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Thread: What is a Eunuch who "was so born from their mother's womb"?

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    Real American™ nam's Avatar
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    What is a Eunuch who "was so born from their mother's womb"?

    10His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.

    11But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.

    12For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
    We know what the second and third examples are. The is the most typical example of a eunuch. Many scholars pretend that is the only kind of eunuch there was -- men who were castrated. The third kind is the one we most think of when we think of priests -- celibates. But the first kind is less clear. Traditionalists say that Jesus was talking about men who were born with birth defects like hermaphrodites. Simple, case closed. No need to look for any approval of gay men from Jesus here.

    But the thing is, Jesus is hardly the only ancient source that discussed differing categories of eunuchs including "born eunuchs" or "natural eunuchs." So, we have more to go on other than the traditionalists' hyperventilating explanations of this passage.

    To hear the traditionalists speak to this passage, it is like they want to end the discussion as quickly as possible before someone suggests, "could a gay man be a 'born eunuch.'

    Well, what was a born eunuch?

    First a "born eunuch" would not appear to be someone who is incapable of reproduction, so a birth defect involving the genitals would not seem to be an explanation:

    But a born eunuch, according to the Rabbis, is capable of propagating and is allowed to bestow, on his wife, the right of eating the heave offering. Only a born eunuch, who is a priest, can confer upon his wife, the right of eating terumah.
    Here is a description of a born eunuch according to the Babylonian talmud:


    R. Joseph said: It must have been such a saris [eunuch] 6 of whom I heard Ammi saying. 'He who is afflicted from birth...’ Our Rabbis taught: Who is a congenital saris [a born eunuch]? 13 Any person who is twenty years of age and has not produced two pubic hairs. 14 And even if he produced them afterwards he is deemed to be a saris [born eunuch] in all respects. And these are his characteristics: He has no beard, his hair is lank, and his skin is smooth. R. Simeon b. Gamaliel said in the name of R. Judah b. Jair: 15 Any person whose urine produces no froth; some say: He who urinates without forming an arch; some say: He whose semen is watery; and some say: He whose urine does not ferment. Others say: He whose body does not steam after bathing in the winter season. R. Simeon b. Eleazar said: 15 He whose voice is abnormal so that one cannot distinguish whether it is that of a man or of a woman.
    Now, almost everything here seems more like superstition than fact. Just as any out group is defined through myth. I mean no one takes a bath in the winter and doesn't have steam rise off their skin. But note that one way to identify a born eunuch is NOT to check the genitals. Thus, we are not talking about men with deformed genitals.

    Clement of Alexandria said of burn Eunuchs:

    And their explanation of this saying is roughly as follows: Some men, from their birth, have a natural sense of repulsion from a woman; and those who are naturally so constituted do well not to marry.” [a woman]. - Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, III. I.
    So, now we know that "born eunuchs" were seen as not being attracted to women -- to the point of being repulsed by them.

    So let's look at another source, Gregory of Nazianzus:

    For the good which is by nature is not a subject of merit; that which is the result of purpose is laudable... Since then, natural chastity is not meritorious [being born with a natural sense of repulsion from a woman or without lust for a woman, through no choice of your own, is not meritorious], I demand something else from the eunuchs. Do not go a whoring in respect of the Godhead. Having been wedded to Christ [he is speaking to saved eunuchs-gay people who have trusted Jesus Christ], do not dishonour Christ.”

    Gregory is saying that eunuchs by nature shouldn't be proud because they are not attracted to women, because it wasn't their choice to abstain from women; they were made that way. But he does, interestingly enough, accuse them of "whoring!" Now, if you have no interest in women, how could you be whoring? Umm, it must be with -- can we say it?

    No, not yet.

