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Why are Christians so concerned about sex?
March 26, 2014 12:45 PM   Subscribe

Why are Christians so concerned about sex? When English interpretations of the New Testament talk about ‘sexual immorality’ they are really translating the Greek word porneia (πορνεία), it’s used almost every time the topic of sex comes up and often when talking about the worst sins in general. If you can really grok what Paul was talking about as he uses the root for the word over and over again (it appears 32 times in the New Testament) then the rest falls into place. Now porneia has always been translated into Latin as fornication, while being understood by many conservatives to just be a 1:1 stand in for ‘any sexual expression not between husband and wife’. However, Porneia in post-classical Corinthian Greek did not mean generic sexual sin, or even sex outside of marriage, at all exactly and neither did fornication in actual Latin. The truth, like in many things, is a little bit more complicated and a lot more interesting. TRIGGER WARNINGS AHEAD FOR DEPICTIONS OF SEXUAL EXPLOITATION IN CLASSICAL GREECE, ALSO AN NSFW VASE. (SFW version) [via mefi projects]
posted by jaduncan (108 comments total) 108 users marked this as a favorite

 
The problem with the entire premise of this argument is that it assumes some kind of hermeneutic logic or rigor to the theologies of modern christian denominations. But very few of these theologies approach Biblical interpretation with anything close to a systematic hermeneutic system. This argument glides over the many other social, political, psychological and random influences in contemporary theology.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:03 PM on March 26 [14 favorites]


Interesting, but I'm not sure I'm convinced of much more than that Paul coined a new word similar to 'whoring' which he used for all forms of non-approved sex. Another linguist's view would be useful.
posted by Segundus at 1:07 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


Please do read this fascinating article.
posted by hat_eater at 1:11 PM on March 26 [27 favorites]


It's an interesting argument and might have merit. Certainly, one could argue that a 21st century conservative Christian's idea of gender roles, which are to the rest of us today pretty retrograde, would have been refreshingly equitable, even feminist, in Ancient Greece.

But that doesn't make them acceptable today. It just means that Ancient Greece was a pretty fucked-up place.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:15 PM on March 26 [5 favorites]


Wow. That turned out way pornier than I expected.

(Sorry, had to.) Great read! Thanks for the post!
posted by the_royal_we at 1:19 PM on March 26


Wouldn't it be nice if there were any rigor or logic to popular contemporary Christian thought? But there's not.

...And so, millions of Christians remain convinced that the use of certain germanic words the Anglo Saxons once considered vulgar because they originated in the languages of the barbarians they conquered (e.g. "fuck," "shit"--basically, all the very worst, most taboo "swear" words in the lexicon), is a Christian sin, despite there being absolutely no scriptural basis for that belief.

There are, however, still Christians out there who are inclined to think more deeply about what their religion is really supposed to be about. For those readers, this article may be just the ticket for some thoughtful reflection.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:19 PM on March 26 [6 favorites]


Why are Christians so concerned about sex?

Before penicillin, modern medicine and birth control there were significant consequences, and morality is all about expected outcomes.
posted by koebelin at 1:23 PM on March 26 [27 favorites]


The crux:

If we take Paul at his word that he, unlike his contemporaries, felt that women were no less than men in Christ then his position on porneia becomes just a logical extension of the inherent dignity of women through Christ. ... The early church was flooded with women attracted by this radically feminist message that women were actually people with dignity that was inherent to them and needed to be respected by men.
posted by General Tonic at 1:23 PM on March 26 [6 favorites]


"Interesting, but I'm not sure I'm convinced of much more than that Paul coined a new word similar to 'whoring' which he used for all forms of non-approved sex. Another linguist's view would be useful."

If you're really down for it, I've found the authoritative linguistic analysis of the term can be downloaded open access through academia.edu here, which comes at the word from a different viewpoint while arriving at different conclusions and that will add a lot of perspective if its the word itself you're interested in.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:26 PM on March 26 [8 favorites]


"A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet."

I'm absolutely willing to believe that Paul was way ahead of the horrifying society he lived in and opposing a system which was horrifyingly misogynist. I am in no sense willing to describe Paul as believing "that women were no less than men in Christ".
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:27 PM on March 26 [46 favorites]


Well, yeah, that's a big part of the appeal of the early church — "the least of these" explicitly includes women. But, you know, "literal word" ended at the episcopal bulwark preserving unitary Anglican power in the face of radical Puritanism and suspicion of Papist revanchism, so there we are.
posted by klangklangston at 1:30 PM on March 26


On the other hand, Pope Guilty, you can definitely see "hey guys maybe let's not force women into sexual slavery as an act of war" as at least a step in the right direction. This is something that is still a feminist issue to this day.

I'd be curious as to how much this would have been on the radar of the typical female Christian convert of the day, though. Was this something that women in the Roman Empire feared happening to them? Was the fallout from this playing out on every street corner?

Or is that where the conflating of sex-trafficking/pimping with other acts comes in?
posted by Sara C. at 1:31 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, Pope Guilty, you can definitely see "hey guys maybe let's not force women into sexual slavery as an act of war" as at least a step in the right direction. This is something that is still a feminist issue to this day.

Oh, 100%, yes. I do not object to that at all. I object to the idea that Paul saw women as the equal of men, which he explicitly did not.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:34 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]


The primary reason Christians are obsessed with sex was because Paul was a prude and a misogynist.

That is what the Jesuits taught me, at any rate.
posted by solipse at 1:36 PM on March 26 [9 favorites]


You could write an encyclopedia on the number of popular modern "Christian" beliefs which stem from mistranslations. Nearly all driven by incompetence, or more often crass political power-grubbing on the part of the translator.
posted by schroedinger at 1:37 PM on March 26 [9 favorites]


Eh, I'm willing to see "women are not by definition the sexual property of men" as such a fundamental difference in worldview that it would amount to something as radical as "men and women are equal", for the times.

Not that I think Paul actually believed that men and women are equal, just that, if you buy the thesis of the piece, it's an idea that points really hard at women's basic humanity.
posted by Sara C. at 1:37 PM on March 26 [5 favorites]


That hits the spot alright, Blasdelb - thanks!
posted by Segundus at 1:37 PM on March 26


As I've studied the early church and the social conditions in the Eastern Mediterranean in the first centuries (B.C. and C.E.), it has dawned on me that the central historical mystery of Christianity may not be hard to explain.

