View Of Marriage And Sexuality Theology Religion Essay Example
View Of Marriage And Sexuality Theology Religion Essay Example

View Of Marriage And Sexuality Theology Religion Essay Example

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  • Pages: 12 (3278 words)
  • Published: October 4, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
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The early church held various perspectives on marriage and gender, with differing viewpoints found within the New Testament. These perspectives sometimes contradicted each other. For instance, one can use Jesus' words in Matthew 19:5 and Mark 10:8 to argue for the importance of marriage and against divorce. Furthermore, in John 2:1-10, Jesus attends a wedding and performs a miracle by turning water into wine, thereby blessing the marriage ceremony and symbolizing abundance. The book of Revelation also depicts Jesus as the groom of the church in a future wedding. When considering the Hebrew Bible as well, it strengthens the positive viewpoint on gender and marriage even further.

Despite the commonly held belief, there are differing viewpoints on the New Testament teachings. Various passages can be emphasized to reach alternative conclusions. For example, Jesus emphasized self-denial as neces


sary for discipleship. Additionally, Paul advocated for celibacy as preferable, although marriage is allowed. Jesus himself even acknowledged the option of becoming a eunuch in service to God's kingdom. If we take these statements at face value, those who choose not to marry are seen as more esteemed. This is why monastics often looked to the early apostolic Church for inspiration.

If one were to examine non-canonical texts now, the depiction would seem overwhelmingly intricate, contrary to popular belief. This is because in the early church, the canon of scripture was flexible in nature. As an example, Bentley Layton asserts that the Thomas Bible, lacking any specific sectarian characteristics, was likely considered part of the standard bible read by Mesopotamian Christians in the second and early third centuries. It is evident that systematic theologians and historians can reconcile these texts, bu

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they will undoubtedly reach different conclusions, which is the purpose. The complexity of marriage and gender in the ancient church cannot be underestimated.

Despite the intricate depiction, it appears that there has been a shift in the view and practice of marriage in the ancient church. The concept of virginity and asceticism started to change. As Wayne Meeks explains, Christianity "democratized asceticism." In simpler terms, the ancient hymn's refrain, "I keep myself pure for thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet thee," differs somewhat from Jesus' understanding of marriage.

In simple terms, the text discusses the narrative of a monk who used a dead woman's decaying flesh to create a foul smell and repel thoughts about her. This narrative reflects the early Christian communities. The paper's purpose is not to explain the origins of celibacy in the ancient church, but rather to analyze Clement, an important figure in the ancient world, and his views on marriage and gender. Clement is chosen because he represents the transition towards ascetic perspectives on marriage within the church.

The writings of Clement indicate that he is engaged in two struggles - not only against those who claim to be exempt from moral obligations, but also against those who completely denigrate and reject marriage. Therefore, studying Clement's works can provide insights into the challenges faced by the church in understanding marriage and gender. Additionally, a notable advantage of studying Clement is his deep grounding in Classical culture. Even a brief look at Clement's writings reveals his extensive knowledge and use of Homer, Plato, Philo, and Christian literature. Hence, examining Clement can shed light on the potential contributions of

the Greco-Roman world to the emergence of ascetic practices within the church.

Section two of this paper will analyze Clement's views on marriage and gender, while section three will discuss the rise of virginity in the church.

2. Marriage and Sexuality in Clement

Before delving into Clement's perspective on marriage and gender, it is important to note that he did not condemn marriage or sex; he simply provided regulations for them. In fact, Clement's work is notable for its numerous guidelines covering a wide range of topics.

Clement's observations encompass various aspects such as nutrient, drink, table manners, bearing, slumber, laughter, and vesture. This segment will emphasize Clement's perception of matrimony and sex. Specifically, it will focus on three details: the timing for engaging in sexual intercourse, selecting a suitable partner, and the correct manner of engaging in sexual activity. Clement provides two guidelines regarding the appropriate times for engaging in sexual intercourse.

