The Bible and Homosexuality

For a while now I’ve been meaning to have a look at this essay by David Lose, on the question of whether or not the Bible is a reliable guide to morality. His answer is a qualified yes, where the qualification seems to be that you bring to your exegesis a highly-developed sense of right and wrong to keep you from taking seriously the Bible’s nasty bits. That seems a bit dubious, but rereading Lose’s column it is clear that addressing his argument requires first addressing this essay by Richard Elliott Friedman and Shawna Dolansky

Friedman and Dolansky have written a book called The Bible Now, in which they presume to set the record straight about what the Bible says about various controversial topics. The essay linked above deals with homosexuality specifically, but previous columns addressed abortion and the status of women. In the skilled exegetical hands of Friedman and Dolansky, Biblical passages that sure sound like unambiguous condemnations of homosexuality turn out to be highly contextual prohibitions that can be ignored just as soon as they decide the moral zeitgeist has changed.

Not too plausible, but then I realized that Friedman and Dolansky were replying to this review of their book by Adam Kirsch at The New Republic, meaning that I really had to start there. So let’s have a look at Kirsch vs. Friedman and Dolansky, and leave Lose for another time.


In what follows, all Bible quotations come from the New Revised Standard Version.

There are no completely unambiguous references to homosexuality in the New Testament, though there are certainly verses to give us pause. Here’s 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10:

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers–none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.

The references to male prostitutes and sodomites sure sound like code words for homosexuals, and placing them casually among groups of highly undesirable people who will not inherit the kingdom of God provides no comfort to those who care about gay rights today. As it happens, though, the present discussion revolves entirely around two verses found in Leviticus. First we have Leviticus 18:20: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” We also have Leviticus 20:13: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them. ”

Someone possessed of a modern sensibility regarding gay rights is already feeling queasy, but things only get worse when we consider the surrounding context of these verses. Taking the second one first, we find that Leviticus 20: 1-5 reads:

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Say further to the people of Israel:

Any of the people of Israel, or of the aliens who reside in Israel, who give any of their offspring to Molech shall be put to death; the people of the land shall stone them to death. I myself will set my face against them, and will cut them off from the people, because they have given of their offspring to Molech, defiling my sanctuary and profaning my holy name. And if the people of the land should ever close their eyes to them, when they give of their offspring to Molech, and do not put them to death, I myself will set my face against them and against their family, and will cut them off from among their people, them and all who follow them in prostituting themselves to Molech.

Here we have God Himself personally giving Moses a list of things He really doesn’t like. The list continues in verses 6-9. We pick up the action in verses 10-15:

If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbour, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death. The man who lies with his father’s wife has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall be put to death; their blood is upon them. If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall be put to death; they have committed perversion; their blood is upon them. If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them. If a man takes a wife and her mother also, it is depravity; they shall be burned to death, both he and they, that there may be no depravity among you. If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he shall be put to death; and you shall kill the animal.

What more does God have to say to get the point across? Both participants in a homosexual act are to be put to death, and they are in the same moral category as those who have sex with animals. Case closed!

Things hardly improve in Leviticus 18. The opening chapter makes it perfectly clear that it is God Himself who is speaking, so we cannot argue that the various prohibitions listed so meticulously represent some ancient civil code that the Bible is acknowledging but not endorsing. Skipping ahead to verses 19-24 we have this:

You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness. You shall not have sexual relations with your kinsman’s wife, and defile yourself with her. You shall not give any of your offspring to sacrifice them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. You shall not have sexual relations with any animal and defile yourself with it, nor shall any woman give herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it: it is perversion.

Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, for by all these practices the nations I am casting out before you have defiled themselves. Thus the land became defiled; and I punished it for its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.

There are obscure passages of the Bible, but this is not among them. This prose is a model of clarity. I think that any writer, seeking to communicate the idea that homosexuality is really, really, really unacceptable, would write pretty much what you find in Leviticus. I’d say Friedman and Dolansky have their work cut out for them.

In his review, Kirsch writes:

The first chapter of The Bible Now is devoted to homosexuality, and it is not long before Friedman and Dolansky run into Leviticus 20:13. It is easy to sympathize with their embarrassment. Here the Bible is saying something they obviously regard as cruel and retrograde, something they would not hesitate to brand as homophobic in any other situation. What to do? Well, “for one thing, one must address the law in its context.” Turning from ancient Israel to Assyria, Egypt, and Greece, Friedman and Dolansky observe that these other Near Eastern societies generally had nothing against homosexual acts as such. They reserved their odium for the passive partner in anal sex, the man who was penetrated. A “Middle Babylonian divination text” instructs that “If a man copulates with his equal from the rear, he becomes the leader among his peers and brothers”; on the other hand, Plutarch writes, “We class those who enjoy the passive part as belonging to the lowest depths of vice.”

Never mind that these texts were written more than a thousand years apart, in two very different civilizations, neither of which was Israelite. Friedman and Dolansky use them to establish “the wider cultural context” of Leviticus, from which it follows that “what the authors of Leviticus … may be prohibiting is not homosexuality as we would construe the category today but, rather, an act that they understood to rob another man of his social status by feminizing him.” Why, then, does Leviticus, uniquely among ancient Near Eastern law codes, prescribe death for both partners in homosexual acts? Friedman and Dolansky argue, quoting another Bible scholar, that it is because Leviticus “emphasizes the equality of all. It does not have the class distinctions that are in the other cultures’ laws.”

This is a remarkable performance. Before you know it, a law that unambiguously prescribes death for gay men has been turned into an example of latent egalitarianism.

Kirsch is entirely correct here. I would add that if we take the text seriously then it is not the authors of Leviticus who are issuing prohibitions, but God Himself. As Kirsch notes, Friedman and Dolansky do not accept the divine authorship of the Bible, so they are free to understand the text as the creation of an uninspired human writer. But in that case, what is the point of this exercise? Why would it even occur to anyone to think the author of this portion of Leviticus, writing thousands of years ago, had any particular insight into sexual morality? The Levitical author plainly thought homosexuality was icky. That sensible moderns no longer think that is a welcome development, but it was not anything found in the Bible that led to this particular bit of moral progress.

How do Friedman and Dolansky get around Leviticus 18? Kirsch writes:

But wait: doesn’t Leviticus also say, in Chapter 18, that “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is an abomination”? Here too, Friedman and Dolansky have a reassuring response. “The technical term to’ebah, ”they write, is usually employed in the Bible not for absolute moral laws, but for cultic taboos: “an act or object that is not a to’ebah can become one, depending on time and circumstances.” Maybe homosexuality was once to’ebah, but “why do people assume that things relating to God must be absolute and unchanging? Even for a person who believes in God wholeheartedly, why should that person assume that God is never free to change?”

This is an extraordinary statement. That God is unchanging, at least on moral questions, is absolutely fundamental to quite a lot of Jewish and Christian theology. Especially among some Catholic theologians it is commonly argued that the notion of God changing his mind on some moral question entails a logical contradiction. God doesn’t choose to be good, He simply is goodness in its purest form. He can no more change His ideas of what is morally permissible than He can build a rock so heavy even He can’t lift it. This, moreover, is said to provide a way out of the Euthyphro dilemma.

Why should a believer in God reject the notion that God is free to change? Because such a notion completely puts paid to the idea of absolute morality grounded in God. Was God simply wrong when he said homosexuality was a sin? Unthinkable. But then are we to believe that homosexuality was wrong at the time that God condemned it but has somehow become right today? Then so much for absolute morality.

Kirsch continues:

By this point, the game has been pretty well given away. “We must use [the Bible] with integrity–and humility,” Friedman and Dolansky remark in their preface. “We have to recognize what it teaches even when that teaching goes against what we want. Better to reject the Bible’s teaching than to twist it to make it say what we prefer.” Yet their treatment of Leviticus is nothing but a masterful example of twisting the text to make it say what they prefer. What licenses this kind of reading is the principle that “God is free to change,” that is, to change his mind about what is offensive and inoffensive, good and evil–but only, it seems, in ways that bring him more in tune with the views of people like Friedman and Dolansky (and, I hasten to add, myself).

Again, exactly right.

Let us turn now to Friedman and Dolansky’s response to Kirsch. They write:

We just want to remind you first that this is just one point in a larger treatment of a very controversial subject, and there’s much more to the chapter. There are several points here that call for treatment: Why does the text prohibit only male homosexual acts and not female? Which acts does it forbid: only penetrative intercourse, or all acts? These are in that chapter, and they’re important, but they’re not the subject of this post.

This is a useful paragraph for establishing the sort of hair-splitting in which Friedman and Dolansky engage. Are we seriously to think that verses declaring homosexuality to be a sin punishable by death, among other unpleasant things, is really worried about drawing fine distinctions between different forms of gay sex? And I doubt it even occurred to the male writers of Leviticus to worry about female sexual gratification. Their failure to mention lesbian sex specifically hardly seems like much of a reason for thinking the Biblical authors were OK with it.

But let’s move on to the real action.

The point on which we were thought to be “twisting” came up later in our discussion. We acknowledged that many people have recognized that these two texts pretty clearly do prohibit at least some kinds of male-male sex, but they have asked whether there is any legitimate “way out,” anything in the text that might provide for some change in the law. …

So we sought to contribute another perspective that we believe can be helpful on this subject. The text identifies male homosexual acts by the technical term to’ebah, translated in English here as “an offensive thing” or in older translations as “an abomination.” This is important because most things that are forbidden in biblical law are not identified with this word. In both of the contexts in Leviticus (chapters 18 and 20), male homosexuality is the only act to be called this. (Other acts are included broadly in a line at the end of chapter 18.) So this term, which is an important one in the Bible in general, is particularly important with regard to the law about male homosexual acts.

The question is: Is this term to’ebah an absolute, meaning that an act that is a to’ebah is wrong in itself and can never be otherwise? Or is the term relative — meaning that something that is a to’ebah to one person may not be offensive to another, or something that is a to’ebah in one culture may not be offensive in another, or something that is a to’ebah in one generation or time period may not be offensive in another — in which case the law may change as people’s perceptions change?

When one examines all the occurrences of this technical term in the Hebrew Bible, one finds that elsewhere the term is in fact relative. For example, in the story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis, Joseph tells his brothers that, if the Pharaoh asks them what their occupation is, they should say that they’re cowherds. They must not say that they are shepherds. Why? Because, Joseph explains, all shepherds are an offensive thing (to’ebah) to the Egyptians. But shepherds are not an offensive thing to the Israelites or Moabites or many other cultures. In another passage in that story, we read that Egyptians don’t eat with Israelites because that would be an offensive thing (to’ebah) to them. But Arameans and Canaanites eat with Israelites and don’t find it offensive. See also the story of the Exodus from Egypt, where Moses tells Pharaoh that the things that Israelites sacrifice would be an offensive thing (to’ebah) to the Egyptians. But these things are certainly not an offensive thing to the Israelites.

This argument completely backfires. The examples Friedman and Dolansky cite, in which the Hebrew word to’ebah refers to local customs and taboos, all have two things in common. The first is that they describe human beings talking to other human beings. In this they differ from the verses in Leviticus, which describe God Himself providing instructions to humanity. The second is that the context of their examples make it completely obvious that it is local customs that are being described. Again, not so in Leviticus. The verses in Leviticus look to virtually everyone like absolute prohibitions, which is why clever folks like Friedman and Dolansky must work so hard to argue for any other view. We now know that the Biblical authors were perfectly capable of expressing the idea of merely local taboos. Why then did they not do so in Leviticus?

More succinctly, when a person describes something as an abomination he is expressing an opinion. When God describes something as an abomination He is expressing a fact.

But they have an answer even to that:

Now, one might respond that the law here is different because it concerns an offensive thing to God — and is therefore not subject to the relativity of human values. But that is actually not the case here. The Bible specifically identifies such laws about things that are divine offenses with the phrase “an offensive thing to the LORD” (to’ebat yhwh). That phrase is not used here in the law about male homosexual acts. It is not one of the laws that are identified as a to’ebah to God!

What Bible did they read? As I’ve shown, in the Levitical verses we are told it is God Himself who is speaking. He is telling us directly what He finds offensive. This is not an instance of some priestly writer reporting on what he somehow knows is offensive to God. Moreover, the severity of the Biblical language against homosexuality makes it very hard to believe that it was just some trivial ancient taboo that was being described. After all, the land was defiled in part because of homosexuals, God punished them specifically for their behavior, and the land had to vomit them out. Is that usually what happens when you violate some local, changeable taboo?

Friedman and Dolansky close with:

Our colleagues with expertise in biblical scholarship and especially in biblical Hebrew may agree with or challenge this analysis. So far they have been complimentary.

I have no doubt that in the small community of Biblical scholars, this sort of analysis is considered very clever and highbrow. No doubt they endlessly pat each other on the backs for it and shake their heads sadly at those who think that when God personally describes something as an abomination, He actually intends to express His disapprobation for that something. But their arguments amount to nothing. To accept their conclusion we must believe that the Biblical authors once again (let us recall that the early chapters of Genesis come in for similar treatment at the hands of Biblical scholars) expressed themselves in ways that are most naturally understood in a manner almost precisely opposite to what they meant to say.

This is not reasonable. If you want to use the Bible as a moral guide then you are stuck with it. The text is not infinitely malleable, and you cannot reasonably interpret X to mean not X. Rather than try to twist the text to fit modern moral sensibilities, which despite their denials is precisely what Friedman and Dolansky are doing, why don’t we simply discard this particular ancient book and move on to more promising approaches to morality?

Comments

  1. #1 Jerry
    December 1, 2011

    Great post Jason!

    It is very clear that the authors of the old testament describe homosexuality as sin and an abomination that deserves the punishment of death to both partners. Yet, many folks who believe that the bible is the word of God live a homosexual lifestyle. How do they manage that without major stress? I just don’t get it.

  2. #2 Patrick
    December 1, 2011

    Its also worth noting that there are at least three issues here.

    The first is whether the Bible obligates modern Christians to believe that homosexuality is immoral.

    The second is whether the Bible is a reliable guide to morality.

    The third is whether the quoted passages of the Bible are a moral indictment of the God it portrays.

    You could actually answer no to the first and second, and still answer yes to the third.

  3. #3 itchy
    December 1, 2011

    Or is the term relative — meaning that something that is a to’ebah to one person may not be offensive to another, or something that is a to’ebah in one culture may not be offensive in another, or something that is a to’ebah in one generation or time period may not be offensive in another — in which case the law may change as people’s perceptions change?

    Soooo … God commands that people be put to death for participating in an act that is not universally condemned by humans.

    Every time they try to back away from one result of their logic (God is an evil gay-hater), they move toward the other (the Bible isn’t an inerrant guide to morality).

  4. #4 Ed
    December 2, 2011

    I like the part about killing the sheep after someone buggers it. Because obviously it gave its consent to the abomination.

  5. #5 derp
    December 2, 2011

    There are no completely unambiguous references to homosexuality in the New Testament

    Romans 1:27?

  6. #6 eric
    December 2, 2011

    What is curious to me is why modern fundamentalists think being gay is so much worse than other sins, when every single verse you’ve cited above lumps it in with a lot of other things.

    The bible does not show any of the specific anti-gay bias shown by today’s homophobes. Yes, the OT says gay is bad…but its as bad as being a drunk. Or sleeping with your neighbor’s wife. Or letting your kid be baptized to Molech. And in other verses, death is also levied for being a recalcitrant kid. Or a false prophet. Or a witch.

    What we have here is not a biblical animus specifically towards gays, but a fairly bloodthirsty biblical moral code that demands death as punishment for a wide variety of behaviors, one of which is gay sex. And to the extent that modern fundies ditch all of that code except the parts about gays, they are introducing an anti-gay bias into their religion not justified by the book itself.

