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A Tale of Two Cities: Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament, Early Jewish and Early Christian Traditions.

Since little systematic study has been devoted to the Sodom and Gomorrah traditions, Loader sets out to fill this lacuna. After analyzing Genesis 18 - 19, he covers all other OT references and then traces highlights of the use of those traditions in early Jewish and Christian literature up to about the fourth century.

Genesis 18-19 is a skillfully composed narrative complex of five units arranged concentrically: A: three men visit Abraham (18:1-16); B: Abraham's questions about Sodom (17-33); C: God's wrath over Sodom (19:1- 26); B': Abraham witnesses the destruction (27-29); A': Lot and his daughters (30-38). Other Jewish materials L. examines include texts from Genesis, the Prophets, the Apocrypha (Ben Sira and Wisdom of Solomon), the Pseudepigrapha (The Testaments of the 12 Patriarchs and The Book of Jubilees), Philo, Josephus, and rabbinic literature (Midrash Bereshith Rabbah). The early Christian literature he discusses includes the NT and a selection from patristic writers: Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Basil, Jerome, Augustine - Origen, however, is missing.

Since these texts have figured conspicuously in discussions of homosexuality, it might be useful to summarize L.'s conclusions regarding the sin of Sodom. The Sodomites violate the sacred law of hospitality and give themselves over to depravity of homosexual mob rape. The emphasis is on the social, not the sexual aspect of their sin (37). In continuity with Genesis, the prophets highlight this social aspect; occasionally a sexual dimension is also included, often adultery, as in Jer 23:14, and not homosexuality (65, 69, 70)! Josephus and the rabbis also develop this line of thought: the wealthy but stingy Sodomites sin through hatred and cruelty toward strangers (100, 112). It is particularly the influence of Augustine that pushes homosexuality into the center of the debate (136).

While more work certainly will need to be done, especially on the later uses of the tradition, L. has provided a clearly written and argued foundation on which to build.
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Author:Guinan, Michael D.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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