually popular thesis that Christianity preserved the best of Greco?Roman rationalism as well as of Jewish orthodoxy. In fact the pagan philosophers and sages as well as the emperors and administrators recognized that this was an abominable departure from all that was worthy in Hellenism and the mos maiorum.

The “urge to purify the world through the annihilation of some category of human beings imagined as agents of corruption and incarnations of evil” is well explored by Cohn, contributing to “studies in the dynamics of persecution and extermination” produced by the University of Sussex. Fantasies gripped not merely “marginal elements in society–free?lance intellectuals and semi?intellectuals, landless, rootless peasants, the poorest, most desperate elements in the urban population  ... [but] … what we would now call the Establishment.”19 Motivated in part by avarice and sadism, suspicion and accusations bedeviled the still small, scattered groups of Christians. Tacitus expressed the upper class attitude that the Christians were “notoriously depraved” (Annals, XV, 43). Late in the second century Minucius Felix, possibly the earliest Latin Apologist, recorded what pagans were saying from the beginning of that century:

I am told that, moved by some foolish urge, they consecrate and worship the head of a donkey, that most abject of all animals. This is a cult worthy of the customs from which it sprang! Others say that they reverence the genitals of the presiding priest himself, and adore them as though they were their father’s ... . As for the initiation of new members, the details are as disgusting as they are well known. A child, covered in dough to deceive the unwary, is set before the would be novice. The novice stabs the child to death with invisible blows; indeed he himself, deceived by the coating dough, thinks his stabs harmless. Then it’s horrible! They hungrily drink the child’s blood, and compete with one another as they divide his limbs. Through this victim they are bound together; and the fact that they all share the knowledge of the crime pledges them all to silence. Such holy rites are more disgraceful than sacrilege. It is well known, too, what happens at their feasts ... . On the feast?day they foregather with all their children, sisters, mothers, people of either sex and all ages. When the company is all aglow from feasting, and impure lust has been set afire by drunkenness, pieces of meat are thrown to a dog fastened to a lamp. The dog springs forward, beyond the length of its chain. The light, which would have been a betraying witness, is overturned and goes out. Now, in the dark, so favourable to shameless behaviour, they twine the bonds of unnameable passion, as chance decides. And so all alike are incestuous, if not always in deed at least by complicity; for everything that is performed by one of them corresponds to the wishes of them all ... . Precisely the secrecy of this evil religion proves that all these things, or practically all, are true [Octavius cap. ix and x].

Such charges against Christians became common:

 If the passage in Minucius Felix stood alone one might suspect the author of rhetorical exaggeration; but other sources bear him out in almost every detail. The first really great writer of the Latin church, Tertullian, was familiar with these same accusations, and in the year 197 he set out to refute them. He describes how, in his own town of Carthage, a criminal who normally earned his living dodging wild beasts in the arena had recently been hired to display a picture of the donkey-god. It showed a creature with ass’s ears and a hoofed foot, but standing erect, dressed in a toga and carrying a book; and it bore the inscription “The god of the Christians, ass-begotten.” Tertullian’s answer is ridicule: “We laughed at the name and at the shape.” Mockery is also his response to the tales of incestuous orgies, infanticide and cannibalism. If these tales were true, he comments, a would-be Christian would be confronted with some curious demands: “You will need a child of tender years, who does not know what death means, and who will smile under the knife. You will need some bread to soak up the blood; also some candlesticks and lamps, and some dogs, and some scraps of meat to make them jump and upset the lamps. Above all, be sure to bring your mother and sister. But what if the mother and sister will not comply, or if the convert has none?  ... I suppose you cannot become a regular Christian if you have neither mother nor sister?”

 Minucius Felix and Tertullian provide the fullest evidence for the suspicions under which the Christians laboured, but by their time the suspicions were already traditional. The most damaging can be detected already in the comments of the younger Pliny in 112 or 113. Installed as Governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor, Pliny had the task of examining some former Christians he found there; and he wrote to the emperor asking how they were to be treated. These people, he reported, admitted that they used to attend meetings where they took nourishment together; but they insisted that, whatever others might say, the nourishment was an innocent one. There is little doubt what lies behind this cryptic phrase: Pliny had been trying to establish whether Christians did or did not practise collective cannibalism.

 By 152 the Christian apologist Tatian, writing for the benefit of the pagan Greeks, thought it necessary to state explicitly, “There is no cannibalism amongst us.” In the same decade Justin Martyr also refers repeatedly to these slanders. In his Apology he asks how a glutton who enjoys eating human flesh could possibly bring himself to a welcome death, as Christians did; for would it not deprive him of his pleasure? And in his Dialogue with the Jew Trypho he asks whether, like the Gentiles, the Jews believe that Christians eat human beings. Justin recognizes, too, that this particular accusation does not stand alone: when Christians are accused of cannibalism they are also commonly accused of promiscuous and incestuous orgies.</span>

 It remained for Athenagoras, around 168, to find the appropriate technical terms for these imaginary offences: alongside “Oedipean mating”, “the Thyestean feast”. The name is highly significant: the children of Thyestes were killed by his brother Atreus and served up to him at a banquet. If the cannibalistic feasts in which Christians were believed to indulge could be called “Thyestean”, that means that the supposed victims were not adults but children. And that is confirmed both by Minucius Felix and by Tertullian.

Tertullian might make fun of such beliefs, but they were really no laughing matter. They were very widespread, both in the geographical and in the social sense. Christian apologists referred to them as flourishing in all the main areas where Christians were to be found–North Africa, Asia Minor, Rome itself; and not only amongst the unlettered populace, either. In the 160’s M. Cornelius Fronto made a speech accusing the Christians of infanticide, cannibalism and incest–and Fronto was not only a famous orator and an influential senator but the tutor and adviser of the emperor Marcus Aurelius. It is quite possible that Fronto influenced Marcus Aurelius in his persecution of the Christians, which was severe. And in the frightful persecution which struck the Christians at Lyons towards the end of his reign these same accusations certainly played an important part.

… The authorities and the populace collaborated in the persecution. Officially banned from public places and in effect outlawed, the unfortunate Christians were hounded by the mob, beaten and stoned in the streets; after which they were arrested and thrown into prison. At this point pagan slaves belonging to the prisoners were arrested and tortured to obtain incriminating statements; and in the end some asserted that their masters killed and ate children and indulged in promiscuous and incestuous orgies. They would never have voiced such accusations without prompting–which suggests that the persecutors had from the start planned to saddle the Christian community with these crimes.

The Christians were horribly tortured first, both in prison and in the amphitheatre. But nothing could induce them either to deny the faith they held or to admit to crimes they had never committed. As one of them, called Attalus, was being roasted alive in an iron chair, he still cried to the crowd: “What you are doing is indeed to eat men, but we do not eat men, nor do we do anything wicked.” And the woman Biblis also cried out under torture: “How would such people eat children  ... ?”

Ritual murder and cannibalistic feasts belonged to one particular, traditional stereotype: the stereotype of the conspiratorial organization or secret society engaged in a ruthless drive for political power.20

Many of the varied and conflicting Christian attitudes owed far more to much maligned anti-materialist Gnostics than to rational Graeco?Roman asceticism–even the “counter?culture” of Cynic, Stoic, and Neo?Platonic varieties–or long dormant, Torah prescriptions of death for sodomites. Until late in the twentieth century with the discoveries of papyri at Nag Hammadi and elsewhere, we knew Gnostic writings primarily through their Christian enemies of the second and third centuries, who in turn accused them of homosexuality and sexual abandon, as the Christians themselves were accused by Jews and pagans. They supposedly depicted Jahweh as a malevolent deity ruling the corrupt world he created.

But what of the accusation of promiscuous and incestuous orgies? The usual explanation is that–the pagans confused the main body of Christians with certain Gnostics who really did indulge in such practices. Yet when one examines the evidence in detail, it tends to disintegrate. The earliest source, Justin Martyr, merely says that he does not know whether various Gnostic sects indulged in the nocturnal orgies of which Christians were accused. Irenaeus, writing after the persecution at Lyons had already–taken place, merely says of one particular Gnostic sect the Carpocratians that, being indifferent to good and evil, they were promiscuous, and thereby brought discredit upon the Christians, with whom they were confused. Clement of Alexandria, writing around 200, is the first to attribute to these Carpocratians erotic orgies such as had long been attributed to the Christians; while Eusebius, writing more than two centuries later, does little more than repeat these earlier sources. But whatever this obscure–Gnostic sect may or may not have believed or practised, it can hardly account for the constant and widespread accusations against the main body of Christians.21

Whatever its relation to Zoroastrianism, gnostic dualism differed fundamentally from Platonic or any other Greek philosophy except perhaps the little understood Orphism:

The history of religions knows various ideas of the activity of two more or less independent–deities or principles which are made responsible–for the differing situations in the world. One of–the best known is the Iranian Zoroastrian dualism,–which sets a good and an evil god at the beginning of world history and views this history as dominated–by the conflict between the two, until the good god with help of his adherents at the end of time carries off the victory. This dualism is however essentially ethically oriented, since it lays decisive importance upon religious and moral attitude and outlook, and the opposites “good” and “evil” do not coincide with those of “spiritual” and “corporeal” or “material”, but also are interwoven with the latter. We shall see that this dualism had a great influence upon–developing Gnosis. It is otherwise with the more strongly philosophically oriented dualism of Plato, which was of great importance for Greek thought and then for the whole of late antiquity. It knows the two levels of existence: the spiritual eternal ideas–and their transitory material (spatial) counterparts, which form the cosmos; the latter do indeed signify–a loss of being, but nevertheless belong to the good–part of the creation (for the bad part Plato ultimately made an “evil world soul” responsible). This “ontological” or “metaphysical” dualism is likewise, as we shall show, a presupposition of the gnostic. Finally one might also refer to the Indian dualism between Being and Appearance or Becoming, which has frequently been adduced as a parallel to Gnosis but which because of its quite different–orientation does not come into question (it has points in common rather with the Platonic). There is also a series of other dualisms (apart from the–still more widely spread simple conceptions of duality), which are formulated in more or less radical, mixed or dialectic form and whose typology belongs to the interesting field of work of the–comparative study of religion; in our context those named are sufficient.
The gnostic dualism is distinguished from these above all in the one essential point, that it is “anti?cosmic”; that is, its conception includes an unequivocally negative evaluation of the visible world together with its creator; it ranks as a kingdom of evil and of darkness. The identification of “evil” and “matter”, which is not to be found in Iranian and Zoroastrian thought, occurs in Gnosis as a fundamental conception. In Greek thought also–apart from certain Orphic teachings, which however are of uncertain date–there is no such anticosmic development of the dualism of spirit and body. The Greek conception is unmistakably ”procosmic”, and no less a person than Plotinus (3rd century A.D.), the leading figure of the late or Neoplatonism, defended this position over against the gnostic depreciation of the cosmos. In his first treatise “On providence” it is said, with a clearly anti?gnostic point: “No?one therefore may find fault with our universe on the ground that it is not beautiful or not the most perfect of the beings associated with the body; nor again quarrel with–the originator of its existence, and certainly not–because it has come into existence of necessity, not–on the basis of a reflection but because the higher–being brought forth its likeness according to the–law of nature.” [Enneads III, 2, 3] If the world–also is not perfect, since it has only a share in–the highest being and is troubled by matter, it is–nevertheless as a product of the world plan “so–beautiful that there is no other that could be more–beautiful than it.” [Ibid. III, 2, 12] The same is true  of man: he is “to this extent a complete vessel as it is  granted to him to be perfected.” [Ibid. III, 2, 9] A treatise especially written “Against the Gnostics” takes issue in particular with their view that the cosmos and its–creator are evil.22

About women and heterosexuals, gnostics like Christians held ambiguous, often contradictory theories:

The equal standing of women in cultic practice in the gnostic communities appears to have been relatively widespread, as we have already seen (there is probably a polemical reference to this in the First Letter to Timothy; cf. also Paul in First Corinthians [I Tim. 2, 11 f.; I Cor. 14, 34 ff.] On the other hand there is evidence in some branches of the denigration of women and the rejection of marriage.

These differing attitudes may perhaps find an explanation in the fundamental conception which at–times crops up in the sources, namely that bi-sexuality is an evil of the earthly world and a mark of its lost–unity, in contrast to the complete annulment of division in the Pleroma as portrayed by the male?female couplings of heavenly beings. Frequently bi?sexuality became something of an ideal for Gnosis; it is attributed among others to the highest being. The Mandaic Eve speaks to Adam in the following instructive statement:

“When there was no unevenness (or: inequality), (then) we had (but) one form. We had (but) one form and we were both made as a single mana (spirit) Now, where there is no evenness (or: equality), they made you a man and me a woman.” [Right Ginza III]

In the Gospel of Philip this division of the sexes is made out to be the woman’s (i.e. Eve’s) fault (perhaps simulating the fall of Sophia from the unity of the Pleroma) and is connected with the origin of mortality. That unity is life, separation death is a guiding principle of gnostic thought. “When Eve was (still) in Adam, there was no death. When she separated from him, death arose. When she (or it, death) enters him again and he (Adam) takes her (or it, death) to himself, there shall be no (more) death.” [Nag Hammadi Codex II 3, 68 (116), 22?26]

“If the woman had not separated from the man, she would not have died with the man. His separation became the beginning of death. Therefore Christ came that he might set right again the separation which arose from the beginning and unite the two, and give life to those who died in the separation and unite them.” [Nag Hammadi Codex II, 3,70 (118), 9-17]

The devaluation of the woman and what is female which finds expression here is certainly compensated by the activity of women in the life of the community and the large role which is ascribed to the female aspect in gnostic mythology (cf. Sophia, Barbelo and others), but in the final analysis we are left with the traditional assessment, standard in antiquity, of the woman as a creature subordinated to the man. Consequently there are only the beginnings of an emancipation. That this is the case is clear from certain evidence which regards a redemption of the woman as possible only on the condition of her metamorphosis into a man. Of course a part is played by the idea that for the union with the original heavenly image (often depicted as female) of the soul the returning partner (the copy) must belong to one sex, predominantly the male; hence the change is assumed for the sake of the unity to be recovered. At the end of the Gospel of Thomas the following episode takes place: “Simon Peter spoke to them (the disciples): ‘Let Mary (Magdalene) leave us, for women are not worthy of life.’ Jesus said: ‘Behold, I shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” [Nag Hammadi Codex II 2, log. 114]

The same view is–also held by the Naassenes and Valentinians; the former maintain that all who reach “the house of the (good) God” “become bridegrooms, being rendered wholly male through the virgin spirit.” [Hippolytus, Refutatio V 8, 44] The Valentinian Theodotus believed that the “see of light”, so long as it was still unformed (i.e. uneducated, untrained), is a “child of the female”, but when it is formed (i.e. trained), it is changed into a man and becomes a son of the (heavenly) bridegroom; no longer is it weak and subjected to the cosmic powers, but having become a man, it becomes a male fruit. [Clem. Alex., Ex Theodoto 79] As such it can enter into the Pleroma and unite with the angels. “Therefore it is said that the woman is changed into a man and the community here below (on earth) into angels.” {Ibid., 21, 3} One must bear in mind that in Greek “angel” (i.e. messenger) has the masculine gender. In Valentinianism, at least with Heracleon and Theodotus, the “male”, as it was created in Adam, [cf. Gen. 1, 27] is the “elect” of the angels, the “female” which corresponds to Eve represents the “calling” of the pneumatics, who must be brought up to the male “elect” in order to become part of the Pleroma and attain again to the angelic status.23

Reinforcing the Gnostic influence against Judaism and Hellenism were the popular mystery religions eschewing reason and practicality in favor of spiritual escapism, of which Christianity appeared to be only one to Roman pagans. Universalist, like Christianity, they cut across ethnic lines to attract different groups. Mithra, for example, soldiers, Isis and the Magna Mater women, and Christianity urban lower classes.

The mass of religions at Rome finally became so impregnated by neo-Platonism and Orientalism that paganism may be called a single religion with a fairly distinct theology, whose doctrines were somewhat as follows: adoration of the elements, especially the cosmic bodies; the reign of one God, eternal and omnipotent, with messenger attendants; spiritual interpretation of the gross rites yet surviving from primitive times; assurance of eternal felicity to the faithful; belief that the soul was on earth to be proved before its final return to the universal spirit, of which it was a spark; the existence of an abysmal abode for the evil, against whom the faithful must keep up an unceasing struggle; the destruction of the universe, the death of the wicked, and the eternal happiness of the good in a reconstructed world. … The cults of Asia and Egypt bridged the gap between the old religions and Christianity, and in such a way as to make the triumph of Christianity an evolution, not a revolution. The Great Mother and Attis, with self?consecration, enthusiasm, and asceticism; Isis and Serapis, with the ideals of communion and purification; Baal, the omnipotent dweller in the far?off heavens; Jehovah, the jealous God of the Hebrews, omniscient and omnipresent; Mithra, deity of the sun, with the Persian dualism of good and evil, and with after-death rewards and punishments–all these, and more, flowed successively into the channel of Roman life and mingled their waters to form the late Roman paganism which proved so pertinacious a foe to the Christian religion. The influence that underlay their pretensions was so real that there is some warrant for the view of Renan that at one time it was doubtful whether the current as it flowed away into the Dark Ages should be Mithraic or Christian. … The spread of the Oriental religions … was due to merit. In contrast to the cold and formal religions of Rome, the Oriental faiths, with their hoary traditions and basis of science and culture, their fine ceremonial, and excitement attendant on their mysteries, their deities with hearts of compassion, their cultivation of the social bond, their appeal to conscience and their promises of purification and reward in a future life, were personal rather than civic, and satisfied the individual soul ... . With such a conception of latter-day paganism, we may more easily understand its strength and the bitter rivalry between it and the new faith, as well as the facility with which pagan society, once its cause was proved hopeless, turned to Christianity. The Oriental religions had made straight the way. Christianity triumphed after long conflict because its antagonists also were not without weapons from the armory of God. Both parties to the struggle had their loins girt about with truth, and both wielded the sword of the spirit; but the steel of the Christian was the more piercing, the breastplate of his righteousness was the stronger, and his feet were better shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.

Nor did Christianity stop there. It took from its opponents their own weapons, and used them; the better elements of paganism were transferred to the new religion. As the religious history of the empire is studied more closely … the triumph of the church will, in our opinion, appear more and more as the culmination of a long evolution of beliefs. We can understand the Christianity of the fifth century with its greatness and weaknesses, its spiritual exaltation and its puerile superstitions, if we know the moral antecedents of the world in which it developed.  …

It is our belief that the main point to be cleared up is the composite religion of those Jewish or Jewish?pagan communities, the worshipers of Hypistos, the Sabbatists, the Sabaziasts and others in which the new creed took root during the apostolic age. In those communities the Mosaic law had become adapted to the sacred usages of the Gentiles even before the beginning of our era, and monotheism had made concessions to idolatry. Many beliefs of the ancient Orient, as for instance the ideas of Persian dualism regarding the infernal world, arrived in Europe by two roads, the more or less orthodox Judaism of the communities of the dispersion in which the gospel was accepted immediately, and the pagan mysteries imported from Syria or Asia Minor. Certain similarities that surprised and shocked the apologists will cease to look strange as soon as we reach the distant sources of the channels that reunited at Rome. …

Religion was no longer regarded as a public duty, but as a personal obligation; no longer did it subordinate the individual to the city?state, but pretended above all to assure his welfare in this world and especially in the world to come. The Oriental mysteries offered their votaries radiant perspectives of eternal happiness. Thus the focus of morality was changed. The aim became to realize the sovereign good in the life hereafter instead of in this world, as the Greek philosophy had done. No longer did man act in view of tangible realities, but to attain ideal hopes. Existence in this life was regarded as a preparation for a sanctified life, as a trial whose outcome was to be either everlasting happiness or everlasting pain.

As we see, the entire system of ethical values was overturned.

