Reexamining Some

Judeo-Christian Beliefs


The "Sin" of Adultery

When we examine their origins, manyJudeo-Christian beliefs end up beingdifferent that we've been led to believe.

Adultery is a major one.

We'll establish this with three major points.

1. In early Jewish culturewhen these commandments were codified women were the property of their husbands and polygamy was practiced.

Twocommandments are related here: not coveting your neighbor's house, wife, slaves, ox, or ass - (note the original order of importance) -- and not committing adultery by "defiling" a man's wife. (In the era before effective birth control getting her pregnant was a major consideration.)

When a man could have as many wives as he could afford, these prohibitions were intended to keep a man from taking over another man's possession(s) -- including (originally) the second in importance,his wife.

Stealing a husband is not noted since a husband was not property.

This "property prohibition" becomes even clearer considering the Jewish law (on whichChristian laws are based) that allowed men to have sex with an unmarried woman.

This wasn'tadultery, but a crime against her father. As a "used woman," this lowered her value as a wife andreduced the dowry ("bride price") her father could expect to get for her.

According to Jewish law, if a man did have sex with her, the offender was to be fined an amount equal to what the father would lose in his daughter's value as a wife.

Again, it was a matter of property,in this case money.

The scriptures clearly show that the prohibition against adultery involveda daughter's"pristine property value" to a father.

During these early times in Jewish society prostitution and slavery were accepted and men were not included in the prohibition against adultery.

You will recallthat according to Jewish law (as spelled out in Leviticus) if the family of the woman could not prove she was a virgin at the time of marriage she was to be stoned to death. Dare we suggest that in terms ofproperty value she then wouldn't be worth keeping?

Before you brand this as impossibly harsh, you need to consider these Bible passages. Clearly women were held in very low esteem in those days -- the days in which the basic tenants of Judeo-Christian beliefs were established.

Today, fundamentalist Christians still cling to the undercurrents of these verses, as noted here.

2. Under the Catholic Church, the prohibition against adultery found another justification -- holding onto church property.

In those days churchesand associated property were commonly owned by the priests. If priests could marry and have children, then upon their death this property would pass to the children.

This would be especially worrisome if there were illegitimate children. (Recall that according to the Judeo-Christian scriptures, priests could own slaves.)

Today, in supporting its prohibition against priests marrying, the Catholic Church cites the belief that Christ was not married. Thisin part explains the church'sstrong reaction to evidence suggesting that Christ was, in fact, married.

Later, Protestantism wouldadopt most all of the Jewish and Catholic scriptures, which is where we are today.

3.Finally, growing out of centuries of Judeo-Christian beliefs about a wife (and later a husband) belonging to a spouse, Judeo-Christian societies developedthe levels of possessiveness we now see in marriage..

This also spawned jealousy whena perceived threat of someone coveting or taking my wife, or my husband entered the picture.

Given the evolution based propensity in both men and women to "stray," severe problems were introduced into relationships. Among these weremarital strife, divorce and upon, occasion, homicide.

Even though ancient prohibitions against adultery no longer reflect their original purpose, they still reflect their ancient roots.

They have been absorbed into the cultural psyche to such an extent that the vast majority of people -- be they Jewish, Christian, agnostic or atheist -- simply accept them largely as truisms.

Today,changes in thinking are being forced upon society by the realities of this century where adultery is a fact in about 50% of urban marriages.

Many couples have to various degrees been able to separate sex from love.Those who can't often find that adultery doesn't justify heartache, divorce, or worse.

Even so, as Encountering the Fork In the Road points out, adultery can still be a threat to marriage and the family unit, as well as to committed relationships.

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