Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century
"Truly groundbreaking work. Boswell reveals unexplored phenomena with an unfailing erudition."Michel FoucaultJohn Boswell's National Book Award-winning study of the history of attitudes toward homosexuality in the early Christian West was a groundbreaking work that challenged preconceptions about the Church's past relationship to its gay membersamong them priests, bishops, and even saintswhen it was first published twenty-five years ago. The historical breadth of Boswell's research (from the Greeks to Aquinas) and the variety of sources consulted make this one of the most extensive treatments of any single aspect of Western social history. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, still fiercely relevant today, helped form the disciplines of gay and gender studies, and it continues to illuminate the origins and operations of intolerance as a social force."What makes this work so exciting is not simply its contentfascinating though that isbut its revolutionary challenge to some of Western culture's most familiar moral assumptions."Jean Strouse, Newsweek
A scholarly plea
By FrKurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" - July 14, 2003
I have been the teaching assistant for a course entitled 'Theology of the Welcoming Church'; we have had wonderful diverse groups of students, from traditional/conservative to liberal in background, multi-denominational in affiliation. It always promises to be a good course and provide dialogue for better understanding even if it does not resolve the issue for all in one way or the other. Just for the record -- I am trying to stay as objectively neutral as I can be; I have my biases too, but given that I don't have the answers either (how do I reconcile scripture and tradition with the experience of people I know?) I guess mostly what you'll read here are my fumblings in the dark.Boswell's book 'Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality' is an early scholastic contribution to the history of how homosexuality has been treated by the Christian church establishment from the beginning of the Christian era to about the fourteenth century. It won the American Book Award for... read more
A must-read for members of a diverse society
By Bryan Walker - November 12, 1998
I not only had the pleasure of reading this book--surely one of the best works of historical scholarship in the twentieth century--I also had the privilege of taking courses with Professor Boswell. Prof. Boswell demonstrates with convincing scholarship that Christian attitudes toward homosexuality have _always_ been interpretive, and that the interpretations have varied greatly across time. This sharply undercuts the modern American conception, pushed by certain groups, that homophobia is an immutable constant in Christianity. For that reason alone, the book is a must-read for Americans wrestling with the issue of homosexuality. But at the same time, it is a pity that the book is often seen in those terms. The political nature of the issue today means that reactions to Prof. Boswell's work are politicized. But the book can be read by history students as a inspirational primer on method as well. Whether your field is late modern Chinese economic history or Roman military... read more
A bold, but flawed, pioneering work
By email@example.com - September 29, 2003
It's been more than twenty years since John Boswell's pioneering work on the history of homosexuality first appeared. Boswell argues that originally homosexuality was tolerated and admired in the urban world of the Roman Empire. Contrary to what one may think it was not Christianity per se that reduced this tolerance. In fact, one cannot show that the New Testament was hostile to homosexuality at all. Instead there was a certain decline of tolerance as the urban civilization of Rome collapsed. Yet for much of what we know as the Dark Ages homosexuality was viewed as at most a venial sin, and legal prohibitions against it were limited and ineffective. Indeed as urban civilization recovered by the eleventh and twelfth centuries a flourishing gay subculture arose, celebrating homosexual love. But over the next few centuries as powerful states seeking to enforce their authority arose, new anti-sodomy laws appeared, demanding death for its violators. There is much in this book... read more
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