This Western Tribune column (March 17, 2010) is the first of a four part series on the Bible and homosexuality. One way to look at this, the Washington Post featured a five part series on homosexuality in 1965 (from which I got the idea for my book,which should be available in April) and the Western Tribune is featuring a four part series in 2010. Sure to raise some eyebrows, but you know what happens when eyebrows are raised? Eyes open!
The Torah inside the former Glockengasse synagogue in Cologne.
How the Bible looks at homosexuality
I have been asked to show the verses in the Bible that mention same sex activity that are not critical of homosexuality. This column is the first of four that will address this issue.
The trouble with taking the words of the Bible without careful study of the language and customs of the time is that often this leads to the wrong conclusion. We only have to look at how the Bible was used in the past against blacks or against women to realize this. Currently, the same approach to biblical interpretation is used to point judgmental fingers at the gay community.
If we incorporate science and history into biblical interpretation we don’t find such condemnation.
Verses in Leviticus that are part of Israel’s Holiness Code include certain specific instructions on sexual matters, but also contain instruction not to eat shellfish, not to wear blended fabrics, not to plant fields with two kinds of seeds and more.
Along with certain male homosexual acts, adultery and sexual intercourse with a woman during her menstrual period are forbidden.
These proscriptions were given for several reasons: to separate Israel from other nations and their practices; to avoid idolatry and the practices associated with it; and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness.
Ritual purity was one of the ways the people of Israel set themselves apart from others for God. The avoidance of things unclean was part of the purification process.
Semen was looked on as critical to the ongoing of human life and thus was an important part of ceremonial law. The emission of semen during intercourse with a menstruating woman or even during an involuntary nocturnal emission was forbidden.
There were pagan rituals in which semen was offered up to the gods, so in order to set Israel apart a code was developed for this people at this time in their history and any use of semen that violated this code was forbidden. If this code is to be enforced against the homosexual community today, should we not also be enforcing the code against eating shellfish, wearing wool blends or having intercourse during a woman’s menstrual period?
These verses do not speak out against loving and committed relationships between modern gay or lesbian persons. They are about violations of a code that was set for a particular group of people and that, by the way, was replaced by the life and teachings of Jesus.