Fridays with Benedict: Chapter 42, Too Sexy for Bedtime Reading?

In Chapter 42 of The Rule of St. Benedict--"Silence After Compline"--Benedict describes how after dinner the monks should gather for a reading. Benedict recommends readings that will "benefit the hearers." And then he goes on to say this:
4but not the Heptateuch or Books of Kings, because it will not be good for those of weak understanding to hear these writings at that hour; they should be read at other times.
The Heptateuch (etymologically the "seven containers") is the name for the first seven books of the Hebrew Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua and Judges. To this list Benedict adds 1-2 Kings. Benedict suggests that these books not be read before bedtime.


I think it has to do with the sex in those books. My hunch is that Benedict doesn't want the monks reading some of those erotic stories before bedtime.

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10 thoughts on “Fridays with Benedict: Chapter 42, Too Sexy for Bedtime Reading?”

  1. Presumably he didn't include Song of Solomon because that is obviously just an allegory about the Church and her groom? Obviously.

  2. Then why the admission of the Books of Samuel? They have their share of sex and violence as well.

  3. In some bibles the books of Samuel are called 1 and 2 Kings, which makes our books of Kings 3 and 4 Kings.

  4. Great point. In the Vulgate (which would have been Benedict's Bible) 1 Samuel is 1 Kings. Now this all makes more sense as there is much more erotic content in 1 & 2 Samuel than 1 & 2 Kings.

  5. Ah, i can't help but wonder. Did Benedict sneak off to his own room and read them? After all, he would not have been the first, and he certainly would not be the last religious leader to lay down the law to others regarding the very sexual activity he privately enjoyed. The rationale, "I'm not like them. I still know that its wrong; I just have a weakness, and if I show too much mercy to others regarding sex then the whole country is going to slide head on into hell on a bobsled", seems to work for most.

  6. I was wondering that. (I mean, even though as Dan has said it's very obviously it's just an allegory about the Bride of Christ and Jesus, those with "weak understanding" might mistake it to be all about carnal acts, which it is clearly not about at all, in any way. Obviously ;) )

    Maybe it's more that these books are where we get a lot of the "confusing" acts of God? Although that doesn't make much sense about the bedtime thing, unless it more is referring to them having lots of time to contemplate things which they really would benefit from being able to discuss, but since its silent time they can't actually receive any of that help, so it might keep them up with worry and doubt?

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