Sunday, December 31, 2017
Not Considered a Sin?
Masturbation was not considered unhealthy until 1710 when John Martens, a quack doctor and pornographer, proclaimed it as such in a book called Onania. Marten's fortune derived from the medicine sold in conjunction with his book. The Church did not consider masturbation a sin, or indeed link it to Onan's behaviour in Genesis, until after the publication of Onania.Surely this is incorrect. Just in the past few days I noticed the following in Bentley Layton, The Canons of Our Fathers: Monastic Rules of Shenoute (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 93 (rule 6):
Cursed be whoever dares with his own hands to grasp his members for a deed of impurity, that is, defilement.Id., p. 333, rule 572:
Cursed be whoever touches himself with his own hands in order to do evil deeds.There are similar prohibitions in medieval penitentials, and cf. Cassian, Conferences 5.11.4 (tr. Edgar C.S. Gibson):
Of fornication there are three sorts ... (2) that which takes place without touching a woman, for which we read that Onan the son of the patriarch Judah was smitten by the Lord; and which is termed by Scripture uncleanness.Some scholars consider Matthew 5.30 (And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off) to be a warning against masturbation. See e.g. Will Deming, "Mark 9.42–10.12, Matthew 5.27–32 and b.Nid. 13b: A First Century Discussion of Male Sexuality," New Testament Studies 36 (1990) 130–141, and Andrew R. Angel, "God Talk and Men's Talk: Jesus, Tarfon and Ishmael in Dialogue," in James G. Crossley, ed., Judaism, Jewish Identities and the Gospel Tradition. Essays in Honour of Maurice Casey (2010; rpt. London: Routledge, 2014), pp. 95-117. I haven't seen Giovanni Cappelli, Autoerotismo: Un problema morale nei primi secoli cristiani? (Bologna: Edizioni Dehoniane, 1986).
fornicationis genera sunt tria ... secundum, quod absque femineo tactu, pro quo Onam patriarchae Iudae filius a Domino percussus legitur, quod in scripturis sanctis immunditia nuncupatur.
Diogenes the Cynic viewed masturbation in quite a different light, as a gift of the gods. See: