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three pairs of lovers with space



David and Jonathan is an essay by American scholar the Reverend Donald H. Mader (1948-2022), finished in Rotterdam on 12 January 2003, but never published. The title refers to David (ca. 1040-ca. 970 BC), the best known King of Israel, and his passionately loved older friend, the Israelite prince Jonathan (died ca. 1010 BC).


Donatello. David 2 dtl
Back of Donatello's David
 Donatello. David 1 dtl
David by Donatello, 1440/3

David and Jonathan, along perhaps with Jesus and the beloved disciple, have been staples in the attempts to find positive images for homosexuality in the Bible; both were being cited in that sense in English as early as Elizabethan and Stuart times.[1] However, with the text of David's lament on the death of Jonathan (II Sam. 1:22-27), the relation of David and Jonathan has commanded the imagination far more strongly, and lent itself far more to polemic purposes.[2] In almost all cases, the relationship has been characterised as one between two men[3] - with Jonathan if anything being pictured as “submissive and perhaps somewhat effeminate”.[4] Furthermore, the story has always been considered as an autonomous commentary on homosexuality, never as having any theological significance. Outside religious circles, in gay scholarship, the David and Jonathan relationship has been cited with some regularity as a biblical parallel to those other ancient texts which deal with the passionate love of two men for one another, the Iliad, with the relation of Achilles and Patrocles, and the Gilgamesh epic.[5]

Recently something of a bombshell has been dropped on this rather cosy interpretative world, in the form of an essay, “YHWH as Erastes”, by Theodore Jennings, of Chicago Theological Seminary, appearing in the collection Queer Commentary and the Hebrew Bible.[6] My intention this evening is to notice that article and its implications, provide some insight into what the real nature of the Jonathan and David relation would have been, and the theological context that Jennings discovers for it. I will also provide a couple of points of critique for his article.

Verrocchio. David pre 1476 dtl
David by Andrea del Verrocchio, ca. 1474

Before we begin with the topic itself, a word about what “queer commentary” or “queer reading” entails. The idea is that texts, when read by someone with a peculiar ‘slant’ or ‘angle’ - a ‘queer’ stance that is at an angle to that of the majority in society - will yield up particular meanings, even “truths” (plural, for there are multiple possible angles), meanings which were otherwise invisible, sort of like the hologram on a credit card or Euro note, which can be seen only at certain angles. This is related on the one hand to the old Liberation Theology contention that the poor hear the Torah and Gospel in a different way than the rich - the latter hear the call for justice, for instance, procedurally, while the poor hear it as about fundamental fairness. It is also related to the postmodern contention that there is no one ‘truth’, but only endless discourses, each of which are ‘true’ for those performing them. At any rate, queer reading is about plausibility: a story can plausibly yield a ‘queer’ meaning when seen from a ‘queer’ angle. But that does not imply that the meaning was put there intentionally by the author - it could just as well have entered the story unintentionally, as a reflection of the author's basic assumptions, or subconsciously, or it could even be the reader's own creation - nor does it imply that the reading is necessarily factually or historically ‘true’; it may be ‘true’ only in the sense that fiction is ‘true’. Here, in this paper, I am going to go beyond ‘queer reading’ at one point, and argue that in the case of the historical, socially determined relationship of Jonathan and David, the process of queer reading does allow us to see an historical and social fact to which our contemporary society is blind. In the case of the relation of the Lord and David, or the Lord and Israel, we must however remain at the level of readings: the approximate, metaphorical nature of all speaking about God, and the ultimate unknowability and transcendence of God mean that we cannot ever claim the truth there.

Jennings’s first point is obvious from the presence of the Greek word erastes in his title. It is, of course, one of the pair of Greek words, erastes and eromenos, which describe the adult and minor, respectively, in a classic Greek love relationship. Controversial as the suggestion that Jonathan’s relation with David was a pederastic relationship is, not only to those who have a problem seeing the Jonathan and David relationship as homoerotic but also to those who have appropriated it as a positive example of egalitarian “gay” relationships, Jennings's point is really so self-evident that one can hardly believe it has been missed all these years, unless that is a matter of wilful misrepresentation and refusal to see the obvious.

