Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13 “Is everything detestable to these people?”

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.

And the first 3 sections  of verses. Genesis 1:1-31, Genesis 2,   Genesis 19:1-29.

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.



  1. I agree with the first half, in that the Bible does contain a lot of nonsense (Leviticus in particular) that cannot be taken literally. However your twisting of words is mind boggling. The verse does refer to homosexuality. The Bible was discreet about sex so it never came out and said the word, preferring to use euphemisms such “knew” as in he knew his wife and she had a child. This verse is as clear as the Bible gets and has been interpreted this way by nearly everyone religious or secular. To read it otherwise is wishful thinking

    • What exactly is your qualifications to decide that these verses do refer to homosexuality? Because at this point you aren’t disagreeing with my view, but the views of dozens of different Biblical scholars who have spent their life studying the language and culture and interpreting the meanings.

      At this point you seem to just be disagreeing because you WANT the Bible to say that homosexuals should be killed.

      • Obviously I don’t want homosexuals killed. However these (and other verses) have always been interpreted by the Churches (both Protestant and Catholic) are condemning homosexuality. So it isn’t my personal opinion, its how the Churches have interpreted it.

        You don’t have to have a qualification to understand that lie with someone is a euphemism for sex in the same way to sleep with someone is. Your main point is that that the Bible was telling people not to treat men like women as though people couldn’t figure that out themselves. Its not rocket science to realise that’s daft.

        • She didn’t say you want homosexuals killed, she said you want the Bible to say homosexuals should be killed since you want to attack the Bible…and what does it matter what Christian Churches interpret it as, it is first and foremost a Jewish text

          Fun fact, in Lev 20:13 http://biblos.com/leviticus/20-13.htm the command to be put to death, while implied doesn’t actually exist…and given that there is no higher commandant than the protection of life, which is standard interpretation ranging from Hasidic to liberal reform Judaism…hmmm…might be hard to actually say without a doubt it’s a call to murder.

          Also did you know that for much of Christian history those “other verses” you mention (but failed to list, I guessing so if I pulled out a quote you could claim “Oh I didn’t mean that one”, were interpreted as meaning masturbation…it was only when that interpretation become unpopular that a lot of verses were shifted to be interpreted as being anti-gay.

          Is the Bible pro gay? Hell no. But Meredith is correct that most of it was more about differentiating themselves from other surrounding cultures. And that is applicable only to a Jewish culture of early Hellenic era and thus of absolutely no relevance to any modern educated Christian or Jew.

            • I’m very confused by your argument. It starts with a quote I already showed doesn’t say what you think it does…then you pull a lot of quotes that use the word sodomite…ignoring your terrible those in Sodom were all gay thing, which couldn’t be more incorrect (I think Meredith already dealt with that) I’m not entirely sure which translation you’re using. Wherever you have the word “sodomite” every translation I look up has the abomination, or in the Hebrew “הַתּוֹעֲבֹ֣ת” which in context actually refers to pagan temple practices rather than a specific sexual act. This is a call to banish the nonbelievers not sexual practices.

              Now as a Pagan, not entirely thrilled with the hate the Pagans rhetoric…but as the pagans the tribes of ancient Israel were dealing with were mostly Phoenician worshipers of Ba’al, whose religious practices it would be polite to call genocidal and psychotic, I really can’t blame them for not wanting those guys around.

              Like I said, I’m a Pagan and thus obviously I take issue with many things in the Bible, but if you’re going to attack it, attack it for what it actually says not the strawman you create to attack. If you want to attack modern Christians for their misinterpretation of the Bible, that’s fine, that’s exactly what Meredith has done, but to just attack the book based on what is exceptionally bad translation and misunderstanding of historical context is just sad.

  2. Ok I can’t speak Hebrew so I used the King James Version (it seems to be the standard one).

    Look we dont seem to be going anywhere here. You think I’m daft and I return the favour. Lets call it quits.

      • Cris would be right.
        I apologize for not taking part in this conversation more than just that bit at the beginning. I was at work for the past 8 hours.

        I think the best advocate of the inaccuracies in the KJV is that fact that Chick Tracts advocates it as the best version.
        I kid, I kid.

        Really though, there is a lot of debate about the accuracy of the KJV translation and I can, based on the studies that have been conducted, basically guarantee that it is not the best translation available…most of those reasons come from the sheer number of translations that it came from.
        The best version of the Bible would be one that is the closest to the original language, translated directly from Greek and Hebrew. (if you don’t read those languages yourself).

        Now I will point out, to your statement earlier that “Your main point is that that the Bible was telling people not to treat men like women as though people couldn’t figure that out themselves. Its not rocket science to realise that’s daft.” I pointed out, as Cris would surely back, that Greek societies had certain rules about how you treated women and how you treated men, when you were engaged in a sexual relationship with one of them. You would not apply the same standards to a man, that you would a woman, in public or private. It would be extremely rude to do so.

        Now I point out, the operative phrase in BOTH the verses I spoke of in this post was “As one does with a woman”. Putting this into the nature of the rules I spoke of in my previous paragraph.

        As Cris says, I have addressed the story of Sodom already on this blog.
        You can find that here. https://thesnarkwhohuntsback.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/genesis-191-29-%E2%80%9Csodom-and-gomorrah%E2%80%9D/

        If you do not wish to continue the discussion, that is fine. I would rather not as well, since you are severely lacking in the knowledge it would take to actually discuss this intelligently. (No insult meant to you, just pointing out that you saying “The Bible definitely means this” and contradicting Biblical scholars who speak/read the original texts and understand the culture is a little ridiculous). I simply wanted to give my answer to a few points.

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