Friday, May 11, 2012

The ghost of Professor John Boswell now haunting gay history.

This is so 1980's: Evidence for same-sex unions in pre-modern Europe.

The late Yale professor John Boswell wrote extensively claiming the Early Church somehow approved of gay unions - even blessing them.  He also tried to refute most Biblical condemnations of homosexuality.  His 'research, studies, and conclusions have been repeated and expanded upon by gay advocates and academics ever since Boswell published them.  It continues to be taught in gay studies programs in liberal church basements and elsewhere.  It resurfaced again today here.  Rumours and falsehoods never seem to die; they soon become myth, which somehow manages to be promoted and even accepted as truth.  It is happening right before our eyes these days.  Very quickly, the following explains Boswell's claims, as well as a refutation.*

Adelphopoiesis: Brother-making.

Boswell's claims:
Rites of so-called "same-sex union" (Boswell's proposed translation) occur in ancient prayer-books of both the western and eastern churches. They are rites of adelphopoiesis, literally Greek for the making of brothers. Boswell, despite the fact that the rites explicitly state that the union involved in adelphopoiesis is a "spiritual" and not a "carnal" one, argued that these should be regarded as sexual unions similar to marriage. This is a highly controversial point of Boswell's text, as other scholars have dissenting views of this interpretation, and believe that they were instead rites of becoming adopted brothers, or "blood brothers". Boswell pointed out such evidence as an icon of two saints, Saint Sergius and Bacchus (at St. Catherine's on Mount Sinai), and drawings, such as one he interprets as depicting the wedding feast of Emperor Basil I to his "partner", John. Boswell sees Jesus as fulfilling the role of the "pronubus" or in modern parallel, best man.

Boswell made many detailed translations of these rites in Same-Sex Unions, and claimed that one mass gay wedding occurred only a couple of centuries ago in the Basilica of St John Lateran, the cathedral seat of the Pope as Bishop of Rome.

Boswell's writings touched off detailed debate in The Irish Times, and the article that triggered off the debate, a major feature in the "Rite and Reason" religion column in the paper by respected Irish historian and religious commentator Jim Duffy, has been reproduced on many websites.
Adelphopoiesis: Brother-making.

What it really meant:
The historicity of Boswell's interpretation of the ceremony is contested by the Greek Orthodox Church, which sees the rite as a rite of familial adoption, as the term adelphopoiesis literally means "brother making". Other historians, including Robin Darling Young and Brent Shaw, have also criticized Boswell's methodology and conclusions.

Archimandrite Ephrem Lash criticized Boswell's book in the February 1995 issue of Sourozh. According to Ephrem, Boswell mistranslates, misinterprets, and tendentiously organizes texts, and his "knowledge of Orthodox liturgiology is, in effect, non-existent." 
With regard to Boswell's central claim to have found evidence for the use of wedding crowns in the rite for making brothers, Ephrem notes that what the relevant text says, "somewhat literally translated," is this: "It is inadmissible for a monk to receive [anadochos is a standard Greek word for 'godparent'] children from holy baptism, or to hold marriage crowns or to make brother-makings. 150:124]" In other words, "monks are forbidden to do the following: 1. To act as godfathers at baptisms, 2. To act as supporters of bridal couples, 3. To enter into brotherly unions. These are, of course, the natural consequences of a monk's having given up all ties of earthly relationships." 
Turning back to Boswell's thesis, Ephrem writes, "What does Boswell make of this? Here is his paraphrase of the text given above: 'monks must also not select boys at baptism and make such unions with them'. There is absolutely nothing in the text to suggest that the three prohibitions are linked in the way Boswell implies, nor that the 'children' are 'boys' – the Greek has the neuter, paidia. In short, this first piece of evidence for the use of crowns in the ceremony of brother-making is not evidence for anything, except Boswell's ignorance, not to mention the prurient suggestion that Byzantine monks went round selecting suitable boys at baptism so as to 'marry' them later on."

In his review of the book, Miodrag Kojadinović says: "The book is a scientific treatise abundant with references. But it starts from a premise that to me seems insufficiently proven. It chooses to see, based on relatively meagre evidence, a very idiosyncratic relationship sanctioned among certain ethnic groups as a precursor to California bunnies' white weddings. It goes so far to refer to the emperor Basil as a 'hunk'. It neglects the fact that adelphopoiesis/pobratimstvo can be achieved through simple invocation: 'My-Brother-Through-God!' in case of peril. A foe suddenly turns an ally."

Alternative views are that this rite was used in many ways, such as the formation of permanent pacts between leaders of nations or between religious brothers. This was a replacement for "blood-brotherhood" which was forbidden by the church at the time. Others such as Brent Shaw have maintained also that these unions were more akin to "blood-brotherhood" and had no sexual connotation.