How did this strange, quasi-Jewish religious movement go from zero to full social dominance in less than three hundred years?

The answer: For a lot of people, it was actually good news.
posted by General Tonic at 1:38 PM on March 26 [39 favorites]


"I'm absolutely willing to believe that Paul was way ahead of the horrifying society he lived in and opposing a system which was horrifyingly misogynist. I am in no sense willing to describe Paul as believing "that women were no less than men in Christ"."
So long as we're at the point where we're interacting with the sources as they are rather than as we'd like them to be; the broad historical consensus is that 1 Timothy, the epistle that that quote is from, is almost undoubtedly Pseudepigraphic having been written by a still anonymous Christian in the second century. Paul also did indeed explicitly leave women in authority over men in ways that we're pretty fucking weird for the context of the day.

There really isn't an argument though to be made that Paul either did or did not see women as the equal of men, at least in the way you are thinking, as that jams him in to modern models for understanding gender that are at best incredibly unlikely to have relevance to him or his views.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:39 PM on March 26 [24 favorites]


OMG CERAMICS
posted by Madamina at 1:40 PM on March 26 [5 favorites]


"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

I think that Paul believed that women were no less than men in Christ, but that different roles were assigned to them. How we deal with that in today's culture, where we are so focused on breaking any perceived barriers that gender roles bring about, is hotly debated in churches all over today (and is well above my pay grade).
posted by kilozerocharliealphawhiskey at 1:40 PM on March 26 [7 favorites]


It is also important to consider that every woman in that era had the threat of being sold into porneia hanging over her head, as women who lost the social status granted to them by a man for whatever reason could always be sold or abducted for ‘scrap value.’
This is pretty huge, and a compelling argument for Paul as relatively progressive for the time. In a world where your husband could traffic you into sex slavery for any slight, I can see a new religion that condemns this practice being pretty popular among women. Even if the same religion also said, "But come on now, ladies, don't think you can like be priests or anything. Let's not get ahead of ourselves!"
posted by Sara C. at 1:42 PM on March 26 [19 favorites]


Read this in a movie theater waiting for Nymphomaniac Vol 1 to start. Excellent article, excellent timing!
posted by xmutex at 1:43 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


You could write an encyclopedia on the number of popular modern "Christian" beliefs which stem from mistranslations.

You could, and indeed there are enough articles about "what did this Biblical word actually mean at the time it was written" to choke a goat. And they are interesting exercises in linguistics and etymology. But they do not offer much insight into actual theological development and biblical interpretation.

The truth is that most Christians simply don't care about what the meanings of words in their contexts were. And that I think is very interesting. How and why do we interpret the Bible (or indeed any historical text) the way we do? What does it mean to interpret philosophical works from nearly 2,000 years ago? Admittedly I have a major hard on for the likes of Dilthey and Gadamer, but I think it makes absolutely no sense to point to mere contextual definitions and etymologies and try to make any sort of claims about interpretation as it exists within modern communities who abide by these words as life-defining truths.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:44 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]


Weirdly, the article makes no mention of Judaism. Amy-Jill Levine has some important things to say on that subject:
My students often see Jesus as a feminist who lived within a Jewish world that made the Taliban look progressive. To the contrary, the Gospels tell us about women’s substantial rights: owning homes, having use of their own property, having freedom of travel, worshipping in synagogues and the Jerusalem Temple, and so on. Women did not join Jesus because Judaism oppressed them, and the Jewish women who followed him did not cease to be Jews.
A light unto the gentiles, indeed.
posted by No Robots at 1:45 PM on March 26 [18 favorites]


Before penicillin, modern medicine and birth control there were significant consequences, and morality is all about expected outcomes.

Nearly every other religion also came along before those things, but not all of them are as weird about sex as Christianity is.
posted by rtha at 1:49 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]


Before penicillin, modern medicine and birth control there were significant consequences....

Everything old....

...not all of them are as weird about sex as Christianity is.

Who is to say what is weird?
posted by IndigoJones at 1:53 PM on March 26


I'd be curious as to how much this would have been on the radar of the typical female Christian convert of the day, though. Was this something that women in the Roman Empire feared happening to them? Was the fallout from this playing out on every street corner?

Insightful comment. By the time that Constantine (around the 3rd-4th century AD)decided that Christianity was to become *the* Roman religion, Rome was starting into free fall. Women may very well have been aware of what might happen if the Empire fell. It's an interesting thought.
posted by Vibrissae at 1:56 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


The truth is that most Christians simply don't care about what the meanings of words in their contexts were.

On the contrary, most Christians are delighted to learn "the original meaning of the word" when the upshot is that the the Bible doesn't actually say something they don't want it to say.

There's a whole generation of Evangelical Christians who would love a reason to not have to toe the anti-homosexual line, but they think the Bible requires it. This kind of thing is exactly what they want/need and could make a real difference in that culture.
posted by straight at 2:03 PM on March 26 [23 favorites]


> Who is to say what is weird?

Paul, apparently.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:05 PM on March 26 [7 favorites]


On the contrary, most Christians are delighted to learn "the original meaning of the word" when the upshot is that the the Bible doesn't actually say something they don't want it to say.

There's a whole generation of Evangelical Christians who would love a reason to not have to toe the anti-homosexual line, but they think the Bible requires it. This kind of thing is exactly what they want/need and could make a real difference in that culture.


In my unfortunately extensive experience with Evangelical Christianity, I have found the complete opposite to be the case. Most Evangelicals have to work pretty hard at making a cohesive logic to interpreting the Bible to mean homosexuality is horrible and wrong, and usually fall to citing one verse without any context. My experience has far and away been that many Evangelical Christian communities already have some idea of what they want to believe for reasons not related to any sort of cohesive or logical theology and then they seek out those pieces of the Bible to fit their needs.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:08 PM on March 26 [21 favorites]


Just in terms of metacommentary, it is interesting having access to the back end of my blog through Wordpress format. While a strong argument could be made for my having a non-representative sample due to the subject matter, I think its pretty interesting that about 10% of my visitors through metafiler are clicking on the SFW version with the less porny vase - giving us at least an idea of how much of the userbase is really served by the warning. Also, I'm a bit bemused that this article appears to be more successful at getting people to click on the links to some damn papers than my other blog that is actually titled Links to the Damn Paper: An Antidote for Modern Science Journalism (Previously).
posted by Blasdelb at 2:12 PM on March 26 [14 favorites]


"You could, and indeed there are enough articles about "what did this Biblical word actually mean at the time it was written" to choke a goat. And they are interesting exercises in linguistics and etymology. But they do not offer much insight into actual theological development and biblical interpretation. "

… that's pretty much what "biblical hermeneutics" as a discipline does. So there's a ton of that too. (My college roomie was going for a doctorate in hermeneutics, something that I think contributed to his profound falling out of faith.)
posted by klangklangston at 2:12 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


I mean, it is not hard for Christians to find out the original meanings of words, or to even read about the history of their religion. There is so much great research on this it boggles the mind. But in the 2000+ Evangelical services I've been in attendance at, I have heard vanishing little about how modern Christianity came to be, how the books that are in the Bible ended up in the Bible, why certain dogmas stand while others have fallen out of favor. The truth I think that no one wants to admit is that delving into the historicity and hermeneutics of Christianity would likely reveal truths that are unsavory or better left willfully ignored for many Evangelical Christians.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:13 PM on March 26 [6 favorites]


… that's pretty much what "biblical hermeneutics" as a discipline does. So there's a ton of that too

Absolutely. Biblical hermeneutics is a fascinating and very, very important field often ignored by modern Christians and even Christian scholars and theologians. I've known very few Christians who have wandered down that line of inquiry and remained Christians. I personally think Truth and Method should be mandatory reading for all modern Christians and when I am king of the universe will make it so.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:16 PM on March 26 [11 favorites]


I was going to say what Lutoslawski said.

Most Evangelical Christians I have met really do not like it when you point out that their ridiculous bigotries have no scriptural support whatsoever.
posted by Sara C. at 2:16 PM on March 26 [6 favorites]


Also, I'm a bit bemused that this article appears to be more successful at getting people to click on the links to some damn papers than my other blog that is actually titled Links to the Damn Paper: An Antidote for Modern Science Journalism (Previously).

Science is boring.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:17 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


the use of certain germanic words the Anglo Saxons once considered vulgar because they originated in the languages of the barbarians they conquered

This is totally off-topic and your basic point is right but I gotta pedant up for a second:

I don't think there's any evidence that "fuck" and "shit" were borrowings into English from other Germanic languages, rather than native English words descended from Proto-Germanic in the usual way.

The exact etymology of fuck is pretty uncertain, so in absence of evidence that it's a borrowing I think it's safe to assume it's native.

For its part, shit clearly descends from PGmc. *skit-. The consonant change suggests a Saxon derivation. If it had been borrowed from a North Germanic word, the k would probably have been preserved; compare shirt and skirt.

Of course, even if it were a North Germanic borrowing, it would have to be a relic of the Danelaw, which isn't what you're talking about. There were no Germanic speakers in Britain prior to the Anglo-Saxon migration; the indigenous language and culture that the Anglo-Saxons displaced was Celtic. The more usual explanation of why fuck and shit are rude is that the Norman conquerors (who spoke a Romance language) looked down on words with Germanic roots.
posted by my favorite orange at 2:21 PM on March 26 [16 favorites]


I mean, it is not hard for Christians to find out the original meanings of words, or to even read about the history of their religion. There is so much great research on this it boggles the mind. But in the 2000+ Evangelical services I've been in attendance at, I have heard vanishing little about how modern Christianity came to be, how the books that are in the Bible ended up in the Bible, why certain dogmas stand while others have fallen out of favor. The truth I think that no one wants to admit is that delving into the historicity and hermeneutics of Christianity would likely reveal truths that are unsavory or better left willfully ignored for many Evangelical Christians.

Details reveal the extent to which the Inalienable Word of Our Lord Jesus As Set Forth in the King James Bible is actually a product of hundreds of years of very human manipulation, revision, politics and negotiation. Ask too many questions and the congregants might start to wonder whether the Good Book was really passed on by God, and if so, which Book. Or Lord forbid, if thiers is the right one of how many hundreds? It's so much easier and more profitable to sing a few generic songs, slut-sham a bit (or a lot), pass the plate and call it a Sunday well spent spreading the Good News.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:34 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


"The truth is that most Christians simply don't care about what the meanings of words in their contexts were. And that I think is very interesting. How and why do we interpret the Bible (or indeed any historical text) the way we do? What does it mean to interpret philosophical works from nearly 2,000 years ago?"
This doesn't jive with my experience of even big E Evangelical Christians, much less the remaining majority of Christians who are not Evangelical. Even outside of more mainline dispositions, I've found most people to be intensely curious about what rigorous scholarship has to say about their faith, a lot more curious where that scholarship confirms it certainly, but you'd be surprised how far you can get by refraining to call people ridiculous or framing the quest for knowledge as an attack.
"...But in the 2000+ Evangelical services I've been in attendance at, I have heard vanishing little about how modern Christianity came to be, how the books that are in the Bible ended up in the Bible, why certain dogmas stand while others have fallen out of favor. The truth I think that no one wants to admit is that delving into the historicity and hermeneutics of Christianity would likely reveal truths that are unsavory or better left willfully ignored for many Evangelical Christians."
While this is certainly a very valid critique of Fundamentalist Evangelism I think its also pretty unfairly uncharitable. Where if you interrogate the original Evangelicals and their movements or the actual arguments underpinning fundamentalism they will tell you exactly why they don't care to delve into the historicity and hermeneutics of Christianity. The original Evangelicals simply gave precious few shits about Anglican theologians crawling up their own asses in the service of the crown and set about ministering to the poor while the core of Fundamentalism is mostly about plugging one's ears so as to hold as tight as possible to what was so revolutionary about that.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:45 PM on March 26 [12 favorites]


It's probably wrong of me that I am skeptical towards this author because the author keeps talking about "conjugation" in the context of a noun, when conjugation is something you do to verbs, "declension" is what you do to nouns. :(
posted by edheil at 2:46 PM on March 26 [7 favorites]


I personally think Truth and Method should be mandatory reading for all modern Christians and when I am king of the universe will make it so.

(I had to Google that^. Looks interesting. Also: wikipedia: Dilthey, Gadamer)
posted by ovvl at 2:53 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


The more usual explanation of why fuck and shit are rude is that the Norman conquerors (who spoke a Romance language) looked down on words with Germanic roots.

Thanks for the pedantry! I was being lazy and cavalier with the details, but the general point--that later ideas about social propriety are now often treated as literal gospel--still stands, as I hope you'd agree.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:56 PM on March 26


I love stuff about ancient cultures but this particular one seems a bit off... the author is making the argument that Paul was referring to a culture at least 600 years before his time in his writings to the church. But why would he do that? Contemporary Roman culture by the time of Paul were treating women much better than the classical Greeks did. Wouldn't it make much more sense for him to give advise to the churches based on the current cultures and practices of the time rather than something that may have been the practice 600 years ago?
posted by xdvesper at 3:02 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]


I'm absolutely willing to believe that Paul was way ahead of the horrifying society he lived in and opposing a system which was horrifyingly misogynist. I am in no sense willing to describe Paul as believing "that women were no less than men in Christ".

Heh. Jimmy Carter was just talking on NPR this morning (promoting his new book on women's rights) about the inconsistency of the Pauline texts on this issue, as well as how Pauline texts contradict the gospels on the issue, which goes to support the pseudepigraphic idea Blasdelb put forward.
posted by 3.2.3 at 3:05 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


It is also important to consider that every woman in that era had the threat of being sold into porneia hanging over her head, as women who lost the social status granted to them by a man for whatever reason could always be sold or abducted for ‘scrap value.’

I know the article touches briefly on the idea of a woman being a bargain between families but I don't think they give it enough weight. If a man strikes a bargain with another family where he gives them his daughter, then that daughter does have value. If that family then dumps the daughter in a brothel, it's an insult to the father. I doubt that would have gone over very well, even in ancient times.

I'm totally sold on the idea that, when your luck turned, you fell and you fell hard. However, dumping old wives in brothels would have had consequences.
posted by Foam Pants at 3:05 PM on March 26


Even outside of more mainline dispositions, I've found most people to be intensely curious about what rigorous scholarship has to say about their faith, a lot more curious where that scholarship confirms it certainly, but you'd be surprised how far you can get by refraining to call people ridiculous or framing the quest for knowledge as an attack.

That's interesting, but definitely has not been my experience at all.

I am also the first to admit that my patience with, especially Fundamental and/or Evangelical Christians, runs pretty short. This is for personal reasons and I realize it can be a problem.

The original Evangelicals simply gave precious few shits about Anglican theologians crawling up their own asses in the service of the crown and set about ministering to the poor while the core of Fundamentalism is mostly about plugging one's ears so as to hold as tight as possible to what was so revolutionary about that.


Absolutely, and that sort of approach still greatly permeates the mainstream Evangelical community to do this day.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:14 PM on March 26


Contemporary Roman culture by the time of Paul were treating women much better than the classical Greeks did.

Are you seriously suggesting that the ancient Romans didn't use rape/sex-trafficking as an act of war, have open socially sanctioned prostitutes, or "put aside" undesirable women on a whim? Because all of that is very well documented, I'm afraid.

I've seen classical Roman brothels with my own eyes, in Pompeii.
posted by Sara C. at 3:20 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


I would say that plenty of other religions got weird about sex. Bramacharya, often with an emphasis on total abstinence from sex (or even getting married) for those who are most holy is something found in Hinduism and Buddhism and Jainism. The Daoist and Jewish teachings tended toward opposition to complete abstinence from sex. My personal thinking on this is that total abstinence is quite literally a social disease-- in the sense that living beings eat/consume and reproduce to maintain the self and the species. As a species, if the culture teaches everyone to abstain from sex you're literally going to destroy the whole species.

While I personally think obsession with kind of silly morals around sex is not healthy, I also wonder if there were different health risks/consequences that were in effect in cultures where a lot of fear existed around sex. I really think that birth control is the only reason we're talking about silly it is to be all "up tight" and prudish around sexual activity. Prior to birth control, sex meant babies. And a culture where people are making babies and no morals are attached to those making the babies actually caring for them is a culture promoting a horrific amount of suffering.

I also feel like it's really harmful not to take the risks associated with sex seriously, not only for ones self but for ones partner or potential children. It's sort of unfortunate that often we present the two options as either silly obedience to excessive sexual mores or sneering at the very idea of morality around sex.

Morality should concern situations that can harm living beings and it really SHOULD matter. That christian norms appear to be based in very silly superstitions rather than in factual understanding of things that actually cause harm is puzzling and worth challenging, but not from a perspective that wanting to have morality around sexual behavior is innately weird or prudish. Sexual behaviors have the power to bring great joy or great harm to people, sometimes innocent beings brought in to world or to great suffering just for two (or one) persons moment of fun.

The idea that a man should commit to helping the mother of his children parent and be close family with both of them and focus on them rather than either partner focusing on other romantic endeavors is probably a pretty good value. Whether there involves other partners or in what way is sort of a matter of how that effects the people and especially the children involved.

I was raised Christian but I'm not particular concerned with the silly reasons Christians believe the nonsense they do- even as a christian if ever I was one, I feel the message of Jesus is pretty clear-- NOT to obey ridiculous religious law but to listen to your heart and for example, heal the sick on the sabbath even if instructed not to. Morality should reflect concern for human welfare and behaviors that support people rather than harm them.
posted by xarnop at 3:22 PM on March 26 [19 favorites]


...I have heard vanishing little about how modern Christianity came to be, how the books that are in the Bible ended up in the Bible, why certain dogmas stand while others have fallen out of favor.
posted by Lutoslawski


Yes. I have had conversations with churchgoing Evangelical Christians who do not believe that Catholics are Christians and who are ignorant of the modern-day existence of Jews. Sadly, fervor is not always accompanied by intellectual curiosity.
posted by workerant at 3:23 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure that bramacharya as actually practiced bears no relation to Christian "fear of sex" or "silly morals". It's more akin to chastity in ascetic/monastic lifestyles. Some married people do practice it, but it's for pretty specific religious reasons and not a prescribed behavior all people within those religions are encouraged to practice, in the way that Christian sexual abstinence is.
posted by Sara C. at 3:29 PM on March 26


fervor is not always accompanied by intellectual curiosity.

