Adelphopoiesis, or adelphopoiia from the Greek, derived from (adelphos) "brother" and (poie?) "I make", literally "brother-making" is a ceremony practiced at one time by various Christian churches to unite together two people of the same sex (normally men). It is documented by the historian John Boswell in his book Same-sex unions in pre-modern Europe, also published as The marriage of likeness. The ceremony was mainly practised by the Eastern Orthodox Church - Boswell gives text and translation for a number of versions of this ceremony in Greek, and translation only for a number of Slavonic versions.

Boswell's interpretation

The purpose of the adelphopoiesis ceremonies is controversial. Boswell maintained that they were celebrating romantic, indeed sexual unions between two men, and thus a forerunner of gay marriage. Boswell comments on the lack of any equivalent in the Roman Catholic church; however, the British historian Alan Bray in his book The Friend, gives a Latin text and translation of a similar Roman Catholic rite from Slovenia, entitled Ordo ad fratres faciendum, literally "Order for the making of brothers".

Criticism of Boswell's view

The historicity of Boswell's interpretation of the ceremony is contested by the Greek Orthodox Church, which sees the rite as a rite of familial adoption, as the term adelphopoiesis literally means "brother making". Reviewing Boswell Boswell's scholarship has been assailed as being of dubious quality by those who dispute the scholar's interpretation of the facts.Gay Marriage: Reimagining Church History

Alternative views are that this rite was used in many ways, such as the formation of permanent pacts between leaders of nations or between religious brothers. This was a replacement for "blood-brotherhood" which was forbidden by the church at the time. Others such as Brent Shaw have maintained also that these unions were more akin to "blood-brotherhood" and had no sexual connotation.


It is worth noting that Boswell himself (Same-sex Unions, pp. 298-299) denies that adelphopoiesis should be properly translated as "homosexual marriage." He decries such a translation as "tendentiously slanted". This, however, has not stopped many gay activists from claiming (incorrectly) that Boswell's book purports to demonstrate that "gay marriage" was in fact sanctioned by Christian churches in the past.

At the same time, Boswell claims that "brother-making" or "making of brothers" is an "anachronistically literal" translation and proposes "same-sex union" as the preferable rendering. Boswell's preference, however, is not unproblematic. "Sex," for instance, while pointing to a seemingly "objective" characteristic of the participants involved in the rite, in fact draws attention to the physical condition or biological sex of the "brothers" -- whereas the rites for adelphopoiesis explicitly deny that the union itself is a "carnal" one.

See also

External links

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