sacralizing men’s sexuality: Jacob & his wives to Jesus & his church

trivializing male sexuality in ancient Greece

From castration culture in ancient Greek myth to harsh regulation of men’s sexuality in ancient Greece to the Roman culture of trivializing and brutalizing men’s penises, the ancient Greco-Roman world devalued men’s sexuality. Ancient Hebrew culture generally treated men more humanely. Yet the account of Jacob and his wives in Genesis represents Jacob as having simple, dog-like sexuality. Within that context, the deeply learned Jewish Christian Paul of Tarsus proclaimed that men’s sexuality has sacralizing status.

Jacob saw Rachel coming with a flock of sheep to a well near Haran. With men’s deeply rooted sense that they must earn women’s love, Jacob rolled away a large stone covering the well. Then he watered Rachel’s sheep for her. This was a time before extensive and pervasive criminalization of men’s sexuality. Almost surely before securing her affirmative consent, Jacob then kissed Rachel and wept aloud. Rachel understood that Jacob wanted to marry her. She rushed home to tell her father Laban.

Laban exploited Jacob’s love for Rachel. After Jacob had worked for him for a month, earning nothing but the opportunity to be near Rachel, Laban asked Jacob what wages he sought:

Jacob loved Rachel, so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” … So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. [1]

{ וַיֶּאֱהַב יַעֲקֹב אֶת־רָחֵל וַיֹּאמֶר אֶֽעֱבָדְךָ שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים
בְּרָחֵל בִּתְּךָ הַקְּטַנָּֽה

וַיַּעֲבֹד יַעֲקֹב בְּרָחֵל שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים וַיִּהְיוּ בְעֵינָיו כְּיָמִים
אֲחָדִים בְּאַהֲבָתֹו אֹתָֽהּ }

Jacob wasn’t an emotionless man. He wept in love for Rachel and joyfully worked for years in love for her.

Like many men, Jacob was romantically simple. Unlike Tobias, Jacob on his wedding night focused on fulfilling his sexual obligation. Only the next morning did he notice that the woman he had sex with was not his intended wife Rachel, but her older sister Leah. The focused, hard-working husband Jacob had fallen victim to a bed trick. He had acted narrowly in love for his wife without understanding in detail who she actually was.

Jacob served women with get-down-to-business masculine sexuality. When Laban offered, in exchange for another seven years of work, Rachel to Jacob as a second wife, Jacob accepted that offer. He then did double manly marital duty, serving both Leah and Rachel. When both Leah and Rachel sought to have more children, they sent to Jacob their maidservants. He served their maidservants sexually without any recorded deliberation or objection. The story of Leah, Rachel, and Jacob implicitly assumes that Jacob would have sex with any woman put in bed with him. That’s a beastly representation of men’s sexuality.[2]

The Jewish Christian apostle Paul of Tarsus, in contrast, taught that men’s sexuality is a precious, sacralizing gift. No more than one woman was to enjoy a given man’s sexuality, and that was to be in a mutual personal relationship of marriage:

To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto his wife due sexual generosity and likewise also the wife unto her husband.

{ πορνείας ἕκαστος τὴν ἑαυτοῦ γυναῖκα ἐχέτω καὶ ἑκάστη τὸν ἴδιον ἄνδρα ἐχέτω τῇ γυναικὶ ὁ ἀνὴρ τὴν ὀφειλὴν ἀποδιδότω ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ ἡ γυνὴ τῷ ἀνδρί } [3]

Coupling tenderness with masculine vigor, husbands’ sexual generosity to their wives is an aspect of husbands’ healthful care for their wives and helps to sanctify their wives:

Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the Church and give himself up for her, that he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present a glorious church to himself, not having a spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own body, but nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as the Lord does for the Church.

{ οἱ ἄνδρες ἀγαπᾶτε τὰς γυναῖκας καθὼς καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς ἠγάπησεν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν καὶ ἑαυτὸν παρέδωκεν ὑπὲρ αὐτῆς ἵνα αὐτὴν ἁγιάσῃ καθαρίσας τῷ λουτρῷ τοῦ ὕδατος ἐν ῥήματι ἵνα παραστήσῃ αὐτὸς ἑαυτῷ ἔνδοξον τὴν ἐκκλησίαν μὴ ἔχουσαν σπίλον ἢ ῥυτίδα ἤ τι τῶν τοιούτων ἀλλ’ ἵνα ᾖ ἁγία καὶ ἄμωμος οὕτως ὀφείλουσιν καὶ οἱ ἄνδρες ἀγαπᾶν τὰς ἑαυτῶν γυναῖκας ὡς τὰ ἑαυτῶν σώματα ὁ ἀγαπῶν τὴν ἑαυτοῦ γυναῖκα ἑαυτὸν ἀγαπᾷ οὐδεὶς γάρ ποτε τὴν ἑαυτοῦ σάρκα ἐμίσησεν ἀλλὰ ἐκτρέφει καὶ θάλπει αὐτήν καθὼς καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς τὴν ἐκκλησίαν } [4]

