Understanding Leviticus 18:22 "You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is abomination." ...and rebuffing it.

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    Jun 01, 2008 2:35 AM GMT
    I do a lot of reading on the Bible and Christianity in order to be able to rebuff anti-gay Christians when they try to cite the Bible.

    I can usually tie Christians up in knots with just a few little questions because their knowledge of the Bible is often virtually nonexistent...like, why are there two creation stories in Genesis that dont agree with each other...and the story of the woman taken in adultery (you know, 'let him without sin cast the first stone') was not originally in the Gospels, so can one just add anything at anytime to the Bible and call it scripture? And who was the mystery man in the Garden when Jesus was arrested, the man who ran away naked? You get the idea.

    But I have always had a problem with Leviticus 18:22 because it sounds pretty cut and dry: "You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is abomination."

    Well, I have finally found the answer. It is because the modern view of what men and women ARE compared to the ancient view totally changes the meaning of the verse. And since we dont view men and women the same way, the moral injunction of the verse doesn't hold.

    I can't make the argument as well as the author, Bart D. Ehrman in his book, Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene. So let me make an extensive quote from his book.


    People today usually think about male and female as two kinds of the same thing. There’s one thing, the human being, and it comes in two types: male and female. There are problems with this understanding, as we ourselves sometimes admit. There are hermaphrodites, for example. But basically this is how we see it. It is not, however, how people in antiquity saw it. For them, males and female were not two kinds of human being, they were two degrees of human being. Women, in fact, were imperfect men.

    The way to make sense of the ancient understanding is to imagine all living creatures on a kind of continuum. At the far left of the spectrum are plants, to the right of them are animals, and the right of (other) animals are humans. There are different degrees of intelligence and perfection among animals: slugs might be on the lift of the continuum and chimpanzees might be further along. So it is among humans as well. Children and slaves are not perfect as humans, have not reached the level of the men. The male body is the perfect human ideal. Moving along the continuum, beyond humans altogether, are other living beings: the gods, who are in fact superhuman, the very pinnacle of living existence.

    The goal of humans is to become like the gods, and that requires movement along he continuum. Men have to transcend their mortal limitations. For women to transcend theirs, they first have to move along the continuum through the place occupied by men. For a woman to have life, she must first become a male.

    Woman, then, were imperfect humans, or as some authors would have it, imperfect men. Many ancients held this view in quite literal terms: women were men who had never developed. Their penises hadn’t grown (the vagina was in inverted penis that never emerged); their muscles hadn’t fully developed; their lungs hadn’t matured; their voices hadn’t deepened their facial hair hadn’t appeared. Women were men who hadn’t yet reached perfection.

    To go off on a bit of a digression for a moment, that is the reason that some ancient texts are opposed to certain same-sex relationships. The problem with such relationships in Greek and Roman antiquity was not that it was unnatural for two people of the same gender to have physical intimacy, as some people today feel. The problem had to do with the ancient ideology of dominance as it related to the understanding of the genders.

    In the Greco-roman world, dominance was a firmly held and seldom questioned ideal. It was simply common sense that human relationships were organized around power. Those who were more powerful were supposed to dominate those who were less powerful. Thus one empire could destroy another with impunity. They had no particular qualms about it. The stronger could and should dominate he weaker. Masters had complete control over slaves. Parents had total dominance over children. Men could, and should, assert their power over women, who were literally the weaker sex.

    continued...
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    Jun 01, 2008 2:38 AM GMT
    continuation...

    This ideology of power affected not only military and political ideology but also personal and sexual relations. Free men were made to be dominant. Modern people have trouble understanding how the ancient Greeks could accept the practice of pederasty, where an adult man took a preadolescent boy as a lover. In this system, the man would inculcate moral and cultural values into the boy, teaching him the ways of society and politics, in exchange for sexual favors. But wasn’t that “unnatural”? Not at all. In fact, Greeks talk about it as the most natural thing in the world. The reason is not hard to find once you understand the ideology of dominance. Boys were imperfect men. The more perfect was to dominate the less perfect. It was natural for a free man to have sex with a young boy. And that’s why pederasty applied only to preadolescent youths. Once a boy reached puberty, he started attaining his manhood, and from that point on it was a shameful thing to be dominated by someone else, since men were to dominators, not dominated.

    That is also why in the ancient world it was widely acceptable for a free man to have sex with his slaves, whether male or female. He was dominant over them. What about when to free men had sex, thought: wasn’t that unnatural? As it turns out, most ancient people thorough that same-sex relations between men was unnatural for only one of the two involved, the one who was on the receiving end of the sex act. Since the “unnaturalness” of sex involved being dominated by someone when you were to the dominator, then only the dominate partner acted unnaturally. So when Julius Caesar was known to have been involved in a sexual relationship with the king of Galatia and was suspected of having himself been the submissive partner in the relationship, his troops composed humorous little ditties making fun of him for it. The king of Galatia hadn’t done anything immoral or unnatural, though. He had acted like a man.

