Paul is traditionally seen as one of the founders of Christian sexual asceticism. As early as the second century C.E., church leaders looked to him as a model for their lives of abstinence. But is this a correct reading of Paul? What exactly did Paul teach on the subjects of marriage and celibacy? Will Deming here answers these questions.
By placing Paul's statements on marriage and celibacy against the backdrop of ancient Hellenistic society, Deming constructs a coherent picture of Paul's views. According to Deming, the conceptual world in which Paul lived and wrote had substantially vanished by 100 C.E., and terms like "sin," "body," "sex," and "holiness" began to acquire moral implications quite unlike those Paul knew. Paul conceived of marriage as a social obligation that had the potential of distracting Christians from Christ. For him celibacy was the single life, free from such distraction, not a life of saintly denial. Sex, in turn, was natural and not sinful, and sex within marriage was both proper and necessary.
Superbly researched and reasoned, this book corrects misinterpretations of Paul and restores him to his proper place in the history of Christian thought on marriage and sexuality.