Ok, good, so looking at unclothed people isn’t the problem.

Let’s hone in on the terms of 1 Peter 4:3, starting with kōmois, translated “orgies.” I am startled to find orgies banned, since they are legal under Jewish law, so long as any women are married only to the men involved. (Single women can be sexual with anyone they like without restriction, and note that female-female contact regardless of martial status is unambiguously legal.) Solomon in his harem could have together all his wives and concubines and any other single women who wish to join in; it’s legal.

So then we have the problem of whether Christian teachings are more extreme in forbidding group physical contacts. But do they? I first noticed a critique of the komos/orgy translation in the classicist Sarah Ruden’s Paul Among the People:

A kōmos was a late-night, very drunken, sometimes violent postparty parade — which could even end in kidnapping and rape. We have vivid scenes of it in Greek comedy and other genres. . . . Other translations, probably in an effort to be less dour, have “orgies,” but that is unsatisfactory: some features of Greek parties were orgylike, but not the kōmos.

So this evidence suggests that ‘orgy’ is a mistranslation, for the focus is not sexual experience. We might then ask why Christian scholars were unaware of this, and Ruden has an answer: away in their seminaries, they know very little about the ancient world.

Looking over fuller scholarly literature on the komos, I notice Tragedy and Athenian Religion (2003) by Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood, in which we learn “the komos at the Dionysia consisted of ritual dining on beds of ivy leaves, and of its aftermath, which involved among other things, drunken men in masks participating in the reception of Dionysos.”

So, where you’d begun asserting that ‘orgies’ had a sexual focus, i.e. that sexual expression was the theological problem, I have to wonder if the komos was a ritual in pagan religion. That would be a huge problem, since it would then involve worship of a rival deity.

So where do we go next to root a ban on looking at naked people?

religion. sex. facts.

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