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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 55a


Underlining indicates text censored from the Rodkinson Talmud
    [he] who commits bestiality, whether naturally or unnaturally; or a woman who causes herself to be bestially abused, whether naturally or unnaturally, is liable to punishment.1

R. Nahman, son of R. Hisda stated in an exposition: In the case of a woman, there are two modes of intimacy, but in the case of a beast, only one.2  R. Papa objected: On the contrary, since sexual intercourse with a woman is a natural thing, guilt should be incurred only for a natural connection, but for nothing else, whilst, since a connection with a beast is an unnatural thing, one should be punished for every such act, however it be done.3

It has been taught: Pederasty at the age of nine years and a day; she who commits bestiality, whether naturally or unnaturally, and a woman who causes herself to be bestially abused, whether naturally or unnaturally, are liable to punishment.4

Rabina asked Raba: What if one commits the first stage of pederasty? [He replied: Dost thou ask] what if one commits the first stage of pederasty! Is it not written, Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind?5  But [the question to be asked is] what if one commits the first stage of bestiality? — He replied: Since the culpability of the first stage of incest, which is explicitly stated with reference to one's paternal or maternal aunt, is redundant there, for it is likened to the first stage of intercourse with a niddah,6  apply its teaching to the first stage of bestiality [as being punishable].7  Now consider: bestiality is a capital offence, punishable by Beth din. Why then does the Scripture teach the capability of its first stage in a law relating to a sin punishable by extinction:8  should it not rather have been indicated in a verse dealing with sexual intercourse as a capital offence too;9  so that one capital offence might be deduced from another? Since this entire verse10  is written for the sake of new interpretations [whereby additional laws are deduced] — another statement for the same purpose is inserted.11

R. Ahdaboi b. Ammi propounded a problem to R. Shesheth: What if one excited himself to the first stage [of masturbation]? — He replied: You annoy us!12  R. Ashi said: What is your problem? This is impossible in self-stimulation; but it is possible in the case of coition with a membrum mortuum. On the view that such, in incest, is not punishable, in masturbation too it is not punishable. But on the view that it is punishable, a twofold penalty is incurred here, since he is simultaneously the active and passive partner of the deed.

It was asked of R. Shesheth: What if a heathen committed bestiality [is the animal killed or not]? Must it have been both a stumbling block and a cause of degradation [in order for it to be stoned], but here it was only a stumbling block, but not a cause of degradation;13  or perhaps, even if it was only a stumbling block, without having led to degradation, [it is still stoned]?14  — R. Shesheth replied, We have learnt it: If in the case of trees, which neither eat nor drink nor smell, the Torah decreed that they should be burnt and destroyed,15  because they had proved a stumbling block: how much more so [must thou destroy him] who seduces his neighbour from the path of life to that of death.16  If so, where a heathen worships his cow, should it not be forbidden and killed?17  — Is there anything which is not forbidden to an Israelite, yet forbidden to a heathen?18  But why should it not be forbidden if an Israelite worshipped it: is it not analogous to bestiality? — Abaye answered: In the latter case [bestiality] the degradation is great; whilst in the former [animal worship] the disgrace is little.19  But in the case of trees, the degradation is not great, yet did not the Torah order them to be burnt, destroyed, and annihilated? — We are speaking of living creatures, for which the All-Merciful One shewed pity.20  Raba said: The Torah ordered that the animal should be destroyed, because it too derived pleasure from sin.21  But trees derive no pleasure, yet the Torah commanded that they should be destroyed, burnt, and annihilated! We are speaking of living creatures, for which the All-Merciful One shewed pity. Come and hear!22  ANOTHER REASON IS, THAT THE ANIMAL SHOULD NOT PASS THROUGH THE STREETS, WHILST PEOPLE SAY, THIS IS THE ANIMAL ON ACCOUNT OF WHICH SO AND SO WAS STONED. Now surely,

