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Promoting Intimacy and Other-Centered Sexuality
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Biblical Discussion of Adultery
It is clear scripture itself has no prohibition against singles sex, only what has been added by Church tradition. Adultery is more complex. The Jews understood "Thou shalt not commit adultery" very differently than Church tradition. It only applied to men if they had intercourse with someone else's wife. But it was allowable for a married man to have intercourse with a single woman. Adultery was the sin of "trespassing" on a man's property. Until marriage women were the property of their fathers. After marriage they became the property of their husband.
The Hebrew Culture - Marriage:
In Hebrew culture many married at age 13, died at age 30, and there was no modern birth control, so marriage was important for children. Some marriages were arranged between the fathers of the boy and girl. In other cases if a man wanted a woman, he knocked on her father's tent, offered the marriage price, and took a wife. The girl had little say in the matter. If he liked the girl he might return with more money to marry some of her sisters. Women were considered property. Adultery was a violation of the husbands' property rights, not morality, and polygyny was the standard. Jesus taught that women should be equal, but didn't address the reason other than to be equal rather than a possession.
It is interesting that adultery was considered a sin for women. But concubinage (women as breeders) and polygyny (men could have many wives, but a woman only one husband) were acceptable. The capturing of women in battle and forcing them to be wives and levirate marriage (if a man's brother died without heirs, the man had to marry his dead brother's wife and have children by her to perpetuate the deceased brother's name) were also seemingly acceptable biblical practices.
Solomon: 700 Wives + 300 Concubines In O.T. times concubinage was an official status. God rebuked Solomon not for polygyny and the concubines, but for the fact that many of his wives were non-Hebrew and these foreign wives brought idols in for worship from their pagan cultures, which was contrary to God's teaching. David committed adultery, only because Bathsheba was married. She was not one of his own women. The other 7 wives and 17 concubines that David was sleeping with were given to him by God as a blessing.
"Cleaving to wife" in Gen 2:23: The Hebrew "issa" means "woman". In Gen 2:23 it has been incorrectly translated as wife. "Woman" not "wife" is more true to the original text every time "issa" or "isha" appears in the OT. Therefore it can be taken as "cleave to a woman", not necessarily a wife, and it says nothing about men having only 1 woman, or one wife, as men clearly had many wives and God never rebuked their polygyny. God never says anything negative about all the wives and concubines that were common all the way through Hebrew history.
A Jewish View Of Adultery & Singles Sexuality
The following are quotes from posts by Anne Neiwirth on the Prodigy God of the Book Board Topic: Judaism, Subject Adultery?:
When you examine laws pertaining to sexual relationships, you have to examine them under Biblical law, and then under Rabbinic law, as the two are not the same. You will discover the inherent inequity in the laws, as things which hold for men do not hold for women. For example, according to biblical law, a man was permitted many wives, and also concubines (which one could equate with either mistresses or concubines). The only way a man could be an adulterer, under biblical law, was if he had relationships with a MARRIED women (i.e. another man's property). Relations with any unmarried women did not constitute adultery for a man. On the other hand, a married women was an adulteress if she had relations with any man not her husband. However, it seems that an adulterous woman was punished, and her husband was then forced to divorce her. An adulterous man, however, could remain married to his wife with impunity.
The Rabbis of the Talmud said that four wives was the realistic maximum for a man, so that he could devote the proper amount of time for sexual relations with each of them. In the middle ages, the takkanah of Rabbenu Gershom forbid polygamy among Ashkenazic Jews, and also forbade a man to divorce his wife without her consent. This was a major step forward in righting some of the injustices against women.
As far as I am aware, there is no biblical law forbidding a man to have relationships with prostitutes, and I believe that it was common practice in those times. There were Jewish prostitutes , as there have always been, and prostitution, though not looked upon as an honorable profession, was nevertheless not a crime. Even today, in Israel, prostitution is not a crime.
I am sure there is a Torah prohibition against having relations with someone who is not Jewish, though, I can't put my finger on it at the moment. Don't forget, sexual relation in biblical law is one of the things that allows a man to "acquire" a women as his wife (the others are by deed or by money), so intercourse in effect, constituted marriage. And marriage of a Jew to a non-Jew is not permitted.
So much Rabbinic legislation has been effected in the past 2000 years that our standards regarding sexual relations and marriage are much more stringent today. Obviously, today there is no polygamy, and men as well as women who have relations outside of marriage are adulterers. Since we also have standards of sexual behavior that come from Talmud and from other sources of Jewish law, things such as premarital sex, extramarital sex, visits to prostitutes, and other types of promiscuous behavior are considered to be an aveyrah. However, there will always be people who violate these laws, including men who go to prostitutes.