    You want to throw out Deut and Lev’s long lists of things you ought not do based on the ‘new covenant’ argument? Fine. I’m okay with that. But if you throw them all out except the ones you find personally offensive, then you aren’t making any sort of exegetical argument at all, you’re just post hoc rationalizing your own opinions.

  7. #7 David Gerard
    December 2, 2011

    When you point out what a vile document the Bible actually is, the usual evasion is to throw the entire Old Testament under a bus. Has anyone compiled particularly odious contents of the New Testament?

  8. #8 bobh
    December 2, 2011

    When I read these passages what I see is that greed is as bad as homosexuality ( 1 Corinthians 6: 9 -10) and that many heterosexual acts are as bad as homosexuality (Leviticus 20: 19 – 24) When the greedy are put to death for being greedy I’ll entertain the claim that homosexuality is bad. But will still reject it – WTF, the bible is a 2000 year old collection of myths and superstitions.

  9. #9 Brandon
    December 2, 2011

    If the best we can say is that if you already have a developed sense of morality when you come to the Bible, the Bible won’t mess you up too badly, that doesn’t really do a great job of promoting the morality contained therein.

    I know there’s plenty of evidence that “sophisticated” theologians are often bright, educated people, but it sure is hard to believe when they make such painfully stupid arguments.

  10. #10 Michael Dowd
    December 2, 2011

    Excellent post, Jason!

    If you’re not already familiar with Mike Earl’s “Bible Stories Your Parents Never Taught You”, you’ll love it. The whole series is fabulous, and for many, life changing. I’ve yet to find a religious person who could listen to parts 1 and 2 (Old Testament and New Testament) and still think about the Bible as a moral guide. (And I’ve turned hundreds of people onto this audio of Earl’s, as well as his “The Ultimate Terrorist”, which is just as good.

    Enjoy!

    Bible Stories Your Parents Never Taught You:
    http://reasonworks.com/michael-scott-earl/bible-stories-your-parents-never-taught-you/

    The Ultimate Terrorist
    http://reasonworks.com/michael-scott-earl/the-ultimate-terrorist/

  11. #11 Wow
    December 2, 2011

    “the usual evasion is to throw the entire Old Testament under a bus.”

    However, throwing the OT under the bus is a killer for the NT.

    The main point of the NT is that JC is born, dies for our sins, and we get to Heaven through him because of it.

    But those sins were the one Adam and Eve committed in the Garden of Eden. Which we’ve just thrown out. So no sin to forgive us for.

    And JC insists he’s not God, just the Son. But God DOES NOT appear in the NT (though Satan does get a small role). God appears in the OT. So that’s gone under the bus.

    Now what we have is some dude got born, went hippie, got nailed to a dod o’ wood for slagging off priests.

    All we can now learn from the NT is that priests will nail you to a plank if you piss them off.

    This is hardly an uplifting story, and rather odd to be pushed by priests…

    (PS there are places where JC says that you should whip your children if the diss God or turn from the faith, or cheek their parents, but that children should cheek their parents if they don’t follow god, thereby deserving a whipping.)

  12. #12 Wow
    December 2, 2011

    “What is curious to me is why modern fundamentalists think being gay is so much worse than other sins”

    Because they get a boner thinking about it.

    Just like women are bad for inciting lust in men, gays are bad for inciting lust in men too.

    So when you hear someone berate gays, just remember the same screed comes from the same people when women walk around displaying their flesh for men to drool over^W^W be tempted to sin by.

  13. #13 David Gerard
    December 2, 2011

    Sorry, yes – the usual evasion is to carefully and selectively throw the Old Testament under a bus.

    “Marge, everything is a sin. You ever sat down and read this thing? Technically, we’re not allowed to go to the bathroom.”

  14. #14 RPS
    December 2, 2011

    “If you want to use the [U.S. Constitution] as a [legal] guide then you are stuck with it. The text is not infinitely malleable, and you cannot reasonably interpret X to mean not X. Rather than try to twist the text to fit modern [legal and societal] sensibilities, which despite their denials is precisely what [modern constitutional scholars] are doing, why don’t we simply discard this particular [legal document] and move on to more promising approaches to [legal governance]?”

    Is this statement not equally true?

  15. #15 Wow
    December 2, 2011

    Though they’ll NEVER say that, Dave.

    They’ll say they throw it all out (because otherwise you can ask “why throw the bit out about raping the losers’ women?”). And when you ask about the meaning of the NT without the OT, they’ll ignore you.

    Because they’re not actually throwing any of it away. They just want to *say* they are.

  16. #16 Marta
    December 2, 2011

    Really good essay, Dr. Rosenhouse.

    In this line, “You shall not give any of your offspring to sacrifice them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God”, who is “Molech”?

  17. #17 Wow
    December 2, 2011

    “Is this statement not equally true?”

    I don’t see that that’s a problem.

    A legal guide is not a moral guide and we don’t confuse the two.

    Additionally, we don’t actually use the [US constitution] as a legal guide. That’s why in a common law system you have judges and precedent.

    And amendments in the US case.

    So I don’t think it is equally true, but even if it were, it wouldn’t be equivalent to the bible being used as a moral guide except for those weirdos who think that legal == moral (who tend to be people caught using a loophole in the law to do bad stuff).

  18. #18 Roi des Faux
    December 2, 2011

    Actually, the NT says that men having sex is ok as long as they’re Christians. Galatians 3:28; “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Since Christians are neither male nor female, they are incapable of homosexuality. You can have sex with whatever pairing of genetalia that you want. As long as you’re Christian.

    QED

  19. #19 Rieux
    December 2, 2011

    I concur in the widespread strong approval of this post, except… “queezy”? What is that, George Jefferson’s sister-in-law? Surely you mean queasy.

  20. #20 Jason Rosenhouse
    December 2, 2011

    Rieux —

    Picky, picky! I corrected the typo. Thanks for pointing it out.

    derp —

    I’m certainly no expert in Biblical translation, but my impression is that there is some genuine translational ambiguity regarding the references to homosexuality, as well as in the verse from 1 Corinthians that I pointed out. That’s why I said there is no completely unambiguous reference to homosexuality in the New Testament, though there are certainly verses that should make us nervous.

  21. #21 Rieux
    December 2, 2011

    Picky, picky!

    Yes. Sorry. I think it’s congenital.

  22. #22 Wow
    December 2, 2011

    “Since Christians are neither male nor female, they are incapable of homosexuality.”

    Or they’re all doing it every time.

  23. #23 RPS
    December 2, 2011

    “A legal guide is not a moral guide and we don’t confuse the two.”

    The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and the Bible is said to be the only rule of faith and practice (for Protestants — Catholics and the Orthodox find this type of discussion quaint and irrelevant because they do not subscribe to sola scriptura). Thus the interpretation of each of them seems to me to be a pretty similar endeavor.

    “Additionally, we don’t actually use the [US constitution] as a legal guide. That’s why in a common law system you have judges and precedent.”

    There is no way to sugarcut this — you are flat out wrong here. The common law doesn’t supercede the Constitution; it’s the other way around. Judges and precedent relate to interpreting the Constitution. It’s Con Law 101.

  24. #24 Scote
    December 2, 2011

    There is a word for all of this: Eisegesis, reading one’s own ideas into a text. That describes pretty much all reading of the bible’s morality by Christians, who invariable cherry pick which parts of the OT to believe. Ten Commandments? Yes. Stoning non-virgin brides to death on their fathers doorstep? No. Psychology shows us that moral judgments are snap judgments which we later back fill with reasoning. Someone thinks “Gays are icky” and goes and finds the parts of the bible that support that, or that “Gays are fine” and finds ways to say the bible doesn’t hate gays.

    I love how believers say the bible is a reliable source of morality and then proceed to say the way to get that reliable morality is to ignore the plain language of the bible and, instead, use a tortured reading to get answers that match their existing morality. The bible can’t be “reliable” if you have to selectively ignore the plain languange. And if you have to bend over backwards to get the answer you want, chances are you are an eisegete.

    For all their complaints to the contrary, the Christianity doesn’t stand for the absolute moral authority of god but for moral relativism. Christianity is *founded* in moral relativism, as it throws out the moral laws given to a specific time, place and people in the OT in favor of a new set of moral laws in the NT. But when you point this out to Christians they start bending over backwards to explain why that is not so… Sigh.

  25. #25 Wow
    December 2, 2011

    “The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and the Bible is said to be the only rule of faith and practice ”

    Yup.

    Constitution: Law.

    Bible: Morality.

    As long as Law != Morality there’s not really a lot to equate the two.

    Other major (and fatal to your argument) differences:

    Constition: written by men, who can err
    Bible: written by God, who is perfect

    Constition: amended not only by amendments, but not implemented as law, but the source for reasoning for the laws (until corporations got enough money to buy their laws), therefore not the law and not always right

    Bible: inerrant and absolute

    “There is no way to sugarcut this — you are flat out wrong here”

    That’s OK, no need to sugar coat it.

    Just prove it.

    You’ll be unable to.

    “Judges and precedent relate to interpreting the Constitution.”

    Therefore it’s not the constitution that is interpreted, it’s the law. ONLY IF someone can say that the law is in breech of the constitution and win, can the law be removed.

    But still the constitution is not the law.

    (PS note that if the bible is the source of the only law to follow by its believers, then they cannot be US citizens)

  26. #26 Another Matt
    December 2, 2011

    The main point of the NT is that JC is born, dies for our sins, and we get to Heaven through him because of it.

    But those sins were the one Adam and Eve committed in the Garden of Eden. Which we’ve just thrown out. So no sin to forgive us for.

    I don’t think this idea ever really caught on in Eastern Orthodoxy. In those churches, sin is real, but not so much original sin, and the purpose of Jesus was to ontologically pair human with divine so as to raise human nature up from where it always was (see theosis). The crucifixion/ressurection was in order to conquer death rather than for sacrificial atonement, and the concept of hell never quite caught on there to the extent that it did in the West either – in one tradition hell is being in the presence of god’s love without returning it yourself.

    It’s funny – a lot of the new-agey Christians I know take the Eastern route without knowing it: according to them, Jesus wasn’t here to atone, but just to bring about the next stage of human evolution. I get the impression that Andrew Sullivan is an example of this type of Christian.

  27. #27 Jonathan Lubin
    December 2, 2011

    Rather than the bible, I’ll go with James Russell Lowell’s “New occasions teach new duties / Time makes ancient good uncouth”. He was referring to slavery, of course, but…

  28. #28 Wow
    December 2, 2011

    “I don’t think this idea ever really caught on in Eastern Orthodoxy.”

    That’s not over in the USA, is it, though.

    “and the purpose of Jesus was to ontologically pair human with divine so as to raise human nature up from where it always was”

    Except he wasn’t divine. Remember: no god in the NT, only Old.

    “The crucifixion/ressurection was in order to conquer death”

    No, I’m pretty sure he’s still dead. That’s supposed to be how you get to heaven: die.

    So for Eastern Orthodoxy, you have a hippie got nailed to a dod o’ wood because he pissed off the priests.

    This isn’t much of a change, is it.

  29. #29 jay
    December 2, 2011

    oh, I get it. This whole condemnation thing is just a big misunderstanding! As is the people throughout history who were killed because of this misunderstanding, as well as people who were induced to murder because of this misunderstanding…

    Apparently God really has a hard time putting things succinctly and clearly, which is why he needs these guys to explain it to us. He needs a good copy editor.

  30. #30 gr8hands
    December 2, 2011

    The U.S. Constitution just establishes a framework that tells which group is responsible for what — it doesn’t actually establish specific laws.

    It says Congress can regulate interstate commerce, but doesn’t give any specific laws about interstate commerce.

    Nowhere does the Constitution say that killing is a crime, or theft, etc. It says that Congress will pass the laws, and the Judicial branch will set up a system of adjudicating and interpreting the laws.

    Oh, and remember the amendment process — which has even been used to invalidate an amendment, besides amending the Constitution.

    This is totally totally different from any “holy” scripture.

  31. #31 Yesspam
    December 2, 2011

    Excellent post thank you. I would love to hear more about the other ancient moral codes which do not condemn both partners, so as to put this ‘abomination’ in context.

  32. #32 Another Matt
    December 2, 2011

    Except he wasn’t divine. Remember: no god in the NT, only Old.

    I’m sympathetic to the rest of your post, but it’s important to note that the NT is not the basis for belief in Orthodox (or Roman Catholic) churches, but contributes to a wider a-priori capital-T Tradition that is believed to have survived from pre-NT days. There, the divinity of Jesus is not something that is learned from the NT but was already believed by the people who canonized the NT in the first place. Obviously this doesn’t make any of it more worthy of belief, but it just doesn’t do much good to try to nail down non-Protestant faiths on the basis of scripture alone, because there’s always an out somewhere else in the tradition.

  33. #33 Wow
    December 2, 2011

    “it’s important to note that the NT is not the basis for belief in Orthodox (or Roman Catholic) churches”

    Well, I’m sympathetic to your production of the Eastern Orthodox, but since this was a train about those who espouse the NT and throw the OT out (see post 7), it’s not relevant.

    PS RCC DEMANDS Original Sin. Without it, no need for the RCC church because you don’t have weekly confessional.

    Mind you, most religions demand some original sin to work: they HAVE to guilt you into believing their tripe otherwise why would you? They have to make you believe you’re unworthy BUT through the proper thoughts and actions by the priests, you WILL become worthy.

    Original Sin (and the guilt that results) is the source of most of the religion’s (any religion) power.

    RCC place it at Adam and Eve.

    CoS place it at the Body Thetan’s feet.

    But they all do it.

    RCC is just more overt at it.

  34. #34 RPS
    December 2, 2011

    “As long as Law != Morality there’s not really a lot to equate the two.”

    Except for the obvious fact that both the Bible and the Constitution are authoritative texts requiring interpretation. Duh.

    “Other major (and fatal to your argument) differences:

    Constition: written by men, who can err
    Bible: written by God, who is perfect”

    This claim is wrong (and obviously so) on at least two levels. Firstly, only a relatively small sample of Protestants (largely American) believe in Biblical inerrancy and no sect that I’m aware of claims that God wrote the Bible. Secondly, while the Constitution isn’t deemed perfect and can be amended, unless and until it is, it is wholly authoritative and must be interpreted in that context.

    “Constition: amended not only by amendments, but not implemented as law, but the source for reasoning for the laws (until corporations got enough money to buy their laws), therefore not the law and not always right”

    You’re just making stuff up. The Constitution itself (have you even read it?) says that it is “the supreme law of the land.” That makes it both supreme and law. The Constitution also says that federal statutes are made “in pursuance thereof,” which means that they are in fact governed and controlled by the Constitution.

    Do you ghost-write for Ken Ham?

  35. #35 Deepak Shetty
    December 2, 2011

    That God is unchanging, at least on moral questions, is absolutely fundamental to quite a lot of Jewish and Christian theology. Especially among some Catholic theologians it is commonly argued that the notion of God changing his mind on some moral question entails a logical contradiction.

    Absolutely. God is unchanging – All those old popes and theologians got it wrong and didn’t interpret God’s words correctly – the fall and all that you know – or higher planes of existence , apes deciphering alphabets in shakespeares works for the more sophisticated theologians.

    Brilliantly written post, as always. If there were awards for gnu bloggers you get my vote, pharyngulation be damned.

  36. #36 Lenoxus
    December 2, 2011

    Friedman and Dolansky:

    Turning from ancient Israel to Assyria, Egypt, and Greece, Friedman and Dolansky observe that these other Near Eastern societies generally had nothing against homosexual acts as such. They reserved their odium for the passive partner in anal sex, the man who was penetrated. A “Middle Babylonian divination text” instructs that “If a man copulates with his equal from the rear, he becomes the leader among his peers and brothers”; on the other hand, Plutarch writes, “We class those who enjoy the passive part as belonging to the lowest depths of vice.”

    Weirdly enough, this sensibility (however it got here) is rather widespread today, at least in the US.

    Consider prison rape/sex jokes; their target is almost always the man who gets a penis inserted into his anus, and not the man who does the inserting. I’m using such blunt terms, rather than referring to, eg, “rapist” and “rape victim”, because in these types of jokes, consent is often irrelevant, its absence making the joke neither more nor less funny in the mind of the joketeller.

    It’s as if the humor there is that a real man can’t have that happen without his consent, so anyone to whom it does happen is either gay (lol) or not-a-real-man (equivalently lol). (Not to mention that convicts are “fair targets” anyway.) It’s like we’re laughing with the rapist, at the rape victim.

    As you can maybe tell, it’s just about my least favorite kind of “Look how shocking I am” type of joke. At least dead baby humor isn’t based on an actual widespread phenomenon (I hope!).

    Anyway, another instance of this sort of peculiarity in the mixed-up American attitudes about homosexuality is in the phrase “You can suck my dick”, and variations thereof. A frat boy can say that without losing his homophobe cred, because somehow the really gay thing is — again — to be the receiver of the penis. The one getting sucked is just standing there, or something. The insult “cocksucker” does the same thing, efficiently putting down gays and women in one swoop. It’s sort of a Straight Male Gaze thing, I suppose; the average straight man is supposed to love recieving fellatio but not giving it, and then this odd standard is applied to everyone else, making the receptive partners, whoever they may be, into shameful whores. Strange.

    Kirsch:

    Never mind that these texts were written more than a thousand years apart, in two very different civilizations, neither of which was Israelite.

    But they were both in Olden Times! They were basically the same even if they didn’t know it. Heh, I’m reminded of an episode of Futurama in which one of the characters, having arrived in the year 1948 from circa 3000, goes to an American diner and orders “a croque monsieur, the paella, two mutton pills, and a stein of mead.”

    Jason:

    But then are we to believe that homosexuality was wrong at the time that God condemned it but has somehow become right today? Then so much for absolute morality.

    To be fair, many Christians do believe just that with regards to other rules, such as kashrut. Pork really was unclean, or symbolically unclean, or something, until the New Testament days, and likewise with all sorts of other commandments.

    I doubt it even occurred to the male writers of Leviticus to worry about female sexual gratification. Their failure to mention lesbian sex specifically hardly seems like much of a reason for thinking the Biblical authors were OK with it.

    Right on the nose. In that sort of society, there’s way less opportunity for women to covertly get it on, and the idea becomes unthinkable. It’s mostly a man-to-man set of texts. Various commandments in the Bible are gibberish if we interpret the “you” to be sex-neutral instead of male-only, for example, some of what Jesus said about divorce.

    Wow:

    The main point of the NT is that JC is born, dies for our sins, and we get to Heaven through him because of it.
    But those sins were the one Adam and Eve committed in the Garden of Eden. Which we’ve just thrown out. So no sin to forgive us for.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The original sin doctrine is so mind-numbingly inane that its loss can be no loss to Christianity, and perceiving it as any sort of loss gives it way too much credit, I think. That said, if you want to remove the OT but keep the NT, that’s still quite difficult, given how frequently Jesus cites the former, and never spells out just what rules have changed.

    RPS: Care to give a specific example of something you think the US Constitution unambiguously states but which modern interpreters choose to read differently?

  37. #37 Raging Bee
    December 2, 2011

    However, throwing the OT under the bus is a killer for the NT. The main point of the NT is that JC is born, dies for our sins, and we get to Heaven through him because of it. But those sins were the one Adam and Eve committed in the Garden of Eden. Which we’ve just thrown out. So no sin to forgive us for.

    Sorry, that doesn’t wash. First, Jesus (through his disciples) was directing his message to everyone, not just people who originally believed the OT (most of today’s Christians did not start out as Jews or come from a Jewish society). Second, as has already been pointed out, not all Chrisians interpret the Bible literally, so it’s perfectly possible to believe the NT without believing the OT, or the OT’s story about the apple. Third, Jesus was always about using judgment and mercy in applying the laws (ANY laws, not just OT law); so again, it’s perfectly possible to recognize OT law as archaic and obsolete without undermining any basis for belief in the NT.

    If you have to believe the OT to believe the NT, that means that only Orthodox Jews can sincerely believe in Jesus. I’m not a theologian, but I’m pretty sure there are very few Christians who believe that. (Is there any part of the NT where Jesus tells his disciples only to preach to Jews?) Anyone who tells you that is probably less a Christian than an authoritarian trying to enforce Jewish stone-age laws, using Jesus’ name only as a justification.

    Another thing that needs to be remembered is that not all Christians consider the Bible the ONLY source on what God or Jesus wants of us. There are many Christian sects who at least pretend to believe that all people are capable of talking directly to Jesus anytime; so if you say Jesus told you, say, not to hate on the harmless gay couple next door, many Christians will accept that, as long as it doesn’t flatly contradict some very basic tenet like “Thou shalt not kill.”

  38. #38 phil Anderson
    December 2, 2011

    So what’s the agenda of Friedman and Dolansky? They want to tell homosexuals that Christianity is indeed an option for them, right?

    They could use this argument:

    Isn’t there a difference between ‘being’ homosexual, and ‘engaging’ in homosexual sex acts?
    Surely ‘being’ gay is no more a sin than having cancer – it’s just the cards that you’ve been dealt. You have the choice of dealing with it in a sinful way or not.

    I’m sure there are gay Christians who successfully battle their inner urges, just as there are hetero Christians who succeed in avoiding pre-marital sex, and Christian cancer victims who staunchly suppress thoughts of euthanasia.

    I know of preachers who take that view, and would welcome gays into their congregation just as they would welcome drug addicts and criminals. Many preachers make a habit of visiting prisons and are prepared to take mass murderers under their wing if there’s a chance that they will aspire (spiritually) to being something better, i.e. they accept that such a change is out of their control and only the Big man upstairs can turn them round (aka Biblical repentance).

    There are ex-cons who have done this, and I suspect that they do internalize a new sense of morality – because their conscience, as they perceive it, now includes the big guy and they feel they have to answer to him, not just their own morality.

    Any preacher worth his salt has to give homosexuals the same opportunity.

  39. #39 Tulse
    December 2, 2011

    Surely ‘being’ gay is no more a sin than having cancer – it’s just the cards that you’ve been dealt. You have the choice of dealing with it in a sinful way or not.

    Great, so being gay is like cancer. “See, all you have to do is deny a fundamental aspect your being! I’m sure you’ll get used to celibacy — look how well priests deal with it!”

    What would you think of a religion that told you personally that you could no longer have sex with someone of the opposite gender — would you see yourself as sinful for your urges, or just see the religion as insane?

  40. #40 Anton Mates
    December 2, 2011

    Well, “for one thing, one must address the law in its context.” Turning from ancient Israel to Assyria, Egypt, and Greece, Friedman and Dolansky observe that these other Near Eastern societies generally had nothing against homosexual acts as such. They reserved their odium for the passive partner in anal sex, the man who was penetrated.

    Sure, but AFAIK the “odium” in these societies was not backed by law. Adult Greek men who allowed themselves to be penetrated were mocked by their peers, but they weren’t executed. Assyria had laws against homosexual rape, and the Hittites forbade homosexual incest, but neither society nor the Babylonians seem to have forbidden consensual sex between unrelated men. If there is such a thing as a “cultural context” covering the entire ancient Near East, Leviticus stands out as exceptionally homophobic even by that standard.

    Friedman and Dolansky use them to establish “the wider cultural context” of Leviticus, from which it follows that “what the authors of Leviticus … may be prohibiting is not homosexuality as we would construe the category today but, rather, an act that they understood to rob another man of his social status by feminizing him.”

    Even if this interpretation were correct, which I don’t think it is, it hardly makes Leviticus seem less immoral from a modern perspective. “Feminizing” a man only robs him of his social status if you hold that women automatically have lower status than men. (Which, of course, Leviticus does.)

    Why, then, does Leviticus, uniquely among ancient Near Eastern law codes, prescribe death for both partners in homosexual acts? Friedman and Dolansky argue, quoting another Bible scholar, that it is because Leviticus “emphasizes the equality of all. It does not have the class distinctions that are in the other cultures’ laws.”

    I’ve seen that argument before, but I think it’s unsupportable. Leviticus does not emphasize the equality of all; it legitimizes the indentured servitude of Hebrews for up to fifty years, and lifetime slavery for non-Hebrews. It also mandates a different code of conduct for sex with female slaves vs. sex with free women. The authors of Leviticus were obviously totally comfortable with class distinctions, and with robbing both men and women of their social status.

    Moreover, in the same sections Leviticus prescribes death for both partners in bestiality. Is this intended to promote social equality of humans and animals?

    That God is unchanging, at least on moral questions, is absolutely fundamental to quite a lot of Jewish and Christian theology.

    It is contradicted by quite a bit of Scripture, though. God changes his mind all the time–in Genesis, Exodus, Samuel, Jeremiah, Jonah, and arguably in Job.

    This is important because most things that are forbidden in biblical law are not identified with this word. In both of the contexts in Leviticus (chapters 18 and 20), male homosexuality is the only act to be called this. (Other acts are included broadly in a line at the end of chapter 18.)

    This is…stretching the truth, to put it mildly. When to’ebah occurs at the end of chapter 18, it refers to all the acts which have just been mentioned; these include incest, adultery, male homosexuality, bestiality, and having sex with a woman on her period. Elsewhere in Leviticus, to’ebah refers to to the eating of unclean foods, while in Deuteronomy it covers cross-dressing, the return of a twice-divorced woman to her first husband, and the ritual sacrifice of imperfect animals.

    So, yeah, it’s not a generic term for “evil” or “forbidden”, but it covers a very broad category of “impure” or “unclean” behavior. And, as you say, all indications from the text are that God thinks it’s a Very Bad Thing.

  41. #41 Anton Mates
    December 2, 2011

    Two-parting this to see if it gets through the filter:

    Well, “for one thing, one must address the law in its context.” Turning from ancient Israel to Assyria, Egypt, and Greece, Friedman and Dolansky observe that these other Near Eastern societies generally had nothing against homosexual acts as such. They reserved their odium for the passive partner in anal sex, the man who was penetrated.

    Sure, but AFAIK the “odium” in these societies was not backed by law. Adult Greek men who allowed themselves to be penetrated were mocked by their peers, but they weren’t executed. Assyria had laws against homosexual rape, and the Hittites forbade homosexual incest, but neither society nor the Babylonians seem to have forbidden consensual sex between unrelated men.

    If there is such a thing as a “cultural context” covering the entire ancient Near East, Leviticus stands out as exceptionally homophobic even by that standard.

    Friedman and Dolansky use them to establish “the wider cultural context” of Leviticus, from which it follows that “what the authors of Leviticus … may be prohibiting is not homosexuality as we would construe the category today but, rather, an act that they understood to rob another man of his social status by feminizing him.”

    Even if this interpretation were correct, which I don’t think it is, it hardly makes Leviticus seem less immoral from a modern perspective. “Feminizing” a man only robs him of his social status if you hold that women automatically have lower status than men. (Which, of course, Leviticus does.)

  42. #42 Anton Mates
    December 2, 2011

    Why, then, does Leviticus, uniquely among ancient Near Eastern law codes, prescribe death for both partners in homosexual acts? Friedman and Dolansky argue, quoting another Bible scholar, that it is because Leviticus “emphasizes the equality of all. It does not have the class distinctions that are in the other cultures’ laws.”

    I’ve seen that argument before, but I think it’s unsupportable. Leviticus does not emphasize the equality of all; it legitimizes the indentured servitude of Hebrews for up to fifty years, and lifetime slavery for non-Hebrews. It also mandates a different code of conduct for sex with female slaves vs. sex with free women. The authors of Leviticus were obviously totally comfortable with class distinctions, and with robbing both men and women of their social status.

    Moreover, in the same sections Leviticus prescribes death for both partners in bestiality. Is this intended to promote social equality of humans and animals?

    That God is unchanging, at least on moral questions, is absolutely fundamental to quite a lot of Jewish and Christian theology.

    It is contradicted by quite a bit of Scripture, though. God changes his mind all the time–in Genesis, Exodus, Samuel, Jeremiah, Jonah, and arguably in Job.

    This is important because most things that are forbidden in biblical law are not identified with this word. In both of the contexts in Leviticus (chapters 18 and 20), male homosexuality is the only act to be called this. (Other acts are included broadly in a line at the end of chapter 18.)

    This is…stretching the truth, to put it mildly. When “to’ebah” occurs at the end of chapter 18, it refers to all the acts which have just been mentioned; these include incest, adultery, male homosexuality, bestiality, and having sex with a woman on her period. Elsewhere in Leviticus, “to’ebah” refers to to the eating of unclean foods, while in Deuteronomy it covers cross-dressing, the return of a twice-divorced woman to her first husband, and the ritual sacrifice of imperfect animals.

    So, yeah, it’s not a generic synonym for “evil”, but it covers a very broad category of “impure” or “unclean” behavior. And, as you say, all indications from the text are that God thinks it’s a Very Bad Thing.

  43. #43 eric
    December 2, 2011

    Surely ‘being’ gay is no more a sin than having cancer – it’s just the cards that you’ve been dealt. You have the choice of dealing with it in a sinful way or not.

    I have to agree with Tulse here, this is not an unbigoted strategy, its just hiding bigotry behind a nice face.

    Moreover, its still biblically unwarranted bias. After all, Jesus and the NT teach that ALL sex is a sin. Every single act. Ideally, everyone should be celibate. Sex (within marriage) is merely seen as a lesser evil – the church elders who wrote the NT recognized that in practice they couldn’t stop it. No one would listen if they tried to preach that. Sooooo…if some church is going to preach celibacy to their gay members, but not to their straight members, they’re cherry picking based on their own biases. A more biblically justified strategy would be to say: look, nobody should have sex, but if you must have sex, pick one (adult) partner and stick to them. And not care so much about who the partner is, because at that point every one is in the same sin boat.

  44. #44 Raging Bee
    December 2, 2011

    After all, Jesus and the NT teach that ALL sex is a sin. Every single act.

    Citation, please?

  45. #45 eric
    December 2, 2011

    [Eric] After all, Jesus and the NT teach that ALL sex is a sin. Every single act.

    [Raging Bee] Citation, please?

    Matthew 19:10-12 is where Jesus says everyone should be celibate “for the kingdom of heaven,” but also admits not everyone can hack it.

    1 Corinthians 7:6-9 is where Paul reinforces the idea: you should all be single and celibate like me, but if you can’t, at least get married.

    To stay on topic, based on these verses I disagree with Phil @36 that there is any good theological reason why a church would insist on gay celibacy yet not straight celibacy. Its celibacy for everyone, and if you can’t hack it, pick a partner and stick with them.

  46. #46 eric
    December 2, 2011

    D’oh! Scooped!

  47. #47 phil again
    December 2, 2011

    Eric: I see what you mean – I thought heteros were in the same boat because fornication is right next to sodomy in that Leviticus passage. But gays don’t have the ‘get out of jail card’ that is marriage. Quite a game changer.

    I think most modern churches do tolerate hetero pre-marital much more. Certainly, many Christians I know are guilty of it. But AFAIK the NT is not saying you will stop being a sinner once you’ve converted, it just wants you to accept that you are one and that God has a plan for you despite that fact.

    To Tulse: A good many evangelicals do indeed think Catholicism is insane!

  48. #48 phil Anderson
    December 2, 2011

    Rephrasing:
    NT just wants you to accept that you are imperfect and that God has a plan for you despite that fact.
    What I’m saying is that being gay is just another kind of imperfection, so my interpretation of NT should fit for them too.

    It is pretty much impossible to lead a sin-free life, and the few Christians who (in my opinion) succeed in doing so are the first to suggest that they don’t.
    i.e. we *are* all in the same boat!

  49. #49 Bruce Crossan
    December 2, 2011

    “I have no doubt that in the small community of Biblical scholars, this sort of analysis is considered very clever and highbrow. No doubt they endlessly pat each other on the backs for it and shake their heads sadly at those who think that when God personally describes something as an abomination, He actually intends to express His disapprobation for that something. But their arguments amount to nothing.”

    It takes one to know one Jason. Go to http://www.woodlandhills.org. Look for the sermon, by theologian Greg Boyd and Paul Rhodes Eddy on “Wrath and Love + Q&A”.

    The idea that God cannot change because he is perfect is so 4th or 5th century BC; plus it’s a Greek conception of God, not a Biblical one. God can be perfectly good, but man, if he has not received the full revelation of God, can have imperfect ideas about what God is; therefore, it isn’t God that has to change (in his essence), it is man that changes as he moves closer to God. Duh!

    I can pick holes in all of your other arguments too, but I’m to busy patting myself on the back: Go watch the video. bc

  50. #50 Another Matt
    December 2, 2011

    God can be perfectly good, but man, if he has not received the full revelation of God, can have imperfect ideas about what God is; therefore, it isn’t God that has to change (in his essence), it is man that changes as he moves closer to God. Duh!

    So why the insistence among so many Christians that not only have we received the full revelation, but that it fits in a single book (or a single tradition), and that it can be used as is with dire certainty? There’s plenty of language in the various Christian traditions echoing, the words of Jude, “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”

    If what you’re saying is true, why not just allow Christianity to grow up, accept the 21st century, and quit fighting so many stupid unjust battles from previous centuries? Do it in the name of “receiving the full revelation” – I don’t care.

  51. #51 Deepak Shetty
    December 3, 2011

    Bruce Crosnan

    God can be perfectly good, but man, if he has not received the full revelation of God, can have imperfect ideas about what God is; therefore, it isn’t God that has to change (in his essence), it is man that changes as he moves closer to God. Duh!

    True. And it was Mohammed ofcourse who got the full revelation and the imperfect Christians with their imperfect ideas about Gid just cant recognise that. Run along and read your Quran now.

    Anton Mates
    Nice to see your comments.

  52. #52 Raging Bee
    December 3, 2011

    Tulse and eric: none of the quotes you cited support the assertion that “all sex is a sin.” They merely reiterate that (in their opinion at least) the pursuit of sex and other material pleasures interferes with, and distracts from, spiritual pursuits.

  53. #53 Sean Santos
    December 3, 2011

    A few thoughts:

    I find Friedman and Dolansky’s interpretation of Leviticus to be one that condemns its authors even more than the straightforwardly homophobic interpretation. If the authors of Leviticus sincerely believed that male homosexuality was completely immoral, the blood of many men (and by generalization women) is on their their hands, but at least there is one potential, if weak, mitigating factor, which is that they may have sincerely believed that they were doing good, and not have “known better”.

    But to propose that they advocated slaughtering people, not due to moral principles, but to vague offense? A feeling of offense that they subtly acknowledged was part of their own personal prejudice, with no objective or divine purpose? If anything, that’s far, far more monstrous. It barely even seems like comprehensible human behavior. It’s like the cheesy movie villain who shoots a messenger out of pure spite.

    I also wonder what makes the Bible so special to these people, that they feel the need to justify glorifying it above all other texts. It seems like nepotism, like grossly exaggerating the qualifications of a family friend in order to secure her job.

    I can think of quite a few early Greek or Chinese texts that, while still rather sexist (less so than the Torah), are at least moderately reasonable and contain less dangerous principles overall. Some of them even read like the Bible would if most of the bad bits were taken out (which has the added bonus of making them far shorter). And of course there are Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment systems of ethics, which build on previous systems and have the advantage of being created somewhat closer to the present and thus actually being tenable and practicable in the modern world.

    The problem with the Bible isn’t just that it promotes bad ethics; it’s also that there are literally thousands of better starting points for a study of ethics. If you want a serious moral guide, it’s hard to put any thought into the matter and not pick a better book than the Bible.

    @RBS: Quite apart from issues of interpretation, your OP misses the point (repeated several times here) that the Constitution can be amended without compromising its claims to authority, while the Bible cannot. Furthermore, from the perspective of (I imagine) most people here, it is more desirable to amend, rather than discard, the Constitution, because it has at least some pretty decent normative content. But the Bible has both false descriptive content, and so much immoral or irrelevant normative content as to drown the good bits. Accordingly, the most common criticisms of the Constitution tend to hold that it does not go far enough in promoting moral principles, rather than going too far by proposing overly harsh or cruel moral practices. The temptation for most of us is to interpret the Constitution as saying more, not less, than it really does (or so “originalists” would claim). So there is little motivation for anyone to discard the Constitution outright rather than simply adding to it.

  54. #54 mk
    December 3, 2011

    @Raging Bee… “They merely reiterate that (in their opinion at least) the pursuit of sex and other material pleasures interferes with, and distracts from, spiritual pursuits.”

    Says who?

  55. #55 Another Matt
    December 3, 2011

    Tulse and eric: none of the quotes you cited support the assertion that “all sex is a sin.” They merely reiterate that (in their opinion at least) the pursuit of sex and other material pleasures interferes with, and distracts from, spiritual pursuits.

    And according to lots of theologians, anything which “interferes with, and distracts from, spiritual pursuits” is – by definition – a sin.

  56. #56 Verbose Stoic
    December 4, 2011

    Tulse and Eric,

    Here’s the full text of Matthew 1 – 12:

    ” 1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

    3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

    4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

    7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

    8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

    10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

    11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

    The clear implication is that it is better to marry, but if you can’t accept what that entails then it would be better off for you to never marry at all. It’s a blanket condemnation of divorce (except in cases of sexual infidelity) not a call for celibacy or a call to not get married.

  57. #57 Anton Mates
    December 5, 2011

    The clear implication is that it is better to marry, but if you can’t accept what that entails then it would be better off for you to never marry at all.

    That seems backwards to me. As I read the passage, Jesus is saying that it’s better not to marry and to be celibate, but if you can’t accept what that entails, then it’s better to marry and never divorce.

  58. #58 Verbose Stoic
    December 5, 2011

    Anton,

    That would be a problematic interpretation in context, which is why I produced the whole context. Jesus starts by talking about marriage, in glowing terms, clearly considering it to be an important thing. His disciples say that if that’s what marriage is, it would be better to never get married. And his reply basically translates to “Well, if that’s what ya gotta do, do it, instead of getting married and not living in a marriage properly and then committing adultery”. I don’t see how it is reasonable to read your interpretation out of the full context.

    Look at the last statement again. What does it mean to “accept this”? I think it means “accept my view of marriage”. Then “living like a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven” translates to “staying celibate if you can’t do marriage properly”.

  59. #59 Wow
    December 5, 2011

    “Says who?”

    Catholics (see Nuns, Nunnery, et al).

    Other religions do so to (to achieve enlightenment in a Bhuddist temple, many swear off all family ties and become celibate.

  60. #60 Another Matt
    December 5, 2011

    Look at the last statement again. What does it mean to “accept this”? I think it means “accept my view of marriage”.

    It’s just as reasonable for “accept this” to refer to celibacy, since verse 11 also refers to “accepting this word.” In that context it sounds like Jesus says:

    1. Moses let you divorce because your hearts were hard, but I have a higher standard.

    2. You who are married should not divorce.

    3. Not everyone can pull off celibacy, but those who can [accept that it is better not to marry and withstand the trials of celibacy] should.

    He’s saying – here are some things that are acceptable given the current circumstances. But look, if you want the really good stuff, try celibacy – not everyone can handle it of course, but if you think you can, you should totally try.

  61. #61 eric
    December 5, 2011

    Phil @48: I think most modern churches do tolerate hetero pre-marital much more.

    And what I’m saying is, if they’re treating gay pre-marital sex worse than (many other sins like) straight pre-marital sex, that’s bias. At this point all gay sex may be pre-marital, but that is beside the point. There’s little biblical justification for creating a new category of extra-heinous sins just for gay sex. I’ll buy the conservative religious argument that Christianity sees it as a sin. I may not agree with it, but I see where they get that from the text. But I don’t buy that its worse than many other sins (like, say, adultery). That does not appear in the text. Yet the religious right treats it that way.

    VS @59: its not a problematic interpretation, its a pretty clear one. Marriage is better than sleeping around, but celibacy is better than marriage. That’s pretty clearly what J. means, and Paul says pretty much the exact same thing in his letter to the Corinthians.

  62. #62 Owlmirror
    December 5, 2011

    The clear implication is that it is better to marry

    The clear implication is that it is better to cut off your own balls and penis.

    And if thy hand or thy foot causeth thee to stumble, cut it off, and cast it from thee: it is good for thee to enter into life maimed or halt, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into the eternal fire. And if thine eye causeth thee to stumble, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is good for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into the hell of fire.

    It’s a blanket condemnation of divorce (except in cases of sexual infidelity) not a call for celibacy or a call to not get married.

    It’s a blanket condemnation of divorce (except in cases of sexual infidelity), and it’s a call to not get married, and it’s a call for self-castration.

  63. #63 Verbose Stoic
    December 5, 2011

    Another Matt,

    Why do you think that “this word” should refer to what his disciples asked him instead of what he actually said.

    Again, Jesus never said that it would be better to be celibate than to be married. He was replying to the comment his disciples raised suggesting that if marriage requires what Jesus says it requires, then it would be better to be celibate than to be married. In that context, Jesus’ reply would be a very lukewarm advocation of universal celibacy.

  64. #64 eric
    December 5, 2011

    So, VS, where Jesus says that those who can accept living like eunuchs should live like eunuchs, you interpret that as support for sex within marriage?

    Well, I will say this for your interpretation: its a very fine example of what Jason talks about in his latest post about David Lose. Specifically, its a great example of how people take from the bible the lessons which are consistent with what they already believe.

  65. #65 Another Matt
    December 5, 2011

    Why do you think that “this word” should refer to what his disciples asked him instead of what he actually said.

    Oh, I see what you’re saying now; yes, yours is a perfectly reasonable interpretation. But now that you point it out, I don’t think it’s at all obvious what the antecedent of “this” is in context.

  66. #66 Raging Bee
    December 5, 2011

    And according to lots of theologians, anything which “interferes with, and distracts from, spiritual pursuits” is – by definition – a sin.

    Which means sex is not a sin as long as it doesn’t actually interfere in spiritual pursuits. So no, the Bible does not really say all sex is a sin.

    Oh, and Owlmirror? Your interpretation @63 is batshit crazy, is not supported by the actual text, and is only shared by lunatics with serious sexual hangups. Quite frankly, I don’t think even al-Qaeda-Pat would go that far.

  67. #67 Another Matt
    December 5, 2011

    Which means sex is not a sin as long as it doesn’t actually interfere in spiritual pursuits. So no, the Bible does not really say all sex is a sin.

    Well, I guess the question is whether sex is something that inherently interferes in spiritual pursuits. I don’t think think you could plausibly say that according to Christian teachings, adultery (say) is a sin only if it interfere’s with spiritual pursuits: it does so automatically because it’s sinful and it’s sinful because it does so – it’s a distinction without a difference. Some theologians do in fact extend this to all sex, unless you go out of your way to make your sex only procreative on the one hand and not pleasurable on the other. But these would be the same who think of enjoying ice cream as sinful for the same reason – it’s taking pleasure in a worldly thing.

  68. #68 Raging Bee
    December 5, 2011

    Some theologians do in fact extend this to all sex…

    And those theologians represent a minority interpretation within Christianity.

  69. #69 Owlmirror
    December 5, 2011

    Your interpretation @63 is batshit crazy,

    That’s because the text is batshit crazy.

    is not supported by the actual text,

    Except that it is indeed supported by the actual text.

    Look, if the writer didn’t intend to mean cutting parts of oneself off, why does the writer so fervently express the cutting off of ones parts, and refer to one who has his parts cut off?

    and is only shared by lunatics with serious sexual hangups.

    Like Origen!

  70. #70 Owlmirror
    December 5, 2011

    and is only shared by lunatics with serious sexual hangups.

    Oh, and in addition to Origen, the Skoptsys!

  71. #71 eric
    December 5, 2011

    Raging Bee @69: And those theologians represent a minority interpretation within Christianity.

    Citation please?

  72. #72 Wow
    December 5, 2011

    Elucidation of what it is you want cited, please, eric.

  73. #73 mk
    December 5, 2011

    Xtians: sex is icky. At best it is strictly for the purpose of making more little xtians… and only in the missionary position if you please. ;^}

    It is fun watching xtian apologist twist themselves into rhetorical knots.

    And those theologians represent a minority interpretation within Christianity.

    Explain this.

  74. #74 eric
    December 5, 2011

    Wow, I want Bee’s claim @69 cited. Specifically, that “sex is sinful” is a theologically minority view in Christianity.

  75. #75 Verbose Stoic
    December 5, 2011

    Another Matt,

    It seemed obvious to me, which proves, I think, one thing: the “obvious” interpretation is, in general, nowhere near as obvious as we think it is [grin].

  76. #76 Another Matt
    December 5, 2011

    Wow, I want Bee’s claim @69 cited. Specifically, that “sex is sinful” is a theologically minority view in Christianity.

    It’s going to be tricky because “minority interpretation within Christianity” here could refer to the believing public, or to clerical authorities, or to historically important authorities, depending on what you care about or mean when you say “Christianity.” Does this bit of trivia matter so much though? Can’t we just say that Christianity in general views all sex as a danger, whether it’s a slightly more or less extreme version? I remember being told that when having procreative sex with a spouse it was still important to be thinking about Jesus the whole time so that one wouldn’t get tempted by lust.

    Complete aside: Wow, I like your choice of screen name – anyone who addresses you by it automatically does so with an air of astonishment.

  77. #77 Raging Bee
    December 5, 2011

    I remember being told that when having procreative sex with a spouse it was still important to be thinking about Jesus the whole time so that one wouldn’t get tempted by lust.

    And how many other Christians remember being told that? And of those Christians who were told that, how many actually took it at all seriously?

    When a religious “leader” says his church believes something, there’s proof of the statement. But if most of his parishoners quietly ignore and reject it, there won’t be much proof of that.

  78. #78 eric
    December 5, 2011

    VS @75:

    It seemed obvious to me, which proves, I think, one thing: the “obvious” interpretation is, in general, nowhere near as obvious as we think it is [grin].

    I agree with you on that. Now, this would be a fine and dandy observation if we were discussing Shakespeare. But, as Jason points out, when one is discussing a message from God containing critical information about salvation, lack of clarity is a major theological problem. Is it unclear because God was incapable of clarity? Because he didn’t want to be clear? Or because the bible authors screw up his message? The first two say something negative about God. The last one throws the whole bible into doubt as a source of theological truth. Out goes inerrancy, even the inspirational kind.

  79. #79 Owlmirror
    December 5, 2011

    Hm. My comment prior to what is now #70 got held.

    Let me see if I can get it through in parts:

    Your interpretation @63 is batshit crazy,

    That’s because the text is batshit crazy.

  80. #80 Owlmirror
    December 5, 2011

    is not supported by the actual text,

    Except that it is indeed supported by the actual text.

    Look, if the writer didn’t intend to mean cutting parts of oneself off, why does the writer so fervently express the cutting off of one’s parts, and refer to one who has his parts cut off?

    (expanding on that from what I originally wrote)

    It’s all very well to say that it was hyperbolic, but Jesus seems to have been very hyperbolic in being against sex in more than one location in the gospels. Even if he didn’t mean for people to literally de-ball themselves, he certainly seems to have been expressing approval of people figuratively de-balling themselves. And literal de-balling is certainly an interpretation that some Christians made of the text, and figurative de-balling is certainly an interpretation that many more Christians made of the text.