I've heard something about the related hazard.
posted by weston at 3:38 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


Before I read through all the comments and the interesting academia.edu pdf, I just wanted to say that this is really, really interesting and thanks a million for posting it!
posted by Frowner at 3:49 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


And so, millions of Christians remain convinced that the use of certain germanic words the Anglo Saxons once considered vulgar because they originated in the languages of the barbarians they conquered (e.g. "fuck," "shit"--basically, all the very worst, most taboo "swear" words in the lexicon), is a Christian sin, despite there being absolutely no scriptural basis for that belief.

ephesians 5:4
posted by pyramid termite at 3:53 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]


Well I can guarantee you that bramacharya can get "weird" and involve fear of sex even practiced as chastity in ascetic/monastic lifestyles, for example the sexual practices and teachings of Ghandi and those who followed him and lived in his ashram who, as I understand it, were not allowed to have sex though he would take turns sleeping naked with the women; "Gandhi's behaviour around females would eventually become very, very odd. He took to sleeping with naked young women, including his own great-niece, in order to "test" his commitment to celibacy."
posted by xarnop at 3:56 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


Are you seriously suggesting that the ancient Romans didn't use rape/sex-trafficking as an act of war, have open socially sanctioned prostitutes, or "put aside" undesirable women on a whim? Because all of that is very well documented, I'm afraid.

I'm pretty sure if that's what xdvesper had been suggesting, that's what they would have written, instead of

Contemporary Roman culture by the time of Paul were treating women much better than the classical Greeks did.

I don't know if it's true that Roman treatment of women was actually better than Greek, but "Romans did better than Greeks" is just as valid a statement as "Early Christings did better than Romans," which was the point you were making with Pope Guilty earlier.
posted by grandsham at 4:03 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


I have had conversations with churchgoing Evangelical Christians who do not believe that Catholics are Christians and who are ignorant of the modern-day existence of Jews.

Seriously? Like, they haven't heard of Israel, or they think it's a Christian country or something?
posted by XMLicious at 4:17 PM on March 26


"Paul", "Saul" or whoever wrote those epistles, Simon Magnus maybe some, someone else others, introduced a lot of personal hangups into the original Xianity that Mark of Alexandria had fabricated as a writing exercise of Septuagint fan fiction, but hangups come from someplace, the Roman Empire of the first century was an unsympathetic venue for plebians, despite the pax, Classical globalism encouraged disease and economic imperialism. "Paul" hated sex, he must have had his reasons, we no longer need to care since we have answers to those ancient problems. Other religions may not be so ostentatiously fretful, maybe that is situational due to the "Paul" figure, the original gospels did not linger on the question.
posted by koebelin at 4:20 PM on March 26


You could write an encyclopedia on the number of popular modern "Christian" beliefs which stem from mistranslations. Nearly all driven by incompetence, or more often crass political power-grubbing on the part of the translator.

Exhibit A: Virgin birth based on Isaiah 7:14, which is ripped out of the context of 7th century BC politics to be a statement on the 1st century AD, and anybody can see that. Yet it stands as a foundation of doctrine for the 20 centuries since. A ridiculous assertion based on nobody having any understanding of ancient scripture, because dark ages and tradition inertia.
posted by koebelin at 4:39 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


"Coarse" as defined by whom? Also, I'd point out those.particular passages don't really rise to the level of biblical commandment. In the case of most contemporary curse words, they come down to us as "crude" primarily because of their history as the language of conquered peoples. Since Jesus was the messiah of the oppressed, it seems a little too rich his teachings are now used to justify the perpetuation of European cultural bigotry.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:40 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


I mean, try to use fuck not in a coarse, crude joking way, but as a literal synonym forthe perfectly acceptable "Sex" and you're still going to find people who think you sinned. But there's no reason to see the use of the word itself as a sin, even putting aside the vastly different cultural settings. The intent of the use of the language was the original point, not the specific words (the current verboten words weren't even around then).
posted by saulgoodman at 4:46 PM on March 26


Well, sure, and "fuck" being from the Anglo-Saxon, most likely at some point it was just the word for sex in general, and it would be no more "coarse" than any other term for sex. Though the verse from Ephesians is so vague that it really could refer to any talk about impolite subjects.
posted by Sara C. at 4:51 PM on March 26


The KJV for that verse mentions "jesting", which, I mean come on, even among the crazy Biblical "literalists" you probably won't find anyone who seriously believes that making a joke is a sin.
posted by Sara C. at 4:53 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


Contemporary Roman culture by the time of Paul were treating women much better than the classical Greeks did.

Roman society by the time of Paul (and I mean, it's a big empire even by then-- lots of different cultures) contained more freedom for women. Roman women could own and control property; they could be citizens. It wasn't, like, super awesome, but the Athens of most of those vessels was from 5-400 years beforehand, and things kind of a little better. Did the Romans have brothels and prostitutes and mistresses? Yup. Did slaves (both genders!) not have rights in that department? Yup. Did women still not full equality under the law or loads of basic rights? Sure thing. But Roman women enjoyed far more latitude than their predecessors of centuries earlier.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:14 PM on March 26


Also, I'd point out those.particular passages don't really rise to the level of biblical commandment.

you said "scriptural basis" and i gave you some

what course is, whether crude is defined by the conquerors, whether it's philosophically or morally correct, whether it's the words or the thoughts that are at issue, or what i think about the instruction (hint- not much) isn't my concern here

there are christians who will cite this passage and others to tell you "the bible says you shouldn't swear", generally the kind who think that everything in that book is a commandment of some sort

i had a teacher in high school who insisted that we don't say "gee" or "gosh" because it was just a substitute for saying "god" which was taking the lord's name in vain, so "gee" or "gosh" breaks the commandments

i'm pretty sure he would have quoted ephesians 5:4 in explanation, too

i hated that school
posted by pyramid termite at 5:48 PM on March 26


I know the type, PT, and agree. The trouble is exactly as you put it: "the kind who think that everything in that book is a commandment of some sort."
posted by saulgoodman at 5:50 PM on March 26


yep
posted by pyramid termite at 5:51 PM on March 26


If you mean "Jesus!" but say "Gee!" instead, or mean "God!" but say "Gosh!" instead, you're just thinking you're getting away with it. That's obnoxious. If you're going to use the lord's name in vain, then use the lord's name in vain. Don't skirt around it and try to act all cute about it. "Wow, the lord's name but altered slightly because God only cares about the letter of the law and not the spirit!"
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:53 PM on March 26 [4 favorites]


Every religion has been spun to more or less stringent standards due to the local cultures that adopt them. Modest dress become full-body ninja suits, and so forth. I don't see why Christianity is suddenly more or less oppressive because fuddy-duddies think that Yosemite Sam has a dirty mouth. Additionally, I don't see how Christianity has more hang-ups about sex than say Dharmic religions, which sometimes call for celibacy just as any other faith.
posted by Apocryphon at 5:53 PM on March 26


If you mean "Jesus!" but say "Gee!" instead, or mean "God!" but say "Gosh!" instead, you're just thinking you're getting away with it. That's obnoxious.

yeah, minnesota - he's talking to YOU
posted by pyramid termite at 5:57 PM on March 26 [9 favorites]


"Wow, the lord's name but altered slightly because God only cares about the letter of the law and not the spirit!"

