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Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation Paperback – October 3, 2006
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About the Author
Dale B. Martin is Woolsey Professor of Religious Studies at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. He is the author of Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation and Pedagogy of the Bible: An Analysis and Proposal, both published by WJK.
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Dr. Martin's full explanations of the historical contexts of both arsenokoites and malakos were detailed and thorough. It is quite clear that if one were to investigate the history of these two words in context, it would become clear that they do not translate to the current understanding of homosexual/homosexuality. It is frustrating that modern scholars have taken a lazy route by interpreting two words so carelessly. This action has resulted in damage and destruction to the LGBTQ community.
Robert Gagnon and his anti-gay work is a series of assumptions about what Paul or Jesus may have said if they were transported to today. This is a ridiculous approach. Martin's expert tracing of the words in context counters many of Gagnon's grand and sloppy assumptions.
I also found the chapter on Paul's thoughts on passion and desire in marriage and the corresponding views of the Stoics to be very helpful.
This work is not for the casual reader trying to align faith with gender and orientation. But, if you have done some initial work and are ready to dig deeper, this book is a great next step. I really do wish that several of these essays were required reading at conservative seminaries even if they would use them as point- counter point to the works of Gagnon. Martin would win every time for the scholarship and lack of lazy assumption and distortions.
Thank you Dale Martin for your academic work peppered with hidden humor. I found myself laughing out loud at times.
The book has all the apparatus of a good scholarly text, such as end-notes, bibliography, scriptural references table, and index. While the book is created by combining articles written at different times, for different audiences, the author has endeavored to smooth over the differences in tone.
The use of end notes instead of footnotes makes this very easy for the casual reader, and the author is skillful at putting things in just the right way to pick up his ideas easily.
One thing which may annoy the casual reader, but which delights the professional, is how Martin engages other writers in biblical exegesis, such as Richard Hayes (Martin and Hayes were colleagues once at Yale.) Hayes premise for the whole book, and the nub of his disagreement with Hayes, is that there is no undeniable, fixed meaning to scripture. It is all up for interpretation, until a community of believers comes to accept a particular interpretation.
Some of the articles deal with especially famous passages, mostly in Paul's letters, such as the well known statements which sound like they are about homosexuality in the first chapter of Romans. Turns out, Martin makes a very good case for saying Paul's statements are primarily about idolatry, not homosexuality. Martin also discusses the seemingly straightforward end of the third chapter in Galatians which, contrary to a commonsensical reading, is often interpreted as meaning that the equality of men and women, slaves and freedmen, is only in spirit, not in our earthly day to day life.
If one gets nothing else from the book, it is the reassurance that elucidating the meaning of the Bible is not straightforward, and the Bible does not always mean what we have often taken it to mean.
In this excellent book of essays on the biblical interpretation of gender and sexuality, he out-does his classroom lectures with some surprising revelations. Did you ever wonder how Jesus of Nazareth interpreted Scripture? Dale gives us Jesus' take on divorce. In the Introduction he talks about the "anxiety of uncertainty" and cautions that "unethical readings of Scripture will abound." If you have ever wondered what the word `faith' really means, you will be mesmerized by his final chapter and conclusion on "the Risk of Faith."
Everyone will get something different from his book, but I found his analogy of "Scripture as a space: Museum" especially remarkable. He starts off by saying: "....we need to move beyond thinking of Scripture as a foundation for knowledge, as a rule book, a constitution, or an owner's manual. It is the work of our imagination." He compares Scripture to a museum or the objects in a museum. By the end of the chapter I had already begun to reexamine my views on the Bible.