Are “fundies” inconsistent on homosexuality?

Theology / Biblical Studies

It happens far too often that somebody thinks that they are criticisng simplistic fundamentalism, when in fact they are the practitioner, rather than the genuine critic, of simplistic thinking.

Someone recently pointed out a video clip of a guy named John talking about homosexual relationships and the Bible. This is the point where I would normally offer a one-sentence summary of what his central claim is, but I’m not absolutely sure what it is. It has something to do with homosexuality, the f-word (fundamentalists), and consistency. Here’s the clip:



Nice presentation. John doesn’t ever lay out a succinct argument here, but here are some possibilities for how the argument would go:

  1. If you think the biblical passages that speak against sexual acts between members of the same sex apply today, then you should also think that biblical passages that speak about eating (for example) shellfish apply to us today.
  2. “Fundamentalists” don’t think that biblical passages that speak about eating shellfish apply to us today.
  3. Therefore fundamentalists also ought not to think that biblical passages that speak about sexual acts between members of the same sex apply to us today.

 

Or perhaps it is this:

  1. If any passage in the Bible is properly interpreted in such a way that it does not apply to us as strictly as some might initially suppose based on appearances, then no biblical passage, rightly interpreted, applies to us as strictly as some might initially suppose based on appearances.
  2. Some biblical passages (such as those that speak about divorce) are properly interpreted (according to fundamentalists) in such a way that it does not apply to us as strictly as some might initially suppose based on appearances.
  3. Therefore those same fundamentalists ought to believe that no biblical passage (including those that speak about sexual acts between members of the same sex), rightly interpreted, applies to us as strictly as some might initially suppose based on appearances.

 

Or perhaps it is this (this will be my last guess):

  1. If you interpret a biblical passage in a way that means that its instruction does apply to us today, then you are logically committed to thinking that all instructions that were ever given in the Bible apply to us today with equal force.
  2. Fundamentalists interpret biblical passages that speak about sexual acts between members of the same sex apply to us today.
  3. Therefore fundamentalists are logically committed to thinking that all instructions that were ever given in the Bible apply to us today with equal force.

 

The problem is that each of these arguments starts out with a premise that is almost certainly false. The great irony here is that it is John’s approach, and not that of so-called “fundamentalists,” that is the simplistic one. Indeed, it is John who is the real fundamentalist here. He calls the reader, in effect to “be consistent” in their approach: To accept every biblical instruction as applying with equal force to everyone in every age: Either they all apply fully and without reservation, qualification or nuance of interpretation, or else none of them apply at all in any real way. All or nothing.

I can recall this very idea being expressed by conservative fundamentalists more times than I care to remember: It’s a slippery slope, and if we start “interpreting” some passages so that we don’t have to follow them, where will it end? We’ve got to follow ‘em all gosh darnit! John’s approach is the reverse: It’s a slippery slope, and if we think any of them apply today, where will it end? We don’t gotta follow any of ‘em, gosh darnit! But while the conclusion is the opposite, the line of argument is equally flawed.

“Liberals” (if I may use that term of John) and fundamentalists, it seems to me, are in the same boat. The reality is that nothing is quite this simple. It does no good to say “Hey, how come you get to interpret passages about slavery and divorce, but you just think we need to follow passages about homosexual conduct. That’s inconsistent!” It isn’t inconsistent in the least, provided the accused reader has principled reasons for believing based on the evidence that each passage means what they claim it does. Of course, if the “fundamentalists” are simply choosing not to use any interpretive method at all for one kind of passage, but exerting a whole lot of effort to interpret the other with a mind to simply explaining it away, then there would be a point to make. That really would be a case of inconsistency – and this is the innuendo John is trying to suggest. But merely noting that fundamentalists do not believe that one type of prohibition (e.g. eating shellfish) applies to them while they maintain that others (e.g. people who engage in sexual acts with members of the same sex) do apply is hardly a demonstration of inconsistency. Therefore, playing the “be consistent” card is really just a way of avoiding addressing the reasons that are offered.

John has thus not offered any substantial objections to the actual interpretations of the biblical passages that “fundamentalists” appeal to. All he has done is stir up the suspicion that really that interpretation fails, or that one of the above false premises is true so those interpretations should simply be overlooked, or worse yet, that they should not be overlooked – and may be correct after all, but that fundamentalists are too liberal on divorce and too judgemental on slavery!

I doubt that I qualify as a fundamentalist, having been called a liberal more times than I care to recall. But allow me to offer a very brief explanation that defuses this painfully naïve criticism of the traditional biblical case against homosexual conduct. For what it’s worth, I’d like to think maybe my grasp here is a little more nuanced than the barely literate fundies that John would like us to think of (the contemporary role of Old Testament law was the subject of my MTheol dissertation, for what it’s worth).

Food laws

Take food laws, for example: Shellfish, pork, ravens, badgers and so on. Unclean! Yep, that’s what the book of Leviticus says about them in chapter 11 (or in the copy of these laws found in Deuteronomy 14). Israelites weren’t even supposed to touch the carcasses of unclean animals. But what about us? Is there any principled reasons why a Christian might think that these rules don’t apply to us? In fact there is, which is why this has always been the dominant Christian view. Here are a few clear pointers in this direction:

In Genesis 8, at the close of the flood story, God spoke to Noah, laying out some basic rules for life. One of those rules was that human beings can eat all kinds of animals: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” The scope of this instruction is the whole human race, which in this context is Noah and his descendants.

Next, there are clear indications that food restrictions that were introduced in the Law of Moses were temporary and restricted in scope. They were only intended for Israel, marking Israel out as different from other nations, until the purpose of God’s dealings with Israel was fulfilled when Jesus came into the world as the promised descendant of Abraham. God’s injunction to the Israelites was that these animals would be “unclean to you” (Leviticus 11:8). In Deuteronomy 14:1, all of these restrictions are mandated on the rationale that “You are the sons of the LORD your God.” In fact, for one of the restrictions (an animal that has just died of natural causes), we get another insight into the rationale (Deuteronomy 14:21): “You may give it to the sojourner who is within your towns, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God.” Laws against theft, murder or kidnapping were certainly never expressed this way – It’s wrong for an Israelite, but foreigners living among you can murder to their hearts’ content! But food laws were different, applying uniquely to descendants of the twelve patriarchs.

These indications are only amplified in the New Testament. For example, Mark explains Jesus’ words like this in chapter 7: “ ‘Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?’ (Thus he declared all foods clean.)” Or there is the example of Peter, who in Acts chapter 10 saw a vision. To provide some context: Peter was from a Jewish background, and may have had reservations about going into the house of a Roman Centurion (Cornelius) and eating with him. So God showed him a vision to show that it was appropriate for him to do so. After he went to Cornelius’ house and talked with the people there about Jesus (in chapter 11), he recalled the vision as follows:

I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction.

The point here was that God has called people to himself who are not Jews, and that distinction, so familiar to Peter, or “clean” and “unclean” was one that he needed to let go of.

While not speaking specifically about food but more generally about Jews and Gentiles in the church, the Apostle Paul provides an insight in Ephesians 2 that explains the above:

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

And so while there were a number of regulations that existed for the purpose of making that distinction between Jewish insiders and Gentile outsiders, that very distinction no longer applies, and hence there is no need for those practices now.

Slavery

Take the thorny example of slavery, arguably the most difficult. Slavery was common in the ancient world, but specific allowance for slavery is made in the Torah. But two important features stand out. There were two distinct types of slavery. The first was a voluntary arrangement to repay debt. This fact means that the Sabbath year takes on a special significance. Every seven years there was a Sabbath year, when all debts were forgiven and consequently all debt workers were released (Deuteronomy 15:1).

This meant that the longest possible period for which a person would work to repay a debt was six years (and this is specified elsewhere too, as in Exodus 21:2). At the end of the six years, the debt holder was to forgive any remaining debt and let the worker go free, and gladly so: “It shall not seem hard to you when you let him go free from you, for at half the cost of a hired worker he has served you six years.” What’s more, when he left, the debt holder was to liberally give him supplies so that he would not have nothing until he found more work (Deuteronomy 15:13-14). However, it was possible for this person to choose to work longer and actually stay with the master’s family for life – but again, this was the worker’s decision (Exodus 21:5-6). Of course, the period would be shorter than six years if the worker paid off the debt in one year.

It is hardly fair at all to compare this scenario with a situation where a man was banged on the head in Africa, shipped off to America and then treated as no more than property until he died, in what might have been a beating for disobedience.

But there was another kind of slavery in Israel, and this is the one that raises more concerns. The above conditions only applied to Israelites who were working off a debt. Leviticus 25 makes a clear distinction between debtors who are Israelites and slaves who are not. Fellow Israelites were forgiven their debt after a maximum of six years, but non-Israelite slaves were another story:

As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.

Yes, there were protections for foreign slaves and they could not be injured at will, let alone killed. But the point is, they were kept for life and this is a distinction that existed based on whether or not the slave was a native member of the covenant community – Israel. Remember, however, that the point here is not whether or not the various requirements or permissions are good. The point is to ask whether or not there are any grounds for thinking that the requirements apply (or do not apply) in our own context. And here too, as in the case of food laws, the issue of whether or not the practice is one that should be taken as universal ends up depending on the covenant uniqueness of the nation of Israel – as did the issue of food laws. Christians over the years have (with some exceptions) noted that, according to the New Testament, this is a uniqueness that no longer exists, and – to borrow from St Paul – There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise (Galatians 3:28).

Divorce

Thirdly, what about the issue of divorce? Here the issue is not at all that conservative Protestants (and I assume that this is who John has in mind when he uses the rather derisive term “fundamentalists”) don’t believe that the biblical teaching applies in our day and age for some reason. Rather, they believe that it does, but that divorce is permissible (although of course not desirable) under some circumstances. Even the teaching of Jesus to which John alludes contains the evidence that something like this is true, in Matthew 5:32, which reads, “I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (ESV). It is true that it may not be pristinely clear what porneia (translated “sexual immortality” here) refers to, but to cut a long story short, it is a word used in Greek to refer to a substantial sin, often sexual in nature, rather than something minor. Whatever you might think porneia is best understood to mean, it is at least clear that it is patently false to insinuate that Jesus’ comments about divorce are universal and without qualification. Yes divorce is bad, and anyone who does it – apart from a very narrow range of terrible circumstances, whatever they might be – does wrong. Similarly, many Christians (correctly, say I) find in St Paul’s writing the acknowledgement that a Christian’s spouse may reject them, and if they do so and depart, the believer is “not bound” to them any longer (1 Corinthians 7:15).

Maybe John believes that fundies don’t really follow this teaching. If so, then that’s a fair point to make – although of course it does not undermine anything they say about the biblical teaching on homosexual relationships.

Homosexuality

That brings us to the topic that grabbed John’s attention. What is the nature of the biblical evidence that Christians have traditionally drawn on in support of their view that the Bible – all things carefully considered – does condemn homosexual behaviour (and bear in mind that it is the lifestyle we are concerned with here).

First there’s the creation story in early Genesis. God created Adam and said that “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). To remedy the problem, God creates a woman, Eve. It may be tired and trite to use the line, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” yet it represents a biblical perspective on sexuality. Man is completed by woman. The creation story is prior to the existence of the nation of Israel and its law, and the role of men and women to complement each other applies to all of humanity.

The first time that sexual interaction between members of the same sex is even mentioned is in the account of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis chapter 19. Whatever else the sins of the men of Sodom might have been, we get an ugly glimpse at it when they demand that Lot bring out his male visitors to them “so that we may know them.” It is widely acknowledged that to “know” somebody (yada) in the Hebrew language can mean to be sexually intimate with them, and this is the case in Genesis (e.g. Adam and Eve in chapter 4). This is further confirmed by the awful suggestion of Lot, who suggests that instead of having sex with the two male visitors, they take his daughters (!!), who “have not known any man.” The rest is history: Lot escapes and God destroys the city with fire. There is no covenant-specific context here. Rather, the two visitors visit the city to see if it is as wicked as they had heard, and they find out that it was – so it’s toast.

Next, men who have sex with other men are specifically mentioned in Leviticus 18, where incest, bestiality and sex between men are all forbidden. Here is where some people (perhaps including John) point out that this is in the law of the Israelites. And of course it is, but what of it? The fact that something appears in the law of Israel is not evidence that it does not reflect a principle that applies to everyone. As it turns out, in the New Testament church, a dispute broke out over the issue of which laws should be followed and which should not. The context suggests that there were some laws that were regarded as uniquely applicable to Jews under the Old Covenant, and people could not agree about which laws these were (in Acts 15, and event widely referred to as “the Jerusalem Council). The Apostles wrote a letter to the Gentile churches to report on the decision of the council, telling them to “abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.” As some New Testament scholars (e.g. Hans Conzelmann) have pointed out, these appear to mirror the list of offences in Leviticus 17-18, even appearing in the same order. A side by side comparison confirms this clearly:

Leviticus 17-18

Acts 15:29

1.)    Prohibitions on idolatrous slaughter of animals (17:1-9, esp. v. 7; also perhaps 18:21, idolatrous human sacrifice)

2.)    Prohibition on eating blood (17:10-14)

3.)    Prohibitions on eating animals that die without being bled (17:15-16)

4.)    Sexual immorality (18:6-23, with the unusual exception of v. 21)

1.)    Things sacrificed to idols

2.)    Blood

3.)    Strangled animals

4.)    Sexual immorality

 So regardless of whether or not the prohibition appeared in the book of Leviticus, there is good reason to think that New Testament Christians accepted the validity of the commandments against sexual immorality found in the Old Testament law.

The Apostle Paul also refers to sexual acts between people of the same sex in a clearly negative light on a couple of occasions. John has already referred to one of them in Romans 1, where Paul refers to both men and women indulging in “impurity” and “dishonouring their bodies,” men with men and women with women. John, in passing, makes the claim that this refers specifically to these sexual acts when carried out in conjunction with idolatry, but that even if he overlooks this – fundies are inconsistent. I’m currently explaining why the “inconsistency” arguments goes nowhere, so the only real option left is for those who hold John’s view to do the work of actually engaging with the meaning of the text. Yes, idolatry is mentioned in this passage, but also in context Paul makes it very clear that he is talking about everyone who rejects God and therefore engages in all kinds of sinful behaviour, including idolatry, and sexual relations with members of the same sex, and “covetousness, malice. … envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” Surely John is not arguing that insolence, malice or murder are only wrong, in Paul’s view, if they are carried out in the context of an idolatrous religion! In any event, it is inadequate to simply allude to the vague possibility of an alternative interpretation. This is clearly a condemnation in a context that Christians are justified in thinking has moral relevance.

The other occasion on which Paul condemns homosexual conduct is in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Here, Paul’s term for men who practice homosexuality, arsenokoites, is drawn directly from the prohibition found in Leviticus 18:22, which provides the basis of this rare term in its Greek version in the Septuagint: “You shall not lie (koiten) with a male (arsenos) as with a woman; it is an abomination.” It is an action condemned along with idolatry, adultery, theft, greed and other sins. Again, as in Romans 1, this is a context where “fundies” can quite legitimately think that there are teachings given to Christians that appropriately apply to us today. This has always been the mainstream Christian view of this passage.

It is one thing to sit back somewhat smugly and just observe that conservative Christians follow some instructions in the Bible and not others, while adopting the simplistic approach that insists that this is inconsistent. It is also somewhat ironic that in doing this, a person might actually believe that they are the ones bringing an intelligent perspective to an issue that has been so badly messed up by conservatives. But things just aren’t that simple. There are reasons for thinking that biblical passages about unclean foods are not meant to be universal in scope. There are also reasons for thinking that the enslavement of non-Israelites doesn’t apply outside of a specific historical context. The issue of divorce is not about applicability, but about what the passages mean – and John’s sermon to conservatives actually conceals the fact that the same is true of the passages that speak to the issue of homosexuality. There are reasons for thinking that they apply universally in a way that food laws do not – and it is simply lazy or less than honest to imply otherwise, as though nobody has ever pointed this out before (they have).

So what is required, if one is to take the condescending stance that John takes and get away with it, is to actually … do some work and engage with the so-called fundies over what these passages actually mean.

So what is required, if one is to take the condescending stance that John takes and get away with it, is to actually (ugh, painful I know) do some work and engage with the so-called fundies over what these passages actually mean. You may think that you have a great case that actually they don’t inform a biblical view of sexual relationships between members of the same sex. Fine, then that’s the case to make. But this all-or-nothing simplistic argument against fundies for not being “consistent” enough? Sorry, it doesn’t work.

Glenn Peoples

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  • Joey May 12, 2013, 5:46 am

    Great article Glenn!

    One question though: Who is Chris? “So what is required, if one is to take the condescending stance that Chris takes and get away with it…” 😉

  • Glenn May 12, 2013, 8:51 am

    Ha! Halfway through writing the article I started calling the guy Chris, getting his name mixed up with another guy whose argument I commented on the other day. Looks like I missed one while I was fixing them. Thanks Joey, I’ll fix it.

  • Jeremy May 12, 2013, 9:21 am

    Yes great article Glenn, good to see you back in production 🙂

  • Ben May 14, 2013, 9:31 am

    Hmm. I don’t think the guy was attempting to offer a sweeping rebuttal of the Biblical case against homosexuality. It seemed to me that his point was this: As we can see from passages about shellfish and slavery and so forth, it’s clearly insufficient to point to isolated passages when attempting to determine whether behavior X should be avoided. Instead we should investigate the context and be careful to not to misunderstand the intent of the passages in question. In short, it’s not good enough to simply say, “look at these verses here which say bad things about homosexuality.” If the Christian wants to build a case against homosexuality, he will have to go deeper.

    He did not try to disprove their interpretation, and left it open-ended as to whether or not the Christian will be able to succeed in making a convincing case. But he seemed to me to emphasize the fact that the Christian really does have to do more than just quote some Bible verses.

    This isn’t even an argument exactly. It’s more like an observation which is potentially relevant to forming arguments for or against homosexuality. But there’s nothing wrong with opting to make observations instead of constructing arguments.

  • Glenn May 14, 2013, 11:16 am

    Ben, I thought that there was definitely an implied criticism from John of those who think that the Bible condemns homosexual conduct on the grounds that they are not “consistent,” don’t you think?

  • Ben May 14, 2013, 9:40 pm

    Glenn,

    Oh of course, that was definitely one of his criticisms. But I don’t think he necessarily intended it to apply to all Christians. Instead I seem to recall it being directed at those poor ol’ simple-minded Christians who think that God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.

    But I got the impression that the “consistency” criticism was a colorful way of expressing the point I mentioned before. I don’t think he would be satisfied by the Christian being consistent in a proof-texting sort of way. Instead he seemed to take it as obvious that we should NOT achieve consistency by approving slavery, refusing to eat shellfish, and so forth. After all, consistency here isn’t what is ultimately important. (We are not speaking of logical consistency, but rather consistency in interpretation of a text.) Consistency is just the rhetorical vehicle he uses to get across his main point, which is that we should look carefully at the context of the verses.

    I don’t know though, maybe I’m being too charitable here. I guess the thing (which I haven’t yet mentioned) that really rubs me the wrong way is that you are a professional philosopher and the fellow you are criticizing is just some youtube schmuck. It seems that given that imbalance, some charity is due. He hasn’t the training to express his concerns in a concise and well-organized way. (Neither have I, for that matter.) So can we tease out the sort of thing he might say if he had that training? You suggested some really bad arguments he might have had in mind, and rightfully criticized them for being really bad. But maybe the main point of his video was an observation, not an argument.

  • Glenn May 14, 2013, 10:07 pm

    “which is that we should look carefully at the context of the verses”

    Well then it seems to me that the supposition he is making – if his comments are to carry any weight against anyone at all – is that people who make the bold claim that God speaks to us about homosexuality in the Bible really *are* guilty of being dumb ol’ fundies who are being inconsistent by insisting on following some rules in the Bible and not others, as though they don’t really have good reasons for that, or they haven’t thought about it. Even fundies have thought about this. I just don’t see how his presentation would have any value at all if he paused at each point to say “Now, I know, actually, that there are good reasons for taking these passages about food, slavery etc as not applying to us, but those passages on homosexuality as applying to us.” His appearance of having made a point would evaporate the moment he did that.

    In other words, it would be patently dishonest and lazy to cast aspersion on conservative views on homosexuality that are biblically grounded by making a case that he knows only works against people who don’t take context into account, if he knew that even when you do take context into account, the case still works. So at the end of the day, his task is really to show that the fundy view on homosexuality in the Bible doesn’t follow when context is taken into account.

    Oh, and John is a professional philosophy teacher at a University, so I wouldn’t assume that there’s any imbalance here (indeed, he has achieved more than I have in that regard!). So if it rubs you the wrong way that I have a philosophy degree and I’m trying to out-gun somebody, no need to feel rubbed the wrong way! I just think his mistake is wandering over into biblical interpretation and assuming that his success in one field automatically translates to competence in another.

  • Paul Northam May 14, 2013, 10:27 pm

    Thanks for this Glenn. Loving the new site!

    I know this isn’t on the exact issue you are covering here but it does involve Dr John Corvino from the video. I didn’t realise this but he has written much on the subject of homosexuality – he is a professional philosopher – and has contributed to the same-sex marriage debate in the States.

    One such debate was with the Catholic Dr John Mark Miravalle (video linked below). I don’t know if you’ve engaged with his ideas any further but I’d be extremely interested in your thoughts on the video and particularly on John Mark’s responce to Corvino. For someone who is a big deal in the intellectual debate around same sex marriage, Miravalle does seem to challenge John Corvino’s assumptions at a fundamental level. I found his approach to be novel and very compelling. What do you think?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4elxXybSuzo

  • Ben May 14, 2013, 11:22 pm

    I did not realize he is a philosopher. Well, fair enough then.

  • Quinton May 30, 2013, 2:46 am

    Well written Glenn. It was clear and to the point. However, I have a question along the lines of the culturally relativism point of view that perhaps isnt dealt with here.
    In a nutshell, how do we know that what we have in the bible is God’s word to us and not just there interpretation of what they think God wanted for them (eg prohibiting homosexuality)? How can we trust that their favor towards certain values/morals are not just culturally relative biases/prejudices rather than God giving the decree through human authors? Thats what Im having so much trouble with. Its like its a deeper question re cultural relativism thats ‘further back’ again.
    A quick comparison to illustrate what I mean:
    The creation story is sometimes understood as 6 literal days, it is also understood by others as old earth, and some claim that the bible does speak on matters of science and jam it in there somehow. However, by putting Gen 1 and 2 in its near eastern cultural context we find that they believed the earth was a dome, the sky was solid, water was above the sky, the earth was flat. In other words their story was 100% embedded in their cultural backdrop–we could hardly expect them to be otherwise. Yet the story goes beyond culture in one sense as it teachers about a God who made everything out of freedom and love-not compulsion and war as the Babylonian account goes. Humans were specially created and given the honor of being image bearers – not weapons for hate as the Babylonian story goes. People were given work as an opportunity to cooperate with God – not to be slaves of the gods as the Babylonian story goes.
    So there is an obvious deeper message beyond the cultural embededness, but when it comes to so many other books of the bible (and issues like homosexuality), how the hell do we tell? Genesis is more obvious at least.
    How do we know that God isnt simply urging people towards a greater understanding of love over time (whatever the gender choice)? They didnt have committed gay relationships back then because it would have been absurd in that culture–after all there was no welfare system or insurance, you had to breed and use your family as social security/superannuation. Hence nobody would have set up gay long term partnerships, they would have been laughing stock. So that was their cultural situation. We are in a different cultural situation, obviously we no longer need large families, we dont have to multiply to keep bread on the table or work the farm. Given that, what confidence can I have that gay committed relationships are wrong for now? (Obviously promiscuity is wrong because it fails to recognise the value of the person apart from their sexual value, and it fails to commit, thus it fails to love. But promiscuity is not what is being sort).
    Thats probably as clear as my shabby mind can explain it. Hope the point is clear. Hope to get an intelligent reply from some people who might know what Im trying to say. Im not trying to be convinced one way or another-I dont care what side I end up on, I just want it to be convincing and most likely true, Im trying to have confidence in the bible for ‘us today’–which Im losing, because I can no longer find enough solid ground to stand on. this cultural stuff has really unhinged it for me.

  • Joseph May 30, 2013, 4:11 am

    The thing is, Quinton, such a difference in view goes far beyond just a question of how to deal with homosexuality. As you say, “In a nutshell, how do we know that what we have in the bible is God’s word to us and not just there interpretation of what they think God wanted for them (eg prohibiting homosexuality)?” I don’t think you’re going to get a lot of conservative Christians who think the Bible is God’s word to just be like “oh, never mind the basis of so much of my life and beliefs; it turns out the Bible was just written by a bunch of backwards people trying to understand God.” I mean, I know that’s a harsh-sounding way of saying it but ultimately that’s what it comes down to. It requires one to give up the belief that the Bible is God’s word (as you said pretty clearly above).

    To write off prohibitions of homosexuality as an culturally based misunderstanding of God’s morality means that multiple authors, both in Old and New Testament (as Glenn points out), decided to make up what they thought good rules were and say that God said it (even though H didn’t and they knew He didn’t). Moses wasn’t really a prophet who received the Law from God. He was just saying what he thought was good and lying about where he got the idea. Paul (though not necessarily in the Romans) attributes what he is saying to the Lord multiple times in his epistles. If it was just out of his own assumptions that he said that homosexuality was unnatural and the result of depravity and sin in Romans 1, and out of his own beliefs that he said that those who practice homosexuality are among the many unrepentant sinners who will not see the kingdom (in 1 Corinthians 6), then he was at best careless (since elsewhere he spoke of his writings as authoritative) and at worse, blasphemous (if he was expecting the readers to think he was getting this all from God).

    Culture does come into play quite a lot in the Bible’s teachings; there is no doubt about that. But it is one thing to say that how certain teaching might be applied or understood may vary by context. It is another to say that cultural understandings made the Bible authors just say whatever they thought was right and, in some cases explicitly, knowingly lie and blaspheme God by saying it was from him. And then the question arises, if that is what they are doing, why follow anything that they say? The reason Christians so uniformally reject the gnostic Gospels and stuff like that isn’t just because it is inconvenient to their theology, but because they were written by a bunch of liars. I know that may sound harsh, but the writers, hundreds of years after the fact, pretend to be apostles who were with Jesus and make up stuff that isn’t true that they then pass off as true. They are liars, and so is anyone who claims to have received a word from God yet did not and knows they did not (as would be the case with Moses at least).

    Ultimately, though, the difference between your understanding of the Bible and that of “fundies” (as Glenn calls them) is so radically different that I don’t know how much agreement can be found in this area :/

  • Quinton June 9, 2013, 1:12 pm

    Joseph, I dont think the bible writers need to have deliberately lied, they likely were fully convinced ‘thus saith the Lord’, or fully convinced that their way of viewing ‘the good’ actually comes from God.
    The resurrection of Jesus is probably the only/the main thing Im left dangling on at the moment (for all the reasons WLC and the like highlight, this is a special event that bewilders many arguments against it so far).
    You’re right that this topic is is different in nature from ‘the fundies’ but they are similar in that they both try to strain out the culture to see whats left over and thus whats relevant. If I still want to believe that God is somehow in this book despite the blunders (like the ancient view of women, genocide, the fact that Christians can validly disagree on so many common topics makes me say, what the hell is going on here, arent we reading the same damn book? why didnt God speak clearer!?). I need to see God in the bigger story behind the details. The trouble is Im having difficulty seeing that story without first being told what it is Im meant to see beforehand.

  • Chris Bowers January 23, 2014, 1:05 pm

    Hi, I thought since my comment was long, I would respond on my own page. Feel free to post it here, or respond here.

    https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-m-bowers/biblical-sexual-ethics-and-scriptural-cherrypicking/10152217942172495

  • Kenneth January 23, 2014, 9:56 pm

    Well that’s new. A drive-by linker who posts a link to a blank Facebook page. You really think Zuckerberg needs the traffic that badly?

    #readtheblogpolicy

  • Christopher Bowers January 24, 2014, 3:06 am

    Recently I read somthing posted by James Michael Smith, one of my Theological sparring partners. He posted this article: http://www.rightreason.org/2013/are-fundies-inconsistent-on-homosexuality/ The article claims to prove why “Fundies” or conservative christians are NOT being inconsistant when they cite passages to prove that Homosexuality is wrong, while ignoring commandments (in Judaism, there are 613 commandments, not 10) about not eating shellfish.

    The author pleads that some things in the Bible apply universally (and are unequivocably wrong), while others are only wrong in a certain context (Kosher laws, for example). Therefore, he says, and Christian isn’t being inconsistant when they ignore some things in the Bible and insist on others.He then explains that we should listen to context in interpreting these passages rather than a snap judgement. Here are his own words:

    “It is one thing to sit back somewhat smugly and just observe that conservative Christians follow some instructions in the Bible and not others, while adopting the simplistic approach that insists that this is inconsistent. It is also somewhat ironic that in doing this, a person might actually believe that they are the ones bringing an intelligent perspective to an issue that has been so badly messed up by conservatives. But things just aren’t that simple. There are reasons for thinking that biblical passages about unclean foods are not meant to be universal in scope. There are also reasons for thinking that the enslavement of non-Israelites doesn’t apply outside of a specific historical context. The issue of divorce is not about applicability, but about what the passages mean – and John’s sermon to conservatives actually conceals the fact that the same is true of the passages that speak to the issue of homosexuality. There are reasons for thinking that they apply universally in a way that food laws do not – and it is simply lazy or less than honest to imply otherwise, as though nobody has ever pointed this out before (they have).”

    I’m going to preface my argument by saying a few things here.

    First, I accept that certain things are universally and eternally wrong and no possible context can make doing them okay. Rape is always wrong. Murder is always wrong. Hate is always wrong. Violating the law of love is always wrong. That’s what being a “Moral Objectivist” means. It means that you believe that certain actions are always immoral.

    Some other things are conditionally wrong. Eating shellfish is wrong when it involves incursions onto other tribes lands and fighting them so you can get to the shellfish. Trimming the edges of your beard is wrong when doing so is a way to worship an Egyptian God, and you’re supposed to be worshipping the Hebrew one. And so forth and so on.

    Conservatives claim that ALL sexual ethics are universal and unchangeable. Let me say it again: Conservatives claim that ALL sexual ethics are universal and unchangeable. Would you like me to say it in caps? CONSERVATIVES CLAIM THAT ALL SEXUAL ETHICS ARE UNIVERSAL AND UNCHANGEABLE.

    The question is: is that true? Is it true that the Bible maintains a consistent message on sexual ethics and sexuality and that it maintains the exact same sexual ethic, and that this ethic is repeated by Christians today?

    NO. NO THAT IS NOT TRUE. Let’s examine a number the things which are different from then to today.

    1. Hebrew law in the old testament allowed for what we would consider incest today. You were allowed to marry your cousin on one side, but not the other. In fact, all of Hebrew culture at the time was Endogamous, meaning you tried to marry relatives from within the tribe. You wanted to marry branches from your family tree rather than people from other tribes who worshipped different Gods. The relations were more distant than brother and sister, but it was still family marrying family, and by our modern standards incestuous. This isn’t as rare as it sounds. The royal families in Europe were also endogamous. They only wanted to marry memebers of their family because that was how you “kept the blood lines pure”. Endogamous marriage is a feature of many tribal cultures.

    2. Men were expected to marry and have sex (and children) at 12. That’s what a bar mitzvah was for. Do we still encourage 13 year olds to procreate? No, we don’t, and for good reason. We know how little a 12 year old’s brain has developed and how stupid it is to allow tweens to make lifelong decisions.

    3. Polygamy was not just a large part of the ancient Hebrew culture it was mandated and REQUIRED by God before the destruction of the temple. Levirate marriage (marrying your deceased brother’s wife) was required by Levitical law. You were required to marry your brother’s wife even if you already had one, AND you had to endeavor to bear her children (semi-incest and multiple partners commanded by God!). Go google it if you don’t believe me. Polygamy was so common in the time of Jesus that the Talmud (Jewish book of law written right before that period) has complex legal rulings on how to distribute assets to multiple wives. The fact that this was common was the reason why Paul said that Bishops of the church “Should be the husband of only one wife”. You don’t have time for the Church when you’re negotiating multiple intimate relationships and a gaggle of children.

    4. Eunuchs were a special office held by men who’s parents had them castrated and served at the temple or in high office as servants to Hebrew royalty. The Eunuchs are specifically blessed for their service to the temple in the Book of Isaiah. Do we still take young children and cut off their genitals so they can be good servants to our church? No, no we don’t. Jesus blessed the Eunuchs and their “alternate lifestyle” saying that not everyone was right for marriage and only those people who are suited should “accept it”.

    5. Celibacy. Judaism considered celibacy a sin. Did you know that? As I said above, in Judaism back then you were married shortly after coming to sexual maturity. It was considered evil and frustrating God’s will to not have sex and produce children. Jesus disagreed with this, and blessed people who were celibate in the service of the Church, which he called “Eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom”. Paul was an early advocate and practitioner of Celibacy because it allowed him to travel freely and spread the Gospel.

    6. Serial Monogamy. Moses allowed for divorce for a host of reasons, and allowed legal proceedings for men to give women a writ of divorce for many (sometimes spurious) reasons. In this way men could go through several divorces and rack up as many sexual partners as they desired. Jesus disagreed and put an end to that in Christianity, the only acceptable reason for divorce was now adultery. Otherwise, you had to keep your wife.

  • Christopher Bowers January 24, 2014, 3:08 am

    So the above, 1-6 are sexual ethics which are changeable. Fungable. True only in certain contexts. They’re true in one part of the Bible and false in another part of the Bible. In some cases, they’re true in both the Old and New testament, but several rulings have come down out of the Vatican or in Christian tradition that have reversed them (ever hear a Preacher pleading that 12 year olds should have sex and that people should marry off tweens? I didn’t think so.)

    Christians have changed how many partners you can have (both consecutive and concurrent), that you can’t marry family members, that you shouldn’t castrate people, that celibacy is now good (used to be considered bad), and that we should get married in our late 20’s (not at 12 or 13). Teen sex is considered bad, teen pregnancy is bad (both those things were normal back when the Bible was written) and Christianity has reversed itself on nearly every sexual issue you can think of.

    *SARCASM WARNING! IT’S COMING! NEXT PARAGRAPH!*

    But that homosexuality thing. See…. um…. THAT ONE IS WRITTEN IN STONE. That one is as true as the day it was written. That one is forever true (unlike everything else about human sexuality which has changed over time) and those people who do that are evil and going to hell forever. Because although God changed his mind (evidently) on everything else about sexuality, when we see a passage about it in the Bible we must take it literally and universally. We can reverse our position on every other sexual issue. Just not that one. And then conservatives hit you with the fact that they are SURE that the Bible meant the proscriptions against homosexuality to be eternal,unequivocal and unchangeable. And why should we believe these conservatives when they tell us this? Because they’re conservatives! We should trust their GUT FEELING that this time, THIS TIME God meant it about sex. That although God or Christianity changes everything else that was said about sex, THIS TIME, they’ve got it correct. THIS TIME they’re sure.

    And while the author above pleads for context and nuance, he clearly decides NOT to add context and nuance about the passages that condemn Homosexuality. No one mentions that the passages in Leviticus were against the worshippers of the God Molech, who may have required his followers engage in homosexual acts as well as masturbating into fire, and sex accompanied by child sacrifice (I’m not kidding you, use that google thing again). No one mentions that Roman Temples were centers of homosexual sex worship where participants would worship foreign gods by engaging in sex acts. No one on the right mentions the context of Corinth, a city with a bigger homosexual prostitution ring than the NFL and one so steeped in vices that it makes Las Vegas look like Akron, Ohio. The right doesn’t mention that the citizens in Sodom wanted to engage in homosexual RAPE, not just homosexual sex.So is it, in the Bible the idolotry of Roman culture’s homosexual sex that is being objected to? Is it the rape, not the homosexual nature of sex which is the reason Sodom was destroyed? Is it the idolotry of having sex to foreign gods that Paul was objecting to? Does “arsenokoites” refer to homosexuals, as we see them today, as people engaged in loving monogamous relationships? Or does it refer to male prostitutes (homosexual marriage and homosexual relationships weren’t legal or approved of until long after Paul’s day). Should we use context and nuance here? NO, according to these conservatives, we should not. We should TRUST THEM and assume it applies to all forms of homosexuality, universally, forever. No context and nuance on that.

    But when Paul says “Slaves, be obedient to your masters” all of the sudden all the nuance, contextualizing and rationalizations come out. It was indentured servitude, which is TOTALLY fine, in fact indendured servitude is so much fun that anyone should try it, and you know, it was just a big bowl of peaches. Exodus provides laws that you can beat your indentured servants as long as they don’t get killed by your beatings. Isn’t that just the most wonderful humane slavery you’ve ever heard of? And you release them after 6 years? WONDERFUL. It’s such a great and loving system, I’m so glad that Paul upheld it. And we have to contextualize that. Nuance it up. It really isn’t so bad, see? When something in the Bible disagrees with the conservative view, we contextualize it, nuance it up a bit. Soften it up with euphamisms. Use everything we can to show that it’s not as bad as it looks. But when it comes to homosexuality, NO context. NO nuance. Only the words on the page, and we equate them exactly to homosexual activity today.I’ll give you an example. Conservatives LOVE to add nuance and context when the Bible when it helps their case.

    But they NEVER want to add nuance, interpretation or context when that context is against their case. Do you know the story of David and Jonathan? I will sum up: Jonathan, on seeing David for the first time, loves him “as his own soul” and strips naked, handing David his weapons, and “knits their souls together”. Jonathan then takes David and lives with him in Jonathan’s house. Saul, the King and Jonathan’s father, says that Jonathan is choosing David “to the shame of your mother’s nakedness.” Then David leaves his wife (without consummating their marriage) to run away from Saul and goes to meet Jonathan alone in a field where they swear an oath “on each other’s seed (sperm? descendants?) so that their families will always be related. They then kiss each other and weep about their seperation “Until David rose up in himself/exceeded himself”. After Jonathan dies, David weeps saying of Jonathan that “Your love was pleasant/delightful to me, exceeding the love of women”. Do we look at the context of all of that and hypothesize that, due to the context and all these factors that David and Jonathan had a homosexual or homoerotic relationship? NO! NO we don’t! NEVER. Because if it doesn’t favor conservatives’ case, that’s all “reading into it” and “interpreting your own values into it” and “not taking it at face value”. Conservatives NEVER read between the lines. UNLESS of course it favors their case. Like with slavery.

    And that, my friends, is why Conservative claims about homosexuality are nothing but propaganda and lies. That is how they skew things so it LOOKS like they’re parroting the Bible, when really they’re parroting their own values, not the Bible’s values. They cherrypick when and where to use context, nuance and interpretation. If the context doesn’t favor their case, they want the letter of the law, the exact wording and claim it’s infallible, universal, and eternal. But when it doesn’t favor their case, it’s time to rationalize, contextualize and add nuance. And THAT is why Conservatives are full of it.

  • Glenn January 24, 2014, 8:41 pm

    Christopher, you have essentially copied and pasted an article / blog post here. That’s generally not permitted, and this is pointed out in the blog policy. It would have been better to link to the article at your own blog or website (I’m not sure what that Facebook link was, but it didn’t contain anything). As it is an article all by itself, your comment obviously exceeds the size limit, so you’ve made back-to-back comments to get around that limit. I’ll make an exception this time and offer some feedback on your article here, but if you’re interested in writing about these things (and are willing to invest a bit more time and effort in research in future, see below), I’d encourage you to start a blog – and I don’t just say that to get rid of you! If you do wish to have a longer back and forth discussion about your article, then you’ll need to put it up in a public space of your own where the discussion can take place. For now you’re “renting” part of this thread, which will be a temporary arrangement, just because you posted it here. But if you want your own thread, it will be elsewhere (and you’ll be welcome to link to it here).

    OK, some feedback, first on a couple of larger points (polygamy and homosexuality) and then on smaller points.

    You begin with the claim, bolstered by the use of capital letters (which, incidentally, does not make it more believable), that Christians think that the “sexual” ethics of all parts of the Old Testament are absolute and universal and hence they must apply today. However, you note that they do not follow the “commands” (as you call them) about polygamy. And therefore, you allege, Christians are guilty of “cherry-picking”: Just choosing to obey some parts of the Bible and rejecting others.

    However, you may simply have started out with a misrepresentation. You’re including the distinction between monogamy and polygamy as an issue in “sexual” ethics. But if you do this then on what basis do you maintain that Christians claim that all sexual practices in the Old Testament must be followed today? You might be able to find Christians talking about biblical prohibitions on sexual practices, but of course you would need to ask what they mean. Within a polygamous marriage, for example, the sexual practices themselves are no different from those that take place within a monogamous union. So it’s likely that you’re confusing categories between biblical injunctions about sexual practices and biblical models of marriage. But assuming you are talking about the latter, you have simply misrepresented the Christian claim to begin with. As a rule, Christians do not say that every form of marriage in the Bible is equally valid, and that polygamy is wrong. If by “sexual” ethics you mean marriage arrangements, then you should be aware that Christians have always maintained – and have given biblical reasons for maintaining (including reasons from the Old Testament) that polygamy is not on equal footing with monogamy. You appear to be aware of at least some of the literature on sexuality in the Bible (or perhaps you are quoting a blogger who has read some of it) because you repeat an argument formulated most clearly by David Horner regarding David and Jonathan (in his 1978 book, David Loved Jonathan: Homosexuality in Biblical Times). And yet you seem to know nothing of the literature addressing the issue of polygamy. My advice therefore would be to read a little more widely, and do not just stick to books or articles that you agree with. For what it’s worth, I would recommend Walter Kaiser, Towards Old Testament Ethics, which gives good coverage to the issue of polygamy and explains why, from an Old Testament perspective, monogamy was always the ideal (this is the stance, for example, taken by Evangelical missionaries into societies where polygamy is practiced. They don’t tell men to divorce their multiple wives, but rather to honour their vows). If you think that polygamy was the norm in Israel then you’ll need to cite some evidence, and if you think that the Levrite marriage required a man to marry his brother’s wife when she died even if he had a wife already (so it was not simply a prima facie duty for an Israelite) then you will also need some good reasons. Until then there isn’t even a case for me to interact with.

    It may be convenient to portray Christians as simply bumbling into this contradictory position (upholding biblical principles of marriage but opposing polygamy), but you’re actually just being lazy. Christian (and Jewish) scholars have addressed the very issue that you raise in some depth. If you want to subject that work to careful critique then of course that would be welcome. However it does not move the conversation forward to simply raise issues that have been addressed already, and to require people to essentially repeat what has been established in the literature already is somewhat frustrating. So my first piece of advice, again, is to widen your reading and familiarise yourself with the position you wish to criticise, rather than just with your own position. I find that such wilful ignorance of the traditional Christian view and the way in which it has been defended is common when offering online critique (for example, I respond to a similar line of criticism to yours here: http://www.rightreason.org/2009/biblical-marriage/). This suggests to me that there is a culture of ease here, where people think that they can dismiss a position without really investing the time to familiarise oneself with it (and I see this in the presentation to which this blog entry is responding as well as in your own comments).

    Maybe if you want to improve on your current position you could do this: Offer some serious critique of the way in which Christian biblical scholars have argued that monogamy, rather than polygamy, is the ideal in the Old Testament. Show that you know how their case works and that it does not add up.

    I am dismissing out of hand your comments about David and Jonathan. The thesis that because they kissed each other (as was actually very common for men in a non-sexual manner in the ancient near east, and still today in some places) and because David loved Jonathan as his own soul, this somehow implies that they were not just dear friends, but were in a homosexual relationship, is frankly laughable. It’s the equivalent of snickering when two men hug, muttering “that’s so gay.” The text says that Jonathan gave him the outer robe that he was wearing (which would have been a very nice robe, his being a prince) and he also gave him other clothing so that he was left wearing only the layer that included his girdle, and you conclude that he stripped himself naked (the suggestion being that they “got naked together,” and we all know what that means, wink wink). But in the first place nakedness isn’t what the text describes. In the second place the passage makes it quite clear that these things were taken off in order to be given by Jonathan as a gift to David (1 Samuel 18:1-4), rather than a case of Jonathan doing anything here for sexual reasons. The other attempt, to which you allude, to make Jonathan and David’s farewell sound like a homo-erotic encounter, is similarly flimsy. “Seed” means descendants, just as it so often does, and David weeping until he “rose up in himself,” schoolboy chuckling aside, has nothing to do with him getting an erection (yes, people actually say this). Because of course, that’s what happens when you’re really sad and cry a lot (!). You say that “David rose up in himself,” but in truth the verb gadal doesn’t mean that. It simply means to become great – or to be great in what one is doing. In this case, weeping. You are just parroting the claims of others about what is going on here.

    I’m aware of Horner’s revisionary work where he advanced that thesis that Jonathan and David must have been in a homosexual relationship (and where he drew heavily on the thoughts of a mid-twentieth century psychiatrist, where pretty much everything was about sexuality), but there is a good reason why it is not accepted in Old Testament studies in general, and contrary to your unearned innuendo, it is not because of conservative squeamishness about homosexuality. The evidence simply doesn’t stack up. Even Horner sounds at times as though he is begging the reader to grant something that might not be apparent to most. Our scepticism towards this revisionary view should be especially keen in a context where David, in the biblical narrative, is presented until now – and later – as an impeccably godly person, who later sang the praises of the Torah – which expressly forbade sex between men. Those who wrote about Israel’s later kings, longing for a king who would follow the Torah, regularly looked back on David as a man after God’s own heart (his brief downfall, caused by his obvious attraction to women, notwithstanding). And yet, we are asked to believe, those writers were all well aware of accounts of this godly man engaging in acts condemned by that same law (and not just the explicit commandments, but the teaching gleaned from Genesis as well).