I recommend an excellent book WOMEN AND JEWISH LAW by Rachel Biale. It's a very clear-cut explanation of all of the laws that concern women: marriage, divorce, niddah, adultery, rape and incest, sexuality in marriage and outside of marriage, agunah and yevamah, etc. Very well researched and easy to read and understand. Also, Blu Greenberg's ON WOMEN AND JUDAISM: A VIEW FROM TRADITION.
Pastors of Timothy and Titus
The Apostle Paul's recommendation to the pastors Timothy and Titus (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:6) that church elders should be "husbands of one wife" (literally "one-wife husbands) has often been used to condemn multiple marriage.
While some scholars think that this text is a command for an elder not to remarry after being widowed or, perhaps, divorced, most see it as a prohibition of polygamy.
It is probably impossible to know for sure what Paul meant here. There may have been particular cultural biases in the cultural areas of Timothy and Titus' churches which made polygamy distasteful, either to the dominant cultural group in the church or to outsiders who might reject the faith if a church leader was violating deeply held sensibilities. Many Gentiles (Romans in particular), did not widely practice the Hebrew custom of polygamy.
In any case, it must be clearly said that nowhere else in the New Testament is there any unambiguous statement against multiple marriage, nor does Paul make this recommendation in any of his letters to other churches.
It is fair to conclude from the evidence that this recommendation had something to do with circumstances in the particular churches or areas of the church in which Timothy and Titus ministered, especially since this recommendation is very different from the general character qualities for elders listed here by Paul. There is no proof that Paul expected elders in every church to abide by this recommendation or that he applied this expectation to other men in the church. Nor can this recommendation be elevated to the status of a permanent law for the church.
The Women Caught In Adultery John 7:53-8:11
Many Bibles either exclude this story or indicate it is questionable, since it does not appear in the earliest manuscripts. The message of the story has nothing to do with adultery, but about not judging. There is no indication the marital status of the women. If she was married she clearly committed adultery against her husband, which was the most likely case. If single she sinned against her father who can owns her and gets a higher marriage price if she is a virgin. Jesus says very little directly about sexuality, (never a word about singles sex and homosexuality) but uses adultery as an example to prove other points.
The passage is not about adultery, but the entrapment of Jesus by the Pharisees. In the Courtyard hundreds of people are gathered to hear Jesus teach them from the scriptures. He had just taken His seat to begin telling them of a parable of the Kingdom, when suddenly a handful of Pharisees and doctors of the law pushed their way to the front of the startled crowd.
These religious leaders with their long robes and colorful sashes of authority were the official Jewish Bible Teachers. They prided themselves on their discovery of 613 different commandments in Mosaic Law. In public they loved to quote, interpret, and enforce their 248 positive and 365 negative commands. They were quick to condemn anyone who broke the laws or their own official interpretations of them.
That morning they had trapped a women in the act of adultery. They dragged her to the temple courtyard and deposited her at Jesus' feet. Loudly they shouted above the noise of the crowd, "Master, this women was caught in the very act of adultery." One of the Pharisees was loudly reminding, "The Law of Moses has laid down that such a women should be stoned." Although this punishment for adultery was 2000 years old and given when God's primitive people had forgotten Him in an orgy of disobedience, it was still on the books. And though the punishment was not generally enforced in Jesus' day, the Pharisees carried stones to obey the law literally and thus execute her on the spot.
Actually, they were after Jesus not the women. She was only bait for the trap to dishonor and discredit this young teacher Jesus. He had threatened their stranglehold on the people with His loving interpretation of the law. But Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount changed the law to only the law of love.
Jesus clearly shows in this passage that love is a superior law than legalism. In non-cheating, done together will agreement of the couples, responsible non-monogamy enhances many relationships. Couples are simply enjoying with each other their natural desire for sexual variety. In biblical times, men always had this option. The only difference is women now have the same rights of sexual enjoyment and variety that men had in the time of Christ. Since Christ never condemned the unloving OT practices, (such as levirate marriages, concubines as breeders and man taking as many wives as he wished by making a deal with the father), He certainly wouldn't condemn today's loving, polyfidelity, responsible non-monogamy, consenting, no cheating relationships. I agree the typical garden variety modern cheating adultery is clearly wrong since it involves lying and deception. I am very much against this.
The Woman At The Well
Very little can be taken from this passage other than it is an example of how Jesus proved Himself to the Samaritan women who than taught others about Christ. We know nothing about the five husbands she had. Was she still married to some of the them? Did she get a proper writ of divorce from them so she was not legally still someone else's property? Also why assume "the man your are now living is not your husband" passage was a negative statement about living with a single man, if she indeed was properly divorced. It was more showing Jesus knew about her. It doesn't say that living with the man was a sin.
It is interesting in the few references scriptures make about sexual issues it is always to the women. Again remember men could have as many wives and concubines as they wished, and adultery was understood as only being something a women could do, in violation of the property rights of her husband - was never a sin for a male.
