One of the real values of this study is Launderville’s ability to amass such a wealth of diverse material from three ancient civilizations and articulate it in such a way that is both understandable and meaningful. . . . The book is very well written with many syntheses and summaries to assist the reader in following each chapter’s presentation. The reader learns a great deal more than just the way celibacy was understood and practiced in the ancient world. The insights the author presents into the biblical material alone make the book well worth reading. . . . Finally, the author’s grasp of both modern and ancient theories and practices of human sexuality gives the book a credibility that is not always present in studies of celibacy and related topics.
The American Benedictine Review
The book represents a significant contribution to the field of biblical studies as it deals with material from Mesopotamia that may be unfamiliar to many biblical scholars
. This book should certainly appeal to biblicists, but it may also appeal to a larger audience concerned with the meaning of celibacy in contemporary culture.
Catholic Biblical Quarterly
Celibacy in the Ancient World is a deep, exceeding well researched and thought-provoking book. Seeing how the celibate way of life was possible in these three ancient cultures helps readers understand those human and natural factors within contemporary communities that call forth the practice of celibacy.
This volume provides a masterful treatment of celibacy in the ancient world. Dale Launderville discusses the topic in relationship to inner-household relationships, intermarriage, virginity and chastity, relationships with the divine, and transcending death’s limitations. Skillfully utilizing vastly diverse material from ancient Israel, Mesopotamia, and Greece, he illuminates how celibacy was understood within each society while also illustrating how the parallels mutually inform our understanding of celibacy in the ancient world.
John L. McLaughlin, Associate Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, Director of Advanced Degree Programs, Faculty of Theology, University of St. Michael's College, Toronto, Ontario
This wide-ranging book situates virginity, chastity, and celibacy within the larger social structure of the patriarchal household in Mesopotamia, Israel, and Greece. Drawing out the understandings of human sexuality in these three pre-Hellenistic cultures, this probing study examines sexual ‘outliers,’ such as the celibate prophet, Jeremiah. In this study, celibacy emerges as an effort to separate from customary social-sexual relations with a human partner in order to connect with the divine in a manner that would transcend death; it is, in other words, ‘a proleptic death and a quest for transcendence.’ The result is an understandingand a concrete rationale forthe symbolic value of celibacy in the modern world: ‘For one committed to a celibate life such sexual discipline is a fundamental means of shaping the ascetic body into a symbol of enduring life in the cosmic community.’ The result of this challenging book is a rethinking of sexual ‘outliers,’ based on a learned examination of t
The sheer abundance of scholarship in this book makes it well worth reading. But Father Dale Launderville has not only gathered and digested the traditions surrounding celibacy in Greece, Mesopotamia, and ancient Israel. His insights and interpretations are compelling and often inspiring. Father Launderville writes well and helps the reader with frequent summaries and conclusions. A must-read book!
Irene Nowell, OSB, Author of Women in the Old Testament (Liturgical Press)
The role of the divine in the celibate ideal and practice in the three ancient cultures studied by Dale Launderville, OSB, is pervasive and indispensable.
Old Testament Abstracts