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. [Rashi reads [H] instead of the [H] in our printed texts. A male, aged nine years and a day who commits etc.] There are thus three distinct clauses in this Baraitha. The first — a male aged nine years and a day — refers to the passive subject of pederasty, the punishment being incurred by the adult offender. This must be its meaning — because firstly, the active offender is never explicitly designated as a male, it being understood, just as the Bible states, Thou shalt not lie with mankind, where only the sex of the passive participant is mentioned; and secondly, if the age reference is to the active party, the guilt being incurred by the passive adult party, why single out pederasty: in all crimes of incest, the passive adult does not incur guilt unless the other party is at least nine years and a day? Hence the Baraitha supports Rab's contention that nine years (and a day) is the minimum age of the passive partner for the adult to be liable.
  2. The reference is to bestiality. If a woman allows herself to be made the subject thereof, whether naturally or not, she is guilty. But if a man commits bestiality, he is liable only for a connection in a natural manner, but not otherwise. Thus Rashi. Tosaf., more plausibly, explains it thus: If one commits incest or adultery with a woman, whether naturally or not, guilt is incurred; but bestiality is punishable only for a connection in a natural manner, but not otherwise.
  3. The meaning according to the interpretation of Tosafoth is clear. Yet R. Papa's objection is not made in order to prove that unnatural incest is not liable (which, in fact, it is), but that if a distinction is to be drawn, unnatural bestiality is far more likely to be liable than unnatural incest. On Rashi's interpretation, R. Papa's objection is explained thus: Since a woman is naturally the passive object of sexual intercourse, it follows that she should be punished for bestiality only when the connection is carried out in a natural way. But as man is the active offender in an unnatural crime he should be punished even for unnatural connection. It must be confessed that this is not without difficulty, and hence Tosaf. rejects Rashi's explanation, which is based on a slightly different reading.
  4. V. supra p. 371. n. 5. This refutes the former view; and the latter too, on Rashi's interpretation.
  5. Ibid. XVIII, 20. Hence, why ask? Obviously, just as the first stage of incest or adultery is punishable, so also the first stage of pederasty.
  6. Niddah, a woman during her menstruation.
  7. In respect of one's paternal or maternal aunt, Scripture states: And thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister, nor of thy father's sister: for he uncovereth his near kin. (Lev. XX, 19). The word for 'he uncovereth' (Heb. he'erah [H]) is understood as meaning the first stage of sexual intercourse, and this verse teaches that this is a culpable offence. But this teaching is superfluous, for in the preceding verse the same is taught of a niddah, which serves as a model for all forbidden human sexual intercourse. Hence the teaching, being redundant here, is applied to the first stage of bestiality. V. p. 368, n. 7.
  8. Incest with a paternal or a maternal aunt is so punishable.
  9. E. g., incest with one's mother, father's wife, or daughter-in-law is punished by stoning; v. supra 53a.
  10. Lev. XX, 19, referring to incest with a paternal or material aunt.
  11. In Yeb. 54b it is shewn that the whole verse is superfluous, its provisions being stated in Lev. XVIII, 12f. Hence it is written in XX, 19 in order that additional laws might be deduced.
  12. By a reprehensible sophistry, the thing being an impossibility. Other translations: 'You disgust us; insolent man that you are!'
  13. Because bestiality was not unusual among the heathens, therefore he would not feel himself disgraced. This Talmudic judgment on heathen morals may appear very harsh and prejudiced, yet it is not a malicious slander. In the Gilgamesh epic Ebani, the primitive man, lives a wild life with the animals and satisfies his lust with them. Bestiality seems to have been prevalent among the Greeks and Romans of a later period, as is proved by an extremely unsavoury adventure described in the Metamorphoses of Apuleius. Cf. 'A. Z. 22a, which forbids the stabling of cows with heathens, for fear of bestiality. (Hast. Dict. s.v. Bestiality.)
  14. The point of the problem is this: The Mishnah states two reasons for the stoning of the animal. The first, that it had been a stumbling block; the second, that it was a constant reminder that someone had been executed through it, i.e., that man had degraded himself thereby. Hence the question whether both are necessary before the animal must be stoned, or only one.
  15. Deut. XII, 3: And ye shall burn their groves with fire.
  16. I.e., to idolatry. That proves that that which caused sin, even without degradation, (the worship of trees by heathens not being accounted a disgrace to them) must be destroyed.
  17. Since a heathen is liable to death for animal worship, though it is not accounted a disgrace to him.
  18. Surely not. If a Jew worships his cow, it is not forbidden to benefit therefrom (Tem. 29a). Hence we cannot impose a prohibition if a heathen worships it. This is a general principle in the Talmud. It is very instructive as showing quite clearly the temper in which the Rabbis regarded the idea of election of Israel. So far from conferring special privileged dispensations, it could be taken as axiomatic that nothing permitted to the Jew was forbidden to the heathen. Cf. Joseph, M., Judaism as Creed and Life, pp. 153-4. 'In styling ourselves God's people we do not claim to possess any worldly advantage, or even any special share of the Divine love … The pledge of God's affection for his people lies in his gift to them of a special opportunity of service, with its additional joys but also with its additional obligations. Nay, by taking upon himself the Yoke of the Law, Israel has been self-doomed to a life of trial.'
  19. Thus Tosaf. and R. Han. and one interpretation of Rashi. Another explanation by Rashi (adopted by Jast., s. v. [H]) is: In this case (of a Jew being the criminal) his disgrace is great, but in the latter (that of a Gentile) his disgrace is little. The first explanation seems to be more suited to the context.
  20. Hence, only where there is much degradation, as in bestiality, is the animal destroyed; but trees are destroyed even when the disgrace is not great.
  21. This is another point of difference between bestiality and animal worship. In the former, the animal too derives pleasure, but not in the latter.
  22. In answer to the problem, R. Shesheth's proof not being considered conclusive.
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Sanhedrin 55b