    So when it comes to polygamy and homosexuality in Scripture, you simply haven’t shown that you know anything about the “conservative” case or how biblical scholars have addressed the claims you make.

    Your list of claims 1-6, presented as fact, is simply a list of assertions. For example you claim that being celibate was required. Wrong. Marriage was upheld as good and holy! You say that Israelite divorce law was so that men could practice serial monogamy with as many women as they liked (clearly false), and you say that Jesus disagreed – again, false. Jesus promoted a conservative interpretation of the law as the correct one: That only very serious sin was a ground for divorce. Paul likewise allowed for divorce, but did not favour it. You are just making this up.

    I’m not going to go further, and I hope you see the point. I realise there is a certain rhetorical pleasure in accusing people of “cherry picking.” You may have enjoyed doing so, but it is something of a stolen pleasure. You just haven’t shown that you have the right to such rhetorical satisfaction because you’ve done none of the required work (and my hunch is that you’ve no real intention of investing the time required to do so). I am sorry to offer such negative feedback (I would have preferred to see a serious and stimulating critique, even though I disagreed with it), but I do not want to encourage you to continue on as you are. It is not good for you or anyone else. The most intellectually respectable thing you could have done was to simply say: “I don’t know anything about the exegetical (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exegesis) side to this discussion, but I don’t care what the Bible teaches, end of story.” (For what it’s worth, it would not be a redeeming response to say “Oh but I HAVE done the work, I even have a degree in biblical studies!” That would just make me marvel all the more at the way you pass over all of that learning in your comments.)

    If you want to create a discussion thread about your article, you’ll need to do it elsewhere. It’s not a credible piece of anything, and it is not going to become the topic of discussion here. This is not a charity and I do not generally donate time to articles like yours. However, Christopher, you are welcome to post a link to it when it is publicly available, so that people who think it is worth the time may go there to discuss it. If you have any comments to make on this blog entry, however, you’ve come to the right place.

  • Mark January 24, 2014, 10:00 pm

    Glenn, I think you showed restraint. Especially with Christopher’s absurd boasts at having shown that conservatives are passing on “lies” and “propaganda.” This would have been me:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hfYJsQAhl0

  • Glenn January 25, 2014, 4:12 pm

    For the record – and I have gone out of my way to communicate this privately to Christopher, he is absolutely welcome to return at any point to discuss the issues raised in this blog post (or any other post at Right Reason). I never (intentionally) discourage people from doing that (within the parameters of the blog policy, naturally).

    But people who want to piggyback on this blog to post their own articles and essentially create discussion threads about those articles will be “encouraged” to take it elsewhere and set up a blog. Blogs are free, and Wordpress.com is a great place to start one.

  • Christopher Bowers January 26, 2014, 4:04 am

    I have been asked by Glen to keep my comments more focused on his article, rather than contributing original material to the debate. I’m going to re-boot the discussion at this point and try to do that. Let me first start off by saying that I agree with Glen that the comparison John makes between Shellfish and Homosexuality for Christians is slightly unfair.

    Christians are under the New Covenant. That means that they are not bound by any of the “conditional” laws in the Old Testament. They are only bound by two laws: Love God and Love Neighbor. There are no other laws that Christians are beholden to. Jews are under a different set of laws. This is why Christians can be uncircumcised, are able to eat things which aren’t kosher, don’t celebrate Hanukkah and so forth and so on.

    In this I agree with Glen. However, the proscriptions against homosexuality are in Leviticus, right alongside all those conditional laws that only Jews must follow. Citing a law in Leviticus to prove that Christians must abstain from homosexual activity is insufficient evidence, and Bible translators have further obscured this by calling a man lying with another man an “abomination The word used to describe homosexuality “Toh’evah”. So what does this word mean? Actually it doesn’t mean “horrible and unethical” at all. It actually is a reference to ritual purity, and is used in reference to CONDITIONAL laws (like eating kosher), and not to ethical laws.

    http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H8441&t=KJV

    Eating bread is also an “abomination”. In English the definition of “abomination” is “A person or thing that is disgusting.” The second definition is “Something that is vicious or vile”. Would you consider eating bread from another culture “disgusting?” No! Would you consider eating bread from another culture “vicious or vile”? No! This is clearly a mistranslation and perhaps even a deliberate one by the translators.

    “Toh’evah” is used for things that we in this day and age would not consider “Abominations” at all. Just look at the Blue Letter Bible link I posted and you’ll see just how little weight the word has in terms of moral force. It’s used for Shepherds walking into the wrong territory, eating bread from another culture, several times for statues from other religions, sacrificing a sick sheep, wearing the wrong piece of clothing, not bringing your dog into the temple, etc. These are not “abominations” according to the english meaning of the word. These are akin to not wearing a hat in church, shaking hands in church when your hand is dirty, and having a Buddha statue on your desk when you’re a Christian. It just means “religiously improper” Pretty minor stuff.

    These are hardly horrible moral outrages. The reason that I do agree with John here and not Glen, is that Conservatives ARE cherrypicking. They’re not applying any context to the word and taking it at face value.

  • chris w January 26, 2014, 7:09 am

    Christopher,

    Many of those examples you cite seriously undermine your case. Owning an idol in Israel was a capital offence, and is still a serious sin and a form of idolatry in the New Covenant. I think most christians would agree that claiming to be a christian and owning an idol would truly be an abomination, in the strong sense of the word (1 Corinthians 10). That’s also the case for sacrificing a sick sheep to God, see Malachi 1 on this. My point is that even if the word sometimes has a ‘cultic’ meaning which pertains specifically to the Mosaic era, that doesn’t prove that it always has that meaning.

    Secondly and perhaps more importantly, the case against the law’s continuing relevance does not hang on the meaning of the word ‘abomination’. That is, even if you are correct about the meaning of the word, the law against sodomy may still have continuing relevance anyway. And given that sexual sin (fornication) is wrong under the New Covenant, that would suggest that sodomy is still a sin. Your objections regarding polygamy, celibacy etc. are nonsense and carry no weight because none of these practices involve sexual sin. Sure, polygamy is a sin under the New Covenant, but it’s not a ‘sexual’ sin and hence would not fall under the banner of ‘fornication’. Celibacy has never been considered a sexual sin, under either Covenant! I could go through all of them but you get the gist. What constituted ‘fornication’ (sexual sin) under the Old Covenant continues to count as such under the New Covenant.

  • Christopher Bowers January 26, 2014, 9:01 am

    Chris w, let me explain the objections you raised.

    1. Idolatry in the context of homosexual relations would be wrong under both covenants, in that you are correct. But homosexual acts that are NOT in the context of idolatrous contexts would NOT be prohibited in the New Covenant. In other words, as a Liberal Christian I would object to Wiccans engaging in a homosexual orgy to worship Wotan. I would not object to homosexuals in a loving committed relationship. One involves idolatry and the other doesn’t. Since the objections to Homosexuality in scripture are in the context of idolotry (Molech worship in Leviticus 18 and Roman Temples in Romans 1), the thrust of the prohibition in scripture is not against homosexuality in general, but against homosexual sex worship.

    2. Idolatry prohibitions are different under the New and Old Covenant. We don’t think that trimming the edges of our beard, getting a yin-yang tattoo, or wearing a pair of Nike shoes is an ABOMINATION under the new covenant, because we follow the spirit of the law (as Christians), not the letter of the law (like Jews). Trimming the edges of your beard was considered idolatry when these passages in Leviticus 21 were written. Why? Because Egyptians trimmed the edges of their beards as a way to worship their Gods, all Egyptian Gods have narrow beards. See the link below to see what I mean:
    http://www.ancientegypt.co.uk/gods/explore/main.html

    These Idolotry laws no longer apply to Christians, (you can go ahead and get that goattee!), because we follow the spirit of the law, not the letter. We are no longer worried about people following the Egyptian pantheon because that religion is totally defunct. Orthodox Jews on the other hand, STILL must abide by this proscription because they must follow the letter of the law. Idolotry laws are CONDITIONAL, they do not apply in the OT the same way as in the NT. Modern Christians need to be more concerned about the idols of Wealth, Appearance, Power, Lust, and so forth, and we are less concerned about a tattoo of a yin-yang, and would certainly not consider getting one of those or wearing Nike shoes (It’s named after a greek god! ABOMINATION! IDOLOTRY!). Those little symbols have little importance to Christians now.

    Chris W said:
    >And given that sexual sin (fornication) is wrong under the New Covenant, that would suggest that sodomy is >still a sin.

    The word in Greek is “porneia”. Roughly translated this means “Pervesion”. “Porneia” does not refer to masturbation, as conservative Christians claim. It does not refer to birth control, as conservative Catholics claim. It does not refer to homosexuality. The only refrences we have to what “porneia” means are prostitution and adultery. “Porneia” is an example of conservatives trying to smuggle doctrine into a general word. They say “Oh, “porneia”, that refers to every sexual practice that I personally think is wrong.” No it doesn’t. It’s a general word, and if you want to claim that it refers to homosexuality, masturbation or birth control, the onus is on YOU to prove that claim.

    Chris w said:
    > Sure, polygamy is a sin under the New Covenant,

    No it isn’t. Polygamy is not prohibited anywhere in the New Testament. This is why Martin Luther, Aquinas and Augustine couldn’t find any scriptural reference to counter it.
    Polygamy was outlawed by the Catholic Church in the early middle ages (around AD 400). It was permitted during the Holy Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire. (Both empires were under Christian rules and laws).

    Chris W said:
    > Celibacy has never been considered a sexual sin, under either Covenant!
    You’re wrong. Celibacy is considered a sin by Judaism and is seen as frustrating God’s will and avoiding your duty to god. Follow the link below and you’ll see that Judaism explicitly denounces celibacy as a sin, and you can read multiple articles from several Rabbi’s as to why.

    http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/

    >What constituted ‘fornication’ (sexual sin) under the Old Covenant continues to count as such under the New >Covenant.

    You’re wrong, and this constitutes the thrust of my argument.
    Here’s a simple chart. OT= Old Testament, NT=New Testament CT=Christianity Today. JT=Judaism today.
    Celibacy. OT=Wrong, NT=Right, CT=Right, JT=Wrong
    Polygamy OT=Right, NT=Right, CT=Wrong, JT=Mostly Wrong
    Eunuchs OT=Right, NT=Right, CT=Wrong, JT=Wrong
    Serial Monogamy OT=Right, NT=Wrong, CT=Wrong, JT=Wrong
    Child Marriage OT=Right, NT=Right, CT=Wrong, JT=Sometimes right/Wrong

    All of these sexual practices are cherrypicking and inconsistent.

  • Christopher Bowers January 26, 2014, 10:07 am

    Glen says:
    >Of course, if the “fundamentalists” are simply choosing not to use any interpretive method at all >for one kind of passage, but exerting a whole lot of effort to interpret the other with a mind to >simply explaining it away, then there would be a point to make.

    That IS the point Glen! That is EXACTLY what conservative Christians do in regard to homosexual “clobber passages”. They choose a face value interpretive method with Leviticus 18, and then go into hermeneutical contortions with the topic of slavery. When it favors them to use face value, they use face value and equate words from 4000 years ago to words today (Toh’evah doesn’t mean today what it meant then!). They then claim that these face value passages were universal in scope and don’t demonstrate it, they just assume it from face value.

    Let me take a break here and just say that Glen’s attempt to explain away slavery with context and nuance utterly fails. While he notes that there are two forms of slavery, there are actually four forms of slavery in the Old Testament. There’s indentured servitude from hebrew to hebrew, which he mentions, and there is also the case where slaves are taken in war. There’s also the situation where slaves are bought from other countries. Last of all there’s sexual slavery, where the wives of one man are compelled to marry and serve a new man who conquers the former leader (This was the case when David took Saul’s former wives), finally there was sexual slavery, where women were sold to please men. None of these forms of slavery are morally permissible in any sense. The slavery rules for each set of these different forms of slavery are incomparably brutal. In some cases the rules are more lenient than for Colonial slavery. In some cases the situation is the same. Leviticus 25 allows you to purchase children of foreigners as property and hold them in perpetuity. Exodus 21 allows for fathers to sell their daughters into slavery, and then if she’s not “pleasing” she can be bought back, or be forced to marry the slaveowner’s son. Exodus 21 allows you to beat a slave with an iron rod as long as the beating doesn’t kill the slave.

    Slavery was not a bowl of cherries back then. While some slaves (hebrew only) could be freed after 6 years in the jubilee year, foreign slaves had to serve in perpetuity. While hebrews were prevented from outright murdering their slaves, and while anyone could be a slave (it wasn’t based on skin color) that is the only softening of practice at all.

    Sorry Glen, but your contextualizing and nuance doesn’t help here. The Bible supported this horrendous moral practice in both testaments. Sadly, slavery was just a fact of life back then. At the time of Jesus and historically, slavery was widespread all over the Middle East. Everyone had slaves.

    What Glen does in describing homosexuality in the Old and New Testaments might as well be Glen in a field of cherries: picking some and applying them at face value and universally, while ignoring the context of others.

    In describing sodom, he doesn’t mention the context that what the men in the street wanted to to was heterosexual or homosexual RAPE. They wanted to beat down the door and RAPE the people inside, be they male or female. Does God, according to Glen destroy sodom because the inhabitants were breaking-and-entering-rapists? No. Glen just takes it at face value and assumes God destroyed the city because God hates homosexuality.

    Glen’s assertions about Romans 1 is not borne out. Nor does he defeat John’s premise that what was going on in Romans 1 was the homosexual worship of Idols. For some reason he ignores the direct causal link that Paul draws between worshipping idols and homosexual sex. These people engaged in sex acts specifically to worship false gods. What is being condemnned here isn’t homosexuality, but homosexual sex worship in foreign temples. If you look at the previous verses in Romans 1, they are talking about idols in Roman temples, practices in Roman temples and Paul says “BECAUSE OF THIS (because they are woshipping these idols) God gave them up to uncleanliness of their own hearts” This is clearly a case of sexual idolotry, not a blanket statement against all homosexuality. As a liberal christian I do not see homosexual acts as a sin. I would see homosexual acts to worship Vishnu as a sin, because that breaks the New Covenant (Loving God, which means YHWH). Glen chooses to ignore the context of idolotry: cherrypicking it out (or cherry-ignoring it, if you prefer).

    As far as 1 Corinthians goes, Glen again ignores context. First of all, let me say that Glen has no idea what the word “arsenkoites” means, and to equate it to the modern word “homosexual” is completely false and an anachronism. As we learned earlier words in thousand year old texts do not correspond to words today “Toh’evah” and “Abomination” being perfect examples of this mismatch. There are no other documents extant on earth that has the word “arsenkoites” in it. Usually, with other greek words we have other ancient documents we can draw on to make the case as to their meaning. Not with this word.

    There were no egalitarian same-sex loving relationships at this time in Rome. There were only three types of homosexual relationships that were permitted. Pederasty, which was the Roman practice of sexual slavery and pedophilia of older soldier to younger soldier. Homosexual Prostitution, which was widely practiced in Corinth, and Temple prostitution/temple sex worship, which was practiced in roman temples.

    Homosexuality in its modern form didn’t exist at the time, and marrying a gay couple wasn’t permitted by law. Most people assume that the early Roman empire had no problem with homosexuality, but Homosexual marriage wasn’t legally recognized at the time. Gay marriage wasn’t legal in Rome, and the first gay marriage (which was not legally recognized) was between Nero and his partner in AD 68, well after Paul’s letter to the Romans and Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (both written between AD 53-58).

    Claiming that “arsenkoites” corresponds to “homosexuality” as it is practiced in America today is anachronistic because it wasn’t practiced then as it is practiced now. Thus the assertion to an exact correspondence between the greek word “arsenkoites” and the english word “homosexuality” is again misguided, just as it was misguided with Toh’evah”. “arsenkoites” MUST have referred to homosexual prostitution, pederasty, or homosexual idolatry, because those were the only forms of homosexuality that existed at the time.

  • Glenn January 26, 2014, 11:56 am

    Christopher, I have to say that your comments are largely a collection of errors of fact. For example:

    Christopher: “They are only bound by two laws: Love God and Love Neighbor. There are no other laws that Christians are beholden to.”

    Some relevant evidence for this would be useful. Especially when there is such an abundance of evidence to the contrary. For example when Jesus gave these two as the “greatest” commandments, he immediately said: “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40). Or consider the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), which came up with considerably more than these two when a specific dispute arose about issues of Jew/Gentile differences. I discuss this in this blog entry, did you see?

    “In this I agree with Glen. However, the proscriptions against homosexuality are in Leviticus, right alongside all those conditional laws that only Jews must follow.”

    That’s true, but I addressed exactly that objection in this very blog post. Yet you say nothing about it! Start reading at the point where I say “Next, men who have sex with other men are specifically mentioned in Leviticus 18” – So this is already covered and dealt with.

    Christopher: “The word used to describe homosexuality “Toh’evah”. So what does this word mean? Actually it doesn’t mean “horrible and unethical” at all. It actually is a reference to ritual purity, and is used in reference to CONDITIONAL laws (like eating kosher), and not to ethical laws.”

    This is a simple error of fact. It just means something abhorrent or abominable, disgusting etc. The word itself does not specify whether or not it is so regarded for ceremonial reasons. What you say here is simply untrue when you say that the word applies “not to ethical laws.” In fact the word at times very clearly applies to ethical wrongdoing. Had you done your own research instead of simply repeating a claim that somebody else made, you would have quickly seen this, and avoided this error. In Deuteronomy 25:13-16, people are forbidden from ripping others off in the marketplace by using false weights and measures. That is immoral, and not just ceremonially unclean, and it is called to`evah. Or in a very familiar moral teaching, the book of Proverbs says that these things are an abomination: “haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers” (Proverbs 6:17-19).

    So you are wrong on the facts. The word doesn’t mean something that is specifically a violation of a ceremonial or “conditional” principle, it is more general than that and means something that is abominable for any reason at all. If we want to know whether the abomination is regarded as such for ceremonial reasons or for some other sort of reason, we cannot just cherry-pick our favourite use of the word, as you have done. Instead, we need to look carefully at the context. As I noted above, the commands in Leviticus 18 are regarded in Scripture as moral in nature and (in the section that I referred to earlier, which you appear to have skipped over) they are appealed to in the New Testament.

    Christopher: “That IS the point Glen! That is EXACTLY what conservative Christians do in regard to homosexual “clobber passages”.”

    This is false. See, for example, what conservative Evangelical scholars have had to say about the food laws, or polygamy. They do not simply apply effort to understand these issues, but apply no effort to understand homosexuality in the Bible.

    And as for the claim that the homosexual acts are really all about idolatry, the evidence simply doesn’t stack up. As I pointed out in the blog entry:

    Yes, idolatry is mentioned in this passage, but also in context Paul makes it very clear that he is talking about everyone who rejects God and therefore engages in all kinds of sinful behaviour, including idolatry, and sexual relations with members of the same sex, and “covetousness, malice. … envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” Surely John is not arguing that insolence, malice or murder are only wrong, in Paul’s view, if they are carried out in the context of an idolatrous religion!

    What you’re saying isn’t new, but neither is it credible. You will have do much, much more work to provide fact-based reasons to take these claims seriously, because thus far you have offered none at all.

    By the way – the name is “Glenn.”

    PS – As your comments about Leviticus are very much at a “popular” rather than scholarly level (and that isn’t a criticism at all), you might benefit from a brief insight from Old Testament scholar Christopher Wright, who offers a very simple yet effective reply to your observation that food laws are also in Leviticus: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/july-august/sex-in-leviticus.html

  • Christopher Bowers January 26, 2014, 2:01 pm

    Glenn, sorry for spelling your name wrong. Spelling isn’t one of my strong suits (as you may have noticed._What you’re saying isn’t new. But neither is it credible. You’ve only responded to a few of my objections here. I will continue the discussion only about what you have objected to. I don’t know why you don’t respond point by point, (I like that style of argumentation better) but this is your house and I will follow your rules. I would also like to thank you for keeping the debate civil and addressing my arguments rationally.

    Firstly I will say this: to the Claimant goes the burden. It is not my burden of proof to prove that homosexuality is permitted. It is your burden of proof to prove that ALL (not some) homosexual acts are forbidden to Christians. It’s up to you to do the heavy lifting, because you are making a bold and sweeping claim: that in all instances homosexual acts are morally wrong for Christians.

    As for your first paragraph I agree with you. It’s not that loving God and loving neighbor are the ONLY two things Christians must follow. It’s that all of the laws in the OT were INTENDED for those two targets. If a law in the OT is preventing us from doing something UN-loving, it is to be upheld. If not, it is to be abandoned. This is why Kosher laws were abandoned (Kosher laws originally aimed at those targets but became irrelevant) and why circumcision wasn’t necessary for new Christians (again, no longer relevant to these two laws).

    To base something as either forbidden or allowed, you must trace the prohibition or allowance of that law to one of these two. If you can’t, it’s permitted. If it violates one of them it’s restricted.

    >This is a simple error of fact. It just means something abhorrent or abominable, disgusting >etc. The word itself does not specify whether or not it is so regarded for ceremonial reasons. >What you say here is simply untrue when you say that the word applies “not to ethical laws.” >In fact the word at times very clearly applies to ethical wrongdoing. Had you done your own >research instead of simply repeating a claim that somebody else made, you would have >quickly seen this, and avoided this error.

    Glenn, we simply disagree, and you are factually incorrect. Originally I saw a study back in undergrad (this is in let’s see, 1999?) that was given to me by one of my Theology Professors Dr. McLaughlin. (this is his current post). http://stmikes.utoronto.ca/theology/profiles/john-mclaughlin%20.asp But in any case, people can do their own research by simply going to blue letter bible and clicking the Strong’s reference to see every single usage of the word and its context. You’ll notice the FIRST meaning is ritually impure. Sometimes To’evah refers to ethical wrongdoing, but more often it applies to ritually impure things that are no longer applicable to Christians today.

    The English sense of the word is “vicious and vile”, which in no way corresponds to the Hebrew word and is a mistranslation. The word most often refers to things of the temple and things of other religions: botched hebrew rituals which Christians are no longer bound to and bizzare customs like eating bread or shepherds being in the wrong place. If you want to claim that “To’hevah” IN THIS CASE refers to ethical wrongdoing (which applies to Christians), and not to ritual impurity (which no longer applies to Christians), then that is your case to make, again, the burden is squarely on you. Since the word applies more often to ritual impurity and less often to ethics, YOU have a lot of heavy lifting to do, not me. As far as the reading from proverbs goes, yes that is ONE instance of the word carrying an ethical meaning, but I can provide 50 references against it that do NOT refer to ethics but only to ritual purity.

    >And as for the claim that the homosexual acts are really all about idolatry, the evidence >simply doesn’t stack up.

    There is more evidence that it pertains to idolotry than not because it’s more often used as “ritual purity” (by an incredibly overwhelming ratio). In any case, it is YOU who must prove that “to’evah” in this instance points to ethical obligations. Not me. To the claimant goes the burden.

    >What you’re saying isn’t new. But neither is it credible. You will have do much, much more >work to provide fact-based reasons to take these claims seriously, because thus far you have >offered none at all.

