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Commit not that which is forbidden you in Our Holy Tablet, and be not of those who rove distractedly in the wilderness of their desires." Within the blanket condemnation of sodomy, pederasty was a particular target.The 2nd-century preacher Clement of Alexandria used divine pederasty as an indictment of Greek religion and the mythological figures of Herakles, Apollo, Poseidon, Laius, and Zeus: "For your gods did not abstain even from boys.as opposed to the more restrained and cultured one valued by the Greeks.

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Geoffrey Gorer and others distinguish pederasty from pedophilia, which he defined as a separate, fourth type that he described as "grossly pathological in all societies of which we have record." According to Gorer, the main characteristic of homosexual pederasty is the age difference (either of generation or age-group) between the partners.

In his study of native cultures pederasty appears typically as a passing stage in which the adolescent is the beloved of an older male, remains as such until he reaches a certain developmental threshold, after which he in turn takes on an adolescent beloved of his own.

In French, however, "pédérastie" has been used as a synonym for homosexuality between adult males (see Histoire du mot pédérastie).

Historically, pederasty has existed as a variety of customs and practices within different cultures.

In medieval Islamic civilization, pederastic relations "were so readily accepted in upper-class circles that there was often little or no effort to conceal their existence." Ganymede rolling a hoop and bearing aloft a cockerel – a love gift from Zeus (in pursuit, on obverse of vase). Plato was an early critic of sexual intercourse in pederastic relationships, proposing that men's love of boys avoid all carnal expression and instead progress from admiration of the lover's specific virtues to love of virtue itself in abstract form.