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Home » 17th Annual CLGS John E. Boswell Lecture: Why Do Biblical Interpreters Hate Sex So Much? » 17th Annual CLGS John E. Boswell Lecture: Why Do Biblical Interpreters Hate Sex So Much?

Join CLGS and PSR online for the 17th Annual John E. Boswell Lecture, Why Do Biblical Interpreters Hate Sex So Much? with Professor Luis Menéndez-Antuña

Biblical interpreters hate sex, one might think, because of the church’s age-old war against sex or the church’s inability to think of healthy sexual arrangements outside of heterosexual monogamous marriage. In this view, Paul’s rather contemptuous stance on pleasure and desire likely sits at the roots of these traditions.

Many progressive practitioners–believers, theologians, activists, or biblical scholars themselves–will likely see themselves as an exception to these narratives: “We welcome and affirm all sexual identities!”

Recent developments in biblical studies have contributed to a de-stigmatization of sex, fostering a redemptive vision of sex friendlier to the plight of sexual minorities and devoid of traditional moralizing language.

In this lecture Professor Menéndez-Antuña argues that hostility towards sex has not dwindled in progressive circles; it has rather morphed into less visible iterations–harder to identify and, therefore, assuming more insidious postures.

Join us for this, our 17th Annual CLGS John E. Boswell Lecture, as Professor Menéndez-Antuña explores the historical and cultural – as well as disciplinary– roots of this contempt for sex and suggests which elements of this animosity might offer, from a queer perspective, more productive ways of reading the Christian New Testament.


Luis Menéndez-Antuña is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Boston University School of Theology. He is interested in liberation theologies, cultural studies, and critical theory. Previously, he was Assistant Professor at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and served as Core Doctoral Faculty at the Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley, CA). His current research explores the queer and postcolonial afterlives of the biblical texts.

He has published his research on journals such as Estudios EclesiásticosIlu. Revista de Ciencias de las ReligionesBiblical InterpretationJournal of Religious EthicsEarly ChristianityCritical Research on ReligionJournal of Biblical Literature, and the Journal of the American Academy of Religion.

Professor Menéndez-Antuña’s first monograph on Revelation, Thinking Sex with the Great Whore: Deviant Sexualities and Empire in the Book of Revelation (Routledge, 2020) offers a liberatory reading of Revelation 17-18 using postcolonial and queer historiographies to explore emancipatory paths for identity formation in Biblical texts. He is currently working on his second monograph (New Testament Studies after the Cultural Studies Turn), which focuses on theoretical and hermeneutical developments in New Testament Studies.

Before completing his doctoral studies at Vanderbilt University, Menéndez-Antuña received a Master in Biblical Studies from the Universidad Pontificia Comillas (Madrid), and a Master of Theology from the Universidad Pontificia in Salamanca. He is a Fulbright scholar and has also received grants from the Hispanic Theological Initiative/Luce Foundation, the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion, and the Louisville Institute. He received the Diamond Award for integrative scholarship (SBL, 2021) for his work on torture in the Gospel of Mark.

Menéndez-Antuña also brings twelve years of activism and ministry experience. He has worked in community organizing, HIV advocacy, homeless shelters, prisons, and with kids on the street. His political and theological commitments spring from his involvement in Catholic Christian Base Communities rooted in Latin-American Liberation Theology.

The CLGS John E. Boswell Lecture

Praised and critiqued, lauded and contested – John Boswell’s scholarship continues to provoke questions, inspire new academic work, and, in many ways, set the bar high for LGBTQ religious scholarship. In February,

2006, CLGS brought together some of the leading voices in both academic and activist circles to consider the legacy of Boswell’s scholarship and the path it continues to chart for so much work that still needs to be done. CLGS was pleased to make that conference the occasion for establishing a special endowment fund to honor John Boswell’s life and scholarship by creating the annual CLGS John E. Boswell Lecture, which brings leading scholars in LGBTQ religious studies to the PSR campus each spring semester

In 1980 John Boswell published a book that historian of sexuality Michel Foucault called “a truly groundbreaking work.” Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century charted bold territory in both historical and religious scholarship, setting a new benchmark of academic excellence for gay and lesbian studies. Equally significant, if not more controversial, was his 1993 book, Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, in which he tried to show historical precedence for the religious blessing of same-sex relationships.

In 1975 Dr. Boswell joined the Yale University faculty as an assistant professor after studying at the College of William and Mary and Harvard University. In 1990 he was named the A. Whitney Griswold Professor of History at Yale, where he later served a two-year term as the chair of the history department. In 1987, he also helped organize the Lesbian and Gay Studies Center at Yale.

Martin Duberman, founder of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University of New York, considered Dr. Boswell “one of the major innovative figures in gay and lesbian scholarship. John was very brave and pioneering. And very brilliant.”

Although John Boswell died from AIDS-related illnesses in 1994, his trail-blazing efforts in historical scholarship continue to shape and inspire academic, activist, and faith communities of all traditions. The annual John E. Boswell Lecture honors that pioneering legacy.


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