Is Male-Male Homosexuality Forbidden?

male-maleI’m in the process of moving a number posts and articles that appeared in a previous (local-hosted) version of this website. This paper (see link below) was written when I served on our synod’s committee studying the issue of gay marriage and the ordination of practicing homosexuals.

It presents what I would argue is the correct view of the Levitical texts cited as prohibiting homosexual behavior.

Abstract

Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 have been interpreted as constituting a general prohibition against male homosexuality. I show in this paper that the prohibition is exquisitely specific in that it applies only to anal sex between two males.

The paper is technical, but an easy read if you care to trust my translation. If you find the going heavy, post a note in the comments section and I’ll try to explain it as best I can.

Male-Male Homosexual Intercourse

Now, go and study

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Spiritual but not Religious

spiritual-v-religous

I would like to direct you to David Mills’ article, Spirituality Without Spirits in which Mr. Mills deconstructs the claim of being “spiritual but not religious“. He sets the stage thus:

So we find Lady Gaga, the pornographic songstress, telling a reporter for The Times that she has a new spirituality just before taking her out for a night at a Berlin sex club. Asked by the reporter, “You were raised a Catholic — so when you say ‘God,’ do you mean the Catholic God, or a different, perhaps more spiritual sense of God?”, she responded, “More spiritual. . . . There’s really no religion that doesn’t hate or condemn a certain kind of people, and I totally believe in all love and forgiveness, and excluding no one.”

I don’t think Ms. Gaga or anyone else who talks like this has really thought it through. That God who forgives everyone and excludes no one doesn’t object to debauches in Berlin sex clubs — a point in His favor  from [Lady Gaga’s] point of view. But then He doesn’t object to murderers and torturers and corrupt bankers either. A point in His favor from no one’s point of view.

It’s a somewhat long article, and if you are not inclined to clink the link above, here is his conclusion – take it to heart

The man wasting away from pancreatic cancer will get no help nor comfort from the “spiritual,” which will seem a lot less friendly and comforting when he feels pain morphine won’t suppress. He has no one to beg for help, no one to ask for comfort, no one to be with him, no one to meet when he crosses from this world to the next. [Such a man] wants what religion promises.

And he is right to do so. The dying man is the true man, in the sense of being the one who reveals to us what we essentially are. We are on our death bed from the day we are born. To paraphrase Pascal, dying men want not the God of spirituality, but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Now, go and study

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The Meaning of “The Kingdom of God”?

Dr. Mark D. Roberts, Senior Director and Scholar in Residence for Laity Lodge near San Antonio, Texas, has begun a series entitled “What is the Kingdom of God?” Here is his teaser:

The kingdom of God has been equated with all sorts of things in the last two millennia. Some have claimed that it is heaven, and that Jesus was saying, in so many words, “Now you can go to heaven when you die.” Others have understood “the kingdom of God” as referring to the Church. From their perspective, Jesus announced the beginning of the age of the Church. Still others have seen the kingdom of God as a world infused by divine justice. They have taken Jesus’ announcement as a call to social action. In recent times, “spiritually” inclined people have reduced the kingdom of God to inner awareness of one’s divinity. Like the ancient Gnostics, they understand the good news of the kingdom to mean “You are divine.”

The advent of the Kingdom of God was, according to Dr. Roberts, the foundation of the teaching of Jesus. If you claim to follow Jesus and do not understand His conception of the Kingdom, then it’s hard to imagine what you mean by “follow”. In my own view, Dr. Roberts’ characterization of Jesus’ teaching is absolutely correct – and the implications of what this means to live the Christian life are profound. Put another way, if Dr. Roberts is correct (and I think he is), then living for the Kingdom is manifestly not how we order our lives today.

Here’s a hint: the Kingdom of God is not a place. And if you are intrigued, you would do well to Dr. Roberts article.

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What the Bible Really Says: The Song of Songs

what-the-bible-really-saysThe intent of the author of the poem, The Song of Songs was not to express an allegorical representation of the mutual love between God and Israel. As a matter of history, it is much more likely that the idea that this poem was an allegory arose as a response to the prevailing understanding in 1st century Judaism (and earlier) that the poem extolled the eroticism of physical love.  By the beginning of the  2nd century CE, both Judaism[1] and Christianity[2] through their rabbis and priests sought to defend the poem against the charge of lasciviousness. For example, its frank representation of erotic desire and fulfillment led the famous rabbi Akiva ben Joseph (aka Rabbi Akiba) to forbid the use of the Song of Songs in popular celebrations. He was reportedly to have said, “He who sings the Song of Songs in wine taverns, treating it as if it were a vulgar song, forfeits his share in the world to come“.

