Searches Which Might Have Gotten You Here
Intentions Of This Site
The Changing Nature Of Eccleesiastical And Other Laws
Now there are several searches which might have brought you here and what you read here really fits all three headings.
What might have brought you here could have been some search about Sex and Christianity, what does the Bible say about sex, or something similar. The answer is very surprising and nothing like what you might expect or fear. It appears that Ancient Jewish Religion and Christianity just fitted in with the usual sexual customs of their times. This is actually well known. We all know that Jacob had two wives or women given to him by Laban. There are not even words for wife, husband, wedding or marriage in Ancient Hebrew! Women in those days were a possession and apart from that Jacob also had sex with their handmaids. Judah went to a prostitute and Genesis (Ch. 38) tells the story without any criticism of that fact. That’s what men did and there was nothing wrong with it. What about the parable of the ten virgins?
How come then that most modern Christian Churches promote one on one marriages? Well there are some sections of the Bible which seem anti sexual, for example First Corinthians 7. However the word that is translated as ‘fornication’ or ‘sexual immorality’ is ‘porneia’, the mother of the word porno. The porneia was a famous festival in honour of Aphrodite Pornae, the heavenly harlot, I suppose similar to but much wilder than the Mardi Gras, the Love Parade or the Carnival in Rio. Her temple, we would call it a brothel, was one of the major sources of income of Corinth. This letter, First Corinthians, was written to the Corinthians who lived in Corinth and were probably tempted to participate in this lovely celebration of bodily love. The Ancients saw sex as an act primarily with a god or a goddess, the human partner was secondary. They also thought that epileptics were holy people, because a god must take control of them during a fit, since they themselves are not in control. The same applies to good sex. The human being is not in control, so he and she must be driven by a god or goddess! The letter was to reprimand the Corinthians not to worship any other gods or goddesses besides God! That is the point of chapter 7. In chapter 9 of this same letter it becomes quite apparent, that even the apostles and the brothers of Jesus had sex with women of the communities they visited and that they took women along on their travels! Verse 5 speaks of a sisterly woman, not of a wife. In Ancient Greek, the language of the New Testament, there are words for husband and wife, but they do not occur in the New Testament! The reason is probably that only upper class people married in a sense similar to the modern while Christianity was a religion of the lower classes. I have written a book on this topic called ‘Greetings From Paradise’.
Why then do modern Churches take such a stance against sexuality between unmarried people? The answer to this question is different for the Catholic Church than for Protestant Churches.
The reason for the Catholic Church lies about one thousand years back. Considering this reason also needs consideration of law and the way laws were given and promoted as different to enforced! From Ancient days on until not more than two hundred years ago any law was seen as the law of God and laws were promoted as such, unquestionable. When Isaac Newton formulated his laws about the forces of physics, he chose the word law for the first time in science, because these were as valid as the King’s word, which was the law of the day, since the King was seen as God’s anointed. This attitude is described in Deut. 4: 39 & 40, ‘Know therefore this day, and consider in thine heart, that the LORD he [is] God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: [there is] none else. Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, ….’ In other words the commandments were not explained. They were to be observed for the only reason that they are God – given!
In Western Australia there is a granite outcrop, very smooth and, in the wet very slippery, not far from the coast. There are two more pieces of this outcrop projecting out of the ocean nearby. The Aboriginal story is that there lives a spirit upon the outcrop and that this spirit will throw down any person who climbs this rock. There were once two boys who did and the spirit threw them down and they slid out into the ocean and turned into the two pieces of rock outcrop there.
How does this compare with Mum telling her teenage boys not to climb the rock, because it is slippery and once you start sliding, there is no holding on to anything, so you keep sliding until you hit the ground and die or get injured which was a death sentence also for people without medical care.
The Church always acted like this throughout the centuries. They never explained their laws to the people, the Church was the representative of God on earth and God does not have to justify what he is doing. He is God! The attitude towards the Church and the local Lord or King might be summarized in Prov. 25: 3, ‘The heaven for height, and the earth for depth, and the heart of kings [is] unsearchable.’ He may not be questioned; the Church may not be questioned!
