Demonstrate understanding of the textual cultures of Judaism, Christianity, and/or Islam
Show knowledge of beliefs or values associated with religious communities
Show close textual reasoning and analysis
Use cultural knowledge and multiple perspectives to think critically and analyze text
Present a thesis that is clearly articulated and appropriately limited in scope
Avoid unwarranted generalizations
Quote directly from the text and analyze those quotationsWhat follows are two different Biblical translations and commentaries on Leviticus 18:22, the verse most commonly cited when people discuss Biblical “claims” about homosexuality. They are commentaries on two different translations, and aimed at two different communities. The first is a fundamentalist Christian commentary, and the second is a Jewish commentary.
For your essay, consider the questions: What are the differences? Why are there differences? Why do different hermeneutical lenses give us different interpretations?
One fundamentalist commentary translates the verse as:
“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”
The commentary accompanying it explains:
Verse 22 is a clear prohibition against homosexuality. The Living Bible [a “plain-English” translation] puts it more clearly as: “Homosexuality is absolutely forbidden, for it is an enormous sin.” The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in itself is enough of an indication as to what God thinks about homosexuality. But years ago I read in a Dutch Christian newspaper that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah had nothing to do with homosexuality. It was gang-rape that had brought down God’s wrath upon the cities, the article said. The Bible did not condemn homosexuality, it said. The article was an effort to accommodate Biblical teaching to the morality of our times. The interesting part of this effort is that people who reject the authority of the Bible would appeal to the Bible for the justification of certain perversions in our present society. Evidently the Bible sometimes does have use “for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” It is clear, however, that God calls homosexuality “detestable” and, so far, I have not read of any effort by theologians to circumvent this verse. It has only been ignored.
Why is homosexuality detestable? If heterosexual relations in the context of a marriage express the spiritual relationship between God and man, which Jesus describes as “worship in spirit and in truth,” then what does homosexual relations express?
First of all, a homosexual relation can never be legal in the sense that a normal marriage is legal, in spite of any laws that are passed. Legality is important because it expresses the legal basis of our relationship with God, which is expressed in the covenant He made with man.
Secondly, homosexuality denies the difference between male and female. In the spiritual realm this means that man presents himself as “male” in his relationship with God and thus he denies his role in this relationship. This is detestable to God, who wants our surrender to Him in love; He is not interested in “gay rights.”
If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he has lost sight of all relationships. In doing this man, throws overboard all his dignity as bearer of God’s image; he is only out to satisfy his sexual urges. In modern times people have started to experiment with taboos, but even this perversion is, at least not yet, officially accepted. More than anything else this kind of conduct is detestable.
The Jewish commentary translates the verse as:
“Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abhorrence.”
The commentary says:
Biblical and ancient Near Eastern culture was not familiar with homosexuality in the sense of a defined sexual orientation or lifestyle (according to the biblical evidence, David and Jonathan had no relationship). It acknowledges only the occasional act of male anal intercourse, usually as an act of force associated with humiliation, revenge, or subjection (for the biblical examples, see Genesis 19.4-5; Judges 19.22). Of the biblical legal collections only the Holiness source mentions it (here and in 20.13), declaring it to be an abominable act and a capital offense. It seems that the Holiness source views all sexual acts that are not potentially procreative as aberrant.
[For your information: The Holiness source is recognized by biblical scholars as one of the sources of legal codes in the bible. Members of religious communities who believe the documentary hypothesis—Catholics, liberal Protestants, and most Jews, among others—recognize the Holiness source as one part of the biblical tradition.]
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