Thursday, May 21, 2009

if the temple is gone, sex becomes prophetic

If the temple tantrum, and its connected prophecy about the destruction of the temple (NT Wright, et al), was in large part about racism,
was it also eventually and inevitably about

sex and sexism;
rebuking incipient gnosticism,
and the place of prophecy?

From Biale's classic:

The Body as a Temple
The rabbis believed that prophecy had ceased with the destruction of the Temple, so that God was no longer as directly accessible as he had been through the temple cult. The rabbis therefore "secularized" the purity laws by applying them to all areas of life, as opposed to just the sacred site of the cult.

The laws of menstruation are a particularly striking instance of this perpetuation and extension of biblical purity laws when the Temple no longer stood.
Purity now became necessary for the sake of the body, rather than for the sake of the cult.
The sexual laws were to turn the body into a sacred site, a substitute for the Temple, reminiscent in a way of Paul's exhortation that 'your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.' When sexual relations are properly conducted, the divine presence stands between man and wife, much as it did in the Temple when the cherubim were "intertwined with one another."
Once the Temple no longer stood, the eroticism implicit in its cult was transferred to the marital bed. As one Palestinian text stated long after the destruction of the tepmple,
'The Holy One has greater affection forfruitfulness and increase than for the Temple."

Yet, alongside this affirmation of sexuality, another rabbinic voice sounded a far more pessimistic note..

..Here, then, are the two poles of rabbinic ambivalence about sexuality. Properly channeled and controlled, the erotic body becomes the site where the divine divine can still be found in this world, a world from which biblical prophecy has vanished.
Yet the rabbinic emphasis on reproduction was not merely a continuation of the biblical theology offertility. A new contrary view, current in Greco-Roman culture, held that sexuality was a thoroughly secular, material activity that conflicted with the life of thespirit. In the culture of late antiquity, the competition between holy abstinence and the duty to produce children created a deep anxiety to which the rabbis were notimmune...
Finally, Jewish mysticism would create a hybrid between philosophical hostility to the material world and an erotic theology, which would come to dominate the culture of the Ashkenazic Jews by the end of the Middle Ages.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!