Making Sense of Sex: Attitudes towards Sexuality in Early Jewish and Christian Literature.

Author:Ellens, J. Harold
Position:Book review

Making Sense of Sex: Attitudes towards Sexuality in Early Jewish and Christian Literature. By WILLIAM Loader. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2013. Pp. vii + 168. $24 (paper).

William Loader, Emeritus Professor at Murdoch University, Perth, Australia, knows more about ancient views of human sexuality than anyone else in the world. With exquisite exegetical precision, he has written numerous scholarly volumes on sexuality as it surfaces in biblically related documents of Second Temple Judaism and Christian origins.

Those volumes include such illustrious works as Sexuality and the Jesus Tradition (2005); Enoch, Levi, and Jubilees on Sexuality: Attitudes Towards Sexuality in the Early Enoch Literature, The Aramaic Levi Document, and the Book of Jubilees (2007); The Dead Sea Scrolls on Sexuality: Attitudes Towards Sexuality in Sectarian and Related Literature at Qumran (2009); Sexuality and the New Testament: Understanding Key Texts (2010); and The Pseudepigrapha on Sexuality: Attitudes toward Sexuality in Apocalyptic Testaments, Legends, Wisdom, and Related Literature (2011). All of these were published by Eerdmans except the volume on the New Testament, which Westminster John Knox produced.

Now we have another fine work on early Jewish and Christian literature. It contains an introduction, four chapters, and a conclusion, plus an index of ancient sources, as well as an index to this volume and the previous five volumes in this series. The chapter titles are articulate of the contents: 1) In the Beginning, 2) Households, 3) Sacred Space, and 4) Passions and Persons. The first chapter treats the two creation stories in Genesis, creation in Aristophanes as presented in Plato's Symposium, creation in the Book of Jubilees, and in Greek texts of that era. In addition this chapter analyzes the stories of sexuality and the fall in Genesis 3 and 6, in Jesus and Paul, in the Book of Jubilees, and in the Myth of the Watchers as depicted in I Enoch and elsewhere in ancient literature.

Chapter two centers around issues of marriage, the creation and management of households and family units, boundary issues on sex and marriage, premarital sex, sex and tribal responsibilities, polygyny, bad sex such as incest, adultery, and forbidden liaisons, as well as conception, pregnancy, and divorce.

The third chapter analyzes the personal and communal issues of purity and impurity as related to the responsibility one has to the temple and to...

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