From Shame to Sin (Revealing Antiquity)

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Offending against sexual morality was cause for shame, experienced through social condemnation. The rise of Christianity fundamentally changed the ethics of sexual behavior.

From Shame to Sin

Most profound, however, was the emergence of the idea of free will in Christian dogma, which made all human action, including sexual behavior, accountable to the spiritual, not the physical, world. Not only does it measure the exact nature of the tension between the familiar and the deeply unfamiliar that lies behind our image of the sexual morality of Greeks and Romans of the Roman Empire of the classical period.

It also goes on to evoke the sheer, unexpected strangeness of the very different sexual code elaborated in early Christian circles, and its sudden, largely unforeseen undermining of a very ancient social equilibrium in the two centuries that followed the conversion of Constantine to Christianity in What Harper has done with this peremptory material is remarkable. He has imposed a firm narrative structure, based on the progress of the laws, on the history of sex in late antiquity One can only envy the good fortune of those who can now embark on their own work with such a book in hand.

Harper traces the revolution in sexual morality from the class-ridden, exploitative ethic of the pagan Roman empire, to the claims of equal dignity and the promise of redemption in early Christianity. This important contribution contextualizes Christian Scripture in a more exhaustive and extensive way than most theological and biblical studies treatments do. The author shows how Christian preaching and teaching responded to social customs and understandings.

He indicates the ways in which Christians both borrowed and transformed notions of fate, fortune, and self-control found in classical novels and other Christian literature. Harper also traces the arc of development of Christian sexual ethics into the first few centuries of the church, showing that not only Paul but other Christian writers and theologians as well were deeply shaped by cultural debates over the sexual role of slaves and the value of virginity. Students of classics, Christian ethics, and the New Testament will find this outstanding book indispensable.

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Rome: Sex & Freedom

When Rome was at its height, an emperor's male beloved, victim of an untimely death, would be worshipped around the empire as a god. In matters of morality, divine judgment transcended that of mere mortals, and shame-a social concept-gave way to the theological notion of sin. This transformed understanding led to Christianity's explicit prohibitions of homosexuality, extramarital love, and prostitution. Seller Inventory AAH Hardcover with dustjacket. New book. Seller Inventory X1. Book Description Harvard University Press.

If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? When Rome was at its height, an emperor's male beloved, victim of an untimely death, would be worshipped around the empire as a god. In this same society, the routine sexual exploitation of poor and enslaved women was abetted by public institutions. Four centuries later, a Roman emperor commanded the mutilation of men caught in same-sex affairs, even as he affirmed the moral dignity of women without any civic claim to honor.

The gradual transformation of the Roman world from polytheistic to Christian marks one of the most sweeping ideological changes of premodern history. At the center of it all was sex. Exploring sources in literature, philosophy, and art, Kyle Harper examines the rise of Christianity as a turning point in the history of sexuality and helps us see how the roots of modern sexuality are grounded in an ancient religious revolution. While Roman sexual culture was frankly and freely erotic, it was not completely unmoored from constraint.

Offending against sexual morality was cause for shame, experienced through social condemnation. The rise of Christianity fundamentally changed the ethics of sexual behavior.


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In matters of morality, divine judgment transcended that of mere mortals, and shame--a social concept--gave way to the theological notion of sin. This transformed understanding led to Christianity's explicit prohibitions of homosexuality, extramarital love, and prostitution. Most profound, however, was the emergence of the idea of free will in Christian dogma, which made all human action, including sexual behavior, accountable to the spiritual, not the physical, world.

From Shame to Sin Part 1 June 3 2015

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After the New Testament: C. Bart D. Kyle Harper. Alan Noble. Larry W. Review [A] remarkably rich book To get the free app, enter mobile phone number. See all free Kindle reading apps. Tell the Publisher! I'd like to read this book on Kindle Don't have a Kindle? No customer reviews. Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a product review. Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.

Verified Purchase. Christians and pagans alike today find themselves struggling to make their way through strange territory without familiar landmarks in household and community. It was Robert Jenson, in his prescient essay in First Things October who first called my attention to these parallels: One of many analogies between postmodernity and dying antiquity - in which the church lived for her most creative period - is that the late antique world also insisted on being a meaningless chaos, and that the church had to save her converts by offering herself as the narratable world within which life could be lived with dramatic coherence.

More importantly, he shows how the church deliberately engaged its culture pastorally and catechetically. In so doing he provides contemporary Christians much food for thought — and, I would say, a way forward through the sexual quagmire that seems to engulf us increasingly with every passing year. The picture of Greco-Roman sexual culture documented by Harper from his study of ancient literature, art, and jurisprudence is — as you can imagine — complex. Sex trafficking, prostitution, and pederasty was rampant — to which society turned a blind eye.

His book demonstrates that what the pagan world sought to do to the human sexual drive using social and political pressure, the church accomplished by pastoral care. Yet, as Prof. Harper notes, this was not achieved overnight. Christians then, as today, were strongly influenced by the sexual mores of their pagan culture; what their neighbors accepted, many argued, should also be acceptable within the fellowship of believers.

The body, he insisted, was not made for fornication.

Bryn Mawr Classical Review

The sexual machinery of the body was something to be protected from contamination, not simply kept in proper balance. Coition was anything but a vacuous physical act without effects beyond the circulation of heat and moisture. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you? Yet I commend it to you because it sheds light on how a countercultural movement can have a significant impact within a culture with antithetical sexual values. Full disclosure: I am a Lutheran pastor. Thus for me the greatest value of Dr.

Here he outlines how the radical teachings of Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles were applied to a populace that had come to expect that women were to be held to stricter standards than men and that the normal human sexual impulse was to be indulged indiscriminately. In contrast, Christianity held that sex was to be constrained within the marriage bed for the procreation and nurture of children and the comfort and aid of the wife, not just the husband. Harper documents that by patient and compassionate, yet persistent and uncompromising pastoral care the early church sought to cleanse men and women who had defiled themselves with sexual immorality — and then welcome them or restore them into full membership within the body of Christ.

Two conclusions can be drawn. First, that Christianity revolutionized the understanding of sexual integrity. Whereas in the old pagan world female sexual virtue had a narrow definition, within the church it encompassed the penitent prostitute. Christianity prized male virginity just as much as female virginity, and although virginity once lost can never be restored, chastity can always be regained by absolution and spiritual cleansing.

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