By the end of the 1st century CE, the rabbis and priests had had enough. They mandated the allegorical interpretation of the Song of Songs to be canonical. From that point forward, its allegorical interpretations have been many and have dominated both Jewish and Christian traditions for over two thousand years. Sadly, it’s as if there were no limits as to the poem’s allegorical meanings. For example, the young man’s sexual desire is thought to be symbolic of Christ’s love for the Church; or this one, that the girl’s two breasts represented … wait for it … Moses and Aaron!

Kissing the War Goodbye in Times Square

Verse 8:3 “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me.

The beauty of the poem has all but vanished as the prudes of the ecclesia were unable to accept that eroticism is a part of the human condition and has a place in Holy Scripture as it does in life. As the translator Stephen Mitchell put it[3],

The young men who sang it in the first-century taverns of Jerusalem, and the young women who dressed in white and danced in the vineyards on the fifteenth of Av, singing it to attract a husband, were better readers than the allegory-dazed scholars and priests.

Crucial to understanding the erotic nature of this poem is the distinction the Hebrew language makes between אָהֵב (/a⋅hav/) commonly and correctly translated as ‘love’ and דּוֹד (/dod/ rhymes with ‘road’) as physical sex, but also as lover, i.e., someone  (usually other than the spouse) with whom one has a sexual relationship. In this poem ahav (occurs 7 times) and always connotes longing or a heart’s desire (vv 1:3, 1:4, 1:7, 3:1, 3:2, 3:3, and 3:4). By contrast, dod in its various forms (used 39 times) always means physical lovemaking or lover. As an aside, the use of dod and its variants to represent physical sex is widely attested in the Bible. For example, in Ezekiel 23:17, the Babylonians are described as having “came in to her on the bed of lovers (/mish⋅kav do⋅dim/)…”. On the other hand, Proverbs 7:16-19 is actually quite explicit:

I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. 18 Come, let’s drink deeply of sex (dod) until morning; let’s delight ourselves with caresses. 19 For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a journey of some distance.

Introduction

The Song of Songs is a poem about a young woman’s nascent sexual desire and its subsequent fulfillment. Marriage is simply not in view. She and her lover meet secretly in the countryside only at night and part by daybreak. It is abundantly clear that they are not married. Whether God frowns on the couple’s behavior is nowhere found in the text. Nor, by the way, is any reference to God. Rather, the poem is about the discovery of erotic sex, quite independent of any moral shadings. Indeed, the overriding sense expressed by both woman and man is one of joy.

The poem is set in a “garden of delights”, a garden characterized by abundance and fertility. Here they engage in sex that is described in rather lurid detail. The main character is a very young woman, probably just having passed through puberty. For example, her brothers still see her as an adolescent saying in verse 8:8,

We have a sister
And she has no breasts

twin-fawns

Young Girl with Twin fawns

Indeed, when she takes explicit note of her breasts she describes them as newly formed by comparing them to the newborn gazelle twins.

The metaphors of feasting suggest fulfillment, particularly when they are in the perfect tense (in Hebrew the perfect tense applies to a verb whose action has completed or been fulfilled), and the verb “to come into” or “to enter” has an objectively sexual meaning in biblical Hebrew. For example, at one point (v 5:1) her lover says,

I came into my garden…
I ate from my honeycomb…
I drank the milk and the wine…

The metaphorical meaning is pretty clear – this is not a sexual desire that the couple look forward to fulfilling (as has often been interpreted). Rather, their sexual desire has been fulfilled and their experience is intimately and richly described.

Anyway, you can read the whole translation here.

 

  1. [1] Loprieno, Antonio (2005). “Searching for a common background: Egyptian love poetry and the Biblical Song of Songs”. In Hagedorn, Anselm C. Perspectives on the Song of Songs. Walter de Gruyter
  2. [2] Norris, Richard Alfred (2003). The Song of Songs: Interpreted by Early Christian and Medieval Commentators. Eerdmans
  3. [3] Copied from his forward in The Song of Songs by Chana and Ariel Bloch, p. XI
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