Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 24 February 2024

Helen King sharedconversations Questions of fornication

Lisa Oakley University of Chester Response from Professor Lisa Oakley to the ‘Future of Church Safeguarding’ report recommendation 10 the removal of spiritual abuse

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Marian Birch
Marian Birch
1 month ago

I absolutely and entirely agree with Lisa Oakley that to remove ‘spiritual abuse’ as a category and replace it with ‘psychological and emotional abuse’ is a backwards step – not least because it does not take account of the experience of people such as myself who believe that the way that we have been treated either by the C of E itself or (in my case) a mission organisation that claimed Anglican identity can best be described as ‘spiritual abuse’. ‘Psychological’ or ’emotional’ does not describe the reality that the way I was treated seemed to be intended to make… Read more »

Martin Sewell
Martin Sewell
Reply to  Marian Birch
1 month ago

I think you might be missing an important point. This is not about “ making a point” we need to “get rid of the bad guys”. Getting that done quickly and cleanly is the objective of the exercise. I struggle to see that common and garden “emotional abuse” is inadequate. As a former safeguarding lawyer I’d always take “ the easy win”! How is “ spiritual abuse “ not also and inevitably “emotional abuse”? The spiritual aspect is surely the context which can be expressed through the second phase – the impact statement phase. Emotional abuse operates in various ways.… Read more »

Peter
Peter
1 month ago

The notion – in Helen King’s piece – that porneia in the Bible only relates to heterosexual activity is a flight of fancy.

It is universally recognised that the term covers the general category of sexual practice forbidden by God.

Can we please at least stay in touch with the meaning of language.

Graham Watts
Graham Watts
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Peter, please refer me to place that I can read a clear and unabiguous statement of ‘sexual practice forbidden by God’ and we will go from there.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Graham Watts
1 month ago

I suggest you read the Bible

Graham Watts
Graham Watts
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

I suggest that you answer the question.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Graham Watts
1 month ago

See Anglican Priest comment below

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Perhaps you can give us chapter and verse?

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

See Anglican Priest comment below

David Hawkins
David Hawkins
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Jesus’s harshest words, we might recall, were said to those who thought they’d got it right, those who felt themselves superior and those who considered they had nothing to learn from those who in their eyes were ‘sinners’.”

(Bishop Cherry Vann)

Peter
Peter
Reply to  David Hawkins
1 month ago

You overlook the rather obvious point that the New and Old Testament defines the difference between right and wrong.

The question is what the bible sets out as the boundaries of conduct.

Cheap shots insinuating I am sort of person Jesus had in mind with his condemnation is missing His point.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

“You overlook the rather obvious point that the New and Old Testament defines the difference between right and wrong.”

If this is the case, we have a problem, because the Bible condones genocide (if perceived as God-ordered), slavery, polygamy, and a host of other things currently considered either illegal or immoral (or both).

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

Never mind that oddly contradictory bit which Jesus touched on with the Sadducees, and which was mentioned on a previous thread. A man cannot marry his deceased wife’s sister, but Jewish culture required a man to marry his dead brother’s widow to somehow preserve his line (and, presumably, to provide children to care for her.) So, from our point of view, that’s pretty inconsistent.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Peter. ‘It is universally recognised’. Well plainly not, or this carefully referenced article would not have been written at all. Trying to discern ‘the meaning of language’ is exactly what this discussion is about. It is the claim that your preferred understanding of the meaning of the word is ‘universal’ that is fanciful.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 month ago

“Carefully referenced” is a stretch, David.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

I really don’t think you can say something is “universally recognized” unless you have actually read EVERYTHING ever written on the subject or, alternatively, are claiming omniscience.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

“Universally recognised” has a different meaning to “read everything” or “omniscience”

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Really? Doesn’t it mean “everyone knows this and agrees”? How can you possibly know that to be the case unless you are familiar with every single word that has ever been written or spoken on the subject? Or are all-knowing?

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

“Universally recognised” is an entirely conventional semantic device. It has a perfectly straightforward general meaning.

Your attempt to assert that it defines a non-existent category has no merit.

Last edited 1 month ago by Peter
Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

You appear to be radically diminishing the size of the universe.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Mark Bennet
1 month ago

You appear to be confusing universal with universe.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Oh, I see, you are using it in the same sense Jane Austen used it in the opening paragraph of Pride and Prejudice. You are aware that Austen was being satiric?

Or are you using it the way Soviet politicians and diplomats would use the similar phrase “It is well-known that….” to precede a statement based only in Communist Party dogma?

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

You might want to consider the possibility I am using it in the context of what I was saying.

Your “so what your saying is…” demonstrates nothing at all

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

IMO, to use “universal” in that manner is akin to American baseball calling its championship tournament the “World Series”. It is claiming a globe-spanning accomplishment for something that is not.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

It means nothing of the sort in England. If that is American vernacular that is matter for Americans.

I am English and therefore am entitled to adopt English vernacular.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Here’s the definition of “universal” from the Cambridge Dictionary (deliberately chosen as a recognized British reference work). Please explain how it differs from the definition I have been using in our discussion.

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/universal

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

I am starting to realise that adding “This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God” to the liturgy was a mistake since it portrays the Gospel as read as the literal word of the Lord. It isn’t. It’s a translation from Greek. Some in the congregation won’t understand that and think that the translation chosen by the church is the definitive word of God, others will understand and see the Greek as the definitive word of God. Both groups are wrong since the Gospels are a translation into Greek of what it is recalled that Jesus said… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Kate Keates
1 month ago

We make this refrain whatever part of the bible has been read – not just the gospels.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 month ago

Roman Catholics ( and American Episcopalians ) say “The Word of the Lord” which besides being ancient is rather less ” pinned down” than the rather wooden “This is”.
I have noticed some readers say “For the Word of the Lord” and occasionally say quite deliberately just “Hear ends the lesson”

Nigel Jones
Nigel Jones
Reply to  Perry Butler
1 month ago

We ALWAYS say “Here ends the first/second reading.” Anything else could mislead people into thinking that we think that the Bible is in some way the same as “what God says”, which is the sort of nonsense that puts ordinary, sensible people off religion.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Nigel Jones
1 month ago

But that is what so many of us have been taught to think, either directly or more subtly. Whether that is right or wrong is another matter.

Nigel Jones
Nigel Jones
Reply to  John Davies
1 month ago

Agreed, John. There’s been much criticism of bishops recently but I suspect that this is the real failure of leadership in recent decades- the failure to encourage a grown up engagement with scripture. It’s well known that the insights of academic theology rarely affect what is said in our pulpits, for example. Why? Fear of causing upset. The prophets in the Bible knew they would sometimes upset people though. And Jesus seemed to upset the religious people on purpose sometimes, so urgent was the need to update their religion.

Last edited 1 month ago by Nigel Jones
John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Nigel Jones
1 month ago

Also, quite possibly because the insights haven’t yet filtered down to the local level.
So much depends on the outlook of the individual minister, as well as what their congregation will tolerate. Jesus knew how his ministry would end, and carried on regardless – but not everyone is like that. And remember the additions to the list of commandments – thou shalt not rock the boat, and most certainly, thou shalt not bite the hand that feeds you……

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Perry Butler
1 month ago

“Here endeth the lesson” or “Here endeth the epistle” is good, solid, Prayer Book, Church of England tradition. If only it were more common.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Kate Keates
1 month ago

The Gospels stand with the epistles and the Old Testament. You cannot pick the bits you wish to venerate

Last edited 1 month ago by Peter
Nigel Jones
Nigel Jones
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

I try to base my life on Genesis 6:4. The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them; the same were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Nigel Jones
1 month ago

I assume you are being facetious.

It is not a technique that is at the vanguard of compelling argument

Nigel Jones
Nigel Jones
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Well, I’m trying to make a serious point too: that Gen 6:4 is not on a par with Jn 3:16. If we really thought all scripture were on the same level, wouldn’t we hear about the Nephilim much more often in our churches?

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

I don’t think we have enough in common to continue this discussion.

William
William
Reply to  Kate Keates
1 month ago

‘Jesus didn’t have long to preach and teach’.
Surely he continues to preach and teach through the Church which is his body. Isn’t that the whole point?

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Speaking specifically of Acts 15 for a moment, where porneia appears (“we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest”), the four prohibitions are traceable to Leviticus 17-18, and they pertain to the sojourner in the midst of Israel, alongside the people of God. Leviticus 18 details a wide range of forbidden activities, and Acts (the Council of Jerusalem) points back to them in the context of these 4 prohibitions to be… Read more »

Evan McWilliams
Evan McWilliams
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

This is possibly one of the most sensible comments I’ve read on here to date as it actually takes seriously the thought-framework at play in the NT period. We have to be honest about what the apostles thought they were saying. Pretending they didn’t say things they clearly said, or intended to say things they didn’t bother to get around to saying is silly. Now for us, the question is two-fold (at least!): first, were they right in their understanding of what Leviticus was commanding? The rabbinical tradition of which St Paul was a part is not in itself inviolable… Read more »

Jonathan Tallon
Jonathan Tallon
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Sorry, but I think Lev 17 & 18 are a red herring here. The four prohibitions don’t tie at all well with Leviticus. It is much more likely that the gentiles were being told not to sleep around with prostitutes (the original, primary meaning of the porn- root and widespread in the culture, and linked in Jewish rhetoric to idolatry) rather than a much narrower focus mainly on some types of incest outlawed in Leviticus(not common at all in the gentile culture). See Witherington (1998, 460-64) for more details.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Jonathan Tallon
1 month ago

A dismissal at this level (“I think”) is belied by the fact that it is only in Leviticus 17–18 where we find these four prohibitions together. They “tie” not just well together, but exclusively here. Richard Bauckham (FBA) has done the solid linguistic and exegetical work here and I have my own versions of the argument in publications (so, for example, why conclude as Acts does, “for the Law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest” — a completely gratuitous comment unless it is grounding the prohibitions in the Law). Let me take this opportunity to… Read more »

Charles Clapham
Charles Clapham
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

I have generally assumed that the greek word porneia referred primarily to prostitution (porne meaning prostitute, and coming from the greek word meaning to sell): hence its extension in the bible to idolatry both literally (recourse to cultic/temple prostitutes), and metaphorically (“whoring after other gods”).  . Clearly in the NT porneia has a wider application (to incest, for example, in 1 Corinthians), but I’m still not persuaded how wide. I am not aware of a biblical use of porneia where the immediate context makes it explicit that it is homosexual sex that is referred to. To say that porneia in… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Charles Clapham
Peter
Peter
Reply to  Charles Clapham
1 month ago

New Testament sexual ethics obviously reflects the specific texts to which you refer but you are creating an eccentricity of your own making.

The notion the bible is relaxed about adultery or sex outside marriage is an absurdity.

You are not presenting conservatives with a novel and challenging insight. You are making the bible appear ridiculous when it is no such thing.

Last edited 1 month ago by Peter
Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Charles Clapham
1 month ago

“…such as Witherington, and others more conservative than him) who tend to understand porneia in Acts” — at issue in the example chosen is why these four prohibitions, not, “here we find the only possible referent for the word porneia across the book of Acts (or NT more widely).” Bauckham’s scholarship is impeccable, especially when it come to the Jewish-Christian context (the James circle is obviously to be located here). See also William Horbury or Marcus Bockmuehl. This isn’t a question of “more conservative” or less, but of scholarship competent to evaluate the concerns inhabiting the Council of Jerusalem. Here… Read more »

Jonathan Tallon
Jonathan Tallon
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Why these four prohibitions? Because they all relate to taking part in idolatry, in particular a temple feast. ‘Things polluted by idols’ is polluted food offered on pagan altars (similar to the issue addressed by Paul in 1 Cor.). Animals were strangled as sacrifice, and blood from the animal drunk. And the link between sexual frenzies and pagan worship was a commonplace in Jewish rhetoric. This ties in the decree in Acts with concerns in Paul’s letters, and addressed in a similar fashion. The alternative )Lev. 17-18) places a harsh divide between Paul’s letters and the decree, and creates a… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Jonathan Tallon
1 month ago

I consider Ben Witherington a good friend. I do not agree with him on this matter.

The slur is yours: “your insinuation that Witherington isn’t competent.”

I said nothing of the kind.

I do share his views on same-sex marriage.

Jonathan Tallon
Jonathan Tallon
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Quote: ‘This isn’t a question of “more conservative” or less, but of scholarship competent to evaluate’.
My apologies if this was not directed at those who disagreed with Bauckham, such as Witherington. It appeared to me to be aimed at him.

Jonathan Tallon
Jonathan Tallon
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

I said ‘I think’ because… …it is what I think? I don’t know how else you expect me to say what I think. You don’t find the four prohibitions obviously in Lev. 17-18 (no obviously strangled animals, and no use of the word porneia or its Hebrew equivalent). I invite readers to go and read Lev. 17-18, and see if they think it is neatly summarised in these four prohibitions. And if I am wrong and it does refer to Lev. 17-18 then we (the Church) already ignore three of the four prohibitions (I happen to like black pudding, for… Read more »

Charles Clapham
Charles Clapham
Reply to  Jonathan Tallon
1 month ago

Was about to comment on much the same lines, but I see Jonathan Tallon has beaten me! I do take the point from Anglican Priest that exegetical conclusions on this point ought to be a matter of scholarship (and not whether you are conservative or liberal on sexuality); but from a theological-ethical perspective – that is, if one wants to read the bible to inform a normative ethic that can shape Christians today – my observation is really that appealing to Leviticus 17-18 to interpret Acts 15 generates as many problems for conservatives (e.g. the question of eating blood as… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Charles Clapham
Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Charles Clapham
1 month ago

Charles, see my comment to follow. I believe Bockmuehl anticipated the arguments in Jewish Law for the Christian Church, as set forth by Bauckham. William Horbury also has a long essay dealing with just the kind of exegetical logic that goes into Acts 15 as such, and in the Western Text, where the table fellowship issue is now receding. I am unaware of Ben Witherington engaging with these arguments, but I am happy to be corrected. Much of it has to do with valorizing the greco-Roman world (that is what his sociological method does) over the Jewish Christian world. In… Read more »

Jonathan Tallon
Jonathan Tallon
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Witherington’s arguments are found in his commentary on Acts. (He also edited the book on Acts in which Bauckham’s article is found.)

