forgiveness for men who castrate themselves under false religion

False religion has supported historically entrenched castration culture. Seeking to be righteous, believing that they must perform good deeds to be virtuous, men have destroyed their seminal blessing. When men act under false religion and castrate themselves like Galli servants to the mother goddess, they do grave wrong. Nonetheless, the ancient Acts of John, a popular work conveying the teachings of Jesus through his apostle John, shows that humble, godly repentance can redeem persons from horrible crimes — murder, necrophilia, and even delusional self-castration.

In the fourth century, the classically learned Roman Christian author Lactantius denounced horrors of castration within a society enthralled to false religion. After describing the sacrifice of two hundred children to the god Saturn, Lactantius declared:

men worshiping false god

In comparison to that type of offerings, no less insane must be judged other public offerings. One of them is to the Great Mother. In that rite, men propitiate with their own masculine genitals, and so by amputation make themselves neither men nor women. Other priests of the cult of Virtus, also called Bellona, sacrifice not others’ blood but their own. With their upper arms cut and waving drawn swords in either hand, they run around, are carried out, and become insane. Quintilian in his Fanatic said it best: “If a god wants those offerings, he’s angry!” Are these not also offerings? Is it not more satisfying to live in the manner of cattle than to revere gods so impious, so profane, and so bloody?

{ Ab isto genere sacrorum non minoris insaniae iudicanda sunt publica illa sacra, quorum alia sunt Matris, in quibus homines suis ipsi uirilibus litant — amputato enim sexu nec uiros se nec feminas faciunt — alia Virtutis, quam eandem Bellonam uocant, in quibus ipsi sacerdotes non alieno, sed suo cruore sacrificant. Sectis namque umeris et utraque manu districtos gladios exerentes currunt, ecferuntur insaniunt. Optime igitur Quintilianus in Fanatico, “Istud,” inquit, “si Deus cogit, iratus est.” Etiamne haec sacra sunt? Nonne satius est pecudum more uiuere quam deos tam inpios, tam profanos, tam sanguinarios colere? }[1]

Recognizing the true God’s seminal blessing, Lactantius referred to a man’s genitals as “the most sacred part of his body {sanctissima … corporis sui pars}.” Moreover, Lactantius didn’t pathologize men’s ardent love for women, but counseled moderation:

The Stoics therefore are mad. They seek not moderation of emotions, but their removal. The Stoics want in a way to castrate a man from things that he is by nature. It is just as if they should wish to withdraw fear from stags, poison from snakes, fierceness from wild beasts, or placidity from cattle.

{ Stoici ergo furiosi, qui ea non temperant, sed abscidunt rebusque natura insitis castrare hominem quodammodo uolunt. quod tale est, quale si uelint aut metum detrahere ceruis aut uenenum anguibus aut iram feris aut placiditatem pecudibus. }

Men’s genitals historically have been brutalized and disparaged. Jewish and Christian scriptures in contrast humanistically appreciate men’s genitals and the social value of men’s sexuality.

The second-century Christian Acts of John tells of sexually desperate men and forgiveness in the shocking story of Drusiana, Andronicus, and Callimachus. Andronicus was a general and a leading resident of Ephesus. After becoming a Christian, his wife Drusiana refused to have further sexual relations with him. Infuriated, Andronicus locked Drusiana in a tomb and declared that she either had to resume having sex with him, or die. She preferred to die. Andronicus surely felt in relation to his wife even more humiliated than Margery Kempe’s husband.

Drusiana was stronger than her husband, the eminent general Andronicus. She persuaded him to become a godly Christian and to accept sexless marriage to her. He then released her from the tomb. They both rose to new life as Christian spouses living together like sister and brother.

The leading Ephesian Callimachus subsequently burned with passion for Drusiana. She, who would not even have sex with her husband, refused to commit adultery. But she sympathized with the suffering of the lovesick Callimachus. She felt that she had become a stumbling block to him on his way to understanding true Christian love.[2] She thus prayed that she go to God from this earthly life. Sorrowing for Callimachus’s suffering in lovesickness, she soon died.

