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[XTalk] Re: Eunuchery for the sake of the kingdom of heaven

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  • Mahlon H. Smith
    ... Or perhaps because it was not until our times that scholars began to consider J really human and realized the social constraints on historical persons in
    Message 1 of 14 , Nov 6, 1999
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      Steve Davies wrote:

      >
      > I'm not at all sure that he is EVER portrayed as not-celibate. At least
      > not until our times when anything goes.
      >

      Or perhaps because it was not "until our times" that scholars began to
      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
      HJ:

      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.

      Shalom!


      Mahlon

      --

      *********************

      Mahlon H. Smith, http://religion.rutgers.edu/mhsmith.html
      Associate Professor
      Department of Religion
      Rutgers University
      New Brunswick NJ

      Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus
      http://religion.rutgers.edu/iho/
    • Nathan McGovern
      ... Duly noted. I hadn t thought of that. ... An ex-nun once told me that she had heard a person claim that the reason that so many Catholic churches sponsor
      Message 2 of 14 , Nov 6, 1999
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        >>
        >> >I'm not at all sure that he is EVER portrayed as not-celibate. At least
        >> >not until our times when anything goes.
        >
        >> Nathan:
        >
        >> 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.

        Duly noted. I hadn't thought of that.

        >
        >> 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.

        An ex-nun once told me that she had heard a person claim that the reason
        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
        the truth.

        >
        >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.

        I was working from memory (bad habit, but I thought the quote was short
        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.

        >
        >Why
        >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.

        Interesting point. Which book/chapter/verse are you referring to in the
        former example.

        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.

        Shalom,

        Nathan

        Nathan McGovern
        Franklin and Marshall College
        nm_mcgovern@...
      • Davies
        ... John where he takes off his garments and wraps a cloth around him. What was he wearing in the inbetween? Steve
        Message 3 of 14 , Nov 7, 1999
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          Nathan McGovern wrote:

          > >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.
          >
          > Interesting point. Which book/chapter/verse are you referring to in the
          > former example.

          John where he takes off his garments and wraps a cloth around him.
          What was he wearing in the inbetween?

          Steve
        • Davies
          ... 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
          Message 4 of 14 , Nov 7, 1999
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            "Jeffrey B. Gibson" wrote:

            >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?


            > 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.

            Steve
          • Jeffrey B. Gibson
            ... Because I had to work through not only the secondary literature on the subject but also the Josephan, DSS, Philonic, Mishnaic, and Talmudic texts on
            Message 5 of 14 , Nov 7, 1999
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              Davies wrote:

              > "Jeffrey B. Gibson" wrote:
              >
              > >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?
              >

              Because I had to work through not only the secondary literature on the subject but
              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.

              >
              > > 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.
              >

              I recognize that. But logically, whether or not it is because of a need says nothing
              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 [1976] 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.

              Yours,

              Jeffrey


              --
              Jeffrey B. Gibson
              7423 N. Sheridan Road #2A
              Chicago, Illinois 60626
              e-mail jgibson000@...
            • Jim West
              ... 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
              Message 6 of 14 , Nov 7, 1999
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                At 06:36 PM 11/7/99 -0500, you wrote:
                >
                >
                > 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.

                Jim



                ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

                Jim West, ThD
                jwest@...
                http://web.infoave.net/~jwest
              • Davies
                ... Gee. No sooner do I take Jim West from the automatic delete file along with Christ Thomas than we get this. Back he goes. Bible says garments plural
                Message 7 of 14 , Nov 8, 1999
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                  Jim West wrote:

                  > At 06:36 PM 11/7/99 -0500, you wrote:
                  > >
                  > >
                  > > 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.
                  >
                  > Jim

                  Gee. No sooner do I take Jim West from the "automatic delete" file along
                  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.

                  Steve
                • Jeff Peterson
                  ... There s an interesting lexical question amid all the sensationalism on this thread. In English we talk about changing clothes, and we do this even we re
                  Message 8 of 14 , Nov 10, 1999
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                    At 5:35 PM -0500 11/8/99, Davies wrote:

                    >Bible says "garments" plural were taken off. That would be more than
                    >one. Outer and inner. Cf. GTh 22.

                    There's an interesting lexical question amid all the sensationalism on this
                    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
                    buff.

                    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!

                    Jeff

                    ------------------------------------
                    Jeffrey Peterson
                    Institute for Christian Studies
                    Austin, Texas, USA
                    ------------------------------------
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