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Jonathan Tallon
1 month ago

“‘I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people. 11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.[c] 12 Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.” 13 “‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the… Read more »

Jonathan Tallon
Jonathan Tallon
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

I see a lot of blood. I don’t see strangled animals.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Jonathan Tallon
1 month ago

When I tramped around the Old Course with my St Andrews colleague Ben Witherington, I enjoyed discussing exegesis and theology.

This is frankly tedious.

“anything found dead or torn by wild animals.”

I think this has outlived its usefulness. As I have said, if you are in favor of same-sex marriage, it really won’t matter much what about what biblical texts say. Not Acts 15, not Jesus on marriage and Genesis, not Romans 1.

Professor Witherington and I do agree on one thing. There is no biblical warrant for same-sex marriage.

 

Jonathan Tallon
Jonathan Tallon
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

When asked to find strangled animals, you go to Leviticus 17:15 (which doesn’t mention strangled animals). Bauckham goes to Leviticus 17:13 (and says that Lev. 17:15 doesn’t refer to strangled animals). This rather highlights how difficult it is to find the right referent for strangled animals. They are not obviously mentioned in Leviticus 17, and either you have to assume that it is another way of saying the same thing about killing animals (drain the blood) not specified in Leviticus, or a reference to animals that have died or been eaten by others, which is also not obviously strangled. This… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Jonathan Tallon
1 month ago

The Western Text of Acts already reflects the accommodations you are looking for. Acts 15 is assuming a fellowship between Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians, a fellowship that tragically did not evolve as the Council of Jerusalem was setting that forth, from within the Law of Moses. That text, therefore, has “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “you shall do no murder” instead of the blood texts (which entailed table fellowship; a major issue between Jewish and Gentile Christians). By the end of Acts, it is clear that Paul will now turn exclusively to Gentiles. Leviticus 18 follows 17 and… Read more »

Charles Clapham
Charles Clapham
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Mmm. But the implication is what? That the prohibition against sexual immorality (to include homosexuality, on the basis of Leviticus) in Acts 15 remains binding for contemporary Christians, but that the issue of eating blood doesn’t, it being argued that this was a temporary matter of table fellowship with Jews prior to the parting of the ways? . But this looks suspiciously like the sort of special pleading that liberals get accused of in terms of handling texts. . Why not, for example, invert the argument, and suggest that the issue of blood remains binding (it being explicitly commanded to… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Charles Clapham
Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Charles Clapham
1 month ago

The Western text of Acts speaks for itself. You are welcome to a different conclusion about why only two proscriptions are different. It is a tragic fact (and one that causes Paul anguish in Romans) that the concerns for Jewish and Gentile table fellowship would become a piece of past history (though in fact versions of it are alive in modern Jewish Christian life). Invert the logic to what purpose? There remains an obvious ethical concern for the shedding of blood, that Jews and Christians share, and that carries over into “Thou shalt do no murder” in Acts western text.… Read more »

Jonathan Tallon
Jonathan Tallon
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Basing anything off the text of Codex Bezae is a punt, at best. And any differences from the mainstream text can’t be confidently dated any earlier than the fifth century. I don’t think it tells us much about what Luke was talking about in Acts in this instance.

Lorenzo Fernandez-Smal
Lorenzo Fernandez-Smal
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Acts 15 reiterates the Noahide laws which are binding on Gentiles as well as Israelites. Gay sex would have been included among those at the time, it certainly was later in the Mishna. But that’s begging the question: is a committed, permanent relationship between non-pagans including in the ban rather than extra-marital activities between otherwise married men and their boys or slaves? Quite a few rabbis think not, or draw the line at penetrative sex.

Tobias Haller
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Peter, are you aware that porneia (or znut in the Hebrew) is not forbidden (to men or professional prostitutes) in the Hebrew Scriptures except in certain narrow contexts. There is considerable argument about the meaning and range of porneia in the NT. Some like to see it as a very broad general term, but others narrow its range considerably. There is no uniform or univocal understanding among scholars.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Tobias Haller
1 month ago

No serious reformed theologian of the last fifty (or more) years would entertain the fiction that the term porneia has the meaning asserted by Helen King.

This is not serious theology. It’s making stuff up and insisting scholars are divided on the issue.

Nic T
Nic T
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Peter, you are welcome to query Helen’s use of the term porneia. However, it should be acknowledged that Helen is an Emeritus Professor of Classical Studies with a specialisation in the history of the body. She is not some random internet blogger recycling half remembered stuff they read somewhere on the internet.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Nic T
1 month ago

I prefer to stick to the issues and avoid both personal criticism and flattery of an individual.

Porneia does not mean what Helen King claims it means. That is the only point that merits attention.

Nic T
Nic T
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

But you do cite academic reputation as an important factor – “no serious reformed theologian of the last fifty years…”

I won’t trust academic reputation alone, academics can be wrong, but given the choice of trusting a person with a lifetime of researching an area and someone I’ve never met on an internet discussion page saying “they are wrong”, I’ll lean towards the expert.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Nic T
1 month ago

I suggest you have regard to the advice of Anglican Priest on the matter on this thread. He is a biblical studies scholar.

