Hello Brothers & Sisters,
I’m Davy, and I wrote The Passion of Sergius & Bacchus. Thanks for stopping in! Readers or even just the curious often ask me questions about S&B, and now that the book is finally out, I figured now is a time to address some of the most common concerns and questions regarding the novel. I hope you find my answers useful, and remember to pick up your copy on Amazon or at other fine retailers today!
Q: Did all this actually happen?/What do you mean by “A Novel of Truth?”
Well, sort of. Many of the key events in the book–the Battle of Strasbourg, Julian’s coronation, etc.–did actually happen in history, and I tried my best to provide an accurate representation. I also quoted a great deal from the surviving writings of Julian I, integrating his words into dialog. So, while not a work of proper history, the book does bear some semblance to what really happened, as it were. I call the novel a work of truth because, though only partially factual, it does contain the essence of the ideologies and competing philosophies of the time.
Q: So were Sergius & Bacchus real people? What about [Insert character name here]?
Let me start by saying most of the characters, even incidental ones like Florentius or Barbatio did indeed exist and their fates in life correspond to those in the novel. I don’t really want to belabor the historicity of every plot point, but yes, for the most part it’s all real. Of the main characters, Didymous, Sergius’s butler, I created for the novel.
As far as Sergius & Bacchus themselves…well, we really don’t know if they existed or not. In constructing the narrative, I relied on the research & thesis of David Woods, who wrote an excellent paper on the origins of their legend. Traditionally, Sergius & Bacchus were said to have lived under the Emperor Galerius, but Woods suggests that their legend is a conflation with that of Juventius and Maximinus (who also appear in the novel, if you’re paying attention). The element of cross dressing, which is key in both the novel and original legend, Woods attributes to Julian the Apostate.
I decided to set the story during Julian’s rule because he was a very unusual Emperor, and because he was the last pagan. I thought that the early Christian era in Rome made for a better setting and would help me better examine the themes I cover in the novel.
Q: So did Christians really marry gay people? Is adelphopoesis real?
First of all, yes, adelphopoesis is real, and was very popular in the ancient world for several hundred years. It’s still performed, rarely, in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches.
The nature of adelphopoesis, however, is the subject of fierce debate. Christian leaders who denounce homosexuality as sinful or evil claim that the rite, which is a sacrament on par with marriage, was only used for platonic purposes. Modern historians and scholars, however, point out the ambiguity of the ritual and early texts concerning the rite. So, like anything faith related, belief is a choice.
So no, Christians did not marry gay couples in the strict sense because 1) marriage was somewhat frowned upon–early Christians were encouraged to remain celibate as they expected the end times to begin at any moment; and 2) marriage was a male-female union because the woman became property of the man, along with all her existing wealth. Adelphpoesis was a rite for same-sex couples wherein they became a single, equal unit in the eyes of God. Believers who underwent the rite also had shared possessions–money, family, property and just about anything else went into one giant pot. Men and women who underwent the ceremony could not marry as they were already partnered. In that sense, adelphopoesis was closer to what we, in modern America consider marriage for both gay and straight couples.
Q: Ok, but what about the sex?
Paul in his New Testament writings laments that not all Christians can remain celibate like he was and discourages marriage unless people “burn.” The nature of that statement also remains the subject of debate among Christian scholars. Traditionally, it’s believed that Paul referred to burning lust or passion, which is why the common argument within Christianity is that sex is only for married couples. Jesus himself, as recorded in the Gospels, discouraged divorce, but didn’t really express an opinion on marriage itself, nor did he comment on sexuality beyond cautioning that fornication did not make one Holy.
Q: But didn’t Paul hate women? Didn’t he hate gay people?
Well, that’s also open to debate and speculation. Paul actually only authored seven of the letters attributed to him in the Bible, and the most notorious passage condemning women (1 Timothy 2:12), was NOT authored by Paul. His other famous denunciation of women (1 Corinthians 14:34) was a later interpolation; Paul didn’t write it either, as evidenced by the passage’s odd placement–Paul is talking about fasting, and the passage regarding the silence of women is a non-sequitor, and it seems to contradict his praise the women clergy he names in his authentic letters. Furthermore, in Galatians Paul argues that all are equal, regardless of gender, in the eyes of God.
In his authentic letters, Paul might have addressed homosexuality twice, though the earliest manuscripts and writings of the church fathers cast doubt on this view. In Corinthians, condemnation of homosexuality hinges on a single word: arsenokoitēs. Scholars debate the meaning because, prior to Paul, the word did not exist. The idea that Paul is referring to gay people stems from the belief that he actually was creating a sort of pun on Hebrew words from Leviticus, as the term closely resembles a Greek translation of Hebrew, but this could be coincidence. Given the context of the time, and the use by the Church fathers, the word more accurately refers to pederasty, not homosexuality. In Romans, modern Christians hold that Paul condemns homosexuality, but this is a contemporary view. The Early Christians did not treat the term as a condemnation of homosexuality, but as one of prostitution.
Q: Did Christians really ordain women clergy?
Yes, as evidenced by Paul and the church fathers. As a matter of history, women were ordained prior to the council of Nicea, but after Christianity became the Roman mainstream, the egalitarian attitudes of Christians changed to fit more with the social mores of Rome. And the Romans didn’t like women much. In the novel, Julian’s attitudes on women are characteristic of the time.
Q: But did God really [SPOILER CENSOR]
Well, I know the answer to that, and there is ONE CLUE in the text that gives it away. But I’ll never state my opinion on…those events…or what the clue is. Astute readers may catch it, but I’m more interested in the reader’s personal interpretation.
Q: How long did it take you to write?
I researched for about seven years, then spent 2-3 years composing.
The Passion of Sergius & Bacchus is available at fine retailers, including Amazon.com.
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