  81. #81 Owlmirror
    December 5, 2011

    and is only shared by lunatics with serious sexual hangups.

    Like Origen!

    (expanding on this some more)

    You may well argue that Origen, and the Skoptsys, and the Shakers, and the Cathars, and all of the nuns, priests, and monks who took their vows of chastity seriously were all outliers … but I don’t see how you can infer from the gospels that the gospel writers, with their reflections of what they thought Jesus said, were not themselves outliers in their conception of “purity” and anti-sex attitudes.

  82. #82 Owlmirror
    December 5, 2011

    [Does this work?]

    and is only shared by lunatics with serious sexual hangups.

    Like Origen!

    (expanding on this some more)

    You may well argue that Origen, and Paul of Tarsus, and the Skoptsys, and the Shakers, and the Cathars, and all of the nuns, priests, and monks who took their vows of chastity seriously were all outliers … but I don’t see how you can infer from the gospels that the gospel writers, with their reflections of what they thought Jesus said, were not themselves outliers in their conception of “purity” and fanatically prudish attitudes.

  83. #83 Verbose Stoic
    December 5, 2011

    eric,

    “Well, I will say this for your interpretation: its a very fine example of what Jason talks about in his latest post about David Lose. Specifically, its a great example of how people take from the bible the lessons which are consistent with what they already believe.”

    I suggest, actually, that the people who seem to be trying so hard to claim that that statement should be seen as advocating celibacy over marriage are the ones that are simply reading into the Bible what they want to take from it, for the reasons I’ve cited. Thus, if you want to claim that that’s what I’m doing, you need to do the same: argue for why you think that interpretation is valid. The “those who can accept this should accept it” is quite easily attached to the concept of marriage that Jesus is espousing.

  84. #84 Verbose Stoic
    December 5, 2011

    eric @79,

    First, this is from the New Testament. Few claim that the NT was dictated by God, and so the problem of inerrancy doesn’t apply there.

    Second, this is also translated, and it isn’t common to claim that the translations are divinely inspired and therefore inerrant, as far as I know.

    Third, you are ignoring the most important part: the issue here seems to be in the interpreters, not the text itself. It is pretty much impossible for one person to write something in a specific context that will be interpreted the same in all contexts by all people. Philosophy deals with this all the time; great philosophers can take a lot of time with their works to make them as clear as possible and still end up with people arguing over what was really meant for at least decades, even for those who are, in fact, really clear writers. To me, using the translation provided in the full context, the meaning is clear, as I demonstrated. Others have interpreted it differently, but I argued that they did so starting from an incomplete context where the interpretation is not so clear, and then tried to carry that on to the full context. By ignoring the role that the interpreter plays in any interpretation of any statement, you are insisting on a clarity that simply cannot be achieved due to subjective biases on either side: some people wanting to justify it being gentler than might be thought, some people wanting to justify it being harsher than might be thought.

    I claim that at that point, you have to argue for it, and give specific reasons why one interpretation or another makes OBJECTIVELY more or less sense, which I claim to have provided. That, then, is how you go about settling these issues. And I fail to see how that in and of itself would be problematic.

  85. #85 Owlmirror
    December 5, 2011

    It makes no sense at all to claim that the text supports Jesus approving of marriage over chastity given that Jesus himself supposedly never fucked and never married.

  86. #86 eric
    December 5, 2011

    VS @84: Thus, if you want to claim that that’s what I’m doing, you need to do the same: argue for why you think that interpretation is valid. The “those who can accept this should accept it” is quite easily attached to the concept of marriage that Jesus is espousing.

    My argument is that the second sentence in verse 12 makes reference to what is directly before it, i.e. the first sentence in verse 12.

    You, OTOH, are forced to argue that the second sentence in verse 12 does not refer to its immediate antecedent, but back to verse 9 or 10. Do you really want to charge that your interpretation is the simpler, more obvious of the two?

    Moreover, you must also claim that verse 11 does not refer to verse 10. Which makes the conversation somewhat weird. Disciples say A, Jesus responds to A. Disciples say B, Jesus responds…and according to you, he’s responding back to A, not B. Then the disciples say C, and Jesus responds with two sentences… one of which, you claim, again refers back to A instead of both sentences being about the same subject. All of which occurs without Jesus telling the disciples that he’s switching back to an earlier topic. Explain to me why you think the conversation goes in this stilted, abnormal way it must go to support your claim.

    I claim that at that point, you have to argue for it, and give specific reasons why one interpretation or another makes OBJECTIVELY more or less sense, which I claim to have provided

    Why do I have to argue for an objective meaning when my very point is that God’s message is not clear? If there’s an objective meaning but lots of people disagree about it, that supports my argument…but if the meaning is subjective and there is no objective meaning, that supports my argument too.

  87. #87 Raging Bee
    December 5, 2011

    It makes no sense at all to claim that the text supports Jesus approving of marriage over chastity given that Jesus himself supposedly never fucked and never married.

    Non-sequitur: just because someone never did something, doesn’t mean he didn’t approve of it. I approve of hang-gliding, even though I’ve never done it and most likely never will.

  88. #88 Another Matt
    December 5, 2011

    Few claim that the NT was dictated by God, and so the problem of inerrancy doesn’t apply there.

    Depends on the tradition. For the Orthodox and Catholic, and most evangelicals the NT is taken to be fully inspired (in the doctrinal sense) and inerrant.

    Second, this is also translated, and it isn’t common to claim that the translations are divinely inspired and therefore inerrant, as far as I know.

    This also depends on tradition. For the OT, the Orthodox claim that the Septaguint was translated through divine inspiration, and it is to be trusted in favor of the Hebrew bible from which it was translated when the two disagree on meaning. Ditto the Vulgate, yes-no? Similarly, there is a huge group of “King James Only” protestants who believe the KJV is the divinely inspired translation of the NT into English. There are various reasons they believe this, but in general the arguments center around “the people who translated it believed what it said, so God wouldn’t let them get it wrong – but the other versions were done by scholars many of whom weren’t believers.”

  89. #89 Owlmirror
    December 5, 2011

    Non-sequitur: just because someone never did something, doesn’t mean he didn’t approve of it.

    Strawman: I did write over, there, and I did not write or imply that Jesus didn’t approve of marriage.

    I approve of hang-gliding, even though I’ve never done it and most likely never will.

    Clearly, you approve of not-hang-gliding over hang-gliding, since you don’t hang-glide yourself. And Jesus approved of not-fucking over marriage, since he did not fuck and did not marry, and called on others to de-ball themselves — at a minimum, a hyperbolic call to not-fuck, in imitation of himself, the not-fucker.

    Q E fucking — or not-fucking — D.

  90. #90 mk
    December 5, 2011

    I’d still like to see raging bee back this up…

    And those theologians represent a minority interpretation within Christianity.

  91. #91 eric
    December 5, 2011

    I wrote a longer response which is awaiting moderation, so this will be short.

    VS @85: your interpretation requires that Jesus respond to his disciples comments by going back and addressing earlier questions instead of what they just said. Mine assumes the much simpler and obvious flow that they ask a question, and Jesus’ response refers to their last comment/question. Thus, 11 refers to 10, and the second sentence in 12 refers to the same subject as the first sentence in 12, and both address the disciples comment that it is better not to marry.

    @86: I don’t have to show an objective meaning, or even assume their is one. My point is that God’s message is unclear. If people can’t agree on an objective message OR if there isn’t one, both support my point.

  92. #92 Another Matt
    December 5, 2011

    I’d still like to see raging bee back this up…

    And those theologians represent a minority interpretation within Christianity.

    I am curious what difference it makes whether it’s a majority opinion or a minority opinion among Christians/theologians. There are some who hold it, and some who don’t; it’s pretty useless as a gotcha point. If anything we need an explanation as to why there’s disagreement among Christians on this matter at all.

    A related topic is what the original sin was supposed to be. I’ve heard all kinds of things, but I have met plenty of people who believe it was the Original Sexing (the serpent represents the Original Penis), and that “knowledge of good and evil” is supposed to mean “knowledge of the nature of sex.” This idea is latent in the anti-sex-ed crowd’s arguments – they’re worried we’re repeating the original sin whenever we teach middle schoolers how to put a condom on a banana. Maybe this is better than the crowd who thinks the original sin was trying to exercise moral instincts or those who think it was simply learning things on one’s own.

  93. #93 Anton Mates
    December 6, 2011

    Anton,

    That would be a problematic interpretation in context, which is why I produced the whole context.

    I understand your reasoning, but I disagree with you about what the whole context says.

    Jesus starts by talking about marriage, in glowing terms, clearly considering it to be an important thing.

    He considers it to be an important thing, in that once you do it you’re not allowed to abandon it, but he doesn’t say it’s a good thing. He doesn’t mention anyone marrying for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, after all.

    Look at the last statement again. What does it mean to “accept this”? I think it means “accept my view of marriage”.

    And that’s where I disagree. Like eric, I think “accept this” means, “accept the claim you disciples just made, that it’s better not to marry and be celibate.” I think that makes more sense, given that he then talks about eunuchs for a couple of lines, ending with people who become eunuchs out of religious devotion, and then says again, “If you can accept this, you should.”

    Basically I think he’s saying, “You’re right, it would be better to lead a sexless life, but most people can’t accept that. Most people who do lead a sexless life didn’t have to accept it, because they’re not that way by choice. But there are a few who are eunuchs by choice, and if you’re tough enough for that route, go you.”

    Mind, I don’t think your interpretation is impossible or anything. Like Another Matt says, the antecedents of “accept this teaching/word” and “accept it” are ambiguous. I do think your interpretation’s severely in the minority, though. Both early Christian writers and modern scholars of Biblical Greek seem to believe that Jesus is saying that it’s best to be a “eunuch”, although there’s a fair amount of controversy over exactly what “eunuch” means in this context. See William Loader’s “Sexuality and the Jesus Tradition,” or just throw “Matthew 19″ into Google Scholar.

  94. #94 eric
    December 6, 2011

    Anton Mates: I think “accept this” means, “accept the claim you disciples just made, that it’s better not to marry and be celibate.” I think that makes more sense, given that he then talks about eunuchs for a couple of lines, ending with people who become eunuchs out of religious devotion, and then says again, “If you can accept this, you should.”

    Yes exactly. Either Jesus is using eunuch-dom as a metaphor for being married, or as a metaphor for celibacy. The former interpretation is possible, it just seems very strained and counter-intuitive compared to the latter.

    ***

    Incidentally, I’m quite surprised that Bee and VS even find this a contentious issue. J. was clearly an ascetic. He himself gave up all material goods, family, violent resistance, etc.. and wandered around penniless, relying on charity, and preaching the imminent arrival of the kingdom of heaven. He asked his disciples to do the same – give up all wealth, all worldy possessions, all family (including spouses), violence, and walk around with him preaching. The idea that any sex is a worldly distraction from heavenly thought (and thus, not a good thing) is perfectly consistent with this behavior. I find claims that Jesus would approve of our settled married lives about as convincing as the claim he’d approve of us keeping our 5-, 6-, and 7-digit salaries while about half the world’s population lives on less than $2-$3/day.

  95. #95 Wow
    December 6, 2011

    “and wandered around penniless, relying on charity”

    And the ability to turn a gallon of water into vino du table and make a slap-up meal out of a fish head and wheat stalk.

    It’s easy to live a life without money when you can magic up your food…

    That said, it’s pretty obvious in the NT that the monied people were less liable to manage the strait path to heaven.

  96. #96 ildi
    December 6, 2011

    Incidentally, I’m quite surprised that Bee and VS even find this a contentious issue. J. was clearly an ascetic. He himself gave up all material goods, family, violent resistance, etc.. and wandered around penniless, relying on charity, and preaching the imminent arrival of the kingdom of heaven.

    …because then they would have to accept the conclusion that Jesus was WRONG – the kingdom of heaven did not arrive within that generation. They would have to admit that Jesus was just another failed messiah who would have disappeared in the mists of time if he hadn’t caught the fancy of a charismatic leader named Paul of Tarsus who made a spiritual re-interpretation of the resurrection and the kingdom of heaven and created a world religion in the process.

  97. #97 Verbose Stoic
    December 6, 2011

    eric,

    “Yes exactly. Either Jesus is using eunuch-dom as a metaphor for being married, or as a metaphor for celibacy. The former interpretation is possible, it just seems very strained and counter-intuitive compared to the latter.”

    Where in the world do you get that I’m translating eunuchdom to marriage from? I’m not. I’m saying that the “word” at the start is referring to the original topic of conversation, as seems to work in the context.

  98. #98 Verbose Stoic
    December 6, 2011

    ildi,

    I’m not at all sure why you think it fair to ascribe positions and motivations to me about things that are not relevant to the actual discussion at hand, which is how to interpret this passage. We can deal with other issues when the time comes, okay?

  99. #99 Verbose Stoic
    December 6, 2011

    eric,

    “VS @85: your interpretation requires that Jesus respond to his disciples comments by going back and addressing earlier questions instead of what they just said.”

    And your interpretation requires ignoring that the disciples comments were not detached from the original questions, but were in fact directly referring to it, meaning that you have to hold that Jesus was answering completely independently of the topic they were referring to. Seems unreasonable to do that now that we have the full context.

    “Thus, 11 refers to 10, and the second sentence in 12 refers to the same subject as the first sentence in 12, and both address the disciples comment that it is better not to marry.”

    IF, as they say, marriage is as Jesus says it should be. There’s no indication, then, that Jesus’ reply is indeed anything other than “If you can’t take those restrictions, then for you that’s absolutely the case”.

  100. #100 Verbose Stoic
    December 6, 2011

    Anton,

    “He doesn’t mention anyone marrying for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, after all.”

    And since he says that divorce except for sexual infidelity would be adultery, and since he does say that sin keeps you from entering the kingdom of heaven, giving up marriage so that you won’t divorce and so won’t commit adultery seems indeed like giving up marriage for the kingdom of heaven while still not saying that marriage is, in fact, inferior to celibacy.

    As for your other sources, it isn’t that easy to find references in Google Scholar for that. I found one that suggested that Jesus’ push in that statement was to oppose charges that his remaining celibate was bad in light of “Be fruitful and multiply”, by arguing that celibacy is not always bad and can be the right decision. None of that would contradict my interpretation.

  101. #101 ildi
    December 6, 2011

    V.S.: If we were engaging in a literary critique of the bible, I’d agree. However, when you believe that this collection of books is divinely inspired and the source of morality, of course your motivation is relevant.

  102. #102 Verbose Stoic
    December 6, 2011

    Anton,

    From recalling what I learned as a child, I don’t think it is “inerrant” in the sense you take it to be — since it was explained that there are differences because they are all different accounts from different points of view — and so that does not mean that God literally dictated it so that it should be clear. And that some consider translations to be such does not change the nature of translation, nor that there are multiple differing translations recognized by most religious groups.

  103. #103 Verbose Stoic
    December 6, 2011

    eric,

    “Why do I have to argue for an objective meaning when my very point is that God’s message is not clear? If there’s an objective meaning but lots of people disagree about it, that supports my argument…but if the meaning is subjective and there is no objective meaning, that supports my argument too.”

    The problem is that you ignored my most important point: that the lack of objectivity is a quality of the INTERPRETER, not the text. If you yank a section out of context and try to interpret it — as was done here — you are quite likely to interpret it incorrectly no matter how clear the text is. If people also try to interpret it according to subjective concerns — ie trying to prove a specific point or support a specific view of theirs — again problems are likely to occur. Thus, we need to use objective methods — ie arguments and appeals to contexts and other places — to establish an objective meaning that in no way means that the text was unclear. The problem may be with us, not it. Note that this is what you accused me of and Jason accused the authors here and Lose of doing. Also note that you are indeed trying to argue for an interpretation in exactly the same way that I and Lose and the others are doing, except somehow that’s not you simply reading into the text, and yet it seems to be for us in your mind.

