Aphrodiphobia, Part IV: The Logical Consequences of the First Commandment

The “First Commandment” under discussion here is not that in the Decalogue, but the one in Genesis 1:28:

God blessed them by saying, “Be fertile and increase in numbers. Fill the earth and subdue it. . . . “

In the King James translation, “blessed them and said,” the blessing appears to be different from what is said; that is simply wrong. When God says, “Be fruitful and multiply,” that is both the blessing and the commandment. Thus, the commandment is a blessing, and what is commanded is itself a blessing. This is crucial for what follows. Thus Genesis 1:28 holds pride of place in the Torah, as being the first commandment given by God to humans.

As I said, of ypu have no interest in Jesus or commandments, you may as well not bother to read this.

There is a traditional formula that I believe one can begin from:

Proposition 1. Jesus was a man like us in all things except sin.

In this, his divinity is subsumed under the two words, “without sin.” If he was not a man like us, if he did not participate totally in our human experience, if he were instead a god who merely appeared to be human, like the divine and beautiful Krishna, then there would be no point to the story.

Next, what does “sin” mean? Obviously, most Christians for most of history have believed that his being “without sin” meant that he was entirely untainted by human sexuality. I am here arguing that such a belief is groundless and is, in fact, a “heresy” relative to what he actually taught. The definition of “sin” needed here is the Biblical definition:

Proposition 2. A sin is a failure or refusal to fulfill (carry out, obey) a commandment.


Proposition 3. If Jesus was without sin, he must have fulfilled every commandment.

Notice that this is the logic of geometry: if one agrees that the first two propositions are true, then one must agree that this third proposition is also true. Next we need:

Proposition 4. The first commandment given by God to humans is Genesis 1:28: “Be fertile and multiply.”

It is a strong Jewish tradition that the importance of this commandment is shown by its preeminence and that its meaning is unambiguous. Since the only way we can fulfill that commandment is by engaging in sexual intercourse, such intercourse fulfills a commandment and does not break one; therefore,

Proposition 5. Sexual intercourse cannot in itself be a sin.

Not only is sex not sinful, it is what we have been commanded to do; so it is a positive virtue, a blessing, and a gift. This commandment is the reason why every Rabbi had to be and still must be married.

Sexual intercourse is a simple physical act that we share with all other vertebrates, especially mammals, and in itself it, like fire, is morally neutral. It is just as stupid to regard sex itself as being sinful as it would be to regard eating as sinful; both are necessary for the survival of our species. Surely one must admire the ingenuity of the Divine Artist in designing sex to be such a pleasure that the survival of the species is almost certain.

Proposition 6. If Jesus was a Rabbi and fulfilled all the commandments, he must have been married.

Jesus is referred to and sometimes addressed as a Rabbi throughout the gospels. His earthly calling as a Rabbi has long been disguised by dishonest translations of the Greek word for Rabbi as “Master” or “Teacher” and so on. That dishonesty has resulted from the acrimony that arose between the Jewish and Christian establishments as soon as they became two separate churches, and is the only reason why the historical fact that he was a Rabbi needs to be emphasized. Mary Magdalene is the obvious candidate to have been his wife, and the Gospel of Philip says they were married—but all of that will need another essay.

Proposition 7. Jesus therefore could not have taught that sex in itself is sinful.

Proposition 8. Any passage in the gospels that implies that sex is sinful is corrupt.

But what about the saying by Jesus that is usually translated as:

“If you look at a woman with lust in your eye, you have already committed adultery with her in your heart.”

The Greek word translated as “lust” actually means merely “desire”; so that translation is imposing an unjustified negative evaluation. Obviously, if humans never felt desire, they would never fulfill the first commandment; therefore,

Proposition 9. Desire in itself is not a sin.

If we translate Jesus’ saying into non-pejorative terms, it would seem to mean,

“If you look at a woman with desire, you already want to have sex with her.”

So what point was he making? Did he mean, “Don’t feel your feelings”? I don’t think so. Perhaps he meant, “Don’t lie to yourself about what you feel.” But in context, in a society that blamed women for seducing men, in which an adulteress would be stoned but not an adulterer, I think he was saying, “Don’t blame the woman for your feelings.”

Next, let’s consider what he taught about marriage. Mark 10:6b-9 says that Jesus, in answering a question about divorce, quoted from Genesis, saying,

“But from the beginning of the creation, ‘God made them male and female. For this cause a man will leave his father and mother, and will join to his wife, and the two will become one flesh,’ so that they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

Notice that (at least according to Mark) he repeats, “so that they are no longer two, but one flesh,“ in order to emphasize that point. When he goes on to say, ”Therefore what God has joined together, no man can take apart,” he was certainly not saying that if a couple get legally married, God will automatically validate their marriage. That’s how bureaucrats think, not radical Rabbis.

To sort this out, first be aware that “becoming a single flesh” was a Semitic idiom. It did not mean that the couple would be joined into a single physical body like Siamese twins. Instead, it meant that they would merge into a single personality, become a single person. If this merging into a single personality is what Jesus meant by God joining the two together, then he was not saying that they should not be separated. He was saying that it was no longer possible to separate them again. Conversely, if they can be separated, then they hadn’t been joined together by God in the first place. Either way, the concept of divorce becomes meaningless.

As evidence in favor of this interpretation, consider the apparently mysterious saying of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of Thomas:

“Jesus said to them, ‘When you make the two into one, . . . and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be masculine nor the female be feminine, . . . then you will enter [the kingdom].’”

I think that “making the two into one” is just a different wording of the concept that “the two will become one flesh.” Ironically, this saying has been known for about 1900 years, because it also occurs in the epistle called Second Clement, which was included in one of the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament. There the wording is,

“For the Lord Himself, being asked by a certain person when His kingdom would come, said, ‘When the two shall be one, and the outside as the inside, and the male with the female, neither male nor female.’ Now {the two} are {one}, when we speak truth among ourselves, and in two bodies there shall be one soul; that is not exaggeration.”

I think this saying is an interpretation of what Jesus meant by his emphasis on “the two shall become one flesh.” I think it is also evidence that Jesus placed a transcendent value on the physical pleasure of married sex. How would he have known about that? Because, as we have already seen, he must have been married.

There is one other passage in the gospels where he discusses marriage. When the Sadducees ask, if a woman had had seven brothers as husnands, which one would be her husband in heaven,he replies that in heaven they neither marry nor are given in marriage. It is usually assumed that he meant that a purely spiritual life in heaven is preferable to physical existence on Earth. However, there is no basis for that assumption in the gospels, and, as an observant Jew, he would have believed only in resurrection, not a nonphysical life somewhere in the heavens. I suggest that he meant that our physical life on Earth is superior to that in heaven, precisely because spiritual creatures cannot comprehend the joy of our physical sexuality.

Thus I come to this hypothesis:

Proposition 10. Believing that sex in itself is sinful was the first and worst of all the heresies.

That negative evaluation of sexuality came from the Greeks, who were dualistic and misogynistic—just read Plato to see that. As the gospel began to be preached in the Gentile world, it was recast into Greek terminology. The Greek worldview thus began to infect Christian beliefs almost immediately, and the resulting heresy spread rapidly and became dominant in the Roman Imperial Church.

If the transcendent valuation of sexuality in the “Gnostic” gospels does go back to Jesus himself, then the asceticism of the canonicals apparently resulted from suppression of some of Jesus’ original teachings. In contrast, the high valuation placed on sexuality was preserved among the communities that traced their apostolic authority through Mary Magdalen and that were suppressed by the Roman church as soon as possible. (A detailed discussion of Mary, the “Gnostics,” etc., will require more essays.) I thus arrive at the somewhat Chestertonian conclusion that the “heretics” who seemed most appalling to the Roman Catholics were the ones most likely to have preserved some of Jesus’ original teachings that did not survive in what became the mainstream of Christianity.

That is, finally, putting together these passages from the canonical and noncanonical writings, and accepting the fact that Jesus must have fulfilled that first commandment, it becomes plausible that Jesus and Mary had exactly such a transcendent marriage as Mk 10:9 apparently addresses. If so, that would overthrow centuries of pathology.

Will this concept seem like blasphemy and heresy? Only to those who still subscribe to the heresy of believing that sex itself is sinful, that Jesus being “free of sin” meant that he was asexual. I cannot believe that a person who has no sexual desire at all is normal, let alone the best possible human male. As a Rabbi I know once asked, “Would he have been less of a Messiah if he were married with kids?” No, I think that would make him more, because he would then have experienced the full joy of being human.

Next, we go back to thinking about the implications of the Pastoral Constitution.


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