“The Clobber Passages”— how Pompeii’s erotic art challenges our view of homosexuality in early Chris
The volcanic destruction of the Roman city of Pompeii in 79 AD happened to occur during the early years of Christianity. Paul the Apostle converted to Christianity in ca. 31-36 AD and helped spread his ministry through missions and sermons across the Roman empire, finally arriving in Rome less than 20 years before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Perhaps the earliest “rediscovery” of Pompeii occurred in 1599 when workers digging a tunnel for water came upon buried frescoes, but the true extent of the buried remains of this ancient Roman coastal town became apparent through excavations in the 18th century and later. The excavations revealed virtually the entire town had been preserved, revealing city streets, villas, gardens, and more, including well-preserved frescoes with graphic depictions of phalluses and various forms of sexual activity.
The graphic art at first caused significant controversy, and at various times the most graphic displays in the Naples National Archaeological Museum have been off-limits to the public. After a century of closed-again, open-again changes in cultural mores, these displays have been opened for public viewing since 2000. Now, an evangelical Christian from the United Kingdom is using these images to support a different, and more inclusive, interpretation of the role of sex—and particularly views toward homosexuality—during the early years of Christianity.
By Carol Kuruvilla
The Huffington Post
July 20, 2017