    Actually YOU are the one that has to do the work, and YOU are the one who has to prove the case that the references in the Bible have NOTHING to do with idolotry. I don’t have to prove that they do. I’ve already provided ample evidence about the link between temple prostitution and idolotry. If you would like more I can provide as much evidence as you would like, both from the Bible itself (linking sexual acts and idolatry, as well as naming temple prostitutes for other religions several times) and from the historical record (citing examples of Roman and Egyptian cults that linked idolatry and sexual activity).

    The claim is yours to prove, and you haven’t proven it. You haven’t proven that “Toh’evah” specifically regards ethical activity in this case, and you haven’t proven that Pauls refrences to sexual activity are blanket universal statements, unconnected to prostitution or false gods and their temple sex acts.

    >This is false. See, for example, what conservative Evangelical scholars have had to say about >the food laws, or polygamy. They do not simply apply effort to understand these issues, but >apply no effort to understand homosexuality in the Bible.

    I already mentioned that I agreed with you about food laws. I do not agree with you about polygamy. You’ve provided no evidence showing that polygamy is somehow “lesser” than monogamy, as written in scripture. Moreover I don’t agree with you about sexual practices in general. All the sexual practices in the Bible have changed over time. Some from OT to now. Some from Jews’ views to a different sexual practice under the NT. Some sexual practices changed AFTER the NT. Polygamy is one of those. The claim that sexual practices haven’t changed is false. And if sexual practices have changed since the Bible has been written (and the bulk of them have), why can’t Christian’s view on Homosexuality change as well?

  • Christopher Bowers January 26, 2014, 2:04 pm

    Sorry Glenn, I accidentally inserted your quote in the midst of me talking in the second line of my post without attribution.

  • Glenn January 26, 2014, 2:20 pm

    Christopher, on the first point: The claim in question here is as follows: Fundies are inconsistent in their application of the prohibition on homosexual acts, because they don’t follow the same approach when it comes to food laws and some other laws. That was John’s claim, and I have rebutted it. It’s tiresome for people to try to swap around the burden of proof. John made a claim and he failed to support it, and I showed that the claim was flawed.

    If you want to reintroduce John’s claim that conservative Christians are inconsistent, then go ahead. But no reversing of the burden of proof is allowed.

    Now – I pointed out that you were mistaken to deny that To`evah applies to moral commands. I showed some obvious examples, where it applies to all sorts of evil deeds like lying, swindling etc. And in reply you say “we disagree.” You may have your own tastes in ice cream, but sorry Christopher, you are not entitled to your own version of the facts. I have shown that the word does indeed apply to moral injunctions, and you cannot show that this is not so. Your reliance on the order in which definitions appear in Strong’s Lexicon is amusing from an academic standpoint, but the fact remains: There is no evidence that it only refers to something abominable in one limited context, and there is evidence, as I showed, that it just means something abominable in general. You don’t get to cherry pick your favourite usage and declare that it is the only usage.

    What’s more, you are confusing definition with application. The word just means something loathsome. But of course, that definition doesn’t have any bearing on why something is regarded as an abomination. The mistake that you are making is that you’re looking at a huge pile of examples where things are regarded as an abomination for ritual reasons, and you are mistakenly concluding that the word means abominable for ritual reasons. This is confused to say the least.

    I also get the feeling that you are choosing to not read the whole blog post, and choosing not to read my whole reply. You said:

    If you want to claim that “To’hevah” IN THIS CASE refers to ethical wrongdoing (which applies to Christians), and not to ritual impurity (which no longer applies to Christians), then that is your case to make, again, the burden is squarely on you.

    I have met that burden. In my last comment I also reminded you that I had met that burden, and I referred you to the exact place in this blog article where I met it (I could have offered even more, but I offered enough). I showed that the New Testament church treated these commands as applicable in their own time. You have ignored this. It’s also relevant that these sexual sins, in Leviticus 18, are said to have been committed by the non-Israelite nations, and it was evil for them to do so. Notice that these nations were not at all part of Israel’s cultic arrangement, and yet the text declares that these actions were an abomination, even for them (Leviticus 18:27-28). So this is a burden that has already been met, and there is more that could have been offered. You can either interact with the argument offered, or you can withdraw your claim.

    “I do not agree with you about polygamy. You’ve provided no evidence showing that polygamy is somehow “lesser” than monogamy, as written in scripture.”

    I pointed out to you that you are just ignoring what conservatives have already said. I also referred you to a scholarly resource so that you could familiarise yourself with this case that you say you “don’t agree” with. You can choose not to make use of it if you wish, but you may not pretend that it doesn’t exist.

  • Christopher Bowers January 26, 2014, 2:30 pm

    Here are some lists of references so that you and your audience can wrap your head around Sacred Prostitution, and proof that sacred prostitution was involved in both the OT references to sex and the NT references to sex. The specific hebrew word for temple prostitute is “qedesha”. “qedesh” referred to male prostitutes who also engaged in homosexual sex.

    You can start here at the wiki article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_prostitution

    Deuteronomy 23:17 specifically names male temple prostitutes by the name “qedesh”. Notice that the word is often translated as “sodomites” because these temple prostitutes engaged in homosexual acts. There are six references to the “qedesh” (Strong’s number H6945) in the Bible. You can see them here:

    http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H6945&t=KJV

    The idea that qedesh were homosexuals engaged in temple worship with their sex acts isn’t “liberal revisionism”. Scholars have known about these temple prostitutes for a long time.

    Here’s the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Written in 1915!) explaining that these male sex workers were doing it in the service of idolatry:

    http://www.internationalstandardbible.com/S/sodomite.html

  • Christopher Bowers January 26, 2014, 2:52 pm

    >That was John’s claim, and I have rebutted it.
    I agree that you have rebutted it about shellfish. I do NOT agree that you have rebutted it about sexual acts.

    I agree that the burden of proof is mine to claim that conservatives are being inconsistent on sexual acts.

    I disagree that it is my burden to prove the claim that “All homosexual acts are prohibited to Christians” That is your burden to prove, not mine.

    >I have shown that the word does indeed apply to moral injunctions,

    No, you have shown that it CAN apply to moral injunctions. It can also apply to ritual purity, and it more often applies to ritual purity. It’s your burden to prove that it applies to moral injunctions in the case of the reference to homosexuality. There is a difference between what a word CAN mean, and what it DOES mean in a specific context.

    You’re saying that it DOES mean “ethical” in this specific context, and as such it’s your burden to prove that it DOES. And you haven’t done that. It can mean other things.

    >There is no evidence that it only refers to something abominable in one limited context,

    Yes there is! Look at the link I posted. Almost all of the 115 references are to “ritual purity”. Only a handful refer to ethics that applies to Christians today. That’s why the first definition is “ritual purity” and only the second one has to do with ethics.

    and >there is evidence, as I showed, that it just means something abominable in general. You don’t >get to cherry pick your favourite usage and declare that it is the only usage.

    You haven’t shown any evidence that it’s an ethical claim.

    > You have ignored this. It’s also relevant that these sexual sense, in Leviticus 18, are said to >have been committed by the non-Israelite nations, and it was evil for them to do so. Notice >that these nations were not at all part of Israel’s cultic arrangement, and yet the text declares >that these actions were an abomination, even for them (Leviticus 18:27-28).

    Irrelevant. Foreign temples and sacrifices are also listed as “Toh’evah” as well as rituals of the Egyptians being “Toh’evah” to them. It states for instance that it is “Toh’evah” for Egyptians to eat certain kinds of bread. The fact that something is “Toh’evah” outside of the covenant doesn’t prove that it is wrong in a wider ethical sense.

    >I showed that the New Testament church treated these commands as applicable in their own >time. You have ignored this.

    I have not ignored this. These commands WERE applicable in the times of the New Testament because there were still temple prostitutes to Aphrodite and Venus and that’s what Paul was referencing in Romans 1. That because they gave up the idea of an incorruptible god for graven images of beasts and men (fixtures of roman temples) they were given to unnatural passions (in their temples). They are not, however applicable as blanket statements to all of homosexuality, just to homosexual temple prostitution.

    >I pointed out to you that you are just ignoring what conservatives have already said. I also >referred you to a scholarly resource so that you could familiarise yourself with this case that >you say you “don’t agree” with. You can choose not to make use of it if you wish, but you may >not pretend that it doesn’t exist.

    Conservatives can say whatever they want about Polygamy. The fact is that polygamy isn’t restricted WITHIN THE NEW TESTAMENT. There is nothing, NOTHING restricting the practice whatsoever, and historically new jewish converts to christianity had multiple wives, because polygamy was allowed in Judaism!

    I am well aware of conservatives desperately trying to make a case against polygamy, but the fact is that no such injunction exists in the NT. It’s an ethical difference between what The NT allowed and what conservative christian culture allows today. Remember, polygamy wasn’t outlawed by Christianity until decrees from Rome came down in the early middle ages.

    Polygamy was allowed in Roman law under Christian rule, and I’ve already proven that fact.

  • Glenn January 26, 2014, 3:34 pm

    “I disagree that it is my burden to prove the claim that “All homosexual acts are prohibited to Christians” “

    Why would you wish to prove that? You deny that. But the point is just that the claim here is this: Conservatives are inconsistent when it comes to the biblical texts about sex between men. If anyone wishes to advance that claim, they have work to do.

    “No, you have shown that it CAN apply to moral injunctions. It can also apply to ritual purity, and it more often applies to ritual purity.”

    Yes, this is all that I have claimed to show. You have misunderstood me, for I never claimed that it only applies to non-ritual contexts. I just showed that the word itself specifies neither. It just refers to anything abominable.

    Me: “There is no evidence that it only refers to something abominable in one limited context, ”
    You: “Yes there is! Look at the link I posted. Almost all of the 115 references are to “ritual purity”

    Christopher, you are not understanding this: There is no evidence that the term only refers to something abominable in one limited context. Your “yes there is” is simply incorrect. There are examples where the term has nothing to do with ritual purity, hence it is false that the word only applies in one limited context. This is full proof that the word has a more general application than to just ritual contexts.

    I know that you understand this principle about the burden of proof, because you have already appealed to it yourself. Remember what you said to Christopher W above:

    “Porneia” is an example of conservatives trying to smuggle doctrine into a general word. They say “Oh, “porneia”, that refers to every sexual practice that I personally think is wrong.” No it doesn’t. It’s a general word, and if you want to claim that it refers to homosexuality, masturbation or birth control, the onus is on YOU to prove that claim.

    Do you see how your argument went? You observe that a word has a general application (“a general word”), and you say, correctly, that if anybody wants to say that it has a more specific meaning in any given instance, then “the onus is on YOU to prove that claim.” But this is exactly what is happening here. To`evah is a general word to refer to anything abominable. Leviticus 18 says that if a man has sex with a man, that is an example of something to`evah. You want to introduce the possibility that this might really just be a more limited use of the word, referring specifically to a cultic / pagan context. Very well, then to use your own words, “the onus is on YOU to prove that claim.” Based on your own reasoning expressed here, you ought to realise this.

    “Irrelevant. Foreign temples and sacrifices are also listed as “Toh’evah” as well as rituals of the Egyptians being “Toh’evah” to them.”

    No, it is not irrelevant. For now we are dealing with acts that take place far outside of the Israelite ritual context, and yet Yahweh of the Israelites calls it to`evah. I also notice that you are trying hard to divert all the attention in the Old Testament to the passage in Leviticus 18, because you think that it refers to cultic prostitution (even though there is no indicator in Leviticus 18 that this is so). Don’t allow yourself to forget Genesis, in particular the story of Adam and Eve where the parameters of human sexuality are given their basic shape.

    “I have not ignored this. These commands WERE applicable in the times of the New Testament because there were still temple prostitutes to Aphrodite and Venus and that’s what Paul was referencing in Romans 1.”

    You are still ignoring it. I showed that the parallel was clear in the Jerusalem Council, which is not even mentioned in Romans 1. Moreover, I have shown that in Romans 1, idolatry was only one of the areas of sin that is listed, along with a whole host of other things that have nothing to do with idolatry. So this line of argument is a dead-end.

    “The fact is that polygamy isn’t restricted WITHIN THE NEW TESTAMENT.”

    This is simply untrue, like all of your significant claims. Jesus was fairly clear when offering a definition of marriage that it is the union of one man and one woman, who become one flesh. Similarly, St Paul held to a monogamous model of marriage. After all, the church is the bride of Christ, and he has only one (Ephesians 5:22–33). Paul claimed that anyone who wished to be an elder must be a man of good character, and one of the marks of good character is that he only had one wife. This appears three times in the NT (1 Timothy 3:2, 1 Timothy 3:12 and Titus 1:6). His description of marriage was explicitly monogamous (each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband, 1 Corinthians 7:2). Note too that the description there is explicitly heterosexual. So you are again mistaken: Monogamy is the New Testament pattern of marriage, as well as the Old Testament ideal. What’s more, you miss the point if you grant (as you must) that monogamy is the ideal in the Old Testament, but you say the New Testament doesn’t say anything about it. Why doesn’t it occur to you that the New Testament takes a biblical concept of marriage as given? Why must everything be repeated?

    Technical point, Christopher: You refer to Deuteronomy 23:17, which refers to male and female prostitutes, and yes, that passage uses the word qadash (from qadosh, “holy”). But notice that I haven’t appealed to this text, which does indeed refer to a cultic temple practice. What this shows is that when the biblical writers wanted to talk about this cultic temple practice, they were very clear about it: “There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel. Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow.” It’s all there, and quite clearly: Prostitution, in the temple, for the sake of a vow.

    So it is not relevant to point out that cultic prostitution is forbidden. Yes, it is forbidden. But what has that to do with the various prohibitions on sex between members of the same sex, where there is no reference to cultic prostitution at all? Leviticus 18, for example (or any of the passages that I refer to in this blog entry). In Leviticus 18, the prohibition is simply on men having sex with men, and no cultic context is implied. You can just declare that all such passages are really talking about religious prostitution even though the text offers no indication that this is the case, but then of course you would have a burden of proof – that thing you like to talk about, but do not really appear to be observing.

    Please read the blog policy, Christopher, and ensure that you avoid back-to-back posting.

  • Christopher Bowers January 26, 2014, 11:14 pm

    >Why would you wish to prove that? You deny that.

    I agree with you there. It is your claim to prove. YOU must prove that Leviticus 18 prohibits ALL sexual behavior.

    >But the point is just that the claim here is this: Conservatives are inconsistent when it comes >to the biblical texts about sex between men. If anyone wishes to advance that claim, they >have work to do.

    I agree with you there. I am maintaining that conservatives are inconsistent and that is MY claim to prove.

    >Yes, this is all that I have claimed to show. You have misunderstood me, for I never claimed >that it only applies to non-ritual contexts. I just showed that the word itself specifies neither. >It just refers to anything abominable.

    I am glad we agree on that point. So Leviticus 18 and the word “To’evah”could refer to an ethical practice or it could completely be inapplicable to Christians living today. This means that you have no proof that Leviticus 18 prohibits all sexual activity forever. IF you are claiming that Leviticus 18 prohibits all homosexual activity, you must prove that claim, since the word describing it is indeterminate (and could be either).

    >Your “yes there is” is simply incorrect. There are examples where the term has nothing to do >with ritual purity, hence it is false that the word only applies in one limited context.

    From a probability standpoint, I can say that the likelihood it refers to ritual is significantly greater. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I see 8 verses where “Toh’evah” has to do with ethics that would apply to a Christian today and 99 in which “Toh’evah” means ritual purity. That’s what I meant by evidence that it refers to ritual purity not ethical rightness.

    >You think that it refers to cultic prostitution (even though there is no indicator in Leviticus 18 >that this is so).

    There are several indicators that “Toh’evah” refers to cultic prostitution, and the “qedesh”, and that the sexual practices mentioned in Leviticus 18 were prohibited not necessarily because they were ethically wrong, but because they were sexual practices used by other cultures to worship false gods.

    Leviticus 18:3 actually starts out saying “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.”

    Let me start with this. Leviticus 18 starts with what is a condemnation of (some) forms of incest. Why? Because incest was a religious sexual practice in Canaan and was practiced by the religions of Canaan. This is a reference to the “Curse of Ham” where Noah cursed Ham because of his incestuous acts.

    You can read more on that here: http://kgov.com/why-was-canaan-cursed

    The exact PREVIOUS VERSE before mentioning homosexual activity details a sexual practice of Molech, ejaculating into a fire erected for Molech: And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.

    The NEXT verse, the VERY next verse details that lying with a man is a “Toh’evah”. So we have a sex worship practice followed by the statement in the very next verse about homosexual acts. This is extremely strong evidence that what is being described here are sex acts used to worship false gods.

    But did the priests of Molech engage in “qedesh?” Did they engage in religious prostitution? Yes. Yes they did. Leviticus 20 says just that.

    “Then I will set my face against that man, and against his family, and will cut him off, and all that go a whoring after him, to commit whoredom with Molech, from among their people.”

    Notice: “commit whoring with Molech” This means that you’re not just engaging in prostitution, you’re doing it to worship Molech! It doesn’t say “Commit whoring with the Canaanites! It says specifically that you’re having sex with Molech!

    Still don’t believe that “Toh’evah” here is referring to sacred sex practices and “qedesh” male homosexual temple prostitutes? Now it’s time for the knockout punch: 1 Kings 14:21. Oh yeah. You got it? Read it: “qedesh” and “toh’evah” in the EXACT SAME VERSE. This provides strong evidence that what is being described in Leviticus 18 is “qedesh”, because male prostitutes, are described precisely with that word: “toh’evah”.

    >You are still ignoring it. I showed that the parallel was clear in the Jerusalem Council, which is >not even mentioned in Romans 1. Moreover, I have shown that in Romans 1, idolatry was >only one of the areas of sin that is listed, along with a whole host of other things that have >nothing to do with idolatry.

    You’re wrong on this. I neglected to tell you about why the things listed in Romans 1 have to do with idolotry and what specific refrences are made to Roman temples. You also are missing the fact that Paul is drawing a causal link between idolotry and the sins listed in Romans 1.

    Let me explain further. I sort of assumed you knew this, but I’ll explain further, and verse by verse.

    20″For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

    What did Paul mean by this? Well, he was talking about Greek and Roman Philosophy. In Greek and Roman philosophy, certain philosophical schools had come to a conclusion, and that conclusion was basically a form of monotheism. The greeks discovered this through Socrates, Plato, and most prominently through Aristotle, who actually provided logical proofs for the existence of a Monotheistic God and was opposed to polytheism. This is why Paul says that the nature of God was revealed to them, but they ignored it.

    21″ For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.”

    What does “proclaimed to be wise, they became fools” mean? It means that Greeks and Romans debated philosophical topics and thought themselves wise. Where did they debate these topics? At the steps of Roman Temples. Now we have a geographic place that Paul is talking about. He’s talking about a Roman Temple.

    23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles

    What is Paul saying? Instead of worshipping a monotheistic God as revealed to Socrates or Plato or Aristotle, Romans decided to worship images of men. What men? Zeus, Jupiter, Hermes, etc. Where were these idols located? You guessed it, in Roman temples, they had idols that were sometimes hundreds of feet tall. These impressive idols were what Paul was worried about (this is an artist’s rendering) : http://ancientpeoples.tumblr

  • Christopher Bowers January 27, 2014, 12:14 am

    The reference paul makes to other idols of birds and beasts are mythological beasts of Roman mythology which were also pictured at Temples: the centaur, the cerberus, harpies and so forth. You can see a lot of that stuff in various images of their gods and often as attendants to the Gods (Birds for Zeus, who lives in the clouds, sea creatures for Poseidon, etc).

    Now look how paul addresses things in the very next verse:

    Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

    “Therefore” is a refrence to the CAUSAL EFFECT of being at the temple. Being at the temple CAUSES people to commit these sins.

    26 “Because of this,”

    Hold on, stop. Stop the verse right there. Because of what? Because of what Paul said previously. Because they are at temples, and because they are worshipping these false Gods, that’s why they are committing the following sins:

    “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.
    27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

    Where could Romans engage in homosexual sex? In the Temples, with sacred prostitutes, that’s where.

    28 Furthermore, just as they

    Wait, stop. Who is “they”? Is Paul talking about all Romans? No. He’s talking about Romans that worshipped at the Temple.

    did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

    Look at “gossip, slanderers, God Haters, insolent arrogant and boastful.” Where did Romans come to talk and gossip and slander? The Temple. Where did they go to hate God? The Temple. Where did they act “arrogant and boastful”? This is again a refrence to Greek argumentation and socratic dialaogue which was practiced on the steps of Roman temples, mentioned earlier, “professing to be wise they became fools”

    On to polygamy.

    >After all, the church is the bride of Christ, and he has only one (Ephesians 5:22–33).

    Complete and utter tripe. This is nothing but symbolic language and doesn’t signify a proscription of any kind. I might as well say it is unlawful for Christians to eat figs because Jesus cursed them in Matt 21. The fig is symbolic and is a refrence to the people of Israel not bearing fruit. The bride of Christ is symbolic language. You’re looking at tea leaves here.

    >Paul claimed that anyone who wished to be an elder must be a man of good character, and one >of the marks of good character is that he only had one wife.

    Complete and utter falsehood. Paul did NOT say that the mark of good character is having only one wife. You are making that up.
    3 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer[a] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,[b] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

    Note the list here. These are not virtues, these are job qualifications for being a leader in the church. “Able to teach” and “Well thought of by outsiders” are not virtues. They’re just job qualifications. The reason they must be able to teach is because they are leading others. The reason that they must have only one wife is that they need the time to devote to being a leader.

    The reason that Paul says this is because some early Christians DID have multiple wives. If Paul was really against polygamy, why did he say that NO ONE could have multiple wives? If it’s a terrible sin, why is he only saying not to do it as a job qualification? Because Paul was fine with people having multiple wives! He knew they had them and if he didn’t want Christians in general to have wives, he would have said so!

    >His description of marriage was explicitly monogamous (each man should have his own wife, >and each woman her own husband, 1 Corinthians 7:2)

    A complete misrepresentation. What Paul is talking about in 1 Cor 7 appears to be the fear of Corinthian sex orgies. Hes worried about men and women in large hippie groups being tempted by fornication. He’s not talking about his definition of marriage.
    1Cr 7:1
    Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
    1Cr 7:2
    Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

    He is not saying “every man should have only one wife”. He’s saying every man should have HIS OWN wife, as opposed to having sex with random people in their little commune.

    The fact that singular tense is used rather than plural is the weakest argument I’ve ever heard.

    If I say “you may carry a cross” does it follow from that statement that “You may carry only one cross!” NO of course not. An injunction that you can do a thing in a singular tense doesn’t in ANY way imply that you can’t do it in a plural fashion!
    >Jesus was fairly clear when offering a definition of marriage that it is the union of one man and >one woman, who become one flesh.

