About this blog

This Blog is named after an ancient gnoseological riddle which hints hidden, disseminated, omnipresent wisdom.
I invite you to search, listen and observe with me for "the word of tree, whisper of stone, and humming together of the abyss and stars."


Xenophobia draws divine wrath

The Biblical story this Sunday will bring us to the region of Sodom and Gomorrah. These legendary cities are famous for their sinfulness. But it is a different sinfulness that many might think! Those who associate these two cities with homosexuality show themselves to be redneck ignorami.
    Firstly: I wrote about this a year ago, homosexuality as such is a modern concept. If anything is under judgement in the Bible, it is not same gender attractions or love, but sexual violence!
    Secondly: Violence as the main factor behind this story is confirmed by a biblical parallel with an almost identical plot in Judges 19; there the brutality is heterosexual. Anyhow, both stories, in Genesis and in Judges, are not primarily about sexuality but about grave violations of the sacred code of hospitality and protection of strangers. In the classical Greek world these rules were called Xenia and if the strangers were gods in the disguise, they called it Theoxenia.
    Thirdly: The importance and influence of Xenia and Theoxenia is further illustrated from and confirmed in Greco-Roman literature. The closest classical parallel to Sodom and Gomorrah is the story of Baukis and Philemon as recorded by Ovid in his Metamorphoses.
    Baukis and Philemon, an elderly and poor couple one day welcomed two strangers after these weary pilgrims had been turned down by every other house in the town. The old couple offered their guest the best hospitality they could afford. And although the guests were feasting, the supplies were not running out. Thus the elderly couple started to suspect that they might have been visited by some divine guests. When they wanted to offer them their only goose, it ran for protection into the lap of one of the guests. At that point their guests put aside their disguises and revealed themselves as Zeus and Hermes (Jupiter and Mercury). Immediately the divine guests instructed the couple to leave the town and seek shelter upon the nearby hill. When they looked from the top, the entire valley was destroyed by a flood in a punishment for the inhabitants’ lack of hospitality to gods. The generous couple was granted long life together and further divine rewards and at the time of their death they were transformed into an intertwined oak and linden trees.
    Thus both the biblical as well as the ancient texts clearly show, that the crime of the proverbially sinful cities was a violation of the sacred rules of hospitality. The deadly sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was not rooted in any form of sexuality but in what we now might call xenophobia, the fear or even hatred of strangers.
    All of this is just an introduction to this Sunday’s biblical stories (Both from Hebrew as well as from Greek Testaments). They will show us the mystery of meeting god in strangers (theoxenia), how we can react and what is the proper way of extending our welcome and hospitality.
Peter Paul Rubens, Zeus and Hermes as guests in home of Philemon and Baukis

And for those who read this far: It is possible that Ovid might be dependent on the story from Genesis (the Genesis story was certainly older and Ovid might know it). On the other hand, the concept of theoxenia is well documented in classical literature. Also individual aspects of Ovid's story are so arranged that any direct influence is improbable. Most likely Ovid and Genesis are independent reworkings of some original oral version. The story in Genesis is more heavily edited and developed into a more complex story - human characters are split between two couples (Abraham and Sara and Lot and his wife). Escape from the city and  observation of the valley in Genesis is also divided and multiplied into observation before and after the catastrophe. Ovid clearly follows more simple and closer to original narrative line than Genesis. Biblical doublet in Judges 19 is an example of historicising (transforming into history) of an older legendary (mythical) story. Most likely it was part of a political spin of Judeans at the time of composition of Judges to justify their violence against the tribe of Benjamin - "they made us do it because of their Sodom-like behaviour".     

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