Callimachus refused to be defeated by death. He bribed Andronicus’s steward Fortunatus to take him inside Drusiana’s tomb so that he could rape her dead body. When they had undressed Drusiana’s body so that it was wearing only her shift, a serpent appeared. It killed Fortunatus. Then it coiled around Callimachus’s feet and caused him to fall. The serpent, typically associated with Satan, saved Drusiana from Callimachus’s necrophilia.

The next day, the apostle John, Andronicus, and other Christians went to Drusiana’s tomb to celebrate Mass for her. There they saw Drusiana’s open coffin, her body stripped down to her shift, and the bodies of Callimachus and Fortunatus. John raised Callimachus from the dead so that he could confess his horrific crime. Callimachus explained and begged:

When my soul was seized with mad passion and the incurable disease was troubling me, when I had already robbed her of the grave-clothes with which she was dressed, I went from the grave to put them down, as you see. I turned back to perpetrate the abominable deed. Then I saw a beautiful youth covering her with this cloak. Rays of light fell from his face upon her face. He also turned to me and said, “Callimachus, die so that you may live.” Who it was, servant of God, I knew not. Since you have come here, I know now that it was an angel of God. This I truly know — that you preach the true God. I am sure of it. But I pray that you act so that I may be delivered from this fate and this dreadful crime. Bring me to your God as a man who has gone astray in scandalous, abominable deceit. On my knees I ask for your help.

{ ὅτε μου ἡ ψυχὴ παρεῖχεν ἔννοια καὶ ἡ ἀκατάσχετος νόσος διώχλει, ἀποσυλήσαντός μου ἤδη ἅπερ ἦν ἠμφιεσμένη ἐντάφια, εἶτα δὲ ἀποβάντος μου τοῦ τάφου καὶ θεμένου μου αὐτὰ ὡς ὁρᾷς, ἀπῆλθον πάλιν ἐπὶ τῷ ἀποτροπαίῳ ἔργῳ· καὶ ὁρῶ τινα νεανίσκον εὔμορφον περισκέποντα αὐτὴν τῷ ἑαυτοῦ ἱματίῳ· οὗ ἀπὸ τῆς ὄψεως λαμπηδόνες φωτὸς ἐξήρχοντο εἰς τὰς ὄψεις αὐτῆς· ὅστις καὶ εἰς ἐμὲ ἔδωκε φωνὴν λέγων· Καλλίμαχε ἀπόθανε ἵνα ζήσῃς. Τίς μὲν οὖν ἦν οὐκ ᾔδειν δοῦλε τοῦ θεοῦ· ὅτι δὲ σοῦ ὀφθέντος ἐνθάδε γνωρίζω ἄγγελον αὐτὸν εἶναι θεοῦ εὖ οἶδα· τοῦτο δὲ ἀληθῶς ἐπίσταμαι ὅτι ἀληθὴς θεὸς ὑπὸ σοῦ καταγγέλλεται καὶ τοῦτο πέπεισμαι. ἀλλὰ κἀγὼ σὲ παρακαλῶ μὴ ἀμελήσῃς με ἀπὸ τοιαύτης συμφορᾶς καὶ τόλμης δεινῆς ἐλευθερῶσαι καὶ παραστῆσαι τῷ θεῷ σου ἄνθρωπον ἀπατηθέντα αἰσχρᾷ καὶ μυσαρᾷ ἀπάτῃ. βοηθείας οὖν δεόμενος παρὰ σοῦ ἅπτομαί σου τῶν ποδῶν. }[3]

The apostle John called down God’s mercy upon Callimachus. God delivered Callimachus from his insane love, forgave him for his necrophilia, and gave him rest and renewal of life. Witnessing to human forgiveness, Andronicus then promised Callimachus that he could have Drusiana as his wife after God resurrected her from the dead. That’s a fine Christian alternative to insane love and necrophilia.

Without forgiveness, horrific crimes can lead to even more horrific crimes. The Acts of John also tells of a young farmer whose father admonished him not to commit adultery with a neighbor’s wife. The young man, enraged at this exclusion, killed his father. The apostle John saw the young man running toward his neighbor’s house. The young man had a sickle in his belt. The holy man shouted:

Halt, you villainous demon! Where are you running with that bloodthirsty sickle?