    Let's go to another source:

    The final piece in the puzzle is to prove that eunuchs enjoyed sex with men, and so were not entirely unacquainted with lust as Jerome implied or unwilling to perform sexual intercourse as Clement put it.
    The Kamasutra has an entire chapter on klibas seducing men to allow them to perform oral sex on them. In fact, "klibas get particular enjoyment from oral sex, as well as their livelihood."71

    A Sumerian list of dream omens from the seventh century BCE states that "if a man submits himself sexually to males [in a dream], like an assinnu he will develop a strong yearning to be a sex object for other males [in waking life]."72 This association between eunuchs and passive homosexuality may be why the Middle Assyrian Laws make being rendered a saris the punishment for male passive homosexuality.73 Another of the omens predicts that "if a man has sexual intercourse with an assinnu, for a whole year the deprivations which beset him will disappear." The next omen repeats the prediction for when a man has intercourse with a girsequ,74 the term for eunuch mentioned in the Code of Hammurabi.75
    Quintus Curtius reports that "365 concubines, the same number as Darius had had, filled [Alexander the Great's] palace, attended by herds of eunuchs, also accustomed to being used like women."79

    Without calling Alexander a eunuch, his Roman biographer of the fourth-century CE said he "scorned sensual pleasures to such an extent that his mother was anxious lest he might be unable to beget offspring,"80 and there seems to have been some doubt expressed as to his eligibility for the Macedonian throne.81 In other words, Alexander may have been a natural eunuch. He had two passionate love affairs in his short life, both with men. The first was with his childhood friend and later general, Hephaiston, to whom he felt so close that he told the Persian queen: "This man too is Alexander."82 The second was the defeated Persian king's lover Bagoas, "a eunuch of remarkable beauty and in the very flower of boyhood, who had been loved by Darius and was afterward to be loved by Alexander."83 Bagoas, "who won the regard of Alexander by submitting his body"84 for sex, convinced Alexander to execute a certain Persian chieftain who had insulted Bagoas by calling him a harlot. This chieftain had asserted that it was "not the Persian custom to marry males who were feminized by being screwed."85

    The Jewish historian Josephus told of the problems King Herod had with his closest eunuch companions, of whom he was "very fond on account of their beauty."89 The king's son Alexander was continually plotting against him, and Josephus reported that "someone told the king that these eunuchs had been corrupted by Alexander ... with a great deal of money. And when they were asked about it, they admitted the association [with Alexander] and [that] sex [was involved], but they were not aware of any mischief aimed at the father."90
    Aelian, a third-century Greek rhetorician, recounts the beautiful story of the sorrow of a Persian king for a beloved eunuch who died: "He had been the most handsome and attractive man in Asia. He ended his days still a youth, emerging from childhood, and the king was said to be greatly in love with him. As a result, he lamented bitterly and was in great distress; there was a public mourning throughout Asia as a gesture to the king from all his subjects."100 Aelian's description recalled a similar mourning by the Roman empreror Hadrian, who had erected statues of his beautiful lover Antinous throughout the empire after his death. Some of these statues still exist

    Sounds pretty solid: Born eunuchs were (1) not deformed in any way that would prevent them from procreating, (2) they were seen as being repulsed by women (un-attracted to them), but they (3) did engage sexually with men.

    Okay, maybe that doesn't satisfy you.

    Here is a stereotype of a born eunuch, who do we hold that same stereotype about today?

    Those who are born when these are rising are always involved in luxury and lust. They are always drenched in perfumes, given to too much wine drinking, impudent in speech, so that in banquets and love-making they attack their companions with a sarcastic wit. They are addicted to all crimes of passion and are the kind who raise laughter by their biting tongues. 2. They will always be well-groomed and well dressed. They twist their hair in ringlets and often present a fictitious appearance by using another's hair. They soften their whole body with various cosmetics; pull out their body hair and wear clothes in the likeness of women; they walk softly on their tip-toes. 3. But the desire for flattery torments them; they seek it so constantly that they think that from flattery they attain virtue and good fortune. They will always be in love, or pretend that they are, and it pains them that they were born men.

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    Inactive Member existentialfish's Avatar
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    nam i am going to have to take exception to your Talmudical skills.

    a saris from birth is someone who doesn't produce testosterone in enough quantity to ever go through puberty.

    It is called Kallman's syndrome in modern medicine.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kallmann_syndrome

    that is the jewish traditional idea. It seems obvious from the reading. why go to men who make themselves effeminate?

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    Inactive Member sassafrass's Avatar
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    What are you desiring to accomplish? I didn't see an opening statement.