    I urge you, this once, to abandon your claim that Monogamy is the “Old Testament ideal” and that Jesus lays out the definition of marriage as monogamy by referring to Genesis. Just back away from this claim, and step away from it carefully. It is a rhetorical ticking bomb that is going to blow up completely. I believe that such a claim is anti-Semetic, and I am trying to keep this discussion civil. I have several Jewish friends who would be extremely offended that you think you are an authority on what Jews…

  • Glenn January 27, 2014, 1:05 am

    Christopher, for the second time – please don’t make those long back-to-back comments.

    “I am glad we agree on that point. So Leviticus 18 and the word “To’evah”could refer to an ethical practice or it could completely be inapplicable to Christians living today.”

    The point we agree on – if we agree at all – is just that to`evah simply means something abominable, and the word itself doesn’t tell us why it is abominable. There isn’t a special “kind” of abominable at play here. This is what I tried to tell you earlier: You are muddling up definition and application.

    You are very freely dragging concepts from one context and just slapping them down in another, without any good, well-explained rationale. Take your section on Lev. 18. You assert without any good argument that the ordinances (practices) that the writer speaks of are strictly cultic ones, and so all the prohibitions there are of actions that are only wrong in a cultic context. You even drag in the word qedesh, which is not even mentioned in Leviticus 18 (even though it could easily have been, if the author had intended to refer to cultic prostitution). It is very hard to respond to such a stream-of-consciousness style of argument because it’s just assertion. There is nothing to rebut. Evidence is what is required.

    You point out that a couple of chapters later God condemns the worship of Molech – and worshipping other gods is often called “whoredom” or unfaithfulness. But that’s no warrant to reach back into Leviticus 18 and declare that all of those sexual offences were only forbidden when incorporated with idol worship. This is simply invalid reasoning: God condemned these offences, then later he condemned idolatry too, so that proves that all of those previous offences are offences committed in the context of idolatry? The conclusion simply does not follow. So you are still at square 1.

    “The exact PREVIOUS VERSE before mentioning homosexual activity details a sexual practice of Molech, ejaculating into a fire erected for Molech: And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.”

    Christopher, “seed” here is offspring. Not sperm. And yes, idol worship is forbidden here – But it is not the first item on the list, it is just one of many things condemned, which are, in order: 1) Various forms of incest are forbidden, 2) Sacrificing children to Molech is forbidden, 3) Same-sex acts are forbidden, 4) Having sex with animals is forbidden. It is not legitimate to claim that in reality, all of these sins are listed just because they are committed in the context of worshipping Molech. We could just as easily claim that these sins are only condemned if they occur within the context of having sex with animals. After all, bestiality is on the list! The argument is formally invalid and hence I reject it.

    “Now it’s time for the knockout punch: 1 Kings 14:21. Oh yeah. You got it? Read it: “qedesh” and “toh’evah” in the EXACT SAME VERSE.”

    “Knockout punch”? Really? Christopher, your arrogance is foolish, and you are just not listening. Tone down and try to hear this. Of course cultic prostitution (qedesh) is an abomination (to`evah). Why would it not be? But the fact that cultic prostitution is an abomination does not mean that therefore if an act is called an “abomination,” that means it is only condemned because it is cultic prostitution. This is an invalid argument.

    And again you have chosen to ignore the fact that the Jerusalem council repeated the commands of Lev. 18. After I drew your attention back to that section at least twice, you are totally silent on it. You also, I note, have simply brushed off the scholarly discussion about polygamy. You don’t want to read it. Does that mean you just don’t want to know? I’m not interested in flame wars about anti-semitism. Either you are interested in intellectual integrity and are willing to use the resources I have suggested, or you’re not. But if you’re not interested, then you lose the right to just deny that monogamy is the biblical ideal.

    “You also are missing the fact that Paul is drawing a causal link between idolotry and the sins listed in Romans 1.” No, this is false, I am missing no such thing. Even if Paul is saying that people turned to idols and therefore God gave them over to sin in all these ways, that does not invalidate the fact that these things are all sins in their own right, and are symptoms of the wickedness of the people who turned to idols.

    “I sort of assumed you knew this” – Careful, Christopher. Your inability to make your case is obviously irritating you, but be careful. You’re a student, not a teacher, and you’re a guest here.

    You waste many, many words in your commentary on Romans 1. Proclaiming themselves to be wise does not amount to temple worship. But even if it did, you are partisan in the way that you try to divide up some sins as specifically cultic, ignoring others. And it’s clear why you do this. Again, here is the list of sins in this paragraph (I notice that you didn’t mention some of them):

    vv 26-27: Women have sex with women and men with men
    v 29: unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness, gossips. Really? So these are acts associated with pagan temple worship?
    v. 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents… Oh? So these things are fine, as long as it’s not part of pagan worship?
    v. 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless….. see above. Same comment applies here.

    So it’s clear that the sins listed here are not just sinful because they are practiced by idolaters. In context the point is that because people chose idols rather than God, God gave them over to do all these wicked things – things that would be wicked regardless of whether or not they were part of idolatrous worship.

    The rest of your vehement contradictions of my evidence-based claims can be dismissed fairly quickly. You call it “tripe” that Paul upheld monogamy as seen in his illustration of Christ and the Church. You say it’s a symbol. Well of course it’s a symbol, but that’s not the point. The point is that it’s an ideal marriage. You deny that the qualifications of an elder are marks of good character, but this is evidently not the case, since things like being “above reproach” and being self-controlled, sober etc are quite plainly marks of good character. You can say “These are not virtues” all you like, but this is strained in the utmost. They evidently are virtues.

    ‘He is not saying “every man should have only one wife”’ – You forget, Christopher, that Paul stated it both ways. A man should have his own wife (a woman that is uniquely his), AND a woman should have her own husband (a man who is uniquely hers). Your man-centred re-description misses this. Once you include the same exclusivity for the woman, you have a monogamous union. It is also a heterosexual union.

    Two final comments, Christopher. I have managed to sum up and provide adequate rebuttal to your principle claims in one comment. Do likewise (actually it’s the blog policy that you agreed to). Back-to back comments in future will be deleted – fair warning. As it is, you posted three comments. I deleted the third, which was just you claiming to get angry with me for being anti-Jewish. Save that for whatever message board you’re accustomed to. The remark was especially unwarranted given the Jewish stance against polygamy. “As far as Jewish thought is concerned, it would seem that polygamy is not, and never was, an ideal state.”

    Secondly, you will reform your comments and attitude here. “Now it’s time for the knockout punch.” “Complete and utter tripe.” “the weakest argument I’ve ever heard.” Topped off with “I am trying to keep things civil here,” which is false. I have treated you with respect in spite of my thinking that you are intentionally a bit of an upstart with more to say than is justified by your knowledge. I’m entertaining arguments here in spite of my thinking that they don’t deserve it. Don’t abuse that.

  • Christopher Bowers January 27, 2014, 2:24 am

    Let me stop here for a second and try to speak plainly. If I condemn your ARGUMENT as utter tripe, that is not insulting you. If your would prefer that I not condemn your arguments with such rude words, I will try to find more polite words.

    > You assert… without any good argument that the ordinances
    >(practices) that the writer speaks of are strictly cultic ones,

    You misunderstand me. I am simply establishing a possible connection between cultic practices and the sins listed in Lev 18. This does not mean the practices in Lev 18 can’t also be wrong for other reasons. I have provided ample evidence that they could very well refer to sex worship. I am not aiming to provide proof, because I’m not the claimant. You are. Since you freely admit Lev 18 could or could not refer to a universal ethical claim, it is you that must provide proof of that ethical claim.

    >But that’s no warrant to reach back into Leviticus 18 and declare that all of those sexual >offences were only forbidden when incorporated with idol worship.

    COULD BE. That is all I’m saying. I’m saying it’s a possibility and that there’s evidence of that possibility. I’m not saying that they prove it. I don’t have to. You have to. There are connections between words for prostitution, male sacred prostitute, Molech, and so forth surrounding the passages about incest and homosexuality. That is strong evidence (not proof) that the reason these things are being discussed is because of cultic sex practices.

    > But the fact that cultic prostitution is an abomination does not mean that therefore if an act is >called an “abomination,” that means it is only condemned because it is cultic prostitution. This >is an invalid argument.

    I never said that it was definitive or proof. I am simply saying that since both words appear in the same verse it COULD be that is what is going on in Lev 18. It is just a correlative point of evidence, I was not making a logical deduction.

    >Even if Paul is saying that people turned to idols and therefore God gave them over to sin in >all these ways,

    AT the Roman temples, where these idols were located, where they discussed philosophy and where they engaged in homosexual acts worshipping another God.

    >that does not invalidate the fact that these things are all sins in their own right, >and are >symptoms of the wickedness of the people who turned to idols.

    Sure they are. Absolutely. But the point is that Paul is not referring to all homosexual acts. He’s referring to homosexual acts performed in Roman temples to worship false gods. Not homosexuality between two loving partners as it’s practiced today.

    >Really? So these are acts associated with pagan temple worship?

    Absolutley. Remember that Temples were places where men debated philosophy and theology and where women gossiped.

    >Oh? So these things are fine, as long as it’s not part of pagan worship?

    Some are wrong because they are done worshipping a false God, some are wrong because they are ethically wrong. And there is also an overlapping category of things that are ethically wrong and are ritually wrong. For instance, prostitution is ethically wrong. Worshipping a false god is ethically wrong. Worshipping a false god with sexual prostitution is wrong for two reasons.
    But homosexual activity without prostitution and without worshipping a false god isn’t wrong.

    >Well of course it’s a symbol, but that’s not the point. The point is that it’s an ideal marriage.

    That is not what it’s a symbol of. It’s not a symbol of monogamy. It’s a symbol of intimacy and love between Jesus and the Church. You’re importing things to the symbol that aren’t in the text. You can’t just point to symbols and claim that they are prohibitions.

    I will give you an example of why trying to get real rules out of symbolic actions is foolish. Okay, Jesus cursed figs. Therefore If you eat figs, you’re a sinner. Prove me wrong.

    >The remark was especially unwarranted given the Jewish stance against polygamy.

    There is no Jewish stance against polygamy. Polygamy is still legal in Judaism for Sephardic and Yemenic Jews. The only ban on it is for Ashkenazi Jews. So saying that Judaism has a stance against Polygamy is false. All that this author said is that “it would SEEM that polygamy is not an ideal state.” This is simply the statement of an American, steeped in american culture, a person of modernity trying to figure out the prevalence of Polygamy in Judaism and offering their opinion.

    Now, I don’t know why you are using this “ideal state” stuff. Catholics consider plural marriage a sin, both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox. Every denomination here in the states considers polygamy a sin: Lutherans, Calvinists, Methodists, Baptists. The only holdout is the fundamentalist mormon church, and a few churches in Africa.

    “Ideal” or “not ideal” has no relevance to Christians the world over. It only matters if something is a sin or not. Are you from some sort of rare sect that considers polygamy “not sinful” but also “not ideal”? Because I’ve never heard of such a view, and it is not representative of conservative christianity in general. Conservative Christianity the world over considers it sinful, period. Do you consider Polygamy sinful, or not?

    Using singular terms instead of plural ones is not a prohibition on polygamy. Singular mentions of things permitted is not a ban on the plural use of things. Vague allusions to symbolic imagery is not a prohibition against something. And Paul saying that Bishops of the church should only have one wife is NOT a blanket prohibition against all christians to not engage in polygamy. It’s only a prohibition on BISHOPS not to engage in polygamy. If it were ethically wrong, Paul would have prevented it for everyone.

    >You can say “These are not virtues” all you like, but this is strained in the utmost. They >evidently are virtues.

    SOME are virtues, some are not. Ability to teach is not a virtue. Having status in the outside world is not a virtue. There is no causal link between having one wife and that being a virtue. There are other reasons the office of Bishop requires only one wife: because you won’t have time to be the elder with several wives and dozens of children!

    I can’t tell if you are disrespecting the Jewish tradition and history of Polygamy or not. First you must answer me this: Do you believe, along with 99.9% of conservative Christians, that polygamy is a sin? Or are you striking out on your own here, and saying “It’s not ideal, but it’s not a sin”.

    To sum up my point, you have to PROVE that homosexuality is wrong in all cases. Since Romans 1 could have been talking about temple prostitution, (not homosexuality in general), you haven’t proven your case. Since Lev 18 could have been ritual objection and not an ethical one, you haven’t proven your case. Thus your claim that modern homosexuality is wrong…

  • Glenn January 27, 2014, 11:16 am

    “I have provided ample evidence that they could very well refer to sex worship. I am not aiming to provide proof, because I’m not the claimant.”

    This is not correct. In this instance, you are the claimant. On the face of it, what is prohibited is various types of incest, child sacrifice, sex between men and bestiality. You are adding the claim that these injunctions were given in a limited, ritual context. Yours is the job of demonstrating this, and for the reasons I have outlined, you haven’t done so.

    “COULD BE. That is all I’m saying.”

    No, there’s no “could be” here. Either you’ve got some evidence that the restrictions of Lev. 18 are given for a ritual context or you don’t. Your appeal to later commands in Lev. 20 that relate to worship do not establish this claim.

    “I never said that it was definitive or proof.”

    It’s nice to see you backing down a little, but if you recall, you called it a “knockout punch.” But the fact that in a different passage, cultic prostitution is condemned as an abomination, does not add even a little bit of support to your claim that Leviticus 18 condemns sex acts just because they are ritually unclean. There’s no evidential support there from the reference to qedesh in another passage – not even a small amount.

    “Sure they are. Absolutely. But the point is that Paul is not referring to all homosexual acts. He’s referring to homosexual acts performed in Roman temples to worship false gods.”

    As I pointed out, these are symptoms of the wickedness of the people, and as I showed you, this is not a list of cultic deeds. Gossips? Disobedient to their parents, malicious etc? Christopher, you must surely have felt the strain of making the claim that “Remember that Temples were places where men debated philosophy and theology and where women gossiped.” Now is the time to simply concede that this is a list of things that are wrong in general, cultic context or not.

    “I will give you an example of why trying to get real rules out of symbolic actions is foolish. Okay, Jesus cursed figs. Therefore If you eat figs, you’re a sinner. Prove me wrong.”

    Easily. Jesus doesn’t say anything about fig trees. He simply curses an individual fig tree. But Paul compared the union of Christ and the Church to marriage. That comparison only succeeds if Paul is thinking in terms of monogamy. Who are Christ’s other brides?

    And recall Paul’s comments about marriage: Every man should have a wife, and every woman a husband. Think about that for a moment: It goes both ways. If every man has a woman that is uniquely his, and every woman has a man who is uniquely hers, then is that compatible with polygamy? Clearly not.

    “There is no Jewish stance against polygamy.”

    This is untrue. You may well be able to find some Jews who accept polygamy as legal, but that doesn’t mean that there is no Jewish stance against polygamy. I was able to very quickly find you a respectable Jewish source pointing out that they did not regard polygamy as ideal. In the same way that you have chosen to simply not read Christian literature in biblical studies on polygamy, I don’t think you have invested time studying Jewish views either. Here is a longer article, in the Jewish Encyclopedia: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12260-polygamy . Read it. You will see the same attitude that I have described: Monogamy is regarded as the ideal, polygamy as less than ideal, but permitted. So contrary to your claim, there is evidence that polygamy was regarded as “lesser” (your term) than monogamy.

    “First you must answer me this: Do you believe, along with 99.9% of conservative Christians, that polygamy is a sin? Or are you striking out on your own here, and saying “It’s not ideal, but it’s not a sin”. ”

    Christopher, if you had taken the time to familiarise yourself with what Christians have actually said about polygamy in Scripture, you would never have said this. This is why it is such a glaring omission in your argument that you have simply refused to even look at the literature that I have referred you to. I am not striking out on my own in the least. In the Old Testament Scripture, monogamy is regarded as the norm, the ideal, and polygamy falls short of this. This IS the view of Christian Old Testament scholars in general – and the reason you don’t know this is that you are making the choice not to read them, isn’t that right?

    Christopher, I’m not going to continue this much longer, but let me give you one piece of advice: Read the scholars with whom you disagree. This is the bare minimum requirement for criticising somebody’s position.

  • Christopher Bowers January 28, 2014, 3:55 am

    Glenn I’m going to let these be my final posts and let it rest. I am going to make two posts here, first addressing your command that I have to prove that Conservative Christianity is inconsistent on sexuality and the Bible. The second is to show that you haven’t met your burden of proof in claiming that homosexuality in all of it’s forms is prohibited today based on the passages from the Bible you’ve cited. First I will demonstrate that I’ve met my burden of proof. After that I will let Glenn have the last word on that topic. Then I will post about Glenn meeting his burden for proving that the Bible bans all forms of homosexuality. Then I will let Glenn respond to that. After that I will consider the debate concluded and the viewers watching this debate can decide who won.

    First I am going to start with my claim which is my burden to prove That conservatives are inconsistent and cherry picking when it comes to sexual practices. I only need to show that conservatives are inconsistent on ONE sexual practice to prove that they are cherry picking which sexual practices to follow from the Bible. I can demonstrate that on several fronts. The Old Testament and New Testament permitted the practice of cutting off a child’s genitals and making a Eunuch. Isaiah allowed it (56:4), and Jesus allowed it (Matt 19:12). Making Eunuchs is seen in Conservative Christianity today as barbaric. I can find no Christian Church on earth that permits the practice. Child marriage (at the age of 12 (Mishnah Ethics of the fathers, 5:21) was permitted in Judaism, and this wasn’t revoked in the New Testament, yet Conservatives do not approve of teen sex or teen pregnancy and certainly not pre-teen marriage.

    Divorce and Celibacy is an issue which Christian simply cannot be consistent with the Bible on (in both testaments since they disagree). The New Testament celebrates Celibacy as a preferred state (1 Cor 7:7). The Old Testament commands that men marry and produce children (Gen 1:28). Judaism then and now considered celibacy a sin. Jesus permitted it (Matt 19). While Christians could be said to be consistent at least with the New Testament teaching on celibacy in some ways, in other ways they aren’t. Married couples who produce children are held in a preferred state over older adults who decide not to marry in conservative Christianity. Paul taught that perpetual celibacy should be preferred over marriage (1 Cor 7:7), and that they should only marry if they couldn’t control their passions. Modern conservative Christianity has celibacy just as a lesser state leading up to, or between marriages and marriages are held in a higher regard than perpetual celibacy. I would say that though Christians cannot be consistent with OT rulings on Divorce, they are pretty consistent on NT passages dealing with divorce. The exception (as John points out in the video) is that several prominent figures in Conservative Christianity serially divorce their wives and remarry often. Jesus banned the practice of serial divorce in Matt 5:32. However, since we are arguing how conservative Christianity is inconsistent IN GENERAL, rather than in particular, we can say that it is at least consistent in general with the NT teaching on the subject.

    The last issue in which Christianity is inconsistent is Polygamy. Polygamy was permitted by God, condoned by God (2 Samuel 12) and mandated by God (Genesis 38) in the form of Levirate marriage. The Judaic culture was one of consistent polygamy, the Jewish patriarchs were polygamous (Jacob, Abraham) and so were its kings (David and Solomon). In the New Testament there is no blanket ban of Polygamy (only a restriction for elders in leadership).

    Yet, in spite of this 99% of Conservative Christians consider polygamy a sin. You can easily see this by looking at the statistics of Christian membership in various sects of Christianity: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations_by_number_of_members
    The largest denominations of Christianity: Catholicism, Baptist, Lutherism, Methodism, and so forth all consider polygamy a sin. Even churches not associated with a denomination ALSO consider polygamy a sin. When you go down the line and get to conservative Christians who do NOT believe that polygamy is a sin, you are talking about less than 1% of Conservative Christians worldwide.

    My burden of proof is not to show that Glenn is being inconsistent, because in this case he’s not being so (as he says polygamy is not a sin and is permitted), my burden of proof is to show that Conservative Christianity is being inconsistent, and I have done that. I applaud my opponent for breaking from the Conservative ranks and admitting that polygamy is not a sin in either testament.

    Glenn does say that “polygamy is not as ideal a state as monogamy”. I disagree with him there as I don’t think he’s met his burden of proof on that assertion (referring to husband and wife in singular tense and hypothesizing on the meaning of symbolic imagery is not enough evidence for me to declare it proven), but be that as it may, I do not think Glenn on the whole is being inconsistent here. By agreeing with me that polygamy is not a sin, Glenn is agreeing that Conservative Christianity is not being consistent with the Bible, which is exactly what I set out to prove. I can think of no higher burden I could meet than to have my opponent agree that in the Bible polygamy is not a sin, and that 99% of Christians do believe it is a sin. That is an inconsistency that my opponent admits to on one side (he agrees with my interpretation of the Bible that it’s not a sin), and that can be numerically proven on the other (99% of christians, likely more believe polygamy IS a sin). I can think of no other more complete way to meet my burden of proof.

  • Glenn January 28, 2014, 3:07 pm

    I’m more than happy to leave it there and have people consider the evidence presented.

    If you do decide one day to read the source I suggested regarding polygamy, I’ll be interested to see if any of your views change after you’ve started looking at the evidence, Christopher, and I’ll just leave the same advice again: Actually take the time to read what Christian biblical scholars have said before evaluating it. Who knows, when you’ve done that, you might change your tune.

  • Mark January 30, 2014, 3:39 pm

    The way I read this exchange it’s pretty clear what happened.

    Christopher made the assertion that conservative Christians think that polygamy is evil full stop, so they are inconsistent by wanting to follow the biblical rules on heterosexuality but not on polygamy.
    Glenn countered by noting that Christopher had not examined the evidence: Christian biblical scholars have already done work on this, using evidence to show that even in the Old Testament, marriage was meant to be monogamous, but God tolerated polygamy as less than ideal. At no point did Christopher ever indicate that he was prepared to examine that evidence for himself. Glenn also, I think, showed that the New Testament always frames marriage in monogamous terms.

    Regarding sex between two men, Christopher spent all his time trying to shift the burden of proof. Glenn noted that in Genesis God is seen to make man and woman for each other. He noted that the law forbade sex acts between two men, and this is presented again in the NT, where marriage is treated as a male/female union, and the prohibitions on sex between members of the same sex reappear. This is the way the biblical record reads, on the face of it.

    Christopher makes the positive assertion that all of these prohibitions only apply in a pagan ritual context. This is a positive claim. It is not up to Glenn or anyone else to *disprove* this assertion. It is up to Christopher to prove it. The text does not state that this is the case, so the case needs to be made. Christopher says that cultic prostitution existed. Yes, clearly it did. And it is prohibited in Leviticus (this is where qadash is mentioned). But Glenn was never, ever talking about that passage. He was talking about an example (Leviticus 18) that says nothing about cultic prostitution. Again, Glenn never had a burden to prove the negative: That this passage is not about cultic prostitution. There is no reason to think that it is, unless the case is made. So this was absolutely Christopher’s burden, of proof. The same is true of Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6. They do not specify that the drunkenness, violence, disobedience, etc, and same sex acts are only condemned here because they are practiced in a ritual context. Glenn tore that to pieces: Gossip? Really? Christopher’s reply was hilarious: Well you see, women gossipped in pagan temples…. ridiculous!

