Adelphopoiesis, or adelphopoiia from the Greek ἀδελφοποίησις, derived from ἀδελφός (adelphos) "brother" and ποιέω (poieō) "I make", literally "brother-making" is a "blood brother" ceremony practiced at one time by various Christian churches to unite together two people of the same sex (normally men). Similar blood brotherhood rituals were practiced by other cultures, including American Indians, ancient Chinese as well as Germanic and Scandinavian peoples.
It was argued by the late Yale historian John Boswell in his book Same-sex unions in pre-modern Europe, also published as The marriage of likeness, that the practice was to unite two persons in a marriage-like union. His theory was refuted by other academics expert on the issue, notably UCLA historian Claudia Rapp, in a special issue of the scholarly journal Traditio (vol. 52) in 1997. It also is disputed by the religious community today descended most directly from that involved in the original practice, the Greek Orthodox Church, where it is translated as "fraternization" and does not mean or suggest a marriage. The Catholic Church objected to Boswell's characterization of the now-defunct ceremony as well. The ceremony was mainly practiced in Eastern Christianity, but not exclusively. Boswell gives text and translation for a number of versions of the "fraternization" ceremony in Greek, and translation for a number of Slavonic versions (Bratotvorenie). The twentieth-century Russian Orthodox philosopher and martyr Fr. Pavel Florensky described the chaste nature of the practice and in detail its Christian significance in his 1914 book The Pillar and the Ground of Truth.
Thesis[edit | edit source]
The purpose of the adelphopoiesis ceremonies has been made controversial by Boswell's 1994 study, whose interpretations continue circulating today in popular discussions of the history of same-sex attraction, despite the subsequent rejection of his historical approach by many academics in the field of Christianity in Late Antiquity in the wake of a series of critical reviews in the scholarly journal Traditio (a Roman Catholic publication) in 1997 (vol 52). Boswell himself denied that adelphopoiesis should be properly translated as "homosexual marriage," and decried such a translation as "tendentiously slanted". The Orthodox Church regards the ceremony as purely spiritual and indicating brotherhood.
At the same time, Boswell claimed that "brother-making" or "making of brothers" is an "anachronistically literal" translation and proposes "same-sex union" as the preferable rendering. Boswell's preference, however, is problematic. "Sex," for instance, while pointing to a seemingly "objective" characteristic of the participants involved in the rite, in fact draws attention to the physical condition or biological sex of the "brothers" – whereas the rites for adelphopoiesis explicitly highlight the spiritual nature of the union over a physical one.
Boswell commented on the lack of any equivalent in the Western Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church; however, the British historian Alan Bray in his book The Friend, gives a Latin text and translation of a similar Latin Catholic Rite from Slovenia, entitled Ordo ad fratres faciendum, literally "Order for the making of brothers". Also see Allan Tulchin, "Same-Sex Couples Creating Households in Old Regime France: The Uses of the Affrèrement." in the Journal of Modern History: September 2007, which article demonstrates the ceremony of affrèrement in France joined unrelated same-gender couples in lifelong unions which raised family, held property jointly, and were in all respects the same as or equivalent to marriages in terms of law and social custom, as shown by parish records.
Criticism of Boswell[edit | edit source]
The historicity of Boswell's interpretation of the ceremony is contested by the Greek Orthodox Church, which sees the rite as a rite of familial adoption, as the term adelphopoiesis literally means "brother making". Other historians, including Robin Darling Young (herself a participant in an adelphopoiesis ceremony) and Brent Shaw, have also criticized Boswell's methodology and conclusions.
Archimandrite Ephrem Lash criticized Boswell's book in the February 1995 issue of Sourozh. According to Ephrem, Boswell mistranslates, misinterprets, and tendentiously organizes texts, and his "knowledge of Orthodox liturgiology is, in effect, non-existent." With regard to Boswell's central claim to have found evidence for the use of wedding crowns in the rite for making brothers, Ephrem notes that what the relevant text says, "somewhat literally translated," is this: "It is inadmissible for a monk to receive [anadochos is a standard Greek word for 'godparent'] children from holy baptism, or to hold marriage crowns or to make brother-makings. 150:124]" In other words, "monks are forbidden to do the following: 1. To act as godfathers at baptisms, 2. To act as supporters of bridal couples, 3. To enter into brotherly unions. These are, of course, the natural consequences of a monk's having given up all ties of earthly relationships." Turning back to Boswell's thesis, Ephrem writes, "What does Boswell make of this? Here is his paraphrase of the text given above: 'monks must also not select boys at baptism and make such unions with them'. There is absolutely nothing in the text to suggest that the three prohibitions are linked in the way Boswell implies, nor that the 'children' are 'boys' – the Greek has the neuter, paidia. In short, this first piece of evidence for the use of crowns in the ceremony of brother-making is not evidence for anything, except Boswell's ignorance, not to mention the prurient suggestion that Byzantine monks went round selecting suitable boys at baptism so as to 'marry' them later on."
In his review of the book, Miodrag Kojadinović says: "The book is a scientific treatise abundant with references. But it starts from a premise that to me seems insufficiently proven. It chooses to see, based on relatively meager evidence, a very idiosyncratic relationship sanctioned among certain ethnic groups as a precursor to California bunnies' white weddings. It goes so far to refer to the emperor Basil as a 'hunk'. It neglects the fact that adelphopoiesis/pobratimstvo can be achieved through simple invocation: 'My-Brother-Through-God!' in case of peril. A foe suddenly turns an ally." 
Alternative views are that this rite was used in many ways, such as the formation of permanent pacts between leaders of nations or between religious brothers. This was a replacement for "blood-brotherhood" which was forbidden by the church at the time. Others such as Brent Shaw have maintained also that these unions were more akin to "blood-brotherhood" and had no sexual connotation.
References[edit | edit source]
- Fr. Evangelos K. Mantzouneas, Secretary of the Greek Synod Committee on Legal and Canonical Matters; English translation by Efthimios Mavrogeorgiadis, May 1994;Minor editing by Nicholas Zymaris. Report on Adelphopoiesis 1982: "Fraternization from a Canonical Perspective" Athens 1982. Retrieved on 2009-02-03.
- Boswell, Same-sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe, p. 298-299.
- hina genontai pneumatikoi adelphoi hyper tous sarkikous (Boswell translation: "that they be joined together more in spirit than in flesh"). Greek text in Boswell, Same-Sex Unions, p. 316, n. 198.
- Allan Tulchin, "Same-Sex Couples Creating Households in Old Regime France: The Uses of the Affrèrement." Journal of Modern History: September 2007
- Reviewing Boswell
- Young, Robin Darling (November 1994). "Gay Marriage: Reimagining Church History". First Things 47: 43–48. Retrieved on June 25, 2009. Note Young's account of her participation in the ceremony: "This is a subject about which I have the good fortune to speak not merely as a scholar or an observer, but as a participant. Nine years ago I was joined in devout sisterhood to another woman, apparently in just such a ceremony as Boswell claims to elucidate in his book. The ceremony took place during a journey to some of the Syrian Christian communities of Turkey and the Middle East, and the other member of this same-sex union was my colleague Professor Susan Ashbrook Harvey of Brown University. During the course of our travels we paid a visit to St. Mark’s Monastery in Jerusalem, the residence of the Syrian Orthodox archbishop. There our host, Archbishop Dionysius Behnam Jajaweh, remarked that since we had survived the rigors of Syria and Eastern Turkey in amicable good humor, we two women must be good friends indeed. Would we like to be joined as sisters the next morning after the bishop’s Sunday liturgy in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre? Intrigued, we agreed, and on a Sunday in late June of 1985, we followed the bishop and a monk through the Old City to a side chapel in the Holy Sepulchre where, according to the Syrian Orthodox, lies the actual tomb of Jesus. After the liturgy, the bishop had us join our right hands together and he wrapped them in a portion of his garment. He pronounced a series of prayers over us, told us that we were united as sisters, and admonished us not to quarrel. Ours was a sisterhood stronger than blood, confirmed in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he said, and since it was a spiritual union, it would last beyond the grave. Our friendship has indeed endured and flourished beyond the accidental association of two scholars sharing an interest in the Syriac-speaking Christianity of late antiquity. The blessing of the Syrian Orthodox Church was a precious instance of our participation in the life of an ancient and noble Christian tradition. Although neither of us took the trouble to investigate the subject, each privately assumed that the ritual of that summer was some Christian descendant of an adoption ceremony used by the early church to solemnify a state-that of friendship-which comes highly recommended in the Christian tradition (“Henceforth I call you not servants . . . but I have called you friends.” [John15:15]). If this were all that Professor Boswell were claiming to have “discovered,” neither I nor anyone else would be likely to dispute his findings. It seems reasonable to assume that ceremonies like the one Susan Ashbrook Harvey and I went through continue to take place in those eastern churches that preserve the rite of adoption (adelphopoiesis) for friends. In fact, scholars of the liturgy have known for years of these rituals. But any such modest claim is not what Boswell has in mind. He claims that the “brother/sister-making” rituals found in manuscripts and certain published works are ancient ceremonies whose cryptic (or, in current argot, “encoded”) purpose has been to give ecclesiastical blessing to homosexual or lesbian relationships, thus making them actual nuptial ceremonies. This startling claim is certainly far from the reality of the ceremony in which we participated nine years ago."
- Shaw, Brent (July 1994). "A Groom of One's Own?". The New Republic: 43–48. Retrieved on June 25, 2009.
- Archimandrite Ephrem, "Review of Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe", Sourozh, no. 59 (Feb. 1995): 50–55.
- Patrologiae Graecae 150:124.
- Archimandrite Ephrem, "Review of Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe", p. 52.
- Miodrag Kojadinović: Same-Sex Unions in Pre-modern Europe by J.Boswell (book review) — Angles Magazine, Vancouver, August 1994
- http://www.eskimo.com/~nickz/qrd-eastern_orthodox/adelphopoiia.some-responses and http://www.melkite.org/Questions/M-4.htm
- Allan Tulchin, "Same-Sex Couples Creating Households in Old Regime France: The Uses of the Affrèrement." Journal of Modern History: September 2007.
[edit | edit source]
- Gay Marriage: Reimagining Church History, First Things
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