The salvation of the soul, which had become the one great human care, was especially promised in these mysteries upon the accurate performance of the sacred ceremonies. The rites possessed a power of purification and redemption. They made man better and freed him from the dominion of hostile spirits. Consequently, religion was a singularly important and absorbing matter, and the liturgy could be performed only by a clergy devoting itself entirely to the task. The Asiatic gods exacted undivided service; their priests were no longer magistrates, scarcely citizens. They devoted themselves unreservedly to their ministry, and demanded of their adherents submission to their sacred authority.

All these features that we are but sketching here, gave the Oriental religions a resemblance to Christianity, and the reader of these studies will find many more points in common among them ... . 24

As Christianity prospered, evolving from radical sect to established church, more educated and traditional Fathers borrowed increasingly from Stoics and Neo?Platonists, at first in a shallow, selective fashion, using their ideas as windowdressing for a religion fundamentally at odds with mainstream Classical as well as Jewish tradition. Gentile Christians rejected Judaism.

With the destruction of the Temple the Christians were convinced that all that there was of promise and encouragement in the Old Testament had passed to them. They disinherited the Jew from his own sacred books at the very moment when these provided his only comfort. All the Law and the promises led on to Christ the Messiah. Rejecting Him, the Jew lost also all share in them. ‘Judaism,’ says Ignatius, ‘is nothing but funeral monuments and tombstones of the dead.’ The Christian did not even allow him any further merit in the actual observance of the Law. It was only a mass of frivolities and absurdities, except as a preliminary to the Gospel. By some mysterious process all that was good in Judaism had become evil.25

Brown contradicted his assertion that “in moral matters the Christians made almost no moral innovations” before the fourth century by pointing out that Galen “was struck by the sexual austerity of the Christian communities in the late second century.” 26

THE CHRISTIAN EMPIRE AND THE POST-NICAEAN FATHERS

Often unclear and even contradictory, the views of the Fathers, especially if one includes Christian gnostics, diverge almost as much as those of modern Christian sects and denominations. Valentine, who visited Rome and Alexandria in 135/6, and his more famous disciple Marcion, who condemned even marriage and was expelled from Rome in 144, supposedly preached and practiced free love as being mandated by their faith. Denouncing Yahweh as an evil god who had created the material world, some Gnostics were accepted as Christians while others were regarded as heretics, the greatest, Origen of Alexandria (c.185-c.254), being on the borderline. Pagans and Christians persecuted these soi?disant Christians for believing that women as well as men should be allowed uninhibited sex, though Christians themselves suffered from the same charge.

Few of the early Christians were sex?positive, but many deemed homosexuality and bestiality more sinful than fornication and adultery. Following Jesus’s “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” and Paul’s “Obey the powers that be,” early Christians, Jewish or not, had attacked only Jews as Christkillers as well as for obstinately refusing to accept the Messiah. The Epistle of Barnabas (c. 100) and Tatian (c. 150) anathematized sodomites ( ). Claiming that their gods were originally devils, the first Apologist, Justin Martyr (c.100-c.167) attacked the pagans. Other mainstream Christians like Irenaeus (f.c. 150) of Lyons, denounced with disgust homosexuality among heretical sects which, thinking they were free of sin and in a state of grace, believed they could do no wrong. Minucius Felix (f. c. 200) reproached the Romans for condoning licentious sex, by which he understood pederasty (28.10). The anti?Semite Clement of Alexandria (c.150-c.216) fulminated against gays more than other Pre?Nicaean Fathers, whom persecution apparently softened although we must remember that because the others were silent does not mean they approved it, bracing his sexual strictures with Platonic concepts about nature and Stoic ones word for word from Musonius Rufus about mutual fidelity in marriage.

Boswell failed to recognize the importance and mainstream position of the Councils of Elvira (306) and Ancyra (314), which condemned homosexuality on the eve of toleration and the edicts against it of Constantine’s sons, like their father heads of the Church. 27 An impressive homophobic literature grew up. The bishop of Constantia Epiphanius (c.315-402) condemned sexual libertinism, alleging that at a banquet members of Christian groups, held women in common and did not restrict their sexual activity to one partner. Another group practiced masturbation and other groups homosexuality. 28 John Chrysostom (d. 407) and Augustine (354-430), than whom none were more orthodox, mainstream, and influential, ferociously denounced sodomy far more than fornication or even adultery.

By this time in the East, “the role of the Christian church in the cities had been overshadowed by a radical new model of human nature and human society created by the ‘men of the desert.’“ 29 Up to the fourth century the Orthodox Church was becoming Romanized, but then it fell under the influence of monks, but not ones whose “monastic paradigm drew on the more radical aspects of the pagan philosophic counterculture, most notably on the magnificently asocial lifestyle of the Cynics, and on a long Judeo?Christian past.” 30 Rather like the earliest Christians they overturned Classical and Judaic traditions to practice a Buddhist destruction of body, denial of nature, and rejection of the world. Greek bishops prescribed early marriages, already prevalent in the West, to prevent adolescent promiscuity. “Early marriage was proposed for the young of both sexes as a breakwater that could shield Christian men from the choppy seas of adolescent promiscuity.” 31 “The fifth century was marked by barbarian invasion in the West and dogged organization of rising population and a consequent rising misery in the East,” making asceticism and other-worldly escapism more appealing. 32 In any case the sect had now become a triumphant Church, adopting upper class Roman viewpoints especially in the West and little troubled by anchorites and stylites.

Gregory of Nyssa excoriated licentious, luxurious households (P. G. 46468B) and Basil, another Cappadocian, condemned homosexuality and bestiality during the 370’s (Ep., 188, can. 7, and 217 can. 62?3). Chrysostom deemed pederasty so prevalent among the urban wealthy that one of the main benefits a youth gained on entering a monastery was to escape the “hideous disease” that threatened to make “the female sex  ... superfluous” (Adv. oppugnatores vitae monasticae 3.16 (PG 47.377)) and attacked the public baths in Antioch.33

Fourth century pagans echoed the Christians in attacking homosexuality. The homophobic historian Ammianus Marcellinus praised his hero Julian the Apostate for renouncing sex after the death of his wife, attacked the monks for pederastic aggression, denounced the citizens of Antioch for degeneracy, and even proscribed the writings of Archilochus. (31.9.5) 34 Julian’s mentor and friend Libanius, who also taught St. Basil and John Chrysostom, depicted erastei proferring gifts to eromenoi who humiliated them and sympathizing with friends similarly rebuffed (Twenty-Fifth Oration, 26 and 27). This boring rhetorician, more of whose works have survived than of any writer in antiquity, described homoeroticism as a disease (Fifty-Third Oration, 10). A critic of Christianity, the historian Eunapius, who was born at Sardis in 347 and studied and taught at Athens, where he became a priest for the Eleusinian Mysteries, mentioned in his Lives of the Sophists a teacher in Constantinople who was accused of “diabolicalism,” presumably homosexuality (  ), henceforth often linked to the devil.

The change was not quite as abrupt as certain Victorian or modern gays have asserted: “Christianity destroyed beyond all possibility of reconstruction the free, frank sensuality of paganism. It convicted humanity of sin, and taught men to occupy themselves with the internal warfare of their flesh and spirit as that which is alone eternally important.” 35 Foucault, Veyne, and Rousselle showed that Stoicism, Neoplatonism, and medicine was inhibiting pagan joie de vivre and Boswell that considerable pederasty endured after the triumph of the early Christians who did not universally condemn pederasty as worse than adultery or fornication before the thirteenth century. Nevertheless, however long it took, there was a sea change between Archaic Greeks enjoying life and nature including love and medieval Christian renunciation of nature and demands for chastity.

The triumphant Christians, with the Emperors as their agents, wasted little time in persecuting Jews, heretics, and sodomites and in destroying books and art works. From the time of Constantine (306?337) nude figures disappeared from art.36 Although even the eastern cities declined in size and wealth during the anarchy of the third century, gymnasia reduced doubtless in numbers and wealth nevertheless survived and continued their key role in fostering pederasty even after Constantine’s conversion. Ephebes disappeared after 325 and sources no longer mention gymnasia after 380.

Lavish pagan cult had been intertwined with particular values and a particular social order in the cities’ upper classes. During the fourth century, those classes narrowed further, while service to the home town lost almost every connection with the old “love of honour,” spread widely within a competitive local elite. Pagan cults found their funds reduced and their ceremonies threatened, while the old forms of civic education no longer survived to support them. After 325, we hear no more of the training of a city’s youth as “ephebes” with the accompanying pagan ceremonial. By the 380s, nothing more is heard of the civic gymnasium and its officials. The reduction in the cities’ incomes may have influenced their disappearance, but Christian attitudes may also have played a part. “The physical side of education languished in a Christian environment”: in the cities, it had been linked with naked exercise, paganism and consenting homosexuality. The eventual “collapse of the gymnasia, the focal point of Hellenism, more than any other single event brought in the Middle Ages.” 37

In 326 Constantine ordered the books of heretics hunted out and destroyed. An edict of 333 mentioned that the “impious books” of Arius, like those of Porphyry earlier, had been obliterated.38 This was one of a series of decrees issued by Constantine and his successors to destroy books. Bishops directed the burning of books on their own initiative, probably long before Theodoret, bishop of Cyrrhus in Syria, wrote c.450 of a heretic named Tatian:

This [fellow] also composed that gospel called “By the four,” cutting off the genealogies and such other things as show that the Lord was, as for his body, a descendant of David. Not only the adherents of his party used this [gospel], but also those [Christians] who followed the apostolic teachings [i.e., were of my party], but who did not recognize the rascality of the composition, but simply used the book as a compendium. I myself found more than two hundred such books revered in the churches of my own [diocese], and collecting them all, I did away with them and introduced instead the gospels of the four [canonical] evangelists.39

In 342, less than thirty years after the so?called Edict of Milan, by which Constantine granted toleration and imperial favor to Christians, his sons, Constantius and Constans, an exclusive homosexual who surrounded himself with barbarian soldiers selected more for their looks than their military ability (as the plotters who overthrew him alleged) decreed the avenging sword for sodomites in a violent polemic curiously misinterpreted by Boswell as a measure outlawing “gay marriages:”

When a man submits to men, the way a woman does, what can he be seeking? where sex has lost its proper place? where the crime is one it is not profitable to know? where love is sought and does not appear? We order statutes to arise, and the laws to be armed with an avenging sword, that those guilty of such infamous crimes, either now or in the future, may be subjected to exquisite penalties. (Theodosian Code, IX, 7, 3; Justinian Code, 9, 9, 30)

Theodosius I (379?395), who outlawed paganism in 390, in 391 imposed for homosexuality death by public burning, more excruciating than Constantius’s and Constans’s penalty of the sword. In an edict praising the Vicar of the Prefecture of Rome, Theodosius stated:

We shall not suffer the City of Rome, the mother of all virtues, any longer to be defiled by the pollution of effeminacy in males and the rustic vigor inherited from her founding fathers, weakened through the unmanliness of her people, to become a reproach for the ages either to her founders or to her rulers, to Orientius whom we love and cherish, Praiseworthy therefore is your practice of seizing all who have committed the crime of treating their male bodies as though they were female, submitting them to the use becoming the opposite sex, and being in no wise distinguishable from women, and–as the monstrosity of the crime demands dragging them out of the brothels (it is shameful to say) for males  ... in the sight of the people shall the offender expiate his crime in the avenging flames that each and everyone may understand that the dwelling place of the male soul should be sacrosanct to all and that no one may without incurring the ultimate penalty aspire to play the part of another sex by shamefully renouncing his own. Issued on the Ides of May (=<st1:date month="5" day="14" year="390" w:st="on">May 14, 390) in the Hall of Minerva.  (Mosaicarum et Romanarum Legum Collatio) </st1:date>

Once again effeminates, transvestites, transexuals, and passive prostitutes suffered the extreme force of the law. The very harshness of the penalty, as in other cases in this age, betrays the difficulty of enforcement. The law lay unenforced from May to August, allowing male prostitutes and owners of male bordellos time to escape.40 Augustine’s Confessions (397) reported that, in spite of the law they operated boldly in great numbers at Carthage. Longing for the return of an uncorrupt Golden Age, Theodosius hearkened back to the virility so prized in the traditions of the founding of Rome and of the Empire, and attacked effeminate prostitutes. That “the sojourn of the masculine soul must be sacrosanct” seems, however, to imply a Christian origin, as does the penalty of fire, previously unused by Roman law but associated by Christians and Jews with Sodom.41 Constans’ and Theodosius’ laws, though limited, set horrible precedents encouraged by Augustine’s admonitions in his Confessions (III, 18) that states should chastise sodomites.

It was Augustine  ... who gave the final stamp of authority to the idea that sex is licit only in marriage and then only for the purpose of procreation, thus excluding not only homosexual and heterosexual ”fornication,” but also sexual enjoyment as an end in itself even within marriage. By thus allowing for sexual union, though within narrow limits, Augustine tempered the rigidly ascetic view, found in Paul and others, that one must try to abstain from sex altogether, thereby forging an ethos acceptable to the Christian State, which required procreation to swell the ranks of tax?paying peasants and fighting soldiers ... . Medieval theologians believed (ostensibly following Augustine) that Christ had delayed his Incarnation because of his great grief at the prevalence of sodomy. A world ridden with this terrible vice was not fit to receive its Saviour. Accordingly the Sodomites had finally to be killed en masse just before the Nativity.42

Indeed, Augustine was the first to articulate homosexual guilt:

And what was it that I delighted in, but to love, and be loved? but I kept not the measure of love, of mind to mind, friendship’s bright boundary: but out of the muddy concupiscence of the flesh, and the bubblings of youth, mists fumed up which beclouded and overcast my heart, that I could not discern the clear brightness of love from the fog of lustfulness. Both did confusedly boil in me, and hurried my unstayed youth over the precipice of unholy desires, and sunk me in a gulf of flagitiousness. Thy wrath had gathered over me, and I knew it not. I was grown deaf by the clanking of the chain of my mortality, the punishment of the pride of my soul, and I strayed further from Thee, and Thou lettest me alone, and I was tossed about, and wasted, and dissipated, and I boiled over in my fornications, and Thou heldest Thy peace, O Thou my tardy joy! Thou then heldest Thy peace, and I wandered further and further from Thee, into more and more fruitless seed plots of sorrows, with a proud dejectedness, and a restless weariness. ….
But while in that my sixteenth year I lived with my parents, leaving all school for a while (a season of–idleness being interposed through the narrowness of my parents’ fortunes), the briers of unclean desires grew rank over my head, and there was no hand to root them out. When that my father saw me at the baths, now growing towards manhood, and endued with a restless youthfulness, he, as already hence anticipating his descendants, gladly told it to my mother; rejoicing in–that tumult of the senses wherein the world forgetteth Thee its Creator, and becometh enamoured of Thy creature, instead of Thyself, through the fumes of that invisible–wine of its self will, turning aside and bowing down to–the very basest things ... .
Behold with what companions I walked the streets of–Babylon, and wallowed in the mire thereof, as if in a–bed of spices and precious ointments. And that I might–cleave the faster to its very centre, the invisible–enemy trod me down, and seduced me, for that I was easy–to be seduced ... .
For there is an attractiveness in beautiful bodies,–in gold and silver, and all things; and in bodily–touch, sympathy hath much influence, and each other–sense hath his proper object answerably tempered. –Worldly honour hath also its grace, and the power–of overcoming, and of mastery; whence springs also–the thirst of revenge. But yet, to obtain all these,–we may not depart from Thee, O Lord, nor decline from–Thy law. The life also which here we live hath its own–enchantment, through a certain proportion of its own,–and a correspondence with all things beautiful here–below. Human friendship also is endeared with a sweet–tie, by reason of the unity formed of many souls. Upon–occasion of all these, and the like, is sin committed,–while through an immoderate inclination towards these–goods of the lowest order, the better and higher are–forsaken,–Thou, our Lord God, Thy truth, and Thy law.–For these lower things have their delights, but not–like my God, who made all things; for in Him doth the–righteous delight, and He is the joy of the upright–in heart ... .
–In those years when I first began to teach rhetoric in my native town, I had made one my friend, but too–dear to me, from a community of pursuits, of mine own age, and, as myself, in the first opening flower of–youth. He had grown up of a child with me, and we had–been both school fellows and play fellows. But he was–not yet my friend as afterwards, nor even then, as–true friendship is; for true it cannot be, unless in–such as Thou cementest together, cleaving unto Thee,–by that love which is shed abroad in our hearts by the–Holy Ghost, which is given unto us. Yet was it but–too sweet, ripened by the warmth of kindred studies:–for, from the true faith (which he as a youth had not–soundly and thoroughly imbibed), I had warped him also–to those superstitious and pernicious fables, for which–my mother bewailed me. With me he now erred in mind,–nor could my soul be without him. But behold Thou–wert close on the steps of Thy fugitives, at once–God of vengeance, and Fountain of mercies, turning us–to Thyself by wonderful means; Thou tookest that man–out of this life, when he had scarce filled up one whole–year of my friendship, sweet to me above all sweetness–of that my life.
–Who can recount all Thy praises, which he hath–felt in his self? What diddest Thou then, my God,–and how unsearchable is the abyss of Thy–judgments? For long, sore sick of a fever,–he lay senseless in a death sweat; and his–recovery being despaired of, he was baptised,–unknowing; myself meanwhile little regarding,–and presuming that his soul would retain rather–what it had received of me, not what was wrought–on his unconscious body. But it proved far otherwise: for he was refreshed, and restored. Forthwith,–as soon as I could speak with him (and I could, so–soon as he was able, for I never left him, and we–hung but too much upon each other), I essayed to–jest with him, as though he would jest with me–at that baptism which he had received, when utterly–absent in mind and feeling, but had now understood–that he had received. But he so shrunk from me, as–from an enemy; and with a wonderful and sudden–freedom bade me, as I would continue his friend,–forbear such language to him. I, all astonished–and amazed, suppressed all my emotions till he–should grow well, and his health were strong–enough for me to deal with him as I would. But–he was taken away from my frenzy, that with Thee–he might be preserved for my comfort; a few days–after in my absence, he was attacked again by–the fever, and so departed.
–At this grief my heart was utterly darkened;–and whatever I beheld was death. My native–country was a torment to me, and my father’s–house a strange unhappiness; and whatever–I had shared with him, wanting him, became–a distracting torture. Mine eyes sought him–every where, but he was not granted them;–and I hated all places, for that they had–not him; nor could they now tell me, “he is–coming,” as when he was alive and absent. I–became a great riddle to myself, and I asked–my soul, why she was so sad, and why she–disquieted me sorely: but she knew not what–to answer me. And if I said, Trust in God,–she very rightly obeyed me not; because that–most dear friend, whom she had lost, was,–being man, both truer and better than that–phantasm she was bid to trust in. Only tears–were sweet to me, for they succeeded my friend,–in the dearest of my affections.
–And now, Lord, these things are passed by, and–time hath assuaged my wound. May I learn from–Thee, who art Truth, and approach the ear of–my heart unto Thy mouth, that Thou mayest–tell me why weeping is sweet to the miserable?–Hast Thou, although present every where,–cast away our misery far from Thee? And Thou–abidest in Thyself, but we are tossed about in–divers trials. And yet unless we mourned in–Thine ears, we should have no hope left. Whence–then is sweet fruit gathered from the bitterness–of life, from groaning, tears, sighs, and–complaints? Doth this sweeten it, that we hope–Thou hearest? This is true of prayer, for–therein is a longing to approach unto Thee.–But is it also in grief for a thing lost,–and the sorrow wherewith I was then–overwhelmed? For I neither hoped he should–return to life nor did I desire this with–my tears; but I wept only and grieved. For–I was miserable, and had lost my joy. Or is–weeping indeed a bitter thing, and for very–loathing of the things which we before enjoyed,–does it then, when we shrink from them, please–us?
–But what speak I of these things? for now is no–time to question, but to confess unto Thee. Wretched–I was; and wretched is every soul bound by the friendship of perishable things; he is torn asunder when–he loses them, and then he feels the wretchedness–which he had ere yet he lost them. So was it then–with me; I wept most bitterly, and found my repose–in bitterness. Thus was I wretched, and that–wretched life I held dearer than my friend. For though–I would willingly have changed it, yet was I more–unwilling to part with it than with him; yea, I–know not whether I would have parted with it even–for him, as is related (if not feigned) of Pylades–and Orestes, that they would gladly have died for–each other or together, not to live together being–to them worse than death. But in me there had arisen–some unexplained feeling, too contrary to this, for–at once I loathed exceedingly to live and feared–to die. I suppose, the more I loved him, the more–did I hate, and fear (as a most cruel enemy) death,–which had bereaved me of him: and I imagined it–would speedily make an end of all men, since it had–power over him. Thus was it with me, I remember.–Behold my heart, O my God, behold and see into me;–for well I remember it, O my Hope, who cleansest me–from the impurity of such affections, directing–mine eyes towards Thee, and plucking my feet out–of the snare. For I wondered that others, subject–to death, did live, since he whom I loved, as if he–should never die, was dead; and I wondered yet more–that myself, who was to him a second self, could–live, he being dead. Well said one of his friend,–”Thou half of my soul”; for I felt that my soul and–his soul were “one soul in two bodies”; and therefore–was my life a horror to me, because I would not live–halved. And therefore perchance I feared to die, lest–he whom I had much loved should die wholly. –(Confessions, II, 2, 6, 8, 10; IV, 7?10)

