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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.

Original Article or

A Kiev art museum contains a curious icon from St. Catherine's Monastery on Mt. Sinai in Israel. It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman ‘pronubus’ (a best man), overseeing a wedding. The pronubus is Christ. The married couple are both men.

Is the icon suggesting that a gay "wedding" is being sanctified by Christ himself? The idea seems shocking. But the full answer comes from other early Christian sources about the two men featured in the icon, St. Sergius and St. Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who were Christian martyrs. These two officers in the Roman army incurred the anger of Emperor Maximian when they were exposed as ‘secret Christians’ by refusing to enter a pagan temple. Both were sent to Syria circa 303 CE where Bacchus is thought to have died while being flogged. Sergius survived torture but was later beheaded. Legend says that Bacchus appeared to the dying Sergius as an angel, telling him to be brave because they would soon be reunited in heaven.

While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early Christian church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly intimate. Severus, the Patriarch of Antioch (AD 512 - 518) explained that, "we should not separate in speech they [Sergius and Bacchus] who were joined in life". This is not a case of simple "adelphopoiia." In the definitive 10th century account of their lives, St. Sergius is openly celebrated as the "sweet companion and lover" of St. Bacchus. Sergius and Bacchus's close relationship has led many modern scholars to believe they were lovers. But the most compelling evidence for this view is that the oldest text of their martyrology, written in New Testament Greek describes them as "erastai,” or "lovers". In other words, they were a male homosexual couple. Their orientation and relationship was not only acknowledged, but it was fully accepted and celebrated by the early Christian church, which was far more tolerant than it is today.

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.

Such same gender Christian sanctified unions also took place in Ireland in the late 12thand/ early 13th century, as the chronicler Gerald of Wales (‘Geraldus Cambrensis’) recorded.

Same-sex unions in pre-modern Europe list in great detail some same gender ceremonies found in ancient church liturgical documents. One Greek 13th century rite, "Order for Solemn Same-Sex Union", invoked St. Serge and St. Bacchus, and called on God to "vouchsafe unto these, Thy servants [N and N], the grace to love one another and to abide without hate and not be the cause of scandal all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God, and all Thy saints". The ceremony concludes: "And they shall kiss the Holy Gospel and each other, and it shall be concluded".

Another 14th century Serbian Slavonic "Office of the Same Sex Union", uniting two men or two women, had the couple lay their right hands on the Gospel while having a crucifix placed in their left hands. After kissing the Gospel, the couple were then required to kiss each other, after which the priest, having raised up the Eucharist, would give them both communion.

Records of Christian same sex unions have been discovered in such diverse archives as those in the Vatican, in St. Petersburg, in Paris, in Istanbul and in the Sinai, covering a thousand-years from the 8th to the 18th century.

The Dominican missionary and Prior, Jacques Goar (1601-1653), includes such ceremonies in a printed collection of Greek Orthodox prayer books, “Euchologion Sive Rituale Graecorum Complectens Ritus Et Ordines Divinae Liturgiae” (Paris, 1667).

While homosexuality was technically illegal from late Roman times, homophobic writings didn’t appear in Western Europe until the late 14th century. Even then, church-consecrated same sex unions continued to take place.

At St. John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope's parish church) in 1578, as many as thirteen same-gender couples were joined during a high Mass and with the cooperation of the Vatican clergy, "taking communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together" according to a contemporary report. Another woman to woman union is recorded in Dalmatia in the 18th century.

Prof. Boswell's academic study is so well researched and documented that it poses fundamental questions for both modern church leaders and heterosexual Christians about their own modern attitudes towards homosexuality.

For the Church to ignore the evidence in its own archives would be cowardly and deceptive. The evidence convincingly shows that what the modern church claims has always been its unchanging attitude towards homosexuality is, in fact, nothing of the sort.

It proves that for the last two millennia, in parish churches and cathedrals throughout Christendom, from Ireland to Istanbul and even in the heart of Rome itself, homosexual relationships were accepted as valid expressions of a God-given love and committment to another person, a love that could be celebrated, honored and blessed, through the Eucharist in the name of, and in the presence of, Jesus Christ.


