Exposure of Infants

I’d always heard that early Christians in Rome saved babies who were “exposed” – that is, unwanted babies who were left out on garbage heaps to die, a common practice in paganism. I just ran across the passage in Justin Martyr, an early church apologist, where he discusses exposure (Apology 1.27 – written between AD 147 and 161) and he says that these exposed infants were almost always brought up to be prostitutes. If Christians didn’t save them, the owners of brothels or pagan temples would take the babies and raise them to be prostitutes, both girls and boys. Justin also mentions that infants with birth defects were raised specifically to be used in this way. He points out that pagans who engage in temple worship that involves prostitution might well be committing incest with their own children – exposed years ago and forgotten.

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