  104. #104 Verbose Stoic
    December 6, 2011

    ildi,

    My objection is not over whether or not it is relevant. It is over you simply asserting my motivation without having sufficient evidence to support it based on what I said about this specific passage. You are deriving it from a minor point in an objection eric raised that I did not reply to since it was generally not relevant to my interpretation. Thus, you have no evidence for your assertion and yet seem to think it appropriate to merely assert it strongly.

  105. #105 ildi
    December 6, 2011

    VS: You may think eric’s point was minor, but it goes to the heart of interpreting Jesus’ sayings in context, including this passage; i.e.; sex and marriage and family and wealth are a distraction from preparing for the imminence of the kingdom of heaven.

  106. #106 eric
    December 6, 2011

    VS @98:

    I’m saying that the “word” at the start is referring to the original topic of conversation, as seems to work in the context.

    I know what you are saying but you haven’t given any good arugment for why this works in context. Nor have you really given any good response to my argument. So, I’ll repeat it and try and make it clear.

    Verse 3 – Pharisees ask Jesus question 1.

    Verses 4-6 – Jesus responds to question 1.

    Verse 7 – Pharisees ask Jesus question 2.

    Verses 8-9 – Jesus responds to question 2.

    Verse 10 – Disciples ask Jesus question 3 .

    Verses 11-12 – I claim Jesus is directly responding to question 3, and that all three sentences are discussing the same topic (celibacy). But you claim verse 11 is about marriage, then J. for some reason talks about eunuchs for a sentence, then goes back to talking about marriage without even telling the disciples that’s what he’s talking about.

    Maybe we have to agree to disagree here, but I find the idea that 11-12 are all related, all talking about the same thing, and all talking about the question just posed to Jesus in verse 10 to be far more “in context” than your interpretation.

    The problem may be with us, not it

    Where the problem lies is irrelevant; that there is a problem coming to a universal understanding of the text is the theological problem. Because if this is truly a critically important message from God, there shouldn’t be any sort of misunderstanding at all. That people can’t agree on the message supports one of three conclusions: (1) God can’t communicate clearly, (2) God doesn’t want to communicate clearly, or (3) it isn’t really a critical message from God.

  107. #107 Raging Bee
    December 6, 2011

    Clearly, you approve of not-hang-gliding over hang-gliding, since you don’t hang-glide yourself.

    Wrong again: I CHOOSE FOR MYSELF not to hang-glide, and that has nothing to do with approving it, or not, for others. Just like Jesus chose FOR HIMSELF to be celibate (if the stories are true), and that personal choice, in itself, said nothing about his expectations of others.

  108. #108 Owlmirror
    December 6, 2011

    Wrong again: I CHOOSE FOR MYSELF not to hang-glide, and that has nothing to do with approving it, or not, for others. Just like Jesus chose FOR HIMSELF to be celibate (if the stories are true), and that personal choice, in itself, said nothing about his expectations of others.

    You might have had a point if Jesus had never said anything about not-fucking, but you are wrong because Jesus did indeed say, in the very passage in question, that not-fucking — even if it’s granted that being de-balled was not meant literally — was better than marrying IN ADDITION to not fucking or marrying for himself.

    And he also allegedly said: If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

    Implying that regardless of whether a man was married, he, Jesus, approved of that man not-fucking EVEN WHILE MARRIED — that is, Jesus approved of the man leaving his wife and not fucking her while following Jesus.

    The context of his alleged life, combined with the context of his alleged words, demonstrates that his character approved of not-fucking over marrying.

    Q E not-fucking D

  109. #109 eric
    December 6, 2011

    My last comment also got moderated (sigh), so in the meantime…

    VS: giving up marriage so that you won’t divorce and so won’t commit adultery seems indeed like giving up marriage for the kingdom of heaven while still not saying that marriage is, in fact, inferior to celibacy.

    Is this the clear message you think God is telling us? It looks like word salad to me. Its far more opaque than the simple: be celibate, but if you can’t handle that, get married rather than sleep around.

    “Not everyone can accept this word” follows immediately after the question “isn’t it better not to marry?” I think it refers to it, because this is how conversation naturally goes. You think “not everyone can accept this word” refers back to “marriage, but no divorce except in cases of adultery,” something mentioned in previous questions.

    Now, that claim is not necessarily wrong. But I find your claim that your interpretation is the natural or obvious one to be frankly ludicrous. “Bob, what’s your favorite fish?” “I’d like salmon.” “Okay Bob, we can’t get you salmon, so what would you like instead?” “I’d like trout.” Here you are, VS, trying to convince me that Bob’s favorite fish is trout. I don’t buy it.

  110. #110 Raging Bee
    December 6, 2011

    And he also allegedly said: If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

    First, that contradicts other things he said about love, forgiveness, and doing unto others as you would have others do unto you; so we can either disregard it, or re-interpret it, using common sense, so it doesn’t contradict his other teachings. Most of the Christians I know choose the former (the only exceptions I know of being loony cult-leaders trying to isolate their followers from the rest of the world); so I feel perfectly safe in saying that’s not a universally-held rule of behavior.

    And second, “he cannot be my disciple” is not the same thing as “he cannot achieve communion with God, be forgiven for his sins, or be admitted to Heaven.”

  111. #111 Owlmirror
    December 6, 2011

    First, that contradicts other things he said about love, forgiveness, and doing unto others as you would have others do unto you; so we can either disregard it,

    Or, we could disregard the other things he said about love, forgiveness, and doing unto others as you would have others do unto you as being anomalous.

    or re-interpret it, using common sense, so it doesn’t contradict his other teachings.

    Common sense would reject much of what Jesus said as being either obvious to anyone with common sense, or obvious nonsense.

    Most of the Christians I know choose the former (the only exceptions I know of being loony cult-leaders trying to isolate their followers from the rest of the world)

    What makes you think that Jesus was not a loony cult-leader trying to isolate his followers from the rest of the world?

    I’m just curious. The more I read the NT, the more clear it becomes that Jesus is all too often an unpleasant and creepy control-freak and hypocrite.

    so I feel perfectly safe in saying that’s not a universally-held rule of behavior

    Oh, I agree. But that wasn’t my point anyway, so it not being a universally-held rule is kinda irrelevant.

    And second, “he cannot be my disciple” is not the same thing as “he cannot achieve communion with God, be forgiven for his sins, or be admitted to Heaven.”

    Also irrelevant to my point, even assuming this is correct. The gospels contradict themselves multiple times regarding exactly how one can be forgiven for sins and admitted into Heaven, after all.

  112. #112 Raging Bee
    December 6, 2011

    Or, we could disregard the other things he said about love, forgiveness, and doing unto others as you would have others do unto you as being anomalous.

    Sure, you could, if you were part of the Values Voter Summit. They explicitly disregard the teachings of Jesus on the grounds that otherwise they’d be led to socialism. Is that the side you’re taking?

    Common sense would reject much of what Jesus said as being either obvious to anyone with common sense, or obvious nonsense.

    You reject things if they’re obvious to people with common sense? Get back on your meds.

  113. #113 Owlmirror
    December 6, 2011

    Sure, you could, if you were part of the Values Voter Summit. They explicitly disregard the teachings of Jesus on the grounds that otherwise they’d be led to socialism. Is that the side you’re taking?

    Of course not. I don’t claim to worship Jesus or follow his cult, or think of him as a moral authority.

    You reject things if they’re obvious to people with common sense? Get back on your meds.

    Sheesh, I write one clumsy phrase — and it was clumsy, I admit that — and you snap like a broken twig.

    I meant that if Jesus sometimes said things obvious to people with common sense, not to reject the part that was common sense, but to reject Jesus as being necessary for it to be part of common sense.

    Frex, if “the sky is blue” is obvious to anyone with common sense, how does “Jesus said the sky is blue” make it somehow better?

  114. #114 Jamie
    December 6, 2011

    I personally am one to believe that love should have no gender. Even though the bible clearly states sin in homosexuality, throughout the years, there has been a social change in which society no longer views homosexuality in a bad way. I think its “a sin” to hate someone so strongly just because they may choose to love someone of the same gender. Should we hate based on the color of the skin? Should we hate based on handicapped? No. One should not hate someone based on who they love or any of the above. And as homosexuality becomes more accepted, I truly believe God would accept it more. God would love anyone, no matter who they love, what color skin they have, or what handicap they may or may not obtain. My favorite quote from this post is “why do people assume that things relating to God must be absolute and unchanging? Even for a person who believes in God wholeheartedly, why should that person assume that God is never free to change?” This shows that although homosexuality may once have been a sin, society’s views are constantly changing, therefore I believe God’s views are constantly changing. I believe he would love anyone, no matter who the love.

  115. #115 Owlmirror
    December 6, 2011

    This shows that although homosexuality may once have been a sin, society’s views are constantly changing, therefore I believe God’s views are constantly changing.

    Or in other words, “God” is a fictional social construct, and changes as the society changes because the society changes the fiction that it prefers.

  116. #116 Raging Bee
    December 7, 2011

    Even though the bible clearly states sin in homosexuality…

    The Bible as a whole “clearly” states no such thing: the teachings of Jesus augment, and sometimes supercede, OT prohibitions; and there’s plenty in those teachings that flatly contradict the OT messages of hate and rigid tribalistic rules.

    Frex, if “the sky is blue” is obvious to anyone with common sense, how does “Jesus said the sky is blue” make it somehow better?

    It’s “better” for people who claim (honestly or not) to follow the teachings of Jesus. When Jesus says something that squares with common sense, it’s something we can cite to give Christians one less excuse to ignore common sense.

  117. #117 Anton Mates
    December 7, 2011

    Verbose Stoic,

    And since he says that divorce except for sexual infidelity would be adultery,

    In this passage, at least, he says that divorce except for sexual infidelity is adultery if you then marry someone else. In other words, the focus of his condemnation is not on the ending-the-marriage bit, but on the remarrying bit. This fits well with a celibacy-first attitude. Sex with nobody is the ideal; sex with one person is okay, provided you’re married to them for life; sex with two people is adultery, and unacceptable.

    (Now, granted, in Matthew 5:32 Jesus says that divorce except for sexual infidelity is adultery, period. But in that passage he’s attacking the “divorce certificate” described in Deuteronomy, which is explicitly intended to allow the spouses to remarry. So I think it’s fair to say that his issue here too is with remarriage, not divorce. This is also the section where Jesus says that looking at any woman with lust amounts to adultery.)

    As Wow observes, there are other passages where Jesus says that rejecting your wife and household for religious reasons are a good thing. Admittedly, only Luke specifically mentions “wife” in this context, but still–doesn’t seem like Jesus is telling us that marriage is awesome and everyone should do it if they can.

    and since he does say that sin keeps you from entering the kingdom of heaven, giving up marriage so that you won’t divorce and so won’t commit adultery seems indeed like giving up marriage for the kingdom of heaven while still not saying that marriage is, in fact, inferior to celibacy.

    I agree that Jesus never explicitly says that marriage is worse than celibacy. (OTOH, Paul does.) I’m just pointing out that he does say you can become a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, and does not say that you can marry for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.

    Note, also, that three chapters later (Matthew 22:30), Jesus tells us that there will be no marriage in the kingdom of heaven. This apparently includes the dissolution of preexisting earthly marriages, which is what the Pharisees were asking about.

    “Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

    Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.

    Again, this seems to exalt celibacy above marriage–at least, the sexual aspect of marriage. (Western churches generally take this passage to imply that marriage will be completely eliminated in the kingdom, whereas the Orthodox church holds that marriage will endure in a spiritual, non-sexual form.)

    As for your other sources, it isn’t that easy to find references in Google Scholar for that.

    Sorry, I can’t provide direct links without falling into the mod filter. But see for instance page 20 of “A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew: Commentary on Matthew XIX-XXVIII”, by William Davies and Dale Allison; or page 129 of Loader’s “Sexuality and the Jesus Tradition.” Or E. Mueller’s “Jesus and Divorce and Remarriage in Matthew 19,” pp. 527-528 in the journal in question.

    All three authors consider the question of what “accept this word” refers to, and conclude that it refers to the disciples’ assertion that “It would be better not to marry at all.”

  118. #118 Verbose Stoic
    December 8, 2011

    Anton,

    I forgot about that remarrying part of that section, but that isn’t really relevant since the reason, obviously, that it would be adultery if you marry someone else is because you’re still married to the first person, and so sex with someone else is adultery by definition. The other Matthew quote about the certificate supports my position because if you note the question of the Pharisees Jesus HERE is talking about the certificate case as well, and so those sections should be linked and so should say roughly the same thing (I’d actually take this section here to be closer to the real meaning, and they are completely consistent). At any rate, none of that in any way — as you concede — actually supports in any strong way the idea that celibacy is to be preferred; you need other sources to get that.

    I did explain the “kingdom of heaven” thing, which I consider to be a nitpick. As I said, Jesus does say that sinning keeps you from the kingdom of heaven. Adultery is a sin. Therefore, if you stay celibate to avoid committing adultery, that’s a good thing. I don’t see why that should be considered to be claiming that celibacy is better than marriage in this context; it seems a rather contorted definition to me.

    As for the issue of marriage in heaven, it could mean that … or it could mean that in heaven as angelic and non-physical beings marriage is not relevant. Considering the tight tie between marriage and reproduction, why do you think there’d be marriage in heaven? Also note that this section refers to them being of one flesh, which ties marriage to physical bodies, which one will not have in heaven.

    As for the last part, I’d need a summary of the arguments, not just a list of some people who think it works out that way.

  119. #119 Verbose Stoic
    December 8, 2011

    Anton,

    Actually, in hindsight, that last paragraph sounds a bit snippy. But I don’t have time to find those articles right now and I don’t think it reasonable to take it in that way, and did note previously that the one I read interpreted it in a way completely compatible with my position.

    Heck, even that interpretation is compatible with mine, if it means what I think makes sense which is “Yes, if you can’t take the restrictions of marriage it is indeed better to never marry at all. That’s hard to take, I know, but that’s what you should do”. You and eric need it to be a strong endorsement of celibacy over marriage, but I can’t see that without contorting how these conversations normally go.

  120. #120 Verbose Stoic
    December 8, 2011

    eric,

    I claim Jesus is directly responding to question 3, and that all three sentences are discussing the same topic (celibacy). But you claim verse 11 is about marriage, then J. for some reason talks about eunuchs for a sentence, then goes back to talking about marriage without even telling the disciples that’s what he’s talking about.

    Except that you’re ignoring — oddly, since you need it for your argument — that question 3 talks about the RELATION between marriage as Jesus outlines it and it being better off not to get married if you can’t get divorced. So marriage is in the picture from the start, and somehow you do need to link back to the specific notion of marriage that Jesus is talking about. Which is why, to me, “word” better refers to that notion of marriage than to their insistence that it would be better to be celibate than to be married; while Jesus would be quite likely to call what he says “the word”, he rarely called their comments “the word”.

  121. #121 Verbose Stoic
    December 8, 2011

    eric,

    Where the problem lies is irrelevant; that there is a problem coming to a universal understanding of the text is the theological problem.

    Except that you ignored my reasons for saying that in replying here, which is not likely to foster discussion [grin].

    If you pull part of a message out of context and try to interpret it, it will be quite easy to interpret it wrong no matter how clear the message is. You do have a tendency to at least only quote part of my comments, and do have a tendency to get it wrong. This is not a problem of the message, but a problem of language and meaning itself. Context matters; take something out of context, and the meaning is harder to discern.

    Also, if someone comes into an interpretation with built-in biases — ie ways you want it to come out — that person is quite likely to interpret it in line with their biases. Some interpretations are always ruled out, but you simply cannot rule out all possible interpretations if someone is bent on a certain one. Again, that’s an issue of us, not of language. So we have to find a way to come to an objective and unbiased reading of the text to do proper interpretation. That means, generally, that we read in context, try to make it consistent with the overall message of an entire work, check translations, and try to identify and avoid any innate biases by demanding full arguments for why one interpretation is more objectively valid. All of these assume an objective and important message, and do not contradict that.

  122. #122 Verbose Stoic
    December 8, 2011

    eric,

    Is this the clear message you think God is telling us? It looks like word salad to me. Its far more opaque than the simple: be celibate, but if you can’t handle that, get married rather than sleep around.

    Except that you are mixing my arguments and my interpretation and then claiming that I make no arguments and my interpretation is too complex. My interpretation is as simple as yours, but takes the whole passage into consideration: This is what marriage is, and if you can’t handle that sort of marriage then you’d better stay celibate.

    And while you talk about it being ludicrous that mine is the natural interpretation, I find it just as if not more ludicrous that after outlining what marriage is in what at least I consider to be glowing terms — ie what God has put together let no one tear asunder — that when the disciples basically reply “But … but … that’s so HARD to do” that he’d say “You’re absolutely right and so no one should get married unless they have to because they can’t stay celibate”. That interpretation is simply not supported by this text, in my opinion.

    Now, let me add one more, by quoting the section from the King James version:

    10His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.

    11But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.

    So in this version, it’s made clear that Jesus is contradicting their view — at least in part — by the “But” starting section 11.

  123. #123 Another Matt
    December 8, 2011

    Except that you are mixing my arguments and my interpretation and then claiming that I make no arguments and my interpretation is too complex.

    Accept that you just started two posts with “Except that…” Tut-tut, sir. Tut-tut.

  124. #125 Owlmirror
    December 8, 2011

    If you pull part of a message out of context and try to interpret it, it will be quite easy to interpret it wrong no matter how clear the message is.

    Sort of how like you’re pulling your “message” from out of the context of Jesus’ life.

    You do have a tendency to at least only quote part of my comments, and do have a tendency to get it wrong.

    I note that you do exactly the same, only more so.

    Context matters; take something out of context, and the meaning is harder to discern.

    And the context of Jesus’ life was that he remained celibate, and surrounded himself with those from whom he demanded celibacy or chastity.

    I find it just as if not more ludicrous that after outlining what marriage is in what at least I consider to be glowing terms — ie what God has put together let no one tear asunder

    That is not “glowing”, but fatalistic and authoritarian — although I suppose that it would be difficult for someone religious to distinguish that.

    So in this version, it’s made clear that Jesus is contradicting their view — at least in part — by the “But” starting section 11.

    If you go to the original Greek, the text does not say “But”, but rather “δὲ”. The concordance indicates that the term can be either “(weakly) adversative or continuative”; “but” or “and”, “moreover” — and most, if not all, of the examples that it has that are from Matthew cannot be construed as adversative.

    To argue that it can only possibly be intended as an adversative here is nothing more than special pleading.

  125. #126 eric
    December 8, 2011

    VS:

    question 3 talks about the RELATION between marriage as Jesus outlines it and it being better off not to get married if you can’t get divorced.

    You continue to think that the analogy to eunuchs is supposed to be a statement about marriage. I.e., you think Jesus is saying, if you aren’t one of those people who can handle relatively divorce-free marriage, you should not get married. I think the analogy to eunuchs is a statement about celibacy. Which is what eunuchs are, if not by choice.

    If you do not agree that eunuch:celibacy is a more simple, direct, and obvious analogy than eunuch:limited divorce marriage, I really think we should just end the discussion here.

    My interpretation is as simple as yours, but takes the whole passage into consideration: This is what marriage is, and if you can’t handle that sort of marriage then you’d better stay celibate.

    So, how do you interpret 1 Corinthians 7:8 then? Did Paul just get it wrong?

    Shouldn’t you use Paul’s words to inform your understanding of Jesus’?

  126. #127 Another Matt
    December 8, 2011

    Shouldn’t you use Paul’s words to inform your understanding of Jesus’?

    Maybe. Maybe Paul is wrong and the NT isn’t some unified and self-contained work.

    I don’t understand why we’re hashing this out. If an atheist wants to insist the Matthew passage to read as an advocation of celibacy, I can’t see how it’s much more than a gotcha nugget to show that Christians don’t believe everything the bible says. If he/she wants to insist that it’s just a humdrum defense of lifelong church-ordained monogamy, that’s fine too. But why spill so many electrons over getting something so ambiguous right when neither position (everyone [who isn’t married] should be celibate or everyone [who isn’t celibate] should be married to the first person they marry) is rational in social terms? Is there a more charitable reading of the passage that would allow it to inform societal law in a rational way?

    Instead, I propose we try to figure out exactly why Jesus spat: http://www.landoverbaptist.net/showthread.php?t=63

  127. #128 Owlmirror
    December 8, 2011

    Instead, I propose we try to figure out exactly why Jesus spat:

    Or why he said that washing is isn’t necessary, and implicitly denied germ theory. Mark 7:1-23.

  128. #129 ildi
    December 8, 2011

    From the Landover thread:

    The information presented here is Biblically accurate. Opinions concerning the technical difficulties, fitness requirements, safety, and ratings of self-crucifixion, flagellation, stoning, destroying enemies of GOD utterly, without mercy, and other activities inherent in Christianity are subjective and may differ from yours or others’ opinions; therefore be warned that you must exercise your own judgment as to the difficulty and your ability to safely protect yourself from the inherent risks and dangers. Do not use the information provided on this site unless you are a True Christian ™ who understands and accepts the risks of participating in these activities.

    Word.

  129. #130 eric
    December 8, 2011

    Maybe. Maybe Paul is wrong and the NT isn’t some unified and self-contained work.

    Indeed. Though I find it hard for anyone to use such an assertion as a defense of the clarity of the biblical message. That seems like a pyrrhic victory. “Verse A IS perfectly clear, and I’m right about it…Paul simply misinterpeted it.” Uh?

    I don’t understand why we’re hashing this out.

    There is probably no good reason any more. My original point got lost; it was merely that even if one thinks gay sex is a sin, there’s no good textual reason to treat it as some sort of extra-special super-sin. If you’re willing to let someone who has sex out of wedlock stand beside you in the pew (which would be most single people older than 16), who they have sex with shouldn’t make much of a difference; its all sin.

  130. #131 Another Matt
    December 8, 2011

    …even if one thinks gay sex is a sin, there’s no good textual reason to treat it as some sort of extra-special super-sin.

    Yes, I think this is right. On the other hand, I’ve posed the same thing to my fundamentalist family, and they said to the effect of: “well, it’s only because The Gays are unrepentant. If they’d accept Jesus and give up their life of sin, God would forgive them – even if they backslid sometimes! – but they want to make everyone think what they’re doing is OK. We’d be just as mad if there were a radical left-wing adultery lobby that tried to tell our school kids that adultery was perfectly OK.”

  131. #132 Owlmirror
    December 8, 2011

    We’d be just as mad if there were a radical left-wing adultery lobby that tried to tell our school kids that adultery was perfectly OK.

    Yet this is a subtle false equivalence. A better analogy would be between homosexuality and heterosexual premarital sex. Both would be considered to be “not OK” from a religious perspective. But heterosexual premarital sex can be “remedied” by marriage; an equivalent homosexual bonding currently cannot, in those states that don’t allow it.

    Why do they hate marriage?

    From a secular perspective, the real problem with adultery is that it implicitly involves a violation of an agreement to sexual fidelity to the other partner. The opinion of God — or of those who want to pretend that God exists and that they can magically know God’s opinion — is irrelevant to the matter. If some couple has a mutual agreement and understanding that sexual fidelity is irrelevant to them, it’s really not the business of anyone else how they arrange their marriage, and any putative extramarital sexual encounters.

  132. #133 Anton Mates
    December 8, 2011

    Verbose Stoic,

    At any rate, none of that in any way — as you concede — actually supports in any strong way the idea that celibacy is to be preferred; you need other sources to get that.

    Yep. To my mind, the important sources are a) that Jesus doesn’t dispute the truth of the disciples’ “it would be better never to marry” claim, b) the “eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” bit, and c) the “no marriage in the kingdom of heaven” bit.

    But, like I said, your interpretation is possible, as is the interpretation (described below) that Jesus considers lifetime virtuous marriage and celibacy to be equally good things. We may be near the “agree to disagree” point.

    I did explain the “kingdom of heaven” thing, which I consider to be a nitpick. As I said, Jesus does say that sinning keeps you from the kingdom of heaven. Adultery is a sin. Therefore, if you stay celibate to avoid committing adultery, that’s a good thing.

    Sure. But under your interpretation, if you have a faithful lifetime marriage to avoid committing adultery, that should be an even better thing. And yet Jesus doesn’t describe that out as something you can do for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. It’s a matter of emphasis.

    As for the issue of marriage in heaven, it could mean that … or it could mean that in heaven as angelic and non-physical beings marriage is not relevant.

    Unlikely. The passage does not say that people will be angelic beings in heaven, but that they will be like the angels in heaven insofar as they don’t marry. The Pharisaic belief (and apparently the “mainstream” Jewish belief for millennia, and the belief of Paul and the early church fathers), which Jesus is here defending against the Sadducees, was in a physical, earthly resurrection. Heaven is where God and the angels live; the kingdom of heaven is a future earthly paradise where the resurrected dead will live.

    Considering the tight tie between marriage and reproduction, why do you think there’d be marriage in heaven?

    Ah, but this also goes to Jesus’ unusual focus on celibacy compared to the average rabbi. Many other Jews probably believed that there would be both marriage and reproduction in the kingdom of Heaven. Isaiah, for instance, contains multiple references to children and child-bearing in the Messianic Age. Which makes sense; since marriage and child-bearing were hugely important aspects of religious devotion in Jewish society, there was no reason why they wouldn’t continue in the perfected future age.

    The Sadducees, who rejected the doctrine of the resurrection, would have been accustomed to arguing with the Pharisees over this. The reason they bring up the marriage example to Jesus is probably because it was a good “gotcha” against the Pharisees; that’s part of why everyone in the story is amazed when Jesus rejects the whole notion of marriage in the Kingdom.

    As for the last part, I’d need a summary of the arguments, not just a list of some people who think it works out that way.

    The first two, at least, are freely available on Google Books. But to summarize: Loader points out that (contrary to your claim), logon, “word,” is not a special term which Jesus is particularly likely to use for his own teachings. It has a wide range of meanings, and here could be translated as “approach,” “fact,” “conclusion,” or “reasoning,” thereby applying perfectly well to the disciples’ last statement. Furthermore, if it refers to Jesus’ own teaching in 19:9, Jesus would essentially be backing down here–saying “Well, okay, I said you must view marriage this way, but not everyone can deal with that.” But that doesn’t fit Jesus’ normal response to an incredulous or hostile audience, which is to reemphasize and intensify his demand.

    Davies and Allison agree with this later point, saying that if “this word” referred to 19:9, it would be turning Jesus’ former command against divorce into a mere recommendation. They argue that “the disciples’ remark in v. 10 functions as a transitional sentence. They have drawn an inference about celibacy from Jesus’ teaching on marriage. Jesus does not go back to the subject of marriage but takes up the question of celibacy (‘this world’).”

    (None of these authors, by the way, think that Jesus is presenting celibacy as better or worse than lifetime marriage. They think that he is presenting them as equally acceptable, perhaps in response to others like the disciples who are more strongly pro-celibacy.)

    Heck, even that interpretation is compatible with mine, if it means what I think makes sense which is “Yes, if you can’t take the restrictions of marriage it is indeed better to never marry at all. That’s hard to take, I know, but that’s what you should do”.

    But that doesn’t make logical sense, because the people who never marry are not people who can’t take the restrictions Jesus places on marriage. Quite the contrary–they are people who, trivially, accept those restrictions. They will never marry, so they will never divorce and remarry, so they’re following Jesus’ rules to the letter.

    If your interpretation were correct, and “accept this word” meant “accept my view of marriage,” then the only people who can’t “accept this word” are those who remarry. Eunuchs don’t do that, so the eunuch passage would be a complete non-sequitur.

  133. #134 Anton Mates
    December 8, 2011

    I don’t understand why we’re hashing this out. If an atheist wants to insist the Matthew passage to read as an advocation of celibacy, I can’t see how it’s much more than a gotcha nugget to show that Christians don’t believe everything the bible says.

    I’m just interested in the question because I like religious history. I’m not really worried about getting a gotcha nugget out of it; conservative Christians wouldn’t accept that it was a gotcha, and liberal Christians aren’t trying to defend the literal inerrancy of the gospels anyway.

    “well, it’s only because The Gays are unrepentant.”

    But the rich, and the divorced-and-remarried, are equally unrepentant. Our school kids are taught about tons of Great People who happened to marry more than once, or who made out really well financially.

  134. #135 Lenoxus
    December 9, 2011

    Another Matt, paraphrasing anti-gay Christians:

    We’d be just as mad if there were a radical left-wing adultery lobby that tried to tell our school kids that adultery was perfectly OK.

    I’ve heard them say this too. I’d actually grant it to them, sort of.

    Sometimes, American gnu atheists are asked why they’re seemingly so obsessed with Christianity to the exclusion of other religions — isn’t Hinduism just as irrational, according to their own view? But what the gnus are doing is in fact a perfectly reasonable degree of counter-argument against the tide of their culture; they didn’t just pick Christianity out of the blue. Likewise, in a sense, with the Christian Right and homosexuality.

    Still, one could also argue that there wouldn’t be much of a “pro-gay lobby” to begin with if there were no homophobia to begin with (whereas, in my analogy, Christianity didn’t originate as a response to atheism). Regardless, what really matters is getting Christians (and others) to see that there’s nothing wrong with homosexuality whether or not it’s a “sin”, or if that’s too confusing, that it simply isn’t a sin.

  135. #136 eric
    December 9, 2011

    Another Matt:

    On the other hand, I’ve posed the same thing to my fundamentalist family, and they said to the effect of: “well, it’s only because The Gays are unrepentant.

    Has your family met a lot of single straight people who repent for getting laid? I can’t imagine they have. So again, gays and straights – still in the same boat, and still no biblical reason to treat gays worse.

  136. #137 Another Matt
    December 9, 2011

    Has your family met a lot of single straight people who repent for getting laid? I can’t imagine they have. So again, gays and straights – still in the same boat, and still no biblical reason to treat gays worse.

    In this case, straights are in trouble for getting laid out of wedlock, but they can repent and get married and stay married. But The Gays are in trouble both for doing the sexing out of wedlock and for doing it gaywise. If they try to repent the former and get married to a member of the same sex, they’ll still be having dude-on-dude butts secks (or whatever it is They do – “YUCK” as my dad would put it). No – the only way for either party to repent is to get married to a member of the opposite sex and stay married (or if they’ve been married and divorced before, stay married this time for crying out loud can’t you see what you’re doing to your mother), or just give up the fornication habit altogether.

  137. #138 Verbose Stoic
    December 11, 2011

    eric,

    If you do not agree that eunuch:celibacy is a more simple, direct, and obvious analogy than eunuch:limited divorce marriage, I really think we should just end the discussion here.

    I just finished a course on the debate between Russell and Dewey, where both spent a lot of time saying to the other “But I’m not saying that!”. Now I know how they feel [grin].

    I have never denied that the analogy is “eunuch:celibacy”, and demanded at at least one point that you show where I did. The only difference between our positions, really, is that I’m saying that the analogy needs to be interpreted in the context of an outlining of what marriage is described to be in earlier sections and then becomes “If you cannot accept what marriage entails, then it is indeed far better for you to be celibate than to be married”, which at least does not support saying that celibacy is in general better than being married. You, in my interpretation, seem to be saying that the text demonstrates that celibacy is in general better than marriage, which is what I deny. Are we clear now, or am I misinterpreting you?

  138. #139 Verbose Stoic
    December 11, 2011

    eric,

    So, how do you interpret 1 Corinthians 7:8 then? Did Paul just get it wrong?

