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Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven by  Uta Ranke-Heinemann - Hardcover - 1990 - from ACP Family Bookstore and

Note: Cover may not represent actual copy or condition available

Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven

by Ranke-Heinemann, Uta

Condition: Fine/Good

In this bestseller, the author traces the history of ethics in the West, with regard to sexual morality, including, for example, contraception, homosexuality, and extramarital relations.  The author details specific Church teachings, doctrines, and practices related to sexual moraltiy.  Beginning with non-Christian traditions, this erudite study deals with the earliest evidence, including the New Testament; she also studies in extensive detail the teachings of St. Augustine and other Church fathers.  She also considers the evolution of clerical celibacy, the influence of monasticism, the imposition of monastic norms on lay people, the early penitentials, and especially Scholasticism, including Abelard and Aquinas.  The authors, too, how the Church was influenced by more recent movements, such as Lutheranism and Jansenism. 

On the one hand, much of the study has a polemical cast; the author clearly has an axe to grind.  She points out how much the Western tradition is misogynist and pessimistic with regard to sexuality.  Although much of her focus is on monks and clergy, the attitudes and values she narrates are actually a reflection of the broader society.  Ultimately, one would have to go back more extensively to Stoicism and Manicheanism (as understood in the West) to see the origins of the problematic attitudes she describes.  (She does some of this necessary work in the very first chapter.)  Consequently, her anti-clerical reflections should more accurately be revised, so that they would be understood not as an imposition of false teachings but moreso an expression of already existing cultural norms. 

On the other hand, Ranke-Heinemann displays in this study much serious scholarship.  She brings to the fore much data that is not well represented in other works on her chosen topics.  Moreover, many rational explanations of sexual values are actually rooted in the cultural contexts that she so thoroughly analyzes.  In fact, as the author shows, early Christianity was more influenced by pagan sexual value systems than by the Jewish heritage from which Christianity first sprung. 

To understand the history of several of the important topics studied, any serious thinker has to take this work into account.

Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, of Harvard Divinity School, has said that this book is "must reading for anyone conerned with public policy."  She says that the author's arguments are "often witty but carefully researched."

The author holds a PhD in Catholic theology.  Since late 1987, she held the chair of History of Religion at the University of Essen. 



  • Bookseller: ACP Family Bookstore US (US)
  • Bookseller Inventory #: 0385265271
  • Title: Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven
  • Author: Ranke-Heinemann, Uta
  • Book condition: Used - Fine
  • Jacket condition: Good
  • Quantity available: 2
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • ISBN 10:0385265271
  • ISBN 13:9780385265270
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • Place: New York
  • Date published: 1990
  • Keywords: theology; sexuality; morality
  • Bookseller catalogs: History;
  • Subjects: RELIGION / Christianity / Catholicism;


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