Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Countryman on Adultery

Among us, sexual activity outside the marriage on the part of either partner is understood as adultery; in antiquity, only such activity on the part of the wife (or the betrothed woman) qualified. The husband could commit adultery only by having intercourse with the wife (or betrothed) of another man; if he had sexual relations with a slave, a prostitute, a concubine, or a divorced or widowed woman, this did not constitute adultery against his own marriage. Again our own explanations of what is wrong in adultery usually focuses on the betrayal of trust and of formal commitments between spouses, whereas the ancient understanding of adultery assumes rather that it is a violation of another man's property. What for us is a kind of betrayal was for them a species of theft.
Countryman, Dirt Greed and Sex, 2007, 154-5

This well written book continues to be quite uncomfortable reading, although I imagine it would be more so for members of Family First et al. This is the conclusion of a very well argued section on the understanding of adultery in the Torah. Once again this highlights the danger of reading our modern conceptions back into the Bible. Is this really the "biblical family values" we want a return to?

Let me know what you think, :-)

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