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Leviticus, you say?


C James

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I've often been told that "homosexuality is an abomination, because the Bible says so."

 

My first response to that is that no one has any business forcing their religion on anyone else A man by the name of Bin Laden is a prime example of those who think otherwise, as he, like some extremist Christians, want the USA to follow his version of religion.

 

Furthermore, I usually remind the person citing the "biblical homosexuality" issue that the word "homosexuality" cannot be in the bible, for there was no actual word for it in any of the classical languages in biblical times, and certainly not in Hebrew, Aramaic, or ancient Greek. (the original languages of the books of the Bible).

 

The standard translations are slightly different:

 

(American Standard Version, 1901) "And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

 

(English Standard Version): "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them."

 

(King James Version): "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them."

 

Can the above passagges be interpreted as referring to homosexuality? Yes. They could also be interpreted as referring to sleeping (platonicly) in the same bed, and in the English translations it could also be interpreted as lieing: a Man should not Lie to another man the same way he would lie to a woman".

 

Are my interpretations likly? No. However, just like the homosexuality issue, they are interpretations, and one of the tenets of most fundamentalist faiths is that they take the bible literally, they do not interpret it. It is often quite amusing to maneuver a fundamentalist into saying that they are interpreting, and then reminding them of their own prohibitions on doing so.

 

I am also fond of quoting a different passage from Leviticus:

Leviticus 11:9-12 (King James Version)

These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat.

And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:

They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination.

Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.

 

Yes, shellfish. I love pointing this out whenever a homophobe fundamentalist quotes Leviticus. :devil:

 

I think I can also make a fairly good case that the "whostsoever has fins and scales" passage is a directive to eat anything that does. This would include poisonous fish. Also, the control surfaces and anechoic tiles of a modern nuclear sub fit the "fins and scales" definition quite well. :devil:

 

Slavery? The sermons in the 1850's and before in support of slavery are quite interesting reading.

Leviticus 25:45

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I recently wrote a paper for my local church on the liberal interpretation of the bible on the subject of homosexuality. This is because the Uniting Church in Australia, over all, has given tacit approval to practising homosexual ministers (non-practising homosexual ministers have been approved since 1982). However, some members object and have formed a group that thinks the broader church's position on homosexuality is wrong, bordering on apostary.

 

The conservative view is well known, but the liberal view isn't, so I volunteered to write something up to explain it. I'll find out tomorrow how that paper went down (I wasn't at church last week).

 

As C James has pointed out, the bible does NOT condemn homosexuality, but homosexual acts. The key difference between the conservative and liberal interpretations is whether it condemns all possible homsexual acts or only some of them. For example, Leviticus appears to condemn anal intercourse, but doesn't say anything about other sexual relations between men. I read something that said that the Jews believe that every word in Leviticus was dictated by God and they are all there for a reason. If God intended all homosexual acts to be condemned, he wouldn't have said "as with a women" in that phrase.

 

Religious Tolerance and Whosoever are good sites for anyone interested in a discussion on homosexuality and the bible.

 

A thread at DeweyWriter has a link to an interesting (and positive) article by a Jewish Rabbi, and some informed comment by Jewish members at that site.

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My Buddhist dog won't hunt in this Torah territory. Fundamentalist Christianity has not taken root here in Hawaii, and the fraction of my friends who practice Judaism has fallen to perhaps one-fifth of its mainland value. I don't therefore get much chance to exercise these arguments here. Three days in Eastern Oklahoma next week may give me the opportunity, but my heart would not be in it. My tendency is to let people argue the details of ancient text among themselves. What if we score a debating point or two. Will it help? Or will our opponents follow the lead of a frustrated cleric who, after a drubbing on Al-Jazeera at the hands of Syrian-American psychiatrist Wafa Sultan, threw up his hands, "If you are a heretic, there is no point in rebuking you!"

 

My Nichirin Buddhism has left behind much of the content of the Sanskrit Sutras that found Buddhism. First, Nichirin selected and promoted only the Lotus Sutra, downgrading the others. There are therefore far fewer words to fuss over. Second, the original, Sanskrit sutras are acknowledged to be highly symbolic. Mindful of the smearing of meaning the accompanied translation into Chinese, then Japanese, then English, we struggle to interpret the words today. Nichirin interpreted key portions of the Lotus Sutra in the 15th century. At a recent annual study review, we poured over just a few of Nichirin's glosses of the LS for weeks, interpreting them for today. To attempt to take literally the ancient words of Leviticus strikes this Buddhist as odd.

