The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology


In this reexamination of what it means to have a tradition, Catholic and otherwise, Mark D. Jordan offers a powerful and provocative study of the sin of erotic love between men. The Invention of Sodomy reveals the theological fabrication of arguments for categorizing genital acts between members of the same sex.
Read More Show Less
... See more details below
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (14) from $14.30   
  • New (8) from $20.46   
  • Used (6) from $14.30   
Sending request ...


In this reexamination of what it means to have a tradition, Catholic and otherwise, Mark D. Jordan offers a powerful and provocative study of the sin of erotic love between men. The Invention of Sodomy reveals the theological fabrication of arguments for categorizing genital acts between members of the same sex.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

James F. Keenan
[A] powerfully passionate esposé of about ten texts extending from the mid-10th to the mid-13th century. . . . Jordan's challenging though profoundly hopeful book makes a cogent case for the irrationality of bias, for the importance of the erotic, and for having confidence in revelation. -- Theological Studies
Kirkus Reviews
A scholarly critique of how the term "sodomy" arose in the Middle Ages and came to influence Roman Catholic moral discourse.

Although the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is at least as old as the book of Genesis, the view of sodomy as a form of sexual sin seems to have been invented in the 11th century by the Italian ascetic St. Peter Damian. Jordan (Medieval Institute/Notre Dame Univ.) restates the now generally accepted view that the sin leading to Sodom's destruction was transgression of the laws of hospitality rather than same-sex intercourse per se, and he gives some very relevant philosophical warnings about using centuries-old texts to find answers to modern questions. For example, there is no clear medieval equivalent for our concepts of "homosexuality" (a 19th-century neologism of forensic medicine) or, indeed, of "sexuality." Jordan's study begins with the Canoness Hrotswitha of Saxony's account of the martyrdom of St. Pelagius, who died rather than serve a caliph's sexual desires, and Peter Damian's Book of Gomorrah. Our author guides us adeptly through the writings of Alan of Lille, St. Albert the Great, and St. Thomas Aquinas, as well as several confessors' handbooks, as he explores how the terms "sodomite" and "sodomy" were used and notes inconsistencies in emphasis and argumentation. For example, Albert the Great, contrary to his normal method, omitted medical data from his Arabic sources that would have suggested a natural (and therefore morally positive) basis for sodomy. Jordan succeeds in showing that Thomas Aquinas's analyses of luxuria and unnatural vice are inadequate for contemporary Catholicism's evaluation of gay and lesbian relationships, but the methodological problems he highlights would seem to emphasize the tradition's stance that sexual intimacy belongs to heterosexual marriage.

A stimulating, if not quite convincing, contribution to Thomistic and gay studies.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

Meet the Author

Mark D. Jordan is the Reverend Priscilla Wood Neaves Distinguished Professor of Religion and Politics at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University. He was previously the Richard Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Divinity and Professor of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University and also taught at the University of Notre Dame and Emory University. He is the author or editor of more than a dozen books.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

A Prelude after Nietzsche: The Responsibilities of a History of Sodomy 1
1 The Passions of St. Pelagius 10
2 The Discovery of Sodomy 29
3 Peter Damian: Books in Gomorrah 45
4 Alan of Lille: Natural Artifices 67
5 The Care of Sodomites 92
6 Albert the Great: The Sodomitic Physiology 114
7 Thomas Aquinas: The Sin against Nature 136
A Postlude after St. Ambrose: The Responsibilities of a Theology of Sodomy 159
Works Cited 177
Index 187
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)