4 Life was in him, and this life was the light of the human race. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
In 1819 King Francis 1 of Naples is visiting the National Archeological Museum of Naples. There is an exhibit of recently discovered wall paintings and artifacts well preserved from the city of Pompeii which is buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius just after the time St. Paul lived, in 79 AD. When the King, wife and daughter see the erotic paintings, phallic symbol jewelry and household items with various couples and groups having male-female, male-male, female-female, and group sex in all kinds of positions- well- that was enough. Embarrassed and angry, King Francis closes down this part of the museum and has them put the erotic stuff in a secret locked room. It will still be accessible, but only for an extra fee and only to “people of mature age and respected morals.”
Finally, the entrance to this Secret Museum of Naples is bricked up in 1849, but later it is opened to the public, then quickly closed again. So, all in all, it remains closed the majority of time for almost 200 years. Finally it is reopened briefly in the late 1960’s, then closed, until now it remains permanently open, since 2000. What do we learn from this?
Sex is big in ancient Rome. There is nothing we see today that wasn’t already part of the Roman culture. Recreational sex, group sex, prostitution, homosexuality- at least in the cities of Rome, anything goes.
St. Paul is right in the middle of this culture, a Roman citizen himself, and now he is dealing with Romans who have become Christians, Paul is addressing the huge leap these new Christians have to make that puts them totally at odds with Roman culture.
From the earliest days of Christianity, sexual relationships are reserved in marriage between one man and one woman. So, for the average Roman, Christian sexual teaching and practice is absurd.
What about today? Our world, when it comes to sexuality, is similar to Paul’s world. So, what Paul writes in Ephesians 5 is a very relevant teaching for us today.
Have you ever seen erotic art in a museum? What was your response?