Crucifixion, State Terror, and Sexual Abuse: Text and Context
Tombs, David John
A key principle in the work of Latin American liberation theologians has been a willingness to take their Latin American social context seriously as an aid for understanding biblical texts. This paper is intended to illustrate the value of this principle by focussing on some disturbing points in the gospel accounts of crucifixion in the light of recent accounts of torture and terror in Latin America. It argues that documentation of torture and abuse in Latin American military regimes can illuminate neglected aspects of Jesus’ passion presented in the gospels. Most importantly this involves recognition that crucifixion was a form of torture that served a wider purpose than execution and was used to demonstrate the state’s power and terrorise those who might oppose it. Within this framework, one issue in the horror of Jesus torture and crucifixion which has been completely neglected in Christian tradition—the degree of sexual abuse that it involved—can be addressed honestly and openly. My central contention is that crucifixion in the ancient world carried a strongly sexual element and should be understood as a form of sexual abuse. The gospels indicate that Jesus was subjected to a high degree of sexual humiliation and was possibly a victim of sexual assault. The final part of this paper suggests the constructive purposes that the acknowledgement of this sexual abuse might serve.
Contributor: Tombs, David John; Segovia, Fernando F.
Editor: Tombs, David John
Publisher: Centre for Theology and Public Issues, University of Otago
Rights Statement: This report is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. It may be freely copied and shared for any non-commercial purpose as long as you attribute the Centre for Theology and Public Issues, University of Otago. The article was first published as David Tombs, ‘Crucifixion, State Terror, and Sexual Abuse’, Union Seminary Quarterly Review, 53 (Autumn 1999), pp. 89-109. OUR archive version http://hdl.handle.net/10523/6067
Keywords: Crucifixion; Liberation Theology; State Terror; Sexual Abuse; Torture
Research Type: Working Paper
This is a republication of the article David Tombs, ‘Crucifixion, State Terror, and Sexual Abuse’, Union Seminary Quarterly Review, 53 (Autumn 1999), pp. 89-109 [OUR archive version http://hdl.handle.net/10523/6067]. The original text is accompanied by a Preface from the author and a Reflection from Fernando F. Segovia. The Preface and Reflection provide a context for recirculating the work twenty years after it was first presented at the International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in July 1998. A Spanish version of this publication is also being made available as David Tombs, Crucifixión, terrorismo de Estado, y abuso sexual: Texto y contexto, Dunedin: Centre for Theology and Public Issues, University of Otago, 2018.
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