The Christian Humanists’ Guide to Drinking and Sex

Yes, it’s a clickbait title. It’s also accurate. This is from chapter 2 of Heinrich Bullinger’s A Plan of Study, a guide to aspiring Christian humanists:

For everyone knows what Seneca wrote on this topic to Lucilius in book 12 of his correspondence and what Pliny wrote in book 14 of his. Wine was created by God for medicinal purposes,1 not for us to make a poison2 out of a medicine by immoderate imbibing. Consumed in moderation, it sharpens the intellect and confers good courage; wherefore even blessed Paul said to Timothy, “Do not drink water, but use a little wine on account of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” But anyone who pursues intoxication and drunkenness will never attain true profit from literature. Along these lines Pliny says, “The greatest reward of intoxication is monstrous lust and glee in wrongdoing; and on the next day foul breath from the mouth and forgetfulness of almost everything, the annihilation of memory.” And Gellius in 19 says, “No one who has any human decency should rejoice in these two delights, sex and eating, which humans have in common with donkeys. Socrates indeed was given to saying that many men wanted to live in order to eat and drink, but that he drank and ate in order to live. Now Hippocrates, a man with divine knowledge, thought that sexual union3 was one variety of that horrible disease that we call epilepsy. For these words of his have been passed down: ‘τὴν συνουσίαν εἶναι μικρὰν ἐπιληψίαν,'” which means that sex is an epileptic episode, a particularly minor one.

1 Though the word medicina usually refers to a remedy, here it makes more sense to understand it as a health supplement.

2 cicutam, literally hemlock, the poison given to criminals (such as Socrates) as capital punishment.

3 coitu Venerio, literally a Venusian meeting, is a euphemism based on Venus as the goddess of love and fertility.

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