Firstly, the author asserts that the only acceptable context for sexual intercourse is within the confines of marriage; anything before that, according to the author, is considered fornication. Secondly, even within the institution of marriage, the author argues that there are suitable occasions for engaging in sexual intercourse. Clement's initial premise in his discussion about gender in the Paidogogos is that sexual intercourse is exclusively restricted to married individuals. "Now, let us examine the restriction of sexual intercourse to those who are united in marriage."

This point may seem obvious (what else would a church leader suggest?), but it should be emphasized that there were Christian groups that did not adhere to the principles of marriage and monogamy as outlined in Christianity. For example, Clement opposes the beliefs

of Carpocrates and Epiphanes who argue that wives should be shared. He not only mocks their understanding of Christian teachings, but also strives to remove them from the church community. "How can this person still be included in our church membership when he openly defies both the Law and the Gospels...?" Clement views adulterous sex as sinful and not in line with Christian values. Based on this, Clement proceeds to discuss appropriate sexual behavior for Christians.

The main point is that within matrimony, there are periods of continency, where a couple may choose to abstain from sexual relations in order to devote themselves to prayer. Clement regards this act as honorable, not only because Paul suggests it in 1 Corinthians 7:5, but also because practicing complete continency allows for self-denial. Clement states, "It is a lesson in self-discipline if physical intimacy is interrupted by understanding the need to make time for prayer." However, it should be noted that these periods of continency should not be permanent.

Marriages should aim to procreate, however, it's important for couples to consider the timing of their attempts. According to Clement, the most favorable time for sexual activity is in the evening, shortly after dinner. Engaging in sexual activity during the morning or daytime is considered improper.

According to Clement, work should take priority and nothing should hinder it. Married individuals must refrain from engaging in sexual activities during the day, such as in the morning, after attending church or visiting the market. Instead, they should devote their daytime to prayer, reading, or performing good deeds. In the evening, after having dinner, they ought to retire and express gratitude for the blessings they

have received. Moreover, expelling one's sperm or seed during intercourse can deplete a person's strength and render them ineffective for the remainder of the day.

Clement argues that those who abstain from sex while engaging in competitions achieve greater success than their opponents. He also emphasizes the vulnerability of animals when they are caught during sexual intercourse, as it drains their strength and energy. However, Clement's teachings on sex education go further than abstinence. He emphasizes the importance of modesty and self-control even during acceptable times of sexual activity. He warns against using darkness as an excuse for unchecked passion, as excessive passion can pervert the purpose of marriage. Additionally, Clement reminds his audience that there is a God who observes all actions, even in the bedroom. He asserts that the eyes of God are brighter than the Sun and can see into the hidden parts of humanity.

In summary, Clement believes that sexual intercourse should only occur within the bounds of marriage, with a sense of gratitude and self-control, devoid of passion or pleasure, and preferably during the night. Regarding the question of with whom one should engage in sexual activity, Clement argues that it is only appropriate within the context of marriage for the purpose of reproduction. He reaches this conclusion by observing nature and divine revelation. In chapter 10 of Paidagogos, Clement begins with an extended metaphor of planting seeds. He employs this metaphor to make various points, but his main focus is on the significance of planting seeds in appropriate areas, specifically fertile grounds.

Clement argues that human gender should follow the same principles as nature. He contends that not all land is

suitable for growing seeds, and even if it were, not all farmers have the same skills. Seeds should not be planted on rocky land or scattered randomly, as they embody the fundamental principles of nature. It is undoubtedly disrespectful to disregard these natural principles by applying them in inappropriate settings.

Clement extracts two conclusions from this depiction: firstly, sex should solely serve reproductive purposes, not for any other gratification; and secondly, homosexuality is a deviation from the natural order and must, therefore, be condemned.

According to Clement, engaging in sexual intercourse for pleasure and engaging in homosexuality are both equivalent to wasting one's seed on infertile land. Clement goes on to make more specific remarks based on these general principles. He explicitly states that anal sex goes against nature because waste is meant to come out of this opening. In fact, Clement argues that various other bodily functions also support this point. However, nature has not allowed even the most instinctual of animals to sexually misuse the exit meant for waste.

