So here it finally is, first the facts and then the theories of the Leviticus passages concerning homosexuality. If you missed my explanation of Sodom and Gomorrah, you can find it here. I do apologize for the delay, but life seems to have its way of keeping me distracted…
THE 3 FACTS:
Fact 1 // “Want a Snow-Cone?” – How abominable?
The word abomination has mostly fallen out of use in the English language, except for the occasional demon-hunter/exorcist movie. This is the only context we usually hear this word outside of this debate, and it throws us off quite a bit, because contrary to some Christians’ beliefs, homosexuality is not caused by demons.
In its heyday in the 14th century, the word abomination simply meant a feeling of disgust, hatred, or loathing. This is why the King James writers used it so often when translating the Old Testament. They used it in the KJV to describe everything from moral failures to simply becoming ritually unclean to blatant idolatry, merging four main Hebrew words together. And sometimes we need to go back to the Hebrew to find out if what was condemned was a moral issue, a tradition, or idolatry.
Fact 2 // It’s in Hebrew. Ugh.
So we all know that in English Leviticus 18:22 says “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it [is] abomination.”
In the original literal Hebrew translation, the phrase is: “Not lie together men sex woman (wife) it disgusting (tow`ebah).”
There are many views on what this verse means. I will cover the popular ones. But before that, we should look at one more thing:
Fact 3 // Get Him to the Greek. (“Stroke the furry walls.”)
The Greek translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint or LLX) sheds a great deal of light on the passage and surrounding verses. Modern scholars affirm that the first 5 books of the Bible were translated in the first half of the 3rd century BC. It’s a translation made much closer to the original writing than even our King James English translations. Here’s how THEY translated it:
Kai = also
Meta = with
Arsenos = men
Ou/Koimethese = never/sleep
Koite = bed (sexual), marriage bed (implying adultery), impregnation (conceiving)
Gunaikos = woman of any age, specifically a wife
Gar/estin = the reason/is
Bdelugma = foul and detestable thing, specifically idolatry
THE 3 THEORIES:
I put them in order from worst to best in my opinion:
Theory 1 // “Why You Little!—” A man is cheating on his wife to sleep with another man.
Some gay Christians try to explain their position by this route. Honestly for me, there is a better explanation (Theory 3) that has less logical holes (and Biblical problems).
Their perspective is that this statement is merely prohibiting where homosexuality can occur (in a wife’s bed), not all homosexual activity. I find this a large logical leap, especially when homosexuality seems to be mentioned in the New Testament as well. When something is carried over to the New Testament, we should at least tread carefully before just chucking out verses.
I can see the point that there is an implication of adultery, but my big reservation is context. It does not fit well with the previous verse about child sacrifices to idols and the next one, which is about women having sex with animals. For me there’s a better theory.
Theory 2 // “No Homosexuality” – God is outlawing all homosexual activity.
Many conservative Christians will try to twist this passage to say that God hates homosexuality. The first problem is that there are 2 men mentioned and not 2 women, so it can’t be broadly applied to all homosexuality. Secondly, there is argument as to whether this passage condemns all homosexual activity (including romance) or just one type of homosexual sex.
The reason for this argument is because only anal sex is mentioned (IN CONTEXT: having sex in the same way as you would impregnate a woman). So what do we do with oral stimulation, or mutual masturbation, or humping? And furthermore, what if my boyfriend and I have a romantic relationship with NO SEX, would that be okay according to this passage? The answer is unclear if you follow this theory.
A third problem: It seems VERY inconsistent to me that female homosexuality is not even mentioned in the Old Testament if God finds homosexuality to be unnatural. If this were the case, I’m sure he would have made sure to address women too. Therefore, logic says that there must be a deeper reason why ONLY male homosexuality is mentioned. And we find that answer in the context:
Theory 3 // Sluts and Whores – God is outlawing cult homosexual prostitution.
Let’s get our hands dirty in Hebrew and Greek.
The appearance of the word tow’ebah (abomination) in this passage is EXTREMELY significant. In the other verses in this chapter talking about sexual abominations, other words are used (see the abomination chart above). But out of the WHOLE BOOK OF LEVITICUS, this word ONLY APPEARS 2 TIMES after a specific act. Take a lucky guess where… (18:22 and 20:13)
So why did the writers switch Hebrew words when talking about THIS sex act? There is an aspect of this act that is different from the rest of these commandments (or else the writer would have used the same word). The question we have to answer is, what makes this act so different?
The main argument here is how this word is used elsewhere. The book of Deuteronomy uses the word tow’ebah 17 times and EVERY SINGLE TIME is in the context of IDOLATRY. Hmm… I wonder why God chose to use the same word here…
The Greek translation (Septuagint) agrees with this interpretation and uses the word Bdelugma, which also has connotations of idolatry.
Even Dr. Robert Gagnon from Pittsburg Theological Seminary agrees, who has been labeled an anti-gay speaker by homosexuals because he is against homosexuality:
“I do not doubt that the circles out of which Lev 18:22 was produced had in view homosexual cult prostitution, at least partly. Homosexual cult prostitution appears to have been the primary form in which homosexual intercourse was practiced in Israel.” – The Bible And Homosexual Practice, p. 130
If you look in the history books, homosexual cult prostitution, bestiality, and offering kids to idols was used in worship in the house of Molech, which makes sense why these verses would be next to each other. From a context standpoint, this theory is extremely sound.
So from this interpretation, this verse is NOT a commentary on homosexuality. It’s a condemnation of one out of a list of three cult practices that God does not want his people to do in worship. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Now, I know that I’m going against hundreds of years of church history, but sometimes you need to stand up. Like Galileo did, like Martin Luther, who were both considered heretics and outcasts in the church…but they were still 100% right. I am not afraid to stand up for what I believe is right.
I’m not saying I have all the answers. I’m even willing to admit that I could be wrong, but this I know: I am living my life to the best of my ability to glorify God through what he has helped me understand up till this moment in time. If that understanding changes in the future, then I will change because it’s about what God wants, not me. But until then, I believe Leviticus does not condemn monogamous gay relationships as we see them today.