Self-castration in early Christianity

Some ancient weirdness: The First Council of Nicaea, in 325 AD, was a meeting of Christian bishops in which they tried to establish the rules and doctrines that all Christians were supposed to follow. Wikipedia says:

Its main accomplishments were settlement of the Christological issue of the divine nature of God the Son and his relationship to God the Father, the construction of the first part of the Nicene Creed, mandating uniform observance of the date of Easter, and promulgation of early canon law.

However, one of the lesser-known rules that the bishops enacted at the Council was to ban men who had castrated themselves from being in the clergy. Because, apparently, self-castration had become something of a fad among early Christians. Enough so that the bishops felt the need to put an official stop to the practice.

The historian Daniel Caner has examined this issue in his 1997 article "The practice and prohibition of self-castration in early Christianity".

Caner notes that the fad had its origin in a passage from the New Testament, Matthew 19:12, in which Jesus appears to endorse the practice of self-castration. As the passage reads in the King James translation:

For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb; and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men; and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

Most interpreters of the Bible, ancient and modern, argue that when Jesus used the word 'eunuch' he meant it as a synonym for 'celibacy'. Apparently this was a common use of the term 'eunuch' in the ancient world.

Nevertheless, he used the term eunuch. So some early Christians decided the passage should be taken literally. In which case, Jesus seemed to be saying that, while self-castration was not appropriate for all men, for an elite few it was an ideal to strive for. Inspired by this passage, a number of men "took the sickle and cut off [their] private parts."

The most prominent Church father who was said to have castrated himself was Origen of Alexandria (c. 185 - c. 253). But Caner notes that there was an entire sect of early Christians, the Valesians, who embraced the practice. Wikipedia says that, in addition to castrating themselves, "They were notorious for forcibly castrating travelers whom they encountered and guests who visited them."

According to Caner, the more widely adopted Christianity became in the Roman empire, the more the Church tried to present itself as the upholder of mainstream values, and self-castration really didn't fit into that image. Therefore, "Radical manifestations of an ideal de-sexualization... became a 'heretical' threat to the orthodox community."
     Posted By: Alex - Fri Jul 02, 2021
     Category: Body Modifications | Fads | Religion | Ancient Times | Genitals





Comments
It has been pointed out that a good number of the Heaven's Gate cult from the 1990's were practitioners of castration. So, it's not that uncommon in the modern day of our species. How dedicated to a religion does one have to be to do such a thing?
Posted by KDP on 07/02/21 at 09:05 AM
I knew of this being a thing pre-Christian because of "Stand on Zanzibar" by John Brunner.

"Also it was when Rome had already become the world's first million-city that the Eastern mystery religions with their concomitant self-privation and self-mutilation took hold. You fell in behind the procession honouring Cybele, you seized a knife from one of the priests, you cut your balls off and ran through the streets waving them till you came to a house with the door open when you threw them over the threshold. They gave you an outfit of women's clothing and you joined the priesthood. Reflect on the pressure that drove you to think that that was the easy way out!" — You're an Ignorant Idiot by Chad C. Mulligan
Posted by Phideaux on 07/02/21 at 12:21 PM
Note just an early practice. The tl:dr and a link.
"The Skoptsy (Russian: скопцы, IPA: [skɐpˈtsɨ]; sg. скопец "eunuch") were a sect within the larger Spiritual Christianity movement in the Russian Empire, best known for practicing castration of men and the mastectomy of women in accordance with their teachings against sexual lust. The term is a descriptive one used by the official Russian Orthodox Church.
The movement emerged in the late 18th century. It reached the peak of its popularity in the early 20th century, with as many as 100,000 members, in spite of persecution by the imperial government. Despite severe repression under the Soviet Union, small groups persevered into the 21st century." - Wiki
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skoptsy
Posted by eddi on 07/02/21 at 10:40 PM
You couldn't pry my knees apart with crowbar. I'll probably be walking funny all weekend. I love this place, thank you for being here.
Posted by eddi on 07/02/21 at 10:42 PM
That’s just nuts!
Posted by Brian on 07/04/21 at 04:17 PM









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