Sodom's Sin: Genesis 18-19 and Its Interpretation

Sodom's Sin: Genesis 18-19 and Its Interpretation

Sodom's Sin: Genesis 18-19 and Its Interpretation

Sodom's Sin: Genesis 18-19 and Its Interpretation


This volume is devoted to the receptions of and reflections on the story of Sodom and Gomorrah as told in Genesis 18 and 19. Two articles discuss intertextual reactions to the Sodom narrative within the Hebrew Bible. Five contributions examine readings and rewritings of the Sodom narrative in early Jewish, Christian and Islamic writings: Jubilees, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the New Testament (Revelation 11), Targumim and early Koran commentaries. Two articles focus on separate themes, the punishment of the Dead Sea and the prohibition on looking back. Finally, two articles that focus on Peter Damian and Prousts Sodome et Gomorrhe I describe the later reception of the sin of Sodom as homosexuality. A bibliography of recent works completes the volume.


The famous story of the doomed cities of Sodom and Gomorrah has generated a rich and diverse history of reception. Whereas the narratives of the Flood, in which the whole of creation reverted to chaos, offer only a very general terminological description of the reason why, the violence and the attempt at male rape in Sodom are explained extensively. The social sin of Sodom developed into a long and painful interpretation of homosexuality and only more recent exegesis has been able to read the texts without the blindfold of dogmatic interpretations of sexuality.

This volume presents aspects of the history of reception of this narrative. The papers collected here were presented at the Sixth Groningen Conference on Themes of Biblical Narrative held in June 2002. Every year the Research group Jewish and Christian Traditions of the University of Groningen Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, together with colleagues from other departments, study the history of reception of a narrative from the Hebrew Bible. Naturally, it is not possible to cover every aspect of the rich but cruel history of reception. We hope, however, that enough of the central aspects of the narrative have been treated here to give an impression of the texts interpreted in different times and by different groups.

The papers are arranged in four sections. Part One, “Intertextualities”, deals with aspects of the history of reception within the Hebrew Bible. Part Two, “Readings”, illuminates the use of the Sodom narrative in Jubilees, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Book of Revelation, the Targumim and Early Jewish Literature. A survey of the figure of Lot in the Koran and early Islamic commentaries concludes this section. Part Three, “Themes”, focuses on single motifs: the role of the Dead Sea and the command to Lot's wife not to look back. Part Four, “Sexualities”, deals with the unholy legacy of the Sodom narrative in the discussion about homosexuality.

The first paper, by Ed Noort, “For the Sake of Righteousness”, describes the dialogue and negotiations between God and Abraham in Gen 18:16-33 as the first commentary on the Sodom story. This part of the history of reception follows one line of thought: is God still a righteous God if he destroys wicked and righteous men together. It is not the prosperity of the wicked – as in many parts of wisdom literature — that is at issue here, but the punishment of the righteous. This problem culminates in the rhetorical question “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”(Gen 18:25). The problem of the relationship between God and evildoers is tackled by . . .

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