[Feb. 24-26 from One Year Bible available online here.]
Here we go. Leviticus continues to tell us about impurity. It talks about disease, and what to do if someone is healed, not how to heal them. E.g., ““When the man with the discharge is healed, he must count off seven days for the period of purification. Then he must wash his clothes and bathe himself in fresh water, and he will be ceremonially clean.” Lev. 15:13. There is also discussion of what to do if you eat something that is unclean. E.g., “And if any native-born Israelites or foreigners eat the meat of an animal that died naturally or was torn up by wild animals, they must wash their clothes and bathe themselves in water. They will remain ceremonially unclean until evening, but then they will be clean.”
Jesus has something to say about worshiping tradition. Thing is they wanted the Disciples to wash their hands before eating. The author of Mark alerts us that, “[t]his is but one of many traditions they have clung to—such as their ceremonial washing of cups, pitchers, and kettles” Mark 7:4. It seems like kind of a minor requirement to us today, but Jesus–as he often does–launches into the Fundamentalists saying, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.” 6-8. Oh, snap! Basically, Jesus hates people who try to push their traditions on people by using religion. Is hates too strong? Probably.
And so, now we come to Leviticus 18, the list of sexual prohibitions. One thing I notice right off the bat was this, “Do not have sexual relations with your sister or half sister, whether she is your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born into your household or someone else’s.” Lev. 18:9 Which means that Sarah and Abraham were violating the God’s law. Not a problem for me, because I’m solidly against brothers and sisters having sex with each other–even half-brother & sister.
On to the big one, “Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin.” Lev. 18:22. First, the opening clause is a ridiculous translation. The idea of homosexuality generically is a very, very recent idea. It sure says do not practice sexual immorality. Second, notice the specificity, it is men have sex with men; actually it is men having sex with another man “as with a woman.” What does that mean? Is it possible the ancient notion that only one of the two men having sex is committing an abomination present? I don’t know.
Let’s go back to Jesus. He scolds the Fundamentalists for ignoring the major commandment of honor your father and mother with a tradition that gave power to the Fundamentalists. Makes me think about ignoring the admonition to care for the poor by hiding behind one’s view of the role of government. Finally, he closes with this:
“It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”
Okay, so how would Jesus have responded to Mary and Jennifer raising their seven-year-old daughter that Mary gave birth to and Jennifer adopted? Would he simply have applied the law from Leviticus? The Fundamentalists of his day, the Pharisees, certainly would have. I bet they would not care that the Scripture actually doesn’t say anything about lesbians, or gay people raising children or being married. But, we know what Jesus thought of them.
[UPDATE: I did this reading with the online version. The hard copy book I bought at Bookman’s does not have the phrase “Do not practice homosexuality,” causing me to believe the words were added for purely political reasons. Shame on you editors of the NIV.]