Sodomites, however, were not merely in the Church from the earliest times, but several became martyrs, and as chastity became required for bishops they had the advantage of not being held back by love of women from being promoted to the episcopate. Sergius, the Commandant of a school for recruits to the Roman army in Syria, and his assistant Bacchus, were envied because of their favor they enjoyed with Emperor Maximin. When he came to inspect their academy, neighbors denounced them for being Christians. The emperor was startled when his proteges refused to sacrifice to Jupiter as he requested. Arrested and tortured, they stood fast by their faith, being paraded through Antioch in women’s garb which they stoically endured, saying that taking off their old clothes symbolized shedding their old habit and the women’s robes they compared to the “mantle of salvation and garments of gladness.” Bacchus, who expired first under the lash, appeared in a dream to Sergius, who had to endure a nine mile march with nails thrusting through his shoes into his feet before being beheaded after further torture in 303. The relics of Sergius were soon deposited with those of Bacchus so that they could lie together. A stately church was erected c. 431 in the town renamed Sergiopolis. They became especially honored among the Orthodox. In the Greek Church erected for them by Justinian in Constantinople, as in many others later throughout Slavdom, they were portrayed on horseback, as befitted officers leaning towards each other that their haloes touched with their parallel mounts rubbing noses. In St. Mark’s in Venice they appear across from each other gazing into each other’s eyes. Although the various Lives (Analecta Bollandiana, Tomus XIV, 1895, 373?395; Acta sanctorum, October, iii, 833?883) try to obscure it, they appear to have been lovers, who may have renounced further physical contact after their conversion; the term erastes appears in one manuscript as Boswell, who called my attention to these saints, assures me. Then as now many gay couples belonged to a hostile Church without giving up their love for each other.

When Theodosius II codified the laws of the fourth and early fifth centuries in 438, he omitted the reference restricting the anti?gay law of his grandfather to male whores of the bordellos, thus condemning all passive, but not yet active gays (Codex Theodosius, IX, 7.5). Thus homosexuality as such condemned by Paul and his Old Testament models was not condemned by Roman law until after the fall of the West in 476. Nevertheless, Fathers, particularly the Gallic monk Salvian in De Gubernatione Dei, written between 439 and 453, alleged in Old Prophetic fashion that God sent the morally pure Germans, who did not practice sodomy, to punish the Romans, sullied among other corruptions by sodomy.

Latin texts (Juvenal, Satires II and XIII; Tacitus, Germania, 12; and Salvian, De gubernatione Dei, VII, 18 ff.) attest to the diffusion of the Classical idea of decline from a mythical Golden Age into an era of softness and vice–including same-sex relations. 43

The historian Procopius alleged that Justinian I (527-565) persecuted sodomites, Jews, and heretics to acquire money (Secret History,). Justinian, the sponsor of the most remarkable legal code in antiquity, which is impregnated with Christianity, consigned sodomites who caused “famines, earthquakes, and pestilences” to the flames, decreeing these “extreme punishments,” however, only for those who did not mend their ways (Novella 77). Novella 141 in 559, recalling God’s punishment on Sodom and Paul’s condemnation of “debaucheries between men,” ordered the homosexuals of Constantinople, active as well as passive, to confess sincerely to the Patriarch to reform their morals or suffer the legal penalties, i.e., the flames prescribed in the earlier novella. “When a man gives himself to a husband like a woman who rejects all virility.” Once more the law struck only passives, continuing the pagan tradition of not condemning homosexuals as such, and the passage refers to existing laws not rigorously enforced.

Greek and Roman laws had condemned adultery, because it confused paternity, and fornication with free women, that likewise diminished a woman’s value, especially a virgin’s and therefore the property rights of the man to whom she belonged. They did not condemn bestiality at all and homosexuality only when it involved force, threat of force, or undue influence and only when a free citizen was harmed. Emperor Philip the Arab attempted unsuccessfully to prohibit male prostitution among free-born males. Christian laws naturally continued to condemn adultery and fornication, especially with virgins, without exemptions for slavery, although it is hard to believe they were enforced against masters. They punished sodomy and bestiality with greater ferocity and perhaps stricter enforcement first attacking male prostitutes, then all passives, and finally daring to attack even pederasts. Unlike the ante-Nicene Fathers, who sought to isolate sodomites by excommunication, a Christian version of the Classical practice of ostracism, the Church triumphant, led by Augustine, Chrysostom, and Salvian advocated physical extermination–the final solution to the sodomite problem.

Mobs could be as lethal as Emperors, often slaughtering the officially protected Jews, whom they considered Christkillers. In 415 the greatest female scholar of antiquity, the pagan Hypatia, who succeeded Theon as professor at Alexandria, fell victim to a mob goaded by monks inspired by St. Cyril, the bishop of Alexandria. Even under the attacks of mobs and clergy pederasty, homosexuality, and bisexuality continued though diminished. The pederastic tradition endured into the reign of Justinian. An advocate in Constantinople, Agathias of Myrina in Aeolis (c.536–582) who continued Procopius’s history to 558, composed the Daphniaca, brief erotic poems in epic meter, and collected a Cycle of New Epigrams featuring those from dead as well as living poets, including himself, that was to be incorporated into the Greek Anthology.

Of all the heterosexual romances, only in the fourth?century Chaereas and Callirhoe by Chariton of Aphrodisias did the love result in immediate marriage. A long series of misadventures, however, separated the lovers before they could consummate their marriage with almost the same result as in the others: each had to defend his virtue through many importunities during their long separation. In the face of these new adversities they showed the same heroism, endurance, and faithfulness with a strictly reciprocal sexual fidelity.

Ovid, Virgil, and Statius referred to a Hellenistic model for what has come down to us only in a very late alteration by the “divine” Musaeus, a fifth-century grammarian of whom we know nothing else and who put the final form on this poem of love and death of 340 lines. In this story of love at first sight, which is both an idyll and a small-scale epic Leander swam the Bosporus and scaled the tower where Hero awaited him with a lantern. This passionate tale of early teenage romance, paralleled by Ovid’s Pyramus and Thisbe, which also had a Hellenistic model, also ended tragically when Leander drowned in the swollen waves of the rough mid?winter sea after Hero’s lamp flickered out and he lost his way. The grief?stricken heroine jumped to her death.

In later Greek writing several pieces of contest literature appeared debating the relative merits of boys and women as love objects. Such a debate is featured in the novel Leucippe and Clitophon by Achilles Tatius (perhaps second century of our era). 44Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no name must have content

In Leucippus and Clitophon by Achilles Tatius (c. 450?), Clinias, unable to dissuade his lover, the hero Menelaus, from marriage, gave him good advice about how to win girls. Having never had sex with a woman, Menelaus called a boy’s kiss simple and natural, unlike the deceitful, licentious, and soft one of a woman. The central theme of a subplot is the rapturous love of the girl who remained a virgin by impressing the leader of a gang of pirates who captured her. Thus the romantic lovers typically kept themselves virgin until marriage; even alone in a cave they only embraced and kissed. They had to be pure in heart as well as physically until marriage, and love each other with equal intensity.

Thus there begins to develop an erotics different from the one that had taken its starting point in the love of boys, even though abstention from the sexual pleasures plays an important part in both. This new erotics organizes itself around the symmetrical and reciprocal relationship of a man and a woman, around the high value attributed to virginity, and around the complete union in which it finds perfection. 45 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no name must have content

Christopher Marlowe (1564?1593), a better dramatist than historian, summed up the inspiration gays have drawn from the Greek and Roman examples. And his claim that the following were at least bisexual cannot be disproved:

Great Alexander loved Hephaestion, The conquering Hercules for Hylas wept, And for Patroclus stern Achilles drooped. And not kings only, but the wisest men: The Roman Tully Cicero loved Octavius, Grave Socrates, wild Alcibiades.


NOTES - EPILOGUE

1. MacMullen (1982) 493.

2. Lilja (1983) 87.

3. Gibbon (1899)

4. [Book on eunuchs in Byzantine Empire.]

5. Rousselle (1983) 29. 6. Veyne in Aries and Bejin (1985) 31-32. 7. Ency. Brit., 11th ed., “Petronius.” 8. Richlin (1983) 44. 9. Verstraete (1987) 100?101.

10. Ibid. 96?97.

11. MacMullen (1982) 493?494.

12. MacMullen (1966) 46?48.

13. Rawson (1986) 27, 29.

14. “Veyne [1978] pp. 52 and 62 n.6, denies the whole notion of “l’amour contre?nature” in antiquity; still more emphatically, Boswell {1980} pp. 11?16, 21 n.40 (having to translate  ‘unseemly’, though it is applied to things like cannibalism!), 109?113 and elsewhere denying any perception of homosexuality as unnatural. He does not mention the probative words in the very lines he has cited for other purposes, e.g. pp.  58 (Plut.), 63 (Dion. Hal.), and 82 (Juv.), 77 (Epict.), and 152 (Ovid).” MacMullen (1982) 494.  

