Originally posted July 16, 2009
OK, so I have a problem. I was thinking about something that sort of bothered me: the contradictions I remembered that initially turned me from the church. So, after several years, I decided to take a more mature approach, and do some quick reading. This isn’t full research, mostly because I haven’t got the time and get far too frustrated, but I post it here as food for thought, and I’d like some clarification or even comments.
Here’s what started it all: I was watching some video produced by the Family Research Council to make the point that hate crimes legislation that would specifically include crimes against gays would inherently criminalize religious leaders who preach that homosexuality is a sin. Basically, the argument is that if a preacher says homosexuality is a sin, he could be prosecuted for hate speech.
So that got me thinking, “Where would they get the idea that homosexuality is a sin?” I assumed it was the Bible, and a simple search found me this passage, from Leviticus 20:13 (King James Version, via biblegateway.com):
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
Simple enough, right? Leviticus 20 essentially lays out the punishments for various offenses against God. Based on that alone, I’d say they have an argument. If we protect gays under hate crimes legislation, then a preacher better watch himself.
So I read a few other of the laws and punishments, and among all the other rules about who you can’t “lie with,” there were a few interesting passages, namely Leviticus 20:10:
And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
and Leviticus 20:18 (where I presume “sickness” refers to her menstrual cycle):
And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people.
Here they are, same chapter, only lines apart (in fact, on either side of the previous verse). The latter two seem ridiculous by modern standards (we see plenty examples of adultery in our lives, highlighted usually in the news when celebrity, religious, and political leaders engage in such affairs), but still the first passage is cited at least as often as any other passage as “proof” that homosexuality is a sin.
So my question then became, “How is it that only some of these verses apply, while others are disregarded?” I did another quick Wiki (no one said my methods would earn me a degree), and learned about “Antinomianism.” I’d never heard of this before. I looked it up, and, sure enough, it is a notion that obeying the laws wasn’t necessary, but that faith was enough to earn salvation. Turns out, there was a time when a group of religious radicals got together and decided that some of the “laws” weren’t really necessary, or didn’t/shouldn’t apply. This radical concept (really something of an enlightenment) separated the Christians from the Jews, and eventually (among other things) the Protestants from the Catholics.
Adultery was decriminalized (probably because the most influential partook in the practice and sort of did away with the laws), medical science discovered that women having their periods weren’t wounded or unclean, but instead functioning normally and healthily. Homosexual behavior has been researched and uncovered in human societies and is commonly observed in other species of the kingdom Animalia. The fact that animals and humans alike partake in such activities across all species seems to imply (and many medical and scientific professionals agree) that some degree of homosexuality exists naturally.
How is it that we now choose to hold as evidence a book that was written 2500 years ago (as Leviticus was) when we have allowed nearly everything else in the book to evolve? We don’t even offer our own laws this reverence, and they were written only a few generations ago by people who specifically set out to find and settle a place where they could write their own.
I had a teacher who once told me, “If you’re doing something the same way after ten years, you’re probably doing it wrong.” We learn, we discover, we understand. We evolve, and we become better. What worked for a group of radicals a thousand years ago might not be the ultimate answer–it certainly wasn’t in so many other ways. What makes this any different?
2 thoughts on “Biblical Question”
Thanks for this well thought out post.
I would further say that if you are looking for more in depth study on the meaning behind some of these scripture – look to a Rabbi. As a Jew, I can safely say they know best how to interpret them – they are *our* scriptures after all. 🙂
A good book by Rabbi Steven Greenberg called “Wrestling with G-d and Men” helps us better understand where the author of the Torah was coming from in some of these verses… and it is not always as it appears in English.
Yasher Koach (May you have Strength!)
I appreciated your post here and wanted to offer one “Biblical explanation,” of sorts and as I understand it, for why this text from Leviticus 20:13 still holds weight for legislating against same-sex relationships while the other texts you mentioned no longer hold weight.
A majority of Christian faiths hold to a pretty rigid view of Antinomianism in that any attempt to enforce the laws of the old testament as a means of salvation and/or as expectations God places on humanity is anathema. Hence you have Christians loving their shrimp, pork, etc… (that wonderful Prop 8 the Musical piece “you pick and choose” comes to mind). What is different about same-sex relationships is that they, apparently, are not only alluded to in Leviticus but they are also, apparently, alluded to in the New Testament as well. THAT is the key for why many Christians still believe that same-sex relationships are bad… because (based on their interpretation of the Greek) the New Testament speaks against it and if the New Testament speaks against it then it is STILL bad. However, you have instances of Jesus forgiving the adulteress and what not so the texts against adultery can hold less weight; “Jesus didn’t kill her, and He’s God!” That is the Biblical explanation that I have been given–“Yes, the law in the Old Testament makes a lot of things “off limits” but Jesus did away with the Law so we don’t have to care so much about that any longer. The reasons “homosexuality” is still bad is because BOTH the Old Testament AND the New Testament speak against it.”
Now, there are an increasing number of theologians who question whether what the NT said really did make same-sex relationships “off limits” or whether the NT, in fact, was speaking about something else. But THAT is a whole separate discussion. (This is why I put the words “apparently” in there; it is questionable whether the interpretation of those texts is legit or the interpretation is and has been influenced by culture context. There is also the question of culture context when it was written. These are all issues of exegesis and hermeneutics.)