Men in Full by Thomas S. Buchanan

Men in Full

If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
—Matthew 5:29–30

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that it is better for us to pluck out our eyes or chop off our hands if they cause us to sin, so that we not be cast into hell. This, of course, was presented as a last resort. That is, given a choice between painful and permanent dismemberment and hell, Jesus told us to avoid hell. Our desire to be with God should be so great that we would go to such lengths in our struggle against sin.

In the early Church some literally practiced this, not so much by plucking out eyes or chopping off hands, but by making themselves eunuchs. (Origen is the famous example.) This was such a concern that at the first great ecumenical council, this issue was addressed in the very first canon. In a rather short paragraph, the first canon states that a person could not become a priest unless he was a fully functioning male. The standards for the priesthood were set above the bar Jesus presented as a last resort.

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Thomas S. Buchanan is the George W. Laird Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Delaware. He has studied at UCSD, Northwestern University, and MIT, and has held visiting professorships at the University of Western Australia and the University of Aix-Marseille. He has served as department chairman, deputy dean, and institute director, president of the American Society of Biomechanics, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Applied Biomechanics. He is on the Board of Trustees of Saint Katherine College, the editorial board of Touchstone, and the board of The Fellowship of St. James.

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