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Genesis 19: 3038 and the Reformers

Drink wine and you will sleep well

Sleep well and you will avoid sin
Avoid sin and you will be saved
Ergo, drink wine and be saved!
Medieval German Proverb
In the sixteenth centur the !oo" of Genesis #as still a source of ma$or intellectual challen%es for
&uro'ean intellectuals( )s a re'ositor of rhetorical invention it 'rovided a limited number of
narrative cases( *hese #ere eventuall ex'anded and variousl ada'ted throu%hout histor( !ut
Genesis #as also a histor of humanit from its ori%inal union to its further dis'ersion into several
racial sub+%rou's and their distribution on &arth( )s such, it informed an "no#led%e that -e#s and
.hristians could have of their 'ast( !ecause of the e'istemic value attributed to the !ible, its
content #as believed to be divinel true and historicall accurate, therefore 'erfectl ada't to
'rovide teachin%s( /nfortunatel, the !ible is not an eas read( It contains all sort of obscurities,
incoherences, re'etitions( Its narration is ver irre%ular0 the attention %iven to each sub$ect is lar%el
arbitrar( 1or .hristians, there #as also the further 'redicament of translation( *o ada't the biblical
text and its difficulties to the common sense and to the advancement of science #as, therefore, the
'rimal dut of exe%esis(
*he case that I #ould li"e to 'resent here is one in #hich the Reformers had to exercise %reatl their
inter'retative and critical s"ills( *his essa #ill examine .alvin2s, 3uther2s and 4#in%li2s a''roach
in inter'retin% a scandalous e'isode in #hich the ne'he# of )braham, 3ot, committed incest #ith
his dau%hters after esca'in% the destruction of 5odom( *his stor #as hi%hl 'roblematic( 1or in
this e'isode a ver serious sin #as sho#n0 and 67 it #as com'letel unclear #ho bore the
res'onsibilit for this act( &ven more stran%e #as the fact that 3ot committed the trans%ression soon
after the fled 5odom, as an im'licit reco%nition of their 2ri%hteousness2( )s a matter of fact, li"e the
#ic"ed inhabitants of 5odom, 3ot and his dau%hters too, manifested their #ea"ness #ith a sexual
offence( 8o#ever, #hile the formers #ere overthro#n b God, 3ot received no such 'unishment( I
#ill ar%ue that Reformed inter'reters too" the o''ortunit of such a 'aradoxical situation to sho#
their ori%inal 'ositions on human nature, divine $ustice and $ustification(
*his circumstance seems to be confirmed b the level of interest that the ex'ressed for this stor(
In fact, ver fe#, before and after them, treated this e'isode as extensivel as the did( Moreover,
the all chose to use the same literar format of the verse+b+verse 3atin commentar of Genesis( It
ma be sur'risin% that those #ho more 'leaded for the abolition of a 9excludin%: "no#led%e have
all resorted to this traditional, ver s'ecialistic, "ind of #or" their revision of the 5cri'tures( !ut
althou%h the had to ada't their inter'retations to the man conventions of the %enre, their 'ositions
#ere radicall ne# com'ared to the 'atristic tradition #hich indeed manifested a fundamental
cohesion in its 'remises, des'ite the variet of the conse;uences(

1( Ri%hteousness and 5anctit
)'art from Genesis, no other boo" of the !ible contained the descri'tion of humanit in its 2natural2
condition that is, in the i%norance of the 3a#( )t this sta%e in histor, the "no#led%e of %ood and
evil had not been established for an action in itself, but it #as each time demanded to the human
conscience that is to the facult of inter'retin% realit( /sin% the distinction later ado'ted b the
<euteronomic and 3evitic codes, the ran%e of bad deeds #as essentiall defined accordin% to three
main lines: idolatr, sexual im'urit and social abuse(
*hese are not to be ta"en as distinct
'arameters 6one im'licatin% the others7, rather as the three directions to #hich the sin could be
directed: God, the self, and the others( )s a 'rinci'le, a bad action is al#as follo#ed b a
'unishment( !ecause in Genesis there #ere no instituted sacrifices et, such 'unishments #ere
usuall 'hsical, affectin% the bod of the individual and that of his 'ro%en(
In the first 'art of the e'isode, #e assist to an exem'lar 'unishment for the lon%+lastin% viciousness
of the 5odomites( *he ad$ective used to ;ualif them 6the 2 #ic"ed2, =>?7 is the same that #as used
for the humanit before the 1lood to si%nif the irredeemable corru'tion of their nature( In the
second 'art, ho#ever, another lecherous act is 'erformed b 3ot, #ho alone #ith his dau%hters had
been s'ared the 'unishment of the Plain( *he conse;uence of 3ot2s incest #as the birth of t#o sons,
one for each dau%hter( *hese sons, Moab and !en+)mmi, #ere to become the founders of Moabites
and )mmonites, t#o historical enemies of Israel, livin% on the &astern shores of the <ead 5ea(
*hese #ill be excluded from the .ovenant for the im'urit of their ori%in and for their lac" of
hos'italit and idolatr(
&ven thou%h im'licitl,
3ot is instead reco%nised as a 2ri%hteous2 man 6?=
A7 b the text( *he Bld *estament is 'ermeated b the shar' se'aration of humanit accordin% to
these t#o moral attributes( Conetheless, both 2#ic"ed2 and 2ri%hteous2 are e;uall res'onsible for
serious trans%ressions(
1 <eut( 1@ @D and 3ev( 1E(
@ <eut( @3, 1+E(
3 )s a res'onse to )braham2s ;uestion to God in Gen( 18, @3 and for God2s resolution to com'el )braham in usin%
5odom2s exam'le in order to teach a 2$ust and u'ri%ht livin%2 to his sons in Gen( 18, 19(
)ccordin% to the rabbinic conce't of $ustice, ever illicit action is sub$ect to 'unishment in this life(
5ins are li"e debts that #e inherit and accumulate( Merits can still balance this obli%ation and ma"e
