[XTalk] Re: Eunuchery for the sake of the kingdom of heaven
- Steve Davies wrote:
>Or perhaps because it was not "until our times" that scholars began to
> I'm not at all sure that he is EVER portrayed as not-celibate. At least
> not until our times when anything goes.
consider J really human and realized the social constraints on
historical persons in antiquity. The question is where in the NT is J
actually portrayed as celibate, as if to marry or not was a social
option for him?
Paul did not seem to have positive info that J was celibate. Otherwise,
his imitatio Christi soteriology would probably have led him mention it
in 1 Cor. Instead he says this (1 Cor 7:25-28):
"Now concerning virgins, I have *no* prescription (EPITAGH) from the
Lord. But *I* give *my* opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is
trustworthy. *I* think that in view of the *present* distress it is well
for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Don't seek to
be free. Are you free from a wife? Don't seek marriage."
Note 3 things in this passage:
1. Paul claims no precedent from Jesus for his answer to the
Corinthians' question regarding marriage. EPITAGH could be a dominical
saying but, as is evident from his advice to the Corinthians regarding
the Lord's supper, it could also be a reference to J's example. So Paul
apparently had *no* information regarding the question -- What would
Jesus say or do? Apparently the issue had never come up before.
2. So forced to fall back on his own opinion, Paul considers his view of
the *current* circumstances of his readers. Therefore, he makes no
pretense to base his advice to remain unmarried on historical precedent.
3. Paul's advise does *not* privilege celibacy but rather the status
quo, which would mean celibacy only for those who were currently
unmarried. In a world in which marriages were contracted by families
while children were still young this would not have been taken as a
prescription for general celibacy. And since he urges those who are
married *not* to seek their independence, sexual celibacy cannot have
been his concern. Rather, his advice is based solely on *his* opinion
that *current* troubles did not favor the making of *new* marriage
commitments. Since *he* viewed the time as "short" with the "form of
this world passing away," he didn't see any sense into a social state
designed to bring more children into "this world." So why get married,
IF one was not already. On the other hand, he did not think that current
conditions provided a pretext for voiding marriage vows. For on that, he
did think he had a directive from the Lord [Jesus] (1 Cor 7:10-11).
So Paul obviously considered marriage to be normal in "this world"
--which was, after all, the world in which Jesus had lived "according to
the flesh." And apparently he did not think that this fleshly Jesus who
was born of woman under the law had himself provided any precedent for
preferring celibacy to marriage.
The gospels also are silent on Jesus' celibacy. So the idea that Jesus
himself was celibate by choice or by circumstance is pure speculation
based on silence. The high christology of the gospel writers --
presenting Jesus as son of God or even God incarnate -- obviously
precluded representing him as a sexual being whose personal status was
conditioned by social conventions. And all the gospels remain Jewish
enough to avoid portraying Jesus in a way that might lead to him being
confused by Greek readers with a sexual god like Zeus. So one would not
expect these writers to mention that Jesus had consummated a marriage
even if he did.
There are two good reasons marriage remains a historical possibility for
1. The gospels only provide data for a rather brief period in J's adult
life. Assuming that this covers a period when HJ was between 25 and 35
years old & that he was a normal male reaching puberty about 12, there
were at least 13 (or 23) of his adult years for which we have no
information. A lot can happen in that time frame. Too much to take
celibacy for granted.
2. Celibacy was an exception in 1st c. Jewish culture, which took the
biblical injunction to procreate as a religious & even theological
obligation. Unless HJ was a known bastard or had been raised by the
Essenes "among the palms" by the Dead Sea, it is likely that some
marriage was arranged for him when quite young. If he refused to
consummate it on reaching puberty, he probably would have been branded a
rebellious son. For Jewish children generally did not have the option of
annulling a parental decision. Of course, his bride-to-be could have
died before the wedding. But in the absence of positive testimony to
that effect, other historical scenarios are possible. His wife could
have died in childbirth, or of any number of diseases, sometime before
his baptism. Or she could have stayed home with the children while he
went off to JB. Or she could have accompanied him during his itineracy,
like Peter's wife (according to Paul) -- who BTW is also not mentioned
in the gospels.
But of all the possible scenarios regarding HJ's sexuality, life-long
celibacy for a Jewish male in the 1st c. CE is the least historically
probable. Even more so, given the testimony of Paul.
Mahlon H. Smith, http://religion.rutgers.edu/mhsmith.html
Department of Religion
New Brunswick NJ
Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus
>>Duly noted. I hadn't thought of that.
