Intro Programme Abstracts
Social Aspects of Hell: A cross-cultural approach


Dimitris Kyrtatas (University of Thessaly):
Sex and the afterlife

Regarding sex in the afterlife, the early Christians seem to have been of one mind. Despite their great differences in almost all important matters of dogma, we never hear any of them questioning Jesus’ clearly expressed pronouncement. In rebuking some Sadducces who had enquired about the marital status in the resurrection of a woman who had married seven brothers he was reported to have said: “Is this not the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, [men and women] neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Mark 12:24).

For about two centuries no Christian author is known to have made further enquiries. In the third century, however, the topic started to attract some attention. It never became a major issue leading to serious controversies but, linked as it was to other matters of dogma, it challenged the orthodox understanding of the afterlife. As several Christian authors were quick to realise, belief in the resurrection of the body greatly depended upon a detail that could not find an easy solution. If the resurrected body was to be entire then it should also possess its genital organs. Possessing organs for which there would be no use in eternity seemed perplexing and problematic. In paradise men and women were expected to live like angels who do not enter into sexual relations. Could there be, perhaps, some use of the procreative members in hell? Such considerations, it will be argued, had significant repercussions. They affected Christian attitudes to women, sex and marriage.

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