The adherents of the new religion [Christianity] soon developed an obsessional horror of sex - a desperate fear that found much of its motivation in the belief that man had been created a pure being in the image of God and that he had been defiled by woman. And they turned against woman with a hatred so bitter and intense no language could be found strong enough to express their horror.
The early leaders of the Christian Church - to whom the female was clearly an instrument of the devil - set the pace for the condemnation of women.
Saint John Chrysostom1 described women as a "necessary evil, a natural temptation, a domestic peril, a deadly fascination, and a painted ill." Women should keep silence and obedience, maintained Saint Paul; and he taught that it was a shame for them to speak in church.2 Best expressing the view of the early Church, Tertullian3 wrote: "God's verdict on the sex still holds good, and the sex's guilt must still hold also. You are the devil's gateway!" Women should go about "clad in mourning and ashes, her eyes overflowing with the tears of remorse," he added, "to make us forget that you have been man's destruction."
Clement4 was so disgusted at the thought of anything feminine he felt that every woman ought to be filled with shame at the mere thought that she was a woman. To Cyprian,5 woman was the instrument which Satan employed to possess men's souls. Woman was even blamed for the death of the Christian savior-god. "For your deceit," raged Tertullian, "the very son of God had to perish!"
To destroy the flesh on which Eve had put the curse Christians began to maim and torture the body in every way imaginable. Convinced that practically all the ills of the earth had been caused by women, hysterical monks fled into the wilderness to wrestle with Satan, to endure the most hideous forms of torture and self-mutilation, and to try to erase their terrible fear of the Bitch of Eden. "These unhappy hypochondriacs," as the noted historian Jules Michelet6 called them, roamed the desert "full of self-loathing and self-horror."
They buried themselves to the neck in the burning desert sands. They let blood-sucking insects eat at their eyelids and crawl into the opening of their bodies. They withdrew into tiny stone hovels never again to emerge and there they lived in their own filth until they died. The more dedicated the ascetic the more vigorously he abused himself. The greatest monk was the one who could fast the longest, sleep the least, endure the most or invent the most extreme forms of bodily punishment.
One of the more famous ascetics of the time was Saint Simeon Stylites.7 A rope encircling his body had become imbedded in his flesh which putrefied around it. His biographer writes that Simeon ordered him to pick up worms that fell from his body and replace them in the sores. In Syria, Simeon was worshiped by multitudes. "When he walks vermin drip from his body," commented an admiring disciple.
By the time of the Middle Ages the principle of magical contamination had crept into the condemnation of women. Not merely the sexual act but the mere presence of a woman was liable to attract evil, so that during a plague it was inadvisable to sleep with a woman or even go near her bed. A good woman, the wise and virtuous were wont to observe during those perilous times, "was but like one eel put in a bag amongst 500 snakes, and if a man should have the luck to grope out that one eel from all the snakes, yea he had at best but a wet eel by the tail."
And why not?
Had not woman been made from a crooked rib? … a rib distorted and turned against man? Indeed no other than the great Solomon saw fit to lament one of the more pernicious aspects of womanhood:- As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion8… Her mouth is smoother than oil: but her latter end is bitter than9 wormwood.10 (And who among you would dare to contradict wise old King Solomon, I wonder?)
– CARTER, Nicholas, The late great book, the Bible, 1985, Truth Missions, (PO Box 3849), Manhattan Beach (California 90266 USA), pp 11-12. (Also see a section of page 179)
Women 'Devil's Gateway' AND The Most Shameful Activity(Footnotes added by Religion Clarity Campaign, 46 Cobine Way, Greenwood, WA, 6024; 07-08 July 2003)
1 Saint John Chrystostom, a Father of the Greek-language section of the early Church, writer, preacher, archbishop of Constantinople, lived 347-407 A.D.
2 Bible: 1 Corinthians 14:34, seemingly however contradicting in part the same book, 11:5
3 Quintus Tertullian, born in Carthage, a convert who became a married clergyman, became leader of the rigorous Montanist sect (later declared heretical), wrote in Latin, author of Apologeticus, De Praescriptione Hereticorum, etc.; many books are declared correct by the Roman Catholic Church, 150? - 230
4 Possibly Clement of Alexandria (Greek Father of the Church), 150? - 220?, or perhaps, St Clement I of Rome, 30?-101?, Pope
5 St Cyprian, converted from paganism around 245,.author of De Catholicae Ecclesiae Unitate, bishop of Carthage (North Africa), beheaded in 258
6 Jules Michelet, noted French historian and author, 1798-1874
7 St Simeon Stylites, Syrian ascetic, spent last 30 years of life atop a 60ft (18m) pillar, 390-459
8 Bible: The Proverbs 11:22
9 "than" ought to be "as", if following the Authorised Version (King James bible), and for correct meaning.
10 The Proverbs 5:3,4
We have already seen how the early Fathers of the Church - among them, Saint John Chrysostom, Tertullian, Clement, Cyprian and Augustine11 - were repulsed by the thought of anything feminine, and believed women to be at best a "necessary evil."
By the time the 8th century rolled around the Church began to develop a series of "penitential books." The purpose of the penitentials was to explore the subject of sex, enumerate the misdeeds, and prescribe penalties for sexual sins. (To the Founding Fathers of the Church, sexual relations were the most shameful activities of men, with sexual guilt pertaining especially to women since they tempted men who would otherwise remain pure. Because of this belief, virginity was considered as high above marriage as the heavens were above the earth. Ambrose12 said that the race should die rather than that it be propagated with the sin of sexual intercourse. To Justin13, sexual activity was unnecessary to life. Augustine asserted that virginity was a better state than marriage. Celibacy should be chosen even though the human race should perish, said Cyprian. And Saint Jerome14 tolerated marriage simply because it provided the world with virgins.)
The framers of the penitential books were a bit more realistic than the Church Fathers cited above, however. Although they urged chastity as a glorious ideal, they knew they couldn't totally ban sexual activities from the human calendar. Instead, they set out to severely limit the conditions under which the acts would be performed. They placed an absolute ban on all forms of sexual activity other than intercourse between married persons. Not only was the sexual act taboo, but kissing, sexual thoughts of any kind, any attempt to fornicate, and even wet dreams were made a crime. A great deal of space was devoted to homosexuality and sexual intimacy with animals; but the greatest stress of all was laid on masturbation. According to Aquinas15, it was a greater sin than fornication. In addition, the days of the year on which the sexual act could be performed were limited: no Sundays, Wednesdays or Fridays, and forty days before Easter and forty days before Christmas.
- CARTER, Nicholas, The late great book, the Bible, 1985, Truth Missions, Manhattan Beach (California), p 78
(Footnotes added by Religion Clarity Campaign, 07 Jul 2003)
11 St Augustine of Hippo (North Africa), Father and Doctor of the Latin section of the early Church, bishop of Hippo, author of The City of God and The Confessions, 354-430 A.D.
12 St Ambrose, Doctor of the Western (Latin) section of the early Church, archbishop of Milan, Italy, 340?-397.
13 St Justin the Martyr, born in Samaria (Palestine area), studied Greek philosophers, author of Apologies for the Christians and Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, 100?-165
14 St Jerome, born in Dalmatia (former Yugoslavia), edited Latin translations of the Scriptures, which were issued as The Vulgate bible, died in Jerusalem, 340-420.
15 St Thomas Aquinas, born in Italy, taught in Paris, France, wrote Summa Theologica and Summa contra Gentiles, etc., 1225-74
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