Today’s episode- Sex and the Scriptures – 12- 1 PM ET. Previous episodes were liveblogged here, here, here, here, and here. Stay tuned. The liveblogging super bonanza will begin at the first commercial break and the post will be updated each commercial break thereafter.
Segment 1 – Sex is a part of the Bible because it is a part of life. ‘There’s a lot of sex in the Bible, but there’s a lot more than you think’ says our dear Candida Moss. Moses’ followers relied on the Torah for their rules… (Mr Doom tells us). Of course that’s a bit anachronistic. Leviticus is brought to bear for its description of priestly rules. These rules concerning sex are quite strict, as one might expect from Priests. The law of the levirate marriage is also highlighted, as is the story of Ruth. The ‘uncovering of the feet of Boaz’ is also discussed, and is of course, quite rightly shown to be a reference to sexual behavior. For the ancient Israelites having children was critically important. This is why Abraham is given Hagar by his wife Sarah. This is also why multiple wives were also acceptable. Are these sexual mores still applicable or are they irrelevant?
Segment 2– Sepphoris is the locale for the opening of the segment. Reza Aslan shows up telling us about the place and Jodi Magness has a few lines about the town as well. Oddly now we hear about the weeping woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair (implying that Sepphoris was the location of the foot washing by the questionable woman). Does this imply Jesus had an ‘open attitude’ to all women? Chris Keith shows up and has smart things to say about Jesus’ welcoming of the marginalized (making the same point as Cargill has too). So what was Jesus’ attitude towards marriage? He certainly didn’t seem to value the institution as highly as his contemporaries (according to Pagels). ‘Traditional marriage’ is taking a beating- polygamy is tolerated and openness to various marital situations is widespread among the earlier followers of Jesus. Now Paul is being singled out as a prime force behind the attitude toward sex in later Christianity. Celibacy arises in the Church as a mark of spirituality. When did sex become ‘shameful’? That’s next.
Segment 3– We’re back to the OT and the story of David. And Jonathan. They have ‘very tender moments with each other’. David’s lament ‘triggered centuries of debate’ about the relationship between the two of them. It’s possibly platonic but it can also imply, we’re told, a sexual relationship. The language and imagery are sexual. ‘Homosexuality was not condemned’ says Mr Doom who, apparently, has never read Leviticus. It’s interesting, as an aside, that Jonathan and David are discussed at length in this segment but no mention has been made of Leviticus. A skewed presentation? Perhaps. David is, the assertion is made, at least bisexual- thanks to his relationship with Bathsheba. The command to procreate supersedes all other questions of morality. Solomon is the proof of this- as he was born from an originally adulterous relationship. Then we have a discussion of the Song of Solomon, a story of ‘hooking up’ according to one of the talking heads (which is- of course- utterly absurd and thoroughly anachronistic). The New Testament presents a strict sexual morality- confined to marriage. Homosexuality and adultery are tacitly accepted in the pages of the Old Testament- particularly in Genesis.
Segment 4– Sodom and Gomorrah. I’m guessing the issue will be hospitality and inhospitality rather than the homosexuality and the attempted rape of the angels by the men of the city. Indeed- they want to rape them because they are foreigners and thus demonstrate power over them. And yup, Candida makes the hospitality point and the other folk also add evidence to the point. Of course for many years we’ve known that the issue at Sodom was much more than the usual supposition. Lot’s wife becomes a pillar of salt and Lot’s daughters think it’s the end of the world so they sleep with their father and have children from this incestuous relationship. Emphasizing, once more, the priority of childbearing over all other moral considerations. Candida makes the wry point that this act is not the model for anyone else’s behavior. Incest, adultery, and homosexuality were ‘tolerated’ in the OT period, says Mr Doom. When did they become ‘sinful’? (again ignoring Leviticus).
Segment 5– Adam and Eve and the origin of sex as sin. After eating the fruit they become aware of their nakedness and feel ashamed. The notion of Original Sin is connected to the story of Adam and Eve (among Christians). What they learned was their own sexuality and their fraility and mortality. Augustine as source of the Christian notion of Original Sin and its connection to sex is traced back to him. He himself being something of a playboy. The Bible is – according to our talking heads – more open to sexuality than many readers would suspect.
It was, for the most part, an ok episode. Aside from the rather one sided reading of the Jonathan and David story and the refusal to so much as mention Leviticus’ prohibition of male and male sexual activity, the presenters did a good job of explaining the issues.
On the whole the series itself was, given its aims, well enough done. It wasn’t the worst ‘bible-documentary’ I’ve ever seen. High praise, indeed, in spite of the fact that it doesn’t sound like it.