Underlining indicates text censored from the Rodkinson Talmud
    since the latter reason embraces both the reason of a stumbling block and of human degradation,1  the former reason is that of stumbling block alone, e.g. when a heathen commits bestiality!2  — No. The second reason is that of stumbling block and of degradation, but the first teaches that even if there is degradation without a stumbling block, the animal is stoned, e.g., if a Jew committed bestiality in ignorance [of the fact that it is forbidden].3      

Dilling Exhibit 55
    Even as R. Hamnuna propounded: What if a Jew committed bestiality in ignorance; must there have been both a stumbling block and degradation [for the animal to be stoned] and in this case there is only degradation, but no sin; or perhaps for degradation alone without there having been a stumbling block [the animal is stoned]?4  — R. Joseph said: Come and hear! A maiden aged three years and a day may be acquired in marriage by coition, and if her deceased husband's brother cohabits with her, she becomes his. The penalty of adultery may be incurred through her; [if a niddah] she defiles him who has connection with her, so that he in turn defiles that upon which he lies, as a garment which has lain upon [a person afflicted with gonorrhoea].5  If she married a priest, she may eat of terumah;6   If any unfit person7   has a connection with her, he disqualifies her from the priesthood8If any of the forbidden degrees had intercourse with her, they are executed on her account,9  but she is exempt.10  Now, 'any of the forbidden degrees' implies even a beast: in this case, there is degradation but no stumbling-block, yet it is taught that they [including a beast] are slain on her account.11  [No, this is not conclusive, as it can be argued that] since she deliberately offended there is a stumbling-block] [though she is a minor] but the All-Merciful One had mercy upon her; now, He shewed mercy to her, but not to the animal.

Raba said: Come and hear! A male aged nine years and a day who cohabits with his deceased brother's wife [the former having left no issue] acquires her [as wife]. But he cannot divorce her until he attains his majority.12  He is defiled through coition with a niddah,13  so that he in turn defiles that upon which he lies, as a garment which has lain upon [a person afflicted with gonorrhoea] — He disqualifies [a woman from the priesthood],14  but cannot enable a woman to eat [of terumah].15  He renders an animal unfit for the altar,16  and it is stoned on his account,17  and if he had intercourse with one of the degrees forbidden in the Torah, the latter is executed. Now here there is degradation, but no stumbling-block, yet it is taught: 'It is stoned on his account.' Since it was a deliberate offence, there is a stumbling-block, but the All-Merciful One had mercy upon him; now, He showed mercy to him, but not to the animal.