I would obviously defer to Helen King in her specialist field – which happens not to be biblical studies.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Tobias Haller
1 month ago

I’d welcome clarification on how what you write here “znut in the Hebrew” means univocally the Greek porneia. If we learned one thing only from the late James Barr, (even should one suppose what you assert here), words are not derived from etymology, and surely not from one-to-one assumptions (“znut in the Hebrew”), but rather from the logic of the wider narrative context in which they are used and in which they traffic. porneia = znut in the Hebrew is the logic of a lexicon, at best.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Thank you for your comments. As my primary interest is in history I do have some unease about teleological interpretations of any kind (whether Whig, Hegelian, Marxist, etc.), and I fear that too much of the debate has been about what certain parties want scripture to say, rather than what it actually says and/or what was the context in which it was written. This can periodically result in the texts being placed on a Procrustean bed, and the results may sometimes be somewhat painful (at least to me). Of course, my concern may well lead to something akin to an… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

Dear Froghole, I suppose that, at what he was good at, he was a solid scholar. When it came to intellectual history, exegesis (he once proudly declared he had never divided a biblical verse!), the history of biblical interpretation (a field developed on the Continent and French circles especially), I think he lacked sufficient interest and his wider impact was blunted. He wrote not a single commentary. Several of his later monographs were bitter in tone (the Gifford Lectures and a tirade against Barth). He had a worry about ‘fundamentalism’ that was culturally locked in an English context. His reception… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Thank you so much for that, as ever! I never met him, but knew people who did. In terms of Christ Church there was, apparently, a perception that, whilst likeable, he was a frequent absentee and did not really pull his weight as a teacher (teaching being an imperative for whomever held the chair, given that many putative Hebraists would not have commenced study of the language whilst at school). His oeuvre during the 1960s seems to have been a succes d’estime, but then he seemed to plunge into controversy during the 1970s. I am not qualified to say whether… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

With the introduction of the RAE, the situation would change in Scotland. 3 decades ago, no one would have imagined that the two Crown appointments at Oxford would depart for Aberdeen and Edinburgh respectively (John Webster and Oliver O’Donovan). The most exciting place in many ways was the Kings College cohort gathered around Colin Gunton and John Zizioulas. Tom Wright would leave his Durham post and go to St Andrews. The renown orthodox scholar John Behr is now in Aberdeen. When I left a tenured post at Yale to go to St Andrews, it seemed like a new atmosphere was… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Anglican Priest
Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Thank you, as ever, for these fascinating observations. Yes, I (and, no doubt, many others) have noted the northward drift of many eminent academics, and had had attributed it to house prices though, of course, much of Edinburgh these days is not noticeably cheaper than much of Oxford! Perhaps it seems, at least in terms of theology, that we are reverting to the period before 1828 (Wellington’s appointment of Pusey to the Hebrew chair), when much the most interesting work was being done north of the border… (though see here for a recent apology for Oxford in the alleged epoch… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

I visited Webster in his lovely (provided) lodgings at Christ Church once. I would have found them hard to leave! I kidded him by asking “where is the beekeeper?”

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

In the 1960s some scholars thought it likely that porneia was about sacrifices to pagan gods and the linked temple prostitution rather than being all about sex in general.
The ancient world was rather less concerned about what people did with their wobbly bits in private than the sex-obsessed church that followed in later and present years.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
1 month ago

You have a false understanding of the ancient world.

Degrading and abusive sexual behaviour was a universal feature of such societies.

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

That is a very bald statement. I am puzzled. I have quite a deep knowledge of those times and mores and your comment needs a good deal of unpacking.
Looking through your posts it seems you are angry? That might be clouding your judgement?

Matthew Tomlinson
Matthew Tomlinson
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

You’ll want to update Liddell & Scott then.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
1 month ago

I think that spiritual abuse is useful as a term which victims and survivors can adopt as a first description of what they feel has happened to them. As with many survivor reports the experience may or may not meet the precise definitional criteria developed for other purposes, but the main point, in the first instance, is not to categorise abuse, but to listen to a victim/survivors story told in its own terms – and we should not take their language away from them.

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
1 month ago

I was reading Helen King’s column on fornication and, more specifically, the meaning of the Greek word porneia, which is ascribed to Jesus of Nazareth in the early Greek Gospel texts as one of the sins that will prevent someone from entering or inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven. 1) I wish to thank Helen King for stating more than once that porneia is the Greek translation of a word attributed (my emphasis) to Jesus of Nazareth. So far as we know, Jesus of Nazareth never wrote anything himself. What we have is Gospel texts written in Greek decades after Jesus… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by peterpi - Peter Gross
Peter
Peter
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
1 month ago

Since when did the recorded words of Jesus have a special authority ?

It is the Scriptures that are God breathed.

People are just cutting loose from reformed theology and making stuff up as they go along.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

What does the preposterous concept of “God breathed ” actually mean? How do we know the Almighty has lungs and nostrils?

Peter
Peter
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

I am going do you the courtesy of recognising that you know perfectly well how and why “breath” is used in the New Testament

Last edited 1 month ago by Peter
David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

It is only a few days ago you were stressing here how the bible is poetry not for reading literally. This is one example is it not?

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 month ago

Even if it is poetry, it is still a totally meaningless assertion.

Charles Read
Charles Read
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

So the Bible is more inspired than, er, the actual words of God incarnate? Even Harry Houdini could not get out of that.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Charles Read
1 month ago

Charles, I assume you are amusing yourself.

The Church of England does not distinguish between different bits of the New Testament.

Nigel Jones
Nigel Jones
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

It is universally recognised that this is an extract from Common Worship:
Gospel Reading

An acclamation may herald the Gospel reading.
When the Gospel is announced the reader says
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
All Glory to you, O Lord.
At the end
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ

Last edited 1 month ago by Nigel Jones
Peter
Peter
Reply to  Nigel Jones
1 month ago

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ does not mean the recorded words of Jesus.

They are not the same thing.

Nigel Jones
Nigel Jones
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Hi Peter, the point I was making is that in Anglican liturgy the four Gospels are not treated in the same way as the rest of the Bible. I think you were saying that Anglicanism treats all the Bible equally, but I don’t think that’s true.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Nigel Jones
1 month ago

Anglican conviction does not privilege The Gospels over other parts of Scripture.

Nor, for that matter, does any other reformed Protestant tradition.

You are welcome to think what you like, but you are constructing your own religion, not describing anything widely held to be true

Last edited 1 month ago by Peter
Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

“Anglican conviction does not privilege The Gospels over other parts of Scripture.”

Really? Why then is the Gospel always read by an ordained cleric (and often from the pulpit), while the Epistles and other lessons are read by a lay member of the congregation from an ordinary lectern?

Simon Kershaw
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

I think you may be seeing only one churchmanship. In many places in the English Church the gospel is commonly or at least occasionally read by a lay person (and as a lay person I have myself done so at meetings of the Liturgical Commission). And I’m not sure I have ever seen the gospel read from the pulpit. In some places I have been shocked to find the congregation at a formal service not standing for the reading. That said, it is clear that at the Eucharist the gospel reading is privileged — that people normally stand, that it… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

Simon, I concur with all of this. In my very low church upbringing in Leicester, we always stood for the gospel and used the traditional BCP acclamations (‘Glory be to thee, O Lord’/’Praise be to thee, O Christ’) rather than the standard responses to the OT and NT readings. Also the use of ‘epistle side’ and ‘gospel’ side as the location for the readings.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

I cannot improve on Simon Kershaw’s comment which covers the matter well

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

Pat, I know of no rule that says the gospel is always read by an ordained cleric. In the Anglican church of Canada the custom is for a deacon to read the gospel if there is a deacon. If not, anyone lay or ordained may read the gospel. In some churches it is read from the centre of the congregation, with everyone turning to face the reader. But it’s also common for it to be read from the lectern like the other readings, but with the congregation standing rather than sitting. As so often happens here at TA, you are… Read more »

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Perhaps it would be a good idea if it did!…or does?
Revelation got into the canon by the skin of its teeth!!

