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When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite 
11th-Dec-2009 10:47 am
Psyche
Contrary to myth, Christianity's concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has constantly evolved as a concept and ritual. Prof. John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University’s history department, discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient Christian church liturgical documents, there were also ceremonies called the "Office of Same-Sex Union" (10th and 11th century), and the "Order for Uniting Two Men" (11th and 12th century).

These church rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole community gathered in a church, a blessing of the couple before the altar was conducted with their right hands joined, holy vows were exchanged, a priest officiatied in the taking of the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was celebrated afterwards. These elements all appear in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE) and his companion John.

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Comments 
11th-May-2012 04:43 am (UTC)
I was a little embarrassed to discover that some of my gullible web-surfing friends were taking this baloney seriously. The article is laughable on its face, ... and it curiously lacks any reliable source, because, obviously, it's a flimsy, preposterous hoax. Honestly couldn't you make up a better attempt at faux history than this pile of webscrement?
11th-May-2012 04:46 am (UTC)
Oh yay! XD 8dances around in excitement* now there's even less reason to prevent homosexual marriage! XD
11th-May-2012 05:40 am (UTC)
[citation needed]
11th-May-2012 05:48 am (UTC)
Hmm, seems my comment was flagged as spam. Anyway, there's something called "Adelphopoiesis". Wssentially, it was a fraternal brotherhood ritual. Several members of the Greek Orthodox Church have long ago come out and said as much, plus a few others.

"The purpose of the adelphopoiesis ceremonies has been made controversial by Boswell. So it is worth noting that Boswell himself denies that adelphopoiesis should be properly translated as "homosexual marriage." He decries such a translation as "tendentiously slanted". The Orthodox Church regards the ceremony as purely spiritual and indicating brotherhood."

The historicity of Boswell's interpretation of the ceremony is contested by the Greek Orthodox Church, which sees the rite as a rite of familial adoption, as the term adelphopoiesis literally means "brother making". Other historians, including Robin Darling Young and Brent Shaw, have also criticized Boswell's methodology and conclusion.

Archimandrite Ephrem Lash criticized Boswell's book in the February 1995 issue of Sourozh. According to Ephrem, Boswell mistranslates, misinterprets, and tendentiously organizes texts, and his "knowledge of Orthodox liturgiology is, in effect, non-existent."With regard to Boswell's central claim to have found evidence for the use of wedding crowns in the rite for making brothers, Ephrem notes that what the relevant text says, "somewhat literally translated," is this: "It is inadmissible for a monk to receive [anadochos is a standard Greek word for 'godparent'] children from holy baptism, or to hold marriage crowns or to make brother-makings." In other words, "monks are forbidden to do the following: 1. To act as godfathers at baptisms, 2. To act as supporters of bridal couples, 3. To enter into brotherly unions. These are, of course, the natural consequences of a monk's having given up all ties of earthly relationships." Turning back to Boswell's thesis, Ephrem writes, "What does Boswell make of this? Here is his paraphrase of the text given above: 'monks must also not select boys at baptism and make such unions with them'. There is absolutely nothing in the text to suggest that the three prohibitions are linked in the way Boswell implies, nor that the 'children' are 'boys' – the Greek has the neuter, paidia. In short, this first piece of evidence for the use of crowns in the ceremony of brother-making is not evidence for anything, except Boswell's ignorance, not to mention the prurient suggestion that Byzantine monks went round selecting suitable boys at baptism so as to 'marry' them later on."

In his review of the book, Miodrag Kojadinović says: "The book is a scientific treatise abundant with references. But it starts from a premise that to me seems insufficiently proven. It chooses to see, based on relatively meagre evidence, a very idiosyncratic relationship sanctioned among certain ethnic groups as a precursor to California bunnies' white weddings. It goes so far to refer to the emperor Basil as a 'hunk'. It neglects the fact that adelphopoiesis/pobratimstvo can be achieved through simple invocation: 'My-Brother-Through-God!' in case of peril. A foe suddenly turns an ally."

Alternative views are that this rite was used in many ways, such as the formation of permanent pacts between leaders of nations or between religious brothers. This was a replacement for "blood-brotherhood" which was forbidden by the church at the time. Others such as Brent Shaw have maintained also that these unions were more akin to "blood-brotherhood" and had no sexual connotation.



