Guest post by P.D. and Tanya
Matthew 5:28 remains the primary endorsement among Christians for criminalizing sexual thoughts, with never a mention of its origins or historical context. Whilst we don’t wish to venture any farther into the subject of masturbation, a brief mention of it will be necessary. Nevertheless, the primary agenda here is to expose the truth about this passage in a contributory attempt to diffuse any further Christian abuse.
The Genocide Position
Matthew 5:28 is a damning verse incorporated within a statement allegedly made during the Sermon on the Mount, beginning with verse 27 and continuing through to verse 30. The entire passage with verse 28 underlined is:
“You have heard it said that it is a sin to commit adultery. But verily I say unto you, any man who looks upon a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin, gauge it out and through it away, for it is better to lose one part of your body than to be thrown whole into Hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, hack it off and throw it away, for it is better to enter life maimed than be cast whole into Hell.”
This is arguably the most traumatizing and harmful quote in the history of literature, and one which has destroyed the peace of mind of so very many. Throughout Christian web forums, the most asked question by young believers is: “Is masturbation a sin?” In every instance, they are referred to this quote. Even the more liberal Christian advisors, who offer the view that masturbation, in itself, is not sinful, continue to condemn sexual lust. What they fail to acknowledge is that the same hormones that drive one towards masturbation are the same hormones that guide the mind towards sexual thoughts, imagery and erotic literature. For example, without testosterone, a male would not even know the desire to view pornography.
At face value, Matthew 5:27-30 is a statement that if any male has feelings of sexual desire towards a female, he should either commit self-mutilation, or be cast into eternal fire. Christians say that this is justified because sexual desire is for marriage only; a rather ludicrous position, for how might one be drawn to a future spouse without first feeling the fires of the passion within? For one to deny one’s own involuntary sexual instinct instigated by healthy hormones is not only a genocidal suggestion, but one which also presents an extreme danger in the immediacy. The Catholic Church demands that certain members of its clergy embrace a life of complete sexual abstinence, the torment of which drives them into a state of virtual insanity. This is shown by its position as the record holder for the highest number of incidents of child sexual abuse on earth.
But why should anybody take Matthew 5:28 seriously?
As with all the New Testament gospels, the Gospel of Matthew begins with a blatant lie – its title. Nobody knows who wrote any of the gospels other than that they were written decades after the events they claim to be describing. The earliest gospel, the Gospel of Mark, comes to us once again anonymously, only with an additional question. Not only did nobody named ‘Mark’ actually write it, but neither does anybody know who this ‘Mark’ was supposed to have been. He wasn’t named as one of the twelve disciples and wasn’t mentioned as character anywhere else in the New Testament.
‘Matthew’ clearly plagiarized ‘Mark’ in many places, and the majority of scholarly opinion places its (Matthew’s) origins between 80 and 85 C.E. (Duling, pp.298, 302.) Ergo, if Christians wish to assert that the Gospel of Matthew was written by Matthew the tax collector, they must also explain why an eyewitness to the events would need to plagiarize the words of one who was not.
Another vital question to ask before examining the validity of Matthew 5:28 is – could the Sermon on the Mount have even taken place? It’s three chapters long, and is said to have occurred in a location where nobody beyond those on the front row would have been able to hear the sermon. Jesus would certainly have had no access to a P.A. system. The audience would have been largely illiterate and therefore even those who could hear him would have required photographic memories in order to relate it to others. Those others would, in turn, also have needed photographic memories in order to regurgitate three chapters worth, and continue to pass it down for fifty years until it reached our anonymous, falsely-ascribed author.
However, while 5:28 appears to demand that all people must despise their own natural sexual instinct and, subsequently, promote global genocide; does it actually call for anything of the kind?
The Bible does, indeed, promote complete sexual denial and genocidal doctrine. Matthew 19:12 states:
“There are those who were born eunuchs. There are those who became eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it let him receive it.”
Christian apologists argue that this is merely an invitation to embrace celibacy. However, given that there is nothing whatsoever to indicate celibacy in the quote (everybody knows what a eunuch is) it seems reasonable to assume that they are merely seeking to keep their own options open.