    When ancient texts, therefore, condemn same sex relations, it is important to understand what it is they’re condemning. They are condemning a man for acting like a member of the weaker sex, or a woman for acting like a member of the stronger sex.
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    Jun 01, 2008 3:30 AM GMT
    Yeeeeeeah... No. Nice try though!
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    Jun 01, 2008 3:47 AM GMT
    Back in my college days I would get into many a debate with other kids who disagreed with homosexuality. I'd always get the "it's against my religion/the bible," arguement. Then I'd tell them that so is having sex if you aren't married...That was usually the easiest way to get them to shut up.
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    Jun 01, 2008 3:54 AM GMT
    maxxtowt saidBack in my college days I would get into many a debate with other kids who disagreed with homosexuality. I'd always get the "it's against my religion/the bible," arguement. Then I'd tell them that so is having sex if you aren't married...That was usually the easiest way to get them to shut up.


    ...and eating shellfish. That's always a fun one to use.
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    Jun 01, 2008 3:56 AM GMT
    EXACTLY my point
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    Jun 01, 2008 4:10 AM GMT
    Also wearing poly/cotton blends! That's a no-no too!
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    Jun 01, 2008 4:11 AM GMT
    Very, very good arguement except for one thing: Since you mentioned that someone "receives" in the sex act between men and preadolescent boys, you mean anal sex. As I understand it, unportected anal sex is the easiest way to contract a sexual disease. Wouldn't practically ANY sexual disease be lethal to the men of ancient Greece, since antiboitics didn't exist? Unless the the sexual favors were anything other, that's probably why same sex relationships were against the Bible in ancient times. The potential to spread deadly diseases into the population was too great, let alone that they would probably be done in by the flu as well.icon_lol.gif
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    Jun 01, 2008 4:13 AM GMT
    Hey, do any of the above posters still believe in God? Just curious...icon_question.gif
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    Jun 01, 2008 4:15 AM GMT
    Not to mention that homosexual behavior has been known to go on in Greek and Roman bath houses for centuries.

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    Jun 01, 2008 4:20 AM GMT
    But what KIND of same sex behavior?

    Also, if Paul was rebuking "homo"sexuality on Romans, why wouldn't he say it out right? I mean, he wrote Romans in GREEK and "homo" is a greek word meaning "same". There's no reason to have translations this bad...-_-
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    Jun 01, 2008 4:39 AM GMT
    RyanReBoRn saidHey, do any of the above posters still believe in God? Just curious...icon_question.gif


    Yep. Christian guy. But I do believe the Bible was written by various ancient men. So I read its scriptures and "prohibitions" with that in mind.
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    Jun 01, 2008 4:43 AM GMT
    stonecoldfoxboy said[quote][cite]RyanReBoRn said[/cite]Hey, do any of the above posters still believe in God? Just curious...icon_question.gif


    Yep. Christian guy. But I do believe the Bible was written by various ancient men. So I read its scriptures and "prohibitions" with that in mind.[/quote]

    Why are there two different creation stories in the Book of Genesis?
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    Jun 01, 2008 4:54 AM GMT
    Why work so hard to disprove something you DONT believe? If you prescribe to the Christian faith, there are other references to the act of homosexuality being a sin or abomination within the Bible. If you are ok with your decision to act on your homosexual inclination, then why worry about some words in an ancient text. I find the whole notion of relating scripture to "our" times ridiculous, it is what it is. Yes, Man did record these ancient events and translate some records, so without question, changes have been made, either intentionally or unintentionally, but it is clear on this and many other topics. Participating in homosexual acts is almost universally viewed as a sin by Christian groups, some are more tolerant in permitting gays to be open in their organization, but that leads to the question are these Christian churches actually Christian?
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    Jun 01, 2008 5:10 AM GMT
    Using the bible to refute people who argue homosexuality is a sin is a waste of time. I have read dozens of different interpretations of that passage. I have heard biblical scholars offer different interpretations. No one is clear on what the bible actually says and what it means. They will find their own meaning just as you did.