15. Foucault (1986)

16. 

17. MacMullen (1966) 141.

18. Lefkowitz and Fant (1982) 136.

19. Gibbon (1899) IV, Ch. XLIV, 509?510.

20. Fox (1987) 57.

21. Babut (1963) 55, 60.

22. Dynes (1985) 11.

23. Richlin (1983) 258 fn. 2.”At times Boswell [1980] ignores the difference felt by the Romans to exist between pederasty and “pathic” homosexuality (72), though he explains it himself (74?75); in his discussion of the lex Scantinia he speaks of ‘homosexuality’ without distinguishing between slave and ingenuus (68?70), as if the sexual use of slaves implies that the sexual use of the freeborn must be legal, or socially approved.” See also MacMullen (1966) 84 ff.

24. MacMullen (1982) 499. 

25. Verstraete (1987) 105.

26. Ibid. 102.

27. Veyne (1987) 2.

28. Fox (1987) 341.

29. Veyne (1987) 54.

30. MacMullen (1982) 500.

31. MacMullen (1966) 115?120.

32. Licht (1932) 425?426.

33. Cambridge Ancient History XII 582.

34. Dynes (1985) 37.

35. Foucault (1986) 232.

36. Gibbon (1899) I 316.

37. Veyne (1987) 178.

38. Gibbon (1899) VI 406.

39. Gibbon (1899) VI 404.

40. Licht (1932) 423.

41. Cambridge Ancient History XII 620.

42.

43. Harl (1987) 83.

44. Cambridge Ancient History XII 267?268.

45. Ibid. 189.

46. Gibbon (1898) X 561.

47. Lefkowitz (1982) 137.

48. Foucault (1986) 39.

49. Ibid. 41.

50. Ibid. 48.

51. Ibid. 99.

52. Ibid. 57.

53. Ibid. 140?141.

54. Vatin (1970) 203?206.

55. Ibid. 77.

56. Rousselle (1988) 64.

57. Schweitzer (1906).

58. Crompton (1985) 259?260.

59. Parkes (1934) 110?111.

60. Johansson (1984) following Schulthess (1922).  

61. Goody (1983) 87. M. Stern in Ben?Sasson (1976) 251.

62. Dynes (1985) 19.

63. Smith (1978) vii.

64. Harnack (1957).

65. Smith (1978) 2.  

66. Johansson (1981) 1?7.  

67. Maccoby (1984) 39?42.

68. Cohn (1975) xvi?xvii.

69. Ibid. 1?4; 7.  

70. Ibid. 9.  

71. Rudolph (1987) 59?61.  

72. Ibid. 270?272.

73. Cumont (1911) viii?xii; xxi?xxiii.  

74. Parkes (1934) 84.  

75. Johanssen (1981) 8.  

76. Dynes in Johansson (1981) 9.

77. Lauritsen in Johansson (1981) 18.

78. Brown in Veyne (1987) 260, 263, 266.  

79. Ibid. 287.  

80. Ibid. 289.  

81. Ibid. 304.

82. Ibid. 290. Ibid. 298.

83. Symonds (1873) I 292.

84. Ibid. II 162.

85. De Ridder and Deonna (1924) 110.

86. Fox (1986) 669?670.

87. Ibid.

88. Smith (1978) 1?2.

89. Ibid. 2.

90. Bernay?Vilbert (1975) 453 to the contrary.

91.

92. Brown (1967) 390.

93. Dynes (1985) 12?13.

94. Percy in Dynes (1990) 226.

95. Laistner (1951) 87, 94.

96. Ibid. 110.

97. Boswell (1980) 347.

98. Brown in Veyne (1987) 298.

99. Percy in Dynes (1990) 227.

100. Ibid. 40.

101. Oxford Classical Dictionary (1970) 1056.

102. Laistner (1951) 81.

</div>


<a href="#_ftnref1" name="_ftn1">[1]</a> Charles Cutler Torrey, The Composition and Historical Value of Ezra-Nehemiah (Giessen: J. Ricker'sche Buchhandlung, 1896), p. 52.

<a href="#_ftnref2" name="_ftn2"> [2]</a> Op. cit. 22-23.

<a href="#_ftnref3" name="_ftn3">[3]</a> Sean E. McEvenue, “The Political Structure in Judah from Cyrus to Nehemiah,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 43: 361 n. 22 (1981).

<a href="#_ftnref4" name="_ftn4"> [4]</a> Op. cit., p. 62.

<a href="#_ftnref5" name="_ftn5"> [5]</a> The sanhedrin (from the Greek synédrion) was the highest legislative and judicial body of the Jewish state: it encacted laws and heard capital cases.

<a href="#_ftnref6" name="_ftn6"> [6]</a> The very name is the Bedouin Arabic dialectal form sudummatu “sea,” just as Gomorrah is _umurratu in the same meaning. The Classical Arabic forms are sutummatun and _amratun. Paul Anton de Lagarde had noted that the names were doublets as long ago as 1889.

<a href="#_ftnref7" name="_ftn7"> [7]</a> The founder and later president of Cornell University, Andrew Dickson White, established this negative finding beyond a doubt in his History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896), which devoted two whole chapters to the rise and decline of the legend. He based his arguments on the investigations of the French geologist Louis Lartet published in the third volume of the work of his patron the Duc de Luynes, Voyage d'exploration à la mer Morte, à Petra et sur la rive gauche du Jourdain (1871-75), particularly the chapter entitled “Formation du bassin de la mer Morte”. For the phenomena associated with the supposed site of the conflagration, and constantly evoked by the imagination of pious travelers, Lartet offered a scientific explanation: in prehistoric time it had been submerged by the Dead Sea, which covered a wider area than at present, and the fall of the water level, even by just a few meters, exposed the surfaces whose barrenness and desolation were then ascribed in the folklore of the Bedouin inhabiting the eastern and southern shores to divine retribution for the depravity of the erstwhile inhabitants. Though almost totally ignored by twentieth-century scholarship, this work has been confirmed by recent carbon-14 dating which shows that there was no urban culture in Palestine in the so-called period of the patriarchs. The book of Genesis in its totality has been erased from history: its background is anachronistic, Canaan in the period 1350-1300 B.C., on the eve of the Israelite invasion.

<a href="#_ftnref8" name="_ftn8"> [8]</a> The burning sulphur expelled by an erupting volcano, even though there has been no volcanic activity in Palestine in historic time. The motif was transferred from the volcanic regions on the eastern and southern rim of the Dead Sea, where eruptions occurred as late as the thirteenth Christian century.

<a href="#_ftnref9" name="_ftn9"> [9]</a> In quite recent times the French Catholic Orientalist Louis Massignon, who devoted much of his career to studying Islamic mysticism, composed a work entitled Les trois prières d'Abraham. II. La prière pour Sodome (1930). It was inspired by the incoherently assembled dialogue in Genesis 18, where Abraham pleads for the wicked city only to be told that there are not ten righteous men in Sodom. Massignon–the teacher of Henri-Irénée Marrou–professed to have discovered the “spiritual causes” of inversion, but his speculations in fact amount to the most sophisticated piece of theological homophobia in the twentieth century.

<a href="#_ftnref10" name="_ftn10">[10]</a> Op. cit., p. 62.

<a href="#_ftnref11" name="_ftn11"> [11]</a> The sanhedrin (from the Greek synédrion) was the highest legislative and judicial body of the Jewish state: it encacted laws and heard capital cases.

<a href="#_ftnref12" name="_ftn12"> [12]</a> John Boswell began his case that mainstream Christians were no more hostile to homosexuality than adultery or fornication with the spurious argument derived from Bailey (1955) that the Sodomites were punished for inhospitality rather than homosexuality by claiming like Bailey that “to know” in Hebrew meant “to get acquainted with a stranger” so as not to feel threatened by his presence, although in the same chapter Lot offers to the Sodomites his daughters “who had not yet known a man” (Genesis 19), which was of course the normal sense of the word. In any case all Jewish tradition interprets Genesis as well as the outrage at Gibeah (Judges) parallel to the Sodom story as a discussion of homosexuality. The Bailey/Boswell thesis is tendentious nonsense popular with Dignity and other neo?Christian homosexual circles. This is a communication from Lester Segal, Rabbi and Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts?Boston:

The upshot of Genesis 19:4?11 is that although the Sodomites were, to judge from the context, bi?sexual (after all, Lot offers them his daughters), the meaning of verse 5, “that we may know them” is: to be sexually intimate with. (1) Although the “sin” of Sodom need by no means have been limited to homosexuality (2) there is, Bailey notwithstanding, no getting away from the meaning of “that we may know them” as sexual intimacy. This is the essence of Nahum Sarna's view of the matter, who also emphasizes the clear Pentateuchal legislation regarding homosexuality (3).

Let me add the following three observations:

1. With respect to the verb “know” in the context of Genesis 19, it is I think of some relevance to note that in verse 8, the same Hebrew verb is used by Lot when he says: “See I have two daughters who have not known a man”–a not uncommon Hebrew biblical way of referring to an unmarried woman.

2. For the likely variety of Sodomite wrongdoing, see e.g. Genesis 13:13, Ezekiel, 16: 49?50. These are cited by Bailey, too, p. 9.

3. Bailey, p. 37, acknowledges the legislation in Leviticus, despite the problems he finds in ascertaining the precise other ancient Near Eastern practice in this regard. With respect to Leviticus, I consider it highly unlikely–purely as a matter of the realities that law codes are prone to reflect that “they (i.e. the relevant verses in Leviticus) are simply items of abstract legislation designed to provide against a future possible occurrence of the offenses penalized” (Bailey, p. 29).

<a href="#_ftnref13" name="_ftn13">[13]</a>Gomorrah is _umurratu in the same meaning. The Classical Arabic forms are sutummatun and _amratun.

