Qui coierit cum muliere in fluxu menstruo… interficientur ambo (Lev. 20:18) – The Biblical Prohibition of Sexual Relations with a Menstruant in the Eyes of Some Medieval Christian Theologians


Qui coierit cum muliere in fluxu menstruo… interficientur ambo (Lev. 20:18) – The Biblical Prohibition of Sexual Relations with a Menstruant in the Eyes of Some Medieval Christian Theologians

By Evyatar Marienberg

Shoshannat Yaakov: Jewish and Iranian Studies in Honor of Yaakov Elman, edited by Shai Secunda and Steven Fine (Brill, 2012)

Introduction: What attitudes did medieval Christian theologians have towards the prohibition in Leviticus of sexual relations with a menstruating woman? This article will try to answer this question. The medieval texts presented here are but a selection. Nevertheless, to some degree it seems that his selection represents the common opinion which one finds in medieval literature. It will be suggested that the prohibition posed a challenge to many medieval Christian authors, probably because it was such a case in which various aesthetic, medical, and theological concepts were not necessarily in harmony and, if followed separately, might lead to different practical conclusions. This study can also help illuminate medieval Christian attitudes towards other biblical rules and prohibitions as well, even though, or maybe particularly because, many of them were considered by medieval Christian authors to be significantly less complex.

The act of having sexual relations with a woman while she is menstruating is mentioned three times in Leviticus. In chapter fifteen, although the act is not said to be forbidden, it is nevertheless said to be defiling, and one that might lead to death, if the impure person ‘defiles’ the tabernacle, apparently by approaching:

When a woman had a discharge, [if] her discharge in her body is blood, she shall continue in her menstrual impurity for seven days; and whoever touches her shall be impure until evening. Everything also on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be impure, and everything on which she sits shall be impure. Anyone who touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be impure until evening….

Click here to read this article from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Click here to visit Brill to learn more about their book:  Shoshannat Yaakov: Jewish and Iranian Studies in Honor of Yaakov Elman