    Who is to say the Hebs didn't hate homosexuality 2,500 years ago? It is all so silly.
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    Jun 01, 2008 5:16 AM GMT
    hotshotcdn saidWhy work so hard to disprove something you DONT believe? If you prescribe to the Christian faith, there are other references to the act of homosexuality being a sin or abomination within the Bible. If you are ok with your decision to act on your homosexual inclination, then why worry about some words in an ancient text. I find the whole notion of relating scripture to "our" times ridiculous, it is what it is. Yes, Man did record these ancient events and translate some records, so without question, changes have been made, either intentionally or unintentionally, but it is clear on this and many other topics. Participating in homosexual acts is almost universally viewed as a sin by Christian groups, some are more tolerant in permitting gays to be open in their organization, but that leads to the question are these Christian churches actually Christian?


    I reason I care about being able to refute Christians is because they vote. If I can create doubt in a Christian who really has never, ever thought about this, then I may change a vote. I opened the eyes of my next door neighbor, a pastor's wife, concerning gay marriage. She had never thought of homosexuality from a social point of view before.
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    Jun 01, 2008 5:28 AM GMT
    So your motive is gaining approval for a choice you want to make in your life, or others, ie. marriage, from an external body? Beit the government thru legalizing same sex marriage or by a majority vote of the populus (I should say a majority of the small percentage of society that actually vote) telling you its ok to "marry" your partner.

    It seems to be a waste of energy, marriage was instituted as a religious rite, remember that? Sign a contract proclaiming you are willing to share your life and assets with whomever you wish. Shout it from the rooftops... having the government or "society", in this case a very vocal minority, ok it, won't make any difference to who you are, who you love or how society as a whole views it. Ask women and visible minorities how they are actually and not "officially" treated.

    BTW: the two stories of creation can be explained as being two recollections of the same story but written by different scholars at different times. Similar to the Gospels in the new testament, same stories, different authors. Just a thought on that.
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    Jun 01, 2008 6:08 AM GMT
    Unless you are a Hebrew, or a Hebrew living thousands of years ago it doesn't really matter. Something people don't consider is that those were actual national laws of an ancient nation (Israel). They included all sorts of laws covering everything from diet, attire, social welfare, agriculture, sanitation, etc.

    It really was a sophisticated law for the time in that it was so egalitarian that even the kings were supposed to follow it. Anyone who is gentile really has no claim on them unless he were to join the Hebrew society (circumcision and all). But even the modern day nation of Israel does not enforce it.

    Zoom forward to the era of the early Christians. Jesus pretty much never condemned the act of Homosexuals, and he touched the unclean (people), ate with prostitutes and tax collectors and "in the eyes of the Religious authorities" of the day broke the literal keeping of laws. As a matter of fact, the only ones Jesus did condemn were the "Fundamentalists" who demanded strict adherence to law.

    In the days of early followers, it was written that the "old law" was not binding. That was very controversial at the time as all the early followers were Jews. When gentiles were permitted to join (the "faith of Abraham"), circumcision became a hot topic so much that that it caused heated arguments and rifts between Paul of Tarsus and Peter. In any case, circumcision was pretty much deemed not binding.

    So there was another example of the law being ignored. There are numerous examples of "old laws and customs" pretty much being discarded with the simple requirement to love one another, and love God. I think Jesus pretty much intended to create a new religion based on "faith apart from law" I think this is why he is quoted as saying "the spirit" would lead them and teach them new things.

    The only "New Testament" writer that really went off on homosexual acts was Paul of Tarsus, who had issues of his own to the point that he wrote that God gave him a thorn in the flesh and an eye disease to humble him. [Even so, his mention of "indecent acts" has an obvious explanation and qualifications shortly after he mentions it]

    Again and again early "Christians" were told they were not under the "written law or old law" but rather followed a "faith" similar to Abraham's (who lived when there was no "law"). Paul himself said to gentiles at the time that if they insisted on following the law they were obliged to keep "the whole law"

    SO, when I hear modern day "Christians" talk about such legal matters, I have to ask:
    Do you turn the other cheek?
    Do you judge others?
    Are you meek and humble?
    Do you render to Caesar what is Caesar's or meddle in government affairs and try to BE Caesar?
    Do you follow the whole "Hebrew Law"?

    Jesus was very clear on judging others, loving others, etc (see Luke 6) and IMMEDIATELY thereafter said "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" He also said elsewhere that if people did not do what he said, they were "none of his" I guess he understood human nature pretty well cause he knew what people would do down the road otherwise he would not have been so clear about THAT. I pretty much dismiss anyone who claims to "follow Jesus" and ignore what was important to him and HIS direct orders (none of those orders said anything about queers).

    I really don't think much of the judgmental Christians today meet the requirements that Jesus himself laid out. Maybe the Amish, Mennonites, the Friends (quakers), the Brethren, etc who are pacifist in Nature. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_churches Some of those mentioned even accepted homosexuality just fine.

