Saturday, July 12, 2008

Suetonius regarding the character of Emperor Claudius.

"He slept but little at a time, for he was usually awake before midnight; but he would sometimes drop off in the daytime while holding court and could hardly be roused when the advocates raised their voices for the purpose. He was immoderate in his passion for women, but wholly free from unnatural vice. He was greatly devoted to gaming, even publishing a book on the art, and he actually used to play while driving, having the board so fitted to his carriage as to prevent his game from being disturbed." - The Lives of the Caesars, book V, xxxiii.

Yep, he would have been a World of Warcraft fan.

What caught my eye was the term "unnatural vice". Looking at the book as a whole, it is clear that "unnatural vice" is associated with homosexual relations. Claudius was a womanizer, but apparently this is considered merely natural vice - per Suetonius.

In Romans chapter 1:26-27, Paul uses similar vocabulary:

"Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."

Apparently this vocabulary of natural/unnatural relations is common between Paul and Suetonius, although Suetonius was born perhaps 5 years after Paul was executed. As Suetonius uses the modifier, 'vice', it is safe to assume that he doesn't view homosexual acts as a good thing, although he is certainly not a Christian. I haven't parsed the Greek and Latin - this not being my specialty - but it seems to me that this is the sort of material that young scholars pick up on and work into a Ph.D. dissertation. From my perspective, this is valuable due to the methods of LGBT theologians: If we treat verses out of context, look for extra meanings of the vocabulary, and throw in a massive dose of sophistry, it is possible - with massive quantities of faith - to accept that the meaning of the Bible's passages on homosexuality are always exactly the opposite of what appears upon first reading the passage. Fundamentalist need to remind these Ph.D. scholars that they must consider passages in context, with respect to the Bible as a whole, and with respect to the cultural context in which the passages were written.

3 comments:

Delirious said...

I was thinking today about the proposed constitutional ammendment to limit marriage to be between men and women. Our church is part of a religious coalition to work to try to get this ammendment passed. I started thinking about possible long term ramifications if this ammendment does not pass. It occurred to me that if same sex marriage is allowed, then it opens the door for other kinds of marriages such as plural marriage. And what about marriage between father and daughter, or between adults and minors? Once the window is opened and marriage as we know it is redefined, there is no limit to what people will demand. If love and commitment are enough, then they can argue that these types of marriages should be allowed too. I for one, and not willing to see that window opened.

Looney said...

I think the constitutional amendment will help, but only a little. Legally, the ruling stands as a precedent that can be used by any court in America in any state, while a constitutional amendment is something of very low standing for judges and legal theoreticians. They may need to grudgingly comply with it for awhile, but it will never be anything other than an object of contempt which is to be subverted.

The core problem remains that many Christian theologians have formally embraced sexual depravity as the primary goal of their religion. We aren't saved "from" sin, but rather "to" sin. Since they know exactly what the Bible really teaches regarding sexual depravity, they will continue working tirelessly to have any behavioral restraint society should reasonably be bound by banned on the grounds that it is compatible with Biblical teaching and therefore violates "separation of church and state". Then they will cheer the result on the grounds that it promotes Christian "love" and is mandatory based on human rights - which derive from God.

In the end, a constitutional amendment won't be much of an obstacle to them.

Delirious said...

You have made a point that I overlooked. I am approaching this issue with the understanding that there is such a thing as sin. For those religions that believe that belief is enough, and repentance isn't required, it doesn't really matter what you do because you have been saved already as long as you believe. In my mind, this is one of the greatest problems of our time. If religions teach that belief is enough...that actions don't matter, only belief matters, then anything goes. This teaching is becoming more and more prevalent. And why shouldn't it? What a wonderful thing to be pardoned from all of your actions...past, present and future, just because you believe? You asked what the Book of Mormon could add...this is but one teaching that it contains that clears up misconceptions others have about the Bible. I will post additional ones on my blog soon.