Reni Guido. Young David ca. 1620
Young David by Guido Reni, ca. 1620

Jennings begins by placing the traditional Jonathan and David pairing in a whole series or pattern of similar age and/or status differentiated pairings which occur especially in I Samuel, although also in the book of Judges which precedes it. In I Samuel you have not only Jonathan and David, you have Saul and David, Saul and his armour bearers and boy servants, Jonathan and his armour bearers, and, dropping back into the book of Judges, one finds Abimelech and his armour bearer (9:54). Jennings then adds to this list of human relationships two more relations which exhibit similar asymmetry: the Lord and Saul, and the Lord and David. Although Jennings will later discuss other common elements in these relationships, the first and obvious one is that all involve a warrior and his boy companion or armour bearer.

Now, this is not an unfamiliar configuration for homoerotic and homosexual relationships in warrior societies - a designation which precisely fits the Israelites in the period of Joshua, Judges and I and II Samuel. We need to here drop back not one but three steps, to appreciate the full background for this.

Rembrandt. The Separation of David and Jonathan 1642
The Separation of David and Jonathan by Rembrandt, 1642

Although we - at least in the West - tend to think today of homosexuality in the “gay” paradigm of two individuals of equal age and status, both sharing the same gender orientation, who are exclusively oriented to same-sex experiences, if viewed from the perspective of either history or cross-cultural studies the paradigm is rather different. Viewed cross-culturally and diachronically there appear to be three different patterns for homosexuality: it can take age-structured (sometimes also called age-stratified or age-differentiated) forms, where the partners are older and younger, often neither of whom will be exclusively homosexual; as the younger partner ages, relations of this sort will also necessarily be of limited duration, at least at their full intensity, and are frequently associated with social initiation of some nature. Homosexuality may also be gender-structured (gender-differentiated), where irrespective of their genetically determined sex the one partner takes on the gender roles of the other sex; perhaps the most obvious example where would be butch and femme lesbian relationships, or the Latino configuration of homosexuality where the maricon abandons any claim on male social status while the macho who has sex with him is regarded as retaining his male role. Or it may take an ‘egalitarian’ or non-stratified form, where the two partners in the relationship are of equivalent age and both outwardly enact the gender roles of their sex. This last is the modern, Western ‘gay’ paradigm. All three patterns will be practised to at least some degree in all societies and all eras, but in each society one (or sometimes two) will predominate, perhaps be tolerated or even institutionalised. Similarly in each historical era which pattern will be dominant will differ: the marginalisation of boy-lovers and effeminate homosexuals over the past fifty years in Western society being a case in point.[7]

Dore Gustave. David and Jonathan 1843
David and Jonathan by Gustave Doré, 1843

The first of these paradigms, that of age-structured relationships, is particularly associated with initiation of various kinds, with the preparation of young males to enter adult society, training them in male skills of hunting or war, or more general mentoring. A major subdivision of this mentoring, training or initiatory function of age-structured relationships is found in warrior societies, where it plays a role in the training of the next generation of warriors. Among the best known examples are the samurai and their pages in Japan.[8] It was practiced among the Celts and Gauls - Diodorus of Sicily writes of Gallic warriors sleeping on bearskins with a boy companion on each side[9] - and rather widely distributed among various African tribes.[10] It also was found in Melanesia, most famously in New Guinea among the Sambians and other tribes whose customs were documented over the past few decades, before being wiped out by modern, Westernizing pressures.[11] The locus classicus is, however, ancient Greece, and in particular Crete. Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, Strabo and Diogenes Laeritus all concur that the custom of initiatory pederasty entered Greek life from the Cretan custom of a warrior ‘kidnapping’ - an arranged, ritual abduction of which the boy’s friends and parents would be aware, but not the boy himself - a boy of about 12, whom he would then train to hunt and fight, at the end of the period - when the boy began to grow a beard - presenting him with the traditional three gifts: a suit of armour and weapons, an ox, and a drinking cup. This custom was taken over in adapted form by Sparta, and eventually was the basis for the whole familiar structure of Greek age-differentiated ‘Greek love’, with the erastes and eromenos.[12]

Leighton Frederic. Jonathans Token to David ca. 1868
Jonathan's Token to David by Sir Frederic Leighton, ca. 1878

With these successive backdrops of age-structured homosexuality, initiatory pederasty and in particular its function in warrior societies, it should be no surprise to find some sort of age-structured, warrior initiation in Hebrew society of the period of the entry into Canaan, when they Israelites (or at least a significant portion of the people who were to become the biblical Israelites) were most certainly a warrior society. Although there is nothing which says that all warrior societies share this custom, it is certainly what could be expected. The refusal to see what is clearly being described in I Samuel and the books around it can only be attributed to the fact that such a custom would be so unexpected in light of later Jewish and Christian attitudes that it never occurred to scholars to read the evidence for what it was saying - or reject it with a shudder if the truth did dawn on them.