    I could write more on this from a theological perspective but it is a big world with lots of different beliefs and those perspective are just a small part of them.

    Have to run now icon_biggrin.gif!
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    Jun 01, 2008 6:25 AM GMT
    caslon said
    Why are there two different creation stories in the Book of Genesis?


    Why don't you tell us what you perceive as two different creation stories?
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    Jun 01, 2008 6:27 AM GMT
    The more you read about Leviticus the less problematic it has seemed to me. Firstly, it is not a book about rules for the layman, it is a book of rules dealing with priestly duties and the durties of holy ones. As with most everything Biblical, this stuff gets extrapolated way out of all proportion. You need look no further than the command "Go forth and multiply" from Genesis as the primary argument against condoms to see this in action despite the fact that the simple use of prophylatics could reduce untold suffering in Africa.

    Back to Leviticus, I have read a number of different translations of the 18:22 passage and of course it is not present in the fragments that survive of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The translation that i "choose" to go with is as follows: "and with a man, do not lay layings of a woman". Not so clear is it? I have always thought it meant that two guys should not sleep in the same bed that a woman uses and it could be over concerns of parentage (who's your daddy?) or something else? The fact that this act is referred to as an "abomination" is also suspect in that it applies also to eating shellfish and wearing different types of cloth.

    In my view, it should be reasonable to state that this passage is simply an injunction to the Levites or Priestly caste to not have sex with another man in the same bedding that you had sex with a woman. The sex itself is not the issue, it is the location. icon_biggrin.gif
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    Jun 01, 2008 6:41 AM GMT
    Colbert had Tony Perkins from the Family Research Council on his show this week. Colbert, slightly breaking character, asked a good question about the OTHER passages in Leviticus. Tony Perkins did not respond well.

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    Jun 01, 2008 6:53 AM GMT
    I remember hearing someone (perhaps it was on Bill Maher's show) espousing the idea that it is hyper-literalism -- not fundamentalism -- that is driving the various manifestations fo secular v. religious conflict the world is experiencing, today. The problem with literalism is that a) we are relying on translated versions of ancient texts that don't always account for nuances within the vernacular of the original author and the intended audience and b) we freqently do not take into account the original context, the literary genre or the cultural implications of these texts. Furthermore, casual readers rarely spend time understanding the author's definition of key terms as opposed to commonly held definition of those terms. Essentially, the hyper-literalist has not learned, or at least has not applied, the principles of sound literary analysis. The casual layman usually doesn't take a big picture view of the Bible, which consists of 66 books written by numerous authors spanning many centuries. Taken as a whole, there is much wisdom and insight to be gained from ancient scriptures, but taken in piece parts, one is tempted to make the Bible or the Koran or the Torah (or any other ancient text) fit one's own particular viewpoint, predisposition or fetish.

    I highly recommend that those interested in "gay apologetics" become familiar with ReligiousTolerance.org - http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_bibl.htm. This site summarizes the various views and interpretations of scripture as it pertains to homosexuality, and more often than not, provides sound arguments that counter the prevailing assertions made by the reglious right.
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    Jun 01, 2008 6:55 AM GMT
    Here is another good response (by a rabbi) to the Leviticus passage in which he argues that the proscription only relates to the same ones that apply to the "lyings of a woman". He goes on to say:

    "For example, the Bible lists the following prohibited relations: nephew-aunt, grandfather-granddaughter, and stepmother-stepson. Thus, according to this theory, nephew-uncle, grandfather-grandson, and stepfather-stepson are also forbidden. This implies that the homosexual prohibition does not cover all male-male liaisons, but only those within the limited circle of family. However, homosexual relations with unrelated males are neither prohibited nor penalized. Admittedly, more than two occurrences of the phrase "as one lies with a woman" are needed before accepting this argument as definitive."

    The full thing can be read here:

    http://home.earthlink.net/~ecorebbe/id18.html

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    Jun 01, 2008 7:03 AM GMT
    icon_confused.gif I say the Bible said what it looks to be saying exactly. Homosexuality is a sin in Judeo-Christian-Islamic views, no matter how much we try to wriggle out of it. I say burn that darn book! icon_evil.gif
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    Jun 01, 2008 7:10 AM GMT
    Sedative saidicon_confused.gif I say the Bible said what it looks to be saying exactly. Homosexuality is a sin in Judeo-Christian-Islamic views, no matter how much we try to wriggle out of it. I say burn that darn book! icon_evil.gif


    I am not for book burning but do think much of the Bible is nonsense that even most Christians ignore today. I would say that homosexuality is not a Judaic sin but is one as far as the New Testament is concerned. It is fun, however, to puncture the certitude with which leviticus is quoted.