Updates
Corrected Article Link

Article Written By
ThosPayne at The Colfax Record.

Books Written by Prof. John Boswell
Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe and Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century
Comments 
11th-Dec-2009 05:26 pm (UTC)
That's interesting and enlightening. Especially since fundamentalists can't quit repeating homosexuality is a sin.
11th-May-2012 06:44 am (UTC)
It is quite interesting that you would talk of fundamentals. While I do quote, or make reference to Genesis 19, it is also written in the Qu'ran that Allah destroyed the two cities also. One must take an understanding that not only the most devote Christian states this, but Muslims also.

I would only assume, since this is only an assumption, if the liberal professors from Yale; yes, they are liberal, the purpose I would consider is to keep the Priests celebate. The professors are as they say in the Scriptures, "of a reprobate mind".

Should, or when Islam becomes the controlling religion of the USA, homosexuals will be heading for the hills because in Muhammid's Hadith states to kill them. When Islam kicks in, there will be alot of bloodshed, but a number of us will die also because it is stated in the Qu'ran to kill the People of the Book.
11th-May-2012 08:04 am (UTC)
Not sure of your point, but you may be interested to note that it doesn't say anywhere in the Bible that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of homosexuality. A common, and unfortunate, misconception.
11th-May-2012 02:07 pm (UTC)
because it is stated in the Qu'ran to kill the People of the Book.

Once again, people are taking the Quranic ayat sent down during wartime out of context. The context is important!

Muslims do not wage war unless they are attacked first. If we are not threatened, forced out of our homes, or attacked, we are not to kill anyone, Muslim, pagan, People of the Book or otherwise.

Muslims are never supposed to start wars and attack the People of the Book unless they are threatening them. The "kill them where you find them" verse was sent down during wartime. The Muslims were already being killed and persecuted during that time. The context is important!
11th-May-2012 02:11 pm (UTC)
In addition, there is no punishment for homosexuality in Islamic ahadeeth. Homosexuality is not a sin per se, it's the act of sodomy that's a sin. That goes for heterosexual couples who practice it too, because it's considered unclean and/or unnatural (please remember that Islam began long before soap was discovered and readily used, so if one were to practise anal sex and then vaginal, it would certainly be unclean!).

Despite its state as a sin, it has no set punishment. The whole "throw 'em off cliffs!" thing came from one of the later Caliphates, the leaders of early Muslim civilizations, and was not based on any hadeeth/authentic tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It was merely what the Caliphate at the time thought was appropriate.

There were others who simply let them go, because there was no set Islamic punishment for them.

EDIT: Sorry for making so many comments. ^^;; But, if you'd like, I can try and cite my sources, if you'd like! I've studied this all in Arabic books, so it might take some time for me to find English sources online, but I will if you need for me to support my argument.

Edited at 2012-05-11 02:13 pm (UTC)
11th-May-2012 02:36 pm (UTC)
First - what does the post you're commenting on have to do with Islam?

Second - in what way are half the Christians in America more tolerant of homosexuality than the most extreme Islamic fundamentalists?

Third - How in hell could Islam ever become the "controlling religion" of the USA any time this millenium when the vast majority of immigrants to the USA are from the Americas (mostly Christian Catholics) or Asia (mostly Catholics - e.g Phillipinos and Buddhists)