Nigel Jones
Nigel Jones
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Worshipping the Bible is a surprisingly widespread problem in the church today. To object when someone gives the words of Jesus (“our Lord”?) more weight than the rest of the Bible is a particularly bizarre manifestation of this. Don’t you know that there were centuries of wrangling about which books to include in the canon? Even Martin Luther didn’t like the bits that contradicted his preferred emphases. Who says that the scriptures are God-breathed anyway? Just the members of one part of the church who don’t realise that they’re a subset of the church, and who don’t realise that this… Read more »

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Nigel Jones
1 month ago

There will be people somewhere who believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden. If they want to say that is now part of Anglicanism, they can post here to say so.

Simon, to his credit, is a free speech champion and lets all sorts have their say.

Your comments are outside the category of Anglican conviction, so you are free to say what you like but it has no relevance to anything I have said.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Peter’s comments are a tribute to the moderators’ intolerance on TA. They show the existence of unbelievable concepts which are now quite widespread in today’s happy clappy CofE. They might even be an example of why so many have stopped attending a ludicrous Church.

Last edited 1 month ago by FrDavid H
FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Sorry. I meant moderators’ tolerance

Peter
Peter
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

at least we agree on something

Peter
Peter
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

I assume you mean the moderators’ tolerance !

Nigel Jones
Nigel Jones
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

At last, something we can agree on!

Evan McWilliams
Evan McWilliams
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

It would be a profound mischaracterisation of Anglicanism to suggest these ‘unbelievable concepts’ are at all new or a result of happy-clappy-ism. Concepts like the inerrancy of scripture and the seven-day creation of a literal Eden were commonplace well into the 19th century. Whether they’re correct or not is a separate question.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Evan McWilliams
1 month ago

When happy-clappys hold on to seven-day creation stories and inerrant scriptures it matters greatly that they are nonsense. Why should a national church commend to the nation ideas based on gibberish?

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

“They might even be an example of why so many have stopped attending a ludicrous Church.” This assertion is simply preposterous, leaving aside your views on Scripture — minimalist, dismissive, etc. Please provide one solid piece of factual evidence that the Church of England is declining to extinction because it holds a view of the inspiration of Scripture you reject. You seem to pine after a version of Christianity that you hold dear, as if this will reverse a massive cultural shift in modern England. That is, to repeat, preposterous. The reasons for the Church of England’s decline are nothing… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

I agree reasons for the decline of the CofE is multi-faceted. There is not one simple cause. But claiming scriptures are ‘God-breathed ” is hardly like to convince sceptics that the Church isn’t inhabited by very odd people!

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

If you genuinely believe that the reason for declining attendance in the CofE has to do with an assertion in scripture itself (2 Timothy “all scripture is inspired by God and useful for instruction”); that if eliminated, all would be well — I find that unconvincing. “Very odd people” were often saints of God, regarded as odd in their generations. So this does not register as a some sort of important consideration on my ear. By the way, I suspect the very idea of a “Fr David” is a “very odd” notion for most non-church goers in this generation. Even… Read more »

Alwyn Hall
Alwyn Hall
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

But 2 Timothy was written at a time when “scripture” was defined as the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, and the New Testament did not exist, certainly not as we know it today.

To my mind, it is anachronistic to apply this line (“all scripture is inspired by God”) to the New Testament. The NT was not written as “scripture” but was only declared as such later.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Alwyn Hall
1 month ago

On the substantive point I do not disagree. It will take time for the NT to achieve the same scriptural status as the scriptures of Israel. But this they do. And we even have a hint of the beginnings of this in 2 Peter. It’s a lovely comment, a kind of hand-shake to Paul. Peter speaks of his writings as hard to understand and prone to bending by the wrong kind of mind and reader “as they do with all the scriptures.” For what it is worth, I have published widely on this topic. Among others, see The Character of… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Anglican Priest
Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Mainstream Anglicanism asks people to believe that a person who was executed by Roman soldiers on Good Friday was raised on the third day, was seen alive and physically touched by his followers, and gave them such a deep assurance of their own coming resurrection that they left fear behind and proclaimed this gospel message in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. That’s not ‘happy clappy religion’ (whatever that means), but mainstream bog-standard Anglicanism. Sorry, but if we’re going to stop proclaiming everything sceptics have trouble with, we’re going to have to go a lot further… Read more »

Evan McWilliams
Evan McWilliams
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Christianity bases its message on a man rising from the dead. Good luck convincing anyone that isn’t ‘odd.’

Peter
Peter
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Nobody is “claiming” the scriptures are God breathed.

That is how they the bible describes them. If you reject the scriptures that is your choice.

Your quarrel is with the bible, not the people who believe it

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

That’s like asking “who declared the Pope to be Infallible”? Answer: the Infallible Pope.

Matthew Tomlinson
Matthew Tomlinson
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

I think you’ll find that the scriptures of all religions are self authenticating! Which one do we choose? Looked at objectively, the claims of the Koran are a lot more plausible than those of the Bible.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Liberal- engineering is surely preferable to the conservative, God-breathing evangelicals in your country who wish ban invitro fertilisation, abortion and same-sex marriage, in favour of a narcissistic, thrice divorced megalomaniac who supports a Russian murderer. The “conservative” bible-based vision of an American theocracy sends shivers through European and Ukrainian veins. Give me the liberal vision of Ecusa any day. Come back Jack Spong. Your nation needs you.

Evan McWilliams
Evan McWilliams
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

It is, of course, entirely possible to be theologically ‘conservative’ (ie creedal) and not be a raving lunatic. The choice, mercifully, isn’t simply between Trump or Spong, both of whom I would consider poor examples of what they claim to be.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

It seems strange that you would yet again tar AP and the other evangelicals here with the Donald Trump MAGA brush, which as far as I know, none of us are in favour of. When you’re thinking about people who believe in the inspiration of scripture (which is how most versions except the NIV translate the passage in question), why not choose William Wllberforce (abolition of slavery), or Francis Collins (human DNA), or Millard and Linda Fuller (Habitat for Humanity), or Jimmy Carter (many things), or Ron Sider (‘Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger’/Evangelicals for Social Action), or Ruth… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Tim Chesterton
Nigel Jones
Nigel Jones
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

“Proclaim afresh in every generation” is certainly within Anglicanism. Doesn’t your point bring us round to where we started? i.e. whether discussing how we view the Bible or different opinions on homosexuality, the question is the extent to which we are bound to conform to the views of the past vs thinking in new ways which contradict previous orthodoxy. (And it would be more honest if we liberals admitted that this is what we are doing.) I would argue that greater understanding of human sexuality and of the nature of the texts in the Bible would require us to move… Read more »

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Nigel Jones
1 month ago

I think we might have arrived at a shared analysis.