Now, let us look at the specific dynamics of the relationships mentioned, with reference to one of the key Hebrew words used, na'ar, or boy, which designated a male minor between about seven - the age at which boys moved from the company of women to male society (the criterion eventually given in the Talmud is when a boy will not cry for his mother if he wakes up in the middle of the night) - and fourteen to seventeen or so, when boys assumed adult status, as determined by both their social and physical development.

Delaunay Jules Elie 1828 91. David
David by Jules Élie Delaunay

Let us begin with our introduction to Saul, in I Samuel 9:2. Saul is here called a bachuwr, a term for someone who could be 'selected' for war. On his search for his father's missing herd of asses, he is accompanied by a na’ar, a boy companion. Jennings suggests that the degree to which they interact in the story - it is the boy who suggests consulting Samuel, which leads to the nomination of Saul as king - indicates that this must be more than a youngster merely functioning as a porter. Be that as it may, the age of the boy is repeatedly emphasized in verses 9:5, 8, 22, 27 and 10:14. Saul, after his ascension to the throne, will later take David on as his armour bearer (16:21-22), and after David has been alienated, takes on a final young armour bearer, who refuses to kill him but commits suicide with him, in I Samuel 31:4-6.

The next character we meet is Jonathan, in I Samuel 13:2. He is already a military commander at this point, having defeated the Philistines at Geba. He too is accompanied by a boy companion, a na’ar (14:2, 6), an armour bearer who goes with him on his daring raid at Michmash, which finally spurs his hesitating father to attack. See particularly verse 14:7 for their relation: “Behold, I am with you; as is your mind, so is mine.” Both this episode, and the role of his father’s boy companion in his selection as king, would amply seem to justify Jennings’s observation: “We have an apparently younger companion of somewhat lower status who is nevertheless a full partner in the adventures of the hero and who shares in the remembered glory of the hero.” (p. 41)

Ebbinghaus Wilhelm. David and Jonathan 1894
David and Jonathan by Wilhelm Ebbinghaus, 1894

Later, in the famous episode where Jonathan warns David of Saul’s determination to kill him, Jonathan’s boy companion is again repeatedly designated as a na’ar (20:21, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41). Jennings pregnantly observes that this could not have been just any palace servant, but given the danger of the exposure of Jonathan’s plot to assist David, someone whose loyalty Jonathan must have trusted implicitly.

The next character we meet is David. The narrative is complicated here - indeed, there appear to be two separate narratives which have been interwoven rather clumsily by the final editor of the book of Samuel[13] - but the one specifically also identifies David, at the time he killed Goliath, as a na’ar (17:55, 58). His introduction to Jonathan follows, in Chapter 18; given Jonathan’s status as a successful adult warrior, and David's status as a na’ar - though he was quickly to surpass his tutors in the arts of war - their relationship must also be read as an age-structured one. Those commentaries which here reference the exchange of armour between Glaucus and Diomede in the Iliad (VI.230)[14] have this wrong; this is not sealing an egalitarian friendship, but more likely parallel to the presentation of weapons to the trainee who has proven himself (see David’s own remark in 17:39 that he at that point is unworthy of arms!). And despite the rather incongruous introduction of David as a “skilful musician, a man of valour, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence” (all this, and he was still tending sheep!) in the other account (16:18, RSV), David is also specifically identified as a na’ar in 17:33. To those who may object that this young boy’s advance to being a military commander is too fast to be credible, and the author must have the theological purpose of reducing his age in order to emphasize God's miraculous power (something of this sort is evidently afoot where Joshua is described as a na’ar in Ex. 33:11, well after his defeat of the Amalekites in chapter 17!), it might be answered that we today tend to infantalise young people for much too long in the name of protecting them.