Oh, also, the Fathers of the Church were universal on their stance regarding homosexual intercourse. Which means the odds of a rite being formed to condone such acts likely falls under the odds of zero percent.
11th-May-2012 07:01 am (UTC)
In case you were wondering, you got linked on Metafilter.
11th-May-2012 07:27 am (UTC)
Why there is not any real link at the sources?
It's very easy to quote works that nobody read - there is no bibliography to prove any link!

For example: "In the definitive 10th century account of their lives, St. Sergius is openly celebrated as the "sweet companion and lover" of St. Bacchus"(quote) - what is this "definitive account"?

Or another example - who is Prof. Boswell, what's the name of his study?Where it was published and when?(There should be a title of the book, author (if exists) and date of edition and where it can be found (library,museum...)for the ancient manuscrits)
11th-May-2012 07:32 am (UTC)
Hi.

1. To all non-Christians commenting on this thread: I'd like to respectfully request that you not use this post as a forum for challenging/attacking the validity of Christianity and/or theism. While it's a valid discussion to have, it derails the conversation from the topic at hand, and further serves to reinforce the misconception that Christianity is fundamentally incompatible with accepting LGBT people.

2. To all Christians on this thread who believe that the Bible says homosexuality is a sin: please, please do some research on arguments against the Clobber verses. I don't ask that you agree with what they say, but hopefully it will at least let you know that many Christians often do have sound, Biblical reasons for believing that being gay - practicing or otherwise - is not condemned by the Bible or God, and they are not simply adopting this belief out of some selfish desire to justify sin. Claiming otherwise makes you out to seem as though you consider yourself a 'better' Christian than they, which is arrogance. People often have good reasons for believing what they do. I beg you to take the time to listen and not jump to judgemental accusations. What do you hope to gain? Showing us inferior sinners the path? Don't you trust God to do that, if we are indeed on the wrong path?

I'd like to leave off with a paraphrased saying by a pastor from a church I used to attend - that when it came to LGBT people and having to one day give an account of himself to God, he would rather risk the mistake of having loved when he shouldn't have, than having hated when he shouldn't have.

Thank you.

- anivad, a gay transgender Christian who spends way too much time in the church library due to an intense fascination with Bible scholarship.
11th-May-2012 10:10 am (UTC)
Matthew Vines provides a very good sort of basic overview of the exegetical insights and issues surrounding these 'Clobber' verses. While it's all definitely a matter of hermeneutics at some level, I think it's worth recommending to any Christian who's interested find out the sort of work that goes into biblical scholarship and textual analysis or who just want to get their feet wet.
11th-May-2012 07:34 am (UTC)
This information must scare those who try to site the Bible as a guide to marriage, perhaps they will eventually stop worrying about other peoples sex life, and focus on real issues. One half of Earth currently lives an oppressed or restricted life, why do we try to take rights away from our fellow Americans.
4th-Jan-2013 04:45 am (UTC)
This article as well as the evidence it is based on is false... Here is a link explaining everything. Please take a minute to read and watch the video.

http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/was-same-sex-marriage-a-christian-rite
11th-May-2012 07:52 am (UTC)
To all those who have mentioned Leviticus and various other Old Testament Books, I have some questions..


1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a
pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors.
They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in
Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair
price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in
her period of menstrual cleanliness - Lev.15:19-24. The problem is,
how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.

4. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and
female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend
of mine claims that this applies to Indonesians, but not New Zealanders. Can
you clarify? Why can't I own New Zealanders?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus
35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated
to kill him myself?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an
abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than
homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I
have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading
glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room
here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair
around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.
19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes
me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two
different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing
garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester
blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really
necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town
together to stone them? - Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to
death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with
their in-laws? (Lev.20:14)
11th-May-2012 08:50 am (UTC)
*likes*
11th-May-2012 07:54 am (UTC)
thank you for posting! definitely interesting :)
11th-May-2012 08:10 am (UTC)
I'm familiar with Boswell's work and frankly, I'm not impressed. If anything, Boswell's brand of shoddy, sensationalist research actually hurts the advancement of LGBT rights because it lends legitimacy to the claims made by some that we are re-writing history to suit our needs.

I say this not as a Christian (because I have not been one in some years), but as a gay man interested in the roots of homophobia and as one who has studied anthropology and history as a serious pursuit.