<a href="#_ftnref14" name="_ftn14">[14]</a> The founder and later president of Cornell University, Andrew Dickson White, established this negative finding beyond a doubt in his History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896), which devoted two whole chapters to the rise and decline of the legend. He based his arguments particularly on the investigations of the French geologist Edouard Lartet published in the five-volume work of his patron the Duc de Luynes, Voyage d'exploration à la mer Morte, à Petra et sur la rive gauche du Jourdain (1871-75). For the phenomena associated with the supposed site of the conflagration he offered a scientific explanation: in prehistoric time it had been submerged by the Dead Sea, which covered a wider area than at present, and the fall of the water level exposed the surfaces whose barrenness and desolation were then ascribed in the folklore of the Bedouin inhabiting the eastern and southern shores to divine retribution for the depravity of the erstwhile inhabitants. Though almost totally ignored by twentieth-century scholarship, this work has been confirmed by recent carbon-14 dating which shows that there was no urban culture in Palestine in the so-called period of the patriarchs. The book of Genesis in its totality has been erased from history: its background is anachronistic, Canaan in the period 1350-1300 B.C., on the eve of the Israelite invasion.

<a href="#_ftnref15" name="_ftn15">[15]</a> The burning sulphur expelled by an erupting volcano, even though there has been no volcanic activity in Palestine in historic time. The motif was transferred from the volcanic regions on the eastern and southern rim of the Dead Sea, where eruptions occurred as late as the thirteenth Christian century.

<a href="#_ftnref16" name="_ftn16">[16] In quite recent times the French Catholic Orientalist Louis Massignon, who devoted much of his career to studying Islamic mysticism, composed a work entitled Les trois prières d'Abraham. II. La prière pour Sodome (1930). It was inspired by the incoherently assembled dialogue in Genesis 18, where Abraham pleads for the wicked city only to be told that there are not ten righteous men in Sodom. Massignon–the teacher of Henri-Irénée Marrou–professed to have discovered the “spiritual causes” of inversion, but his speculations in fact amount to the most sophisticated piece of theological homophobia in the twentieth century.

<a href="#_ftnref17" name="_ftn17">[17]</a> Konrat Ziegler, “Menschen- und Weltenwerden. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Mikrokosmosidee.” Neue Jahrbücher für das klassische Altertum 31: 571-572 (1913).

  1. Charles Cutler Torrey, The Composition and Historical Value of Ezra-Nehemiah (Giessen: J. Ricker'sche Buchhandlung, 1896), p. 52.
  2. Op. cit. 22-23
  3. [3] Sean E. McEvenue, “The Political Structure in Judah from Cyrus to Nehemiah,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 43: 361 n. 22 (1981).
  4. [4] Op. cit., p. 62
  5. [5] The sanhedrin (from the Greek synédrion) was the highest legislative and judicial body of the Jewish state: it encacted laws and heard capital cases.
  6. [6] The very name is the Bedouin Arabic dialectal form sudummatu “sea,” just as Gomorrah is _umurratu in the same meaning. The Classical Arabic forms are sutummatun and _amratun. Paul Anton de Lagarde had noted that the names were doublets as long ago as 1889.
  7. [7] The founder and later president of Cornell University, Andrew Dickson White, established this negative finding beyond a doubt in his History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896), which devoted two whole chapters to the rise and decline of the legend. He based his arguments on the investigations of the French geologist Louis Lartet published in the third volume of the work of his patron the Duc de Luynes, Voyage d'exploration à la mer Morte, à Petra et sur la rive gauche du Jourdain (1871-75), particularly the chapter entitled “Formation du bassin de la mer Morte”. For the phenomena associated with the supposed site of the conflagration, and constantly evoked by the imagination of pious travelers, Lartet offered a scientific explanation: in prehistoric time it had been submerged by the Dead Sea, which covered a wider area than at present, and the fall of the water level, even by just a few meters, exposed the surfaces whose barrenness and desolation were then ascribed in the folklore of the Bedouin inhabiting the eastern and southern shores to divine retribution for the depravity of the erstwhile inhabitants. Though almost totally ignored by twentieth-century scholarship, this work has been confirmed by recent carbon-14 dating which shows that there was no urban culture in Palestine in the so-called period of the patriarchs. The book of Genesis in its totality has been erased from history: its background is anachronistic, Canaan in the period 1350-1300 B.C., on the eve of the Israelite invasion.
  8. [8] The burning sulphur expelled by an erupting volcano, even though there has been no volcanic activity in Palestine in historic time. The motif was transferred from the volcanic regions on the eastern and southern rim of the Dead Sea, where eruptions occurred as late as the thirteenth Christian century.
  9. [9] In quite recent times the French Catholic Orientalist Louis Massignon, who devoted much of his career to studying Islamic mysticism, composed a work entitled Les trois prières d'Abraham. II. La prière pour Sodome (1930). It was inspired by the incoherently assembled dialogue in Genesis 18, where Abraham pleads for the wicked city only to be told that there are not ten righteous men in Sodom. Massignon–the teacher of Henri-Irénée Marrou–professed to have discovered the “spiritual causes” of inversion, but his speculations in fact amount to the most sophisticated piece of theological homophobia in the twentieth century.
  10. [17] Konrat Ziegler, “Menschen- und Weltenwerden. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Mikrokosmosidee.” Neue Jahrbücher für das klassische Altertum 31: 571-572 (1913).
  11. Johansson (n.d.)
  12. Dynes (1985) 78
  13. Horsley (1985) 12-13
  14. M. Stern in Ben-Sasson (1976) 251
  15. Horsley (1985)
  16. Schweitzer (1906)
  17. Crompton (1985) 259-260
  18. Parkes (1934) 110-111
  19. Johansson (1984) following Schulthess (1922)
  20. Goody (1983) 87. M. Stern in Ben-Sasson (1976) 251
  21. Dynes (1985) 19.
  22. Smith (1978) vii.
  23. Harnack (1957).
  24. Smith (1978) 2
  25. Johansson (1981) 1-7
  26. Maccoby (1984) 39-42
  27. Cohn (1975) xvi-xvii
  28. Ibid. 1?4; 7.
  29. Ibid. 9
  30. Rudolph (1987) 59-61
  31. Ibid. 270-272
  32. Cumont (1911) viii-xii; xxi-xxiii
  33. Parkes (1934) 84
  34. Brown in Veyne (1987) 260, 263, 266
  35. Dynes in Johansson (1981) 9
  36. Lauritsen in Johansson (1981) 18
  37. Brown in Veyne (1987) 287
  38. Ibid. 289
  39. Ibid. 304
  40. Ibid. 290
  41. Ibid. 298
  42. Symonds (1873) I 292
  43. Ibid. II 162
  44. De Ridder and Deonna (1924) 110
  45. Fox (1986) 669-670
  46. Smith (1978) 1-2
  47. Ibid. 2
  48. Bernay-Vilbert (1975) 453
  49.  ??
  50. Dynes (1985) 12-13



THE PENTATEUCH, CONSTITUTION OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY

Contrary to traditional belief, the Law of Moses could not have existed at the time when the Israelites invaded the land of Canaan, nor during the period of tribal amphictyony, nor even at the beginning of the First Commonwealth. The paramount cultural influence during all that time was Egyptian, and the Egyptians had no law codes–only laws. It was only in the last century of the old kingdom (680-586 B.C.) that Babylonian influence replaced Egyptian, and since the Babylonians codified their laws (the Code of Hammurabi being the most celebrated example) the client people followed suit. The first stage in this evolution is the book of Deuteronomy that was supposedly discovered in the Temple in the reign of King Josiah (622 B.C.).

The composition of the Pentateuch in the form in which it became a sacred text belongs to the Persian period, and its motivation was external. It stemmed from the wish of the Jewish com­munity living under Persian rule to gain autonomy.

The Babylonians and after them the Persians had annexed Judah (the former southern kingdom) to the province of Samaria (the former northern kingdom) and placed it under the authority of that governorship. Its status was not to change until 445 B.C. when Artaxerxes I commissioned his Jewish cupbearer Nehemiah as governor of Judah. When Nehemiah began to construct a wall around Jerusalem, ho was creating the fortifications needed by a provincial capital–a capital for the former southern kingdom which effectively deprived Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, of a segment of his province.

To secure the recognition of provincial autonomy by the Persian authorities, the Jewish community needed a written constitution–not absolutely new, but compiled by the scribes from surviving texts and traditions. In the form that subsequently became canonical it dates from the beginning of the fourth century, and is the work of Ezra the Scribe and the descendants of the priestly caste still residing in Babylon. In the last analysis it was a pious fraud, although its priestly editors could not have conceived it as such: it derived its authority from the historical fiction that it had been dictated by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai–a belief that critical scholarship unanimously rejects. From beginning to end it was a self-serving forgery with political aims: to affirm the claims of the Jewish community to the territory of Palestine, and to consolidate the role of the priesthood as its ruling elite.

The editing of the Pentateuch was clumsy and inconsistent; its main object was to draft a constitution for the Jewish community that would be ratified and enforced by the Persian authorities. For more than two centuries critical scholarship has struggled to uncover the source of particular narratives and laws by identifying peculiarities of language and style. What is certain is that the community which received the code as a divine mandate had no training in logic or in literary analysis. Dialogue with religious foes of the homophile movement is largely fruitless because the other side either insists that the Levitical statutes are an authentic revelation to Moses on Mt. Sinai, or holds that “all that matters is what is believed today.” In either case, for homophile apologists to concede one or the other is tantamount to losing the argument.

