There are strange contradictions about sex in the Bible, no doubt about it. One of the most shocking incidents – found in the book of Genesis – involves incest with Lot and his two daughters. After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt for breaking the angels’ commandment to not look back as they left.
Lot and his two daughters sought refuge in a cave. Perhaps thinking they were the last people on earth after the catastrophe, they plied their father with wine and when he was drunk they lay with him. Both became pregnant and bore sons. These were the same virgin daughters whom Lot had offered up to the lustful crowd outside his house just prior to the destruction. Isn’t incest a sin? The Bible offers no answer in this case.
Questions and contradictions about sex are abundant throughout the Bible. For example, is premarital sex a sin? When, and in what contexts, is sexual desire appropriate? With whom can one legitimately have sex? Are same-sex relations permissible? What is sex anyway?
Cutting-edge biblical scholar Jennifer Wright Knust addresses the big questions that dominate today’s discussions and debates when it comes to sex and the Bible.
According to Knust the Bible is full of contradictions when it comes to sex and sexual desire. In an era where the phrases, “the Bible says,” and “God says,” are so often exploited, it is time to consider what the Bible actually does — or does not — say about monogamy, polygamy, homosexuality, gender roles, and sex. Knust writes:
- Prostitution is okay – certain circumstances;
- Women can fulfill their desires outside of marriage – as long as they’re beautiful;
- Marriage doesn’t unite one man and one woman – it unites one man with as many women as he can support; and
- Divorce is acceptable – but remarriage is considered adultery.
With so many mixed messages, it’s nearly impossible to know what to believe. In Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire, Knust sheds some much-needed light on what the Bible actually says about sex, sexuality, marriage, and desire. With clarity and precision, she addresses the big questions people continue to ask.
For example, Knust tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross: “If you’re reading the Hebrew Bible, we might have polygamy again. We might have not only polygamy with wives, we might have polygamy with concubines and slaves,” she says. “And if we’re reading the New Testament, we would avoid marriage. The overwhelming opinion of New Testament writers is that marriage is a waste of time and that we shouldn’t be doing it because we should be spreading the Gospel. … If you’re married, you’re totally distracted and not focusing on God. If we took the New Testament seriously, we would all stop being married.”
Offering a clear-eyed evaluation of the Bible’s complexity, and an honest conversation about how we can and cannot apply the scriptures today, Unprotected Texts is an impressively thorough and unabashedly provocative look at the issues that affect us most intimately.
About the Author
Jennifer Wright Knust is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Boston University and has received fellowships and awards from the American Association of University Women, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. An ordained American Baptist pastor, she holds a doctorate in Religion from Columbia University and a Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York.
Sources in part: NPR Fresh Air