October 20, 2012

Answering Anti-Gay Bible Literalists Part 2- The Old Testament

If you have read Part 1, you are already familiar with how Biblical Literalists think. For the biblical legalist, the 66 books are God’s infallible word. It is the literal story of human history, all the fantastic events are true and the rules and opinions expressed are the final authority on everything that exists, everything we could ever do or conceive of doing. They will even make the argument that the bible can be applied to matters that we know (through entomology, archeological and comparative study of history) that the bronze-aged men who wrote it had no concept of in their time and for which they did not even have the vocabulary to describe; things like homosexuality.

The Very First Thing You Need To Do Is Clearly Define "Homosexual"

Do not get tied up in a game of semantic gymnastics.

For the most part, Anti-Gay Bible Literalists (claiming to be guided by holy-spirit) not only try to attach modern understandings to things written about 4000 years ago without even knowing for sure if it was what the bible writers actually meant. They also keep shifting and widening the definition of homosexuality and homosexual. This makes it easier to use out of context or extremely specific bible quotes to apply to all LGBT people when it clearly does not.

The word “HOMOSEXUAL” and its definition is actually a fairly recent term in human history. It came about during the nineteenth century when humans began exploring the human psyche. In 1886, it was Richard von Krafft-Ebing who first put forward in his book Psychopathia Sexualis the notion that there were people oriented exclusively towards the same sex. He called such people homosexual. Before this radical new proposition, the common belief was that everyone was the same and those who engaged in same-gender sexual behavior did so by choice or being forced into it or having too powerful a libido. Nobody ever considered before that same-sex attraction was an intrinsic trait.
So before you begin to debate, ensure that you properly define “homosexuality” and “homosexual” according to the correct academic and medical connotation which is:

HOMOSEXUALITY and its modern slang GAY- An innate orientation towards the same sex instead of the opposite sex

HOMOSEXUAL- A person with an innate orientation towards the same sex instead of the opposite sex

HOMOSEXUAL (GAY) RELATIONSHIP- A romantic and/or sexually intimate relationship between two, consenting, adult homosexuals.

Make it very clear you are debating about a psycho-sexual condition that is independent of:

Behavior (which includes everything from rape to prostitution to pederasty)

A singular sexual position or sex act (anal sex)

This may confuse some people who lump everything in the same boat. It should not.
We do not define heterosexuality as every single form of opposite sex interaction (incest, adultery, prostitution and rape) nor do we restrict the definition to a singular sexual act- penile/vaginal intercourse. When you read of a story of rape between a man and a woman in the bible, it is not an indictment against heterosexuality or all mutually consenting heterosexual relationships. So to be intellectually consistent, you cannot take specific cases of same-sex interaction involving rape, prostitution, pagan worship or even anal sex and use it to indict all homosexuals. That would not be intellectually honest.

Sexual behavior and sexual orientation are two different things. 

Someone can be completely virginal or celibate and still have a sexual orientation (an emotional, psychological, biological attraction to a particular gender) or even act contrary to their orientation. For example, Oscar Wilde was heterosexually married but was a homosexual. Some women who are heterosexual act like lesbians for pay. Some men in prison who are heterosexual may use other men for sexual release. Sexual behavior is not always motivated by sexual attraction. Money, peer pressure, desperation, drugs and dominance are just as likely triggers as genuine attraction. You can change your sexual behavior but you cannot change your sexual orientation. It is an involuntary, deeply set trait. Before you even have time to think or make a choice, your brain releases the cocktail of serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine that makes your heart race, palms sweaty, mouth dry, butterflies in the stomach, blood flow to the genitalia in response to a particular person or erotic scenario. The ONLY choice you have is whether to act on your innate nature or suppress it.

But back to the bible.

Homosexuality as it is academically and medically understood today was not part of the ancient Hebrew world-view any more so than awareness of the endocrine system or women contributing 50% of the genetic material towards conception. There is no ancient Hebrew word that translates as- homosexual and if you see the word homosexual anywhere in the Old Testament, you are using a translation that is over-reaching and tampered by a translator adding their own spin and anachronistic assumptions. Is it right to apply modern concepts to ancient writings that was not and could not possibly be referring to the exact same thing? Or is it more accurate to understand things in their proper context- cultural, historical, linguistic?

