I wish to commend Dennis Prager’s article as an excellent discussion of the subject. Thanks for sharing the link to it.
-from a comment made by ProclaimLiberty
I started this as a comment in response to PL, as well as to my friend Mel who originally provided the link to the Prager story Judaism’s Sexual Revolution: Why Judaism (and then Christianity) Rejected Homosexuality on a prior meditation, but as I kept writing and writing, it seemed like my response needed more room. Hence this blog post.
Prager’s article goes a long way to explain why the Torah specifically prohibits male on male sexual intercourse but is silent about woman on woman sex.
The revolutionary nature of Judaism’s prohibiting all forms of non-marital sex was nowhere more radical, more challenging to the prevailing assumptions of mankind, than with regard to homosexuality. Indeed, Judaism may be said to have invented the notion of homosexuality, for in the ancient world sexuality was not divided between heterosexuality and homosexuality. That division was the Bible’s doing. Before the Bible, the world divided sexuality between penetrator (active partner) and penetrated (passive partner). (emph. mine)
Also quoting Martha Nussbaum:
Ancient categories of sexual experience differed considerably from our own… The central distinction in sexual morality was the distinction between active and passive roles. The gender of the object… is not in itself morally problematic. Boys and women are very often treated interchangeably as objects of [male] desire. What is socially important is to penetrate rather than to be penetrated. Sex is understood fundamentally not as interaction, but as a doing of some thing to someone…
I’m now curious about David Greenberg’s book The Construction of Homosexuality since it’s described as “the most thorough historical study of homosexuality ever written” and may go a long way to explain how/if homosexuality was normalized in any past civilizations and if same-sex marriage/mating was considered on moral/social par with opposite-sex marriage/mating.
However, Prager quotes Greenberg as saying:
“With only a few exceptions, male homosexuality was not stigmatized or repressed so long as it conformed to norms regarding gender and the relative ages and statuses of the partners… The major exceptions to this acceptance seem to have arisen in two circumstances.” Both of these circumstances were Jewish.
Prager further states:
Jews or Christians who take the Bible’s views on homosexuality seriously are not obligated to prove that they are not fundamentalists or literalists, let alone bigots (though, of course, people have used the Bible to defend bigotry). Rather, those who claim homosexuality is compatible with Judaism or Christianity bear the burden of proof to reconcile this view with their Bible.
This is what I believe Matthew Vines is trying to do in his book God and the Gay Christian, however, Prager says in his article that the Bible’s attitude on homosexuality is “unambiguous” and in his opinion, it’s impossible to reconcile that attitude with any sort of statement that same-sex coupling is acceptable to God.
This may be the key to understanding “abomination” (toevah) as used in Leviticus 18:22. Prager quotes Greenberg again:
“When the word toevah (“abomination”) does appear in the Hebrew Bible, it is sometimes applied to idolatry, cult prostitution, magic, or divination, and is sometimes used more generally…” (emph. mine)
Not all abominations, according to Professor Greenberg, have to be directly related to idolatry or cult prostitution, thus the prohibition against male to male coupling can be reasonably understood as more generalized within Judaism and by inference, Christianity.
Relative to Judaism (and I include Messianic Judaism here), Prager says:
Judaism cannot make peace with homosexuality because homosexuality denies many of Judaism’s most fundamental principles. It denies life, it denies God’s expressed desire that men and women cohabit, and it denies the root structure that Judaism wishes for all mankind, the family.
I agree with PL that Dennis Prager’s article Judaism’s Sexual Revolution: Why Judaism (and then Christianity) Rejected Homosexuality is a “keeper” and goes a long way to summarize both the history of homosexuality in the ancient world and why Judaism (and of course, God) rejected same-sex partnering as a way to promote life, growth, elevation of the status of women, and service to God.
This brief missive was originally conceived as a comment in another blog post so it is understandably brief (compared to how much I usually write). Please read the Prager’s original article in its entirety so you can benefit from all of the details he provides. Remember, Prager is politically and socially conservative, so if you have a more liberal bent, you aren’t going to like what he says.