Wrongly Framed? The ‘David and Jonathan Narrative’ and the Writing of Biblical Homosexuality [sic]

Anthony Heacock


The interpretation of the David and Jonathan narrative within 1-2 Samuel has confused many interpreters who do not know what to make of this biblical instance of a close and passionate relationship between two men, particularly when the relationship appears in the same literary tradition that condemns male homogenital behaviour. While conventional interpretations of the narrative have resisted discussions of a sexual aspect to the relationship between David and Jonathan, developments in the recently-minted discipline of the history of sexuality have enabled interpreters to approach biblical eros in new ways. This paper will discuss the contribution of interpretations as offered by Martti Nissinen and Susan Ackerman, in light of the seminal works of Kenneth Dover and Michel Foucault. Although Nissinen and Ackerman claim to be influenced by developments in the history of sexuality (vis-à-vis their criticisms of anachronistic impositions of [homo]sexuality onto biblical narrative), I will show that even these sexualised readings – as sophisticated as they are – are inescapably bound by the modern notions of sexuality that the authors originally critique. To conclude, this paper will look to insights offered by Exum and Damrosch about male bonding as an alternative way of reading the David and Jonathan narrative in historical perspective.


1-2 Samuel; David; Jonathan; queer

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Bible and Critical Theory: ISSN 1832-3391