Lefebvre Jules Joseph. David Calming the Wrath of Saul 1894 dtl
                                David Calming the Wrath of Saul by Jules Joseph Lefebvre, 1894

It is curious that David himself is not shown as taking on any boy companion in his later career. That may have to do with the changing social situation, as his role moved from that of a warrior chieftain to a monarch. On the other hand, it is equally interesting to note that members of David’s company at the time of the incident with Nabal (chapter 25) are repeatedly identified as na’ar, which would make it sound as if the group gathered at the Cave of Adullam were less a collection of anarchists than a teenage youth gang.

Kaufmann Hugo 1868 1919. David dtl
David by Hugo Kaufmann
Moreau Louis Auguste 1855 1919. David bronze dtl 2
David by L. A.  Moreau

Be all that as it may, Saul and Jonathan are adults, their armour bearers, including David for the period he fulfilled that role, were minors. Jennings then notes two other characteristics in these relationships. The first is the role that physical beauty plays. Both accounts mention David’s beauty as a youth; famously, I Samuel 16:12 praises the beauty of David – “He was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look upon”; and the same terms are used in 17:42. The second is the role of psychological loyalty between the partners. For this he adduces a series of examples: the na’ar of Abimelech, who honours his master's request to kill him, lest he go down in history as being killed by a woman; the loyalty to Saul, even after all that has happened, which still prevents David in the cave at En-gedi from slaying the man who had been his erastes (Chapter 24); the loyalty between Jonathan and David, which led Jonathan to defy his father the king, and protect David, and David to show favour to Mephibosheth, the grandson of Jonathan,[15] for years afterward (II Samuel 4:4, Chapter 9, 19:24-30, 21:7); and lastly the final armour bearer of Saul, who refuses to raise his hand against his master, but commits suicide with him. Neither the beauty of the younger partner, nor the standard of mutual loyalty, should be unexpected in such relationships, if one is familiar with Greek parallels, for instance the story of Harmodius and Aristogeiton[16] or the ‘Army of Lovers’, the Theban Sacred Band.

Bouguereau Elizabeth. The Shepherd David
The Shepherd David by Elizabeth Bouguereau

However consistently our English Bible translations may have obscured the fact by rendering na’ar as “young man”,[17] what is clear from both the Hebrew words and the relationship described is that the first characteristic of all these relations is that they conform to the age-structured warrior/boy companion model. Thus we have comprehensively come to the answer of our first question: the relation of Jonathan and David - as was also the relation between Saul and David - was an age-structured warrior/boy companion relationship, with Jonathan as the adult partner. This is quite the opposite from what has always been assumed among those who took it to be a more or less egalitarian relationship, with Jonathan perhaps as the weaker partner.

But Jennings has still more - much more - to say. He is not merely interested in characterising the historical relationship between the human characters, but in its theological application. And that is where his title comes in. Having identified the relations in I Samuel as warrior/boy companion relations, he now suggests that the author of these accounts conceived the relation between the Lord and Saul, and later between the Lord and David, in the same terms: YHWH as erastes, Saul and David as his eromenoi.

Uptton Clive. David the shepherd boy 2. 1962
David the Shepherd Boy by Clive Uptton in the Ladybird book Children of the Bible, 1962

Let us begin with the status of the Lord. He is at this period the Warrior God of Israel, the God of Armies (Ps. 24:10), the Lord Mighty in Battle (Ps. 76) who lives in a tent, always on campaign. Until after the period of David he refuses to be 'domesticated' and live in a house. (Indeed, He flatly turns down David's attempt to have him trade in his tent for a house (II Samuel 7); this is not just a matter of maintaining his superior and independent position in their relationship, but also of maintaining his independence and identity as a warrior). He is not merely defending his people but leading them in conquest. It is an image for God which we may not be comfortable with today, but undeniably one of the ways God has been known to his people.