Note also that the purity laws of the Torah supported incest (levirate marriages) and as shown in other ancient Hebrew writings polygyny (women with many husbands) was not permitted. But many of the Torah rules simply take it for granted that the man may have many wives.
Good Adultery - Bibleanity vs. Christianity
Adultery, more fully understood Biblically is the willful and harmful violation (adulteration) of the primary, the permanence, and the honesty of the marriage. Thus, some extramarital relationships that involve no physical sexual expression whatever can be adulterous. On the other hand, extramarital sexuality with the active participation of both spouses that is marriage enhancing may not be adulteress at all.
The different Christian views are whether you are a legalist like the Pharisees and look to the letter of the law, or do you look to the example of Christ of love over legalism. I can discuss more fully the Sermon on the Mount which is a wonderful example of Jesus reversing legalistic laws in favor of love. I call those stuck in a rule based Christianity as suffering from Bibleanity which is far different than the Christianity that Christ taught. A serious problem with Bibleanity is it mistranslates, misapplies and expands scripture far beyond its original meaning. Most without realizing it are changing the rules to make them fit their preconceived ideas of what the rules should be, rather than what the rules actually were in the original texts and how they were understood by the culture in which they were written.
The Only Important Law: Love
Christ's laws of love and the golden rule support today's loving, respecting, non-monogamous relationships. The only real difference is that women now have the same rights of sexual enjoyment and variety that men had in the time of Christ. Since Christ never condemned the unloving O.T. practices, he certainly wouldn't condemn today's loving, consenting, no-cheating relationships. Cheating adultery is clearly wrong since it involves lying and deception.
How Sex Was Made A Sin
The Emperor Constantine in about 300 A.D. was perhaps the world's most important convert to the new religion of Christianity. Christianity was perhaps the only thing left to try to hold the Roman Empire together. While the political empire fell in the next century, the Church stepped in as the new central authority. Threats of burning in hell were even more effective than the army for controlling large and diverse populations.
Augustine (354-430 A.D.) was a primary theological shaper of thought and went so far as to argue that sex was sinful even within wedlock unless the specific purpose was always conception! This reflects the need at the time for many more children. Infant mortality was very high and the economic and political structures were based on families. Likewise, clerical celibacy was in part shaped by fear that offspring would fight over Church property.
Thanks to widespread illiteracy - or apathy -whatever the Church said was now law. Intercourse was no longer natural and good; sex was dirty and only for procreation. Celibacy was the new standard for the clergy. And it was a great money maker! If you sinned by enjoying sex, you must come to the Church for repentance, which required a donation to demonstrate your faith. What a perfect way for the Church to raise capital; make everyone a sinner because of their innate sexual desires and then offer to absolve them for a sizeable donation.
The sexual morality of Christianity did not come from Jesus. It instead came from later Christians whose main interest was the control of the masses. It is important to recognize the source of religious dogma about sex - when and where it came from - and put it in perspective in present time and circumstances.
Making polygamy a "sin" was a slow process. It was even common for Catholic priests to have multiple wives and mistresses. Pope Gregory II in a decretal in 726 said "when a man has a sick wife who cannot discharge the marital function, he may take a second one, provided he looks after the first one." Later, with concerns for protecting Church property from inheritance, Pope Pelagius I made new priests agree that offspring could not inherit Church property. Pope Gregory then declared all sons of priests illegitimate (only sons since lowly daughters could not inherit anyway).
In 1022 Pope Benedict VIII banned marriages and mistresses for priests and in 1139 Pope Innocent II voided all marriages of priests and all new priests had to divorce their wives. This had nothing to do with morality (multiple women for males had long been the norm since before biblical times), but it was about MONEY!
Polygyny (many wives for 1 man) was the norm due to the male-dominated society and the fact a man's status was determined by the number of children he fathered. Today, women should enjoy equal rights and sex can be for pleasure and an expression of sincere love. This makes polyamory a more equal and loving lovestyle.
The Liberated Christian Sexual Ethic
We affirm that our sexuality is a natural gift from God. It should not be artificially restricted by regulation. God honors a free sexual expression that seeks the enjoyment and good of the each person, and the glory to God as He participates with us in this glorious aspect of living and loving others, ourselves and God. In our scriptural understanding, a New Testament biblical argument cannot be made against most cases of consensual sexual pleasure sharing, whether premarital, marital, or postmarital.
Negative cases can be made only if the parties involved are not functioning within Christian love guidelines, but are rather using one another for their own selfish gratification or are doing harm, physical or psychological, to their sexual partners or to other parties who are involved. Among the sexual practices which would be harmful would be the careless disregard for sexually transmitted diseases or contraceptive protection.
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