>> >I'm not at all sure that he is EVER portrayed as not-celibate. At least
>> >not until our times when anything goes.
>> I had two things in mind when I said this. One is a gopel (of Adam, I
>> think, or perhaps Eve--I read about it a long time ago and haven't been
>> able to find it since) in which it is said that Jesus went up to a
>> mountain, had sex with Mary Magdeline, performed withdrawal, consumed his
>> own semen, and then consumed Mary's menstrual fluid. This, according to
>> the group authoring the gospel, was his institution of the Eucharist
>> (eating the body and drinking the blood--it's all really disgusting). As I
>> remember, this is a fairly old gospel (i.e., 2nd or 3rd century), but I'm
>> not sure of this.
>I once used to wonder ... not if this sort of thing was true, but whether
>evil gnostics and carpocratians said it was true. But now I'm convinced
>that it is Orthodox propagandizing and that nobody ever said if was so.
>There are all manner of books about Catholics and Mormons etc. that
>accuse them of vile things they never even thought of, and surely that
>also was a technique used way back when.
>An ex-nun once told me that she had heard a person claim that the reason
>> The other thing I had in mind is the fragment of the letter from Clement of
>> Alexandria wherein he introduces us to the Secret Gospel of Mark and talks
>> about the Carpocratians. Evidently, the Carpocratians inserted the phrase
>> "naked man lying with naked man" into the gospel, presumably to support
>> their own libertine practices.
>That "presumably" is naive. I myself would presume that their libertine
>practices were ascribed to them in order to denigrate them. Same as
>libertine practices were ascribed to nuns to denigrate them.
that so many Catholic churches sponsor orphanages is that nuns would have
sex with priests in a secret underground passage connecting the convent to
the rectory, and they needed a place to put all the babies. This is
obviously not true, but many claims by young boys to having been raped by
priests and brothers are sadly very true. So, you're right, the
"presumably" is naive; we have no idea whether Clement was lying or telling
>I was working from memory (bad habit, but I thought the quote was short
>Also it was
>"naked man with naked man" without the "lying" verb. It's you who
>introduce the "lying" part for reasons we dassn't speculate upon.
enough to remember accurately). Apparently, I conflated the actual text
with Clement's intimation that the Carpocratians used the quote for the
support of libertine practices.
>Interesting point. Which book/chapter/verse are you referring to in the
>you assume they were engaged in the telling of falsehoods escapes me.
>Bear in mind anyhow that Jesus was naked during the Last Supper and
>that Peter, in one of my favorite Scripture Passages, is out floating in
>his boat, buck naked, and, when he spies Jesus on the shore, puts
>on his clothes and jumps in the lake. The nudity theme in the gospels
>hasn't been carefully studied yet IMHO.
To touch back on the original subject of this thread, however, I think it
much more plausible that Jesus was celibate, or at least that he preached
celibacy. This would fit better with Jewish religious movements of the day
(especially the Essenes, which share many--though not all--characteristics
with early Christianity). That's why I wondered whether there is
linguistic backing for a claim that Matt. 19:11-12 goes back to Jesus.
Franklin and Marshall College
- Nathan McGovern wrote:
> >Bear in mind anyhow that Jesus was naked during the Last Supper andJohn where he takes off his garments and wraps a cloth around him.
> >that Peter, in one of my favorite Scripture Passages, is out floating in
> >his boat, buck naked, and, when he spies Jesus on the shore, puts
> >on his clothes and jumps in the lake. The nudity theme in the gospels
> >hasn't been carefully studied yet IMHO.
> Interesting point. Which book/chapter/verse are you referring to in the
> former example.
What was he wearing in the inbetween?
- "Jeffrey B. Gibson" wrote:
>Don't throw out the NAB just yet. PORNEIA is what is used GMatt as the >equivalentof the Hebrew for "something unseemly"
How do you know this? How do you know what if any word in Hebrew
Matthew had in mind? I concede that Jack Kilmon knows these things but
you... how do you know?
> what the translators of the NAB have done is assume that Matthew, inI says again, it's a longtime interp because of internal xian needs. For your
> using EPI MH PORNEIA was here referring to marriages which were in violation of
> kinship bonds/consanguinuity, not adultery or even fornication -- a longstanding
> scholarly interpretation of the expression (see the literature cited in Heth and
> Wenham _Jesus and Divorce_).
case you need 1st century koine examples that point to porneia being
properly translated this way.