    I think it is pretty clear from history that there have always been homosexuals, effeminate men, and asexuals. A "natural born" eunuch, from some of these excerpts, seems to be either someone disinterested in sex or someone who simply refrains from procreative sex. There are numeous translations of that Bible passage that infer only a disinterest in women, or an inabiity to perform with them. I would think that in the Bible passage, a born "eunuch" includes whomever didn't fit in the other categories.

    As for the Greeks, pedophilia was accepted. Older men with pre-pubescent boys were all the rage. Supposedly, being a bottom was considered unmanly. That explains why the preference for children (pederasty). I don't consider those attachments homosexuality as much as predatory pedophilia. So the quotes about the Persian King and Alexander serve only to revolt this mother of four boys.

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    Real American™ nam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by existentialfish View Post
    nam i am going to have to take exception to your Talmudical skills.

    a saris from birth is someone who doesn't produce testosterone in enough quantity to ever go through puberty.

    It is called Kallman's syndrome in modern medicine.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kallmann_syndrome


    Then explain this passage:


    “Mishnah. If a priest who was a saris by nature [born eunuch] 7 married the daughter of an Israelite, he confers upon her the right of eating terumah... It might have been assumed that only one who is capable of propagation is entitled to bestow the right of eating 16 and that he who is not capable of propagating is not entitled to bestow the right of eating; hence we were taught [that even the saris (born eunuch) may bestow the right].”
    If you could reproduce, you couldn't very well have Kallman's Syndrome, where you never reach puberty? Further, how could Rabbis 2000 years ago have been talking about a syndrome that wasn't documented until 1856. Remember, a "born eunuch" had the ability to procreate? Further, the description in the passage does not indicate anything about a decreased sense of smell -- a key characteristic of Kallman's syndrome.

    why go to men who make themselves effeminate?
    Make themselves effeminate? Who does that?

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    Real American™ nam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sassafrass View Post
    As for the Greeks, pedophilia was accepted. Older men with pre-pubescent boys were all the rage. Supposedly, being a bottom was considered unmanly. That explains why the preference for children (pederasty). I don't consider those attachments homosexuality as much as predatory pedophilia. So the quotes about the Persian King and Alexander serve only to revolt this mother of four boys.
    I disagree that the Greeks were into pedophillia. Pedophillia is described as attraction to prepubescents. The practice among the Greeks was generally speaking with those who had reached puberty. This was no different than the age for heterosexual marriage at that time the ages 13+ (that wasn't merely Greek culture). The term "boy" used for a male lover is often mistaken for a pre-pubertal boy, when it was just a term of affection. There are clear documented cases of full grown adults referring to themselves as a "boy."


    A "natural born" eunuch, from some of these excerpts, seems to be either someone disinterested in sex or someone who simply refrains from procreative sex.
    No, the passages do not suggest that they were disinterested in sex. Rather they suggest they were disinterested in sex with women. There are clear examples presented in which they were very sexually active with men, even descriptions of the natural born eunuchs "whoring" or being "involved in ... lust." That's not someone altogether disinterested in sex, that is someone who is disinterested in sex with women.

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    Real American™ nam's Avatar
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    to sassafrass

    Quote Originally Posted by nam View Post
    I disagree that the Greeks were into pedophillia. Pedophillia is described as attraction to prepubescents. The practice among the Greeks was generally speaking with those who had reached puberty. This was no different than the age for heterosexual marriage at that time the ages 13+ (that wasn't merely Greek culture). The term "boy" used for a male lover is often mistaken for a pre-pubertal boy, when it was just a term of affection. There are clear documented cases of full grown adults referring to themselves as a "boy."
    To add to this thought: it's not unlike saying "my boyfriend." That doesn't mean he's a little boy.

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    Real American™ nam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by existentialfish View Post
    nam i am going to have to take exception to your Talmudical skills.

    a saris from birth is someone who doesn't produce testosterone in enough quantity to ever go through puberty.

