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Psychoanalysis and Biblical Interpretation of Adultery

Georges Bataille’s theory of eroticism

Georges Bataille‘s theory of eroticism posited that humans developed taboos around sex during the transition from the age of animals to the age of labor.

In the primitive hunter-gatherer stage, there was no need for a fixed number of sexual partners. However, as humans engaged in regular labor, such as farming and herding, they were able to establish societies and develop taboos around one another.

The two most prominent taboos are “Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” which are related to death and sex, respectively.

Husband and wife

Sigmund Freud’s Eros and Thanatos

These two taboos bear a resemblance to Sigmund Freud’s Eros and Thanatos in psychoanalysis. Freud referred to the life instinct as Eros, encompassing self-preservation and sexual instincts, and the death instinct as Thanatos, consisting of aggressive instincts.

However, when taboos control a society for a certain period of time, there emerges an urge to violate them.

If an individual violates a taboo driven by a transgressive impulse, they may face punishment. Yet, when people collectively fulfill the urge to violate, they are often rewarded, not punished.

In the case of war, when the taboo “Thou shalt not kill” is collectively violated, the person who kills the most may receive a medal. The same principle applies to festivals where the taboo of “Thou shalt not commit adultery” is collectively violated.

Throughout history, both the taboos of murder and adultery have been collectively violated through religious practices. Human sacrifice openly breaches the taboo against murder. The shift from human to animal sacrifice does not alter the situation, and religious rituals involving temple priestesses legally violate the taboo against adultery.

This phenomenon is known as the collective rationalization of transgression. Such a society is sometimes referred to as a rationalized transgression system.

In contrast to the Bible, Bataille viewed marriage as a legalized transgression. In other words, marriage is a custom that plausibly legitimizes the violation of sexual taboos.

Husband and wife

The Proverbs 30:18

Proverbs 30:18 and the following is an interesting passage.

18 Three things are too wonderful for me;
four I do not understand:
19 the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a serpent on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a virgin.

20 This is the way of an adulteress:
she eats and wipes her mouth
and says, “I have done no wrong.”

Proverbs 30:18~20

The parable in Proverbs 30:18

The passage you provided reflects on the transient nature of various actions and their consequences. It compares the fleeting traces left by different actions and behaviors, ultimately focusing on the secrecy and consequences of adultery.

  1. Eagle’s Flight: The passage begins by likening an eagle’s flight, which soars high in the air but leaves no trace behind once it has passed. This is used as an analogy for actions that have no lasting impact or evidence.
  2. Snake’s Tracks: It goes on to compare a snake slithering through the desert sand, where its tracks may remain for hours, to when it slithers over rocks, where its tracks are lost. This illustrates how some actions may leave temporary traces but eventually fade away.
  3. Ship’s Wake: The passage further draws a parallel with the tracks of a great ship sailing through the ocean, which are wiped clean after a while. This emphasizes the idea that even significant actions can be forgotten with time.
  4. Union of a Man and Woman: The main focus then shifts to the union between a man and a woman, highlighting how the traces of such a union disappear in an instant, symbolizing the fleeting nature of sexual encounters.
  5. Adulteress in Secrecy: It delves into the secrecy surrounding adultery and adultery, suggesting that due to this secrecy, many adulterous relationships continue under the protection of legalized marriage.
  6. Emotional Impact: The passage also touches on the emotional impact of adultery, indicating that even if such actions are practiced in secret, they leave a mark on the hearts of those involved.
  7. Reference to Literature: The passage references Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter,” where the Reverend Dimmesdale bears the letter “A” carved into his chest as a symbol of his adultery with Hester.
  8. Consequences of Adultery: It acknowledges that while adultery may provide temporary pleasure and excitement, it can ultimately lead to the breakdown of family and marriage, with bitter consequences.
  9. Human Behavior: Finally, it comments on the human tendency to pursue immediate pleasures despite knowing the potential bitter consequences, highlighting the complexity of human behavior.

The passage draws on analogies and reflections to emphasize the ephemeral nature of actions and behaviors, particularly focusing on the theme of adultery and its consequences. It suggests that while certain actions may provide momentary pleasure, they can have lasting negative effects on individuals and relationships.

Biblical parables about adultery

15 Drink water from your own cistern,
flowing water from your own well.
16 Should your springs be scattered abroad,
streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for strangers with you.
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.
20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman
and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
21 For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord,
and he ponders all his paths.
22 The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,
and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
23 He dies for lack of discipline,
and because of his great folly he is led astray.

Proverbs 5:15~23

The wisdom found in Proverbs 5

The passage you’ve provided is a reflection on the wisdom found in Proverbs 5 regarding marriage, intimacy, and the relationship between a husband and wife. It offers insights into how a husband can nurture and maintain a loving and fulfilling relationship with his wife. Let’s expand on the key points mentioned:

  1. The Metaphor of Flowing Water: In Proverbs 5, the metaphor of “the spring of flowing water from your own well” is used to symbolize the physical intimacy between a husband and wife. It emphasizes that a husband should find satisfaction, nourishment, and pleasure in his wife’s body, and by doing so, he is blessing both himself and his spouse.
  2. Challenges in Marriage: The passage acknowledges that maintaining a fulfilling relationship, especially as the years pass and circumstances change, can be challenging. It specifically mentions the difficulties that may arise when a wife is young and perhaps inexperienced or when she is entering menopause, a phase of life that can bring physical and emotional changes.
  3. The Secret to Delighting a Wife: The wise advice from the book of Proverbs is summarized in three key points: a. Having a Self-Sufficient Heart: This entails contentment and gratitude. Husbands are encouraged to appreciate and be thankful for the gift of their wives. Expressing love and gratitude through words and actions is essential. Acknowledging one’s own imperfections and recognizing the value of the partner in their life is a way to cultivate contentment. b. Cherishing Love: The passage stresses the importance of maintaining the longing and passion for each other’s love as time passes. Instead of allowing the relationship to become routine or dull, couples should continue to desire and cherish the love they share. This involves making efforts to keep the romance alive and not taking each other for granted. c. Complimenting Appearance: The passage encourages husbands to be appreciative of their wives’ physical appearance. Compliments and expressions of admiration for a wife’s beauty can boost her self-esteem and contribute to a positive and loving atmosphere within the marriage.


In essence, the passage emphasizes the need for ongoing effort and appreciation within a marriage. It suggests that a successful and fulfilling marriage requires mutual love, gratitude, and the maintenance of desire and passion over time. By actively nurturing these aspects of the relationship, couples can strengthen their bonds and continue to find joy and satisfaction in each other.

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