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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day Nineteen (Purity)

[Feb. 24-26 from One Year Bible available online here.]

Here we go. Leviticus continues to tell us about impurity. It talks about disease, and what to do if someone is healed, not how to heal them. E.g., "“When the man with the discharge is healed, he must count off seven days for the period of purification. Then he must wash his clothes and bathe himself in fresh water, and he will be ceremonially clean." Lev. 15:13. There is also discussion of what to do if you eat something that is unclean. E.g., "And if any native-born Israelites or foreigners eat the meat of an animal that died naturally or was torn up by wild animals, they must wash their clothes and bathe themselves in water. They will remain ceremonially unclean until evening, but then they will be clean."

Jesus has something to say about worshiping tradition. Thing is they wanted the Disciples to wash their hands before eating. The author of Mark alerts us that, "[t]his is but one of many traditions they have clung to—such as their ceremonial washing of cups, pitchers, and kettles" Mark 7:4. It seems like kind of a minor requirement to us today, but Jesus--as he often does--launches into the Fundamentalists saying, "You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition." 6-8. Oh, snap! Basically, Jesus hates people who try to push their traditions on people by using religion. Is hates too strong? Probably.

And so, now we come to Leviticus 18, the list of sexual prohibitions. One thing I notice right off the bat was this, "Do not have sexual relations with your sister or half sister, whether she is your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born into your household or someone else’s." Lev. 18:9 Which means that Sarah and Abraham were violating the God's law. Not a problem for me, because I'm solidly against brothers and sisters having sex with each other--even half-brother & sister.

On to the big one, "Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin." Lev. 18:22. First, the opening clause is a ridiculous translation. The idea of homosexuality generically is a very, very recent idea. It sure says do not practice sexual immorality. Second, notice the specificity, it is men have sex with men; actually it is men having sex with another man "as with a woman." What does that mean? Is it possible the ancient notion that only one of the two men having sex is committing an abomination present? I don't know.

Let's go back to Jesus. He scolds the Fundamentalists for ignoring the major commandment of honor your father and mother with a tradition that gave power to the Fundamentalists. Makes me think about ignoring the admonition to care for the poor by hiding behind one's view of the role of government. Finally, he closes with this:
“It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

Okay, so how would Jesus have responded to Mary and Jennifer raising their seven-year-old daughter that Mary gave birth to and Jennifer adopted? Would he simply have applied the law from Leviticus? The Fundamentalists of his day, the Pharisees, certainly would have. I bet they would not care that the Scripture actually doesn't say anything about lesbians, or gay people raising children or being married. But, we know what Jesus thought of them.

[UPDATE: I did this reading with the online version. The hard copy book I bought at Bookman's does not have the phrase "Do not practice homosexuality," causing me to believe the words were added for purely political reasons. Shame on you editors of the NIV.]

4 comments:

Matt Dick said...

I think it's a stretch to say that this isn't an admonition against homosexuality. Of all the liberties of translation, this seems minor. Here is a side-by-side:

New International Version (©1984)
"'Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.

New Living Translation (©2007)
"Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin.

English Standard Version (©2001)
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
'You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.

GOD'S WORD® Translation (©1995)
Never have sexual intercourse with a man as with a woman. It is disgusting.

King James Bible
Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it [is] abomination.

American King James Version
You shall not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

American Standard Version
Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

Bible in Basic English
You may not have sex relations with men, as you do with women: it is a disgusting thing.

Douay-Rheims Bible
Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind, because it is an abomination.

Darby Bible Translation
And thou shalt not lie with mankind as one lieth with a woman: it is an abomination.

English Revised Version
Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

Webster's Bible Translation
Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

World English Bible
"'You shall not lie with a man, as with a woman. That is detestable.

Young's Literal Translation
And with a male thou dost not lie as one lieth with a woman; abomination it is.


It seems clear to me, God hates fags no matter how you translate it.

hylewa

JimII said...

I actually think these translation show why it is a pretty big deal to add the phrase "do not practice homosexuality" to the scripture, because nothing like the phrase is in the other translation.

It is an admonition against men having sex with each other. That is different from an admonition against homosexuality.

For one, witout the phrase the passage is more restrictive. Straight men aren't allowed to have sex with men either. See Greek custom of adult men molesting young boys, which did not make someone gay as long as you were the dominating male and not the one being dominated.

For two, without the phrase it is less restrictive because it doesn't include lesbians. If that is because the authors didn't care about women, that doesn't change the point. Again, it is about dominance and God didn't want to see his men humiliated.

For three, without the phrase it is less restrictive because it doesn't prohibit non-sexual signs of affection.

For four, adding the phrase "do not practice homosexuality" imports our modern ideas that have nothing to do with sex, like "live style" and love, into the law that is not present in the scripture to begin with.

Can one adhere to the words of Leviticus and condone gay marriages? No.

Did the authors of Leviticus consider anything remotely like gay marriage? No. (I'm pretty convinced their idea of marriage in general was unlike mine.)

Did these words and others like them assist maintaining discriminatory attitudes and even violence against gay people? Yes.

My point is not to say that the Scripture doesn't condemn men having sex with men; my point is to make sure we don't add more to it than what it says.

Matt Dick said...


For one, witout the phrase the passage is more restrictive. Straight men aren't allowed to have sex with men either. See Greek custom of adult men molesting young boys, which did not make someone gay as long as you were the dominating male and not the one being dominated.


That's a distinction without a difference. Do you think homosexuality is somehow distinct from men having sex with other men? What else could it mean?

My point is not to say that the Scripture doesn't condemn men having sex with men; my point is to make sure we don't add more to it than what it says.

Fair enough, I take your point. I still argue that the first example of the Greeks is a strange and specific parsing.

But also, I might caution you against a kind of literalism. "lying with a man as with a woman" might very well have been a way to say, "don't be homosexual".

neres

JimII said...

I still argue that the first example of the Greeks is a strange and specific parsing.

Agreed. Particularly when you remove the added phrase, it seems most logical to me that "as a woman" means to make it clear it means having sex not crashing on the hillside.

However, the idea of someone "dabbling" in sex with someone of the same sex but not considering themselves homosexual is not so uncommon as to be entirely ignored. And in 500 B.C. I'm not sure how uncommon the definition of homosexuality from my Greek example would be.

But, yes, I think the best reading of the passage is men shall not have sex with other men.