    It is called Kallman's syndrome in modern medicine.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kallmann_syndrome

    that is the jewish traditional idea. It seems obvious from the reading. why go to men who make themselves effeminate?
    Oh, and an addition to what I said. The rabbis are discussing the issue as though the "saris from birth" was a common occurrence not a 1 in 10,000 possibility. Now, I am not saying that a eunuch by birth includes only gays, it clearly could refer to others such as those with Kallman's syndrome. But Kallman's syndrome is pretty much a recent observation. And the evidence presented includes observations made beyond that of the Rabbis and into other cultures. It is clear by all the descriptions, that "born eunuchs" or "natural eunuchs" were not excluded from the possibility of procreation. Those with the kind of defects you describe could not have the possibility of procreating. It is also clear, from other sources, that these euncuchs by birth weren't excluded from lust (not likely for someone who had not experienced puberty), and it is quite clear that eunuchs were known to be sexually active with men. Ulpian tells us that "born eunuchs" were not defective:

    In the section of the ancient Roman Digest of Laws dealing with women's claims on their dowries, the Roman jurist Ulpian faces the issue of marriages between women and eunuch slaves. He says: "If a woman marries a eunuch, I think that a distinction must be drawn whether he has been castrated or not, because in the case of a castrated man, there is no dowry; if the person has not been castrated, then there can be a marriage, and so there is a dowry, and a claim on it."21 I suppose the reason a non-castrated eunuch can get married is because he can procreate.

    As helpful as this statement is, Ulpian ultimately provided an even more explicit, in fact indisputable, proof of the first point of my argument, namely that eunuchs had complete genitals. Two sentences of Roman law, by themselves, prove that typically eunuchs were able to procreate; they prove that they were not missing any "necessary parts." This was the proof I was looking for. It took me seven years to find, yet it is available on any law school library's reference shelf.

    In a discussion of defects in slaves that must be reported to buyers in advance by slave dealers, Ulpian states that "to me it appears the better view that a eunuch is not diseased or defective, but healthy, just like a man with one testicle who is also able to procreate."22 The issue here is whether a eunuch slave is capable of performing all the normal functions, in this case producing offspring. Ulpian states that a eunuch's imperfection, like that of a man with one testicle, does not prevent him from procreating. Just to make sure everything is perfectly clear, another jurist Paulus states right afterward: "If someone is a eunuch in such a way that he lacks a necessary part of his body, even if he has a penis, then he is diseased."23 Therefore, the undiseased, undefective form of eunuch mentioned by Ulpian, who is able to procreate just like a one-testicled man, is not missing any necessary parts of his body.
    http://www.well.com/user/aquarius/section1.htm

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    Inactive Member sassafrass's Avatar
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    From your quotes

    Alexander may have been a natural eunuch. He had two passionate love affairs in his short life, both with men. The first was with his childhood friend and later general, Hephaiston, to whom he felt so close that he told the Persian queen: "This man too is Alexander."82 The second was the defeated Persian king's lover Bagoas, "a eunuch of remarkable beauty and in the very flower of boyhood, who had been loved by Darius and was afterward to be loved by Alexander."
    Aelian, a third-century Greek rhetorician, recounts the beautiful story of the sorrow of a Persian king for a beloved eunuch who died: "He had been the most handsome and attractive man in Asia. He ended his days still a youth, emerging from childhood, and the king was said to be greatly in love with him.
    I cannot accept that these descriptions are of grown men. Perhaps still in puberty, but seemingly had been sexually active for a while.

    How can someone in the flower of boyhood, just emerged from childhood, be equated with a consensual gay lover?

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    That was a long post!
    Linda

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    Real American™ nam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sassafrass View Post
    From your quotes





    I cannot accept that these descriptions are of grown men. Perhaps still in puberty, but seemingly had been sexually active for a while.

    How can someone in the flower of boyhood, just emerged from childhood, be equated with a consensual gay lover?
    Same way ancient men married twelve and thirteen year old girls. Remember, life spans were much shorter then, so you had to marry earlier than you do today, if you wanted to procreate. This is why the Bible has no explicit condemnation of pedophilia. There was no concept of it they way we have today. So, puberty, whether that was twelve or thirteen, was generally the age to --um-- go for it. There was a much different construct than we have today. Twelve and thirteen year olds were considered mature. Again, this is no different than the heterosexual construct. Also, realize, that these relationships weren't always sexual, although they may have been erotic. Yes, this is scandalous in our time. But in that time a man taking a 12, 13, 14 year old boy as his beloved would have been no more scandalous than a man marrying a girl of that age.

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