It’s been a while since I worked on this series. Even longer for those of you reading this on my personal blog (The Snark Who Hunts Back) as opposed to the articles on Queerlandia. (Yes, they are posted in both places. It’s relevant to both blogs).
Here is the review of the original documentary that this information comes from, for the most part.
I’m writing about both Leviticus verses in one post today. Each verse on it’s own would be terribly short and both have some similar issues.
“‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.”
– Leviticus 18:22
“‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”
– Leviticus 20:13
Before we get to bogged down in analysis of this verse, I would like to mention that Leviticus 18 (in fact all of Leviticus) is a lot more complicated than a simple book of the Bible that tells a story like the Gospels, or Esther or Ruth (my two favorite books of the Bible, if you want to know). It is ritual and theological moral and legal code that was devised to govern the priest class (Levites) and the other tribes of Israel. The code was established by people interpreting theological ritual into rules for a society. I know of no serious Biblical scholar that refers to Leviticus as a book that was “inspired” by god.
Now that we have that out of the way.
Let’s talk about the actual meaning of these verses.
First we hear from Reverend Gregory Dell and Dr. Amy Jill Levine on the purpose behind these two particular verses.
The purity codes, the holiness codes from which Leviticus 18 is taken had a very specific design. And that design was to help distinguish themselves from the other cultures and faiths around them.
– Reverend Gregory Dell
The text is interested in categories and everyone and everything fits into an appropriate category. The categories do not mix.
– Dr. Amy Jill Levine
Then of course there is the constant issue that we find with Leviticus.
All we ever hear about from religious fundamentalists is “homosexuality is an abomination – Leviticus 18:22”.
What they seem to forget, is that Leviticus was a code of conduct for a people group over 2,000 years ago and they had a lot of funky ideas about proper behavior and what was an “abomination”.
[I]f one in the church must insist on using Leviticus then it seems only appropriate for those members of the Christian church to look at other laws in Leviticus.
To pick and choose which laws to follow and which laws not to follow, at the very least we need to determine why are we choosing this law and not that law.
– Dr. Amy Jill Levine
In chapter 18 of Leviticus alone there are at least 19 prohibitions against different types of sexual relations.
That’s not to mention the incredible amount of truly odd things that are mentioned in the book (as well as the rest of the Old Testament) as being “abominations” and “detestable” outside of sex.*
One of the prohibitions mentioned specifically in the documentary is Leviticus 18:19.
“‘Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period.”
When this is mentioned, Pastor David Ickes had this to say.
Okay, but still, how does that support homosexuality? All that does is tell me that we should start preaching against people sleeping with their wives on their cycle. That doesn’t give you any justification whatsoever.
Okay, so here is where I earn the name of my personal blog, because hoo-boy does this comment deserve a lot of snark.
Where do I start? (this could almost be a blog of it’s own).
First thing. He says “people sleeping with their wives”. People? Shouldn’t that be “men sleeping with their wives.”? For someone that is all about heterosexual marriage, he’s being very PC in his language.
Secondly, the point wasnotthat the sheer number of silly prohibitions invalidated the one about homosexuality. (We’ll get to that later). The point was that you can’t run around preaching that homosexuality is an abomination and ignore all the other rules that you and your congregation are breaking without looking like a horribly hypocrite.
If there is one thing that I truly hate in this world, it’s a hypocrite. I don’t use the word ‘hate’ lightly.
Third. So why don’t you preach to men and tell them not to have sex with their wives during their period or the 7 days after it?
Try it. You’ll be laughed off the pulpit. People are happy to listen to prohibitions on other people’s sex lives, but a pastor who starts telling people how and when to have sex with their spouse and you will be out of a parish really damn quick.
That’s the same reason why most churches, even the American Catholic church, barely even look askance at divorce anymore. Or remarriage after divorce. That second one, specifically, carries a penalty of death in the Bible.
Okay, now I’ll leave Ickes alone. He’s not all that bright it seems, but that isn’t the point of this post.
Here’s where the real issue of this verse becomes clear.
This verse isn’t, just like the rest of these verses, talking about homosexuality at all.
What Leviticus actually says is “A man shall not lie with a man, as a woman”. In other words ‘a man shall not treat another man, sexually, as if that other man were female.
– Dr. Amy Jill Levine
Greek homosexuality had the same concept. Men were not women, you could have sex with them, but you couldn’t treat them like a women. You could even have a relationship with another man (as women could with women, y’know…Sappho) but that man would not be another women. He was intrinsically going to be more than a women, based on that culture, and he would be more your equal.
Every woman in that time was the property of some man. A part of the way you claimed and made this property your own was the consummation of the marriage through intercourse. If you have sex with a virgin who isn’t properly betrothed to you, you have damaged another mane’s property. So all of thsi is really just property law and according to the understanding of this law code a man cannot own another man like that.
– Reverend Dr. Fred Neidner
Guess what…you can’t own anyone that way in this country in this day and age. So does that make heterosexual marriage invalid as well?
*List compiled at Canyonwalker Connections by Kathy.