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Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe [Paperback]

John Boswell
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 30 1995 Vintage
Both highly praised and intensely controversial, this brilliant book produces dramatic evidence that at one time the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches not only sanctioned unions between partners of the same sex, but sanctified them--in ceremonies strikingly similar to heterosexual marriage ceremonies.

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Customers buy this book with Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century CDN$ 30.20

Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe + Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The acceptance and sanctification of homosexual relations in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches during Medieval Europe are examined in this scholarly work.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Not since Boswell's Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (Univ. of Chicago Pr., 1981) have Christians of all creeds confronted a work that makes them look so closely at their notions of the relationship between the church and its gay and lesbian believers. Diligently researched and documented, this immensely scholarly work covers everything from the "paired" saints of Perpetua and Felicitas and Serge and Bacchus to lesbian transvestites in Albania. Examining evidence that the early church celebrated a same-sex nuptial liturgy, Boswell compares both Christian same-sex unions to Christian heterosexual unions and non-Christian same-sex unions to non-Christian heterosexual unions. Appendixes contain, among other things, translations and transcriptions of cited documents. Whether or not minds are changed on the matter will probably fall along sectarian lines, according to current attitudes on homosexuality. However, the work will provoke dialog. A groundbreaking book for academic, public, and theological libraries.
--Lee Arnold, Historical Society of Pennsylvania., Philadelphia
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The book which destroyed Boswell's reputation Feb. 17 2001
In this book, which was not well received by scholars, Boswell deals with two entirely different types of surviving documents. One is the relatively unknown "making of brothers" ceremony, which made two men brothers in Christ -- with no sexual implications at all.
The other document type is a simple wedding ceremony, meant to be used between men and women.
Amazingly, Boswell confuses or conflates these two totally different types of document! It is almost impossible to explain why Boswell reproduced a "brothers" ceremony in four sections, and then somehow appended a traditional heterosexual wedding ceremony as sections five and six of the "brothers" ceremony. He either made an incredible blunder, or was trying to pull wool over people's eyes....
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The other reviews cover most of the issues with this book admirably. One could have appropriately, but less titilatingly, retitled the book "Unions in Pre-Modern Europe", since his study was fairly balanced between two-sex and same-sex unions. It is certainly an eye-opener for those of the "traditional" marriage hue and cry. "Traditional" marriage as we see it today was unknown until the late middle ages, although that sort of union among same-sex couples was known from the earliest. The church did not recognize marriage as a sacrament until about 800 years ago. Those today who speak of traditional marriage need to read their history to know whereof they speak. I found his writing immensely readable and enjoyable. Although I have not yet read his first work, it is certainly now on my list.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not always opposites attract July 21 2003
Friends of mine who had been familiar with Boswell's first book, 'Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality', from its initial publication in 1980 waited impatiently for the follow-up volume. In the end, it took fourteen years to produce, and sadly, did not live up the expectations that had been given it.
Firstly, it did not in fact reveal (if such places exist, the not-always-so-hidden charge behind the disappointment) communities that had continued the practice of tolerance to same-sex couples through the last millenium within the structures of Christendom.
For part of the book he covers old ground, talking about the milieu of the Greco-Roman world, and talks about the development of the idea of marriage and liturgical practices for that. He then proceeds to give examples of liturgies which, Boswell claims, are proof that the church did recognise and bless same-sex unions. This claim is still debated, as there is no blantant 'I now pronounce you husband and husband (or wife and wife)' kinds of statements or liturgies here, but rather testimony to friendship, companionship, communal support, of a sort that is ambiguous.
While this book is important for liturgical forms and narrative discussion (although the narratives can be reinterpreted as something different from Boswell's), it failed to deliver the knock-out punch readers of the first book had been waiting for, i.e., conclusive proof the church was up to no good.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic misreading of history Feb. 18 2004
By matt
I find it amazing that so many readers think that Boswell, may he rest in peace, has discovered that in fact the early church actually blessed same sex unions. THis book, combined with his "Christianity, Social Tolorance, and Homosexuality", has done more to promote the legitimacy of homosexuality in theological terms than any other other, with Spong's half-baked attempts coming in a close second.
Please understand that I am not trying to bash gays or gays who are living the CHristian life. It is only that this sort of book misrepresents that tradition of the Church- east and west.
Read Boswell, by all means. But also read critiques. One very useful and kind critique is found in Marva Dawn's "Sexual Character" which goes into great detail about the scholarship of Boswell. I must say that the question is so very important to the Church and society and the Church should not be vindictive or loose withthe facts- but neither should those who disagree with the Tradition.
THere are several thorough reviews of Boswell's books at First THings so I won't repeat what is written there. However, I would suggest that we all need to be careful in reading into texts and history what would make us feel better about ourselves. Orthodox and heretic both do this, and it is exactly why we need to listen carefully to all sides as dispassionately as possible.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe Oct. 6 2009
Throughout history, ancient or modern, homosexual relationships have been viewed with disgust and shame, therefore "the love that dare not speak it's name". Because of that, most were never documented, or if they were, they have remained lost or destroyed. John Boswell, in his years of research, studies and eventual writing of these memoirs, brings into focus the realities and the existence of these relationships. While most will agree that homosexual relationships have existed alongside heterosexual relationships in ancient empires such as Greece, Rome and the Middle East, John Boswell has fine tuned these relationships and explained in great detail how they were regarded and respected within ancient societies. A surprise for some, would be the acceptance factor that was held by some churchs and religions in the early days for same gender relationships. Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe is well worth the read, somewhat intense in style of writing, but John Boswell's presentation reflects his attention to detail and his dedication to the concept that these stories must be told and preserved for all generations.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking enlightenment
I have now read this book twice and both times I find myself looking at great scholarship. However, there is something missing. Read more
Published on April 15 2004 by Michael Dennis
Boswell's book should be read by everyone interested in some kind of "fixed union", even heterosexuals who want to be married by the Church. Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2004 by "finch334"
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Scholarship
I couldn't disagree more with claims that this book is dry. As a student planning to become a historian focusing on homosexual history (one that is interested in the pre-1869 "gay... Read more
Published on Dec 19 2002 by Jon Cruz
3.0 out of 5 stars Great thesis wrong approach
This book had some interesting things to say but it went about it in the wrong way. First of all, I think this book demonstrates that marriage is more then superficial ceremonies... Read more
Published on Dec 13 2002 by "honeydick"
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful authorship, profound implications
At the very least, Boswell deserves credit for bringing to light centuries worth of church documents some people would probably prefer to ignore or even deny the existence of. Read more
Published on July 9 2001 by David Jankowski
4.0 out of 5 stars Historical same sex love companion.
Acceptance of homosexuality is already a rich source of heated talk, but discussion on gay marriage certainly does not help in dampening spirits. Read more
Published on March 5 2001 by "danielinyaracuy"
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating reading, but not for the faint of heart
Boswell is most famous for his 'Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality,' and this book certainly does not have so great an impact as that classic work. Read more
Published on Aug. 1 2000 by George H. Mcallister
3.0 out of 5 stars A likeness to 'marriage'?
I came to this work from Boswell's famous 'Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality', and found it quite a different sort of book - less panoramic in scope, less assertive,... Read more
Published on June 21 2000 by Andrew Jones
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