Lev. 18 (forbidden sex)

This is how we do it in Arizona.  Under A.R.S. § 25-101:

A. Marriage between parents and children, including grandparents and grandchildren of every degree, between brothers and sisters of the one-half as well as the whole blood, and between uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews and between first cousins, is prohibited and void.

B. Notwithstanding subsection A, first cousins may marry if both are sixty-five years of age or older or if one or both first cousins are under sixty-five years of age, upon approval of any superior court judge in the state if proof has been presented to the judge that one of the cousins is unable to reproduce.

C. Marriage between persons of the same sex is void and prohibited.

Subsection C is unenforceable based on the holding of the holding of federal courts.

Section 1: The first clobber scripture.

The law in Leviticus is not much different.  It addresses sex not marriage.  It is also addressed solely to men, and I would argue straight men.  Leviticus 18:7-20 are all about women with whom the mad should not have sex with.  Then, 21 says don’t sacrifice your children, then 22 says don’t have sex with a man, then 23 says don’t have sex with animals, and finally the second half says don’t let women have sex with animals.

With that in mind, let’s look at Leviticus 18:22 for analysis.  “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.”  Note it is a command.  What if an adult woman reads this.  She, the adult woman, is commanded not to have sexual relations with a man as she does with a woman.  Huh.  The point is more well made by the NIV’s addition of “sexual relations” to what is more traditionally translated as “lie with.”  If a woman reads this, she is literally commanded to be a lesbian.

Now, stop, because I hear you.  The Bible does not command women to be lesbians because–as I just said–it is directed to male readers.  My point is this: It is also directed toward straight readers. 

I am fully on board with directing straight men not to have sex with men. I think that would be deviant and wrong, possibly exploitative.  But, what are those other than straight men to do with this scripture?  Do they apply it blindly and get the result of gay men and straight women being commanded to avoid sex with men?  Or do the adapt it to who they are?  Seems obvious to me.

Section 2: A fun look at who in the Bible violated these laws

There is not a major point here, except I wanted to show (1) how these laws compare with our laws and (2) how frequently folks broke these–which, maybe that’s why they needed to be so explicit.

  • 18:7 Do not have sex with your mother.  Also illegal in Arizona.  No examples in the Bible, although, Lot’s daughters had sex with him.Gen. 19:36.
  • 18:8 Do not have sex with your father’s wife.  Legal in Arizona–assuming the wife is not your mother.  Rueben basically did this by having sex with Bilhah, his father’s concubine/mother’s hand maid. Gen. 35:22.
  • 18:9,11 Do not have sex with your sister or your half sister.  Also illegal in Arizona.  Abraham explicitly violated this one by marrying Sarah.  Gen. 20:11-12.
  • 18:10 Do not have sex with your granddaughter.  Also illegal in Arizona.  I think we’re good on this one.
  • 18:12-13 Do not have sex with your aunt. Also illegal in Arizona.  I think we’re okay here.
  • 18:14 Do not have sex with your uncle’s wife.  Legal in Arizona.  No examples.
  • 18:15 Do not have sex with your daughter-in-law.  Legal in Arizona.  Yeah, Judah breaks this one.  Although, in his defense, he thought she was a prostitute, right?  Gen. 38:12-26.
  • 18:16 Do not have sex with your brother’s wife.  Legal in Arizona.  Obviously while he’s still alive, Onan get’s killed for not finishing the act of having sex with his brother’s wife.  Gen. 38:1-10.  
  • 18:17 Do not have sex with both a woman and her daughter.  Legal in Arizona.  I’m not aware of any violations of this one.
  • 18:18 Do not have sex with your wife’s sister.  Two wives illegal; sex with wife’s sister okay in Arizona.  Israel, aka, Jacob explicitly violates this one.  Gen. 29:15-30.
  • 18:19 Do not have sex with a woman on her period.  Legal in Arizona.  Not sure if there is a biblical story about this.
  • 18:20 Do not have sex with your neighbor’s wife.  Legal in Arizona.  King David violated this one, although not without consequences.  2 Sam. 11.

Honorable mention, both Isaac and Jacob married their first cousins, in Isaac’s case once removed.  So that would be illegal in Arizona–because they were not both 65 at the time–but seems okay to Biblical authors.

So, I guess I am questioning whether an honest reading of these passages can lead one to hate gay people.  I dare say that if someone comes to that conclusion, he or she had it in mind when they opened the book.

4 thoughts on “Lev. 18 (forbidden sex)”

  1. I know I've harassed you about this before, but almost everything we're getting out of the Bible now is what we bring to it. Of course, you're in a particularly terrible spot in your reading to try to defend yourself from this accusation, so I get that I'm picking my battle here.

    I just don't see how we can say that this morality is anything other than of its time and clearly addresses the concerns of its authors' culture. Where it coincides with what you and I think is right is just an overlap of coincidence.

  2. I think there is a little bit of the whole, "Does the rock shape the river or the river shape the rock."

    Both. It's something of a higher order system, right? There is feedback. There are second order effects, etc. The two shape each other over time.

    Likewise, the current state of my moral character shapes which portions of Scripture I look to seriously for guidance. This passage ain't one of them. Nonetheless, Scripture shapes my moral character, too. So, when I read prohibitions on deviant sexuality, it may have something to say to me, even if I disagree about what is deviant sexuality.

    The lessons I take from the book are heavily influenced by the beliefs I bring to it; but that does not mean I do not take lessons from it.

  3. Fair enough. Of course these are deep thinkers of their time attempting to grope their way toward a moral truth, and that's never going to fail to produce some value.

    When we get to the sermon on the mount I'm going to start up again with the criticism of its morality and I suspect that will be more interesting. It's just not hard to find the cracks in a moral code from morality plays which were old when they were written in their ancient Hebrew.

    I would like some credit for laying off on the Abraham/Isaac horror story.

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