Your beliefs are non Anglican.

If you want to describe that as “beyond” Anglican conviction you are free to do so.

Andrew Godsall
Andrew Godsall
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

“Your comments are outside the category of Anglican conviction”

Peter, I’m sorry but that’s just not the case. It was Graham Cray – couldn’t be more Anglican or more evangelical in some peoples eyes – who said about the bible “above all, it’s about Jesus and my faith is in a person, not in words in a book”.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Andrew Godsall
1 month ago

Anglicans believe in the inspiration of Scripture, Andrew.

Nigel’s comment (to which I responded) clearly recognises no such thing

Nigel Jones
Nigel Jones
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Wrong again. Actually, I do believe that much that we find in the Bible is inspired (although that is not a statement about the supernatural) but I don’t think that that implies it to be in a unique category all of its own, or therefore to be especially reliable.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Nigel Jones
1 month ago

Nigel, you are creating your own category definitions. There is a certain amount of mischief making then going on where people who should know better chip in to suggest it’s all very elastic when it is not. Anglicans do not think the bible is only reliable in parts. (If you are going to resort you are not saying that you are being a contrarian – you are clearly not accepting the authority of scripture) People can believe what they like but there is such a thing as Anglicanism. It has a clear set of precepts. A four legged pet that… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Peter
Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

“Anglicans do not think the bible is only reliable in parts.”

I think that depends on what you mean by “reliable”. I know very few Anglicans who think Genesis is a “reliable” scientific description of the creation of the universe. I know very few who think Joshua stopping the sun in the sky is a “reliable” factual story.

Even in the New Testament, we have two different accounts of Jesus’ nativity (one in Matthew, the other in Luke); which is the “reliable” one? Similarly, those two Gospels have differing genealogies for Jesus; which one is “reliable”?

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

I don’t see value in discussing what is, or is not Anglican. I have done it in the past and learnt it is wrong. It builds on an unsafe foundation.

We have seen it at Synod too. A motion to implement the Jay recommendations was defeated because many want to retain the traditional Anglican (and Catholic) position in relation to episcopal authority. I think it is a prime example, outside of LLF, of how reliance on “tradition” or notions of Anglicanism have resulted in a very, very wrong outcome.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Kate Keates
1 month ago

It is a bit odd to meet the claim there is no value in discussing the meaning of Anglicanism on a site called Thinking Anglicans !

If the day arrives when Simon adopts a different title perhaps you will be right, but until then it is a fair enough topic to discuss

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

‘Anglicans believe in the inspiration of Scripture…’ Well, actually, Peter, we don’t know what Anglicans believe unless they tell us. Queen Elizabeth said she had no desire for a window into men’s souls, but the truth is that whether we desire it or not, we can’t have it unless they give it to us. But I suspect that what you actually mean is ‘the Church of England teaches the inspiration of Scripture.’ I’m sure it does, and I’m happy to affirm it even though I’m not a member of the Church of England. But you know that there are many… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Nigel Jones
1 month ago

Didn’t the apostle Paul say all scripture was ‘God-breathed’ in one of his letters, and worthy of consideration? The idea goes back a very long way in that case. Perhaps saying they were divinely inspired might be better.

Nigel Jones
Nigel Jones
Reply to  John Davies
1 month ago

Yes indeed he did. Obviously for scripture to say of itself that it is God-breathed doesn’t prove anything in any logical sense because of course that verse itself could be wrong. But I’m not objecting to 2 Tim 3.16 but one thing Paul certainly wasn’t referring to was the canon of scripture that we have in our Bibles because it didn’t exist then. But I’m not arguing for dismissing scripture. I love (a lot of) scripture (although some of it is awful). But I am arguing against being superstitious about it, which is what one is doing if you assert… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Nigel Jones
John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Nigel Jones
1 month ago

Thanks, Nigel. I appreciate your comments. I was teasing just a little to make a point – so much depends on which translation you use most, and what attitudes you bring to bear on it. Even if you accept that the text is divinely inspired, you still have interpret it in a way which relates to you, and your contemporary world. And, at some point between the original ‘breathing’ or ‘inspiration’ and the text in my hands, you have translation and interpretation by a series of writers, whose honest opinions may well differ, never mind a very fallible student who’s… Read more »

Peter
Peter
Reply to  John Davies
1 month ago

How about we say what the apostle Paul says and stick with that

Nigel Jones
Nigel Jones
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

What, like requiring women to stay silent in church, you mean?

Ian H
Ian H
Reply to  Nigel Jones
1 month ago

If these chestnuts get any older then they will be in high demand by archaeologists 🙂

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Perhaps because modern scholarship has determined that not everything traditionally attributed to Paul of Tarsus was actually written by him?

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

Many modern scholars do not agree with that view, so ‘has determined’ might be an overstatement.

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Hebrews??

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

I just did! So much depends on which translation you read, and the way you choose to interpret it.

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

If Jesus of Nazareth had actually written anything down and the document survived, it would be a primary source of what he said. We have secondary sources, written decades after his execution by the Roman authorities, written with different points of view with intent to evangelize. The Gospels are propaganda, in the word’s original neutral meaning: They were meant to propagate the faith.. People may believe that the Gospels are divinely-inspired and accurately reflect what Jesus wrote, but they have to take that on faith. And the four Gospels themselves, even when recording the same event, differ with each other,… Read more »

Peter
Peter
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
1 month ago

You are making a category error.

The distinction between primary and secondary sources is meaningful in regard to history where primary sources are to a degree held to be superior to secondary sources.

You are mistaken in your attempt to bring that frame of reference to Scripture. The Bible is Revelation. You cannot just transfer the rules of history to a different category

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
1 month ago

‘We have secondary sources, written decades after his execution by the Roman authorities, written with different points of view with intent to evangelize.’ Well, maybe, but they certainly weren’t written from scratch, as brand new stories, and nor were they originally read by people who weren’t familiar with earlier versions. Are you seriously going to contend that the stories of Jesus had not been told over and over again, in small house-church gatherings, in many settings around the eastern Mediterranean, often (at least in the early days) in the presence of people who had themselves been eyewitnesses? In those settings… Read more »

Nigel Jones
Nigel Jones
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

So my point is that this (how we understand the Bible) is the issue about which we need to be learning to live in love and faith and reconciliation, and accepting that we see things differently. Some here are asserting as axiomatic that the Bible is reliable, divine revelation. Others treat it much more like any other collection of historical documents. But we are all Christians. We just believe the other is mistaken about something we see as fundamental. It would be more seemly if THIS were what we were arguing about, and seeking to learn how to agree to… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Nigel Jones
1 month ago

It’s messier than that, even. I’m not a fundamentalist, but at my ordination in the Anglican Church of Canada I was required to publicly declare that I believed the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the word of God containing all things necessary to salvation. I said that without crossing my fingers behind my back, so I suppose you could call me fairly conservative on that point (tho not an inerrantist). But I am also in complete agreement with full inclusion of LGBTQI+ people in every level of the church’s life. You seem to assume that… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
1 month ago

