09 October 2008

romans 1 is not about temple prostitution

I know of no serious biblical scholar, even prohomosex biblical scholar, who argues that Paul had in mind only or primarily temple prostitution (not Nissinen, not Brooten, not Fredrickson, not Schoedel, not Bird, not Martin, etc). There are many reasons why this view has not found a welcome in serious biblical scholarship. I shall limit myself to fifteen such reasons, without making a pretense that the list is exhaustive.

1. Rogers' historical anachronism regarding temple prostitution in Corinth. Rogers' trip to Corinth convinced him that Paul's views on homosexual behavior were profoundly influenced by the alleged existence of seven thousand prostitutes, male and female at the temple of Aphrodite in Corinth in Paul's day. As it happens, the only ancient account that refers to cult prostitutes at the temple of Aphrodite in Corinth is a brief mention by Strabo in Geography 8.6.20c:

And the temple of Aphrodite was so rich that it owned more than a thousand temple-slaves, prostitutes, whom both men and women had dedicated to the goddess. And therefore it was on account of these women that the city was crowded with people and grew rich. (Text and commentary in: Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, St. Paul's Corinth: Texts and Archaeology [GNS 6; Wilmington: M. Glazier, 1983], 55-57)

Any critical New Testament scholar knows that Strabo's comments (1) applied only to Greek Corinth in existence several centuries before the time of Paul, not the Roman Corinth of Paul's day; (2) referred to more than a thousand prostitutes, not seven thousand; and (3) mentioned only female (heterosexual) prostitutes, not male (homosexual) prostitutes. Scholars agree that there was no massive business of female cult prostitutes, to say nothing of male homosexual cult prostitutes operating out of the temple of Aphrodite in Paul's day; and that there may not have been such a business even in earlier times (i.e., Strabo was confused). This is not particularly new information, which makes it all the more surprising that Rogers was taken in, apparently, by an ill-informed tour guide. For example, Hans Conzelmann made the following remarks in his major commentary on 1 Corinthians written some thirty years ago:

Incidentally, the often-peddled statement that Corinth was a seat of sacred prostitution (in the service of Aphrodite) is a fable. This realization also disposes of the inference that behind the Aphrodite of Corinth lurks the Phoenician Astarte. [Note 97:] The fable is based on Strabo, Geog. 8.378. . . . Strabo, however, is not speaking of the present, but of the city's ancient golden period. . . . Incidentally, Strabo's assertion is not even true of the ancient Corinth. (1 Corinthians [Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1975 [German original, 1969], 12)

This continues to be the view held by scholars. As Bruce Winter notes in a recent significant work on 1 Corinthians,

Strabo's comments about 1,000 religious prostitutes of Aphrodite . . . are unmistakably about Greek and not Roman Corinth. As temple prostitution was not a Greek phenomenon, the veracity of his comments on this point have been rightly questioned. The size of the Roman temple of Aphrodite on the Acrocorinth ruled out such temple prostitution; and by that time she had become Venus, the venerated mother of the imperial family and the highly respected patroness of Corinth, and was no longer a sex symbol (After Paul Left Corinth: The Influence of Secular Ethics and Social Change [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001], 87-88; similarly, Murphy-O'Connor, St. Paul's Corinth, 55-56)

The scholarly consensus that there was no homosexual prostitution at the Corinthian temple of Aphrodite in Paul's day is enough, all by itself, to dispense with Rogers's theory and show Rogers's unreliability as an exegete of the biblical text. But we continue anyway.

Read it all--good stuff.


Aimee said...

I seem to remember some Hispanic-like Christian service with you.

jason miller said...

Good times, good times--especially the three-sermon nights!