 

I belong to the Soka Gakkai, which used to be the lay section of the Nichirin Shoshu sect of Buddhism until, in 1992, the NS priesthood excommunicated the leaders of the SG, hoping the keep the membership on the priesthood's terms. The priesthood was largely unsuccessful. The SG now thrives as the NS wanes. This split reminds me of the struggles now in the Anglican church. A good friend of my host in Oklahoma is a female Anglican priest on the liberal side of the divide.

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Hi CJames,

 

I have done some research in that area as well. What I found when I went back to the older languages, siting mainly Sodom and Gomorrah, that the ancient words that were actually used to describe the city were describing behaviour. The same words used to describe a whore, woman, was the exact same words used to describe the men's behaviour. It was the actual behavior of the situation, that was admonished not being homosexual. Anyway, I took that further and found it to be consistent in almost every text that the word homosexual would apply. But, I never found that in any case that it was wrong when love was involved. Anyway, my 2 cents for you.

 

Jensen

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As C James has pointed out, the bible does NOT condemn homosexuality, but homosexual acts. The key difference between the conservative and liberal interpretations is whether it condemns all possible homsexual acts or only some of them. For example, Leviticus appears to condemn anal intercourse, but doesn't say anything about other sexual relations between men. I read something that said that the Jews believe that every word in Leviticus was dictated by God and they are all there for a reason. If God intended all homosexual acts to be condemned, he wouldn't have said "as with a women" in that phrase.

 

Religious Tolerance and Whosoever are good sites for anyone interested in a discussion on homosexuality and the bible.

 

Graeme, thank you for those links, particuarly religioustolerance.org

 

I very much liked their poing that there are same-sex relationships in the bible. I cound their analysis of David & Jonathan to be especially astute, especially on the translation issues.

 

I also found their list of the other prohibitions of Leviticus to be excellent!

  1. a child to be killed if he/she curses their parent (Leviticus 20:9)

  2. all persons guilty of adultery to be killed (20:10)

  3. the daughter of a priest who engages in prostitution to be burned alive until dead (21:9)

  4. the bride of a priest to be a virgin (21:13)

  5. ritual killing of animals, using cattle, sheep and goats (22:19)

  6. observation of 7 feasts: Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Firstfruits, Feast of Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles (23)

  7. a person who takes the Lord's name in vain is to be killed (24:16)

I personally find 5 to be particularly objectionable! :sheep:

 

My Buddhist dog won't hunt in this Torah territory. Fundamentalist Christianity has not taken root here in Hawaii, and the fraction of my friends who practice Judaism has fallen to perhaps one-fifth of its mainland value. I don't therefore get much chance to exercise these arguments here. Three days in Eastern Oklahoma next week may give me the opportunity, but my heart would not be in it. My tendency is to let people argue the details of ancient text among themselves. What if we score a debating point or two. Will it help? Or will our opponents follow the lead of a frustrated cleric who, after a drubbing on Al-Jazeera at the hands of Syrian-American psychiatrist Wafa Sultan, threw up his hands, "If you are a heretic, there is no point in rebuking you!"

 

Hi Knotme!!

My personal view is that been that, if they do as Wafa Sultan did, then they discredit themselves (as Wafa Sultan did). If I can help then acheive some discredit, then I am delighted to oblige. :devil:

 

I live in an area where christian fundamentalists and Mormons (usually even more conservative than the mainstream LDS) make up the majority of the population. So, I do end up in religious arguments quite often.

 

HAve a safe trip to Oklahoma!!

 

Hi CJames,

 

I have done some research in that area as well. What I found when I went back to the older languages, siting mainly Sodom and Gomorrah, that the ancient words that were actually used to describe the city were describing behaviour. The same words used to describe a whore, woman, was the exact same words used to describe the men's behaviour. It was the actual behavior of the situation, that was admonished not being homosexual. Anyway, I took that further and found it to be consistent in almost every text that the word homosexual would apply. But, I never found that in any case that it was wrong when love was involved. Anyway, my 2 cents for you.