Peter, Reference your paragraph 2), I wonder if the text is not mangled but a drastically shortened summary of a complex argument which has lost its meaning. But Helen’s subsequent paragraph might help to explain it. “I can’t compress such a rich study into a blog post, but a key point is that she identifies the position that marriage and making love exist only for reproduction as a Pythagorean approach, not the general view of ancient Mediterranean societies.” In my own analysis (not Helen’s or Kathy Gaca) might it be down to conflicting philosophies. In the Hellenistic world that Paul and other… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
1 month ago

(Continued from previous) But when the new religion gained power the sexual and erotic was associated with the old religion and condemned. Prostitute became a much used polemical word.  I think the Protestant/Catholic Reformation is a good analogy here. Eamon Duffy in”the Stripping of the Altars” makes two important points firstly. Firstly, that historical literature was full of anti-Catholic polemic, but contemporary scholarship (in his time) failed to treat it as polemic but absorbed its values and took some of it’s statements at face value. We need to not believe that polemic, but strip it out, and be ready to go back to… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Simon Dawson
peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

Simon, What a marvelous essay you wrote. Thank you, I appreciate your insights. And thank you for your last sentence. I’ve actually come across the same issue (the demonization of sex because of its ties to the old religions) and the divine feminine through a very, very different source: The DaVinci Code. The novel’s — and it’s source material, an allegedly nonfiction book called Holy Blood, Holy Grail — idea that 1) Jesus of Nazareth was not crucified, but lived long enough to marry Mary Magdalene and have children, and the main line of descendants continues to this day, I… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
1 month ago

Peter, Many thanks for your feedback. Personally I can’t go down the Mary Magdalen route. Whilst I can’t prove anything I think it more likely that Jesus followed a vowed celibate mendicant path but might well have been a homosexual in a relationship of loving companionship with John (a bit like Henry Newman and Ambrose st John). My own research is focussed on the widespread link between homosexuality and religion/spirituality across the world and across millennia, and how that played out in the early centuries of the church. The Da Vinci approach also values Mary Magdalen for her status as… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
1 month ago

Peter,

I have just re-read your comment and my response, and I think I misjudged the emphasis. Sorry

An understanding of same-sex relationships is important here, but an understanding and affirmation of the divine feminine (whether illustrated by my Shamhat reference or your Da Vinci Code anecdote) is equally important.

Best wishes.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
1 month ago

Hullo, Peter. Thanks for your comments, which, as usual, I find very helpful. A lot of the ‘myths’ built into the novel are actually very, very old French legends that go way back in time, possibly to the days of the Cathars. I first encountered them in a serious book about the Dordogne country, accepted them as simple folk tales and smiled. It was only later, when Jill and I read the novel that I realised that Brown had drawn on them as source material. (Jill merely asked when the central figures ever found time to eat, sleep or defecate… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  John Davies
1 month ago

John, Thank you for your reply. I’ve read a little about the Cathars and the Roman Catholic Church’s persecution of them. In the Middle Ages, it seems the Roman Catholic Church leadership felt that the more violently they shut down dissent, the less likelihood of it reappearing. Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformation, and the bloody and senseless wars over religious doctrine — and the Scientific Revolution — proved them wrong. The RCC authorities’ shutting down scientific enquiry in the 16th and 17th centuries was never really about geocentrism vs heliocentrism as it was the RCC wanting to be the authority… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
1 month ago

Peter – I dearly wish that we could meet up for a while and talk together – we have so much in common outlook, and, seriously, I gain so much value from your insights. Dan Brown writes ‘shockers’ (as John Buchan called them), thrillers which depend for their success on pace; the reader wants to know what happens next, and how the hero gets out of his or her next jam. Logic, reason and everything else take second place to that I’ve written fiction with religious themes myself for fun – my published work is to do with modelmaking –… Read more »

Tobias Haller
1 month ago

Good questions and observations from Helen King. A very good case can be made for “porneia” in NT contexts meaning “adultery by a married man with an unmarried woman” — that is, as an extension of adultery in an equal manner. Under prevailing Jewish and Gentile law a man was considered an adulterer only for violating another man’s marriage, not his own. The frequent pairing of “adultery and porneia” would make sense in this context.

Peter
Peter
1 month ago

Anglican Priest takes the idea that porneia is restricted to heterosexual activity to the cleaners in the way it thoroughly deserves – see above

John Davies
John Davies
1 month ago

It is, of course, a truth universally recognised….. that where two or three of you are gathered in my name, then there will be nine or ten opinions. (Sorry, Miss Austin.) As you know, I’m not a learned man, versed in Greek or other ancient culture, so please bear with my two pennyworth on this. In my workaday world ‘fornication’ is simply used to refer to any act of sexual exchange outside of lawful marriage. Should the subject crop up most of the folks I’ve worked with would use an even more basic shorter word. (I won’t repeat the sort… Read more »

Susanna (no ‘h’)
Susanna (no ‘h’)
Reply to  John Davies
1 month ago

Oh dear…. This is all terribly sad. It is almost as though an amazing discovery thousands of years ago which has the capacity to transform people’s lives in a positive way is being held down by an insistence that it has to be run from an ancient instruction manual with chunks missing and in languages we barely understand….. want to join in anyone ??
I thought not in the case of most people as love has better things to do than a perpetual sieving to pick out who doesn’t fit.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Susanna (no ‘h’)
1 month ago

The problem is that if you portray sex as being pleasurable, then people, particularly young people, are likely to want to try it, and need discouraging! It is very difficult – if not impossible – for those of us who grew up with this kind of conditioning to actually think differently. And, if it is drummed into you that even heterosexual interests and desires are ‘sinful’, save under certain conditions, it does not make the world very easy to live with. Colin Coward mentioned the book ‘Vile Bodies’ which deals with this whole issue – and the church’s negative attitude… Read more »

José Ribeiro
José Ribeiro
Reply to  John Davies
1 month ago

Syphilis was unknown in Classical World. It was a “gift” from America to Europe. At the end of the XVI century was well spread in Western Europe, known as the spanish/italian/french disease.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  José Ribeiro
1 month ago

The widespread theory that syphilis was an import from the Americas, alongside gold, chocolate and potatoes, may be subject to modern challenge. Scholars are now finding European mediaeval artwork depicting people with typical syphilitic deformities. Often these are portrayals of people attacking Christ, suggesting that such people were seen as immoral and lustful. DNA evidence is being worked on which suggests that diseases similar to syphilis may have existed in Europe before colonial times, but it is not yet conclusive. It may be harder to say how far back beyond that syphilis goes (into the classical period?) because the evidence… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

Its fair to say that an awful lot of diseases have been ‘recognised’ because of advances in medical knowledge which previously were either ‘unknown’ or given a vaguely catch-all title.