This Warrior God picks his companions in the same way any warrior chieftain would. One of his criteria is beauty. Saul may be too old for the standard armour bearer - he is not a na’ar - but his beauty is emphasized in I Samuel 9:2: “a handsome young man, and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he...” David’s beauty too is emphasized, as we have seen, in 16:12 - and however much that may have played a role in Saul and Jonathan being taken with him, at the point where it is emphasized it is the Lord who is doing the choosing! Apparently it was not only Jonathan and Saul who had an eye for David’s attractiveness. But Jennings notes, interestingly, that the people of Israel also appear to have assumed that two of David’s sons whose beauty is also emphasized - Absalom (II Sam. 14:25) and Adonijah (I Kings 1:6) - would be the Lord’s choices for kingship; thus the view that the Lord was swayed by physical beauty in his choice of male companions would seem to have been widely shared by the people of Israel. However, the loyalty of the Lord to David is greater than his appreciation for beauty; he remains true to David when Absalom rebels, rather than switching allegiance to the handsome younger man. And of course loyalty and obedience is a principle on the side of the human partner; Saul disobeys, proves unworthy and untrustworthy, and is dismissed as a companion. David, for all his moral failures, ultimately remains loyal to his erastes. In the end, in his loyalty, the old Warrior ‘adopts’ David’s son - the son of his old companion - to continue the relationship (II Sam. 7:12; somewhat in the same way David adopted Jonathan’s grandson Mephibosheth; Jennings indeed finds it significant that the one event is ‘framed’ by the other).[18]

Robin Bible Stories front cover of dust jacket   David defends his flock
David defending his flock, as a coverboy

But there is a still larger theological framework, one in which the whole relationship between the Lord and the people of Israel could also be conceived in the same terms: Israel is the chosen companion, who must be holy and loyal to its Erastes throughout the battles.

Of course, this is not the only sexual metaphor we have for the Lord’s relation to Israel. There is Hosea’s extended and acted-out metaphor of Israel as the adulterous wife/whore and the Lord's enduring love (Hos. 1-3; also picked up in Jer. 3:1-3), and the almost pornographic excess of Ezekiel 16. These all involve ‘transgendering’ Israel as a female, and are of course a negative sexual metaphor, the epitome of the one partner's unfaithfulness in the face of the other Partner's unchanging love. In contrast the metaphor of the erastes and eromenos is thoroughly masculine (like the pattern of homosexuality on which it is based, it does not involve diminution of the masculinity of the eromenos, but contributes precisely to his development both as a person and a man), and positive, with the emphasis on the value of enduring loyalty. It is of course anthropomorphic, and only one of the many matrices for thinking about our experience with God - along with others such as Father, Husband, King, Shepherd, Mother, Judge, Vineyard Owner - and like each of them will have its strengths and weaknesses, and speak more to some times, and some individuals, than to others. But as Shneur Horowitz, an Hasidic rabbi with whom I correspond, noted in response to the article, “If one holds, as Judaism does, that EVERYTHING in this world was created the way it was specifically to teach us something about the otherwise unknowable nature of God, then it follows that naturally occurring relationships among human beings have especial pedagogic application to the various aspects of our relationship with the LORD.”[19] In the pattern of age-structured homosexuality we can see, then, how the Lord chooses, mentors, and initiates us into a fullness of life - an ‘adulthood’ - with Him, and learn of the value of trustworthiness and loyalty that are important in our continuing relationship with Him. We need to thank Jennings for having first seen the stories of Saul, Jonathan and David in their historical and social context, and then seen the theological importance of their inclusion in Scripture, thus adding God as Erastes to the list.

David and Jonathan in Look and Learn
David and Jonathan in Look and Learn

There are several problems with Jennings’s article which must be briefly mentioned. Although he does explicitly state that the relationships he is discussing must be regarded as "pederastic"  - the dread word appears on page 37 - he also shies away from fully following up the implications of na’ar, instead carefully avoiding them with his formulation on page 39, “the primary companions of adult and young adult warriors are younger males”. Well, yes, but not exactly.

A second point which I would question is Jennings's contention that the YHWH as heterosexual Lover/Husband motif was a later development from the YHWH as Erastes motif. One could argue both that the former occurs only in later documents, and that logically it would occur not in pastoral, warrior culture but in later, more settled cities and towns where prostitution was a social fact, but there were clearly enough towns in Canaan that I suspect heterosexual attraction, and adultery, were theological metaphors that developed parallel with, rather than out of, homosexual metaphors.