- Davies wrote:
> "Jeffrey B. Gibson" wrote:Because I had to work through not only the secondary literature on the subject but
> >Don't throw out the NAB just yet. PORNEIA is what is used GMatt as the >equivalent
> of the Hebrew for "something unseemly"
> How do you know this? How do you know what if any word in Hebrew
> Matthew had in mind? I concede that Jack Kilmon knows these things but
> you... how do you know?
also the Josephan, DSS, Philonic, Mishnaic, and Talmudic texts on Divorce, which like
Matt 19 all refer to Deut 24 and the notion of 'erwat dabar which that text allows as
the grounds for divorce, and who stood where and why on what that term was taken to
mean, when I wrote my chapter on the Divorce Question Testing in my thesis (and then
my book) on the Traditions of the Temptations of Jesus.
>I recognize that. But logically, whether or not it is because of a need says nothing
> > what the translators of the NAB have done is assume that Matthew, in
> > using EPI MH PORNEIA was here referring to marriages which were in violation of
> > kinship bonds/consanguinuity, not adultery or even fornication -- a longstanding
> > scholarly interpretation of the expression (see the literature cited in Heth and
> > Wenham _Jesus and Divorce_).
> I says again, it's a longtime interp because of internal xian needs. For your
> case you need 1st century koine examples that point to porneia being
> properly translated this way.
about the interp's truth.
In any case, I did not say that **I** supported the contention -- only that it has had
its defenders, and good ones at that -- notably, J.A. Fitzmyer (see his "Matthean
Divorce Texts and Some New Palestinian Evidence", TS 37  197-226). If I had to
guess why the NAB chose what they did to render PORNEIA, I'd lay even money that it was
because they found Fitzmyer's arguments convincing and not because they were
constrained by doctrine to do so.
Jeffrey B. Gibson
7423 N. Sheridan Road #2A
Chicago, Illinois 60626
- At 06:36 PM 11/7/99 -0500, you wrote:
>Your kidding right? He was wearing an undergarment under that tunic. To
> John where he takes off his garments and wraps a cloth around him.
>What was he wearing in the inbetween?
imply that he was prancing around as a nudie in some sort of exhibitionist
way is to give in to the crassest sort of grotesque popularizing titillation
imaginable. Soon I suppose you will tell us that he and the disciples were
all gay and that they had an orgy that night- all of course without the
least shred of textual or historical evidence.
That Jewish men of the first century wore undergarments is an established
fact. Where do you come up with this stuff Steve? Certainly not from
familiarity with the evidence.
Jim West, ThD
- Jim West wrote:
> At 06:36 PM 11/7/99 -0500, you wrote:Gee. No sooner do I take Jim West from the "automatic delete" file along
> > John where he takes off his garments and wraps a cloth around him.
> >What was he wearing in the inbetween?
> Your kidding right? He was wearing an undergarment under that tunic. To
> imply that he was prancing around as a nudie in some sort of exhibitionist
> way is to give in to the crassest sort of grotesque popularizing titillation
> imaginable. Soon I suppose you will tell us that he and the disciples were
> all gay and that they had an orgy that night- all of course without the
> least shred of textual or historical evidence.
> That Jewish men of the first century wore undergarments is an established
> fact. Where do you come up with this stuff Steve? Certainly not from
> familiarity with the evidence.
with Christ Thomas than we get this. Back he goes.
Bible says "garments" plural were taken off. That would be more than
one. Outer and inner. Cf. GTh 22.
- At 5:35 PM -0500 11/8/99, Davies wrote:
>Bible says "garments" plural were taken off. That would be more thanThere's an interesting lexical question amid all the sensationalism on this
>one. Outer and inner. Cf. GTh 22.
thread. In English we talk about changing "clothes," and we do this even
we're exchanging a jumpsuit for a night shirt; similarly, the term
"undergarments" might well refer only to a pair of briefs or boxers (more
plurals! -- because they have two openings for legs?) or to a corset or
teddy (or whatever you call those things ladies wear that combine bra and
panties). So was there such a usage in Greek? If so, then taking off one's
hIMATIA, ESQHMATA, OR AMFIBLHMATA wouldn't necessarily leave one in the
Answering this would take more time in BAGD and LSJ than I can spare
currently, so I'll content myself with being the gadfly -- though I cannot
hope to match Steve in that department!
Institute for Christian Studies
Austin, Texas, USA