This was not suppression. This suited the psyche of men very well. Most men did not question. The Roman Empire had just moved away from a Republic towards the rule by emperors. And the Romans had been well aware that democracy is not a good form of government in all situations. There was a law that a dictator could be elected for six months in case of a military threat or other emergency.
Further North there never had been democracy before. The first Christians were lower class people without education. Christianity was faith alone! People were born into their roles. A son would take over the profession or trade of his father. If the father had a valuable inheritance to leave, he left it to his oldest son, while the others became the oldest son’s servants. For this reason such a man wanted to be sure that the oldest son really was his. Therefore he married a young virgin in her early to mid-teens, even though he most likely would be of much more mature age. They then had a honeymoon. They did not go travelling at the time, only soldiers and merchants did, there was no tourism but they spent a fortnight in bed and by the end of that time the young woman usually would be pregnant and hopefully the child was a son, because then the father knew this was his heir. Afterwards the woman was free. There is an old poetical word for bridegroom in German ‘Freier’ which means liberator. The man liberates the woman by marrying her, the woman is liberated. From what? From the duty to remain a virgin so that she can bear an heir to a wealthy man. (Regarding virginity in the Bible, follow this link: Virginity).
As Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire now there were wealthy Christians and the above procedure of determining an heir found its way into Christian custom. Servants and farmhands also became Christian, but they had no inheritance. Most people lived on farms. On the farms the farmhands all just slept in the same room and what happened in the dark nobody knew. When a handmaid, as the Bible would call her, would become pregnant, all the better, the farm would get another farmhand. This child would stick around the mother until it was strong enough to help with farm tasks. This child would have no education and its outlook on life was what it saw happening around it: farm work, nothing else. There was probably a land lord who collected some produce and provided protection but the child would never have had the idea to become like him. This would appear to him as desiring to be God. It was natural to them that there are these ‘higher’ people which they themselves just were not. This was the God – given order of the world. There is the view that farmhands got in trouble for doing it in the straw, but they got into trouble for not working, not for having sex!
The history books don’t tell us much about these people, because there is not a lot to tell about them. History deals with important, influential people who wanted to know that their heirs were their own children. For this reason it looks like people lived in one on one marriages in history! The general populace just lived differently, because they did not have any hope of owning anything apart from what they could carry in a small bundle. These people were used to obey. Nobody, not the clergy or anybody else would have thought of explaining anything to them! They wouldn’t have expected any explanations. There was no democracy. These people would not have trusted themselves in important decisions, how would they have dared to take part in government?!
This is the environment in which the Catholic Church developed. Democracy and education for the masses only evolved over the last three hundred years. Education is a necessary prerequisite for democracy. After all a person voting is making a decision about ruling a country. Nevertheless education is not valued by the masses. Most people in modern society see it only as a means to earn an income and not as a general pre – requisite to lead a happy life, apart from earning an income, or to become a responsible person who takes part in government. Consequently Western democracy really has decayed into a lobbying competition. The word idiot actually stems from an ancient Greek word for ‘own’. An idiotes is a citizen who is more concerned about his personal wealth and well – being than the well – being of his city.
So somebody who does not want to be educated in Ancient languages and acquire the ability to understand the Holy Scriptures is well-advised to just follow the Pope’s instructions. Once this person gets to the Pearly Gates this got to count for something. How is such a person to question or even criticize the Pope?!
At the end of the eleventh century, the Church had to make some important decisions. The Roman Empire was on the decline. Northern Africa had been conquered by Moslems, likewise the Southern half of Spain and what was called Anatolia or Asia Minor had been conquered by Turkish Tribes. Should Christianity have gone back underground as in the first centuries AD? This is a serious question of criticism against the crusades! Pope Urban II repeatedly wrote to worldly rulers to send armies to liberate the Eastern Churches. These just had split about fourty years prior to Pope Urban II calling for the first crusade to liberate Jerusalem.
