Jennifer Wright Knust is assistant professor of religion at Boston University, specializing in New Testament, biblical studies, and early Christian History. She’s also an ordained American Baptist pastor, who holds a doctorate in religion from Columbia university and a master of divinity degree from Union theological seminary.
With all these impressive accomplishments. Dr. Knust should not be taken lightly.
First of all, the title is very clever, since the book is about the supposed contradictions in the Bible about sex and desire.
On page 2, she recounts the story about Jesus and the Tax Collectors and Prostitutes and she states:
“We all understood exactly what this biblical passage meant: we were supposed to be nice to tax collectors and prostitutes if we had the misfortune to run into one”
This is unfortunate that she was taught this at just 12 years old. We often wrongly want to put ourselves in Jesus’ sandals when we read that story but in reality, we are the tax collectors and prostitutes.
She then paints the story of Jezebel as a sort of victim of God on page 3, with the rhetoric that she was just a “slut” who “got what she deserved.” Bringing in foreign gods and the fact she was murderous may have had something to do with it, rather than just her seductive nature.
On page 5, we run into her boldest claim thus far, she states:
“The Bible fails to offer girls or anyone a consistent message regarding sexual morals”
She goes on to mention how Song of Solomon encourages premarital sex. There is a few problems with her claim. First, there is no indication that they weren’t married. There is no indication they ever had sex, merely they were expressing their desire too. Third, she totally ignores the allegory between Christ and Church in the Song of Solomon. All Dr. Knust reveals is that Song of Solomon seems to praise premarital sex.
She goes on to mention the story of Judah, who solicited a prostitute that turned out to be his daughter-in-law. I’m surprised as a scholar she wasn’t able to make the distinction between something the Bible mentions and something the Bible approves of. Descriptive and Prescriptive texts are different. Could you point out where Judah is praised for his functionally incestous interaction?
She then claims on page 5 that “The Bible does not condemn prostitution…at least not consistently”
The supposed inconsistency is that the Bible mentions favored figures like Judah and David who engage in sexually immoral acts, but the Bible also condemns these sexual immoral acts. The poor Bible, how we will ever reconcile the Bible mentioning immoral acts yet condemning them elsewhere? Besides, you know, understanding the categories of descriptive vs prescriptive. Can you point out a Bible text where God encourages prostitution and then condemns it elsewhere? That would be a contradiction that you’re so desperately looking for.
On page 23, Dr. Knust repeats that old meme that became popular on the now defunct social media platform “Vine.” Where a student asks Christian educator Bonnie Park “What if I want to have sex before I get married?” and she replies “Well, I guess you’ll just have to prepare to die.”
Obviously this educator was out of line and was not prepared to answer that question. Her answer is ridiculous and it is not as if those of us who view premarital sex as a sin all believe that way.
She later corrects herself and recognizes that Song of Solomon is poetic and is open to many interpretations and is honest enough to say hers is not obvious from the text. (pg. 26-32)
She repeats the old refuted meme of Jonathan and David having an erotic attachment and Ruth and Naomi also were probably in love with each other. Because no one can have a close relationship without being secretly in love, right? (Dr. Gagnon addresses this issue.)
She assumes that because there is a development in doctrine on marriage, where divorce Jesus says he only allowed divorce for “hardness of hearts” this must mean that the Bible contradicts itself. She uses this same logic regarding the levitical laws. Temporary restrictions for ceremonial reasons apparently have to be universal to not contradict in the mind of Dr. Knust. (pg. 72-76)
She essentially mocks the idea that the Church is God’s wife on pg. 117. Referring to the unfaithful Israel as “God’s whore.”
On pg. 160 she talks about the angels desiring human women in Genesis 6 and 1 Corinthians 11. Too bad she didn’t Dr. Michael Heiser on this issue, it would have saved her the confusion. She struggles with the idea that the angels are the linchpin of Paul’s argument for the veil. She however, maintains that this is Paul arguing for the veil. She even quotes Tertullian, who holds that Paul’s argument is in fact that the angels want to have intercourse with human women. Today, we understand the history, that Hippocrates theory of “sperm hair” explains Paul’s argument.
When Paul says “Does not nature itself” he is trying to get across two things. First, he is pointing to the natural order, in regards to Genesis chapter 1. Secondly, he is referring to nature as in the natural sciences, which the science at this time was Hippocrates “sperm hair” theory. Whether Paul sincerely believed in this theory is unknown, but what we can suggest is that it is very possible Paul used a scientific belief at that time to illustrate godly morality. To me, Paul using a false scientific belief is no different than Paul using pagan poetry to illustrate a point.
She brings up a lot of good questions to consider. There are good arguments to be made about some of the issues she brings up. A lot of the ideas already have serious objections. However, in some attempt to make it readable to a general audience, I think Dr. Knust has removed too much solid argumentation from her work. This reads like a Patheos blog rather than a scholar. You can do better, Dr. Knust!