Jensen

 

Hi Jensen!

Take a look at the biblical story of David and Jonathan that I linked above. That certainly seems to be a positive portrayal of a gay relationship to me.

 

Do you speak Koine Greek by any chance?

 

I personally disagree that the biblical text does describe an specific act, because Anal sex can be practiced between men and women, as can most any other kind of sex that gays practice. Indeed, about the only thing I can think of that a male same-sex couple cannot doe that a mixed-sex couple can is vaginal sex, or sex for procreation (which are the norm for male-female sex). So, a logical interpretation of Leviticus would be that only those are prohibited (not much point, as they are impossible anyway, but still..)

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I think I can help.

 

The translations below are all wrong.

 

(American Standard Version, 1901) "And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

 

(English Standard Version): "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them."

 

(King James Version): "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them."

 

It would be much easier if we read the original version in Hebrew. Take a look at Leviticus 20:13 in the Hebrew version and everything will become crystal clear.

 

The proper translation is "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, they have committed an abomination; they will both die; their blood is upon them."

 

This is a theory about what will happen if two males have sex with each other. The theory says that both will die. All we need to do now to test this theory is to try and have sex with another man and see what happens. I am a bit scared to try, because the bible says that I will die. So maybe you guys try first, and if you survive, I will conclude that the theory was wrong. :)

 

Be careful and may god be with you,

Michael.

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I think I can help.

 

The translations below are all wrong.

It would be much easier if we read the original version in Hebrew. Take a look at Leviticus 20:13 in the Hebrew version and everything will become crystal clear.

 

The proper translation is "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, they have committed an abomination; they will both die; their blood is upon them."

 

This is a theory about what will happen if two males have sex with each other. The theory says that both will die. All we need to do now to test this theory is to try and have sex with another man and see what happens. I am a bit scared to try, because the bible says that I will die. So maybe you guys try first, and if you survive, I will conclude that the theory was wrong. :)

Be careful and may god be with you,

Michael.

 

Hi Michael,

 

I don't think the Hebrew can be read the way you suggest. The verb is: "muut yawmuut". The verb muut (emphasized by the yawmuut repetition) is definitely a passive (I think it's the hophal but my Hebrew is er rusty...) - it will be done to them. It's not "they will die" but "they will be put to death. The context also makes it clear that this is not a warning of the "natural" consequences of some activity but a legal sanction against a religious crime. The chapter starts with condemning worshippers of Molech!

 

My feeling overall about dealing with religious fundamentalists is that they weren't argued into the positions they take and they can't be argued out of them. There's a fundamental fact - their belief in revelation of truth by supernatural means - that makes it pointless to argue and chop logic over these issues. After all, the fundamental reason for their beliefs is straightforwardly that omnipotent and omniscient G-d told them so: who can argue with that? That being the case I tend to talk to people not about their doctrines but about whether they want to impose a theocratic government where the religious laws that they believe are imposed on the rest of us, or do they want an open society? Very few people I've discussed the matter with think it's really appropriate to impose biblical law on modern society as a whole.

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Hi Michael,

 

I don't think the Hebrew can be read the way you suggest. The verb is: "muut yawmuut". The verb muut (emphasized by the yawmuut repetition) is definitely a passive (I think it's the hophal but my Hebrew is er rusty...) - it will be done to them. It's not "they will die" but "they will be put to death. The context also makes it clear that this is not a warning of the "natural" consequences of some activity but a legal sanction against a religious crime. The chapter starts with condemning worshippers of Molech!

 

My feeling overall about dealing with religious fundamentalists is that they weren't argued into the positions they take and they can't be argued out of them. There's a fundamental fact - their belief in revelation of truth by supernatural means - that makes it pointless to argue and chop logic over these issues. After all, the fundamental reason for their beliefs is straightforwardly that omnipotent and omniscient G-d told them so: who can argue with that? That being the case I tend to talk to people not about their doctrines but about whether they want to impose a theocratic government where the religious laws that they believe are imposed on the rest of us, or do they want an open society? Very few people I've discussed the matter with think it's really appropriate to impose biblical law on modern society as a whole.