Why Jerusalem? Why would anybody help the Eastern Churches? They had been excommunicated by Pope Leo IX. Would Urban explain to the common people that Moslems were a greater threat than the Eastern Orthodox Churches, which were held to be heretics? No, he sent them on a mission to liberate a city of which everybody had heard, of a city held to be holy by all, he sent them to liberate Jerusalem. Of course the Crusaders had to travel through Anatolia and Northern Africa on their way and take control there.
The speech of the Pope is not preserved, but there are several versions which have been recorded later. One of these was written by Robert the Monk who actually lived at the time and might have heard the original speech. This is from Roberts record, ‘This land which you inhabit, shut in on all sides by the seas and surrounded by the mountain peaks, is too narrow for your large population; nor does it abound in wealth; and it furnishes scarcely food enough for its cultivators. Hence it is that you murder one another, that you wage war, and that frequently you perish by mutual wounds. Let therefore hatred depart from among you, let your quarrels end, let wars cease, and let all dissensions and controversies slumber.’
Whether the Pope really spoke these words is immaterial. Since Robert wrote this, this must have been a thought at the time amongst the educated people of Western Europe. In other words overpopulation had become a problem at the time.
Twenty years before the First Crusade, Pope Gregory VII had introduced what is now known as the Gregorian reforms. This dealt mainly with the right of investiture or appointment of clergy, but it also introduced compulsory celibacy, which means being unmarried, for the clergy.
Could this have been a reaction to overpopulation? With urbanisation becoming slowly stronger servant girls were not always in a position to keep their children and one way to dispose of them was to give them to a monastery where they would be cared for and educated. It is well known that nuns had children of their own and being able to breast feed certainly helped in their duties towards orphans.
Is this what sets Christianity apart from Judaism and Islam? Ps. 127: 3 to 5, ‘Lo, children (it says sons in Hebrew) are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.’ Note the purpose of the sons.
Quran 2: 223: ‘Your wives are a place of sowing of seed for you, so come to your place of cultivation however you wish and put forth for yourselves. And fear Allah and know that you meet Him. And give good tidings to the believers.’
So the Church might have had some very good and worthy reasons to decree celibacy. It is difficult to tell, because the Church never justified its decisions.
But the modern view of the medieval Church as clergy just sitting in churches and monasteries praying all day doing nothing but opposing progress is certainly wrong. Monasteries were the places of scientific and religious advancement! Monasteries had libraries while many worldly castles had not!
Yet even very committed Christians today seem to have this inferiority complex about Genesis and an outright guilty conscience about the Church particularly about the treatment of Galileo. They don’t know that Even The Bible Doesn’t Hold The Creation Story To Be Literally True!
Yet these same people at times show great respect for supposedly Islamic achievements in science which in truth all had been done before Muhammad actually lived.
So why this poor attitude towards our own religion? After all our own religion is the basis for modern morals. For example religious freedom is not permitted in the Tanakh (see for example Deut. 12: 2 & 3 or the massacre of the worshippers of Baal in (2. Ki 10: 18 to 28) or in the Quran (4: 74 to 92)!
The answer lies in the history of Medieval Europe. It is actually quite likely that Europeans up to the beginning of the fourteenth century were quite carefree and happy in general and also in their sexuality. Did compulsory celibacy for clergy mean that they had no sex? If the reason behind this rule was contraception it might not necessarily mean that monks and priests had no sex, but nuns should not have had sex anymore. The pressure really was on them but it is well known that many of them did not stick to the rule. But why would a priest not have sex with the women, in the very least the unmarried and unmarriageable women, in his congregation. They would get pregnant anyhow. Even The Apostles Had Sex!
So Catholics lived a happy sex life at least up to the end of the eleventh century, up to the Gregorian reforms, but really most of them lived on like that beyond that time just like we do not obey all commandments at all times, for example the commandment against covetting. We call covetting goal setting in our modern economy. In the course of the reforms priests were divorced (how is this Catholic?) against their will and their children declared orphans. So their former wives would become their house keepers who, as was customary in those days, would live and sleep at their place of employment.
But in the early fourteenth century there was a time of warming, nothing compared to global warming today, but there were severe famines for several years all over Europe. Thousands of people starved to death!
Only thirty years later the Black Death struck Europe for the first time! It ravaged Europe for the remainder of this century at least and between thirty to sixty percent of the European population died!
‘Why would God do such a thing to us?’ was the question of the time. This seems ludicrous to us. However to Medieval people, just as well as Ancient people there was no difference between science and religion. Religion was truth, even though the revelations in the Bible were not seen as being exhaustive, so there was room for modern style scientific work. The microscope was only invented in the seventeenth century, three hundred years after this, and even then it took over two hundred years more until it was accepted that disease is caused by microbes. What chance would fourteenth century people have had to understand this? The Black Death was introduced by fleas on rats from Central Asia. It would be interesting to investigate how the mentality of Central Asian men changed due to this disastrous catastrophe.
So fourteenth century Europeans thought God was punishing them for something, they did not know what. These events may well have been crucial in the general feeling of guiltiness amongst modern Europeans.
The Middle Ages came to a close with the onset of another disease. The end of the Middle Ages was the well acclaimed discovery of America but exactly this brought Syphilis to Europe with the return of the first expedition. This is a sexually transmitted disease, so this is one example that Medieval man had no problems with having sex with casual encounters. But now a disease, which was, as all diseases seen as a punishment from God, was sexually transmitted! To lead a healthy life, free of sin, you had to avoid sex with strangers! That’s what was learned at that time, i.e. the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth century.
What about the question whether the earth is round or flat. One of the foremost philosophers of the church was St. Thomas Aquinas, who lived from 1225 to 1274, much loved by some, much despised by others. He wrote a great work called ‘Summa Theologica’ in which he discussed many issues of faith, which included nature or science which was not thought to be separate from religion. The first major section of this work is called, ‘The Nature and Extent of Sacred Doctrine’. The first article within this section deals with the question, ‘Whether, Besides Philosophy, any further doctrine (teaching) is required?’ In his reply to objection two, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote quite as a matter of fact of the astronomer and the physicist both being able to prove that the earth is round in different ways. St. Thomas Aquinas thought that the earth is round in the thirteenth century and he obviously assumed that this was well known to his readers!!!
Now the end of the sixteenth century saw the conclusion of one of the finest pieces of scientific work this world has ever seen. It was the work on the correction of the calendar. This became known as the Calendar Reform or also as the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar named after the Pope who officially introduced it, Gregory XIII, a different Pope Gregory than the one who introduced celibacy for the clergy about five hundred years earlier. The calendar already had been discussed on the infamous council of Constance 1414 to 1418. On the fourth Lateran council (1512 to 1517) the Catholic Church had invited Nicholaus Kopernicus who had been the first to propose at that time that the sun was in the centre of our solar system and that the earth was only a planet. His suggestion was objectively discussed in scientific circles within the Church and for that reason he was invited to take part in the discussion. He lived from 1473 to 1543. In the next generation there lived Johannes Kepler (1571 to 1630) and Galileo (1564 to 1642). Only Galileo of all these was prosecuted! His story is written in Greetings From Paradise in the chapter ‘The Fall of Christianity’ and also there are several good websites regarding the controversy (e.g.: The Galileo Project). Galileo tried to prove that the tides are evidence that the earth is rotating. This is wrong! Johannes Kepler already had noticed that there was a relationship between the tides and the motion of the moon, an observation to which Galileo referred as witchcraft.
The fact remains that the Calendar reform of 1582 was a major scientific feat achieved by the Catholic Church! The previous calendar was the Julian calendar which had been introduced by Julius Cesar in 45 BC. The correction was by ten days in the one thousand six hundred years, the Julian Calendar had been in force. That is a scientific feat of fantastic accuracy and this calendar is still in force today, while Ramadan continues to float through the year. So the view that the clergy were just sitting in churches praying all day, rejecting Galileo on the basis of the Bible alone is utter nonsense.