    So the burden of showing that these passages apply strictly to sexual behaviour as part of pagan temple worship was 100% Christiphers. Glenn was not required to first make a negative case against that assertion. And Christopher never, ever made that case. Sorry, saying “Well… that pagan sexual practice did exist in some settings..” is not a serious argument. Christopher: 1/10.

  • Christopher Bowers January 30, 2014, 4:40 pm

    Mark I would love to respond to your comments, particularly about the burden of proof and Genesis, but I have agreed with Glenn that this is my final statement on the subject on this blog. If you could suggest an alternate venue, or wish to post on my facebook wall, I would be happy to address your comments.

  • David January 30, 2014, 7:14 pm

    I think Mark’s analysis is basically right, but I think he was perhaps a bit restrained. I’ll be restrained too, but I want to push a bit harder.

    Glenn’s very first explanation of the biblical view on sexuality was from Genesis – the creation of Adam and Eve. I’d like to offer my Jewish perspective here and agree with this method of argument. From an Orthodox Jewish perspective, yes part of the Torah speaks directly against sex between men (for some reason our friend Christopher doesn’t want to know about the Jewish perspective on that, in spite of bring up Jewish views elsewhere – but PS, we don’t endorse polygamy). But the main biblical way of looking at sex between members of the same sex is not to look at what the Torah forbids, but rather at what it establishes. This is the way that Glenn started out. I don’t treat the creation story as literal history (most Jews do not), but it does set the ground rules and principles: There is one creator, human beings are mortal, we do not worship the planets but we worship their maker etc, and when it comes to human beings: Woman is for man and vice versa: One woman, one man (so this speaks to the issue of monogamy as well). That is the way God describes our proper relationship in the world God made.

    Christopher tries to dismiss all of this as culture – the story is embedded in culture. Well sure it is, and so the cosmology is described in terms that don’t reflect modern scientific understanding, for example. But in the case of the roles of men and women, that isn’t simply the cultural background. That’s the *message* of the story of God creating woman for man. It is not good for man to be alone, so God created woman, and for this reason a man and a woman shall become one flesh. That’s not the background, that is what God conveys. Christopher never seriously addresses this.

    I think Glenn does a fair job of reducing Christopher’s argument to absurdity in Romans, and I am not well schooled on the New Testament (it appears that Christopher is even less so). I do notice that Glenn is correct about 1 Corinthians 6:9 – the word arsenokoites literally means a man who has coitis (sex) with a man, and the term is derived from the Greek version of Leviticus 18.

    Now, Leviticus 18. Christopher invested all of his effort brushing away his obligation to make his case, and also attacking a straw man, it seemed to me. It as a straw man because Christopher kept appealing to other passages that note the existence of cult prostitutes. He really, really wanted to drive that home. He repeated qedesh numerous times as though it made his point. But who was he arguing against? Orthodox Jews (and Christians) do not deny that cult prostitutes existed. But – and I recall Glenn making this point – the fact that they are so clearly identified as cult prostitutes when they are referred to in the Torah means that Leviticus 18 could very easily have specified that it was intended to condemn *only* cult prostitutes, and not a man who has sex with a man – which is what it actually refers to. But Leviticus 18 never specifies this, and leaves the command open ended, condemning all sex between two men. So Christopher was making a case that didn’t need to be made: Cult prostitutes existed!

    But the one case that he had to make, the one clear burden of proof that Christopher had, was this: Just show that in Leviticus 18, the law was not referring simply to a man who has sex with a man, but actually, and specifically, to cult prostitutes. Leviticus 18 nowhere indicates that this is so, and so Christopher was required to bear this burden of proof fully and come up with the evidence. He never did. Not once!

    The prohibition in Leviticus 18 on sex between men is never, in the Law (Torah), Prophets (Nevi’im) or Writings (Ketuvim) said to be forbidden only because of a pagan ritual connection. This claim is also not supported in the Mishna or any accepted rabbinical writing that I know of. So it is an absolutely huge burden of proof that Christopher must bear, and he has not even started to lift it. It was offensive to me that Christopher would try to use the tactic of calling Glenn an anti-semite for making his argument that Judaism practiced a less than ideal form of marriage in the Hebrew Bible. The fact is – as Glenn said – nearly all Jews in the Scripture were monogamous. That was the norm because it was God-ordained. And *Christopher* was condemning a Jewish understanding of sexuality, and he apparently thinks that the keepers of the Torah, we Jews, have no idea what it means! That was an ignorant, shameful tactic.

    I invite Christopher and everybody to explore what the Rabbis have to say about this. Rabbi Nachum Amsel offers a good, simple introduction: http://www.lookstein.org/resources/homosexuality_amsel.pdf

    And remember – Jews do not (or should not) condemn or judge people because of their love or feelings. We cannot help those. But the commandments (mitzvoth) speak to people’s *actions*.

    Shalom
    David

  • Michael January 30, 2014, 11:14 pm

    David (above), mentioned this discussion to me today, but I’m not Jewish. I’m something of a liberal Christian.

    This argument about these lists of sins being condemned only in the context of pagan worship is not taken seriously anymore – at least not in the relatively liberal community of Christian scholars that I associate with. Paul, for example, in Romans 1 was treating treating sex between members of the sex as being as perverse and wicked as gossip, slander, rebellion against parents and so on (and idolatry too). It would be patently silly to go and hunt for a peculiarly pagan practice of disobeying one’s parents or slandering people or being malicious or gossip (honestly, Christopher’s use of that example just beggars belief). Paul thought that all of these things, including idolatry on the list of sins, were proof that these people were depraved, and God was giving them over to live in the wicked way that they wanted to. And there’s no pagan context to which to appeal in 1 Corinthians 6:9, where Paul also condemns a number of sins including men having sex with men, as things unworthy of God’s Kingdom. The best thing to do is simply admit this.

    I know that a few people (but not at all the majority) like to say they are just taking things “in context” in Leviticus when they say that the prohibitions in chapter 18 are really prohibitions about those actions when performed in a pagan religious setting – but the context indicates nothing of the kind. Other contexts refer to cultic practices and openly so, but to try to read chapter 18 that way is to read other contexts into this one.

    And sure, the men of Sodom appeared to want to have sex with the men whether they wanted it or not, so it was potentially rape. But it wasn’t just rape. Jude in the New Testament says that they were especially wicked because they went after “strange flesh,” a misleading translation, because heteros just means other – generally the other of two. So instead of going after women, they went after men.

    Now why would a liberal Christian accept all this? Well firstly, it’s the truth. This is what the Bible says (as well as in Genesis in the creation story, as David said). It is positively undignified to wriggle around and try to drag in the most tenuous, weak, unconvincing arguments to overturn what it’s perfectly clear that these passages of the Bible are saying. To be rather direct about it, grow a pair and admit the truth, like it or not. If we don’t like it when fundamentalists bend over backwards to twist and reinterpret the bible, then we can’t do it either.

    And secondly, I’m a liberal. I don’t feel obliged to obey everything in the Bible. It’s not perfect, and some of its teaching is wrong. If it teaches that people I love are living in sin, but I think they are living in ways that enables them to feel fulfilled, then I note what the Bible says, and I don’t follow that part. The human writer was wrong. It’s not hard.

    Glenn is right about what the Bible teaches. I just think he’s wrong to believe it, but that is another story. 🙂

    PS – I also got the feeling that Christopher was making arguments that Glenn had already responded to. I noticed that Glenn noted that foreign slaves could be kept for life, but that this was a law that assumed the covenant uniqueness of Israel over the other nations, a distinction that no longer applies. And then later Christopher accuses Glenn of glossing over slavery, because really foreign slaves could be kept for life! Well yes, but Glenn already covered that off.

  • David January 31, 2014, 10:11 am

    Christopher’s latest comment is a mishandling of a Jewish text. He is looking very hard for something, so he misses what is really there. Christopher has seen that idolatry is mentioned, and so he has jumped to limit the meaning of the evil deeds listed so that they are *only* evil because they are performed by idolaters.

    But the point of the passage that he quotes from Wisdom is that idolatry is so terrible that once a person engages in idolatry, it will lead to all kinds of other wicked deeds. Idolatry infects a person and corrupts their life, resulting in many different sins. The point is *not* that all those wicked deeds are condemned just because they happen in the context of idolatry (this reminds me of his bizarre argument about Romans 1, where he says that gossip is condemned just because women gossip in pagan temples!).

    Just think about what Christopher has claimed: This passage claims that idolatry leads to unnatural lust (which he views as same-sex sexual acts), and idolatry is the cause of all kinds of sin – therefore *all* same-sex sexual acts are idolatrous ones! Logic extraordinaire! But look, this passage also says that idolatry leads to murder, and idolatry is the cause of all kinds of sin. So let us conclude that *all* murder is idolatrous murder. Whenever Scripture condemns murder, it is only condemning idolatrous pagan murder, because look, it says in Wisdom that idolatry is the cause of all kinds of sin!

    No, this is just a person with an agenda trying too hard. Idolatry does lead to all kinds of sins, yes. But they would be sins regardless whether or not idolatry led to them. The fact that idolatry leads to these sins is a symptom of how bad idolatry is. In fact, if they were not *already* sins, then the fact that idolatry leads to them would not be an indictment on idolatry at all, and this passage in Wisdom would make no sense.

    It looks to me (as an outsider, admittedly) as though Christopher mishandles the Christian Scripture. But I can say with absolutely certainty that he is twisting and misunderstanding the Jewish Scripture (although Wisdom is not “canon,” we still treat it as instructional).

    Shalom
    David

  • Christopher Bowers January 31, 2014, 12:09 pm

    I don’t want to go over the same ground again here, David but let me explain.

    This ties in with what I called “compound sins” earlier. Gossip is wrong when it’s in the context of idolotry. It’s wrong for two reasons: 1. It’s wrong to do something in the service of an idol. 2. Ethically it’s wrong.

    The book of Wisdom mentions making a portrait of you dead son. Is that a sin by itself? No. But it is when it’s in the context of idolatry and you start to think you can bring your son back from the dead. It also mentions making a plaquard of your Ruler? Is that wrong by itself? No, but it is wrong when you start thinking the ruler is a god. It also mentions prophecy. Is prophecy wrong? Not when it’s of God, but it is when it is coming from idols.

    Some of the sins listed in Wisdom are wrong because they are ethically wrong AND idolatrous. Others are wrong ONLY because they’re idolatrous.

    In order to make your case about homosexuality you have to prove that it is wrong for both reasons and not just one.

    Look at what the writer of Wisdom says about perversion, here “porneia”

    14:12 12 Sexual immorality began when idols were invented. They have corrupted human life ever since they were first made.

    In other words, the writer of Wisdom thinks that sexual perversion and homosexual acts happen ONLY in the context of idols. Before idols, he claims, those things didn’t exist!

    If you want to claim that homosexual acts happened outside of idolatry, and the scripture is condemning homosexual acts outside of idolatry, you can make that claim, but the writer of Wisdom disagrees with you. He doesn’t think homosexual acts outside of idolatry ever happen!

    Cultic sex practices were so widespread (in Canaanite practices mentioned in Lev 18) and in Roman Temples (mentioned by Paul), that it’s impossible to tell what is being condemned here: the cultic sex practices, or the sex itself.

    I am not making a positive claim. I’m claiming it could be either and that there’s no way to tell.

    If you claim that Lev 18, 1 Cor 6 and Romans 1 refer to ALL homosexual acts, you have to prove that, you’re the positive claimant. Given the widespread cultic sex practices mentioned in wisdom, that’s going to be difficult to prove.

  • David January 31, 2014, 12:38 pm

    Nobody is required to show that these sins are condemned for two reasons. Christopher, you need to show that they are condemned *because* they are linked to idolatry. You are claiming that this is what motivates the condemnation of all these sins. This is what you are maintaining. Have you given good reasons for accepting this “positive claim?” Not at this blog. I have already addressed this argument. The passage says that idolatry leads to all kinds of sins, such as these. But unless these things are already wicked, this is meaningless, because it is no indictment on idolatry at all. Your argument has nothing going for it, and you do not understand the Scripture. You are just repeating the same arguments, no matter how clearly they are shown to be without merit.

    Shalom
    David

  • Glenn January 31, 2014, 2:01 pm

    Christopher, I don’t know how else to put it to you other than how it has already been spelled out in this thread. I’ve already spoken about Genesis / creation, Leviticus 18, Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 so I won’t repeat myself, but honestly, you’re doing it again from the book of Wisdom.

    In the passage you are quoting, idolatry is being condemned. It is being condemned in a specific way, namely by associating it with all the evil things that idolaters do. But you are trying to make the opposite argument: That these deeds are condemned because they are associated with idolatry. You’ve simply missed the point of the text: Idolatry is bad, just look at the horrible, perverse, evil things that idolaters do! You’re saying look at all these evil deeds, which are evil because they are linked to idolatry.

    This makes the argument implicit in this passage quite meaningless, because this is supposed to be an attack on idolatry. But if idolatry is not being attacked because of its association with these evil actions, but instead these actions are really just suspect because of their connection with idolatry, then the passage fails to be an attack on idolatry. This is a terribly confused argument which just repeats the same confused reasoning with which you interpreted Romans 1. You end up with a mixed list: You think the text says, look at all the immoral things that idolatry leads to: Murder, X, Y, Z, all of which are clearly immoral…. oh, and sex between men, which is different from all the others because it’s not “immoral” per se but just ritually impure in this limited context.

    I should also add that it’s a fairly empty argument to say that the writers thought that sex between men only existed in paganism. That’s vacuous because all nations other than Israel were pagans, so the claim is true: Of course these actions were only condoned among pagans, because they weren’t condoned in Israel and every other nation was pagan! What’s more, clearly the biblical writers knew that this sort of behaviour could happen in Israel, or else it would never be forbidden.

    I think you should just throw your lot in with Michael: Admit that the passages here condemn sex between men, and disagree with what the text says. But repeating these same arguments will not make the case stronger, for each example you have tried to use just repeats errors that have already been addressed. Your arguments have been undercut in toto.

  • Christopher Bowers January 31, 2014, 5:32 pm

    David Said:
    >Nobody is required to show that these sins are condemned for two reasons. Christopher, you >need to show that they are condemned *because* they are linked to idolatry. You are >claiming >that this is what motivates the condemnation of all these sins. This is what you are >maintaining. >You have never given good reasons for accepting this “positive claim.”

    False. I am NOT claiming to have proof that I know what this passage means. It could be condemning only cultic prostitution, it could be condemning all homosexual acts, or it could be that we can’t discern the answer from the information given. That is not a positive claim. If the passage is indeterminate and we can’t prove it one way or the other then we can’t use it as a basis of doctrine. None of that is a positive claim. I am agnostic about this passage, making no claim.

    YOU are claiming that with 100% certitude that you KNOW this isn’t condemning all homosexual acts. To YOU goes the burden of proof. YOU are claiming to know. All I am saying is that the passage can be interpreted in different ways.

    >The passage says that idolatry leads to all kinds of sins, such as these. But unless these things >are already wicked, this is meaningless, because it is no indictment on idolatry at all.

    False. Painting a picture of your dead son is not wicked unless it is connected to idolatry. Having a portrait of your leader is not improper unless it is connected to idolatry. Prophecy is not immoral unless it is connected to idolatry. And likewise it COULD BE that homosexual acts aren’t morally wrong unless they are connected to idolatry.

    Some things mentioned as sins in Wisdom are wrong BOTH because they are idolatrous AND because they are wicked on their own ethical grounds. Some are mentioned in Wisdom and are ONLY sinful IF they are idolatrous. Otherwise they aren’t sinful. Homosexual acts could be one of those things in the second category, since idolatrous sex was the main (and largely the only) way that homosexual acts were permissible in this culture. If you have another documented source for homosexual acts other than Cultic prostitution, then the onus is on you to provide evidence of it.

    >That these deeds are condemned because they are associated with idolatry. You’ve simply >missed the point of the text: Idolatry is bad, just look at the horrible, perverse, evil things >that idolaters do! You’re saying look at all these evil deeds, which are evil because they are >linked to idolatry.

    Some are evil ONLY because they are linked to idolatry, some are unethical even if they aren’t linked to idolatry. You must prove that homosexual acts are evil even if they aren’t linked to idolatry.

    You claimed earlier Glenn, that the acts (laundry list of sins) mentioned in Romans 1 had nothing to do with worship in temples and had nothing to do with Idolatry. The writer of Wisdom puts out virtually the same laundry list of sins! That’s because these were going on in Roman and Canaanite temples where people worshiped Baal (like in Leviticus 18) and where people worshiped Aphrodite (like in Corinth). The writer of Wisdom had access to both temples and references the practices of both in this writing!

    >You end up with a mixed list: You think the text says, look at all the immoral things that >idolatry leads to: Murder, X, Y, Z, all of which are clearly immoral…. oh, and sex between >men, which is different from all the others because it’s not “immoral” per se but just ritually >impure in this limited context.

    EXACTLY. You have a mixed list. Some is ritually impure, and some is ethically wrong AND ritually impure. Is “claiming to be wise” as Paul states, ethically wrong? No. Is it wrong when you claim it by arguing in an idolatrous temple? Yes. Is using your “imagination” a sin? No, not unless you’re doing it to fantasize about a false God. Is having a “foolish heart” a sin? No, only if you foolishly go against God and worship idols with your heart. Is “debating” someone a sin? No, unless you are doing what was often done at the temple, which was called “sophistry”.

    So you are exactly correct. It is a mixed list, some of which was wrong only in the idolatrous context and some of which is ethically wrong in any context.

    If you want to claim homosexual acts are one of those things which is wrong in any context the burden is on you to prove it.

    >I should also add that it’s a fairly empty argument to say that the writers thought that sex >between men only existed in paganism. That’s vacuous because all nations other than Israel >were pagans, so the claim is true:

    In some ways I agree with this statement, and in some ways I disagree with this statement. The writer of Wisdom didn’t just think pagan nations were the source of homosexuality. They weren’t aware of our modern definition of Homosexuality and the science behind it. He thought that the idols themselves were the source of homosexuality, and this is precisely because homosexual sex worship and Cultic prostitution was so widespread and was the main (sometimes only) expression of homosexuality in that time.

    The way in which you are correct is that EVERYTHING in cultures at this time were markers for worship of your God. Sex was worshiping your god. Prostitutes claimed to do so in the service to some god. Roman Centurions had to worship Caesar just to join the military. Trimming the edges of your beard was done to worship Egyptian gods. Whether you ate shellfish or not, your manner of speech, the blend of your wool, your tattoos, the type of bread you ate: these were all forms of worship. So you are correct that it is difficult if not impossible ti uncouple the idolatry from the ethical act. It’s not as though we had these cultic prostitutes over here, and oh… over here we have these prostitutes that are Athiests and don’t worship any God. There was no such thing! Every occupation, every act was associated with Idolatry or worship of YHWH.

    The point is that the water is muddied. You can’t sort the act out from its idolatrous context because the idolatrous context of every pagan’s life was so subsumed in their actions, culture, jewelry, sexual acts and so forth and so on.

  • David January 31, 2014, 6:07 pm

    “I am NOT claiming to have proof that I know what this passage means. It could be condemning only cultic prostitution, it could be condemning all homosexual acts, or it could be that we can’t discern the answer from the information given.”

    Christopher, your position now appears to just be that we don’t know what this passage means. The first clue to what a passage means is to read what it says, naturally. Here in Leviticus 18 the text forbids men from having sex with men. That is it – that is all we read about the act. Abomination, full stop. Anyone who wants to meet a burden of proof that this is what the text says can easily meet it: Just quote the text.

    But you want to introduce the possibility that this is a command issue only for a cultic context. You say that you don’t want to “prove” this. Very well, but you must still bear the burden of showing that the text is ambiguous. How can we find this other possibility in the text? That is for you to show. You have not met this burden. You have shown that another text forbids cultic prostitution – but that is not relevant. Jews agree that cultic prostitution is wrong. But nowhere have you shown that this is a legitimate meaning for Leviticus 18. You have not met your burden of proof, even by 1%.

    “EXACTLY. You have a mixed list. Some is ritually impure, and some is ethically wrong AND ritually impure.”

    Christopher, you may not say “exactly” here. It is your burden of proof to show that there is a mixed list here. What the text indicates is that idolatry is wicked partly because it leads to all these sins. I have completed my explanation of why you may not say that this shows that *any* of these acts are wrong only because idolaters do them. You have chosen to not respond to that argument, which is your prerogative. In this passage, idolatry is wrong partly because it leads to these evil acts. If you think the writer is just lumping together sins, some of which are really immoral, but others of which are just ritually impure, then it is up to you to make the argument. You have not. But yours is definitely a position contrary to the writer’s argument about idolatry.

    “So you are exactly correct. It is a mixed list”

    Please remain truthful with me. It is *your* view that this is a mixed list, not mine. You have not yet offered any arguments for this “positive claim.”

    “He thought that the idols themselves were the source of homosexuality”

    No, go back to the text. The writer thought that the idols were a path to all kinds of wickedness. sex between men was just one of the evil deeds listed. If your argument were sound, then the writer would think that the idols were the source of murder, which is not true (after all, murder is in the same list). Cain killed Abel without an idol. Once again I remind you of the argument used in the text itself: That idolatry (or idols if you prefer) lead a person to do all sorts of things that are also evil.

    “the water is muddied”

    That is your claim – and a positive one. You claim that the text is ambiguous, even though on the face of it, the deed condemned is simply sex between men. Orthodox Jews simply allow the text to speak.

    Shalom,
    David

  • Glenn January 31, 2014, 7:00 pm

    I think any response I make to you, Christopher, will be fairly predictable, and will simply be a repeat of explanations that, I maintain, I have offered but which you simply are not addressing. So although I replied because you started posting again, I don’t think there’s need for me to continue.

    There are good, clear, well-explained reasons why the positive claims you keep making are not, contrary to what you might personally believe, mainstream. Those reasons are firstly the texts in question appear to make the claims that evangelicals maintain they do, and the positive claims that they mean something else are not well supported by the evidence. Take care, Christopher.

  • christopher bowers January 31, 2014, 7:35 pm

    >Christopher, your position now appears to just be that we don’t know what this passage means. >The first clue to what a passage means is to read what it says, naturally. Here in Leviticus 18 >the text forbids men from having sex with men. That is it – that is all we read about the act. >Abomination, full stop.

    You are again missing the point. “Toh’ebah” can mean ritually unclean or ethically wrong. It’s the same problem of ambiguity again. If you take it to mean ethically wrong you have to prove that case. If you’re a Jew, as you claim to be, there is no distinction between those two: what is ritually unclean is ethically wrong and vice versa. If you are a Christian, however, we are allowed to eat things that are ritually unclean and do things that are ritually unclean. It’s not a problem, because we are no longer Jews. You take it as a point of fact that “Toh’ebah” refers to ethical obligations, but that is an assumption that you smuggle into the word. That is your case to prove.

    >Very well, but you must still bear the burden of showing that the text is ambiguous.

    Nope. All language is ambiguous, and especially all scripture (which was written thousands of years ago). YOU have to prove what it says, since you are the positive claimant. I am offering evidence that undercuts your claim that you know with 100% certainty what it says.