Impress upon the Anti-Gay Biblical Literalist that the latter is more accurate. The closest thing we have in any Hebrew writings to a reference to people having an inherent, gender/sexual anomaly in their physical and emotional make-up is the word saris. It refers to both male and females who were either born eunuchs or turned into eunuchs. We will learn more about born saris and their role in Jewish culture and the Gospel’s reference to them later on and it will blow your mind!

So now that we have made our definitions perfectly clear, let us state our position which is:

The bible does not condemn homosexuality or committed same sex relationships between consenting adults.
The Anti-Gay Bible Legalist's position is: Yes it does!

So let’s prove our case:

Was The Crime Of Sodom Homosexuality?

Going in biblical order, we will start with Genesis 19 and the story of Lot.

Hospitality was a common decency expected in ancient times when travel involved long days in harsh arid environments. Just like people are expected to cover their nose when they sneeze, one was always expected to welcome strangers, offer water, food and rest.  Even if your accommodation was as humble as a single tent, this human kindness was mandated, far less if you had rich accommodations like the people of Sodom, who had a whole walled city, fertile green land, lots of bread and water.

Honest bible readers and the vast majority of objective biblical scholars, even ones who still maintain that homosexuality is a sin, all agree this account is about inhospitality to strangers, xenophobic gang rape and pure inhumane depravity against one’s fellowman. Even the rest of the bible confirms this. Ezekiel 16: 49, says that the sin of Sodom was greed, pride, fullness of bread and a wicked refusal to help the poor. According to the gospels, when neighboring villages were rude and inhospitable to Jesus and his disciples he compared them to Sodom in Matthew 10:11-15. Even better, in the book of Jude it gets very specific about the crime. In verse 5, it speaks about angels who forsook their natural realm, a reference to the story in Genesis about the “Sons of God” who had interspecies sex (angel with human) with the daughters of men. Then it mentions Sodom as being guilty of the same for going after “strange flesh”. The actual ancient Greek term used is “heteras” which ironically is the root of the word  heterosexual i.e. men are of a different flesh than women. So in this scripture it is clear it is not referring to “the same” flesh as humans but it translates literally as “different form/flesh”, meaning supernatural or not the same as human flesh. What we have here folks is a case of humans (knowingly or unknowingly) wanting to have sex with angels.

Is the story of Sodom about xenophobic, inhospitable, gang rape prompted by selfishness and pride....

Or mutually consenting, loving same sex relationships? Please re-read it carefully and cross reference with other scriptures that mention it. 

If Sodom was an entirely “gay city” it certainly would not have been populous as described in the bible, since any agrarian/military civilization’s success in ancient times depended heavily on population size (which is why the nation of Israel placed so much emphasis on being as numerous as the grains of sand) to be workers in the fields and feed a mighty military. Obviously people in Sodom were having lots of children. I am not saying there were no gay men or lesbians but it is more likely the same ratio today applied back then and LGBT people were in the minority. In addition, Lot’s daughters were engaged to men in the city and Lot even offered his daughters to be raped instead of the men, not a very smart move if he knew the city was full of men who did not find women viable sexual partners.

If your priest/pastor/reverend has supposedly studied the bible, Hebrew and Greek and is perpetuating the falsehood that the words “sodomy” and “sodomite” PROVES that Sodom was a gay city, they are exploiting your ignorance.  Those words did not come from the original Hebrew word used in passages like 2 Kings 23:7 to describe male temple prostitute of the Canaanite Goddess Ashtoreth. The Hebrew word for Sodom is sodem which means to burn. The Hebrew word for a cult-prositute male or female is qadesh

And what motivates rape in the first place? A crush? Romantic feelings? No. Rape is all about power and dominance. In ancient times it was a common practice of military men when they wanted to humiliate the men of another conquered tribe. In prisons today, it is still a common practice for the same reasons and the main perpetrators are self-identified heterosexual men. If someone is intent on raping, gender is no issue because the personhood of the victim is not important. The rapist is not being turned on by their face, body, loving reciprocation and enjoyment. He is being turned on by the struggling, helplessness, pain, suffering, crying, screams, blood, humiliation and his total control over the victim.

