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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-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 08:19 am (UTC)
I do not believe it was a misconception. GOD told Lot to leave the city and not to look back. The point here is that when the men in the streets told Lot to send out his sons so that they may know them. Depending on the version of the Bible whether it is the KJV 1611; NIV, or the NWT, the statements are all the same. To know Lot's sons was not a handshake and let's go have a beer summit, it was quite sexual in conotation. Moses and other writers had different speech patterns back then and the way things are being written today would be considered extremely bad English, even for the Englishman.
11th-May-2012 08:54 am (UTC)
The argument has repeatedly been made that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because their behavior (attempting to rape guests for one) was terrible, not because people there were practicing homosexuality. Honestly, if they were engaging in homosexual behavior and it was such an abomination to God, why would he not have destroyed them long before He did? The Greeks and Romans were pretty into their homosexual behavior, why didn't He rain fire down upon them? Why would He have left it out of the Ten Commandments if it were such a huge issue to Him? He was supposedly pretty clear in what He wanted/did not want there and condemning homosexuality doesn't appear as a Commandment in any of the texts I've read.
11th-May-2012 10:58 am (UTC)
You're absolutely wrong when you claim that God didn't warn before the sodomians before the fire balls. So here we are, a pagan, anarchic & crual society. Women aren't there taken for pleasure, Men prefer ephebes, young men because they're perverted. As well as in Japan, where the olds sick the younger. And as well as in roman army. Homosexuality is not a sin at all. Don't get us wrong. You just don't want consider the plenty meaning of it. God created men, some did turn homosexuals, but they weren't born gay (like the lyrics of another pagan artist) maybe their relationships or their fear of the sexuality made them gay but nothing was defined. In the Kuran, gay people aren't theatened until they come across the physical border. Anal sex is punished by death and I think a ticket for hell. Makes you smile, still anal sex is absolutely opposed by religion. So Yes, for God who warned people : "Don"t please yourself without other men" who saw the looming danger of a society really damaged, look at ours. I'm not homophobic at all, but when did you find normal to teach children they can be gay it's cool ? What's that propaganda ? Don't you smell the disaster coming up ? God did! And destroyed all of what remained of Sodom and Gomore. But still : God doesn't hate gay people, he never did. Heaven is available for gay people, they're even promised masculine harems if they behave here.Conclusion : GOD DID WARN SODOME. GOD DOESNT HATE HOMOSEXUALS. HOMOSEXUALITY ISNT A SIN. YES BUT....
11th-May-2012 04:33 pm (UTC)
Furthermore, it says the whole city was there when Lot's sons were sent out so are we to assume that every person in the city was male? I'm sure there were some female people in the city involved in this...which isn't homosexual at all.
11th-May-2012 05:04 pm (UTC)
To understand the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, first we look have to look back to Genesis 14 where the kings of the two cities were in a war. It states that the Kings were routed in a battle in a swamp. Later, in Elijah it states that first and foremost the crimes the cities committed are neglect against widows and children...likely left over after the war. The survivors of the cities probably tightened security and claimed the women and children as slaves of their own.

Fast forward to Genesis 19. Two angels come out of nowhere to visit Lot and warn him of The Lord's impending wraith. The people see these visitors arrive. Due to the location of the cities and the war the people assume Lot's guests are spies. The original Hebrew the townspeople say "let us know them". The word ya'da stands for "Know" and can be a euphemism for sex, however, even in the bible it is rarely used in that context. Only a few English translations use "know" instead of "sex" in this chapter, but a few straddle the fence and say "have intercourse with" which could mean sex or conduct business. I don't know where the mistranslation started, but it likely happened centuries ago, based on the modern word "sodomy".

In any case the people wanted to find out who these visitors were for a number of reasons:
1. Fear of an invasion. There aren't many warriors left after the war and the town would be easily sacked
2. Fear of losing their new found wealth left over from the killed warriors
3. Fear of losing their land, possessions.
4. They probably also wanted to begin negotiations to convince them not to destroy the town or even allow them to take over the town while maintaining their wealth.

Lot offers to send out his daughters, because he's an idiot and a joke. More on this later.

The angels determined based on their behavior that the town is not worth saving. The tell him to flee and not to look back. Lot's wife looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt. Since Lot has no sons his daughters hatch a scheme. They get him drunk and give him some sons.

The tribes his sons form are later destroyed by the Israelites. The point of the end of this story is that these tribes deserved what they got because they were born of incest.

The morals? Take care of war widows and orphans. Treat visitors as though they are angels (A common thread in several religions). If a messenger from God tells you not to look back, don't look back. Finally, don't get your dad drunk and force him to give you babies.
11th-May-2012 09:20 am (UTC)
Oh, I'm not suggesting gay sex wasn't taking place. Rather I'm pointing out that the Bible does not say that that was why Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.

Perhaps it would be good to look at what the Bible does say, just to clear up this little misconception?

Isaiah 1 (referencing the people of Sodom and Gomorrah) "Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow".

Ezekial 16 "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen".