In Christian understanding, Christ undergoing crucifixion — his Passion — expresses God’s unbounded love for humanity in bodily action. Christian husbands are called to follow Christ in giving themselves up completely in love for their wives. Husbands’ passion for their wives in bodily action differs greatly from husbands’ loving their wives with simple, dog-like sexuality. According to Paul of Tarsus, Jesus elevated men’s sexuality to a sacralizing status. Husbands’ sexuality is for Christians a sacrament by which wives become holy.

In stark contrast to true Christian understanding, today’s demonization of men’s sexuality is a central tenet in a more oppressive  religion than has ever existed historically. Far too many couples are suffering through an epidemic of sexless marriages. Now is the time to stop believing and start questioning, even when the writer or speaker is a woman. Those who imagine themselves to be Christians have no excuse for doing otherwise.

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Notes:

[1] Genesis 29:18, 20. Hebrew text (Masoretic) from Blue Letter Bible. The story as a whole spans Genesis 29-31.

[2] Jacob as “a simple man, living in tents.” Genesis 25:27. Jacob certainly was simple in his sexuality. Bible narrative recognized simple masculine sexuality. With simple, common-sense physiological reasoning, King David’s servants brought the beautiful young woman Abishag the Shunammite into his bed when he was having difficulty getting warm. King David had strong, independent sexuality, as shown in his tragic affair with Bathsheba. However, perhaps because he had gained greater ethical appreciation for his sexuality, David did not have sex with Abishag. 1 Kings 1:1-5. It’s also possible that he was irremediably impotent.

[3] 1 Corinthians 7:2-3. Greek text (Morphological GNT) here and subsequently from Blue Letter Bible. This obligation, known in medieval Europe as the “marital debt,” occasionally made defaulting men subject to harsh punishment.

[4] Ephesians 5:25-29. Coupled with the husbands’ obligation to surrender his life to his wife was a much less onerous instruction for wives:

Wives, submit yourself to your own husbands as you do to the Lord, for the husband is head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the Church, and he is the savior of the body. Therefore just as the Church is subject to Christ, so also wives should be in everything to their own husbands.

{ αἱ γυναῖκες τοῖς ἰδίοις ἀνδράσιν ὡς τῷ κυρίῳ ὅτι ἀνήρ ἐστιν κεφαλὴ τῆς γυναικὸς ὡς καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς κεφαλὴ τῆς ἐκκλησίας αὐτὸς σωτὴρ τοῦ σώματος ἀλλὰ ὡς ἡ ἐκκλησία ὑποτάσσεται τῷ Χριστῷ οὕτως καὶ αἱ γυναῖκες τοῖς ἀνδράσιν ἐν παντί }

Ephesians 5:25:22-24. Under today’s oppressive gynocentric orthodoxy, few theologians, ministers, priests, or scholars dare even to quote the above passage.

[image] Trivializing male sexuality in ancient Greece. Drunk, cavorting male nature spirits (sileni) depicted on an Attic red-figured psykter. Made between 500 and 490 BGC. Painting attributed to Douris. Preserved as item GR 1868,0606.7 (Cat. Vases E 768) in the British Museum (photo thanks to the extraordinarily generous Marie-Lan Nguyen, via Wikimedia Commons).

2 thoughts on “sacralizing men’s sexuality: Jacob & his wives to Jesus & his church”

  1. Hi fellow Male Sexualist. My blog was just shut down by WordPress, possibly for Male Sexualist content. Can you show me a site that has no freedom of speech or could you possibly blog about my case? Thank you!

    1. I have no idea what a “Male Sexualist” is and know nothing about your case. This isn’t the sort of issue that I address.

      I certainly favor diverse viewpoints and robust freedom of speech. I’m aware of a terrible trend of over-zealous censureship. If you’ve been caught up in this creeping totalitarianism, you have my condolences.

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