Gordon Robinson | Sodomy and the Bible
On October 8 ('Bugged by the buggery law'), I promised to expand on what the Bible REALLY says about homosexuality "anon".
Well, here's "anon". Mark you, were I to write only on what the Bible REALLY says about homosexuality, it'd be a very brief column because the Bible says NOTHING about "homosexuality", a word that didn't exist when it was written.
The Bible does assure us: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) So the Bible says God loves "the world", not just heterosexuals. "WHOSOEVER believeth in Him should not perish." NOBODY is excluded from this all-embracing divine assurance. The only exceptions to God's promise are created by man because of man's inhumanity to man, including bigotry, discrimination, and cruelty, all driven by insecurity and self-loathing. God doesn't have any of these failings.
The New Testament reaffirms Christianity's all-inclusive nature in Romans 8:1: "There is now therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." Again, nobody is excluded. Still, the Church insists on controlling our minds through fearmongering, which has no support in scripture (but especially not in New Testament scripture) in order to maintain its influence and grow its wealth.
Desperate to find ways to pit human against human, despite scriptural assurances that all are made in God's image, the Church has turned to certain Old Testament passages, especially relating to Lot and his family's escape from Sodom, to paint some of our brethren and sistren as inherently evil. But the Church deliberately misunderstands the quoted passages and maliciously takes them out of context.
Before we deal with Leviticus's "abomination" condemnation, let's take a careful look at Sodom's destruction, which the Church tells us resulted from the city's rampant homosexuality. This is just plain false. Long before the angels, protected by Lot housing them, arrived in Sodom, that city was preordained for annihilation. In fact, the angels' mission was Sodom's annihilation. How could anything happening outside Lot's home that night affect Sodom's fate?
We first learn of God's displeasure with Sodom (after the split between Lot and Abram, which saw Lot settling "toward Sodom") in Genesis 13:13: "But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly." As we know, the Old Testament isn't reticent about mentioning men lying with men, so I find it odd that there isn't even the slightest reference to homosexuality being the wickedness or sins mentioned. Then in Ezekiel 16:49-50 (KJV), we get the full hundred:
"49. Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.
50. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me; therefore I took them away as I saw good."
THIS is why Sodom was destroyed. The men who surrounded Lot's house demanding to "know" the angels (misinterpreted to mean have sex with them) couldn't have been the reason Sodom was destroyed, nor could that incident prove Sodom to be a "gay city" obliterated for that reason:
- If Bible scholars are correct in claiming that the men demanded sex with the angels, this would be a cruel act of rape, which we all know is a crime of power, having little to do with sex;
- Why then did Lot offer these raging homosexuals his virgin daughters? Surely, he must've had reason to believe they'd at least be tempted?
- The city had long ago been marked for destruction, and the angels came as executioners.
It seems far more logical (an Old Testament no-no) to read the incident as anxiety by citizens to "know" who these foreigners really were and what their purpose was in Sodom. As it turns out, their apprehension was well-founded (the mission was to destroy Sodom), and Lot, whose task was to protect them, perfectly justified in offering to sacrifice his daughters' virginity to keep God's messengers safe and their mission secret.
It's important to note the "abomination" most often referenced in the Bible is the worship of idols - a most serious crime against the Lord. This word has been repeatedly misinterpreted because of deliberate non-contextualisation. Ezekiel 14: 1-8 is an example of this where God (i.e., the Old Testament's jealous and vengeful God, NOT the real God) threatens to kill ("set my face against that man .... and ... cut him off from the midst of my people") any who fails to abandon idolatry.
"6. Therefore, say unto the house of Israel, Thus sayeth the Lord God: Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations."
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The Hebrew word used in Ezekiel/Leviticus, 'toevah', which has been misinterpreted to mean 'abominations', is, in fact, mostly used in the books of the Torah to refer to ritual idolatry. The Hebrew word 'zimah', which describes a moral offence (as in Leviticus 19:29), was readily available had the Bible's authors intended to refer to an act evil within itself, even outside of religious or cultural grounds, rather than an act of evil because of its purpose (e.g., as a ritual in worship of idolatry).
This brings us to every pastor's favourite fire-and-brimstone Old Testament passage. Leviticus was written as a "rule book" for priests of the Levi tribe. Obedience to the Leviticus "rules" made them holy (set apart) and was their passport as God's people. Leviticus 18 makes it clear that God was telling His people how to distinguish themselves from their ex-captors, the Egyptians and the Canaanites, by discontinuing their wicked practices. The rules included embargoes against incest (see vs 6-16), fornication ("Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughters"; vs 17), adultery (vs 20), or bestiality (vs 23).
All these were called "abominations" BECAUSE they were pagan rituals observed by Egyptians and Canaanites. "For all these abominations have the men of the land done which were before you and the land is defiled," (Leviticus 18:27) and the command was to be different from their predecessors (Leviticus 18:30).
So the prohibition of men lying with men must be read in the context of Leviticus 18: 21-24, where the root of the crime is any sacrifice to Mo'-lech, a Canaanite fertility God. "Thou shalt not let any of your seed pass through the fire to Mo'-lech ..." (18:21) and "Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind" (18:22). The Canaanites indulged in many pagan rituals to fertility that blasphemed against the name of God. They worshipped their gods via sexual acts dedicated to these false gods, performed by male temple prostitutes (vs 22), and they performed ritual acts with animals in temples also dedicated to their Gods (vs 23).
There can be no doubt that Leviticus 18 (and elsewhere) refers to these ritual sex acts by pagan male prostitutes for two reasons:
- The theme running through the entire Leviticus rules is (paraphrasing) "Thou shalt worship no other God but me". The words "I AM the Lord your God" are repeated ad nauseam. Without doubt, the fundamental crime these rules were addressing was the worship of false gods;
- Verse 24 specifically warns that these nations will be driven out because they've been defiled by these ritual acts (the word 'toevah' is used in the original text);
- 1 Kings 14:24 names the culprits: "And there were also sodomites (original Hebrew text 'qadeshim') in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord cast out ... ." Despite what it has come to mean today, the word 'sodomite' more accurately represents a male temple prostitute, and those words are substituted for 'sodomites' in the Bible's New International Version. Deep into Christianity's first 100 years, people still participated in fertility worship to their gods by sexual orgies.
The intent of the Leviticus Rules was to outlaw the ritual pagan practice of sex orgies in worship of false gods. They were NEVER intended to demonise loving relationships between two human beings (whether married, fornicators, adulterers, or homosexuals) who love God. Jesus put it best: "He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her."
THIS is how we can understand how to harmonise the inclusive mandates of John 3:16 and Romans 8:1 with the Leviticus rules. When in doubt, we should assume the Bible isn't contradicting itself and make an effort to see how apparent contradictions may be explained. The alternative is to give in to an evil, nasty, inhuman mindset of hatred and bigotry, leading to human rights being enjoyed only by some humans.
Peace and love.
- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.