It is clear that God's primary beef with Sodom was related to social justice issues - not caring for the poor and the needy.

There is one reference to Sodom and Gomorrah and sexual immorality, in Jude 1:

In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

Isn't it interesting we take that one verse in Jude and assume God destroyed Sodom because of homosexual practices (even though that verse doesn't mention homosexual practices), and ignore the verses that clearly state God's beef with Sodom and Gomorrah was that they ignored the poor and needy?

The only way we can make the assumption that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexuality is to take the single verse in Jude and link it to the scenario you described. But think more carefully about that scenario... What is being described is attempted rape! That would qualify as "sexual immorality and perversion" *regardless* of the genders involved. It is our own bias that leads us to assume it was *homosexual* practices that were the problem. The Bible says nothing of the sort.
11th-May-2012 03:50 pm (UTC)
Hi, just found this and thought I might interject into this interesting discussion.

You make some valid points but you tend to skip over a couple of very fundamental issues that pertain to this particular case. Everything in the Old Testament was tied in with the covenant between God and Abraham and by extension between God and his chosen people. That covenant underpins every action between god and man, and between man and fellow man because it was under the covenant that Abraham went out into the world and under the promise of the covenant that he interacted with other tribes. So when we read anything in the old testament we must keep that in mind and reflect what we are reading through covenant.

Now the covenant was very specific and related to in this order...

1: Abraham having a son
2: His sons having sons of their own
3: Those sons having sons who will form the tribes of Israel.

Every action was set against this basic contractual obligation to have children. So important was this idea that women were given extraordinary freedom to divorce their husbands if they failed to produce children. So important that a man spilling his seed (masturbation or "pulling out") was strongly condemned by both God and by tribal justice.
Now I do agree that part of Sodom's problem was their inability to provide hospitality for strangers and care of the needy. But even here we must understand this within the framework of covenant between God and Abraham. With this in mind it becomes clear that God mentions certain "sins among them, as you pointed out "arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy" because they were worth noting as part of a buildup, the way a lawyer will begin indicting the accused on lesser chargers and build up to the really nasty crimes. And we can’t forget that this story represents the first legal trial in the Bible. The accused was the city of Sodom. Aiding and abetting in their crimes but not directly involved was Lot and his family; For the Prosecution was GOD and standing in for defense and looking for witnesses (the ever decreasing number of good men) was Abraham.

But here is the point you gloss over... It goes on to say "and did detestable things before me" That detestable thing was their sexual license, but not just homosexuality; It was sex that was simply debased under the customs, ethic and law of the day. This would no doubt have included homosexuality, prostitution, Pedophilia, Masturbation, cross dressing, even bestiality and a lack of proper manliness. All of which are sexual acts that begin with the ego. In effect it is the person saying that my pleasure is more important than anything else and sex should exist to serve the ego and not the family. The text says simply "and did detestable things before me" because the covenant (a contract calling for a very precise purpose behind sexuality) was so ingrained into the people who wrote the text that it needed no further elaboration. It could have been written something like this...

The people were rude, mean to strangers, failed to provide for the needy, self-interested and worst of all, they engaged in those acts which are so unspeakable they must not be named.

So it was not because of Homosexuality that God destroyed Sodom. It was because Sodom allowed Sex (in all its manifestations) to not only define them as a people but to direct their actions towards other people. In Sodom the whole world was sexualized (physically, emotionally and metaphorically) and reduced to a state of primal rutting that reduced the status of humanity to a state lower than an animal. When it came to brass tacks the only things that could sate the people who were crowding at Lots door was the promise of sex. Not unlike a modern Rave party where Sexual inhibitions might be released, dancing becomes mindless writhing mimicking sexual acts and people lose their sense of morality by subsuming themselves in a sort of group think.