{ Στῆθι σὺ δαῖμον ἀναιδέστατε, καὶ λέγε μοι ποῦ τὴν ὁρμὴν ἔχων φέρεις δρέπανον αἵματος ὀρεγόμενον }[4]

John had perceived what was in the young man’s heart:

The young man, confused, let his weapon drop to the ground. He said to John, “I have knowingly committed a monstrous, inhumane deed. I therefore resolved to do something more violent and more cruel to myself in order to die once for all. While my father always exhorted me to lead a chaste and honorable life, I could not tolerate his censure. I struck and killed him. When I saw what I had done, I intended to go to the woman on whose account I had become a father-killer and try to kill her, her husband, and finally myself. I could not bear her husband seeing me being executed.”

{ Καὶ ὁ νεανίσκος ταραχθεὶς καὶ τὸ σίδηρον εἰς γῆν ἀφεὶς εἶπεν αὐτῷ· Ἄθλιόν τι καὶ ἀπάνθρωπον διαπραξάμενος, καὶ ἐπιστάμενος, βιαιότερον τὸ κακὸν ἔκρινα πρᾶξαι καὶ ὠμότερον ἑαυτόν, ἀποθανεῖν ἅπαξ. τοῦ γὰρ πατρὸς ἀεὶ σωφρονίζοντός με ἀμοίχευτον βίον ἔχειν καὶ σεπτόν, νὴ φέρων αὐτὸν διελέγχοντά με λακτίσας αὐτὸν ἀπέκτεινα, καὶ ἰδὼν τὸ συμβὰν ἔσπευδον πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα διʼ ἣν πατρὸς γέγονα φονεύς, καὶ αὐτὴν σφάξαι πειρώμενος καὶ τὸν ἄνδρα αὐτῆς καὶ ἐμαυτὸν ὕστερον πάντων, μὴ ὑποφέρων ὁραθῆναι τῷ τῆς γυναικὸς ἀνδρί, δίκην θανάτου ὑπομένων. }

John told the young man to come with him to see his father. John declared that he would raise the father from the dead if the young man would stay away from his neighbor’s wife, who was dangerous to his soul’s salvation. The young man agreed.

With John’s prayer to God, the father rose from the dead. The father then sat down and complained:

I was delivered from a life of the most fearful pain. I had to suffer many grievous abuses and unkindness from my son. Now, man of the living God, you have called me back to life. To what purpose?

{ Ἀπηλλαγμένον με βίου δεινοτάτου καὶ ὕβρεις υἱοῦ ἐπιφέροντα δεινὰς καὶ πολλὰς, καὶ φιλοστοργίαν μετεκαλέσω ἄνθρωπε τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ζῶντος ἐπὶ τίνι }

Resurrection doesn’t appeal immediately to persons whose earthly lives are miserable. John proclaimed to the father the central Christian message: rise to a better life! John taught the father about God’s mercy. The father believed. He understood that life could be good.

The young man was overjoyed to see his father risen from the dead. But his joy and newly found respect for his father’s teaching was impulsively misdirected:

When the young man saw the unexpected resurrection of his father and realized his own salvation, he took the sickle and cut off his own genitals. Running into the house where his adulteress was, he flung his severed genitals at her and said, “On your account I became a father-killer, and would have killed you two also, and myself. Here is the cause of it all. God has had mercy upon me, and I have seen his power.”

{ Ὁ δὲ νεανίσκος θεασάμενος τὴν ἀπροσδόκητον τοῦ πατρὸς ἀνάστασιν καὶ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ σωτηρίαν, λαβὼν δρέπανον τὰ ἑαυτοῦ μόρια ἀφείλατο, καὶ δραμὼν εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν ἐν ᾗ τὴν μοιχαλίδα εἶχεν, εἰς ὄψιν αὐτῆς προσέρριψεν εἰπών· Διὰ σὲ πατρὸς φονεὺς καὶ ὑμῶν τῶν δύο καὶ ἐμαυτοῦ ἐγενόμην. ἔχεις τὰ τούτῳ ὅμοια καὶ αἴτια. ἐμὲ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ἠλέησεν ἐπιγνῶναι αὐτοῦ τὴν δύναμιν. }

Even men who have turned from false religion are vulnerable to castration culture. As a good father should do, the apostle John admonished the young man for his wrong deed:

Young man, the one who induced you to kill your father and to become the lover of another man’s wife has also made you cut off your genitals, as if that were a righteous deed. But you should not have destroyed the place of your temptation, but the thought that showed its orientation through your genitals. For a man’s organs are not hurtful to him, but the hidden springs by which every shameful inclination is stirred and becomes manifest. My son, repent therefore this fault and recognize Satan’s devices. You shall have God to help you in all that your soul needs.

