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One of the amusements I like to provide on my blog is showing how things you thought had nothing to do with sex actually have much more to do with it than you thought.

Case in point: Latin law.

There’s an old Latin legal saying:

Exceptio confirmat regulam (the exception confirms the rule.)

I’d never given the principle much thought until I read this interesting article on Mental Floss. The saying is more insightful than I initially gave it credit for:

The principle provides legal cover for inferences such as the following: if I see a sign reading “no swimming allowed after 10 pm,” I can assume swimming is allowed before that time; if an appliance store says “pre-paid delivery required for refrigerators,” I can assume they do not require pre-paid delivery for other items. The exception here is not a thing but an act of excepting. The act of stipulating a condition for when something is disallowed (or required), proves that when the stipulated conditions do not hold, it is allowed (or not required). The general rules are that swimming is allowed before 10pm and that pre-paid delivery is not required. The fact that exceptions to those rules have been stated confirms those rules hold in all other cases.

Exceptio confirmat regulam is a foundational principle for understanding biblical laws, including those about sexuality. The biblical “restrictions” suddenly becomes more interesting. For instance:

  • If God said not to lust after our neighbor’s wife, then it’s allowable for men to desire unmarried women.
  • If Paul said it was allowable to refrain from sex on occasion in order to pray, then constant sexual activity was expected as the norm.
  • If a woman could have her hand cut off should she decide to “taketh a man by the secrets” in a fight, then the male genitalia was normally regarded as a sacred object.

As I’ve illustrated in my post on sexuality in Leviticus, God is not a prude. The exception confirms the rule.

For those who have eyes to see…