It is plausible that Paul means to refer specifically to the Cybelean/Attic mystery cult in the first Chapter of Romans. This was one of the most prominent cults in Rome, and had an history going back several hundred years in the region. The priests and priestesses, called galli, attempted to achieve gender neutrality in service to their god/dess. The goal was to transcend gender in order to become more like Attis (the father God, son/lover of Cybele) and Cybele (the mother goddess). Attis was castrated and Cybele was a virgin. Both were sexually active in the myth (many of Cybele's counterparts were known as a fertility goddess), but engaged in sexual acts that could not produce children. In order to become more like their gods, all male galli castrated themselves, and were involved in ritual sexuality with the worshippers that would come to the temple.
|v. 21-22: they claimed to be wise but are foolish||The galli claimed to tell people's fortunes, but everybody thought they were mad, because of the way they danced around and cut themselves. The Greek texts talk about the "mania" of their rituals.|
|v. 23: they made images of man and animals to worship||The Cybele's temple statues were of Attis, Cybele (and others), who were always surrounded by images of animals, particularly lions and snakes. In addition, the galli's temples were always filled with doves, because the galli thought they were too holy to touch, to shoo them away. The fact that all of these animals were normative in the Cybelean temples and Paul mention them by name, makes it highly likely that Paul was specifically referring to this cult in Romans 1.|
|v. 26-27: exchanging natural relations, etc.||One of the primary ideas of the galli was to remove gender differences. This occurred through transvestism, and physically cutting off one's genitals. Part of this was also assuming the sexual characteristics of the opposite gender, so the male galli would serve sexually "as women" to male worshippers in the temple. Women were known to cut off their breasts and have lesbian relationships to transcend their gender. Women had sex with men too, but in order to avoid pregnancy, again like Cybele, they would have anal sex, not vaginal.|
During their annual festival, the Day of Blood, the galli would wander around in the streets in full cross-dress: amulets, flowing robes, make-up, depilated bodies and long hair dyed blond. They would dance around in a frenzy with tambourines and flutes, often with knives or swords, with which they would cut their arms, letting blood to help them tell fortunes for the people who would give them money. In both the Greek and Roman sources, gender-variant, frenzied and orgiastic festival behaviours are described, continuing at least up to the forth century. Most of the Christian invectives focus on their gender-variant sexual behaviours, as encompassed in the pagan rituals. Firmicus describes their behaviour as follows (while Firmicus represents a later source, Juvenal and Lucretian of the first and second centuries give similar accounts, among many others), using language reminiscent of Paul's attacks in Romans 1:
"When you make the male and female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female .... then you will enter the Kingdom." [W. Roscoe, "Priests of the Goddess: Gender Transgression in Ancient Religion." History of Religions 35 (1996)]In assaulting this teaching Hippolytus links Naassene beliefs and the mystery religion of Cybele and Attis religion to Romans 1: