Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 5578
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Cohen , Jeremy.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Rationales for Conjugal Sex in RaABaD's Bàalei ha-nefesh [The article considers Rabbi Abraham ben David of Posquières' (RaABaD) views on marital sex, and compares them to those of his Christian contemporaries. Title note supplied by Feminae.].
  • Source: Jewish History 6, 40180 ( 1992): Pages 65 - 78.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Journal Article
  • Subject (See Also): Abraham ben David of Posquieres, Rabbi- Baalei ha-nefesh (Code of Rabbinic Law) Hebrew Literature Jewish Law Jews Marriage Sexuality Theology
  • Award Note:
  • Geographic Area: France
  • Century: 12
  • Primary Evidence:
  • Illustrations:
  • Table:
  • Abstract: In the final chapter of Ba'alei ha-nefesh, his halakhic code governing family purity, Abraham ben David of Posqui~res (RaABaD, ca. 1125-1198) enumerated four ranked, legitimate reasons for sexual relations between spouses: the first two concerned procreation, the third the gratification of the wife and the fourth the containment of the husband's desire. Self-gratification of the husband, however, was deemed excessive and sinful. While modern investigations of Ba 'alei ha-nefesh have stressed its innovative character in this regard, this essay argues the influence of Christian theology and jurisprudence on RaABaD's doctrine. Medieval Christian ideas of the legitimacy of conjugal sex derived largely from those of Augustine; his definition of the three goods of marriage (proles, fides, sacramentum), his distinction between the prelapsarian obsequium/officium of marriage and its postlapsarian remedium, and his evaluation of conjugal relations with procreative intent as sinless and others as excusable. Inconsistencies between these Augustinian legacies, coupled with the twelfth century's new interest in human intentionality and the more precise definition of the sacraments, guided canonists and theologians in their considerations. While the school of Abelard measured the guilt of conjugal sex in terms of the attendant thoughts and will of the spouses, jurists expanded the Augustinian list of sexual motives first from two to three and then to four; by the middle of the twelfth century, the predominant view deemed procreation and rendering the debt sinless, exacting payment of the debt in order to contain one's lust venial sin, and self-gratification mortal sin - in essence the view of RaABaD! In keeping with halakhic norms, RaABaD stressed the relative merits of those motives, instead of their sinfulness. Yet his receptiveness to innovative, prevailing notions of the Christian intelligentsia adds complexity and depth to our own appreciation of him in particular and Jewish-Christian cultural contact in general. [Reproduced from the publisher's website: http://www.springerlink.com/content/nj02p7432114756t/]
  • Author's Affiliation: Tel Aviv University and The Ohio State University
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 1992.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 0334701X (print); 15728579 (electronic)