Sunday, September 2, 2012

Every Biblical Argument Against Being Gay, Debunked Biblically

This election year the states of Washington, Maryland and Maine will vote on Marriage Equality. The state of Minnesota will vote to prohibit Marriage Equality in its constitution.

Some Christian church leaders will encourage members to vote against Marriage Equality citing the Bible as their reason. This presentation by Matthew Vines debunks their arguments and makes a compelling case for Marriage Equality. I urge you to watch it, take notes and incorporate these arguments when debating this issue.


Tal said...

Thanks Fr. Geoff for posting this video. It’s powerful.

I would add that Leviticus 20:13 doesn’t condemn same gender relations, at least as conservatives use it. Certainly, conservatives have a wealth of translations to draw on. The problem, however, is that these translations are premised more on preconception and presumption, than what the original text actually says.

Consider the NIV: “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death.” This translation is rife with issues. The phrases “man” and “sexual relations” depart from the specificity of the Hebrew (and subsequent Greek). The use of “detestable” is cute, but a thesaurus replacement for “abomination” is not best practices (abomination is likely the nearest analogue to the Hebrew “to’evah”; “custom” isn’t unfair, but it misses the flavor). Last, the phrase “as one does with a woman” doesn’t even exist in the original text, but is an interpolation and fabrication.

Leviticus 20:13 in Hebrew states “V’ish asher yishkav et-zachar mishk’vei ishah to’evah asu shneihem mot yumatu d’meihem bam,” or literally, "And he who will lie down with a male in the beds of a woman, the two of them have made an abomination; dying they will be put to death; their blood will be upon them." Shimon bar Yochai, the great First Century Rabbi, said that one who reads the Torah literally is a "fool." So the question becomes, what does Leviticus 20:13 mean?

The last part is relatively uncontroversial. "Dying they will be put to death" is less an instruction to kill than an affirmation of the transgression's severity; i.e., "It would be better they were dead." The reference to "their blood will be upon them" is an indication of blameworthiness, and can be translated "they alone are culpable.”

But this doesn’t illuminate the actual offense. What does "in the beds of a woman" mean? The Septuagint, the oldest of all Torah translations, and the one St. Paul used, states in relevant part, "kai hos an koimethe meta arsenos koiten gunaikos," or "And he who sleeps with a male in the bedstead of a woman.” But the choice of vocabulary here is key, because it offers a wealth of information about what the Jews themselves thought their text prohibited.

For example, “koite” (“koiten” in the text) was often used as a euphemism for sex. In vernacular English, “to bed someone” captures it nicely. But “koite” has a different although related meaning: "bedstead” or “sleeping place”; it’s traditional and proper meaning is “marital bed.” The vocabulary also creates a contrast between the object of sexual contact and the wrong. For example, “gune” (“gunaikos” in the text) is more than just “a woman.” It's understood subtext is “wife.” By contrast, “arsen” (“asrsenos” in the text) is a generic reference to a male, the proper compliment to which is not “gune,” but “thelus” (i.e., generic female). The Greek thus emphasizes a difference in status and condition between the object of sexual contact, “a male,” from the “koiten gunaikos,” the “marriage bed of the wife.” The text strongly implies marriage as the thing wronged.

Putting it together, I suggest a better translation would be “And he who lies with a male in his wife’s marriage bed, both have committed an abomination; it is better that they were dead; they alone are culpable.” The text may not be poetic, but then neither is the Hebrew or the Greek.

letjusticerolldown said...

A Biblical theology/ethic around human sexuality (including the place of homosexual relations)has very little to do with the half-dozen "prohibition" passages.

It has to do with who human beings are; who they are in relation to the created order; who they are in relation to God; their ordained purposes; how God is active in and through history; and the multi-layered meanings of marriage.