The Depravity Of The Gentiles

The portrait of "man" and "woman" offered in these sources has much in common with the sources discussed in the previous chapter. Apocryphal literature such as Tobit and Sirach recommended that Judean men control their desires, be wary of seductive women, and keep careful watch over their households. The nation of Israel could be imagined as a woman and, therefore, the heroic deeds of one Judean or Israelite woman could stand for the prestige, and even the "manliness," of the entire community. Though we have seen such discursive strategies before, in the case of biblical and postbiblical Judean literature, the goal was the production of difference between Israel/Judah/Judea and the gentiles or, more simply, everyone else. Gentile tyrants, overcome by desire, could be conquered by "manly" Judean women. Judean men were repeatedly warned to keep away from seductive yet polluting gentile women. Homoerotic sex was characterized as a gentile, not Judean, "problem,"53 as were adultery, rape, promiscuity, pimping, and bestiality.54

A crucial point in the holiness code of Leviticus seemed to be that incest, homoerotic sex, child sacrifice, intercourse with a menstruating woman, and bestiality cause impurity, an impurity then associated with the Canaanites. Though the contours of the argument changed over time, the basic strategy of defining insiders and outsiders according to sexual practice remained. The Sibyl objected to pederasty and adultery as foreign practices, opposing them to the pure marriage practices of Judeans, marriage practices that were affirmed again and again in such works as Tobit, Jubilees, and Sirach. To Josephus, Judean laws promoting endogamy and procreation and against male homoerotic sex demonstrated the exceedingly strict moral code of the Jews, a counter to accusations that the Jews are "full of lust." Furthermore, the "unnatural" sex of the Greek gods (adultery, incest, men lying with men) was offered as evidence for the superior moral position of the Judeans. As far as Leviticus, Exodus, Ezekiel, Hosea, Ezra, the Third Sibylline Oracle, Tobit, Judith, Susanna, Jubilees, the Testament of Levi, Pseudo-Aristeas, Philo, Josephus, and the rabbis were concerned, gentiles are corrupt, and that corruption is demonstrated by their degenerate sexual behavior. As we shall see, Paul, a Greek-speaking Judean from the Diaspora, both repeated and reconfigured this argument to defend his particular group of Judeans and gentiles-in-Christ, the followers of Jesus.

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