David and Jonathan. 21st
Jonathan and David

Finally, Jennings makes a major point in the conclusions of his article, where he compares the Hebrew erastes/eromenos accounts with those of the Greeks, that the Hebrew accounts focus more on the experience of the eromenos (“the view from the bottom” as he punningly puts it), and thus, with the figure of the eromenos fully developed, both express more of an ‘equality in inequality’ than do their Greek counterparts, and are much more psychologically complex than the Greek accounts. In point of fact the latter is probably true; there is not a great deal of psychological complexity in the Greek myths, and while one never hears what Ganymede or Iolaus felt about the state of affairs, one also does not learn much about the internal life of Zeus or Hercules either. Greek myths are simply a different kind of literature, with different interests than Hebrew narrative. But there is also the theological point which Jennings, curiously, suddenly seems to miss at this point. The Hebrew accounts here are ultimately not about a view from the bottom. Following up on Rabbi Shneur’s observation: for all the psychological reality in these accounts, the real reason they are preserved as Scripture is because of what they tell us about the Lord. The Lord is always the only real subject of Scripture.


[1]  Ward Houser cites Abraham Cowley's epic poem "Davideis" (1656) as the earliest treatment of their relationship in English letters: W. Houser, “David and Jonathan”, in: Encyclopedia of Homosexuality (New York: Garland, 1990), Vol. 1, 298. The first citation of the Beloved Disciple in English in that context is fifty years earlier, in the infamous Baines' accusation that one of Christopher Marlow's 'damnable opinions' was that “St. John the Evangelist was bedfellow to Christ... that he used him as the sinners of Sodoma”; such opinions are recorded in Italian legal records fifty years before that yet. [Author’s footnote]

David as shepherd 01
David the Shepherd Boy

[2]  For instance, Edward Carpenter cites their relation in his Iolaus, An Anthology of Friendship (London, Sonnenschein, 1902), 6-7; the lamentation is included in Men and Boys: An Anthology (New York: privately printed, 1924, reprint New York: Coltsfoot, 1978), p. 5. For Jeremy Bentham’s polemic use of the story, unpublished in his lifetime, see L. Crompton, Byron and Greek Love: Homophobia in 19th Century England (Berkeley, U. of California, 1985), 276-7. For Byron's own reference to their story in response to his relation with the choirboy John Edleston, see ibid., 102-3, and Fiona MacCarthy's new Byron biography, Byron, Life and Legend (London: Murray, 2002), p. 60-61. Although the names of David and Jonathan appear in the context of passionate friendship, not an avowal of homosexuality, and in a list of adult pairs including lesbians, Byron intuitively got the nature of the biblical relationship right. A further, thorough enumeration of literary and polemic uses of the story is given in Raymond-Jean Frontain’s entry "The Bible", in C.J. Summers, ed., Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage (New York: Holt, 1995), pp. 94-97. [Author’s footnote]

[3]  T. Horner, Jonathan Loved David: Homosexuality in Biblical Times (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978), Chapter 2; cf. also D.S. Bailey, Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition (London: Longmans, 1955), p. 56-7, who also appears somewhat dubious about whether this represents homosexuality at all; Martti Nissinen, Homoeroticism in the Biblical World: A Historical Perspective (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998), 55, speaks of the “intimate camaraderie of two young soldiers” and the “equality of the two men”. [Author’s footnote]

[4]  Houser, op. cit., p. 297. [Author’s footnote]

[5]  See for instance David Greenberg, The Construction of Homosexuality (Chicago: U. of Chicago, 1988), "The Love of Warriors", 110-16, and David Halpern, One Hundred Years of Homosexuality (New York: Routledge, 1990), “Heroes and their Pals”, 75-87. Frontain (op cit., p. 96) also places David and Jonathan in the company of Damon and Pythias, Achilles and Patroclus, et al. [Author’s footnote]

[6]  Theodore W. Jennings, Jr., “YHWH as Erastes”, in: Ken Stone, ed., Queer Commentary and the Hebrew Bible (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2001) 36-73. [Author’s footnote]

[7]  Although David Greenberg, The Construction of Homosexuality is the earliest to posit a similar four-part classification of types of homosexuality, the now arguably classic tripartite division of homosexuality into transgenerational, transgenderal and egalitarian relationships appears to have been first made in Robert Baum's 1993 ethnographic study “Homosexuality and the Traditional Religions of the Americas and Africa,” in A. Swidler, ed., Homosexuality and World Religions (Valley Forge, Pa.: Trinity Press, 1993), pp. 1-46. It has since been widely popularised in the prolific ethnographic work of Stephen O. Murray; a particularly succinct elaboration of the concept being found in the theoretical chapters of S.O. Murray and W. Roscoe, Boy-Wives and Female Husbands: Studies in African Homosexualities (New York: St. Martin's, 1998). [Author’s footnote]

[8]  See T. Watanabe and J. Iwata, The Love of the Samurai (London: GMP, 1989). [Author’s footnote]

[9]  Diodorus of Sicily, Library of History V.32.7; see Erick Pontalley, “Celtic Pederasty in Pre-Roman Gaul”, in: Paidika 2:2 (1990), 32-39, reprinted in J. Geraci, ed., Dares to Speak (London: GMP, 1997), 138-147. [Author’s footnote]

[10]  See Murray and Roscoe, op. cit. particularly Appendix II; see also the classic work on the Azande by E.E. Evans-Pritchard, “Sexual Inversion among the Azande”, in: American Anthropologist 72 1428-34. Carpenter, in Iolaus, p. 14, already takes note of such customs, from Livingstone’s reports on his African travels. [Author’s footnote]

[11]  This research is associated with Gilbert Herdt, and found in his own books and collections edited by him: G. Herdt, Guardians of the Flutes: Idioms of Masculinity (New York: McGraw Hill, 1981); G. Herdt, ed., Rituals of Manhood: Male Initiation in Papua New Guinea (Berkeley: U. of California, 1982); G. Herdt, ed., Ritualized Homosexuality in Melanesia (Berkeley: U. of California, 1984); G. Herdt, Sambian Sexual Culture: Essays from the Field (Chicago: U. of Chicago, 1999). [Author’s footnote]

[12]  On this in general, see K.J. Dover, Greek Homosexuality (New York: Random House, 1980) Chapter IV, W.A. Percy, Pederasty and Pedagogy in Archaic Greece (Urbana: U. of Illinois, 1996), B. Sergent, Homosexuality in Greek Myth (Boston: Beacon, 1986). The chief ancient source is Strabo, Geography, X.4.21(483). [Author’s footnote]

[13]  Although there has been subsequent study of this matter, the introduction to I Samuel in the Interpreter's Bible, vol. 2, 857-8, remains a good summary of the problem. The "early source" story of David's arrival in Saul's court as a musician and armour bearer to Saul appears to include 16:14-23, 17:1-11, 32-40. 42-48a, 49 and 51-54; the alternative "late source" 16:1-13, 17:12-31, 41, 48b, 50, 55-18:5. Thus the former involves David being the boy companion of Saul, the latter of Jonathan. Both, however, confirm the pattern of the boy companion, and as we will see, both at one point or another also identify David as a na'ar. [Author’s footnote]

[14]  For instance, G.B. Caird, in his exegesis of I Samuel in the Interpreter's Bible, vol. 2, 981. [Author’s footnote]

Mephibosheth kneels before David from 13th c. Morgan Bible
Jonathan's son Mephibosheth kneels before King David (from the 13th-century Morgan Bible)

[15] The author is confused, twice calling Mephibosheth the grandson of Jonathan, when he was actually his son (2 Samuel 9 vi, etc.) [Website footnote].

[16]  A recent revision of the revisionist views on their story is S. Sara Monoson, "The Allure of Harmodius and Aristogeiton", in T. Hubbard, ed., Greek Love Reconsidered (New York: Wallace Hamilton Press, 2000). [Author’s footnote]

[17]  The only point where the translation has been consistently correct as "lad" is for Jonathan's companion I Samuel 20. [Author’s footnote]

[18]  Jennings also examines the interpersonal and erotic development of David's homoerotic relation with the Lord (including the dynamics of the Lord's refusal to accept the limiting gift of a house from his eromenos) in a close reading of the incident of David's moving the Ark to Jerusalem, his dancing naked before the Ark, Michal’s angry and scornful response to this, and David’s dialogue with the Lord (II Samuel 6 and 7), 48-67. An analysis of this section is not directly of importance to my task here, and I am not as thoroughly convinced by this section as I am by the rest of Jennings’s argument. [Author’s footnote]

[19]  Letter from Rabbi A. Shneur Horowitz, 7 November, 2002 (2 Kisleiv, 5763). [Author’s footnote]




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