The other is Colossians 3:5 – “Deaden your bodily members to their passions.”
From an objective point of view, that would be considered self-explanatory.
However, these are very rarely used in the criminalization of sexual thoughts, fantasies, erotic novels, pornography or masturbation. Matthew 5:28 remains the favourite for instilling guilt and terror into the libidinous, the world over. Nevertheless, even from a biblical perspective, this translation is a mistake!
The Slavery Position
“If a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Why not “If a woman looks at a man lustfully?” Or “…a man looks at a man lustfully?” Or “…a woman looks at a woman lustfully?” Notice also the use of the word ‘adultery’ and not fornication. A pre-existing marriage had to be a factor in order for this to apply. The word rendered ‘lustfully’ is taken from the Greek epithumia, meaning “desire to possess.”
With those particulars taken into account, the answer to the meaning of Matthew 5:28 can be found in Exodus 20:17 – the tenth Commandment: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s property; neither his land, nor his oxen, ass, slave, maidservant, wife, or any other chattel.
It is rather ironic that the Ten Commandments are considered to be the ultimate guidelines for morality when they conclude with an endorsement of slavery and the insistence that a man’s wife is his lawfully-owned chattel. It also introduces the world to the most totalitarian concept possible – thought crime. However, it clearly explains why there was no such concept as any other sexually-desiring concept other than a ‘man looking at a woman lustfully.’ This also elucidates why ‘adultery’ was the stated offence and not fornication. It is concerned purely with ancient Jewish ownership rights and the objectification of women – “Don’t desire your neighbour’s property.” It bears no relation to the prohibition of masturbation, pornography, or any other form of contemporary erotica.
Christians argue that the issue with lust is one of “betrayal and the heartbreak caused by marital infidelity.” This reasoning is what will happen when people attempt to superimpose contemporary western values upon writings from the middle-eastern Bronze Age. As with modern day Iraq, there was no such cultural concept as ‘romance’ during the time of Jesus. How we view love today in the West originated during the twelfth century. ‘Romantic love’ was literally an invention of the Troubadours. Marriage in first century Judea was an arrangement of owner and property; a man and his chattel-wife. Such unions usually resulted from a business arrangement between the father of the groom and the father of the bride, and where virginity was considered to have commercial value. Women were sold into marriage with no say in the matter. The most nauseating example of this can be found in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 where, under the Law of God, it states that a rapist must pay his victim’s father 50 silver shekels for the loss of the father’s ‘property.’ He was then compelled to marry his victim.
When questioned about the morality of forcing a rape victim to marry her own rapist, Christians we have interviewed usually defer to the argument that: “It was a different time, and nobody else would have wanted to marry her following the rape. It then became the rapist’s responsibility to care for her.” This is a blanket statement that the women of the Bronze Age did not feel pain as the women of today do, neither did they feel violated, nor did they value their lives as we do today. This is despite the fact that their natural life-spans were far shorter than ours. It is also a blind assumption that a Bronze Age rapist would make a fine ‘carer.’ The majority of secular people in our civilization today would have no hesitation in declaring that there can be no context whatsoever that could ever possibly justify forcing a rape victim to marry her own rapist.
How ironic it is that Christians use Matthew 5:28 to assert their position that pornography objectifies women. Porn stars are paid well for their work, and they can leave the studio and return home whenever they choose. A first century Judean wife would never have been afforded such privileges.
More than 90% of Christians, including Christian counsellors, have never fully read the Bible, or have any understanding of its cultural origins. This demonstrates yet another ironic example of the blind leading the blind – into a ditch of utter misery.
Final thoughts and Conclusion
The modern use of Matthew 5:28 is to regard human beings as robots who are presumed to be able switch off certain aspects of their bodies and minds at will, and reactivate them at the moment they utter the words “I do.” Arguments that ‘lust’ objectifies women and treats them as sex objects abound in their condemnation of the most essential of all human instincts, leaving an endless trail of trauma, guilt and hadephobia in their wake.
In reality, they are using a passage which endorses the worst forms of female objectification, misogyny and loveless slavery; their erroneous arguments enabled through religion’s ultimate foundations: the lust for power and control – and the blatant refusal to think.