    Shouldn’t you use Paul’s words to inform your understanding of Jesus’?

    Well, in this case … no. As I read that section, it sounds to me like Paul is expressing HIS personal opinion. I looked up and down a bit in it, and other than a similarity of phrasing there seems to be no reference to this section in Paul’s comment (please point it out if I’m wrong). So I would no more use Paul’s opinion on celibacy to interpret what Jesus says than you should use my opinion of what emotion is or may be good for to interpret Seneca’s or the Greek Stoics’ views on emotion, even though I claim to support the Stoic tradition in doing so. If he was commenting on what that specific section meant, I would want to read it, but could indeed dismiss it if I disagreed, philosophically.

    Also note that in the NIV translation there seems to be a suggestion that the “unmarried” might mean “widower”. Looking at the structure “widowers and widows” makes more sense, and there are reasons to think that Paul might have been married at one point (though it isn’t stated one way or another). If so, this becomes a statement about what people who have lost their spouse should do, and doesn’t support general celibacy as being superior to marriage either.

  139. #140 Verbose Stoic
    December 11, 2011

    eric,

    My original point got lost; it was merely that even if one thinks gay sex is a sin, there’s no good textual reason to treat it as some sort of extra-special super-sin. If you’re willing to let someone who has sex out of wedlock stand beside you in the pew (which would be most single people older than 16), who they have sex with shouldn’t make much of a difference; its all sin.

    We actually agree on this. I just don’t think that the section you cited here has any relation to it, and suspect that I was replying to someone else’s interpretation of this section that you then disagreed with, which is why we’re here.

  140. #141 Verbose Stoic
    December 11, 2011

    Anton,

    To my mind, the important sources are a) that Jesus doesn’t dispute the truth of the disciples’ “it would be better never to marry” claim, b) the “eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” bit, and c) the “no marriage in the kingdom of heaven” bit.

    a) In the specific context of “If you get married, you can’t get divorced for any reason other than infidelity”, which doesn’t support your contention.

    b) Which can be easily seen to be “So that you don’t commit adultery by getting a divorce under the ‘new’ rules for marriage”.

    c) Which is weak since the quote does not say why that is.

    But under your interpretation, if you have a faithful lifetime marriage to avoid committing adultery, that should be an even better thing. And yet Jesus doesn’t describe that out as something you can do for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.

    In this context, no. But it wouldn’t make sense in this context, especially since the “what God has joined let no man put asunder” line pretty much says it anyway.

    The passage does not say that people will be angelic beings in heaven, but that they will be like the angels in heaven insofar as they don’t marry.

    But this would be an example of taking it profoundly literally. That it doesn’t explicitly say that they will be like angels in other ways doesn’t make that not true nor what should be taken from the section, and the context doesn’t support limiting it to marriage. So is it tied tightly to the previous clause, or is it an explanation for why there won’t be marriage in heaven? I take the latter, you seem to take the former.

    (None of these authors, by the way, think that Jesus is presenting celibacy as better or worse than lifetime marriage. They think that he is presenting them as equally acceptable, perhaps in response to others like the disciples who are more strongly pro-celibacy.)

    Or in response to the Pharisees, who are more pro-marriage. But my interpretation is saying basically the same thing. To put my interpretation clearer, I think that, overall, the preference for marriage or celibacy is situational; you do what you can best do. Some things require celibacy, some don’t. If you can’t be celibate, get married and don’t do the things that require celibacy (eg become a priest). If you can’t handle marriage, then you’d better be celibate. It’s all about what you’re capable of and what is needed.

    They will never marry, so they will never divorce and remarry, so they’re following Jesus’ rules to the letter.

    My point, however, is that if you enter into marriage and might not be able to bear it without getting a divorce, that’s a bad thing. The disciples are clearly saying that that sort of marriage is not something they feel willing to handle, which is where the “well, then don’t get married” part comes in.

  141. #142 Owlmirror
    December 11, 2011

    If you can’t be celibate, get married and don’t do the things that require celibacy (eg become a priest).

    *eyeroll*

    At the time Jesus was speaking, a “priest” was a hereditary class; a tribe. Priests were not required to be celibate; priests were expected to marry and continue the priestly line — as they still are in Judaism today.

    There was no social role, or position, at the time, that required celibacy.

    In fact, Jesus seem to have been the first person in the region ever to express the sentiment that being a eunuch was in any way a good thing.

  142. #143 eric
    December 11, 2011

    Since VS and I substantively agree on the subject of this post (homosexuality), I’ll leave off that conversation.

    Lenoxus: Sometimes, American gnu atheists are asked why they’re seemingly so obsessed with Christianity to the exclusion of other religions — isn’t Hinduism just as irrational, according to their own view?

    If and when Hindus try and get their religious beliefs taught as science in public schools, or claim their religious beliefs are a type of science, or try and get the state to lead children in Hindu prayers, I’m sure secularists (not just gnu atheists) will try and stop them. But AFAIK this is not a significant problem in the U.S. today.

    I’m sure some atheists may be obsessed with Christianity per se. But I think the most secularists would object to any sect(s) that try to use the power of the state to proselytize. Today, in the U.S., the vast majority of those sects happen to be Christian. So it looks like an obsession with Christianity, but the type of religion is really incidental to the fight.

    Occasionally, other religions do try and do this; I vaguely recall the ACLU fighting against a private Jewish school in New York and a private Muslim school in Michigan (I think…could be wrong about the state there…) within the last year. However, the sheer amount of Christian sects who do this compared to other religions guarantees that, for the moment, Christian attempts to undermine science education will remain front and center in U.S. secularist thought.

  143. #144 Another Matt
    December 11, 2011

    Priests were not required to be celibate; priests were expected to marry and continue the priestly line — as they still are in Judaism today.

    Eastern Orthodox priests can also marry, but aren’t necessarily expected to.

  144. #145 Patiently Waiting
    December 12, 2011

    I do not think you can hang your hat on arguing that God does not change. People may say he does not, but he clearly changes his mind in the OT when Moses convinces him not to kill all his people. If he changed his mind about implementing mass genocide, surely he could change his mind about whether we should kill people for the same sins he wanted to kill people for.

    Additionally, if the entire point of Jesus is that he atones, then it is also clear that our sins do not matter the way they did in the OT. If we are interpreting Jesus that way (or in various other ways), it is hard not to look at Jesus and see that God changed his mind on which sins were the most egregious as well.

    I certainly understand the point made that the Bible could make for a terrible moral guide, but I do not think that the argument can stand on the idea that God is completely unchanging.

  145. #146 Proud to be Troll
    December 12, 2011

    Why would it matter to God in what matter his own creations copulate, if he views sex as an abomination in general? Also, if sex is an abomination, why would he want to subject his creations to it nonetheless for the purposes of procreation. Why couldn’t or can’t he create humans to reproduce exclusively asexually, to begin with, in order for them to eliminate the need to expose themselves to what he himself views as an atrocity?

  146. #147 I want you to see my ideas
    December 12, 2011

    “the Bible says not all sex is a sin…”

    How can sex be not a sin in some circumstances, when it’s one and the same act? It’s the same as saying that killing people in a war conflict is totally justified, but killing your neighbor is wrong. Sex is sex and killing is killing. Period. The Bible calls sex an abomination and commands not to kill.

    I am married and sex feels absolutely wrong to me, and I am not even religious. So much for people having the sense of right and wrong engrained in them.

  147. #148 Another Matt
    December 12, 2011

    A warm welcome to the Poe patrol!

  148. #149 Wow
    December 13, 2011

    “but I do not think that the argument can stand on the idea that God is completely unchanging.”

    However, those who use the Bible as the source (and only source at that) of morality are arguing that the bible (which IS unchanging: they only use the one version to decide) as that source.

    This thread is about the bible. Not about any god.

  149. #150 Anton Mates
    December 17, 2011

    Verbose Stoic,

    But it wouldn’t make sense in this context, especially since the “what God has joined let no man put asunder” line pretty much says it anyway.

    Not really; that’s just a reiteration of his opposition to divorce, not a recommendation that you should seek out marriage in the first place. But we’re going round and round on this and the earlier stuff, so I’ll drop it.

    That it doesn’t explicitly say that they will be like angels in other ways doesn’t make that not true nor what should be taken from the section, and the context doesn’t support limiting it to marriage. So is it tied tightly to the previous clause, or is it an explanation for why there won’t be marriage in heaven? I take the latter, you seem to take the former.

    As I said, I think there are good reasons to think that Jesus isn’t talking about a nonphysical, modern-Christian-style heaven at all. His interlocutors certainly aren’t.

    To put my interpretation clearer, I think that, overall, the preference for marriage or celibacy is situational; you do what you can best do. Some things require celibacy, some don’t. If you can’t be celibate, get married and don’t do the things that require celibacy (eg become a priest).

    I agree that Jesus is arguing for case-by-case judgment: to some people it’s “given” to become eunuchs/celibate, to some people it’s not. I disagree on some of the details–see below if you’re interested.

    Owlmirror already covered this, but Jewish priests were commanded to marry and have children, just like all other Jewish men. According to the Talmud and Mishnah, men who abstain from having children are equivalent to murderers, since they’ve “killed” their descendants. There was no place for the celibate man in mainstream Jewish society, although those who became eunuchs against their will–the eunuchs from birth and man-made eunuchs that Jesus mentions–were not condemned for it. (They still couldn’t serve in the Temple, though.) And priests in particular were not even permitted to marry a barren woman, unless they had first had children or married a fertile woman, so that they were doing their reproductive duty.

    That said, Jesus probably wasn’t the very first Jew to suggest that you could be a eunuch or celibate for the sake of God. The Essenes predate him (and probably influenced him), and they seem to have included celibate groups. Most Jews apparently viewed the Essenes as separatist weirdos, though.

    My point, however, is that if you enter into marriage and might not be able to bear it without getting a divorce, that’s a bad thing. The disciples are clearly saying that that sort of marriage is not something they feel willing to handle, which is where the “well, then don’t get married” part comes in.

    But in 19:10 the disciples don’t just say that they personally can’t handle this–they assert that a universal anti-marriage rule follows directly from Jesus’ own teachings. “If this is the position of a man in relation to his wife, it is better not to be married.” For Jesus to respond with “well, don’t get married if you can’t handle it” would be nonsensical–the disciples have already agreed with that and gone way past it. I think it makes a lot more sense for him to be saying, “Well, good for you, but not everyone can handle celibacy like we can, so cut the married folks some slack.”

  150. #151 Chet
    January 26, 2012

    Mitt Romney and the homosexual agenda.

  151. #152 telkkuri
    February 16, 2012

    Nowadays, it is going on conversations about homosexuality; some are against it and some on behalf of it. The right answer we can find from the word of God (the Bible).

    The Lord Jesus is the Messiah, Redeemer from sins and the Saviour. Jesus’ must fulfill the whole law of God and believe all what the Old Testament teaches, that He could be the Saviour. In the Old Testament were commandments, which teach that homosexuality is a sin. Because the Lord Jesus had to believe all commandments of the Old Testament, so He also believed that homosexuality is a sin. The Bible teaches that homosexuality was a sin in the order of the Old Covenant and is valid in the order of the New Covenant. Like this way Jesus also believed that homosexuality is a sin, and He also condemned homosexuality by this way.

    For the sake of sodomites’ abomination acts, God destroyed Sodom as Ezekiel 16:49,50 shows for us. Ezekiel uses 16:50 Hebrew word towebah, which is the same Hebrew word in Lev 18:22 (and Lev 20:13) that describes homosexuality as abomination. It is very clear that in Ezekiel 16:50, abomination means homosexuality acts as the reason for destroying of Sodom. Sodomites pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness and hardened hearts towards poor and needy were sins, but destruction came for the sake of homosexuality, and the New Testament confirms this:

    Jude1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

    Apostle Paul wrote very clearly that homosexuality (men having sex with other men; women having sex with other women) is a sin. Ro 1:27 is word error, which is in Greek plane, which means error, to deceive, deceit, one led astray from the right way, error which shows itself in action, a wrong mode of acting. In this place, the Bible in the New Testament shows very clearly that same-gender sex is a sin and aberration from the right way. Apostle Paul taught very clearly that homosexuality is unnatural sin.

    Many scientists believe that homosexuality is congenital, a matter and orientation that can’t be changed as heterosexual. Paradoxical is that many scientists don’t believe in God of the Bible, and they proclaim that God of the Bible is not existed. Nevertheless, God of the Bible is capable of change homosexuals individuals to be as heterosexuals.

    Arsenos means male and koiten means bed. Lev 18:22 and 20:13 teach that a man cannot lie (sexual act) with another man as he lies with a woman. The origin of the word arsenokoites means homosexual activity and homosexual. Lev 18:22 and 20:13 prove very clearly that arsenos koitenmeans homosexuality sex, because the Jews scribes translated words’ arsenos koiten to describe men who have sex with another men (homosexuality), which is a sin and against the will of God. Apostle Paul didn’t make up the word arsenokoites, but it was already as the concept in the Old Testament, where it meant homosexuality.

    It is very clear that the words’ arsenos koiten meant homosexuality (man who had sex with another man) to Jews of the Old Covenant era. In the same way arsenokoites meant homosexuality (man who had sex with another man) to Jesus’ disciples in the New Covenant era.

    Jewish philosopher Philo lived in the same time as Jesus Christ and Philo has said that arsenokoites meant shrine prostitute (male temple prostitute), and not homosexual. Some people have made from this a conclusion that the word arsenokoites meant a male temple prostitute. Philo’s interpretation was totally wrong, because the Bible proves this undisputedly and shows that Philo erred.

    Lev 18:22 and Lev 20:13 doesn’t use temple prostitute word, but words in which is denied that a man can’t lie sexually with another man. Always when the Bible speaks for temple prostitutes, so the Bible uses words gedeshah and gadesh. If Lev 18:22 and Lev 20:13 told for temple prostitutes, so verses would mention them, but there isn’t, because in those verses, the Bible forbids homosexuality. It is very clear and undisputable in the light of the testimony of the Bible, that arsenokoites means homosexuality.

    According to words of the Lord Jesus, Jesus’ disciples can judge righteous judgement. If somebody is stealing, living in adultery or is lying, so we have the right to say sin as a sin. According to the Bible, homosexuality is a sin and so Jesus’ disciples have the right to say what the Bible teaches. Jesus’ disciple has a right to say that living in sins lead people to eternal damnation. Jesus’ disciple doesn’t judge to damnation, but tells that God shall judge sin maker to hell.

    God loves also gay-people, but not sinful act of homosexuality, and therefore, God calls gay-people repentance and receives salvation by believing in the Lord Jesus. In other words, God loves sinners, but not sins. The gospel and its changing power is meant also for gay-people, because the Lord Jesus can set you free you from your sins.

    I don’t condemn homosexuals, but love them by the love of God. The love of God also holds on from the truth, and therefore, I must say that homosexuality is a sin, it is not condemning, but telling the truth. God has authority to judge, not a man. God judges in His word homosexuality as a sin. I can tell about judgements that what God does, and I don’t condemn, but tell who judge.

    I don’t support discrimination of homosexuals, because they are valuable as my neighbors. However, homosexuality is a sin. It is possible to integrate from homosexuality and get rid of it. The Lord Jesus can save and give freedom to you. I recommend for you to read the Bible, because there God teaches for natural sexuality and salvation by believing in the Lord Jesus.

    Reference: http://koti.phnet.fi/petripaavola/homosexual.html

  152. #153 Wow
    February 16, 2012

    “Jesus’ must fulfill the whole law of God”

    You mean all that old testament stuff with the killing and all?

    That sorta brings it back to the Islamic trope bandied about with that violence doesn’t it.

    And I can’t find ANYWHERE on the ten commandments where it says being gay is a sin.

    PS why did god make them gay if it was a sin?

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