The bladder collects urine, the intestines retain undigested food, tears are produced in the eyes, blood circulates through the veins, wax builds up in the ears, and mucus is found in the nose. Likewise, there is a passage that connects the end of the intestines for waste elimination. Clement firmly opposes buggery, ineffective sexual activity, unnatural methods of intercourse, and role reversal during sex. However, Clement's condemnation of homosexuality extends beyond these points and gains strength.

According to Clement, if nature taught against homosexuality, then the Hebrew Bible did so even more. Clement explains that through an allegorical interpretation of Deuteronomy 14:7, Moses' dietary laws were established

to prevent homosexuality. Clement argues that the prohibition of consuming hyenas was a result of hyenas possessing a cavity in the front of the anus, resembling the female genitalia in shape, which served no purpose other than satisfying sexual indulgence. This cavity is present in both male and female hyenas due to excessive and abnormal gender behavior; males engage in sexual activities with other males, therefore neglecting the females. Consequently, hyenas rarely reproduce naturally due to their inclination towards unconventional sexual behavior. For Clement, hyenas serve as an example of both unbridled sexual activity and unnatural homosexuality.

According to Clement, the hare is a prime example of hyper-sexuality as it possesses a dual uterus which results in a strong desire for more sex due to the emptiness of the uterus. Moses prohibited the consumption of hares because these animals exhibit "violent sexual urges and engage in frequent intercourse," which could lead to engaging in relations with a pregnant woman, engaging in homosexual acts, committing adultery, and participating in indecent activities. It is important to note that Clement's teachings on sex not only condemned homosexuality but also emphasized the significance of monogamous relationships within marriage.

Clement uses the story of the sower to convey the message that one should not sow seeds on someone else's fertile soil, similar to how sexual intercourse should only occur within marriage. He advises against touching anyone other than one's spouse in order to engage in physical pleasure for the purpose of procreation. Clement's teachings also emphasize that sexual intercourse for reproduction is only acceptable when guided by reason and self-control. Christians are admonished against engaging in sexual acts without reason as it

is considered morally sinful.

According to Clement, engaging in sexual pleasure or succumbing to our urges and desires is morally unacceptable. He argues that the most effective way to combat any form of self-indulgence is through rational thought. Clement stresses the importance of exercising self-discipline in both our physical appetites and sexual longings. He draws upon Stoic philosophy, which advises against acting on impulsive behavior, and asserts that it is even more crucial for those pursuing wisdom to control their sexual desires. Clement contends that a lack of restraint in sexual activity leads to other vices such as overeating, excessive drinking, and lustfulness. Furthermore, he claims that numerous similar vices contribute to the development of a thoroughly corrupt character.

According to Clement, the key to achieving freedom from desire, especially sexual desires, is through the grace of God. He advises his readers to seek God's help in order to gain the necessary strength for self-control. In Clement's perspective, relying on God's intervention is the only way to attain this kind of self-discipline.

According to Clement, Moses serves as a practical example of how individuals can overcome their desires with the assistance of God's grace. While in the presence of God, Moses did not experience any hunger or thirst for a period of 40 years. Clement proposes that Christians should strive for this ideal and therefore avoid engaging in sexual activity driven by desire, even within the confines of marriage. All actions should be guided by discipline, self-control, and rationality. As a result, it is not surprising that Clement rejects pleasure.

The true Christian sage does not find pleasure in earthly things like sex, food, and other indulgences. Clement states

that Christians should resist the temptations of worldly pleasures, including enjoying things done for the sake of temptation. This includes pleasures of sight, expensive incense and fragrances, indulging in various wines, and enjoying the scents of flowers. However, Clement believes that certain things are acceptable for Christians, such as marriage and sex. Yet he warns against finding pleasure in these things. Veronika Grimm notes that eating, drinking, and marrying are necessary and allowed for Clement's Christians as long as they do not derive enjoyment from them. Two observations can be made about Clement's understanding of sex and marriage: firstly, his attention to details indicates concern for small matters; secondly, he presents complexities regarding marriage similar to those found in the New Testament and early church teachings. Undoubtedly trying to navigate between asceticism's errors and libertinism's pitfalls, Clement ultimately displays some inconsistency.

a.In the Details

Clement's writings demonstrate his focus on details as he addresses almost every aspect of one's life - from what one eats or wears to when one laughs - all contributing to Christian character formation.Clement emphasizes that Christian character is revealed in the smallest aspects of life, such as a person's walking pace, behavior during meals, and everyday social interactions. He believes that no detail is insignificant in demonstrating one's courtesy. This focus on details can be seen as a unique aspect of Christian practice, which differs from the commands and exhortations found in the New Testament and early Christian literature. However, Clement's work contains a much greater number of instructions in this regard.

According to Veronika Grimm, the Jesus portrayed in the Gospels did not provide detailed instructions on various aspects

of life such as eating properly, personal hygiene, or fashion choices. His emphasis on love did not include teachings on how to show love. However, this lack of specific guidance led to a situation where numerous rules and regulations limited individual freedom. Being told what to do and how to do it in a prescribed manner made Christian practice more oppressive. Even worse, personal matters were now subject to the church's control and scrutiny. This unfortunate reliance on the highest authority, used to support Clement's biases, exposed the most private aspects of someone's life to ecclesiastical examination. This unintended consequence may have contributed to the adoption of ascetic sexual practices in the early church since individual actions were now more closely regulated than before.

To clarify, Clement does not reject marriage or sexual intercourse. In fact, he strongly defends both with great rhetorical skill. However, his rules are stricter and more numerous than those presented by the authors of the Gospel and Paul. Consequently, any non-traditional sexual practices, apart from regulated and unemotional intercourse, were subject to criticism by the church.

B. Tensions Remain

A careful interpretation of Clement's views on marriage and sex does not provide a clear answer.

On one hand, marriage is seen as a honorable and noble institution. Procreation is considered a partnership with God, and raising a family is viewed as an opportunity for spiritual growth. It is also emphasized that the human body should not be a source of shame, and engaging in sexual intercourse solely for reproduction does not tarnish one's character or jeopardize their standing with God. In fact, Clement asserts that celibacy is not inherently superior to marriage. On the

other hand, Clement suggests (albeit inconsistently) that virginity surpasses marriage in value. He argues that individuals who possess strict self-control achieve greater worth in the eyes of God, as their discipline encompasses both celibacy and rationality.

Similarly, he writes: In a mystical and religious manner, the apostle teaches us to choose what is truly gracious. This choice does not involve rejecting other things as bad, but rather making things better than what is already good. He states, "So he that gives his virgin in matrimony does good, and he that does not give her does better." This applies to both outward propriety and devoted attention to the Lord. Clement understands from these words that matrimony is good, but virginity is better. This idea is not new, as Paul first expressed it in 1 Corinthians 7:38. However, in the context of Clement's time, this point is significant. It is evident from his writings that Clement is opposing extreme abstainers who completely reject matrimony and sex. Therefore, his belief that virginity is preferable to matrimony may have weakened his argument considerably.

He still maintains that virginity is preferable. The only conclusion one can draw is that Clement truly believed in the superiority of virginity. This conflict between virginity and marriage is evident in Clement's writings. John Ferguson argues that Clement is not entirely consistent in his views on marriage and virginity. Furthermore, Ferguson even suggests that Clement's view of marriage "aligns more closely with the abstainers." If Ferguson is correct, which I believe he is, then Clement's views can be seen as a step towards a stricter and more controlled perspective on sexuality - a perspective compatible with asceticism.



do not want to give the impression that Clement played a crucial role in the rise of asceticism. He probably did not, for three reasons. First, Clement affirmed the value of marriage and also opposed extreme abstainers. Second, much of what Clement wrote about marriage and sexuality was influenced by the intellectual climate of his time.

To clarify, Clement's teachings on sex were not groundbreaking. If Clement influenced the development of ascetic sexual practices, then Musonius Rufus did as well. However, it is uncertain how widely read Clement was in ancient times, as other church father figures like Origen were more prominent. Nevertheless, one could still argue that he may have indirectly contributed to the growth of ascetic practices in two ways: firstly, by revealing personal details to the church.

The notion that virginity is better was not outrightly denied by him, although he approached doing so. Within this religious framework, there was limited room to question the rise of asceticism, particularly when it was being endorsed by the church. Virginity is superior.

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