us obtain God2s favour a%ain( *his 2ri%hteousness2 is the ;ualit that allo#s men to understand God2s
#ill and to act accordin%l( *his is al#as related to our facult of $ud%ement before a s'ecific
situation im'lin% a moral dilemma( !ut there is no reason #h one 2$ust2 man once should not fall
a%ain into sin, receivin% the ri%ht 'unishment in the form of an ade;uate reduction of his 'revious
life condition( In the Torah, onl )braham2s and Coah2s ri%hteousness are said to have reached
'erfection 6GHIJ>7( *he difference bet#een a 2#ic"ed2 and a 2ri%hteous2 man in Genesis #as in the
'urit of the blood+line to #hich he belon%s(
1or .hristians, instead, God2s $ud%ement u'on our lives #ill be 'ronounced on the da #e die( *he
#ic"ed #ill %o to 8ell 6i(e( eternal 'unishment70 the ri%hteous soul #ill be saved in 8eaven( Bn the
one hand, God2s 'unishment does not immediatel de'end on our behaviour, as #ith the -e#s0 on
the other hand, our actions are believed to be 'erfectl consistent #ith our o#n s'iritual condition(
.hristian flesh is continuousl ex'osed to the tem'tations of the <evil0 #hile the s'irit, #ho is
immortal and divine, has the tas" of limitin% his influence on our abilit to ma"e decisions( Bur
actions #ill reflect ho# much have #e learned b the 'aradi%m of -esus .hrist in his life on &arth(
*he difference bet#een 2#ic"ed2 and 2ri%hteous2 is therefore understood morall( 1urthermore, moral
'erfection in life is considered to be 'ossible, contraril to -udaism( *his condition is called
sanctity( *he doctrine ex'lains this as a collaboration bet#een God and a limited number of souls(
*he man or #oman2s merits are re#arded b God, #ho sends his Grace u'on them( *he result is a
state that allo#s them to 'erform miracles and im'art ri%ht teachin%s(
Co one can be considered a
saint before his or her death( Bnl then the .hurch of Rome can certif that this 'erson have
actuall lived this condition durin% his or her life and authorise his or her cult(
*he cult of the 5aints had reached its 'ea" in fifteenth+centur &uro'e(
5ince the #ere believed to
be mediators bet#een the faithful and God, the invocation of the 5aints #ho #as su''osed the a'ter
for a 'articular situation #as believed to have a real effect on everda 'roblems( Ritualistic
su'erstition #as diffused at an level of societ( 1urthermore, the more recentl canonised saints
#ere 'eo'le havin% a little + if an + callin% to the diffusion of the Gos'el throu%hout societ( !ein%
mainl members of the aristocrac or ascetics, these fi%ures 'romoted a reclusive, elitist and
E 5ee .& LIII 6191@7, ''( F@8F@9(
K 8I33&R!R)C< 6@0037, '( @31+@3@(
intros'ective idea of .hristianit( *he Reformers reacted to this( *he did not believe in the
'ossibilit of an actual ethical 'erfection in life( Cor the believe that the .hurch had the authorit
to a''rove the cult of anbod but .hrist( 1or them, sin #as unavoidable for it #as 'art of our
nature( !a'tism did not cancel the ori%inal sin and our #ill #as not stron% enou%h in itself to resist
tem'tations( )s our facult of $ud%ement #as naturall 'artial, #e could never "no# #hether our
decisions had been a''roved b God or not( *he !ible, ho#ever, 'rovided us both #ith exam'les
6#e could sa, case histories7 and #ith a code( *hrou%h the 3a# #e "no# #hat is forbidden and
#hat is not( *hrou%h the exam'les #e can see #hat ha''ens #hen #e deviate from the 3a# or, on
the contrar, #hen #e remain 2ri%hteous2(
@( *he exe%esis of Genesis 19 before the Reformation
.oncernin% our case, the first inter'retations came from the school of )lexandria(
)s #as t'ical of
the rabbinic method, this ;uestion #as 'osed in the terms of a le%al suit(
*he accusation #as that of
incest( *he dau%hters2 defence relied on their %ood faith( *heir motive #as le%itimate because the
#ere concerned #ith the 'er'etration of their 'ro%en( Moreover, the $ust #itnessed the
annihilation that had "illed everone of their famil and thou%ht that #as no more 'ossibilit for a
ne# offs'rin%( *he #ea" 'oint of this ar%ument #as that there #ere in fact still 'eo'le in 5oar,
#here God had %ranted safet to the famil( )nother char%e #as that the dru%%ed their father
althou%h the #ere not accused of bein% lustful for the had sle't #ith him onl once( )s for 3ot,
he #as accused on the basis that it #as 2almost incredible2
that he could not have consented to
have sex, for obvious reasons( 8e %ot drun" t#ice and he did not trust the an%els( 8is defence #as
that he had been forced to become drun"( <run"enness #as not ex'licitl a crime and the 'hrase 2he
#as una#are2
im'lies that, if conscious, he could have not a%reed( &ventuall, the dau%hters #ere
absolved #hile 3ot #as full condemned( In 8ebre# exe%esis he is 'resented as a #ea" and 'assive
character, #ho betraed his ori%ins and therefore he is cul'able for %ivin% birth to some de%enerate
'eo'le( *his vie# #as also su''orted b the Midrashic tradition that attributed to 3ot, and his
descendants, a number of bad ;ualities(
*his ex'lained the exclusion of an Moabite or )mmonite
man from the )ssembl, althou%h it #as 'ossible to Israelites to marr a Moabite #oman( *his
sin%ular fact #as extremel im'ortant for the .hristians because from a Moabite the 'ro'hetess
Ruth directl descended both "in% <avid and -esus .hrist(
8 13)MI/5 -B5&P8/5, 1, 1D9+18E
9 5*&ICM&*4 6@00E7, ''( 3@E+3FE(
10 !erR F1, 3+10( CI.8B3)5 <& 3NR), '(
11 Gen 19, 33+3E(
1@ !erR E1, 38(
/nli"e the 8ebre# tradition, the .hristian canon ex'licitl reco%nised the 2ri%hteousness2
6OPQRPSTUVW7 of 3ot(
*he exam'le of 5odom #ould be used b -esus himself and it #as considered
extremel im'ortant to conve the idea of the 3ast -ud%ement( In -esus2 readin%, the 5odomite 6in