Given the prevalence of prostitution in Roman society – be it the molly shop in Pompeii with its curious pavement carvings to show the way to it, or the worship in the temples of Aphrodite and her mates, it is highly unlikely that some form of STD didn’t exist!

(The comment was actually rather tongue in cheek. I have a quirky sense of humour.)

Dr John Wallace
Dr John Wallace
Reply to  John Davies
1 month ago

I can remember in the 1950’s in my Christian Brethren youth group, I was ‘taught’ that i should not hold hands with a girl unless I was engaged! Teaching that we all rightly ignored! Such was the very conservative evangelical view of relationships. My parents were marginally more enlightened in that I could go into our ‘front room’ alone with my girlfriend as long as the door was left open! They found frequent opportunities to enquire if we wanted coffee!!! Yet one girl in our youth group became pregnant!

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Dr John Wallace
1 month ago

Accidents will happen in the most regulated of families…..

Seriously, thank you, Dr Wallace for your support. I remember hearing that a man shouldn’t even ask a girl to go out with him unless he intended marrying her! Talk about putting the cart before the horse?

So much of what we were given was itself potentially damaging – and yet it gets no easier keeping up with modern attitudes. I wish Jesus had added an extra beatitude – “You are only fallible human beings – so live and let live.”

God bless.

David G
David G
1 month ago

The discussion on the Bible is interesting. But it seems to me some of the correspondents are unwilling to distinguish between what the Bible says, what Christians say it says, what it means, and what it may have meant. The Bible is a book with a history. You would not have been able to obtain a copy before the 5th century CE. The contents of the Bible were being settled around the same time as the creeds. Translations vary. No Bible translation is wholly literal. In any case, language doesn’t work like this. Metaphors, similes, poetry etc require interpretation. Poetry… Read more »

Chris
Chris
Reply to  David G
1 month ago

I have to wonder myself how much we pin on certain words and word choices, when we must know we’re playing telephone with a language the New Testament wasn’t written in. And even if we know a word choice fits within a general theme, it still has to be taken contextually; none of the New Testament was written to be a Holy Book the way the Qur’an was, for instance. The Gospels are more like four guys sat down in a room going “The way I remember it…” – ignoring for a second that their authors are in fact anonymous.… Read more »

David G
David G
1 month ago

There is a considerable amount of Christian literature that approaches homosexuality from theological perspectives. Whilst some are nuanced, many represent a ‘thesis-directing-facts’ approach to human biology, culture and history. Readers will be better-served by studies that avoid confessional politics and posturing within church-sponsored debates. Amongst the best studies are: Eric Berkowitz, ‘Sex and Punishment: 4000 Years of Judging Desire’, Westbourne Press, 2012; Jeffrey Meeks, ‘Sex, Politics and Society: The Regulation of Sexuality Since 1800’, Longman, 1989; Lawrence Stone, ‘The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800’, Penguin 1981; Jeffrey Meek, ‘Queer Trades, Sex and Society: Male Prostitution and the War… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  David G
1 month ago

Another volume worth bearing in mind, and just published is this: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/forbidden-desire-in-early-modern-europe-9780198886334?cc=gb&lang=en. No reviews in the major journals as yet, although there was a TLS review by Jan Machielsen a couple of weeks ago. Everything by the prolific and profoundly erudite Sir Noel Malcolm is worth reading, and this volume grew out of a Past & Present article about homosexuality in early modern Istanbul that was published in 2022 (Malcolm has evolved into a specialist of the Balkans and Mediterranean worlds of the 16th and 17th centuries, along with sidelines into the likes of Thomas Hobbes and John Pell). The… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

Froghole, Thanks, as always, for citing some fascinating and informative literature. This is however a much contested and fast changing field, and as your except says, we must keep questioning, testing, and modifying assumptions. I agree with Malcolm that that for a few decades now the scholarly consensus (exemplified by your excerpt) has been to avoid arguing for any essential status of homosexuality as a human condition, and to see homosexual behaviour as primarily a social construct varying from culture to culture. In this mindset, to argue for similarities across history is an error. I am interested in the apparent… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

Thank you, as ever (and thank you also to David G. for his excellent points and references). One of the important elements of the book is that attitudes varied between periods and between regions (also within regions – attitudes in Florence, for example, were somewhat different to those in Venice). The approach taken by the authorities was also variable: in Iberia sodomy was treated with ferocity; in Italy, the Inquisition (which in so many other ways was arguably more severe than that in Spain) was perhaps more circumspect. Consensual penetrative sodomy was usually treated with hostility; however, the many other… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

Froghole’ Thanks as ever for taking the time to share your wide reading. It is helpful to me to learn about your sources and arguments. But, personally, I have many criticisms to make of the assumptions behind much of the academic discourse you describe. The main problem is to ask how homosexuality is defined. Is it a desire to have sex with, or a desire to fall in love with, somebody of the same sex? So much current discourse is based entirely on defining and analysing homosexuality solely in terms of same-sex eroticism and sexual practice. Yet many of us… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

Thank you very much indeed, and I apologise for having used clumsy and poorly thought-through language. We do indeed need to look well beyond the sex act, although Malcolm’s book is, perforce, largely devoted to social, political and official attitudes towards people who manifested their love for each other by means of sex, since it is in the records of officials and judges that the evidence of homosexual acts (and therefore homosexual impulses and the existence of homosexuality) is often most likely to be found during the early modern period. So I actually agree with what you have written and… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

Froghole, Many thanks for your comment, and absolutely no apology necessary. Your first paragraph is exactly right. It is important to distinguish between an activity or behaviour, and how that behaviour will be recorded (or not) and be available to posterity for academic study. I would argue that homosexual behaviour is remarkably stable across cultures and across millennia. It is the record of that behaviour which changes from culture to culture. Sadly much scholarship seems to be unaware of that distinction. Thanks for the information about Kenneth Dover. I will follow it up. I will be using many of Carpenter’s… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Simon Dawson
Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

Many thanks again! Dover is best known for his massive commentary on Thucydides, with Gomme and Andrewes. This remains one of the most important commentaries on that key text. When the 1978 monograph came out it was met with a mixture of relative bewilderment (in the UK) and effusiveness (in parts of the US). One reviewer assumed that Dover was himself homosexual and Dover was so incensed by this that he took legal advice about whether to sue. He was told by the law tutor at CCC that, as publication of this assertion had taken place in California, and as… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

If you write any book any book on sexuality back in those days I suppose it is bound to raise shocked questions about the author’s own sexuality and motivation.

Henry Havelock Ellis’ Bloomsbury Group friends were vastly amused by the fact that the country’s most prominent expert on sex had a lesbian wife, and that he himself was impotent but could be aroused by the sound of a woman urinating.

Edward Carpenter was more well balanced, living in a loving same-sex partnership with George Merrill for about forty years, and being buried together with him in the same grave.

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