Fourth - in claiming that the Quran says you should kill the people of the book, you destroy your credibility even further (if that's possible) because in fact it says the exact opposite - that Muslims, Jews and Christians are all "people of the book" and so that Jews and Christians should be treated with respect and that their God is the same God as Allah
11th-May-2012 03:14 pm (UTC)
i guess you just can't help but keep on flogging that Islamisation of America and Europe myth though
11th-May-2012 07:43 pm (UTC)
What is your point? That both Christians and Moslems are full of hate and kill people who disagree with their beliefs?
12th-May-2012 01:50 am (UTC)
Lloyd, Islam is a faith of peace...too bad you don't recognize that.
12th-May-2012 06:49 am (UTC)
I have to say, your arguments Mr. Becker are not very sound. First off I would like to mention that I do personally disagree with homosexuality. However, that being said, this view is not based on the bible or any other book, but in the area I was raised in and in how I was brought up. I think that anyone who claims that the Holy Bible unarguably says this or that is quite ignorant.
Let me explain. As any book that has been translated repeatedly, it has been changed and changed again; therefore it is not as reliable a text as so many people would like to believe. For instance King James set historians to translate the Bible from the supposed original text, but you have to realize that when anyone (including you or I) were to translate something with different meaning we are going to use the knowledge of the here and now, simply trying to relate it to something we understand. For instance as someone else posted the word for Know in the ancient hebrew could mean, sex. However it could also mean doing business or simple meet you. So you have one word with three possible paths of translation.
So you go from that the KJV of the Bible then their are NIV, NKJ, etc that were translated from the original KJV of the Bible, which also has it's own words that in today's language have different meanings.
12th-May-2012 08:01 am (UTC)
Dude, I've read a translation of the Qu'ran, and it explicitly says that Muslims should give certain protections to Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians because they are not infidels, but believers in the same God. Non-religious people and pagans are screwed, though.
14th-May-2012 02:44 am (UTC)
According to Ezekiel 16:49,50 Sodom was removed for their social injustice. Now that could be the root of their sin. Because when we read Romans 1:26,27 we see the result of sin run rampant. So to point to one sin and say that will bring about destruction is false, Romans 1:28-32 has a category for all of us if we are honest with ourselves. The fact of the matter we will all stand before a just and holy God to answer for our sin as individuals and that day as in the day of Sodom will come like a thief in the night. I urge everyone to seek God's forgiveness that can only be granted through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ.
23rd-May-2012 11:28 pm (UTC)
Finally someone who is with me! I really am sick of there not being a law that reflects this instance of the bible:

Leviticus 11:9-12
"These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat. And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you: They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination. Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you."

I want there to be a law against this abomination! Please! Why am I the only one who is asking for this? I would like some help from those who are truly righteous.
14th-May-2012 02:00 am (UTC)
I find it interesting that so many attempt to countermand this post by bringing up the Old Testament. The Old Testament is what Jesus called The Law. According to him he replaced the Law with himself, his example, nothing in the Old Testament is valid anymore only Jesus' example. His example, love each other as yourself. There is no fear in love because perfect love drives out fear. Those without sin throw the first stone. Quit trying to be a pharisee and be Christ-like if you're going to declare yourself a Christian, because being Christ-like is what a Christian is; a person who is following his example and living like him.
He knew no one would be able to follow The Law to its perfection, its why sin is mentioned so many times because sin is an archery term meaning to miss the mark, or in this context to not live the law as it was written. Jesus came to earth to live an example for others to live themselves. It is when we allow ourselves to listen to the opinion of people; preachers, friends, and family that is when things get complicated. To want to go back to the past and not move on that we are enslaved by the law and are unable to really enjoy the life we choose for ourselves.
Jesus' life is transparent if you are able and willing to look for yourself. Google the terms: "Jesus replaced the law", "a new commandment: Love each other.", "Perfect Love Drives out Fear", "Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone". Homosexuality is no better or no worse in the eyes of The Law than a prostitute. As the passage in John points out the pharisees knew they were with sin and walked away until the crowd had disbursed. He said to follow his example...your choice.
Of course, this only applies when you choose to follow that stuff. But since the bible was what everyone keeps bring up over and over again like it is some kind of end all and be all of proof...
4th-Jun-2012 11:28 pm (UTC)
It doesn't really matter what the Fundamentalists say. Nor does it matter what the early Church condoned. Over the centuries the Church has condoned many ungodly things. Ultimately, the only thing that matters is what God says. He is the one who designed the human body and mind, so He has the right to decide how it should be used. In Romans 1 He calls homosexuality a "shameful lust". 1 Timothy 1 says it is "contrary to sound doctrine". 1 Corinthians 6 says that those who practice many sexual sins including homosexuality will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Fundamentalists aside, God makes His stance clear. I worry about a people or a religion that rebels against their own God.
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