    > I have completed my explanation of why you may not say that this shows that *any* of these >acts are wrong only because idolaters do them.

    No you haven’t. The text itself says that making a picture of your dead son isn’t wrong until you start worshiping it, and likewise a picture of your leader.

    Are you now arguing that not just worshiping a picture is wrong but that all photography is wrong? In case you are not aware, photography is not forbidden to Christians.

    > If your argument were sound, then the writer would think that the idols were the source of >murder, which is not true (after all, murder is in the same list). Cain killed Abel without an >idol.

    Incorrect. My argument was not that all evil actions are caused by idols. I was explaining that some of the things are evil only because they are idolatry and some are evil because they are unethical AND idolatry.

    >You claim that the text is ambiguous, even though on the face of it, the deed condemned is >simply sex between men. Orthodox Jews simply allow the text to speak.

    Translation: you take it at face value and ignore the historical context resulting in a false interpretation.

  • Christopher Bowers January 31, 2014, 8:01 pm

    >There are good, clear, well-explained reasons why the positive claims you keep making are >not, >contrary to what you might personally believe, mainstream.

    Yes. There are many reasons that they aren’t mainstream. We could theorize all day about why they aren’t mainstream. But the idea that they aren’t mainstream and so the argument is false is “Fallacy of the Majority.”

    >Those reasons are firstly the texts in question appear to make the claims that evangelicals ??>maintain they do,

    Well said. “Appear to”. You could say it better by explaining that the words “Toh’ebah”, “Porneia”, “Arsenekoitai” and so forth are completely ambiguous and that we don’t have any exact definition for them. We aren’t actually sure what they mean in any given context and we guess at what they mean. Conservatives like to believe that these words mean exactly what they want them to (how convenient!) but we don’t really know what they mean.

    >and the positive claims that they mean something else are not well supported by the >evidence.

    There is no positive claim. The scripture could mean cultist prostitution, it could mean all homosexual acts, or it could mean the price of beans on a Wednesday. Hermenutics is subjective, language is subjective, and certainly thousand year old languages are quite open to difference of opinion. If you claim to know precisely what a word means with 100% certainty, and you claim to know what doctrine that supports with 100% certainty, then the burden of proof is on YOU, not me to make that claim.

    What evidence have you presented to prove that these words mean what you think they do? None! What historical context have you provided to prove that these words mean what you think they do? None! What proof have you provided, showing that non-cultic homosexual relationships even existed? None! What proof have you provided, showing that the text means “all homosexuality” rather than just cultic prostitution? None!

    All you’ve provided is “Well we have always thought they mean that (fallacy of Tradition),” or “Well, not a lot of people disagree with us (Fallacy of the Majority)”.

    Prove to me that non idolatrous homosexual relationships existed in 538 BC, when Leviticus was written. Prove to me that Aphrodite’s temple in Corinth didn’t monopolize the male prostitution trade, and that Paul wasn’t talking about it in his letters.

    Prove to me anything. Show me evidence for anything relating to your claim that these passages prohibit all homosexuality other than your opinion about what ambiguous words mean.

    Where is your well supported evidence that these passages ban all homosexuality? I showed you the temple at Corinth, I showed you that gay marriage was illegal in roman time, I showed you that homosexual acts were against the law for the military, I demonstrated to you that people confuse the Greek period of history (in which homosexuality is rampant) is different than the Roman period (where it is restricted). I showed you that Aphrodite was hermaphrodidic, I showed you that the same temple where people worshipped Molech, they also worshiped him with homosexual acts. I showed you a writer in Alexandria who paralleled Paul’s list of sins committed in Roman Temples, while simultaneously proving that he referenced Molech, just like in Leviticus 18. I showed you that “Toh’ebah” is also used in connection with temple prostitution, I showed you that several words in hebrew and greek are ambiguous and that people smuggle their assumptions into them, I showed you that creating doctrine from a symbol is fallacious.

    Where is YOUR evidence? Do you have any evidence at all? Any?

  • Glenn January 31, 2014, 8:05 pm

    “All you’ve provided is “Well we have always thought they mean that (fallacy of Tradition),” or “Well, not a lot of people disagree with us (Fallacy of the Majority)”.”

    I never made those arguments, Christopher. I don’t know if it’s argument fatigue, but your truthfulness is wearing thin. Your comments will have to go into moderation before appearing here. I can handle shirking one’s obligations in terms of evidence (something you are continuing to do with full force), but I draw the line at lying. You’ve managed to stay above that – until now.

  • David January 31, 2014, 8:59 pm

    ““Toh’ebah” can mean ritually unclean or ethically wrong. It’s the same problem of ambiguity again.”

    Christopher, you are making a mistake. The word does not carry a *meaning* of “ethical” or “ceremonial.” All cases of to`ebhah are forbidden as offensive, an abomination. That’s what it means. Nothing more. Christians believe that some of those things are deemed an abomination for “ceremonial” reasons, others for “moral” reasons. Whether that is true or not, nothing changes in the meaning of the word. You are trying to create an ambiguity so you can simply deny what the text appears to say and pretend that another meaning is equally likely as a candidate. But if you are going to do this, you’d better roll your sleeves up. Do the work. If you want to claim that there are contextual factors that are not made explicit in Leviticus 18, then you are the one who needs to show that you understand how to defend that claim.

    “Incorrect. My argument was not that all evil actions are caused by idols.” Christopher, try to follow this. I never said that your argument was that all evil actions are caused by idols. That is the point. You don’t say this, but you are logically committed to this. The passage in Wisdom says “For the worship of infamous idols is the reason and source and extreme of all evil.” And because of this, you say: “Notice the last verse, that idols are “the reason and source of all evil”. For this writer, there IS NO other source of homosexuality other than idols. ”

    Do you understand what just happened, Christopher? Can you follow the argument that you just made? You said that there’s a list of sins, and then the writer says that “the reason and source of all evil,” and therefore there is NO other source of homosexual acts than idols.

    But this also means that there is NO other source of “blood and murder, theft and guile, corruption, faithlessness, turmoil, perjury, Disturbance of good people, neglect of gratitude, besmirching of souls, unnatural lust, disorder in marriage, adultery and shamelessness,” for all of these sins are in the same list.

    But you reject this logic: You don’t say that all of these sins have NO others source than idolatry. And of course that is not true. Cain killed Abel without any idol. So because this is not true of the other sins on the list, and since the same logic is driving your argument about homosexuality, your argument about homosexuality must be rejected.

    One of the virtues that Orthodox Jews venerate is the ability to use reason. Your argument, Christopher, fails for lack of reason.

    And lastly: “Translation: you take it at face value and ignore the historical context resulting in a false interpretation.”

    This is not true, sir. We are well aware that cult prostitution existed. We do not pretend otherwise and we do not overlook this. But what does that have to do with Leviticus 18? Something? OK, then that’s up to you to show.

    You even repeat back to Glenn ALL the arguments that in this very thread he has directly responded to: ” I showed you the temple at Corinth, I showed you that gay marriage was illegal in roman time, I showed you that homosexual acts were against the law for the military, I demonstrated to you that people confuse the Greek period of history (in which homosexuality is rampant) is different than the Roman period (where it is restricted). I showed you that Aphrodite was hermaphrodidic, I showed you that the same temple where people worshipped Molech, they also worshiped him with homosexual acts. I showed you a writer in Alexandria who paralleled Paul’s list of sins committed in Roman Temples, while simultaneously proving that he referenced Molech, just like in Leviticus 18. I showed you that “Toh’ebah” is also used in connection with temple prostitution”

    Sir, this is mere space filler. You understand, I shall assume, that your comments about Romans 1 and the temple were responded to, based on the evidence. You know that your argument about the Alexandrian writer of Wisdom has been addressed at length – by more than one person – based on the evidence, but you just repeat it here again. You know that Glenn, if I recall, has explained that to`ebhah is used in connection with abomination in general in the Torah, and applies to things like dishonesty and swindling in the market, so the fact that it is also used in connection with cult prostitution is not evidence that it carries any special cultic meaning. You repeat all this back at people, carrying with you the memory that this has been addressed at length already, based on the evidence, and especially based on your faulty method of reasoning about the evidence.

    Reasoning with you is proving to be vexatious. Your errors are like seasons, going around and around again, returning without end! You have known from the beginning that those who disagree with you are aware of cult prostitutes, yet that “context” argument keeps coming up, as though people are unaware. You have done this, it seems to keep pushing down your obligation to show that Leviticus 18 is actually making use of the existence of cult prostitution. And yet you never give reasons. You only insist that others must disprove your claim, and that others must dispel the ambiguity, all the while choosing not to establish the ambiguity. You appear to promise reason, but are like a cloud that promises rain, but delivers none.

    Shalom Christopher, I hope that your will to think harder about these things will be strengthened.
    David

  • Glenn February 1, 2014, 3:24 pm

    For the record (and possibly for Christopher’s benefit, if he is willing to listen):

    The appeal to the majority (the ad populum fallacy) is where a person says (this is a simplified version):
    1) This is what the majority believes
    2) So it is true

    But as is clear (and I know that Christopher is aware of this), this is the reverse of what I said. I said:

    “There are good, clear, well-explained reasons why the positive claims you keep making are not, contrary to what you might personally believe, mainstream.”
    See how this has the opposite form of an appeal to the majority? I said:

    1) There are adequate reasons to reject these claims (indeed, I have given those reasons here by responding to the claims).
    2) And that is why the claims are not mainstream

    The claim that this is an appeal to the majority is simply not true, and that’s pretty obvious. I never implied that the majority only believe the truth, or that the majority holding a view makes it true. In this case I explained that there are good reasons why the majority reject Christopher’s claims.

    An appeal to tradition is similar, where a person says that because a thing has been believed (or rejected) in the past, it should continue to be believed (or rejected). And as is quite clear to anyone reading this discussion (including Christopher), I have never appealed to the fact that Christopher’s claims have been rejected in the past, and that is why they should continue to be rejected now. This is not even a distortion of a claim that I did make, it has simply been spun from thin air.

    My position has consistently (indeed, repetitively!) been just this: Along with other passages, Leviticus 18 says that men should not have sex with men, and no restriction on scope is offered in the text. Christopher has claimed that there is at least the likelihood of a restriction in scope, and so I have asked him for evidence. In spite of his maintaining that I need to prove a negative: That there is no restriction in scope, in practice he has actually tried to offer evidence for this likely restriction. I have, at each step, explained exactly why that evidence does not make the case.

    This, along with Christopher simply ignoring some of the evidence (such as Genesis 1-2), has been the repeated pattern, with each new post from Christopher, as far as I can tell, just repeating the same evidence: Cult prostitutes and cultic sexual practices existed: Even in the New Testament! Yes. This was never in dispute. But, as I have continually noted, this does not show that where biblical passages simply condemn, without qualification, men having sex with men, they might really be condemning something more specific: Ritual-related sexual acts in pagan religious contexts. I maintain that the responses to that line of argument from myself and others has been more than adequate (showing how this leap is unwarranted). I maintain that the strength of those responses (and hence the lack of evidence for the claims that Christopher has been advancing) is the reason why Christopher’s claims have not become mainstream and will not become mainstream: They rest on inadequate evidence and poor argument.

    I understand that Christopher does not agree with this, but I hope he will appreciate that he has been given more than enough chance to have his say as best as can be expected in a comment thread, and to respond to criticism. But I think this side-track has run its course (especially in light of the fact that basic misrepresentation is rearing its head, suggesting that patience is running out). Things are simply being repeated. So I am going to draw to a close this extended conversation between myself, Christopher and now David, on the merits of these views on the biblical teaching about sexual behaviour.

    Christopher, if you really feel that the argument needs to be taken up and pursued further, then I will insist that you find another venue for that. That argument has dominated this thread for a little while now, and we’ve all had our say.

    I will simply note, as a footnote to all this – and to get this thread back to the original subject (!) – that this discussion underscores the point made in this blog entry, that “fundies” are not inconsistent on homosexuality. They do not just look at one type of rule and say “we’ll follow that!” and look at another type of rule and say “nope, we won’t follow that,” with no rationale. They really do have a principled rationale for their approach. Now, Christopher and others might not agree with their conclusions about the state of the evidence on monogamy, food laws, homosexual practice, slavery etc. That is fine. But that is a different matter. The point is that their treatment of the various different practices is principled, and not simply an arbitrary acceptance of one and rejection of the other. They are not being inconsistent, and that was the point.

  • David February 1, 2014, 5:52 pm

    So be it – I agree, looking over the discussion, that there was basically one argument, on constant replay.

  • Tina Wade August 9, 2014, 9:04 am

    Glenn, interesting article, but I would like to point out a few things you brought up that the Bible states and my reaction to them.
    1. You imply that the Bible states that divorce is not as bad as homosexual behavior. In the Catholic Church that I grew up in and according to the Baptists friends I have, they are both equally as bad and exceptions should not be made for either one.
    2. That unclean food (which did cause many diseases such as trichinosis and cholera) be avoided unless properly cooked. If you do not believe this can still be a problem today, then you should not travel to the parts of the world I have been. Anal sex was to be avoided for much of the same reasons. A woman could contract a bacterial infection if she engaged in anal and then vaginal without proper hygiene. Two men could also have issues if they do not use the old “cleanliness is close to Godliness” adage. So if we can cook our food properly, why can’t we use proper hygiene to avoid illness when engaging in anal sex?
    3. The “go forth and multiply” was another fine argument to use against homosexual behavior since sexual gratification would not lead to populating the earth and later increasing the number of Christians. I don’t think that this particular piece of advice is needed today, but again, the Catholic Church seems to be against all birth control except for the rhythm method. When my parents were young, the rhythm method was employed so that sex occurred ONLY when procreation was possible (why I have 5 and could have had 7 siblings.) Otherwise, it was regarded as spilling seed on the ground and using sex for enjoyment. This was considered to be just as sinful.
    4. The phrase that you quote, “abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality,” is used by Jehovah Witnesses to not accept blood transfusions. So, why do so many people (like me) give gallons of blood that will surely lead to other’s eternal damnation?
    Lastly, you state that homosexual behavior is considered so horrible that Lot offered his virginal daughters to be raped instead of offering the men. Um, is Lot supposed to be the good guy here? It seems like offering men that had a shot of defending themselves would have been much better than offering his poor daughters. Rape is not a sexual act, it is an act of violence. If you want to terrorize people, what better way than to subjugate the men by such a brutal act. This is so much better than raping women since to this day, many men still are able to pull it off and then claim it was consensual. (Witness the recent case of a teaching first getting only a 30 day sentence since his 14 year old partner “appeared” to be older than her very few years here on this earth. She later committed suicide.)

  • Tina Wade August 9, 2014, 9:12 am

    Sorry, “teacher” not “teaching.”

  • Glenn August 9, 2014, 11:35 am

    Hi Tina, and thanks for your comment. Just for simplicity I’ll use the same numbering as you.

    1) I definitely agree with my Catholic brothers and sisters that divorce is bad. I’m familiar with Catholic teaching about it, but I – like most Protestants – disagree with them about whether or not there are legitimate exceptions. We agree (i.e. me and Catholics), however, about the biblical teaching on homosexual acts.

    2) You’re right, in some cases there may be practical advantages (e.g. safety) when it comes to unclean foods. However, if the rules about unclean food still apply today, then they apply regardless of how well the food is cooked, just as they did in Ancient Israel. I think the New Testament clearly teaches that this is an example of a marker of Israel as a unique covenant nation and as such it doesn’t apply today.

    3) I agree that there’s not the same imperative for each couple to “go forth and multiply” as we see in Genesis. I didn’t use this as an argument here, but what we do see in genesis is a model of marriage: A man and a woman leave their parents and become one flesh together.

    4) I think the Jehovah’s Witnesses are simply wrong. This is about food, and when you get a blood transfusion, that’s not the same as drinking blood (yuck!).

  • JAMES HILL August 11, 2014, 11:43 am

    This is what I think the heart of the dispute is about. John is wanting to say that Christians (those who disapprove of homosexuality on Biblical grounds) ought to apply the same standards of Biblical literalness to homosexuality as they do to other cases (such as divorce, women’s roles, slavery, eating certain foods, and so on), and that many of them don’t. Glenn, I think, agrees that they ought to do that, but (probably) takes issues with John’s claim that many of them don’t. He thinks he (at least) does, and he tries to show that he does in his response.

    Now, it’s an empirical question as to whether many Christians fail to apply the same standard of Biblical literalness to homosexuality, as they do to the other cases. My hunch is that many do fail to do that—and this is based on the discussions I’ve had with many Christians. A simple explanation for why they don’t is: many Christians just aren’t that reflective—just like many non-Christians.

    Now: it’s an open question whether Glenn does a good job showing that he’s applying the same standard of Biblical literalness to homosexuality, as he does to the other cases. But you can’t deny that he’s making a hard effort.

    An interesting response one can make to the phenomenon of many Christians failing to be more reflective on the matter of homosexuality is: They’re relying on the experts to do that. Who are the experts? Well, the pastors, Sunday School teachers, theologians—folks like Glenn. They take their cues from the experts, like we all take our cues from the experts on other matters. For example: For the question, What foods are good for me?, we can take our cues from the Food and Drug Administration. Interestingly, Dan Dennett addresses this strategy in “Breaking the Spell”. I just can’t remember exactly what the argument is he makes against it.

    Of course, my response to the whole debate between Glenn and John is to take on the Divine Command Theory. That’s a more radical approach than John’s—“more radical” because it challenges a moral fundamental belief of the Christian’s. It’s not as radical as taking on the existence of God—arguing against God’s existence—which is another approach others like to take. But it’s more radical than merely wanting the Christians to be more consistent (and hoping the upshot of that is that they’ll abandon their view on the sinfulness of contemporary homosexuality).

  • Glenn August 11, 2014, 2:32 pm

    I’m pretty sure that we agree, James 🙂

  • Christopher Bowers August 18, 2014, 2:08 pm

    It’s interesting coming back to this argument after all this time. I will keep this as short and sweet as possible.

    #1. Both sides have to provide evidence and proof when making assertions about the Bible. The fact that something is not “limited in scope in the text” doesn’t mean that it’s not limited in scope (even though not expressly stated). Taking Glenn’s logic, we would never be able to eat as Christians since the Bible says “Thou shall not kill” (no limitation in scope given in the text). Limitations in scope are derived from historical context, cultural context, word meaning, other textual passages, the Talmud, the Mishna and so forth and so on. “Thou Shall not Kill” actually means “Thou shall not murder.” “Thou shall not bear false witness” doesn’t mean you can’t lie, it means that you can’t say untrue things in a court of law (not in general parlance). “Thou shall not steal”(it could be argued) actually means “Thou shall not kidnap”. I could go on and on.

    The point is that claiming that taking something at “face value” isn’t a “plain reading” of the text, it’s an IGNORANT reading of the text. The idea that proscriptions against homosexuality aren’t limited in scope, is a likewise ignorant and uneducated reading of the text.

    #2. The fallacy of tradition/majority I’m talking about is that Glenn believes that the reason that the pro-homosexual arguments are denied by traditionalists, is that they have significant evidence and that I must provide evidence while he need not to. This is false. The reason certain beliefs make it into the mainstream (or don’t) doesn’t neccesarily have to do with rationality. It COULD have to to with the fact that the Church has historically borne hatred and bigotry against homosexuals, and are looking to the Bible to support that view. The idea that the traditionalist position needs no evidence and the progressive one does, is false burden shifting.

    #3. Christianity in general and Fundamentialist/Traditionalists in particular are inconsistant on sexual ethics, cherrypicking what they like out of the Bible and doing a “plain reading” when it suits them, while “contextualizing” other practices.

    While Glenn provides for the fact that he doesn’t personally think that polygamy is a sin, the VAST majority of Christians do, and THEY are being inconsistent. Even if the polygamy argument isn’t true of Glenn, it’s still true that 99.9% of Christians are blatantly ignoring the practice of Polygamy, which conflicts with their sexual ethics.

    Lastly, Glenn is being inconsistent if he doesn’t support castration of children for service in temples and churches, marriage (and independent living) at 13, marriage to your cousin, not touching a woman on their period, marrying your cousin (which Christians would call incest) and on and on.

    Glenn ignores all these practices, yet clings to (what he thinks) are blanket proscriptions against homosexuality.

  • Glenn August 18, 2014, 4:00 pm

    Christopher, perhaps the distance of time has made you forget, but these remarks are all just re-hashes of the same things you’ve said before and to which I replied long ago. I don’t see any modification in the arguments at all.

    “The fact that something is not “limited in scope in the text” doesn’t mean that it’s not limited in scope (even though not expressly stated).” This is certainly untrue as a prima facie rule. Unless a prescription is limited in scope, then it’s not limited in scope. Far from being “IGNORANT” (emphasis yours), it is rather obviously correct. Indeed all of your purported counter examples, if considered sensibly, confirm this. Take “thou shall [sic] not kill.” You say “no limitation in scope given in the text,” even though this is clearly not the case. There are explicit exceptions made in the text, namely in the cases where specific animals are said to be acceptable for food and in cases where the death penalty is prescribed for crime. So while the command does indeed mean “you shall not kill,” there are exceptions made, and these are explicit in the text. It certainly does not mean “thou shall [sic] not murder,” since murder effectively means illegal killing, and this would be redundant: “You shall not do any killing that you’re not allowed to do.”

    You are correct that “Thou shall [sic] not bear false witness” doesn’t mean you must never lie, but then, it also doesn’t state that you must never lie. It only states that you must not bear false witness, which is not the same as lying. “Thou shalt not steal” (note that “shalt” is what goes with “thou”) certainly does not specifically refer to kidnapping. You say that you could “go on and on,” but if in doing so you only use failed examples like these, you’re going to have a hard time re-trying the case.

    Let’s revisit the killing example. Yes, the command says that you shall not kill, but this is qualified by the exceptions that the Torah contains. If you want to claim qualifications or exceptions, you’ve got to be prepared to bear the burden of proof in doing so. Can you think of cases in the Torah where exceptions are allowed for sex between mean? I am fairly certain that there are none. All we know from the passages you are pointing to are that 1) There is an unqualified prohibition on sex between men, and 2) there is an unqualified prohibition on cult prostitution. I affirm both of those, but you affirm only one, and have never, in my view, satisfactorily explained why.

    I’ll simply remind you that there’s no fallacy of the majority here. The appeal to popularity is where a person claims or implies that their position is correct because it is held by the majority, and that has never occurred here.

    And lastly, your derisive references to “fundamentalists” and their selective handling of scripture is exactly what was addressed in this very blog post. Repeating without modification your claims about polygamy doesn’t change this. Did you ever get around to doing the research I suggested to you? If so, what did you find? My bet: You didn’t. Indeed, you can go “on and on” as you say, but repeating arguments as though they are fresh and not the same ones that have already been addressed does not help the position that you’ve already articulated and to which I have responded. Don’t just repeat them in future without new defences.

  • Chris Bowers August 19, 2014, 12:27 pm

    >There are explicit exceptions made in the text, namely in >the cases where specific >animals are said to be acceptable for food and in cases where the >death penalty is >prescribed for crime.