There also is a Medieval French 'affrèrement' ceremony: ordo ad fratres faciendum.examined by Allan Tulchin of Shippensburg University in an article in the Journal of Modern History.

Such myths and fables will continue to emerge as the campaign for the legalization of same sex marriage rolls through the United States.  It is propaganda similar to that used to promote the notion of early Church ordination of women, and the false claims regarding the existence of Pope Joan.

I also want to comment on the Sinai icon of Bacchus and Sergius.  It is not a wedding icon, and Christ is not fulfilling the role of pronubus.  It is not uncommon to show Christ in conjunction with saints in that manner.  If there was any nuptial meaning at all it would be in accord with the Gospel parables of the wedding feast, Christ is the Bridegroom, and welcoming the saints to the Heavenly Banquet.  The modern interpretations of the lives of Sergius and Bacchus are false interpretations of their passion and death.  The same interpretive manipulation occurs with the lives of other so-called gay saints, such as Sebastian and Joan of Arc.

*Yep - I took the information from Wikipedia because it was convenient to do so - it is accurate nonetheless. 


  1. Did you know that the Greeks in the Classical period used to construe the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus as homosexual as well? After all, it was Patroclus' death that sent Achilles into a rage. But in reality, homosexual sex was absolutely taboo during the period when Homer would have lived, when the Greeks were more of an Indo-European warrior culture.

    Of course, we can give the Greeks the benfit of the doubt - the discipline of history was not invented yet, so they can be forgiven for assuming that what was common to them and rampant in their age must necessarily also apply to previous times. Boswell has no such excuse, and anyone with even a passing knowledge of the Early Church, or even of contemporary pagan philosophy, would be able to see how not just wrong, but utterly moronic on a Dan Brown scale his thesis is.

    Because we live in a sex-obsessed age, we see sex in everything. This is the same "logic" that people use to come to conclusion that Tolkien intended to write a story of gay love between Sam and Frodo - Tolkien, the old crotchety Catholic. Or that Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was really an attempt to establish a heteronormative narrative on a society that felt threatened by homoeroticism. No, I am not making that up. Some English professors really believe that a 14th century poem was a postmodern myth about gender roles and queer theory.

    1. I think that opinions on this matter are always going to differ depending upon the idiosyncratic characteristics of the person (or man) holding these opinions. For instance, when I was young, I had a sex drive and testosterone levels that tended to render me very athletic, superb at bulking up on muscle really fast in such a manner so, were I to have lived in a warrior culture, they'd have loved the idea of inducting me into the army.

      However, this all gave me a level of sex drive that causes me to think it is absolutely preposterous to assume that homosexual taboo could have occurred within a "warrior culture." However, if you are one of those limp-wristed caspar milquetoast types who never had much of a sex drive to begin with, and began losing it in your mid 20's, leaving you with erectile disfunction starting in your 30's where your spend your life in sedentary desk jobs where you have to move your pencil thin arms doing nothing more than pushing papers, then sure you can scoff at the notion that Patroclous and Achilles were likely lovers.

      Oh no, they just did without sex. They were celibate. The whole army would live "not in the company of woman" for long extended periods, and they'd just be celibate during those times.

      Any army that hired men capable of maintaining celibacy of that sort would lose the battle to a bunch of gays with very high sex drives for whom army life was one long extended gay orgy interrupted by a few battles every now and then with opposing armies. However, given the incidence of bisexuality and the possibility of wifely jealousy and hurt feelings, I have no doubt warrior cultures maintained strict standards of secrecy regarding homosexuality, leading to an appearance of homosexual taboo.

  2. .... talking about made up stories ... did ya hear G.Beck today?

  3. @ Mercury,

    "utterly moronic on a Dan Brown scale." Hilarious.

    1. Yeah. I just hate how this kind of crap gains traction - it's only because people are entirely ignorant of history, and they have been deliberately made ignorant by generations of American schools.

  4. Wait, didn't CA just pass a law requiring that gay history be taught? They should include this.

  5. California's economy is in the process of collapsing as well.

  6. The map of greecefornia.

  7. Thank you, Power of the Universe, for yet again, I seek information and wisdom and you guide me to Abbey-Roads. Through a N.C. Teacher's FB site, I traversed several paths and came to this informative site. As a mid-octogenarian, I am horrified at the ignorance in today's education system. Many different types of human provide mankind with information of whatever subject you choose to study and I resent folks who make disparaging comments that cause some great sites to close. Thank you, Abbey-roads, and most of all, thank you Holy Spirit for listening to my questions and providing the way to find answers.


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