Sensationalized work like Boswell's does us no favors. It amounts to a "queering" of history by applying present-day understandings of same-sex behavior to times and places where they are markedly out of place. It's sloppy history because it relies on scant evidence, and it's sloppy anthropology, because it's highly ethnocentric.

There are two claims that I'm curious about. The first claim is that the term "erastai" appears in the description of Bacchus and Sergius' relationship. While the term "erastai" would indeed be a smoking gun that they were lovers in the modern sense, I'm skeptical because little is mentioned about its context. Is there any more text from that early witness of their martyrdom? In what way was this term used? Any archaeologist or historian worth his salt knows that context is everything.

The second claim is that there were no homophobic writings before the 14th century. I'm perplexed, because I have come across many texts by early church patriarchs (in fact, someone quoted some of them in this thread) that are unambiguously against homosexual behavior. He is partly right that attitudes shifted in the later middle ages, inasmuch as death sentences for "sodomy" were rare before about 1350 (and were usually a trumped up charge unrelated to the facts of the case), but it was still nominally a crime for much of the Middle Ages.

I'd be satisfied enough to accept that the early Christians were not accepting of homosexuality, and that ours is a more enlightened time. There's no need to re-write the dark ages to legitimize ourselves; it is nobler to focus on writing a certain future for ourselves than creating a mythic past.

There were plenty of cultures where homosexuality and gender variance were tolerated (same-sex marriages were performed among the tribes of North America for tens of thousands of years); we don't need to grasp at straws to make up more. If anything, I think Boswell is trying to create a sort of Eurocentric queer theory that frankly, is not supported by the evidence.

Edited at 2012-05-11 08:11 am (UTC)
11th-May-2012 08:18 am (UTC)
Does anything that happen though it's against the law or scripture ever make it right? The scriptures are clearly against homosexual relationships. In Leviticus it was forbidden with a death penalty imposed under Jewish Law along with sexual relationships with the father's missus. Paul spoke against homosexuality in Romans, and rebuked a church for not disciplining a man for sleeping with his father's wife. Jesus affirmed marriage as between one man and one woman, and the New Testament urges believers to defend marriage as such. If we claim that gay marriages should be acceptable because records have been found that it has occurred over church history then why all the fuss with paedophile priests? Both are simply wrong plain and simple. Call me a bigot, narrow minded, homophobe but I will stand for righteousness over popular opinion.
11th-May-2012 08:56 am (UTC)
"Paul spoke against homosexuality in Romans"

Oh yeah, Paul's a great source. If Romans is anything like his letters to the Corintheans, how can you tell? Dude was tripping on something and makes no sense.

Also, if you can't see the difference between two consenting adults and child rape, I pity you. (And if you're the kind of person that gets to heaven, I'll be getting myself a first class ticket to hell.)

Edited at 2012-05-11 08:59 am (UTC)
11th-May-2012 08:23 am (UTC)
Interesting article. But what's annoying about all this is how many people conveniently ignore that marriage is NOT a purely religious thing. (And that there's supposed to be a separation of church and state.) If it was purely religious, people would not be able to get married by a justice of the peace. So religion needs to BUTT THE FUCK OUT of the marriage debate.
11th-May-2012 08:27 am (UTC)
I have Prof Boswell's book "Same Sex Unions is Pre-Modern europe" and it's a real eye opener. More people *cough* america! should read it! Thanks for this.
11th-May-2012 11:35 am (UTC)
Oh shit, your icon had me laughing for like 5 minutes. XD
11th-May-2012 08:46 am (UTC)
cheap crap!

1. The Law of God Speaks Against it:

Leviticus 18:22, "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."

Leviticus 20:13, "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

Deuteronomy 23:17, "There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel."
2. Biblical History Speaks Against it:

Genesis 19:4-12, "But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door. But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door. And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door. And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place:" Genesis 19:23-28, "The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar. Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the LORD: And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace."

1 Kings 14:24, "And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD cast out before the children of Israel."

1 Kings 15:11-12, "And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, as did David his father. And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made."

11th-May-2012 09:06 am (UTC)
God didn't do so well with the creating if abominations exist. And I can't take Paul seriously. His first letter to the Corintians? He was tripping or mentally deficient.
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