10 July 2020

Sacred Prostitution

As strange a concept as it is today, in ancient Greece and even Israel, sacred prostitution was a common act of worship and a way of praying for fertility. Both men and women could be sacred prostitutes. It is known to have been practiced in Corinth, at the Temple to Aphrodite, in Cyprus, Sicily, Cappadocia, and even in the Second Temple in Israel.

The practice of sacred prostitution is forbidden in Deuteronomy 23:17-18, "There shall be no shrine prostitute (kedeshah) of the daughters of Israel, neither shall there be a shrine prostitute (kadesh) of the sons of Israel. You shall not bring the hire of a prostitute (zonah), or the wages of a dog (kelev), into the house of Yahweh your God for any vow; for both of these are an abomination (toebah) to Yahweh your God."

Because of the Babylonian Exile, the law had been lost. During that time, many things that had been prohibited had begun to be practiced again, including sacred prostitution. When the law was found during the time of the reign of King Josiah (2 Kings 22), these practices, including sacred prostitution (2 Kings 23:7), were ended.

Older translations render these words for "shrine prostitute" as "sodomite" or "homosexual" when they refer to male shrine prostitutes. However, this is far from accurate. That someone is gay does not, and should not, imply that they are "gay for pay," or vice versa.

We come across this practice again in the first of the five Texts of Terror, Romans 1:18-32. Paul warns that God's wrath is being poured out upon the wicked (1:18) because the ways of good and evil should have been obvious to them, being evident both in God himself, and in his creation, so that people are without excuse (1:19-20). The crime, for which God is punishing them, is idolatry (1:23). The form of their idolatry is shrine prostitution (1:24-27). The consequence of having turned away from God is to be filled with evil (1:28-32).

In Paul's letter to the Romans, God is not punishing people for being gay, lesbian, or bisexual. He is punishing those who turn away from him to worship idols. According to Paul, the worship of idols directly leads to evil acts. By focusing on the perceived sexuality of these idolaters, we may miss the message of Paul's letter, that it is for God to judge hearts, not for mankind (Romans 2:1-16), that the law is a sign of salvation, not a standard to be met (Romans 2:17-29), and that we are made righteous not by the adherence to the law (Romans 3:1-20), but by faith in God (Romans 3:21-31), not by human effort, but by God's grace (Romans 9:16).

Next time, we'll look at the four remaining Texts of Terror, and find out why the LGBT community should have nothing to fear from these traditional "clobber passages."

Until then,

Peace be with you.

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