The Making of Fornication: Eros, Ethics, and Political Reform in Greek Philosophy and Early Christianity

The Making of Fornication: Eros, Ethics, and Political Reform in Greek Philosophy and Early Christianity

Kathy L. Gaca

Language: English

Pages: 376

ISBN: 0520235991

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

This provocative work provides a radical reassessment of the emergence and nature of Christian sexual morality, the dominant moral paradigm in Western society since late antiquity. While many scholars, including Michel Foucault, have found the basis of early Christian sexual restrictions in Greek ethics and political philosophy, Kathy L. Gaca demonstrates on compelling new grounds that it is misguided to regard Greek ethics and political theory—with their proposed reforms of eroticism, the family, and civic order—as the foundation of Christian sexual austerity. Rather, in this thoroughly informed and wide-ranging study, Gaca shows that early Christian goals to eradicate fornication were derived from the sexual rules and poetic norms of the Septuagint, or Greek Bible, and that early Christian writers adapted these rules and norms in ways that reveal fascinating insights into the distinctive and largely non-philosophical character of Christian sexual morality.

Writing with an authoritative command of both Greek philosophy and early Christian writings, Gaca investigates Plato, the Stoics, the Pythagoreans, Philo of Alexandria, the apostle Paul, and the patristic Christians Clement of Alexandria, Tatian, and Epiphanes, freshly elucidating their ideas on sexual reform with precision, depth, and originality. Early Christian writers, she demonstrates, transformed all that they borrowed from Greek ethics and political philosophy to launch innovative programs against fornication that were inimical to Greek cultural mores, popular and philosophical alike. The Septuagint's mandate to worship the Lord alone among all gods led to a Christian program to revolutionize Gentile sexual practices, only for early Christians to find this virtually impossible to carry out without going to extremes of sexual renunciation.

Knowledgeable and wide-ranging, this work of intellectual history and ethics cogently demonstrates why early Christian sexual restrictions took such repressive ascetic forms, and casts sobering light on what Christian sexual morality has meant for religious pluralism in Western culture, especially among women as its bearers.





















Philosophy of Mind, by Julia Annas IX. Hellenistic History and Culture, edited by Peter Green X. The Best of the Argonauts: The Redefinition of the Epic Hero in Book One of Apollonius’ Argonautica, by James J. Clauss XI. Faces of Power: Alexander’s Image and Hellenistic Politics, by Andrew Stewart XII. Images and Ideologies: Self-definition in the Hellenistic World, edited by A. W. Bulloch, E. S. Gruen, A. A. Long, and A. Stewart XIII. From Samarkhand to Sardis: A New Approach to the Seleucid

beneficial to them.” 58 Chrysippus especially criticizes Euripides for contributing to this social conditioning in his now lost plays Dictys and Stheneboea, where his characters declare: “Aphrodite does not loosen the line even when she is rebuked. If you try to use force, she likes pulling the line even tighter.” 59 Similarly, “Eros, when rebuked, pushes down even harder.” 60 The early Stoics challenge this doctrine of unreflective surrender by repudiating the view that the gods are wicked and

friendly sexual relations continue as the sages see fit. The friendship-building sexual relations facilitate the progress toward wisdom and virtue for members of the early Stoic city as a whole. If everything about these didactic sexual mores works according to plan, the city’s populace has no unregenerate fools, unlike conventional society, which teems with them. Its inhabitants are at one of three general levels of ethical attainment: the virtuous wise men and women; the male and female

the early Stoic communal utopia to fall to the family ideal for philosophical reasons as well as for propriety concerns. The social mainstreaming of later Stoicism is an example of the process by which a revolutionary set of ideas gets tamed, loses touch with its origins, and thereby gains middle-of-the-road popularity.114 Though the later Stoic advocacy of patriotic marriage is the most well known aspect of Stoic sexual ethics in the modern day, it is diametrically opposed to early Stoic ideas

Greek medical milieu, W. Burkert, Lore and Science, 272, or it may be Plato’s own idea to test the Pythagoreans’ position that the soul has harmony and is immortal. For the plausible view that Simmias’s argument is Plato’s invention, see H. B. Gottschalk, “Soul as Harmonia” (1971), 179 –98. Thus Guthrie’s discussion about Philolaus’s attribution of harmonic intervals to the soul itself is on the right track, History of Greek Philosophy, vol. 1, 212–29 and 306 –19. 21. DL 8.36 = Xenophanes DK

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