Doesn't the whole 'name in vain' thing trace its intellectual lineage back to kabbalist beliefs about the actual literal word for the name of god being sacred and powerful though? I always figured this was one of those rare cases where the letter of the law and its spirit were coincidental--you were just literally never supposed to utter the secret Jewish mystic name for god because the sound of the word itself was powerful ju-ju (a tradition that was itself borrowed from earlier pre-hindu beliefs about sacred syllables like Om). I'm fuzzy on the specifics, so I'd best quit before I go confusing the Normans with the Saxons again though.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:02 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


It's literally the third commandment.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:06 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


the lord's name is YHWH - or alternatively, "i am that i am" - there are others, but "god" really isn't one of them
posted by pyramid termite at 6:15 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


there are christians who will cite this passage and others to tell you "the bible says you shouldn't swear", generally the kind who think that everything in that book is a commandment of some sort

Agreed.

It's impossible to explain my faith to anyone. The New Testament is my moral compass. Love your neighbor. Help those in need. CONTROL YOUR ANGER. Have faith in those around you. We are created equal. The mantra of the modern church (well United Methodist anyway). I go on Sunday for a place of peace and reflection.

I'd love to tell contractor's to kindly...Fuck off. But my business ethics won't let me. Spiritually though, there's not a problem.
posted by Benway at 6:21 PM on March 26


Doesn't the whole 'name in vain' thing trace its intellectual lineage back to kabbalist beliefs about the actual literal word for the name of god being sacred and powerful though?

God == "God"
posted by weston at 6:26 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


There are two significant flaws in this argument:

1. Christian obsession with sex was evident when it was still a Greek speaking Church. Any flaws in translation came many centuries later.

2. This same obsession is evident in the non-Greek speaking Abrahamic religions from the area.
posted by kanewai at 6:45 PM on March 26 [5 favorites]


Don't skirt around it and try to act all cute about it.

Goshdarnit to heck, that's a bunch of poppycock. Minced oaths are a frigging tradition going back to the ever-loving Greeks and I blooming won't have anyone telling me what crap I can't say. Or else they'll see what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps.
posted by thecaddy at 6:54 PM on March 26 [14 favorites]


As much as I love Blasdelb's interpretation, I don't think you can reduce early Christian sexuality to freedom from exploitation. Paul continues in 1 Corinthians (after the "neither fornicators [πόρνοι], nor idolaters, etc." passage):

The body is meant not for fornication [πορνείᾳ] but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute [πόρνης]? Never! Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

It's clear here that Paul sees avoiding πορνείᾳ as a matter of purity for the believer, rather than of ill treatment of a marginalized class. Note also that Paul tends to be more equivocal about the morality of (presumably) non-sexual slavery; cf. Ephesians 6:5-9 and Philemon passim. So if Paul saw πορνείᾳ as wrong by virtue of its exploitative dimensions, he doesn't mention it outright. I'm not a biblical scholar and my ancient Greek is at least a decade out of practice, so please feel free to correct me if I'm missing something.
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:04 PM on March 26 [12 favorites]


When I was growing up in the Deep South back in the 60s and 70s, my fundamentalist evangelical Mom made it quite clear that we kids were not to use "by-words", such as darn, dang, dadgummit, drat, heck, shoot, gosh, golly, etc., which she passionately felt were just as bad as the swear words they replaced.

To this day, I am a little self-conscious even about saying "Good heavens!" and similar expressions in polite company.

I do recall hearing two exclamations that she and her father would say without seeming to run afoul of the proscriptions: "Why...I say it!" was an acceptable utterance expressing alarm or disbelief. Similarly, "My goodness!" seemed to be acceptable.

My family was really fucking uptight back then.
posted by darkstar at 9:14 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]


the lord's name is YHWH - or alternatively, 'i am that i am'

So God is Popeye?
posted by kirkaracha at 9:16 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]


Christians are concerned about sex because they think God is concerned about sex, because their leaders told them so. They were told this because controlling sexuality is key to controlling the human being by using guilt.
posted by Brian B. at 9:23 PM on March 26 [6 favorites]


There's a whole generation of Evangelical Christians who would love a reason to not have to toe the anti-homosexual line, but they think the Bible requires it. This kind of thing is exactly what they want/need and could make a real difference in that culture.

This was me. Of course, after becoming obsessed with hermeneutics I went astray, much as Lutoslawski mentions, so...

But I went to a "bible church" during my most fervent period of Evangelical Christianity, where at least they tried to incorporate a working knowledge of hermeneutics + spirituality in their congregation... the problem being that it could never be a completely open-ended investigation, hemmed in by the demand for an easily replicable (evangelical) faith as it was.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:34 PM on March 26


"It's clear here that Paul sees avoiding πορνείᾳ as a matter of purity for the believer, rather than of ill treatment of a marginalized class. Note also that Paul tends to be more equivocal about the morality of (presumably) non-sexual slavery; cf. Ephesians 6:5-9 and Philemon passim. So if Paul saw πορνείᾳ as wrong by virtue of its exploitative dimensions, he doesn't mention it outright. I'm not a biblical scholar and my ancient Greek is at least a decade out of practice, so please feel free to correct me if I'm missing something."
This kind of view of purity is the subject of one of Christianity's central critiques of Pharisaic Judaism, where purity is instead framed squarely in an deontological framework focused on encouraging people to stop being shitty to each other by pointing out how shitty that makes us.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:13 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]


Also if you read the declensions carefully, in that passage Paul is telling the Johns in the deeply unhealthy church in Corinth that they make themselves morally impure by failing to respect the ritual purity of women forced into sexual slavery as well as their own.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:25 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


workerant: "Yes. I have had conversations with churchgoing Evangelical Christians who do not believe that Catholics are Christians"

Heck, I grew up as a Methodist in east-coast middle-class suburbia in the 70s and 80s, and plenty of mainline Protestants didn't consider Catholics to be Christian. Well, not quite Christian, anyway.

