The Making of Fornication: Eros, Ethics, and Political Reform in Greek Philosophy and Early Christianity

By Kathy L. Gaca | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
From the Prophets to Paul
Converting Whore Culture
into the Lord's Veiled Bride

Two didactic metaphors in the Pentateuch and Prophets exercise great emotive hold on Paul in his formulation of sexual rules for Christians to follow. The metaphors reinforce the requirement that God's people must obey his will sexually and in other respects, and that they must organize their society toward this end. I refer to the first metaphor as “spiritual fornication” and to the second as “spiritual adultery. ” Though it is common to see only one generic metaphor of fornication in the Old Testament, there are two and they have divergent implications for what it means to serve the Lord in sexual and nonsexual ways. The first metaphor appears in the Pentateuch and Prophets, while the second is exclusive to the Prophets and leaves an indelible signature on Paul's sexual ethic. Spiritual fornication uses sexual fornication as a symbol of religious disobedience, and it stigmatizes religiously alien women and dissident female members of God's people as harlots or whores. Spiritual adultery uses sexual adultery as a symbol of religious disobedience. It stigmatizes God's people, males and females alike, as though they were the Lord's promiscuous and fallen wife. The metaphor of spiritual adultery is more domineering in its tone, partly because it brands the people under God's covenant as the Lord's flagrant and slatternly adulteress. The two metaphors—and spiritual adultery foremost—stimulate Paul's conviction that sexual fornication is the most intimately threatening danger that Christians face and must eliminate from the lands of the Greeks and other Gentiles, starting first with their own sexual behavior.

Spiritual fornication and spiritual adultery are a central poetic means by which the Septuagint further elicits compliance with the reproductive basis of its laws for the monotheistic life. Whereas Plato thinks poets should be driven from the city to prevent unexamined metaphors from dominating a

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