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The Myth of Sacred Prostitution in Antiquity 1st edition by Budin, Stephanie Lynn (2009)

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  • PDF | Unknown pages
  • Cambridge University Press (1707)
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Review Text

  • By Sheila Michaels on May 21, 2011

    Budin previous maintained that ancient figurines of nude women represent female sexuality. They're not "fertility" (maybe, if they hold agricultural produce). They aren't "mother goddesses" (maybe, if they hold children, or maybe not, she has a new book about that). This is how I began following her work.Here, she debunks stories of Sacred Prostitution that Herodotus heard third-hand. Always it was a calumny against enemies: they practiced it, for their benighted god. (Nicholas Wyatt holds that q'deshim[=holy ones] evicted, with their houses, from Jerusalem's Temple were not male prostitutes, but images of other gods in satellite shrines.)Our only evidence of actual practice started in 18th Century British India with devadasis: Temple slaves whose performances or prostitution supported the priests, or low-caste dedicated girls whom they sold into brothels. This is not a sacred ritual.We wouldn't think a prostitute wearing a crucifix practiced sacred sex: not even if she tithed to a church, crossed herself, lived on church-owned property & prayed to St. Nicholas. Ishtar's protection of prostitutes implies no more. Mesopotamian priestesses were noblewomen, not sex workers.Budin finds no sacred prostitution recorded in Mesopotamian cultures. She tracks down the main mistranslations & repetitions of the story & refutes their premises. I wanted the book for the Mesopotamian & Biblical material, & have not followed the Greek, Roman & early Church parts, though I cannot think they'd be any less useful in studying the classics.The book has been really helpful in grappling with a bird-brained obloquy repeated unquestioningly through millennia. I find her writing very clear, lacking in academic jargon, & her handling of the material is firm & learned.

  • By S. M. Baugh on June 10, 2011

    Imagine if 2,000 years from now, people routinely hold that the daughters of United States senators were actively engaged in sacred prostitution in conjunction with the Washington National Cathedral. Ridiculous. Yet to assert that the daughters of the elite families in the Greco-Roman world (i.e., the ones who held various priesthoods either for set periods or more permanently) engaged in sacred prostitution is just as ridiculous but commonly held today.Dr. Budin has written a very difficult book, and it is the best for which one can ask. A scholar can relatively easily show that some institution or other did in fact exist in antiquity by analyzing and laying out a case from various historical sources. But how does one prove that something was NOT practiced so long ago? There is no evidence for it except for a few passing remarks in a handful of authors about fanciful practices many centuries before their time or far away where the monopods live and the phoenix regularly rises from its ashes.I cannot comment on all the periods or cultures Dr. Budin has addressed (which itself is very impressive), but I recommend this book highly for anyone who has been influenced by the myth that sacred prostitution was ever practiced in the Greek and Roman world.

  • By David H. Wenkel on December 2, 2010

    For a detailed critique with special reference to the Old Testament see the book review by Jay E. Smith in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 53/3 (2010): 638-2.


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