Whether the men of Sodom wanted to rape the angels because they knew they were supernatural and wanted to steal some kind of mystical power or just out of plain hatred and spite to teach the foreigner Lot a lesson: You are a stranger in our city and have no right to bring foreign guests inside our city walls without permission.The context and other biblical references to Sodom clearly shows that it was not destroyed because of people having a homosexual orientation or wanting committed same-sex relationships.

The Holiness Code Of The Mosaic Law (Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 and Deuteronomy 23:17-18.)

Abominable Christmas Ham and American Eagle
The God Hates Fags crowd love holding these references up on their placards, “Thou shall not lie with a man as with a woman it is an abomination.”

Contrary to popular belief, the Hebrew word for abomination does not mean “gross evil” it simply means not kosher or forbidden/foreign. It is also closely linked with idolatry and idol worship.

Seems clear enough when you take it at face value and remember Biblical Illiteracy Factor 2, certain people care more about what a scripture seems to SAY whenever convenient instead of what a scripture MEANS. In order to understand what the scripture means, we have to go back to the original language and the context.

Due to corroboration from Leviticus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 23:17-18, I think it can be concluded that this passage is indeed about a form of male same-sex intercourse. But that’s it. It is not about homosexuality, the orientation or even all loving same sex relationships. This is further supported by the context and the Hebrew word for “abomination” and its comparative use in other places.  First let us look at the context.

So here were these exiles wandering the wilderness, trying to establish a separate nation and conquer the people inhabiting the land they believed was promised to them by Yahweh. In order to set themselves apart from the Amorites, Canaanites and Hittites, they were given, according to their account, a set of laws from God, 613 in all. These laws covered everything from civil, dietary, hygiene, domestic, economic and of course spiritual practices.

After a blood sacrifice of one's children to Molech or Baal....

The custom of the surrounding Canaanites was to have a pagan sex ritual for fertility with a qadesh or temple prostitute who could be female or a castrated male that served the role of a female.

 Anything that the surrounding nations of non-Hebrews practiced- eating pork, getting tattoos, mixing fabrics, mixing crops were deemed an abomination. There were actually two types of abominations. The word sheqets was used to refer to non-kosher foods, fabrics, farming practices. The word tobeah/toveah was always used in connection to anything related to pagan idolatry. Even the idols themselves were called tobeah/toveah. 

One of the tobeah things to do was to practice any kind of spiritual rite that the pagan tribes practiced in service to their God and Goddess- Baal, Molech, Ashtoreth. Monotheism was a new kettle of fish for the Hebrews, who like most people in their time were aware of many Gods and Goddesses. Throughout the Old Testament, they are always falling back into worshipping other Gods and Goddesses and have to be reminded all the time to only serve Yahweh or risk his wrath upon them. One of the pagan practices common at the time was sacred sexual rites performed by a qadesh/qadesha, a male or female prostitute. In fact, parents would sacrifice their children by making them eunuch temple prostitutes in service to Molech and Ashtoreth.

It amazes me that people pull out just one verse of Leviticus Chapter 18 without reading the WHOLE CHAPTER which clearly is about the aforementioned practices that are part of cultic sex worship. Leviticus 18 begins this way…. “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the LORD your God. After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances.

What were the “ordinances” prevalent in the land of Canaan? The chapter goes on to describe  the various “tobeah” (pagan idolatry) practices such as incest related acts and bestiality. Then in verse 21, right before it the famous verse 22, it speaks about sacrificing children to Molech and only after that it references two men lying together AS WITH A WOMAN.

If it were not for that last part, “AS WITH A WOMAN”, the bible legalist may be able to get a point on his side of the argument. But because of that particular specification, we know this passage is not about homosexuality in general but a particular sex act or rite that is deemed tobeah. Male temple prostitutes or qadesh were often castrated so that they would be “like women”. They were used for fertility rituals after one sacrificed their child to Molech.