the 'erson of 3ot2s #ife7 re'resented the one #ho 2turned bac"2, or 2#ho tried to 'reserve his life2(
*he 'unishment #ill deal not #ith the sim'le trans%ression of some 'articular social, sexual or
reli%ious 'rece't, but #ith a %eneral existential state of abandonment( 8is descri'tion of the last
instants of 5odom #as aimed 6at7 connectin% our everda actions #ith the final $ud%ement0
the next ima%e of the alle%or im'lies that even thou%h #e #ill be doin% the same thin%s to%ether,
some of us #ill be 'unished and some others #ill be saved(
!ecause of -esus2 em'hasis, 3ot #as
ta"en b earl .hristian commentators as an exam'le of 'erfect ri%hteousness and a 'refi%uration
for the .hristian amon% the 'a%ans( 8e stood in o''osition #ith the 5odomite, #ho became the
ima%e of the ne# 2.hristian2 sinner, consciousl submittin% his #ill to the satisfaction of carnal
desires + as ma be found in the &'istle of -udah(
*he same connection is reaffirmed b earl texts
such as the &'istle of .lement of Rome
and the !oo" of the -ubilees(

*he ne# alle%oric dimension assumed b this narrative #as soon transferred to the next se%ment(
)s alread ha''ened #ith 3ot2s #ife, the other members of the famil too became embodiments of
universal mental dis'ositions ca'able of 'roducin% vices in the form of disordered reasonin%( *his
is evident 9X: to 9X: in the )lexandrian milieu, #ith Philo, #ho too" 3ot as the rational Mind and his
dau%hters as .ounsel and .onsent(
It is interestin% to note ho# the more #e move from a
historical 6i(e(, referential7 to an alle%orical 6i(e(, universal7 attribution, the more the dau%hters are
treated ne%ativel( In this case, the re'resent the fault mechanism of our $ud%ement u'on realit
#hen the senses and the intellect are 'oisoned b i%norance( &ven if our conscience is made
insensible, the still continue to 'rocess their sentences( *here is ho#ever no discussion about the
moralit of the characters( Ye have to #ait for Iraeneus of 3ons to have the first entirel .hristian
alle%or on this sub$ect(
)ccordin% to Iraeneus, 3ot #as the Yord of God( 8e %enerated the t#o
.hurches, but no one a'art from him could %ave them the vitale semen that #ill %ive birth to the
livin% sons of the livin% God( *his is the 25'irit of God2 or the 25'irit of the remission of sins2 that
'rocreate a ne# men from the old #hile he is unconscious(
*he alle%or of Bri%en is more
13 @ Pet( @, K(
1F 3u"e 1K, 3@+33
1E 3u"e 1K, @8+@9(
1D 3u"e 1K, 3F+3E(
1K -ude 1, K13(
18 .3&M&C5 RBM)C/5 LI, 1+@(
19 -ubilees, LMI, E+9(
@0 P8I3B B1 )3&L)C<RI), L3+L3I(
@1 IR&C)&/5 B1 3NBC5, IM, 31+3@(
@@ IM, 31, @D9(
accurate and tries in vain to arrive to a conclusion around the characters2 behaviour( 3ot is 2'artl
cul'able and 'artl excusable2(
8e #as not as bad as the 5odomites, because he used hos'italit to
the )n%els and did not sin #illin%l( *hou%h, he #as not even so 'erfect to obe to the an%els2
commands( 8e is in 2bet#een the sinners and the ri%hteous2
and his salvation is due to )braham2s
merit( *he i%norance $ustified the dau%hters, afraid that the #orld #as about to end( 8e 'raises the
absence of an malice in them and %oes so far as to $ustif their incest considered to be better than
normal sexual acts for the sa"e of 'leasure( 5till, he uses them to set a com'lex meta'hor #here
the re'resent a%ain ne%ative vices: Pride and Main%lor( In this 'icture, 3ot re'resents a%ain, our
consciousness( 8e concludes exhortin% us to unite #ith Yisdom + that is, -esus .hrist + #ho is our
brother and sister and mother(
3atin scholars #ere more concerned #ith %ivin% a historical rather than alle%orical readin%(
for instance, ex'lains that 3ot disobeed to God2s command and #ent to the mountain
because he #as afraid of the man earth;ua"es that shoo" the land around 5oar( It #as 3ot2s lac" of
faith that caused the incest of the dau%hters( )ccordin% to -erome, 3ot #as entirel %uilt and the
dau%hters #ere sim'le instruments throu%h #hich he sinned( )u%ustine2s readin% of Genesis 19 #as
much less allusive than those offered b the Gree"s and he faced the 'roblem of sex #ith a more
strai%htfor#ard a''roach( In the Responsio ad Faustum anichaeum, he condemned the incest 2as a
'art of the histor2
but its 'resence in the !ible must reflect the intention of God to %ive us some
ac"no#led%ement of the future( )s for the first 'art, he reco%nised the hos'italit and ri%hteousness
of 3ot, $ud%in% him 2#orth2
to save his life( 3ot in 5odom is the t'e of the bod of .hrist( !ut
he needs to chan%e attribution for the second 'art and therefore 3ot in the .ave came to re'resent
the 2future la#2,
#hen his dau%hters re'resents those #ho, misunderstandin% the la#, use that for a
selfish 'ur'ose( .om'ared to the o'inions of the authors #ho 'receded him, )u%ustine #as much
more benevolent throu%h 3ot( *he incest he committed is not 'unished #ith the same severit used
#ith 5odom because it #as not a conse;uence of lust rather than of the 2natural desire for offs'rin%
in order to 'reserve the race2(
8e further dischar%ed 3ot from the sin of incest b re'lacin% this
#ith the less serious crime of drun"enness( 8is 'ortrait of him 6bound to have a %reat influence on
3uther7 is that of a man in a distressed existential state 6perturbatione timoris7
and of a #ea" faith(
)s for the dau%hters, his attitude is ver ambi%uous( Bn one hand he uses the traditional 'retext of
@3 Ibidem(
@F Ibid( IM, (((
@E -&RBM&, '( 30+31(
@D )/G/5*IC&, 617 LII, F@(
@K 617 LII, F1(
@8 Ibidem(
@9 617 LII, FE(
30 )/G/5*IC&, 6@7 L3MII(
their i%norance to 6'artiall7 $ustif their initiative( Bn the other, he subtl hints to them as the
active reason to the sin committed b 3ot( 5till, he did not mana%e to find a reason #h 3ot
consented to drin" this much( 1or )u%ustine the 'roblem ho#ever #as not to $ustif 3ot2s action but
to understand #h God included his histor in the 5cri'tures: 29Z: #e are defendin% the sacred
5cri'tures, not man2s sins( Cor are #e concerned #ith $ustifin% this action, as if our God had either
commanded it or a''roved of it0 or as if, #hen men are called $ust in 5cri'ture, it meant that the
could not sin if the chose(2
*he fact that there is no 'recise mention of the 'unishment for this sin
+ as it had been for the first 'art + is ex'lained b )u%ustine in these terms:
9(((: it is 'ro'er that the $ud%ement of God should be declared in some cases, and concealed in others, that b
its manifestation our i%norance ma be enli%htened, and that b its concealment our minds ma be im'roved
((( 8ere, then, God, #ho can brin% %ood out of evil, made nations arise from this ori%in, as 8e sa# %ood, but
did not brin% u'on 8is o#n 5cri'tures the %uilt of man2s sin( It is God2s #ritin%, but not 8is doin%(
In the first 'assa%e, he affirms that even if the 2ri%hteous2 men chose not to sin, the could sin
an#a( *his #ould be a "e ar%ument for Martin 3uther( 5econdl, he affirms that the omissions in
the !ible are as much si%nificant as the assertions( )nd, finall, that God can turn the evil
committed b men into %ood but he does not have an res'onsibilit in 'rovo"in% that( *his 'oint
#ould become central in .alvin( )mbrose of Milan
, too, contributed to the debate, althou%h his
'osition is not 'articularl ori%inal( 8e absolved 3ot from an other sin but drun"enness and he
assimilated him to Coah + therefore to the fi%ure of a victim rather than a harasser( Conetheless, he
absolved also the dau%hters and blamed some minor bac"%round fi%ures, that is 3ot2s 2sons+in+la#2(
*he fault of the incest is therefore to be ascribed to the 5odomites(
*he later tradition of the commentarii u'on Genesis, revie#ed all these traditional readin%s( *hese
#ere often ex'anded b addin% details discovered in ne#l found sources or throu%h some ne#
method of analsis( *he t#o fundamental commentaries, collectin% the o'inions of the 1athers
around each locus of the 5cri'tures, #ere #ritten b 8rabanus Maurus and Yalafrid 5trabo in the
ei%ht and ninth centuries( *he similar #or" b Cicolas de 3ra u'%raded their contents #ith the
decisive contribution of 8ebre# exe%esis( <e 3ra #ill be a ma$or source for Martin 3uther #ho,
ho#ever, stron%l o''osed an influence of the narrative methods of the rabbis on the .hristian
31 617 LII, FE(
3@ 617 LII, FE(
33 )M!RB5& B1 MI3)C, I, D, E@+D0(
3( Martin 3uther on Genesis 19
Enarrationes in !rimum osen 61E3E7, '( @FE+3F0(
*he definin% characteristic of 3uther2s commentar is to refer constantl to his 'resent das( 8is
main concern seems be the fact that the .hurch of Rome #as abusin% the 'o#er of discretion of the
biblical 'assa%es to be read throu%hout the ear(
*he 'riests avoided readin% the #hole stor
because the #ere afraid of the reactions that this mi%ht arise( 1or 3uther, instead, an exam'le of
the !ible #as e;uall relevant for it reflected humanit in its unchan%eable nature( 8is analsis #as
much informed b the 'ractice of excludin% an fictional element and #or"in% on the !ible alone,
#ith fe# other sources( 8e tends himself, ho#ever, to fill the %a's #ith fictional scenes( .om'ared
to some of his contem'oraries revie#s, he sho#ed a remar"able attention to %eo%ra'hic and
anthro'olo%ical variables( /nli"e 4#in%li, his stle is brilliantl ima%inative( 3i"e 4#in%li2s,
ho#ever, 3uther2s ar%umentation is hi%hl methodical: he starts #ith the verse under 9X:, 'ro%resses
to further 5cri'tural cross+references and concludes #ith the analo%ies on his o#n das(
In 3uther2s mind, the aim of this cha'ter is to %ive a %lim'se into God2s #rath a%ainst sinners( 8e
'rom'tl admits that he is reluctant to treat this sub$ect and he describes )braham2s attem't to
reduce God2s ri%ht reven%e as a 2tem'tation2
( It is similar to the one incurred b follo#ers of
)ntinomianism #ho thin" that humanit needs to be treated #ith s#eetness and not to be scared b
tremendous stories of 'unishment( Bn the contrar, 3uther affirms that it is 'recisel this feelin% of
"ear 62territi animi 9(((: 'lacent <eo27
instilled in us b the 5cri'tures that 'revent us from
committin% sin( )s it #as in the biblical das, humanit is still divided bet#een #ic"ed and
ri%hteous( )t the last da, the formers #ill be damned and the latter saved( 5till both are sinners,
everone is( 5o, the difference bet#een them must lie in the inner intentions( 3uther calls the
formers securi that is, 2arro%ant2 and 2outra%eous2 men( *hese are the 5odomites, #ho ta"e advanta%e
of lac" of human $ustice and sin undisturbed( Yhat the man of God should use to convert them are
terrifin% exam'les, #ith no room for merc( *o them is dedicated the first 'art of the cha'ter and
the ima%e of .hrist sufferin%( *he #ic"ed are, on the contrar, called timentes or humiliati( *he are
not committed sinners( *he sincerel #ant to do %ood, but all their efforts are frustrated b human
limits( 3ot and Coah are the ima%es of such a 2miserable floc"2 'rotected and saved b .hrist
*he don2t need to be fri%htened but to be comforted #ith exam'les of divine merc(
*he second 'art is devoted to them(
3F 617 '( @FD0 6@7 (((
3E 617 '( @FD(
3D 617 '( @F9(
3K 617 ''( @FK+@F8(
3uther insists on the per"ect hos'italit of 3ot( 8e inter'rets his insistence in invitin% the an%els to
his house as a sinister 'remonition and a %enuine a''rehension( ! constantl referrin% to &[e"iel,
he com'ares the 5odomites to those #ho consider their #ealth as a reco%nition of God2s favour( In
fact, God does not communicate his favour throu%h #or"s, but the #a he $ud%es our soul, therefore
throu%h temptations( Peacefulness of the mind rather than material #ealth is the re#ard that God
allo#s to men( *he self+$ustification is the sin of 5odom as it is for German to#ns( .onfronted #ith
their commessationes et potationes
the lau%h, because those are not hidden but 'ublicl acce'ted(
*he terms used here are not random because these #ere the same crimes attributed to 3ot( *he
actions are the same but the meanin% in histor is com'letel different( )l#as com'arin% #hat is
found in the 5cri'ture #ith the realit around him, 3uther is the first to directl relate the
destruction of 5odom #ith a sexual trans%ression, namel to homose#uality( *his is also somethin%
ne# because no one before him had em'hasi[ed this as'ect in these terms( Yithin the tradition of
.hristian commentar 2unnatural2 sex #as seen as a sm'tom of the 5odomites2 more %eneral
#ea"ness and it #as clear that their harassment to 3ot #as more a 'unitive 'olice action a%ainst
forei%ners than the satisfaction of some collective sexual ur%e( 3uther, b contrast made that ur%e a
'rimar cause, accusin% the 5odomites of an 'erversion(
8e even arrived to accuse them of
committin% incest\ )t the same time, 3ot is excul'ated for havin% offered his dau%hters to the
cro#d( )s a ri%hteous man, he tried to do all that #as in his 'o#er( 3uther does not acce't the
classic ar%ument accordin% to #hich 3ot #as committin% a lesser crime in order to avoid a more
serious one( &ven if he did a terrible thin%, he is nevertheless a 2saint2 and 2innocent2 man because his
intentions #ere %ood and it #as the evil nature of the 5odomites that caused him to sin( *he
'unishment, a%ain, is not directed to actual trans%ressions but to intentions(
*hose #ho follo# the
la#s literall #ithout an accidentium consideratione are blinded b i%norance and then
God made man thin%s a%ainst his o#n rules throu%h 2heroic men2
#hom he choose
individuall in order to accom'lish his #ill( Ye must therefore 'raise those actions but never
imitate them, because #e are never sure of our salvation(
In the next section, 3uther sas that it #as exactl the sim'le nature of 3ot2s character, #hich God
had 'reviousl re#arded b rescuin% his famil, that made him sin a%ain( )t this 'oint of the stor,
the )n%els 'las an im'ortant role( *hese #ere sent b God as 3ot2s custodians( *he messa%es the
deliver throu%hout the narrative are not 'ro'er commands rather than 2'romises2
( God alread
38 617 '( @FK0@E00@ED(
39 617 '( @EK(
F0 5ee )/G/5*IC& 637 LMI, 30s( 0 )M!RB5& I, D, E@s(
F1 617 '( @K1(
F@ 617 '( @KF(
F3 Ibidem(
FF 617 '( 30D(
"ne# the intentions and the troubles of 3ot 62Parcit et i%noscit ei, eum;ue ;uasi invitum servat27
but he leaves it to him #hether to follo# his instructions or not( 3ot2s later disobedience is a sin,
even thou%h made 2for a %ood and absolutel correct concern2( 8is hesitation in leavin% 5odom is
seen as a 'roof of his ri%hteousness for he does interro%ate himself #hen confronted b a command
from God, #ithout acce'tin% that 'assivel( *his reluctance is com'ared to that of )braham #hen
ordered to "ill Isaac, one that started the .ovenant #ith God( In fact, God re#ards 3ot b %ivin%
him the chance to d#ell in 5oar( 8ere is sho#n ho# 'raer as act of self+humiliation is able to
tem'er even God2s an%er(

3uther is sur'risin%l indul%ent #ith 3ot2s #ife( 8e re$ects the rabbinical vie#s and laments that
.hristians have sho#n a scarce interest in this sub$ect( 2*o loo" behind2 for him is sim'l to disobe
God2s commands and to be concerned #ith 2other thin%s a'art from vocation2(
) 'unishment is
therefore needed( !ut here 3uther notices somethin% else: the 2transformation2 of 3ot into salt is not
as if 3ot2s #ife became of salt herself, rather than she became 2li"e salt2(
5he #as not 2damned2,
rather, she #as 2corrected2
( 8ere the em'ath #ith the characters reaches its hi%hest 'oint and the
famil des'eration is de'icted #ith the most vivid colours( *he2re survivors( In order to avoid the
dau%hters to do the same as their mother, he ta"es them into the .ave( 3uther steadil notices that
this 'assa%e is so filled #ith confusions that no author in the 'ast has mana%ed to %ive a valid
ex'lanation( 3ot is scared( 8e is in distress and filled #ith anxiet( 5ince his #ife #as as dead, he
#as afraid to sta in 5oar and to ex'ose the dau%hters a%ain to the fur of the citi[ens( )nd this too
can be understood( )nd then he decides to hide his famil from the #orld and its tem'tations(
*herefore the 2calamit2, he sas, could not reach his s'irit 6as if he had staed in 5oar7, but onl his
25ome sort of salvation2 can be follo#ed b an even more dramatic fall( !ut the soul of the
ri%hteous man can remain 'ure(

*he first challen%e for 3uther is to dismount that 2$uasi incredibile2 attached b 8ebre#
commentators and .hristians to 3ot2s una#areness( !roadl s'ea"in%, 3uther sas that this
ha''ened because 3ot removed the memor of the event from his mind( *he descri'tion of 3ot2s
drun"enness is im'ressivel similar to the modern conce't of 'scholo%ical re'ression( &ventuall,
he a''ears to dischar%e 3ot from the sin of incest because, a'art from his o#n 'scholo%ical
FE 617 '( 30@(
FD 617 '( 310(
FK 617 '( 3@0(
F8 Recallin% an 8ebre# le%end about the #ife of 3ot #ho #as never reall dead but $ust 'etrified, ta"in% an
efflorescence of co''er from the stone that still re'resent 3ot2s #ife in !e2er 5heva as her normal 'eriod( 5ee
])<)RI 6@0097(
F9 617 '( 3@1+3@@(
E0 617 '( 330(
E1 Ibidem(
condition, he #as also made drun" b the dau%hters( 8is sic"ness is no# com'lete, affectin% both
his mind and his bod( 3uther does not $ustif him com'letel, an#a, but shre#dl 'ost'one the
discussion to another occasion, his main concern bein% to defend the validit of #hat is #ritten in
the 5cri'tures and not to $ud%e a man2s sin, as is the case #ith )u%ustine(
*he dau%hters, on the
other hand, are excused, but not $ustified( 3uther condemn their idea( *he cause, ho#ever, #as ri%ht
and not moved b an lust( *he all sinned not because of some vice the #ere attached to li"e
the 5odomites + but for a momentar la'se of reason due to the extraordinar fear and anxiet
6summus pavor et angustia7
that 'revented them from actin% 'ro'erl( !ut this same perturbatio is
induced b God to deliver an exam'le( 8e alread "ne# 3ot2s heart and for%ives him( *he fact that
the 5cri'tures did sa nothin% more is also said to be relevant to us because #e do not "no# ho#
this stor reall ends( *his should comfort us because the have reached the bottom 6gravior
and their life can start a%ain( 8e even ima%ines that an ha'' endin% #ith the famil
finall reunited to )braham is 2li"el2(
Moreover, he sas, Moabites and )mmonites #ere
2beautiful 'eo'le2 from #hich .hrist descends(
*o them #as %ranted a land and a 'ro%en, albeit
excluded from the )ssembl( *his should be further reason for us to be consoled for #e mi%ht
receive a blessin% even after #e have been $ustl 'unished( *he names %iven b the dau%hters to
their sons, mar"in% their ori%in, #ere 'roud ex'ressions of their sacrifice, as to sa that it #as
necessar( 6E3FD7
F( 8uldrch 4#in%li on Genesis 19
Farrago Annotationum in %enesim 61E@87, '( 11K+1@K(
4#in%li2s readin% is a 'lain analsis of the text usin% the basic tools of exe%esis( .om'ared to that
of 3uther, his ar%umentation counts on less scri'tural ar%uments and more lin%uistic evidences( 8e
entirel clears his analsis from an "ind of s'eculation and traditional readin%( 8is 'ers'ective is
strictl historic and his a''roach is oriented b social rather than 'scholo%ical concerns( *he
accent on the sexual habits of the individuals is lessened and the #hole situation is inter'reted in the
'ers'ective of the administration of the la# in a communit(
)s for 3ot, he is ri%hteous and a 2saint2 man( *he char%e of havin% tried to %ive a#a his dau%hters
to the 5odomites is refused on behalf of his charit( 4#in%li sas that the 2man of faith2 'ut in front
of a necessit, "no#s #hat he ou%ht to do since he trust in God2s abilit to turn the bad into %ood
E@ 5ee n( @9(
E3 617 '( 331(
EF 617 '( 33D(
EE 617 '( 33K(
ED 617 '( 338(
EK 8/3<RN.8 4YICG3I 617 '( 1@00
5o that, 2made sure2 b the fact that he is 'rotectin% God2s messen%ers, he can offer his dau%hters
#ith no re%ret(
8e must, ho#ever, constantl stru%%le #ith the #ea"ness of his o#n flesh
'roducin% the fear that ma"es one loo" behind( Yhile, in 3uther, fear #as an instrument in God2s
hands, for 4#in%li this is rather a conse;uence of our s'iritual frailt( )s, for the second accusation
of havin% disobeed to the )n%els in leavin% 5oar, 3ot is found %uilt( It #as the fear indeed that
made him leave and led him to debaucher( Cevertheless volimus nolimus +
#hatever God
wants, it has to ha''en( *his is an im'ortant distinction( 1or 4#in%li, 3ot2s disobedience is
someho# necessar to God2s master 'lan, #hile in 3uther there #as no such an im'lication( 1or
3uther, in fact, 3ot could al#as choose not to sin( !ut he could not choose #hether to be #ithin
the elected or the damned( It is true that the fate of anone is established from the .reation0 still, the
'lan of God on humanit is never 2contin%ent2(
Bur #or"s #ill not influence our 'redetermined
fate, after death( !ut the do influence our life on &arth( God established determined conse;uences
for an trans%ression( 5o that our ha''iness or des'air in this life is our res'onsibilit( *he timentes
+ even thou%h the #ill never be 'erfect in their choice + are ho#ever sure to be consoled in their
earthl sufferin%, #hile the #ic"ed are tormented( *hrou%h our actions, #e can not choose #hether
to be saved but ho# to live(
More radicall in 4#in%li, 3ot never fails as lon% as God stas #ith him, as #hen he offered his
dau%hters to the 5odomites( !ut it #as God + for his necessit to do %ood + to decide to 2lift a#a his
hand2 from u'on him and 2let him fall2
as soon as 3ot decided to disobe the )n%els(
&ven the
2ri%hteous2 can never be sure of God2s favour and our #ea"nesses are not excuses for our deeds( *he
'unishment is therefore in the sim'le desertion of God, #hich automaticall %enerates 'ain and
bestialit( *here is no difference, #hen trans%ressin%, bet#een the saved and the damned( *he 'ain
#ill be the same( Cone, therefore, can ever choose to sin or not to sin, for ever sin%le action is
#anted from the be%innin% b God( *he onl #a to obtain God2s favour is to #al" in his %uidance(
5o that those #ho follo# God2s 'rece'ts can onl feel 2assured2, #hen the #al" into God2s 'ath and
2des'erate2 #hen God decide to leave them(
!ut both are necessar conditions in everone2s life(
4#in%li invites us to admire the miraculous rescue of 3ot as an exce'tional intervention of God in
human affairs, rather than to 3ot2s 2re%ular2 sin, as a human bein%( It #as a%ain the reco%nition of his
faith 6and not of his actions7 to save his life( Bn the contrar, it #as an action that revealed a lac" of
faith that condemned him to a shameful end( *here is no 'ro'er sin, and both father and dau%hters
E8 617 '( 1@E( 637, '( (((
E9 Ibidem(
D0 3/*8&R 6F7 '( 80(
D1 617 '( 1@D(
D@ Ibidem(
D3 617 '( 1@F(
are excused on the base that there #as still no #ritten la#, althou%h the 'icture is still far from bein%
o'timistic( *here is no consolation out of God2s 'rotection and this de'ends exclusivel from his
intentions( In fact, 4#in%li concludes des'isin% the birth of Moab and )mmon as that of #ic"ed
'eo'le from #hom, an#a, .hrist #ill born( *his is to sho# us that, as it is toda, the famil of
.hrist is filled #ith evil 'eo'le, .hristians onl b name, #ho constantl tr to s'oil the #or"s of
the 'ious( *he humanit de'icted b 4#in%li is not as shar'l divided as in 3uther( *he same
'erson can be an instrument of God, and be saved tem'oraril0 or a rebel to God2s command, and be
damned forever(
E( -ean .alvin on Genesis 19
&ommentarii in primum librum osis, vulgo %enesin 61EEF7, ''( 99+108(
*he last author I am %oin% to examinin% in this 'a'er, -ean .alvin, #rote a lot about this stor(
!esides the commentar in 3atin he also dedicated t#o sermons in 1rench to this cha'ter one for
each of the t#o se%ments of the narrative(
8is commentar is even freer from references to 'ast
authorities than that of 4#in%li( 8e does not dis'las the same ri%our as the others in the analsis of
the terms( 8avin% ruled out traditional a''roaches, he reads this cha'ter accordin% to common
sense( Yhile the advanta%e of this a''roach is that he could ex'ound some ver ori%inal 'ositions,
the limit is that some of his ar%uments #ere not sufficientl su''orted b evidence to be re%arded as
more than o'inions(
Bne of these o'inions #as that the three an%els in Mamre
#ere indeed -esus .hrist( *he fact that
$ust t#o of them arrived to 5odom si%nifies that the revelation to 3ot #as less clear than the one
manifested to )braham( *heir first refusal to sta in 3ot2s house #as due 6unli"e 3uther,
but li"e
7 to their intention to test the faith of 3ot( *he 5odomites are not res'onsible of one vice
onl but for a 2hea'2 of ever 'ossible sins( *he are 2addicted to lust2 and made blind b that(
Bri%inall 6but not #ithout reason7 he 'ostulates that the 5odomites2 re;uest to 2"no#2 the stran%ers
had not a sexual intent( Rather, the mistrusted 3ot as a stran%er himself and #anted to see #ho #as
$ust arrived in to#n( *his 'osition hel'ed him to lessen the %ravit of 3ot2s %esture of offerin% his
dau%hters in exchan%e for the )n%els2 safet( 8e did not ex'ect that the ra%e of the 5odomites #ould
arrive to this 2extreme2 'oint(
1irst, he ris"s his life in trin% to calm the cro#d and, onl then, he
offers his dau%hters( *his, .alvin sas, is #hat the holy men do( *he 2extreme necessit2 6similarl
DF -&)C .)3MIC 6@7 ''( 10KE+108E(
DE Gen 18(
DD 3/*8&R 617 '(@EF(
DK 4YICG3I 617 '(118(
D8 .)3MIC 617 '( 10@(
D9 Ibidem(
to 4#in%li7 to calm these 2animals2
and the fact that he alread "ne# that the dau%hters #ould not
be desired, $ustified his attem't( 8is reasonin% #as therefore im'erfect, but sincerel aimed at
obtainin% the best solution for everone( *heir ans#er to 3ot2s offer is seen as a 'refi%uration of our
das( *he 5odomites cannot acce't that a stran%er mi%ht criticise their behaviour( 3i"e#ise, the
Pa'ists cannot acce't that a 2ne# man2, usin% his common sense, mi%ht contradict their authorities(
It is interestin% to note ho# .alvin %ot close to 3uther #hen he 'ortraits 3ot after he fled 5odom(
)%ain, the destruction is not onl effective for the #ic"ed, but also meanin%ful for the 2saved2( In
destroin% the #hole re%ion so violentl, God also #anted to instil fear in 3ot( !ecause he alread
"ne# that 3ot2s faith #as not 'erfect, he added more em'hasis to his #arnin%( 3ot2s fli%ht is still
com'ared to the fli%ht from carnal desires( 8e firstl decides to contradict God2s command and as"s
to d#ell a%ain in a cit, albeit God had 6alread\7 desi%ned a mountain for his safet( In this, .alvin
detects a %uilt attachment to the comforts of the urban life on 3ot2s 'art( 5till, he is sincerel
#orried to die and even if he 2did not de'arted far2 from the ri%ht 'ath, he nevertheless disobeed to
)lso, the o'inion that .alvin held of 3ot2s #ife is 'eculiar( )lthou%h she is blamed of
disbelievin% God2s #ord and other 6not better identified7 2unhol desires2,
he insists that she never
reall died( *his follo#ed another im'ortant ar%ument( *he same indul%ence 6not a''roval\7 that
God reserved to 3ot2s #ife in 'reservin% her soul inside her ne# stone+made bod, #as also
conceded to 3ot after he disobeed( *he assum'tion that substantiates this readin% is %iven fe#
lines earlier, #hen the )n%els 6s'ea"in% for God7 said that the could not destro the cit as lon% as
the 2elected2 #ere not saved(
Ye no# turn to the final 'art of the cha'ter( *he more evident difference #ith the #or"s of his
collea%ues is the re$ection of an "ind of excuse both for 3ot and his dau%hters( )s 3uther did
before him, he refers his decision to leave 5oar to a 2blind anxiet of the mind2
( 3ot2s 'revious
o''osition to God2s order #as not left #ithout conse;uences: 2it #as onl throu%h the #onderful
"indness of God, that he did not receive either immediate, or ver severe 'unishment( 1or the 3ord,
b 'ardonin% him at the time, caused him finall to become $ud%e of his o#n sin(2
3i"e the other
inter'reters he too ar%ues that the disobedience brou%ht the survivors to clinical madness( *he %irls
#ere ta"en b a 2foolish desire for the 'rocreation of their famil2
but here2s the difference + at
the same time the "ne# #ell the #ere doin% somethin% ver bad( .alvin entirel re$ects 6a%ain
K0 Ibidem(
K1 617 '( 10F(
K@ 617 '( 10D(
K3 Ibidem(
KF Ibidem(
KE Ibidem(
#ith some %ood reasons7 both the traditional excuses: that the thou%ht that everone on &arth #as
dead and that the #ere i%norant of the 'rece'ts( *he results is a #illin% and insane remed a%ainst
loneliness, throu%h 2the su''ression of the conscience2(
&ven 3ot2s %uilt is 2diminished but not
b his unconsciousness( Mer honestl, he reco%nised the miserable fall of a hol man
into mediocrit( *he moral is then that #e ma not allo# nor %ive ourselves to licentiousness
therefore im'lin% that this is 'ossible( *his can be achieved onl fearin% God2s 'unishment, #hich
incites us to 'enance(
D( .onclusions
It mi%ht be useful to dra# a final summar of our authors2 exe%esis on Genesis 19( Ye have chosen
to focus on 3ot, as a 2ri%hteous2 man, initiall #orth of bein% saved from the evil+doers but
eventuall cau%ht in a ver serious crime(
Martin 3uther demonstrated from his exam'le that the 2ri%hteous man2 is no other than a man #ho
humiliates himself in front of God( )n sin deserves its 'unishment( *hose that are made #ith a
criminal intent #ill not be for%iven( Yhile those that are due to insanit are, in fact, amended( *his
is 'roven b the most im'ressive 'unishment for the 5odomites com'ared to ver mild
conse;uences for the deeds of 3ot2s famil( 8is #ife is onl 2corrected2, not damned( )s for the
incest, 3uther seems to doubt #hether 3ot and his dau%hters have received an actual 6i(e(, 'ersonal7
'unishment, and 'raises the 3ord2s merc that have 'ermitted them to live more( *he fault resides in
the instabilit of the individual mind( *he 2ri%hteous2 man #ill act ri%hteousl as lon% as he is not
confronted to situations that 'ut his mind to the test( !ut it is $ust a matter of time( B''ressed b the
#orld and facin% the miser of his o#n self, his $ud%ements #ill be inevitabl 'erverted(
1or 4#in%li, our salvation onl de'ends from the #ill of God accordin% to his necessit( Bur inborn
inabilit to understand the %reater Good is the cause of our damnation( *he res'onsibilit is,
therefore, never individual 6for our actions are determined7 but inherent to human nature per se(
4#in%li assumes that the 2ri%hteousness2 or 2#ic"edness2 of someone in $ud%in% a situation is
demonstrated each time, and there is no code that could antici'ate our choices( *he certaint of
doin% the ri%ht thin% arrives as a sensation of stren%th and tran;uillit, the o''osite of terror( )s
lon% as 3ot acts in accordance to the Good, he is 'reserved( !ut in the ver moment in #hich he
de'arts from it, he is abandoned b God( -ust as God is in relation to the individual, the 'resence of
KD Ibidem(
KK 617 '( 10K(
a man2s ri%hteousness is intermittent(
5imilarl, for -ean .alvin salvation is the obedience to God2s command( *hat does not mean that
human bein%s have to follo# his rules uncriticall but that the have to be attentive to his man
si%ns( *he moment itself in #hich #e deviate from those 'rece'ts is #hen #e become 2$ud%e9s: of
ourselves2, sel"+inflictin% our 'unishment( In fact, unli"e 4#in%li, the res'onsibilit is a%ain on the
individual( !ut, unli"e 3uther, .alvin does not blame the ini;uities of the external #orld for our
madness, because an removal of our inhibitions is al#as #illin%( 8e sas that the 2saint2 man is
never ri%hteous in himself, because his onl dut is to follo# God2s %uidance( Ri%hteousness is not
reall inherent to men but to God( If #e #ere free to choose, #e #ould constantl hurt ourselves(
Ye have not considered ho# did these #or"s mutuall related in histor( 8o#ever, this com'arison
#ithin the main Reformers aimed to %ive a 'icture of ho# similar #ere their startin% 'oints( )nd
ho# varie%ated could have been their idea of the relationshi' #ith the divinit( I ho'e that I could
ma"e it, at least in 'art(
!rimary Sources
Martin 3/*8&R:
617 Enarrationes in !rimum osen 61E3E7 in Martin 3uther Yer"e vol( F3, 8erman !ohlaus
Cachfol%er 191@
6@7 De Abroganda issa !rivata 61E@17, Iohannes 3uft 1ED@( Bn *he <i%ital 3ibrar of
.lassical Protestant *exts, )lexander 5treet Press 6htt':^^solomon(tct'(alexanderstreet(com7(
637 The 'ondage o" the (ill 61E@E7, -( I( Pac"er and B( R( -ohnston eds(, Revell 19EK(
8uldrch 4YICG3I:
617 Farrago Annotationum in %enesim 61E@87, in 8uldreich 4#in%li 5amtliche Yer"e vol
LIII, Merla% !eri%taus 19D3(
6@7 De )era et Falsa Religione 61E@E7, .hristo'h 1roschauer 1EFE(
Bn *he <i%ital 3ibrar of classical Protestant *exts, )lexander 5treet Press
-ean .)3MIC:
617 *oannis &alvini commentarii in primum librum osis, vulgo %enesin 61EEF7, Ioannis
Iacobi 5chi''eri, 1DK1( Bn *he <i%ital 3ibrar of .lassical Protestant *exts, )lexander
5treet Press 6htt':^^solomon(tct'(alexanderstreet(com7
6@7 Sermons sur la %ense+ &hapitres ,,,-./0,1 61ED07, in 5u''lementa .alviniana vol(
LI^@, Ceu"irchener Merla% @000(
)M!RB5& B1 MI3)C, De Abraham in Patrolo%ia 3atina <atabase 6htt':^^'ld(chad#c"(co(u"7(
)/G/5*IC& B1 8IPPB:
617 &ontra Faustum anichaeum in .or'us .hristianorum 5erie 3atina: 5ancti )u%ustini
B'era vol( MI,1, *em's" 1891(
6@7 *n 2eptateuchum 3uaestiones in .or'us .hristianorum 5erie 3atina: 5ancti )u%ustini
B'era vol( M, !re'ols 19E8(
637 The &ity o" %od in *he Yor"s of )urelius )u%ustine, M( <ods tr(, *_* .lar" 18K1(
.3&M&C5 RBM)C/5, 1irst &'istle to the .orinthians in *he 3ost !oo"s of the !ible 619@D7, R(
8( Platt ed(, )_! 19D3(
13)MI/5 -B5&P8/5, Antichita4 %iudaiche, 3( Moraldi tr(, /*&* @009(
IR&C&/5, &ontra 2ereses in Patrolo%ia Graeca vol( K,1, Mi%ne 18EK(
-&RBM&, 3uaestiones 2ebraicae in 5ibro %eneseos, de 3a%arde tr(, *eubner 18D8(
BRIG&C, 2omilies on %enesis M, in P( 8eine, *he 1athers of the .hurch 6198@7, *he .atholic
/niversit Press, @00@
P8I3B B1 )3&L)C<RI), 6n Drunkness, in P( ]irb 6ed(7 &arl -e#ish Yritin%s,
Secondary 5iterature:
)( !)R/.8, The Destruction o" Sodom in light o" the Flood Tradition, in )cts from the 1Eth
Yorld .on%ress of -e#ish 5tudies, -erusalem @009(
-( !B5Y&33, &hristianity, Social Tollerance and 2omose#uality, *he /niversit of .hica%o Press,
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