This just shows the point that two people who studied Leviticus in high school, in its original language Hebrew, can have different translation/interpretation of the law. I kind off translated the passage too literally, as a joke. But I sure hope that the biblical law will not be imposed anywhere.

 

Hugs,

Michael.

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Hi Michael,

 

I don't think the Hebrew can be read the way you suggest. The verb is: "muut yawmuut". The verb muut (emphasized by the yawmuut repetition) is definitely a passive (I think it's the hophal but my Hebrew is er rusty...) - it will be done to them. It's not "they will die" but "they will be put to death. The context also makes it clear that this is not a warning of the "natural" consequences of some activity but a legal sanction against a religious crime. The chapter starts with condemning worshippers of Molech!

 

My feeling overall about dealing with religious fundamentalists is that they weren't argued into the positions they take and they can't be argued out of them. There's a fundamental fact - their belief in revelation of truth by supernatural means - that makes it pointless to argue and chop logic over these issues. After all, the fundamental reason for their beliefs is straightforwardly that omnipotent and omniscient G-d told them so: who can argue with that? That being the case I tend to talk to people not about their doctrines but about whether they want to impose a theocratic government where the religious laws that they believe are imposed on the rest of us, or do they want an open society? Very few people I've discussed the matter with think it's really appropriate to impose biblical law on modern society as a whole.

This just shows the point that two people who studied Leviticus in high school, in its original language Hebrew, can have different translation/interpretation of the law. I kind off translated the passage too literally, as a joke. But I sure hope that the biblical law will not be imposed anywhere.

 

Hugs,

Michael.

 

Actually, I can verify that if two guys have sex they don't always die : ). Though I think in French high society of the belle epoche an orgasm was sometimes refered to as 'le petit mort' -'the little death'. Goes to show that we cannot possibly know with any certainty what the bible is trying to say -it was simply written too long ago for us to be able to separate figurative language (

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Actually, I can verify that if two guys have sex they don't always die :) .Though I think in French high society of the belle epoche an orgasm was sometimes refered to as 'le petit mort' -'the little death'. Goes to show that we cannot possibly know with any certainty what the bible is trying to say -it was simply written too long ago for us to be able to separate figurative language (
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My feeling overall about dealing with religious fundamentalists is that they weren't argued into the positions they take and they can't be argued out of them. There's a fundamental fact - their belief in revelation of truth by supernatural means - that makes it pointless to argue and chop logic over these issues. After all, the fundamental reason for their beliefs is straightforwardly that omnipotent and omniscient G-d told them so: who can argue with that? That being the case I tend to talk to people not about their doctrines but about whether they want to impose a theocratic government where the religious laws that they believe are imposed on the rest of us, or do they want an open society? Very few people I've discussed the matter with think it's really appropriate to impose biblical law on modern society as a whole.

 

I would have more respect for Christian fundamentalists if they really believed what you said. They tend to read the Bible very selectively, and they get especially selective when it comes to Leviticus, where it is not unusual for them to take a given verse and say it is immutable revealed divine Truth and completely ignore everything a verse or two away. In extreme cases, it is two halves of the same verse. If someone gets to decide which verse is Ultimate Truth and which verse is completely irrelevant, then that person himself, and not the Bible, is the real authority and arbiter of all Truth.

 

Oh, and as for men who have sex with one another, yes, they will all die eventually.

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Well, here's my little thought about the issue. First, God never wrote the Bible. It was men who did. And and I agree that there are so many things in the Bible that doesn't fit in, slavery is a good example.

 

One last thought and this is Childish, but a man can't lie with another man the way he does a woman since man and woman don't have the same equibment. Talk about interpretation, huh? :P This might not be a strong arguement, but I'd still like to offer my point of view.

 

Moreover, I don't really know much about Leviticus since I'm Buddhist. As far as my religion is concerned, homosexuality is not a sin as long as a couple remain faithful to each other. Sex outside mariage is a sin in Buddhism. Since not so many countries guarantee mariage to homosexuals, a commitment will do in this case.

 

Any other Buddhists here wanna offer your perspective and thoughts about the issue?

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