{ Ὁ ὑποβαλών σοι νεανίσκε τὸν πατέρα σου ἀποκτεῖναι καὶ μοιχὸν ἀλλοτρίας γυναικὸς γενέσθαι, οὗτός σοι ὡς δίκαιον ἔργον καὶ τὸ ἀφελεῖν τὰ ἄκαιρα ἐποίησεν. ἔδει δέ σε οὐχὶ τοὺς τόπους ἀφανίσαι, ἀλλὰ τὴν ἔννοιαν, ἥτις διὰ τῶν μορίων ἐκείνων ἐδείκνυτο χαλεπαίνουσα· οὐ γὰρ τὰ ὄργανά ἐστι βλαπτικὰ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ ἀλλʼ αἱ ἀφανεῖς πηγαὶ διʼ ὧν πᾶσα κίνησις αἰσχρὰ κινεῖται καὶ εἰς τὸ φανερὸν πρόεισιν. μετεγνωκὼς οὖν τέκνον ἐπὶ τῇ τοιαύτῃ αἰτίᾳ καὶ καταμαθὼν τὰς τοῦ Σατανᾶ τέχνας ἔχεις τὸν θεὸν βοηθοῦντά σοι εἰς πάντα τὰ τῆς ψυχῆς σου ἐγχειρίζοντα. }[5]

Men would be less likely to blame their genitals for evil acts if the culture as a whole didn’t. Castration culture is Satanic. It’s false religion of a horrible sort.

castration of the god Ouranos, who is eating a child

O wretched human mind, O blinded hearts!
What life in shadows, with many perils —
our span of time passes in unsatisfied striving.

{ o miseras hominum mentes, o pectora caeca!
qualibus in tenebris vitae quantisque periclis
degitur hoc aevi quod cumquest }[6]

The young man repented of having wrongly castrated himself. He obtained forgiveness through the goodness of God. Respecting men’s genitals was important Christian teaching more than 1800 years ago. That’s important teaching for everyone today. Directed wisely and without regard for false religion, men’s genitals can be firm organs for good!

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[1] Lactantius / Lucius Caecilius Firmianus, Divine Institutes {Institutiones Divinae} 1.21.16-17, Latin text from Brandt & Laubnamm (1890), English translation (modified) from McDonald (1964).

Lactantius apparently began composing his Institutiones Divinae about 304 GC. That work was in its final form before 314 GC. It was widely known in medieval Europe and has been transmitted well to the present. Institutiones Divinae survives in many manuscripts, the earliest of which date to the fifth and sixth century. Bowen & Garnsey (2003) p. xi.

Lactantius is thought to have lived from about 250 GC to 325 GC. He born in Africa, probably in present-day Tunisia. He grew to be regarded an eminent rhetor throughout the Roman Empire. He was appointed to the chair of Latin rhetoric in Nicomedia in Bithynia in northwest Asia Minor. Lactantius converted to Christianity about 300 GC in his late middle age. He subsequently served as a tutor to the son of the first Christian emperor Constantine I.

Bowen & Garnsey (2003) provides an alternate English translation that follows the Latin less closely. The English translation of Fletcher (1886) is freely available. The subsequent two quotes above are similarly from Institutiones Divinae, 5.9.17 (the most sacred part of his body) and 6.15.3 (The Stoics therefore are mad…).

[2] Cf. Romans 14:13, 1 John 2:10.

[3] Acts of John {Acta Ioannis}, section 76, ancient Greek text from Lipsius, Bonnet & Tischendorf (1898), English translation (modified slightly) from Elliott (1993), with the modifications benefiting from the English translation of Schneemelcher & Wilson (2003).