But I guess it's close enough and it seems rude to argue with them about it because we're WASPs, so...um, sure, we'll say Catholics are Christian. (Pretty much. Shh.) Oh, and DON'T TAKE COMMUNION at their churches.
posted by desuetude at 11:05 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


It's late and I really can't read all the comments tonight, but the first thing that crossed my mind here is that I believe the vast majority of people in this ccountry who call themselves Christians know very little about what the Bible really says. Catholics are only one example of Christians who don't consider it necessary at all to even read the Bible - they just rely on what their priests and educators teach them. I've known Seventh-Day Adventists who get words attributed to Jesus in the Bible mixed up with those of their prophet Ellen White, and it's remarkable to me how many religious people think the remarks and instructions from Paul are actually coming from Jesus - even regular churchgoers can't differentiate between Jesus and Paul when it comes to basic doctrine.

Of course, two different denominations of protestant or evangelical or charismatic Christianity can read the same scripture and disagree about what it means, so it's not surprising that they can misinterpret a whole concept and debate it to death.

To me, the big deal about sex and sexual direction in Christians is simply that sexual material is always the big deal - isn't it? Keeping in in the context of church doctrine means it's a subject that's open for discussion - out loud, in public - as it's always geared toward their version of purity. But it's still about sex, really.

What I see as much more concerning right now than the obsession with sex is its carryover into an openly misogynist culture. The Christians have long criticized Islam for the way women are forced to cover their bodies completely, not be in the same room with a man unless he's related, and especially how even in a gang rape, the woman is always to blame. But - our flaming right-wing Christian coalition is just one step behind the very thing they criticize in the way they speak of how a woman should be quiet and stay in the background and never aspire to anything personal; she's basically evidence of her husband's heterosexuality and respectability to his peers, but she's really no more than his slave and worshipper - and, frightningly, target of his rage (or they might call it "correction,") when she steps out of line. Every day a little more emerges from the uber-religious Right that, if the thread is followed, will lead right back into the same ideas as the Muslims.

When any group, religious or not, gains enough power to openly subjugate a particular part of the population and that power grows in strength and acceptance, it will eventually become part of the culture and completely acceptable. The religious right is simply using sex and variations thereof as an opening play in a game of hate against women. It's time to get uneasy, I think, and it should be - should be - easy enough to make them look ridiculous just by turning their own nonsense back onto them. Maybe.
posted by aryma at 12:14 AM on March 27 [4 favorites]


"I have had conversations with churchgoing Evangelical Christians who do not believe that Catholics are Christians and who are ignorant of the modern-day existence of Jews."
Seriously? Like, they haven't heard of Israel, or they think it's a Christian country or something?"


I've had coworkers who could not reconcile the idea of actual living Jews (such as this one, standing in front of them eating a matzah sandwich) with the bloodthirsty casuistic monsters as described in the NT. Apparently people like me, bankers in NYC, Hollywood movie people and Jewish Israelis are not "real Jews" (who are xians, apparently), or related to the NT and medieval Jews, but we are just as evil and responsible for killing that god of theirs. So we're inauthentic AND evil, and simultaneously brownie points if we're converted.
posted by Dreidl at 12:18 AM on March 27 [4 favorites]


The KJV for that verse mentions "jesting", which, I mean come on, even among the crazy Biblical "literalists" you probably won't find anyone who seriously believes that making a joke is a sin.

The Lamentations will be great at MetaFilter when the Day arrives, I tell you!

...and... I've just doomed myself.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:57 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


My family was really fucking uptight back then.

I'm happy to see you pulled through that.
posted by jaduncan at 4:58 AM on March 27


Hot damn, Blasdelb has a Wordpress blog. Bookmarked!

update more plzthx
posted by Sleeper at 6:43 AM on March 27


My experience has far and away been that many Evangelical Christian communities already have some idea of what they want to believe for reasons not related to any sort of cohesive or logical theology and then they seek out those pieces of the Bible to fit their needs.

That's exactly what I said. I'm saying there are significant numbers of Evangelicals (especially in the younger generations) who want to believe that they don't have to take a stand against same-sex marriage. Those are the people who would welcome this sort of analysis that provides a "Biblical" justification for what they want to believe.
posted by straight at 9:12 AM on March 27


Given that the thesis of the essay is correct, I find it highly ironic that modern day conservative "Christians" have a problem with just about every kind of sex except for forced sex with a woman, the very same sex the Christian tradition actually militates against.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:46 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


Catholics are only one example of Christians who don't consider it necessary at all to even read the Bible - they just rely on what their priests and educators teach them.

Based on the "Bible churches" that I'm aware of, who make a BFD out of taking all theology from the Bible and nothing but the Bible (you-damn-betcha-it's-inerrant!), I'm not sure that having the whole business filtered through people who have at least been to seminary school is a bug. Seems like a feature to me.

I mean, many of those Bible-only churches seem to continually rehash theological arguments that would have made Augustine, to say nothing of Aquinas, go for the two-handed facepalm.

This argument (PDF), for inerrancy of the KJB, is a prime example.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:22 AM on March 27 [6 favorites]


The argument for inerrant of translation is reasonable enough, I guess, but wow did that punt when it came down to the wire of "but why this particular version"

it seems to come down to the KJB is the one true bible because these other translations have close-reading implications I don't agree with, and I know they're wrong because ????
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:41 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


which of course, the author can't back up with reference to the original texts, having rejected any notion that the text being translated is relevant or important to consider
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:42 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


If you're really down for it, I've found the authoritative linguistic analysis of the term can be downloaded open access through academia.edu here, which comes at the word from a different viewpoint while arriving at different conclusions and that will add a lot of perspective if its the word itself you're interested in.

Perhaps I'm misreading the link, but that author seems to be addressing the fourth-century uses of the Greek words, as opposed to the OP link which addresses the words as they were used in Paul's or Biblical times.

