Judaism’s Sexual Revolution: Why Judaism (and then Christianity) Rejected Homosexuality
By DENNIS PRAGER
When Judaism demanded that all sexual activity be channeled into marriage, it changed the world. The Torah's prohibition of non-marital sex quite simply made the creation of Western civilization possible.
Societies that did not place boundaries around sexuality were stymied in their development. The subsequent dominance of the Western world can largely be attributed to the sexual revolution initiated by Judaism and later carried forward by Christianity.
This revolution consisted of forcing the sexual genie into the marital bottle. It ensured that sex no longer dominated society, heightened male-female love and sexuality (and thereby almost alone created the possibility of love and eroticism within marriage), and began the arduous task of elevating the status of women.
It is probably impossible for us, who live thousands of years after Judaism began this process, to perceive the extent to which undisciplined sex can dominate man's life and the life of society. Throughout the ancient world, and up to the recent past in many parts of the world, sexuality infused virtually all of society.
Human sexuality, especially male sexuality, is polymorphous, or utterly wild (far more so than animal sexuality). Men have had sex with women and with men; with little girls and young boys; with a single partner and in large groups; with total strangers and immediate family members; and with a variety of domesticated animals. They have achieved orgasm with inanimate objects such as leather, shoes, and other pieces of clothing, through urinating and defecating on each other (interested readers can see a photograph of the former at select art museums exhibiting the works of the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe); by dressing in women's garments; by watching other human beings being tortured; by fondling children of either sex; by listening to a woman's disembodied voice (e.g., “phone sex”); and, of course, by looking at pictures of bodies or parts of bodies. There is little, animate or inanimate, that has not excited some men to orgasm. Of course, not all of these practices have been condoned by societies — parent-child incest and seducing another's man's wife have rarely been countenanced — but many have, and all illustrate what the unchanneled, or in Freudian terms, the “un-sublimated,” sex drive can lead to.
De-sexualizing God and religion
Among the consequences of the unchanneled sex drive is the sexualization of everything — including religion. Unless the sex drive is appropriately harnessed (not squelched — which leads to its own destructive consequences), higher religion could not have developed. Thus, the first thing Judaism did was to de-sexualize God: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” by his will, not through any sexual behavior. This was an utterly radical break with all other religions, and it alone changed human history. The gods of virtually all civilizations engaged in sexual relations. In the
Given the sexual activity of the gods, it is not surprising that the religions themselves were replete with all forms of sexual activity. In the ancient Near Fast and elsewhere, virgins were deflowered by priests prior to engaging in relations with their husbands, and sacred or ritual prostitution was almost universal. Psychiatrist and sexual historian Norman Sussman describes the situation thus: “Male and female prostitutes, serving temporarily or permanently and performing heterosexual, homosexual oral-genital, bestial, and other forms of sexual activities, dispense their favors in behalf of the temple.” Throughout the ancient Near East, from very early times, anal intercourse formed a part of goddess worship. In ancient
Judaism placed controls on sexual activity. It could no longer dominate religion and social life. It was to be sanctified — which in Hebrew means “separated” — from the world and placed in the home, in the bed of husband and wife. Judaism's restricting of sexual behavior was one of the essential elements that enabled society to progress. Along with ethical monotheism, the revolution begun by the Torah when it declared war on the sexual practices of the world wrought the most far-reaching changes in history.
The revolutionary nature of Judaism's prohibiting all forms of non-marital sex was nowhere more radical, more challenging to the prevailing assumptions of mankind, than with regard to homosexuality. Indeed, Judaism may be said to have invented the notion of homosexuality, for in the ancient world sexuality was not divided between heterosexuality and homosexuality. That division was the Bible's doing. Before the Bible, the world divided sexuality between penetrator (active partner) and penetrated (passive partner).
As Martha Nussbaum, professor of philosophy at
Ancient categories of sexual experience differed considerably from our own... The central distinction in sexual morality was the distinction between active and passive roles. The gender of the object... is not in itself morally problematic. Boys and women are very often treated interchangeably as objects of [male] desire. What is socially important is to penetrate rather than to be penetrated. Sex is understood fundamentally not as interaction, but as a doing of some thing to someone...
Judaism changed all this. It rendered the “gender of the object” very “morally problematic”; it declared that no one is “interchangeable” sexually. And as a result, it ensured that sex would in fact be “fundamentally interaction” and not simply “a doing of something to someone”.
To appreciate the extent of the revolution wrought by Judaism's prohibiting homosexuality and demanding that all sexual interaction be male-female, it is first necessary to appreciate just how universally accepted, valued, and practiced homosexuality has been throughout the world.
The one continuous exception was Jewish civilization — and a thousand years later, Christian civilization. Other than the Jews, “none of the archaic civilizations prohibited homosexuality per se,” Dr. David E. Greenberg notes. It was Judaism alone that about 3,000 years ago declared homosexuality wrong.
And it said so in the most powerful and unambiguous language it could: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is an abomination.” “And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed an abomination.” It is Judaism's sexual morality, not homosexuality, that historically has been deviant.
Greenberg, whose The Construction of Homosexuality is the most thorough historical study of homosexuality ever written, summarizes the ubiquitous nature of homosexuality in these words: “With only a few exceptions, male homosexuality was not stigmatized or repressed so long as it conformed to norms regarding gender and the relative ages and statuses of the partners... The major exceptions to this acceptance seem to have arisen in two circumstances.” Both of these circumstances were Jewish.
The Hebrew Bible, in particular the Torah (The Five Books of Moses), has done more to civilize the world than any other book or idea in history. It is the Hebrew Bible that gave humanity such ideas as a universal, moral, loving God; ethical obligations to this God; the need for history to move forward to moral and spiritual redemption; the belief that history has meaning; and the notion that human freedom and social justice are the divinely desired states for all people. It gave the world the Ten Commandments, ethical monotheism, and the concept of holiness (the goal of raising human beings from the animal-like to the God-like). Therefore, when this Bible makes strong moral proclamations, I listen with great respect. And regarding male homosexuality — female homosexuality is not mentioned — this Bible speaks in such clear and direct language that one does not have to be a religious fundamentalist in order to be influenced by its views. All that is necessary is to consider oneself a serious Jew or Christian.
Jews or Christians who take the Bible's views on homosexuality seriously are not obligated to prove that they are not fundamentalists or literalists, let alone bigots (though, of course, people have used the Bible to defend bigotry). Rather, those who claim homosexuality is compatible with Judaism or Christianity bear the burden of proof to reconcile this view with their Bible….(snip…snip).
read the rest click below.