This passage is about qadesh and pagan sex rites not about homosexuals or loving same-sex relationships. It also fails to mention lesbians by the way, which would have been a good time to do so, if indeed the purpose of the law was to ban homosexuality in general. Did the Israelites not know about lesbians? Or was it, like masturbation or sexual play between unmarried lovers (Song of Solomon) not even an important enough issue to legislate?

Cherry Picking The Old Testament To Condemn What You Don’t Like

I said it before and I will say it again, no bible thumper follows all of Leviticus and so they render themselves-hypocrites when held up to closer scrutiny.

Some like to claim that the Mosaic Law was divided into Ceremonial Law and a Moral Law and the moral law like the ten commandments and includes passages used to condemn at least some form of same-sex intercourse between men, still applies. Well, according to Jewish scholars of their OWN writings, no such distinction exists. The 613 Laws are part of one Mosaic Legal Code. In addition, they point to the fact that the law was for “The Children Of Israel” not for you and me. This doctrine is purely a Christian construct on someone else’s religion.

Among the many “abominations”, here are some things also punishable by death in Leviticus:
      Having sex with a menstruating woman
      A child cursing their parent
      Working on the Sabbath

If you are going to use Leviticus to condemn LGBT people, you also condemn yourself as a hypocrite if you too do not follow all 613 laws.

In addition, to claim that “biblical marriage” is the same as the post-Victorian traditional concept of marriage is well, not entirely accurate. According to the bible marriage is everything from arranged marriages, cousins marrying, brothers marrying sisters (Abraham and Sarah), brother in laws marrying their widowed sister in laws; the use of concubines to slave girls; forcing rape victims and conquered women to marry the men who claimed them against their full will, just see Deut. 25:5-6; Gen. 38:8, Exodus 21:10-11; 2 Sam. 12:7-8, Exodus 21:2-4 and Deut. 22:28-29. There have been all kinds of marital arrangements in the bible, some of which were claimed to be sanctioned by Yahweh. To pick one that most fits the modern definition you would like to defend and declare it THE BIBLICAL STANDARD is also not being entirely honest.

Do we really apply biblical standards today?

Born Eunuchs-Saris A Case For Gender Diversity In Nature

Anti-gay biblical literalists need to maintain that God does not create anything except obviously masculine, heterosexual men and obviously feminine heterosexual women. They say it is a perverted CHOICE that makes people behave in any way atypical to traditional gender roles and sexuality. However, there is proof that is not what the ancient Hebrews believed.

According to the Mosaic Holiness Code (see Deuteronomy 23:1-2.) no one who had their testicles removed could enter the temple or partake of the holy offering temurah, neither could their wives. These castrated men were called saris. However, in Jeremiah 34:15-19, it mentions eunuchs who were serving in the temple. How come?

Well, if we go to the Talmud, we learn about a group of eunuchs who were classified as “born eunuchs”. They did not have any physical deformity of the genitalia and so could enjoy full temple inclusion and partake of the temurah. So what it was that made them be described as eunuchs?

It was the fact they were effeminate for men or overly masculine for women. I quote from the Talmud:

“Who is a congenital saris [a born eunuch]? 13 Any person who is twenty years of age and has not produced two pubic hairs. 14 And even if he produced them afterwards he is deemed to be a saris [born eunuch] in all respects. He whose voice is abnormal so that one cannot distinguish whether it is that of a man or of a woman.
Any woman who is twenty years of age and has not produced two pubic hairs. And even if she produces them afterwards she is deemed to be a woman incapable of procreation in all respects. She has no breasts and suffers pain during copulation. One whose voice is deep so that one cannot distinguish whether it is that of a man or of a woman.”

In the New Testament, Jesus is said to have mentioned these saris in Matthew 19, when he refers to “born eunuchs” and he certainly was not condemning them.