On edit: I didn't read far enough. That is a very informative link. Thank you.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:59 AM on March 27


If you mean "Jesus!" but say "Gee!" instead, or mean "God!" but say "Gosh!" instead, you're just thinking you're getting away with it. That's obnoxious. If you're going to use the lord's name in vain, then use the lord's name in vain. Don't skirt around it and try to act all cute about it. "Wow, the lord's name but altered slightly because God only cares about the letter of the law and not the spirit!"

fuckin' a!
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 11:03 AM on March 27


Incidentally, if it hasn't been clear, this was my essay from a project I posted.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:11 AM on March 27


> It's probably wrong of me that I am skeptical towards this author because the author keeps talking about "conjugation" in the context of a noun, when conjugation is something you do to verbs, "declension" is what you do to nouns. :(

The author apparently doesn't have the slightest understanding of Greek:
pornos (πόρνος) were those who sexually assaulted those forced into prostitution, pornois (πόρνοις) were more than one, the pornēs (πόρνης) were specifically those prostitutes who were sold for a pathetic sum to any taker
The author thinks πόρνος and πόρνης are plural when they're actually singular (a fact that would be obvious to any first-year student of Greek) and doesn't seem to understand that πόρνοις is a declined form and not a nominative plural. I ain't taking lessons in ancient semantics from such a person.
posted by languagehat at 11:53 AM on March 27 [11 favorites]


Those are very good finer points above (on misuse of "conjugation" here and other language issues here). The errors are unfortunate (as they have the effect of calling the quality of the underlying scholarship the broader argument is based on into question) but I'm not clear whether they substantially invalidate the thrust of the argument.

(To be clear, I'm not arguing in defense of the original claims, I'm just vexed.)
posted by saulgoodman at 1:03 PM on March 27


languagehat: yeah, that seemed wack to me too but I was willing to assume those were weird forms I'd never heard of. Sounds like they're getting their Greek stuff secondhand from the linked paper on "Porneia" and maybe they just misunderstood a few things. I guess I could find that out by bothering to read the Porneia paper, couldn't I?
posted by edheil at 2:10 PM on March 27


Interesting idea but if the author is hoping it will get Paul off the hook with the likes of me, he needs to think again because it won't. Paul has way too much to answer for. He practically singlehandedly ruined what was probably a nice little hippie religion.
posted by Anitanola at 4:00 AM on March 28 [2 favorites]


I imagine the author cares very little about our opinion of Paul and a lot more about helping Christians who respect Paul and the other New Testament writers to see how the New Testament could be understood to support sexual ethics that were more concerned about justice (esp for women) than ideas about sexual purity.
posted by straight at 9:29 AM on March 28 [3 favorites]


> I had imagined the author did care about helping people who do not find it possible to respect Paul, as presented to Christians for centuries, to see how the New Testament could be understood differently. Christians who already respect Paul as currently preached have less incentive to accept this new idea. I do see that it could help and I appreciate the interpretation he advances but it is not sufficient to undo the untold suffering and injustice imposed on women for centuries in the name of those writings. It is a necessary correction and I hope it is widely accepted, but it is not sufficient. It is too little, too late, at least for me. That ship has sailed; maybe not until I was past fifty, but sail it did.
posted by Anitanola at 4:56 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


...Have I been shaddowbanned or something? Wasn't that supposed to not be a thing? I'm right here, what a weird thread.
"The author thinks πόρνος and πόρνης are plural when they're actually singular (a fact that would be obvious to any first-year student of Greek) and doesn't seem to understand that πόρνοις is a declined form and not a nominative plural. I ain't taking lessons in ancient semantics from such a person."
To say that I wrote that first paragraph thinking πόρνος and πόρνης were plural is an astonishingly petty aggressive misunderstanding of Standard English grammar, particularly when πόρνος is explicitly distinguished as singular, WTF languagehat? You can parse a sentence better than that. That said, after checking with a textual criticism student (sometimes it helps having drinking buddies in the theology department), I did indeed use the incorrect plural second declension for πόρνος for Attic Greek, the dative case still confuses the fuck out of me and it doesn't help that the Pauline epistles seem to use it idiosyncratically. I've fixed the error and made a note of it at the bottom.

To be clear, I am not a classical scholar or a linguist, just someone with enough of a love for Classical plays and New Testament theology to be a first year student of greek combining that with my interest in feminist theory.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:45 AM on March 29 [2 favorites]


Is it just me or is this really not the sort of direction this thread should go in?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:32 AM on March 29


> To say that I wrote that first paragraph thinking πόρνος and πόρνης were plural is an astonishingly petty aggressive misunderstanding of Standard English grammar, particularly when πόρνος is explicitly distinguished as singular, WTF languagehat?

Sorry, dude, I didn't realize it was by you or I wouldn't have been quite so snide, since I respect the hell out of you as a Mefite. That said, no, I don't think it's "an astonishingly petty aggressive misunderstanding of Standard English grammar"; you write "pornos (πόρνος) were those who..." and "the pornēs (πόρνης) were specifically those prostitutes who...," and both unambiguously position the Greek words as singular. No harm, no foul, you never claimed to be a Greek scholar, and again, I apologize for unnecessary roughness, but come on, you can admit it: U R RONG.
posted by languagehat at 8:24 AM on March 29 [3 favorites]


I have had conversations with churchgoing Evangelical Christians who do not believe that Catholics are Christians and who are ignorant of the modern-day existence of Jews.

I had a somewhat stupefying exchange with someone from a Boston Irish Catholic upbringing who had actually gone to school in a pretty heavily Jewish suburb to a with a ton of Jews and who 'liked Jewish women,'; he expressed his sympathy to me about how rough it must be on us, having killed our messiah, and literally could not wrap his (to be fair, slightly inebriated) head around the fact that WE don't actually believe that Jesus was the messiah, and that we haven't built thousands of years of continued identity and practice around some kind of collective ruefulness at our own shortsightedness.

It was the most kindly meant, and expressed, embodiment of baffling ignorance and antisemitic tropes I have ever heard. It felt about as much like empathy as I can imagine from a tipsy, beefy, blond, jersey-wearing twenty something winding his way home on the T as I could possibly imagine.

In some sense he knew that Jews exist. But not really, in any recognizable sense, as Jews.
posted by Salamandrous at 6:30 PM on April 3


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