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John the Faster (?) (d. 595):


John Nesteutes (the Faster), was Patriarch of Constantinople 582-595. This is from a penitential usually ascribed to him.

The priest stands by [the penitent's] side and questions him as cheerfully and kindly as possible, and if he can, he kisses him and puts the penitent's arms around him, especially if he sees that he is overcome with grief and shame, which might wrongly dominate his thoughts, and he speaks to him in a soft and serene voice:

"In what way, my brother, did you first lose your virginity ? By fornication, lawful wedlock, masturbation ["malakia"], or one of those sins which are against nature ["para phusin"] When he has confessed and said thus and such, [the priest] questions him further: How many women had he had when he was married, and how many of these were slaves, how many were vidows, how many were married, how many were nuns - for some who wear the habit indulge in such things - and so forth. It is a small matter if the women were whores ["pornai"] a great one if they were married. . .Before all else the number of persons should be ascertained, and the types of person. There are six types: it is one penance if they were slaves, another if freeborn; one if they were whores, another if virgins; one thing if they were widows another if married; one thing if they were nuns, and another if they were married to priests.

Likewise one must inquire about arsenokoita ["anal intercourse" is Boswell's suggestion] of which there are three varieties. For it is one thing to get it from someone, which is the least serious another to do it to someone else, which is more serious than having it done to you; another to do it to someone and have it done to you, which is more serious than either of the other two. For to be passive only, or active only, is not so grave as to be both. One must inquire into which of these [practices] the penitent has fallen, and how often, and for how long, and if it happened before marriage or after, if before the age of thirty or after. It must be ascertained further whether he has penetrated an animal, of which sin there is only grade.

Likewise there are two types of masturbation [malakia]: one wherein he is aroused by his own hand and another by someone else's hand, which is unfortunate, since what the parties begin by themselves ends up also harming others to whom they teach the sin.

One must also ask about the perplexing, beguiling , and shadowy sin of incest, of which there are not just one or two varieties but a great many very different ones. One type is committed with two sisters of the same father or mother (or both). Another involves a cousin; another the daughter of a cousin; another the wife of one's son; another the wife of one's brother. It is one thing with a mother-in-law or the sister of a mother-in-law, another with a stepmother or a father's concubine. Some even do it with their own mothers, and others with foster sisters or goddaughters. In fact, many men even commit the sin of arsenokoitia with their wives.

[Note: Boswell argues against "arsenokoitia" meaning "homosexuality". It must mean, he argues, "anal sex". The Latin translation in PG, insisting that it means "homosexual sex with other men", ends up translating the text "Many men even commit the sin of sleeping with men with their own wives"!

[The priest] should also inquire in this way about murder, voluntray or and then about whether [the penitent] has injured his parents, either physically or with harsh words, and whether he has taken communion after eating or drinking, has defiled himself during Lent, or has received communion indifferently after having sex with a woman. Has he contracted a secret marriage or indulged in kissing and fondling without going all the way? Has he seduced a boy [epaidophthoresen], prevented someone from receiving his pay, spoken against someone, or injured someone wrongly ? Has he eaten blood, or something strangled, something killed by an animal [Lev.5:2], a carcass [Lev. 11:8], or something slain by birds? Or has he been involved with divination, magic, or potions . . . ?


For discussion of the authorship of this penitential see

Emilio Herman, "Il più antico penitentiziale greco", Orientalia Christiana periodica 19 (1953), 71-127


From: from Migne PG 88, 1893-1896, Trans. in John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality

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