It may be confusing to claim on one hand that the problem was an ego run amuck and on the other to suggest the problem is also mindless group think but this is not really a contradiction at all. Ego is not the same thing as individuality.
11th-May-2012 04:16 pm (UTC)
GOD was not concerned about social justice. In the Bible, no where will it be found that social justice ever existed, let alone ever said. Social justice and its constructs are based on Karl Marx and his writings, but no the writings of the Bible.
11th-May-2012 04:25 pm (UTC)
ATT: LLOYD BECKER
Let me start out by saying that, except for the civil rights issue, whether or not gay people can "marry" doesn't concern me a whole lot. If they want to be miserable like the rest of us, hell, let 'em find out about matrimonial bliss the hard way. As long as they don't point that thing at me! But Lloyd, allow me a few comments on your argument.
The Old Testament is based on Zoroastrian scripture and Leviticus is based on the Code of Hammurabi. Hammurabi ruled Babylon for 42 years, ca. 1792 to 1750 BC according to the Middle chronology. In the preface to the law code, Hammurabi states, "Anu and Bel called me by name, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared Marduk, the chief god of Babylon (The Human Record, Andrea & Overfield 2005), to bring about the rule in the land."
In July, 2010, archaeologists reported that a fragmentary Akkadian cuneiform tablet was discovered at Tel Hazor, Israel, containing a ca. 1700 BC text that was said to be partly parallel to portions of the Hammurabi code. The Hazor law code fragments are currently being prepared for publication by a team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
You refer to respected academics as liberal professors "of a reprobate mind" when they present information that conflicts with your monotheistic mythological fantasies. You quote the Bible as if this motley collection of irrational fairytales collected by some ancient tribe of gnarly desert nomads was the Word Of God (sarcasm intended) but deny facts of science.
You imply that Islam will become the dominant culture in America and kill not only gay people but "people of the book". Huh? Where in the Koran does it say that? Your telling a damned lie. In Islam, Jesus, while not the "Son of God" as in Christianity (and this only became Christian doctrine in 326 AD at the Council of Nice, 300 years after the crucifixion) he is, none the less, considered a prophet second only to Mohammad in importance.
And what are you blathering about, going on about "Lot's sons". He had two daughters not sons and he sent them out into the street so the clamoring crowd of men, who all had a hard-on for the two angels of the Lord sent warn Lot, "might know them" instead of molesting the angels. Wow, would you send your daughters out into the street to be raped by a crowd sexual deviants in order to protect strangers that "claimed" to be sent by the Lord?
And if you read your bible, Lloyd, it tells that once they made their getaway (except for that salty Mrs. Lot) Lot "knew" his daughters and they bore him children. Sounds to me like that bad boy Lot be pimpin'! Would you really want I guy like Lot to in your neighborhood? Maybe he could live in the corner house by your kid's bus stop? I'd hope his parole officer would make him register as a sex offender.
Blinded by your ignorance, foolhardy in your self-righteousness, bigoted in your beliefs and frankly, just fuckin' stupid, you'd make an outstanding leader of an American Christian Taliban. Check out the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. I think you'll feel right at home there. And when you do, tell Shirley (Shirley Phelps-Roper, the daughter of the church founder, Fred Phelps) that my friend Dealilah says hi from Los "Sodom" Angeles.
Sincerely,
Peter V. Newman
11th-May-2012 04:56 pm (UTC)
I stand to be corrected when you mentioned angels. I also knew that Lot had daughters.

I do believe I finally struck gold here. I would sincerely believe that you are either an extreme liberal, or you are an atheist. But either way, the only language these particular categories of people believe in is cussing, name calling and the belief that everything revolves around them.

So, you can cuss all you want, but it does not incite any brilliance of intelligence. Have a nice day. Any comment you place will be deleted.
12th-May-2012 01:50 pm (UTC)
=O
4th-Aug-2012 03:14 pm (UTC)
I'll preface this response to your argument by just saying this: in a community where people are academically discussing, is it really necessary to insult a person with whom you disagree? "Blinded by your ignorance, foolhardy in your self-righteousness, bigoted in your beliefs and frankly, just fuckin' stupid"... now don't get me wrong, Lloyd's response was not great (although he does admit fault on some cases) but honestly, do you expect a respectful response from such a disrespectfully scathing insult? That being said, your argument definitely has a few holes, and I would be happy to point them out for you. =)

In dealing with the bible, there's two ways to look at it: as a fully true, God-breathed book that is inerrant and useful in its entirety (2 Tim. 3:16, 2 Sam. 7:28, Titus 1:2), or as a flawed book in which you determine which parts you believe are true or necessary to subscribe to. Seeing as the latter causes much discourse and we seem to be relying on all parts of scripture on this discussion page, I'll opt to use the first method. And I think that you, as an "ordained minister" of God should as well. That being said, I find it strange that you refer to the Bible as a "motley collection of irrational fairytales" while you choose to debate on it and help those Puerto Ricans under its banner.

Thus, when you questioned Lot's action of giving his daughters to protect the angels, what you really did was question the actuality of the two men being angels ("strangers that "claimed" to be sent by the Lord"). I know that if it was between protecting two of my daughters and two Heavenly dieties, I would probably choose to help the angels (beings who, when seen, cause fear and awe). And if you read your Bible, Peter, it tells that Lot "did not know when she lay down or when she arose" for either or his daughters (Gen. 19:33, 35). Call him a pimpin' bad boy sex offender if you want, but you and the Bible clearly are talking about two different Lots.

Regarding the Muslims coming to kill Christians, I don't have a lot to say on that topic due to the fact that I have had few encounters with the Islamic faith or the Koran, but I do know that the two religions paint two distinctly different Gods: one triune, loving, redemptive, and judgmental; the other more exact, works-based, and deistic (correct me if I'm wrong here). And if Muslims are called to kill all of those who believe in something different (even if they have similar roots such as Christ) then I'm afraid Christians are screwed along with everybody else.

That's about all I have to say. I hope you can see a clearer sense of who God is through this.
11th-May-2012 05:20 pm (UTC)
Hmm I thougth Sodom & Gomorrah fell because they didn't take care of the poor. "Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy." Ezekiel 16:49
21st-May-2012 03:14 pm (UTC)
It's great when people don't understand the difference between a homosexual man and a pedophile. Just great.
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