This story is commonly called “Drusiana and Callimachus.” It apparently existed in a fuller version. The Acts of John incorporates only fragments of the full story. “Drusiana and Callimachus” has similarities with elements of the Hellenistic biblical novel about Joseph and Aseneth. Bolyki (1995) p. 30. In the tenth century, the great medieval author Hrotsvit of Gandersheim wrote a dramatic version of “Drusiana and Callimachus.”

The currently best edition of the Acts of John is Junod & Kaestli (1983). Here’s a reading aid for the ancient Greek. The English translation of James (1924) is freely available online.

[4] Acts of John, section 49, sourced as previously. The story is commonly called “Conversion of a Parricide.” Subsequently quotes above are similarly from Acts of John, sections 49 (The young man, confused…), 52 (I was delivered from a life of the most fearful pain…), 53 (When the young man saw the unexpected resurrection of his father…), 54 (Young man, the one who induced you to kill your father…).

[5] Bolyki (1995), p. 24, wrongly states, “John does not condemn the self-castration of the young man.” John condemns the young man’s self-castration, but forgives the young man for that sin. Bremmer observed:

It seems noteworthy that although John disapproved of this act, nevertheless he did not heal the youth but accepted him as he was.

Bremmer (1995b) p. 53. Being castrated does not in itself separate a man from the love of God. See, e.g. the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40.

[6] Lucretius, On the nature of things {De rerum natura} 2.14-16h, Latin text from Rouse & Smith (2002), my English translation, benefiting from those of id. and Esolen (1995). Despite his great learning and his insight into false religion, Lucretius lacked appreciation for bodily penetration.

[images] (1) Men worshiping false god. Illustration from manuscript instance of Lactantius’s Institutiones Divinae made in 1432. From folio 1r of MS Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Plut.21.6. (2) Castration of the god Ouranos. Ouranos is eating a child. Venus is bathing in a nearby river. A man (a figure of Jupiter) seems to be castrating Ouranos to protect Venus from him. That’s not the story of Hesiod’s Theogony. From a manuscript that Antitus Faure composed about the year 1500. He was chaplain to the Dukes of Burgundy and Savoy and to the Prince-Bishop Aymon de Montfaucon. Antitus Faure dedicated this book to Prince-Bishop Aymon de Montfaucon. Image excerpted from folio 18 of MS. Chavannes-près-Renens (Switzerland), Archives cantonales vaudoises, P Antitus.


Bolyki, János. 1995. “Miracle stories in the Acts of John.” Chapter 2 (pp. 15-35) in Bremmer (1995a).

Bowen, Anthony, and Peter Garnsey, trans. 2003. Lactantius: Divine Institutes. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

Brandt, Samuel, and Georg Laubnamm, eds. 1890. Lactantius. Opera Omnia. Pars I. Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum. Volume 19. Vienna, Prague, Leipzig.

Bremmer, Jan N, ed. 1995a. The Apocryphal Acts of John. Kampen the Netherlands: Kok Pharos.

Bremmer, Jan N. 1995b. “Women in the Apocryphal Acts of John.” Chapter 3 (pp. 37-56) in Bremmer (1995a).

Elliott, J. K. 1993. The Apocryphal New Testament: A Collection of Apocryphal Christian Literature in an English Translation. Oxford, New York: Clarendon Press, Oxford University Press.

Esolen, Anthony M., trans. 1995. Lucretius. On the Nature of Things: De rerum natura. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Fletcher, William, trans. 1886. Lactantius. The Divine Institutes. Ante-Nicene Fathers. Vol. 7. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co.

James, M. R, trans. 1924. The Apocryphal New Testament. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Junod, Éric, and Jean-Daniel Kaestli, eds. 1983. Acta Iohannis. Turnhout: Brepols.

Lipsius Richard Adelbert, Max Bonnet, and Constantin von Tischendorf, eds. 1898. Acta Apostolorum Apocrypha. Volume 2, Part 1. Lipsiae: H. Mendelssohn.

McDonald, Mary Francis, trans. 1964. Lactantius. The Divine Institutes. Books I-VII. The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation. Volume 49. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press.

Rouse, W. H. D., and Martin Ferguson Smith, eds. and trans. 2002. Lucretius. De rerum natura. Loeb Classical Library 181. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Schneemelcher, Wilhelm, and R. McL Wilson, trans. 2003. New Testament Apocrypha. Revised edition. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

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