Come and hear! ANOTHER REASON IS THAT THE ANIMAL SHOULD NOT PASS THROUGH THE STREETS WHILST PEOPLE SAY, 'THIS IS THE ANIMAL ON ACCOUNT OF WHICH SO AND SO WAS STONED.' Now surely, since the latter reason embraces both stumbling-block and degradation, the former reason refers to degradation only, that is, when a Jew committed bestiality in


Dilling Exhibit 56
    ignorance.18  No! The second reason is one of stumbling-block and degradation; but the first teaches that even if there is a stumbling block without degradation, the animal is stoned,18  e.g., if a heathen committed bestiality, even as it was asked of R. Shesheth.19


Rodkinson translation
resumes here

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Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. When people remark that so and so was stoned through this animal, its own part in enticing to sin and the degradation of the offender are brought to mind.
  2. The reasoning is as follows: Since the second reason refers to both sin and disgrace, the first is superfluous; hence it must have been given in order to shew that even where sin alone is incurred, without degradation, the animal is stoned.
  3. According to this, the 'stumbling block' refers to the degradation involved, and not to the sin. When bestiality is committed in ignorance, one has not sinned, yet he has greatly degraded himself. The superiority of this explanation lies in the fact that both reasons now refer to a Jew, instead of one referring to a Jew and one to a heathen, which is not very plausible.
  4. According to the latter explanation of the Mishnah, this problem is solved, whilst the first remains unanswered; but according to the first explanation, the first problem is solved, but not the second. As we cannot be certain which is correct, both so far are unsolved.
  5. A man who had sexual connection with a niddah, defiles that upon which he lies even if he does not actually touch it. But the degree of uncleanliness it thereby acquires is not the same as that of bedding upon which a niddah herself, or a person afflicted with gonorrhoea, lies. For in the latter case, the defilement is so great that the bedding in turn renders any person or utensil with which it comes into contact unclean; whilst in the former, it can only defile foodstuffs and liquids. This is the same degree of uncleanliness possessed by a garment which has lain upon, or been borne by a zab (i.e., one afflicted with issue).
  6. As the law of an Israelite's (adult) daughter who married a priest. But if she was less than three years old, although the Kiddushin accepted on her behalf by her father is valid, yet since she is sexually immature, the marriage cannot be consummated, and hence she is not thereby enabled to eat of terumah. On terumah, the priest's portion of an Israelite's produce, v. Glos.
  7. E.g., a heathen, hallal, nathin, or bastard.
  8. I.e., if a priest's daughter, or if the daughter of a Levite or Israelite married to a priest, she may not eat of terumah.
  9. If they are of those forbidden on pain of death, v. supra 53a.
  10. As she is a minor.
  11. This solves R. Hamuna's problem.
  12. For, being a minor, he has no power to release her from a bond laid upon her, in the first place, by an adult (his brother).
  13. This rendering follows the more correct text of the Mishnah, Niddah 45a, of which this is a quotation, which has umittamma beniddah (through or by a niddah), instead of the reading here: umittamma keniddah, as a niddah.
  14. V. p. 343, n. 6.
  15. If he is a priest, and has sexual connection with an Israelite's daughter with marital intent, this does not authorise her to eat of terumah, because he has no legal powers of acquisition in marriage, excepting over his levirate sister-in-law, who is already bound to him.
  16. If he committed bestiality therewith, only one witness attesting the offence, the animal is not killed, nor does it become unfit for secular use, but it may no longer be offered as a sacrifice.
  17. If his bestiality was attested by two witnesses.
  18. Which solves the problem propounded by R. Hamnunah.
  19. V. p. 373, supra.
  20. I.e., the Tetragrammaton.

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