BEGINNING OF JEWISH HOMOPHOBIA

The significance of the Persian period for the evolution of the Jewish attitude toward homosexuality is that only then did Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 become part of the Mosaic Law, the constitution of the sacral community that formed on the ruins of the Judean state after its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. During the two centuries of Persian rule, it is true, homosexuality did not preoccupy the leaders of the Jewish community. Intermarriage with non-Jews was their major worry, and in the reign of Artaxerxes II Mnemon (397 B.C.) the book of Ezra has the children of Israel assemble humbled and penitent to enter into a formal covenant the first clause of which is “that we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, not take their daughters for our sons” (10:31). On this Torrey commented in 1896: “Race exclusiveness is not brought about suddenly and violently, by a wave of the hand. Whether the Chr[onicle]r’s purpose in this part of the narrative was to account for this same exclusiveness, or to work in its interests” he preferred to leave outside of speculation.<a href="#_ftn10" name="_ftnref10" title="">[10]</a> In order to prove that it was “demanded by the Jewish Law” this prohibition was read into Leviticus 18:21 and 20:2-6, which formally ban the sacrificing of children to Moloch. Subsequently, when Judea became independent thanks to Roman protection, the “Hasmonean Sanhedrin” (ca. 140 B.C.)<a href="#_ftn11" name="_ftnref11" title="">[11]</a> made sexual intercourse between Jews and non-Jews a crime punishable by death. Perhaps in deference to the belief that “God is long-suffering with all sins except fornication” later passages in the Talmud and the commentators added that the culprit was not even to be hailed before a court but to be lynched by vigilantes on the spot!

There is no suggestion that a falling birth rate was ever a problem in that era, or that the prohibition (of male, though not of female homosexuality) had other than purely religious motives. Needless to say, the law could not be enforced apodictically, it required the police power of the Persian state, and specifically the authority which at the behest of the Jewish authorities the governor exercised to dispossess, flog or even execute whoever disobeyed their commandments. At that time, to be sure, the Mosaic Law had no significance save for the adherents of the Jewish cult, and its followers were but one of many subject peoples scattered across the vast realm of the King of Kings. So undistinguished were they that no Greek author before Alexander the Great mentions them in any connection. The Greek name of the territory, Palaistina, was taken from the Philistines who occupied the coastal cities. It was only in the Maccabean era (beginning in 142 B.C.) and under Roman protection that Jewry achieved not only political independence once again but a visible role in world history.

Also included in the Pentateuch was the book of Genesis, which modern scholarship dismisses as pseudo-history, or at best a historical novel, which at times includes two incompatible versions of the same event. This work–probably assembled in the fifth century–recounts the destruction of Sodom and three other “cities of the plain.” The final version of the legend of Abraham devotes two and a half chapters of the fifteen (one-sixth of the whole narrative) to Sodom and its vicissitudes, incorporating the legend of Lot, Abraham’s nephew. Lot has the same function throughout the narrative: he is continually rescued from the misfortunes that befall him because of his residence in Sodom. In short, it is a Bedouin folk tale about the perils of city life. In chapter 14 Abraham is depicted as a Bedouin sheikh with an armed retinue that saves Lot when the cities of the plain are overwhelmed by an invading coalition. In the second half of chapter 18 he pleads for the city which God has determined to destroy. The crucial incident involving the two visitors, Lot and his daughters, and the “men of Sodom” (ch. 19) was adapted from the account of the outrage at Gibeah in Judges 19. Even though no homosexual act occurs in either narrative, the episode of Lot in Sodom with its doubly miraculous dénouement offered the point of departure for the myth that four of the five cities were divinely punished for the depravity of their inhabitants, although the Biblical account says nothing about the other three.<a href="#_ftn12" name="_ftnref12" title="">[12]</a> However, the aition took two variants: that the Sodomites practiced sexual vices among themselves, or that they violated the laws of hospitality by assaulting and violating strangers who set foot on their territory. The second variant was extensively developed in midrashic writings well into the Middle Ages.

Critical scholarship has established that Sodom never existed<a href="#_ftn13" name="_ftnref13" title="">[13]</a> and that the entire story is a geographical legend conceived by the mythopoetic mind of the ancients, although crypto-fundamentalists are still vainly searching for the site of the ruined cities.<a href="#_ftn14" name="_ftnref14" title="">[14]</a> The two and a half chapters devoted to Sodom are so riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions that they amount to a fairy tale, not a credible account of a historic event. But the first variant as suggested in Genesis 19 joined with destruction by “brimstone and fire”<a href="#_ftn15" name="_ftnref15" title="">[15] </a> reinforced all the paranoia latent in the prohibition of male homosexuality in Leviticus, and powerfully contributed to what I have dubbed the “sodomy delusion.” Moreover, the association with Abraham, the first monotheist who rejected idolatry and worshipped the true God, made the Sodom legend part of the heritage of all three “Abrahamic religions”: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.<a href="#_ftn16" name="_ftnref16" title="">[16]</a>


MOUNTING HOMOPHOBIA: JUBILEES, THE TESTAMENTS OF THE TWELVE PATRIARCHS, THE SYBILLINE ORACLES, PSEUDO-PHOCYLIDES



JUDAISM IN THE HELLENISTIC PERIOD

If in the tenth century, the moment of the founding of the monarchy (the so-called “First Commonwealth”), the sexual mores of the Israelites differed little from those of the Hellenes, then in their dark age following the collapse of Minoan civilization, when the two peoples confronted each other in the wake of the conquests of Alexander the Great they had developed radically opposed codes of morality. The Jews had adopted the Mosaic Law which forbade male homo­sexuality on pain of death; the Greeks had institutionalized paiderasteia and made it the foundation of their system of selecting and educating the most promising youths. The two beliefs were and would always be incompatible; it only remained to be seen which would vanquish the other.

COMPLETION OF THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES:
THE PROPHETS AND HAGIOGRAPHA REACTION TO HELLENIZATION

In 175 B.C.E. Judean priestly and lay nobility, eager to enjoy the benefits of Hellenistic civilization, seized on the ascent to power of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (God-manifest) as the occasion to carry out a “reform.” (As impecunious as all Seleucid sovereigns since the Peace of Apamea in 188 imposed tribute to Rome upon them) They first had the High Priest Onias III’s brother Joshua, who assumed the Greek name Jason, depose Onias by purchasing the high priesthood for himself by offering Antiochus consider­ably more than the usual tribute of 300 talents. Jason then offered Antiochus another 150 talents for “permission to establish by his authority a gymnasion and a body of youth for it, and to enroll the men of Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch. ... He at once shifted his countrymen over to the Greek way of life” (2 Macc. 4:9-10; see also 1 Macc. 1:13). Thus Jason and the reform party transformed Jerusalem into a Hellenistic city named Antioch (in honor of the ostensible “founder,” Antiochus IV). They organized the citizen-body, probably recruited from the upper priestly families and gentry interested in “modernizing” the society. The establishment of a gymnasion and an ephêbion were essential to the city’s Hellenistic constitution. These provided education appropriate for the training of young men for participation in the citizen-body, according to the usual Greek pattern. The gymnasion was built directly under the citadel on the temple hill itself. “The noblest of the young men” were induced “to wear the Greek hat” (the sun hat symbolic of Hermes), and “the priests were no longer intent upon their service at the altar. Despising the sanctuary and neglecting the sacrifices, they hastened to take part in the unlawful proceedings in the wrestling arena after the call to the discus, disdaining the honors prized by their fathers and putting the highest value upon the Greek forms of prestige” (2 Macc. 4:12, 14-15). Hellenizing Jews ashamed of the symbol of their traditional covenant with God, now embarrassingly evident when they participated in the games naked, sought to “remove the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant” (1 Macc. 1:15).5[1]

THE MACCABEAN UPRISING

Soon after at the small town of Modein northwest of Jerusalem, the aged priest Mattathias slew the Seleucid officer who had raised a pagan altar and the Jew who complied with his order to sacrifice at it. The rebels against the “abomination of desolation” fled to the hills. Mattathias’s four sons led by Judas took charge, called Hasmoneans after the old priest’s grandfather or Maccabeans after Judas “the hammer,” the etymology being still uncertain. Forced by Rome out of Egypt, which he had just almost overrun in hopes of bolstering his fisc, the embittered Antiochus pillaged the Temple in 168, razed the walls, and ensconced a garrison of Greeks and Hellenized Syrians in a citadel erected near the Temple which was consecrated to the Olympian Zeus to whom swine’s blood was offered on the altar. The Torah was burnt and harlots were introduced to the Temple in which a statue of Zeus was erected. Unable to suppress the Jewish revolt because he was busy fighting the Parthian uprising, Antiochus sent against Judas generals who failed and in any case retired upon his death (164).

Judas liberated Jerusalem, demolished the gymnasium, and cleansed the Temple, rebuilding it exactly three years after its desecration, but he could not dislodge the garrison. In the confusion surrounding the accession of Demetrius, Jason managed to consolidate his power by making peace with the Hasidim, the “pious party” who had at first opposed his insistence on fighting on the Sabbath and a treaty with Rome. Jewry never was capable of securing independence by force of its own arms; the Jewish state owed its existence to Roman intervention in the Near East, and ultimately was destroyed when it clashed with Roman hegemony.

In 142 Judas’s brother Simon secured independence as a client of the Roman Republic by capturing and demolishing the citadel and dates began to be reckoned from “the first year of Simon, High Priest, commander and leader of the Jews.” After his son John Hyrcanus (135-105) had resisted renewed Seleucid incursions and gained finally their alliance, he forcibly converted the Idumaeans, bringing prosperity but quarrelling with the Pharisees who condemned his combination of the high priesthood and temporal power. His sons’ support of the Sadducees provoked Pharisaic criticism. Pompey intervened in the bitter succession dispute of his sons and sacked Jerusalem, slaying twelve thousand including the priests at the altar. Neither Gabinius nor his successor Crassus who plundered the Temple could restore order. In 51, thirty thousand Jews were enslaved for supporting the Parthians. Judea suffered in the wars between Caesar and Pompey. Mark Antony finally aided the rise to power of Herod who married a niece of Antipater, one of the last Hasmoneans, but later in a fit of jealousy murdered her.

An unusual amount of city building and a big influx of Greeks aggravated tensions in Palestine; parasitic cities preyed on Jewish peasants. From the outbreak of the Maccabean revolt, which was never really stamped out, poorer Jews persisted in fighting their Hellenized upper class as well as their Greek masters. After the Maccabees, who at their height ruled an area comparable to modern Israel, succumbed in 63, the Romans installed the repressive Herod in 41, reducing the size of his kingdom and favoring the Greek cities over the Jewish countryside.


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