    There are no exceptions made in Exodus 20 for “thou shalt not kill”. Are their other textual passages that shed light on this commandment? Yes. But there are no limitations in scope in the chapter.

    But it is, limited in scopeeven if not expressly stated in the text (where the proscription is given). In fact, if you check translations, most translations change this to “thou shalt not murder” based on OTHER passages in the Bible.

    >It only states that you >must not bear false witness, which is not the same as lying.

    The point is that it says you can never bear false witness. It doesn’t give a limitation in scope or a context. However we know that the scope of this is limited to trials, it wasn’t intended for common speech. We know that from historical context, even though the text doesn’t say it is limited in scope only to trials.

    >Repeating without modification your claims about polygamy doesn’t change this.

    The fact is that ancient Judeans didn’t think of Polygamy as a sin, and that now, 99.9% of Christians do. That’s an inconsistency on sexual ethics. What you or I or your favored group of scholars think about Polygamy isn’t important. We were talking about if CHRISTIANS (as a group) are inconsistent on sexual ethics AND THEY ARE.

    >All we know from the passages you are pointing to are that 1) There is an unqualified >prohibition on sex between men, and 2) there is an unqualified prohibition on cult >prostitution. I affirm both of those, but you affirm only one, and have never, in my view, >satisfactorily explained why.

    Your assumption again, is that it isn’t limited in scope textually, so it isn’t limited in scope at all. I’ve already proven that such an assumption is false. Someone can say “Don’t cross against the signal.” There’s no qualification given, but what they could mean is: “Don’t cross against the signal if there’s traffic” and would certainly make an exception to following the signal at 3 AM when there are no cars in sight.

    We derive scope not just from the specific piece of text but also from cultural connotation, word meaning and historical place (as well as other pieces of text from other chapters or books.)

    As far as cultic prostitution goes, banning of sex between males and banning cultic prostitution is the same thing IF the only form of sex between males that they are familiar with is Cultic Prostitution.

    As I stated by citing the Book of Wisdom, Cultic prostitution was so popular that the writer didn’t know of any other type of male/male sex and saw a causal relationship between idol worship and gay sex (thinking one CAUSED the other).

    If that’s true then blanket proscriptions against gay sex might all be references to cultic…

  • Glenn August 19, 2014, 1:03 pm

    Chris, you’re just presenting again the same case. I’ve already been there and don’t need to do it again. Also, as I know you know, back-to-back posting isn’t allowed. I removed your second comment. I know you expected that as I have discussed this before with you.

    To reiterate, these old arguments have been done, and anyone who wants to see them can read them in this thread. Please don’t just regurgitate them again just because some time has passed since the last time. Don’t worry, the words won’t fade away from your earlier comments.

  • Christopher Bowers August 19, 2014, 1:19 pm

    Glenn, I will make this post as short as possible. I think you’re focusing on some minutiae and haven’t addressed the real meat of my argument. I will state it very simply:

    You haven’t addressed the inconsistency inherent in Christianity today vs. Judaean sexual ethics, namely incest (cousin marriage), Levirate marriage, child marriage, menstrual taboos, and the practice of making eunuchs.

    If we leave aside polygamy for a second, you haven’t addressed any of those inconsistencies between what the Bible states is sexually appropriate and what Christianity deems appropriate. Are you going to respond to that.?

    I also don’t understand how certain rare scholars accepting polygamy as “not a sin” but a “less ideal state”, relates to the whole of Christendom being inconsistent in terms of early Judaean sexual ethics vs. modern Christian sexual ethics. The whole of Christendom considers polygamy a sin. The early Judeans did not.

    If Christians aren’t consistent on any of these sexual matters, why are they ardent on the issue of homosexuality (and why should their consistency matter since they ignore all of the Bible’s other sexual laws)?

  • Glenn August 19, 2014, 1:31 pm

    Chris, I’ll just say this once more and then leave it: You are mentally copying and pasting arguments that we’ve already thrashed to death. Even if you’re just repeating them with small, additional new comments or spins on them so you can say “Ah, but you didn’t cover THIS angle,” I’m sorry, I’m not going to go back through it with you. I think that’s a case of your argument in toto having been refuted fairly soundly, so you’re hunting around for a scrap left over to claim. Just for example: Previously you only ever mentioned Levirate marriage as an instance of polygamy, to which I responded. Mentioning it now as though it were a separate issue to which I never replied is not honest. With respect, I think you had your best shot and I answered you. I believe your arguments have no merit and I have explained why. I’m not going to go through it all again at all. I understand you felt that I didn’t answer you adequately (just as I maintain, and think that I have shown, that your arguments were manifestly unsuccessful), but the evidence is out there in public and readers can decide for themselves.

    In particular:
    I have addressed the argument about polygamy
    I have address your appeal to cultic prostitution
    I have addressed your appeal to the same in Paul’s letters

    Once these are gone, there’s virtually nothing left.

    The arguments might not have turned out as you would have liked, but please let them go. I reiterate: I am not going to go over them again. If you want readers to think you’ve done a good job, just invite them to read the arguments that you have already given, quite some time ago – along with my replies to them. Don’t reproduce them again.

  • David August 20, 2014, 6:58 pm

    The notification tells me that there’s activity in this thread again. Alas, it is more of the same from Mr Bowers. Once more he is speaking for us (namely, Jews), but he continues to be mistaken. Our Scripture does not treat polygamy as being on par with monogamy. As I appealed to Genesis before, so we can again: Marriage is in the creation story: A man and a woman. That is the ideal. I cannot speak for the wider Christian community of course as I am not part of that community, but in my own interfaith conversations, polygamy is regarded by Christians in the same way that the Tanakh treats it: It’s a reality, it may even be tolerable in some circumstances – and my dear friends involved in Christian missions realise this more than most – but it is not od’s ideal plan for us and it is not what God calls us to. I fear that Mr Bowers has little experience in dialogue with the 99% of Christians he claims to describe. He can pretend that it is just the voice of “rare” scholars against him, but this is simply not true (besides which, Walter Kaiser to whom Glenn refers is a very popular Christian Hebrew Scripture scholar, not an idiosyncratic figure).

    But when it comes to describing our view on “child” marriage, I have to say that Mr Bowers is affected by that familiar fundamentalist condition I call “culture blindness.” The Torah and the wider Tanakh does not call for “child” marriage. Mr Bowers is wearing the blinkers of his own very recent American (I am guessing the nation) culture. The question should not be whether or not Jewish Scripture condones marrying children. It does not. The question is when adulthood begins When lifespans are somewhat shorter – and in cultures prior to Mr Bowers’ culture generally, a person post-puberty was an adult. So of course children were not marrying. Adults – people post puberty when young men had jobs to provide for their new families and women were able to bear children – got married. What Mr Bowers is doing is imagining a culture that is identical to ours in every respect except that marriage at, say, 14, was common. In the first place he likely has no idea how common it was anyway (I sense a pretense of knowledge), and in the second place, they weren’t living like children anyway. We measure life stages differently now in America. Just a brief look at history would correct this short-sightedness. See British, European, or even early American history in particular. Remember too that we are also not talking about old men taking young girls. We are talking about young men and women. I would suggest that if he wishes to understand Tanakh in future, he (with due respect to Dr Peoples) consult its custodians. See your local Rabbi.

    Shalom,
    David

  • christopher Bowers August 22, 2014, 1:40 am

    David, I wholeheartedly agree with you that the notion of “child” is a cultural contrivance. I agree also that you were considered an adult at your bar/bat mitzvah (12 for girls, 13 for boys). Thus in this ancient culture a 12 year old marrying a 13 year old (and moving into their own house) was simply an adult marrying an adult.

    The point is that we no longer see 12 and 13 year olds as adults. We see them as children, and we don’t allow marriages between them anymore in Christianity. We see those people marrying (and having their own household) as taboo and sinful and we tell teenagers to wait for marriage, which is after they graduate high school (though now it’s becoming college).

    Secondly, I don’t think Glenn (or any other Christian) has ever preached a sermon advocating 12 and 13 year olds to get married, or even preached saying that it is permissible. That is an inconsistency between Biblical sexual ethics and modern Christian sexual ethics. Usually of course, these were both people of similar age marrying young, but there was nothing prohibiting an older man from marrying a 12 or 13 year old. (Isaac and Rebeka are a prime Biblical example, David had multiple wives shortly after coming of age).

    The question is if modern Christians are inconsistent on sexual ethics, AND THEY ARE. They uphold proscriptions against homosexuality and don’t allow for young marriage. One sexual law is fungable (that they disagree with) and the other is not (which they agree with).

    As for Polygamy, I don’t agree with you on several points. Firstly I don’t believe that ancient Jewish culture had a dim view of polygamy. Not when the next chapters after Genesis we have a polygamous marriage, between Abram and his handmaiden, not when Abram’s wife begged him to marry a second woman, and not when God specifically gave wives to David and offered to give him even more (if that were not enough), Not when 3 of the four Jewish patriarchs were polygamous.

    You are reading the Bible with cultural glasses on and assuming that it applies to your culture’s MODERN sexual tastes. You are interpreting the proscription from an ambiguous symbol rather than a law in the Bible: akin to reading tea leaves or seeing a cloud in the sky and thinking it’s a horse.

    In Christianity, something is either prohibited or it isn’t. There is no third “non ideal” moral category. Polygamy wasn’t prohibited then (even mandated by God in Levirate marriage), and now all major denominations of Christianity do not permit it.

    Several prominent Christian scholars have supported Polygamy, including such famous names as Augustine, Martin Luther and Thomas Aquinas. But the argument isn’t about what scholars think. It’s about what most Christians think.

    If you as a Christian allowed for marriage of 13 year olds, and allowed for polygamy, you would be consistent. The point is that 99% don’t do that, instead they cherrypick homosexuality while ignoring the other…

  • David August 22, 2014, 11:32 am

    “The point is that we no longer see 12 and 13 year olds as adults.” Mr Bowers, if this is really your point then it is difficult to see why you want to make it. We are on the same page in saying that in ancient Israel, marriage was for adulthood, and similarly in modern Judaism (and Christianity), marriage is for adulthood. The basic meaning of adulthood is the same, too, namely the stage of life where a person is able to reproduce and is expected to able to begin a new household – although in the early years of adulthood and even later in ancient Israel, the new household remained very close to the old, much like an extended family (a fact that works against, rather than for, your claim). What has changed is the social convention around when a person is expected to start living a full adult life. This is due to a number of things (e.g. changes in schooling, perhaps lifespans, the need to work and so on), but it is not a change in moral values. Throughout Western history in Judaism and Christianity, people have married younger than they do now – and they have maintained their biblical view on homosexual behavior. You appear to be caricaturing very recent Christian culture as declaring all those other cultures sinful, but I do not believe that this innuendo is justified, as in fact modern Christians and Jews, as best I can tell, do not so judge cultures of the past.

    What is more, you are obviously talking about matters that are different in kind. It is quite clear that the way one culture determines, based on numerous factors, when a person enters adult life may change over time and be different from the way that another culture does it. A person was expected to take on adult responsibilities in ancient Israel earlier than today (but you should rid yourself of some anachronisms – the bar Mitzvah did not exist in the time of the Torah). However, we do not differ from the ancient Israelites in determining whether the person with whom you are having a sexual relationship is a man or a woman. That is not a cultural convention but a physical reality (apart from difficult cases of genetic abnormality). So it’s hard to see that you have a point when it comes to the charge of “inconsistency” here. Jews and Christians can accept that the time when a person enters full adult social life may differ from one culture to the next by several years while accepting that men should not have sex with men and the judgment about whether or not one is having sex with a man cannot legitimately change from one culture to the next.

    I’ll take the Jewish view about what Jews believe about polygamy over your view on what Jews believe. You say the biblical description of marriage: Explicitly a man and a woman, is an “ambiguous symbol.” This is self-serving and false. Lastly, you hold a fundamentalist view of Christianity, denying that they believe that anything is more or less ideal. Spend some time with Christians.

    Shalom and farewell,
    David

  • Christopher Bowers August 22, 2014, 12:16 pm

    >I’ll take the Jewish view about what Jews believe about polygamy over your view on >what >Jews believe.

    There is a distinction between what modern Jews believe about polygamy vs. Ancient Judaism in Torah times, just as there is a distinction between what modern Christians believe about Polygamy vs. ancient Christians. Ancient Christians were polygamous because many new Christians were Jewish, and many ancient Jews were polygamous.

    The point is that views on polygamy have changed RADICALLY since the Torah times, since Rabbi Gershom’s ban for Ashkenazi Jews (polygamy is still allowed for Yemeni and Sephardic Jews). Christians the world over consider polygamy to be a horrific sin and it’s not allowed in any major denomination (ministers will refuse to perform such marriages).

    > You say the biblical description of marriage: Explicitly a man and a woman, is an >“ambiguous symbol.” This is self-serving and false.

    There is no mention of the word “marriage” in Genesis 2. 24
    “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Nothing in this verse (or Chapter) precludes polygamy, it is highly symbolic language, and there is no mention of marriage. That’s what I meant in saying that you (and Glenn) are seeing monogamy in symbolic language that says no such thing.

    >You appear to be caricaturing very recent Christian culture as declaring all those other >cultures sinful

    I can say without any fear of contradiction, Catholic and Protestants consider marriage at 12 to be a sin. Catholicism banned marriage at 12 in 1917, and the rest of Christendom followed suit. You can read the article here:
    http://www.canonlaw.info/a_tooyoung.htm

    It is not a caricature, but a simple fact that Catholic and Protestants the world over in every major denomination consider marriage at that age to be immoral (and authorities in those churches will not perform such marriages).

    >However, we do not differ from the ancient Israelites in determining whether the person >with whom you are having a sexual relationship is a man or a woman. That is not a >cultural convention

    Ah, I see. So all the sexual laws that modern society wants to change: marrying age, marrying cousins (which modern Christians consider incest, but ancient Jews did not), Levirate marriage (the obligation to marry inlaws), polygamy (the number of partners), menstrual taboos (when you can have sex) and the making of Eunuchs (which modern Christians consider horrific abuse), all that can be changed. All that can be contextualized. All that is allowed to change with the cultural context. After all! We disagree with THOSE sexual laws in the Bible.

    But the homosexuality one? No, that one (which we agree with). That one is an eternal moral law written in STONE!

    And that, is where the inconsistency lies. If old sexual laws in the Bible can be contextualized, changed or ignored, why can’t the ones…

  • David August 22, 2014, 12:32 pm

    “Catholic and Protestants consider marriage at 12 to be a sin.”

    I am commenting to register my disappointment. After pretending to agree that the issue was when we consider adulthood to begin, and apparently agreeing that we, like the ancients, agree that marriage is for adulthood, you sneak back into talking about a specific age. Catholics and Protestants don’t practice marriage at, say, 14 (a more likely age), because they don’t regard adulthood as having begun. In Judaism we refer to this method of discourse, Chris, as using dishonest weights and measures – sometimes using one, and then switching it for another when you want to appear correct. Modern Catholics and Protestants agree with the ancient Israelites: Marriage is for adulthood. Since adulthood is not the same as it once was, of course the age of marriage won’t be what it once was. There is therefore basic agreement alongside cultural change.

    I apologize for spending the time it took to type my previous comment. It has only allowed you to engage in worse than before. Perhaps I am to blame for subscribing to the thread.

    Shalom,
    David

  • Glenn August 22, 2014, 12:44 pm

    Chris, I am loathe to enable you to repeat yourself with comments you’ve made multiple times already, but I want to ask you for a direct and clear answer – one that does not stray into any other issues.

    David points out that you are reasoning with cultural blinkers on. He notes that while it’s quite conceivable from a modern Christian (or Jewish) perspective to accept that other cultures, due to numerous factors, might think of adult life as beginning at a different point from when we consider it to begin.

    But when he points out that this is not the case for the biological difference between having sex with a man and having sex with a woman, you appear to deliberately divert from that point so as not to acknowledge it, instead going off on a rant about how people today accept some biblical rules and not others. But the point he made demonstrated just why there is no inconsistency in this case. You’ve ignored the point, and I now want you to state succinctly and directly whether you understood it.

    Please directly answer this question without dragging in a slew of others and without re-introducing lists of points from your old comments where you would have preferred the discussion to go differently: Chris, do you understand that the time when a person enters full adult life might change from one culture to the next, but that this fact does not imply that whether or not the person you’re in a sexual relationship with is a woman or a man can be a subjective judgement, changing from one culture to the next?

  • Christopher Bowers August 22, 2014, 11:30 pm

    There isn’t any ranting on my part Glen.

    David is making the case that the sexual laws are not eternal moral laws, that they can change from culture to culture and can change over time. I wholeheartedly agree.

    Where we disagree is about homosexuality. He thinks that this specific law doesn’t change from culture to culture and I think that it can. If sexual laws can change, or if they can be contextualized as no longer relevant, why can’t the laws about homosexuality as well be contextualized or seen as no longer relevant?

    David pointed out that it was important for people in ancient times to procreate as much as possible as early as possible based on survival. Since that time has passed and that context has changed it is no longer as important and people wait till their late 20’s to marry. Similarly, because that tribal need is no longer critical for survival, homosexuality is less important to ban, because instead of worrying about under population, we are now worried about overpopulation.

    You and David and I agree that sexual laws in the Bible should change (I presume). There are a laundry list of sexual laws ( I won’t repeat them again, don’t worry) that we no longer follow anymore from the Bible. All three parties abandon all those laws, I just go one further and assert that the ones against homosexuality didn’t mean modern homosexuality today, but only homosexuality in the ancient context.

    You and David are wrong if you assert that Christians today don’t think young marriage and polygamy are considered a sin at large by Christendom. They are, I have proven it, and Christians in general are being inconsistent when they assert some sexual laws in the Bible are sinful now, while other sexual laws should be upheld.

    >Chris, do you understand that the time when a person enters full adult life might change >from one culture to the next, but that this fact does not imply that whether or not the >person you’re in a sexual relationship with is a woman or a man can be a subjective >judgement, changing from one culture to the next?

    No, I don’t agree with that. If cultural change can affect the sexual laws in the Bible, it can affect all sexual laws, not certain ones and not others. I am not implying that the change of one law somehow has to do with the other. Merely that if some sexual laws are changeable, they all are.

    Are sexual laws in the Bible affected by cultural change? Or are they eternal immutable laws that never change? (Like thou shalt not murder). You want people to believe that many sexual laws in the Bible are changeable to the times EXCEPT the law about homosexuality, which is somehow eternal and immutable. Why is that?

  • christopher bowers August 22, 2014, 11:42 pm

    I hope Glen will allow this comment as I have two people to respond to.

    David, I would like to address to you that I’m not using uneven weights and measures. While the Ancient Israelites believed that adulthood begins at 12, and modern Christians now believe it begins at a much higher age, it’s still inconsistent.

    Christians now think it is a sin for people to marry that young/engage in sex that young, when they didn’t before. What they think is a sin now, is not a sin in the Bible. Christians abhor the “scourge” and “scandal” of *gasp* TEEN PREGNANCY as if it were the most morally vile thing ever to happen.

    As such, calling on the Bible to justify their ban on homosexuality is inconsistent since they are not following other sexual laws in the Bible.

    Previously you mentioned Biology as a reason why homosexuality is wrong. Biologically modern Christians are dead wrong. They are incorrect (from a biological standpoint) that adulthood begins at 18 (or 21, or 25 if you are renting a car). Biologically a sexually mature individual is considered an adult in any species.

    Why is it that biology is important to determine the rightness of the sexual action by homosexuals, but not important in determining the rightness of action for young adults?

    I can make the same Biological argument for polygamy. In the wild among comparable ape species, polygamy is the norm and Biologically men are designed to impregnate more than one woman if they can, ensuring their genes survival.

    Again, inconsistent.

  • Glenn August 23, 2014, 2:21 pm

    Chris, it looks like David’s comment already suffices to address your reply. I wonder how speedily you read it. I say this just because he won’t get the chance to reply as this is the final comment. I am not sure what he would make of the claims you have attributed to him that he appears not to have made (really – procreate as much as possible due to survival concerns – maybe you confused him with somebody in a different conversation). This reinforces the suspicion I have – with due respect – that your replies are largely canned. You’re not patiently reading what people are actually saying, and you’re rushing in with lists of prior issues that you’ve raised, again (after having already done so several times), and with your position simply stated again.

    But I’m no longer going to argue with it. I’ve given you what I think is a very sizeable amount of my time and certainly, I think, adequate evidence. The interested reader can simply read the thread.

    I chuckled out loud and shook my head when I started reading your reply to me, Chris. In my question to you I explicitly requested that you not go off on a tangent, dragging in previous issues that you don’t think went well, and instead to focus directly on the question. Yet your first few paragraphs, as I had suspected, had nothing to do with the question, and were just reproductions of things that you had already said. I think, again with respect, that this may be a symptom of your thinking about this lacking a bit of discipline. Throughout this conversation it has required a concerted effort on my part to get you to not just spit out lists of issues from previous posts (the reader may not realise that some of your comments were not approved because they were so very repetitious in this way) and re-statements of conclusions, rather than clear interaction with the point being made. That is how I have seen it anyway – but again, I am not going to revisit the issues you raise again in your opening comments in your reply.

    And so we come to your answer to the question. Chris, for the reader’s benefit I’m going to copy and paste David’s remark, and then my question (where I suggested that you had not understood David’s remark), followed by your answer. look carefully at David’s comment and then my question, and then look at your answer. I think if you do it carefully enough you might facepalm at what you said. But I’m not going to argue with what you said. I’ll just present it, so the comment and the reply can be seen right next to each other:

    David: “Jews and Christians can accept that the time when a person enters full adult social life may differ from one culture to the next by several years while accepting that men should not have sex with men and the judgment about whether or not one is having sex with a man cannot legitimately change from one culture to the next.”

    That seems fairly clear. While it is true, says David, that judgements about when adulthood begins will change from one culture to the next (and so whether or not you are marrying a person who is fully adult is a judgement that will change from one culture to the next), judgements about whether or not a the person you’re having sex with is a man are not going to change from one culture to the next.

    You didn’t seem to realise that this was the point, Chris, so I asked you:

    “Chris, do you understand that the time when a person enters full adult life might change from one culture to the next, but that this fact does not imply that whether or not the person you’re in a sexual relationship with is a woman or a man can be a subjective judgement, changing from one culture to the next?”

    Again, that looks really clear to me. I was asking you whether or not you understood that the cultural changeability of judgements about when adult life begins does not imply that judgements about whether or not the person you’re in a sexual relationship with is a man or a woman.

    So two people had said this, and I was actually asking you because I wondered whether or not you had understood it.

    And your reply: “No, I don’t agree with that.”

    Really? You don’t agree with that. Given how emphatic I had been in my clarifying the question, surely I must assume that you understood the question, and this is your answer. You think that the changeability of the criteria of adulthood somehow does imply the cultural changeability of determining whether or not you’re having sex with a man or a woman.

    I have thoughts about whether that’s a sensible view to hold, but as I said, I’m not going to argue against it. I’m just going to leave it there. You’ve offered the last say.