Devotee or deviate: the "dog" (keleb) in ancient Israel as a symbol of male passivity and perversion
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Burns, John B.
The Hebrew word,<em>keleb,</em>"dog," in Deuteronomy 23:19 (Eng: 18) has been commonly interpreted as a homosexual male prostitute, intuitively rather than empirically. Mesopotamian sources show the existence of male cult figures of confused sexuality, whose various sexual activities, including cross-dressing and homosexual intercourse, were expressed and tolerated in cultic and non-cultic spheres. Several interpretations of<em>keleb</em>are considered, among them a devotee of Asherah, a Canaanite cultic singer<b>,</b>a "temple" prostitute or a canine. The concept of passivity in the social and gender constructs of the ancient Near East is discussed<b>,</b>using examples from the Middle Assyrian Laws and analogies from Greek and Roman societies. It is observed that passivity in homosexual intercourse was unthinkable for the free-born male in those societies, for it reduced him to the level of slaves, women and pre-pubescent boys. In the letters from El Amarna in Egypt and from Lachish in Judah, "dog" is used to indicate submission of the inferior to the superior and as a term of insult<b>.</b>Depictions of such submission from Egypt and Syria are presented to demonstrate that there was an actual image behind the canine metaphor. Epithet and image were easily transferred from the dog as cringing servant to the passive homosexual prostitute proffering his backside for penetration. Thus the "dog,"<em>keleb,</em>is unworthy of offering to YHWH from his earnings, just like his female counterpart.
Burns, John Barclay. (2000), Devotee or deviate: the "dog" (keleb) in ancient Israel as a symbol of male passivity and perversion. Journal of Religion & Society, 2.
Rabbi Myer and Dorothy Kripke Center, Creighton University
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