Male Cult Prostitutes and Romans 1

In my current read through the NASB, I noticed several references to male cult prostitutes. Here are the verses:

“None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, nor shall any of the sons of Israel be a cult prostitute. “You shall not bring the hire of a harlot or the wages of a dog into the house of the LORD your God for any votive offering, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God.

Deuteronomy 23:17–18 (see Revelation reference below)

There were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD dispossessed before the sons of Israel.

1 Kings 14:24

He also put away the male cult prostitutes from the land and removed all the idols which his fathers had made.

1 Kings 15:12

He also broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes which were in the house of the LORD, where the women were weaving hangings for the Asherah.

2 Kings 23:7

They die in youth, And their life perishes among the cult prostitutes (masculine in the original – DR).

Job 36:14

Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

Revelation 22:15

In the above references, the expression “male cult prostitute” includes both men and women (can I get an awoman?). The word dog seems to apply to cult prostitutes as well in Revelation 22:15 according to the IVP Biblical Background Commentary:

“Dogs” probably refers to the sexually immoral, specifically unrepentant prostitutes (Deut 23:17–18). Elsewhere in Revelation the imperial cult, combined with sorcery, martyrs Christians; immorality (both literal and spiritual) characterized the lifestyle of Gentile men.

Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993. Print.

This connection between male prostitution and idolatry interested me because of what Paul says in Romans 1.

Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

Romans 1:22–27

In Rome, there were several holidays which focused on both male and female prostitutes. During the month of April, there were several festivals and religious feasts that centered on prostitution, including a celebration of pueri lenonii, which means “pimped-out boys.” While this seems shocking to us, as it should, it was normal in Paul’s day. No wonder Paul condemns idolatry! The people at Rome would have been familiar with these yearly public displays, so Paul was quick to denounce such practices.

In Rome, they considered homosexuality acceptable as long as it took place within a relationship where there was a clear dominant participant. It was all about pleasure, domination, and exploitation, none of which are acceptable to God. There was even a practice called pederasty where an adult male would enter a relationship with a young boy. It has its origins with the religion of Zeus in Greek culture.

In the commentary referenced above, Keener makes a keen observation:

Pagan gods acted immorally in the popular myths; one who worshiped them (1:23) would end up acting the same way. Paul argues that distorting one’s view about God’s character perverts one’s sexual treatment of other people; ancient Jewish people recognized that both idolatry and sexual immorality characterized Gentiles.

Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993. Print.

Therefore, in the Old Testament, God constantly reminds His people who He is. After many commands He says, “For I am the LORD your God.” He says this to remind His people they are to emulate Him and not behave like the nations who emulated their gods. Idolatry led to many unsavory practices such as child sacrifice, beastiality, and mistreatment of the poor.

We serve a God who wants us to love our neighbor as ourselves. This means casting aside any practice that causes us to look at others as objects of pleasure and not human beings. It means denouncing anything that dominates or exploits a person God loves. Paul stood up against Romans who encouraged such things, and so do I. Any sensible Christian would.

One Reply to “Male Cult Prostitutes and Romans 1”

  1. This brief study is an excellent survey of the degradation of humanity in the first century. Paul, in Romans 1:18-32, called attention to evil behavior among the Gentiles. Beginning with Romans 3:21, Paul paints a picture of redemption. In Chapter 12, he called notice to righteous conduct among God’s people. In the Book of Ephesians, Paul painted a picture of God’s grace, which grace demands ethical conduct (Ephesians 4:17–5:21). I appreciate Daniel’s research in this area. His essay gives us an excellent overview of what the first-century Christians had to combat. Also, this treatise by Daniel, adds additional commentary on Romans 1:18-32.

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