What is a biblical scholar supposed to conclude from these passages? Well, obviously that the Hebrews, though primitive had already observed that sexual anomalies existed among their people and saw they were congenital. They defined physical and temperamental traits the best way they knew how, for they had no other benchmarks. Today we know after over 100 years of psychological study that human sexuality and gender is naturally diverse. Every year, millions of children are born who are intersex or have chromosomal, hormonal, psychological variances as it relates to gender and sexuality.

The ancient Hebrews, even if they did not know about genetics, bacteria and the solar system, were at least smart enough to know these characteristics were inbred, not a choice and not a reason to ill-treat a person.

Were David And Jonathan Genuinely In Love With Each Other?
“the soul (nephesh) of Jonathan was (qashar) knit with the (nephesh) soul of David, and Jonathan loved (ahab) him as his own (nephesh) soul.”

The Hebrews had many words for “love”. They made clear distinctions between brotherly/familial love, Divine spiritual love and romantic love. When speaking about love between husband and wife and lovers, the Hebrews used the word ahab. The word ahab is used to describe the love between Jacob and Rachel in Genesis 29:20 and the love of the Shulamite girl for her shepherd boy in the Song of Solomon 3:1-4. 

So it is very curious that when the story of Jonathan and David unfolds, it is not the term for brotherly love or Divine love but ahab love between them in 1 Samuel 18:1-4. More importantly, there is the use of the Hebrew words quashar (knit) and nephesh (soul- the self, life, desire, passion), which when used together in the bible are almost always in reference to marriage vows or soul-mates, who become “one-flesh”.

So when the passage in Samuel says:  “the soul (nephesh) of Jonathan was (qashar) knit with the (nephesh) soul of David, and Jonathan loved (ahab) him as his own (nephesh) soul.” We cannot help but wonder at the nature of this love. If this was an opposite sex pair, the natural assumption would be this was a romantic relationship and one of the greatest love stories ever. It is only because the story refers to two men that the nature of the love is relegated to “brotherly love”

Other indicators that make a clear distinction are:

The fact that although David eventually marries Jonathan’s sister Michal, the bible is very careful to show that David does not love her and it was a marriage for political alliances. When he marries the princess Michal, Saul calls him, “son in law in the two”, so who is the other child? Jonathan perhaps?

The reaction of Jonathan and David when they realize they can no longer see one another. According to the account in Samuel, they embraced and wept repeatedly, only parting after swearing an eternal covenant to one another. It would be a promise David kept years later even through it was extremely politically inconvenient to him.

David’s lament for Jonathan when he was slain in battle: I am distressed for you my brother Jonathan;
Greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.”
(2 Samuel 1: 26-27)

Anti-Gay Biblical Literalists love to reduce the relationships of gays and lesbians down to a singular sex act to avoid the fact...

There is genuine love, commitment, self-sacrifice and intimacy that can outlast life's challenges including persecution and prejudice.

One of the wide circles Anti-Gay Biblical Literalists make around the subject of homosexuality is the aspect of LOVE. They try to reduce the relationship between gays and lesbians to sex, lust and childhood dysfunction as a means to ignore the fact that gays and lesbians feel the same kind of love for their partner as straight couples do for theirs. The same willingness to compromise, self-sacrifice and set aside the individual ego for authentic soul union with another is what makes it possible for gay couples to last through sickness, health, richer, poorer, better and worse. Sex alone does not do this.

So in conclusion of your Old Testament argument:

  • The word “homosexual” and the way we understand it today is not covered in the Old Testament
  • The story of Sodom is about inhospitality and inhumanity not homosexuality
  • The Mosaic Law deals with specific same sex acts that were related to tobeah/toveah activities, namely idolatrous sex rites involving qadesh
  • The Mosaic Law cannot be cherry picked without indicting the cherry-picker who does not follow the entire legislation in respect to diet, clothing, agricultural practices and keeping the Sabbath.  

We will deal with the New Testament in the next installment.

For more information please visit: http://www.gaychristian101.com, http://www.gaychristian.net the film, “For The Bible Tells Me So” and check out this fabulous video series starting with this one: