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Unprotected Texts: The Bible's Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire

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Overview

Think You Know What the Bible Really Says About Sex? Think Again.

Is premarital sex a sin? When, and in what contexts, is sexual desire appropriate? With whom can I legitimately have sex? Are same-sex relations permissible? With fresh scholarship and unflagging compassion, Jennifer Wright Knust addresses the questions that dominate today’s debates over sex and the Bible. At a time when the words “the Bible says” are too often wielded for social and political gain, it’s time to consider what scripture actually does—or does not—say about monogamy, homosexuality, gender roles, and sex.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a refreshingly sensible tone, Knust, assistant professor of religion at Boston University, tackles today’s most contentious biblical texts and brings to light some intriguing others in this effort to detail and explain what the Bible says about sex. Although it is academic in its embrace of biblical scholarship and treatment of texts, this is also a personal book. Knust, a lifelong Baptist (and ordained as an American Baptist pastor), begins with an anecdote from her childhood that defends the value of studying and questioning the Bible. Matters of how biblical interpretations bear on real issues for people today are never far from the discussion. As Knust is clear-eyed in showing the Bible’s acceptance of polygamy, slavery, prostitution, and premarital sex, she calls into question facile judgments and absolutist claims about “what the Bible says.” In her able hands, readers will learn and appreciate the variety of ways that the Bible treats and judges sex. She also demands of readers that they then think for themselves about how biblical texts should be interpreted and applied. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Knust (religion, Boston Univ.), an American Baptist pastor, faces directly the diversity, even the self-contradiction, of biblical teachings about sex, sexuality, and desire and argues that biblical interpretations should be judged by their value, not by their validity, a perspective she finds practiced by Jesus Christ and by very important first- to fourth-century Christian leaders who creatively claimed "that the law and the prophets are, when read correctly, all about Jesus Christ." Christians, she writes, "are not passive recipients of what the Bible says, but active interpreters who make decisions about what we will believe and what we will affirm." Knust asserts that, rather than fixed, unmediated God-given meanings, Christians have been given the Holy Spirit, a community of disciples, and the Gospel of John; she cautions against interpretations which are "shallow and self-serving." VERDICT This book is a tour de force of biblical and cultural interpretation that deserves prayerful consideration by all would-be biblical interpreters. Very highly recommended for seminary, academic, and public libraries.—Carolyn M. Craft, formerly with Longwood Univ., Farmville, VA
Newsweek
“[Knust mines] the Bible for its earthiest and most inexplicable tales about sex…to show that the Bible’s teachings on sex are not as coherent as the religious right would have people believe.”
Booklist (starred review)
“[An] impressive and highly readable analysis of Old and New Testament Bible stories.... For those wanting to understand the Bible as a chronicle of human conduct for achieving the goals of survival, peace, and fulfillment, this is a treasure.”
Booklist
"[An] impressive and highly readable analysis of Old and New Testament Bible stories.... For those wanting to understand the Bible as a chronicle of human conduct for achieving the goals of survival, peace, and fulfillment, this is a treasure."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061725586
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/25/2011
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Jennifer Wright Knust is assistant professor of religion at Boston University, specializing in New Testament, biblical studies, and early Christian history. An ordained American Baptist pastor, she has served churches in Philadelphia and Maine. She holds a doctorate in religion from Columbia University and a master of divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York. She is the author of Abandoned to Lust: Sexual Slander and Ancient Christianity.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Why the Bible Is Not a Sexual Guidebook 1

Chapter 1 The Bible and the Joy of Sex

Desire In and Out of Control 23

Chapter 2 Biblical Marriage

There Is No Single View on Marriage Presented in the Bible 47

Chapter 3 The Evil Impulse

Disordered and Ordered Desire 79

Chapter 4 Sexual Politics

God's Wife, Cursing the Canaanites, and Biblical Sex Crimes 113

Chapter 5 Strange Flesh

The Sons of God and the Daughters of Men 153

Chapter 6 Bodily Parts

Circumcision, Semen, and the Products of a Woman's Womb 187

Conclusion So I Hear You Have Five Husbands 237

Acknowledgments 249

Notes 253

Bibliography 303

Index 335

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