The Catholic Church had a great scientific organisation. Look up the life of Christopher Clavius. But the Church did not explain itself to the masses, since they could not understand and since they did not expect explanations, but instructions. So within this relationship between the Catholic Church and its faithful, celibacy for priests and clergy was decreed but no worldly reason was given. The spiritual reasons for this decree, i.e. what the Bible said about it, never changed. It says for example in 1. Tim. 3: 2 that only Bishops must have one woman and deacons (verse 12). Was the reason for this decree in the eleventh century by the Church overpopulation? Was this Catholic contraception to control population and to avoid war?
Protestants had a different reason to oppose sexuality. Their reason was that they did not have monasteries in their lands at a time when urbanisation was strongly progressing. Unmarried women in Catholic cities could give their children to monasteries to have them brought up, but unmarried women in protestant areas would have to look after their unwanted children and keep them! An unmarried woman might not find employment having to look after a child because she usually would live with her employer and he would feed and clothe her. If she had a child he would have to feed and clothe the child also.
The Bible had been translated several times throughout the Middle Ages, but at the time of rising Protestantism print had been invented. Therefore at this time the Bible could easily be spread, even though only few people could read. The first of these translations were done by protestants: Martin Luther and King James. They translated the Bible with the intent to discourage sexuality outside marriage because they had no monasteries which would look after unwanted children. Later Catholic translations took over this antisexuality since the importance of monasteries in the Catholic Church was declining and the Catholic Church was also not in a position to care for orphans anymore.
These are the reasons which I can see why the Bible translators have used highly interpretative wordings in their work. They were trying to support the changing common customs by adapting the Biblical text. The real meaning of the Biblical text is not easy to understand and just on the all important topic of sexuality, which is at the centre of most of our feeelings of pleasure, guilt and evilness I refer you to Greetings From Paradise, Dear Reader.
So all up, the Catholic Church had several changes in the world to deal with: overpopulation, the Moslem advance, and commercialism, also famine and crippling disease, which was a real challenge to faith! Why would God do such a thing to us? We must have done something wrong. So people looked for the wrong everywhere they could think of to turn away the wrath of God. Then there was Syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease, which was the real onset of anti – sexuality through fear!
Commercialism was the shift of priests being maintained by their communities in produce to being maintained by money donations. Priests then had to pay, so they charged for their services, like ringing the church bells and absolution. Charging for the forgiveness of sins was one of the major causes of the reformation. To this day, the relationship of the Church to money is uncomfortable and a frequent cause of criticism by Christians and ridicule by so called atheists, while some of these same atheists would admire past Moslem courts for their wealth and splendour!
Urbanisation and the change of a child being a blessing who would help in the everyday work at a very early age, compared to today, towards children being a burden was a challenge to the Church. The overpopulation of monasteries, monasteries could not keep up with their former function of caring for unwanted children.
Science slipped away from the Church and the Galileo affair was seen to demonstrate the necessity of the establishment of Universities independent of the Church. Even though the Church treated Galileo very poorly in the midst of the thirty year war, which claimed a higher percentage of lives in Europe than the world wars of the twentieth century, the Church and their monasteries used to be the centres and the leading force in scientific advance, including astronomy, crowned by the establishment of the Gregorian Calendar in 1582 which is still used today.
This together with the poor understanding of science and scripture by the general populace should always be kept in mind when criticising the Church. One of the greatest principles in the Christian faith, is the principle of forgiveness. I think it is high time for the Catholic Church to be forgiven the mistakes of the past. We all should learn from these mistakes by seeing them in the eyes of the understanding of the time and not from our modern scientific views, particularly since these views are only poorly understood by the vast majority of modern people and rather represent a religious belief in the knowledge and understanding of scientists instead of own scientific understanding by the everyday modern citizen.
This is what this site tries to promote, an informed view on Christianity and in particular, sexuality within it.