>Androgyny

>On my post on The Bible and Sex, I wrote: “[Knust’s] premise is that the story of creation of the first human person in Genesis 1 was a case of androgyny, that is, that the first person was both male and female and had the genitals of both sexes.”

A reader, David Reimer, left this comment on my post: “Well, if you’re going to plagiarize someone, it might as well be Plato.”

David is referring to “The Symposium,” a work by Plato that is dated to c. 385 B. C. “The Symposium” deals with the purpose and nature of love.

The following information about the content of “The Symposium” was taken from the Wikipedia:

Love is examined in a sequence of speeches by men attending a symposium, or drinking party. Each man must deliver an encomium, a speech in praise of Love (Eros). The party takes place at the house of the tragedian Agathon in Athens. Socrates in his speech asserts that the highest purpose of love is to become a philosopher or, literally, a lover of wisdom. The dialogue has been used as a source by social historians seeking to throw light on life in ancient Athens, in particular upon sexual behavior, and the symposium as an institution.

. . . .

Aristophanes (speech begins 189c): he at first skips his turn because of a bout of hiccups. The eminent comic playwright has become a focus of subsequent scholarly debate. His contribution has been seen as mere comic relief, and sometimes as satire: the creation myth he puts forward to account for heterosexuals and homosexuals may be read as poking fun at the myths of origin numerous in classical Greek mythology.

Below is a summary of Aristophanes’s speech in which he mentioned androgyny:

Aristophanes

Before launching his speech, Aristophanes warns the group that his eulogy to love may be more absurd than funny. His speech is an explanation of why people in love say they feel “whole” when they have found their love partner. It is, he says, because in primal times people had doubled bodies, with faces and limbs turned away from one another. As somewhat spherical creatures who wheeled around like clowns doing cartwheels (190a), these original people were very powerful. There were three sexes: the all male, the all female, and the “androgynous,” who was half man, half woman. The creatures tried to scale the heights of heaven and planned to set upon the gods (190b-c). Zeus thought about blasting them to death with thunderbolts, but did not want to deprive himself of their devotions and offerings, so he decided to cripple them by chopping them in half, in effect separating the two bodies.

Zeus then turned half their faces around and pulled the skin tight and stitched it up to form the belly button. Ever since that time, people run around saying they are looking for their other half because they are really trying to recover their primal nature. He says some people think homosexuals are shameless, but he thinks they are the bravest, most manly of all (192a), and that many heterosexuals are adulterous men and unfaithful wives (191e). Aristophanes ends on a cautionary note. He says that men should fear the gods, and not neglect to worship them, lest they wield the axe again and we have to go about with our noses split apart (193a).

I want to thank David Reimer for this reference.

Read Also:

The Bible and Sex

What the Bible Doesn’t Say About Sex

Androgyny

The Androgyny of the First Human

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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