Bible

God vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality: My Review of Part Two

I mistakenly thought Jay Michaelson’s book God vs. Gay: The Religious Case for Equality consisted of only two parts, with Part One being a general appeal for acceptance of LBGTQ people into religious community based on general principles loosely derived from the Bible, and Part Two refuting the various Biblical prohibitions against same-sex sex in scripture. However, I missed Part Three, which seems to be (I’m still reading it, but I finished Part Two) a presentation of the different studies “proving” that same-sex relationships, marriage, and parenting are not only beneficial to society as a whole, but sometimes are superior to opposite-sex relationships (on p.116, Michaelson cites a study supporting same-sex parenting as superior to opposite-sex parenting, and while he says it’s important for a child to have two parents, the sexual identity and orientation of the parents is irrelevant).

I probably won’t write a formal review of Part Three only because it has virtually no bearing on the topic at hand [since originally writing this blog post, I changed my mind and wrote a review of two chapters in Part Three…see my final note below], which is the question of whether or not the Bible can be correctly interpreted as supporting marriage equality and the admission, normalization, and sanctification of same-sex relationships within the Christian and Jewish communities of faith. What secular social studies say about various aspects of gay relationships cannot answer that question, they only answer how same-sex relationships may be integrated into the larger societal milieu.

Before continuing here, if you haven’t read my review of Part One of Michaelson’s book, you might want to pause, click the link I just provided, and have a look.

Part Two is made up of seven chapters, the first (Chapter 7) called “Leviticus.” I’ve addressed this topic before, including the Hebrew word “toevah” which is often translated as “abomination,” a term applied to male-to-male sexual contact and to eating shellfish, at least according to the Torah of Moses and as applied to the ancient Israelites. Rather than “re-inventing the wheel,” so to speak, please read my blog post Leviticus, Homosexuality, and Abominations which covers the Leviticus prohibitions against homosexuality and what they really seem to mean.

I should also say that Chapter 8: “Sodom,” is correct in stating that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed a chronicle of the sin of “inhospitality” more so than homosexual rape. The fact that Lot offers his virgin daughters to the mob, being a pretty confusing response, is an indication that there’s more going on than uncontrolled homosexual lust. However, this is hardly any sort of justification for any form of sexual violence, whether directed by a man against a woman or a man against another man. No, Michaelson isn’t advocating sexual violence, but citing the “Sodom” incident is something of a red herring since it has no relationship to our modern conceptualization of homosexuality.

Chapter 9 “The Gospels” is an interesting case. Jesus didn’t talk about homosexuality. But why should he? What did Jesus preach? What was his central message?

Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven/God is at hand.

Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15

Jesus didn’t come to overthrow the Law and to create a new religion (and although Michaelson is Jewish, he has a pretty traditional view of Christianity, the same view Christianity has of itself). He came to re-establish devout observance of the Torah for Israel, which would have to start with repentance, because he had come to inaugurate the beginning of the New Covenant (see Derek Leman’s blog post A Closer Look at Matthew 5:17 for an “in-a-nutshell” look at how Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Law but to fill it).

In the same chapter, Michaelson brings the story of the Centurion and servant into play (see Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10). If you are unfamiliar with this event, a Centurion asks Jesus to heal his male servant and displays great faith by saying if Jesus just declares the servant healed without even going to the Centurion’s home, the Centurion knows he will be healed.

MessiahThe Greek word used to describe the servant is “pais” or “boy companion” not “daulos” or “slave”. In the Roman world, it was not uncommon for a Roman citizen to have a slave, usually an adolescent boy, as a servant for a number of activities including sexual, since in Roman law, it was not forbidden for a citizen to penetrate a non-citizen or slave. That Jesus didn’t complain about this practice is supposed to be proof that he didn’t have an issue with homosexual relationships.

On the other hand…

But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Matthew 15:24

Jesus didn’t come at that moment in time to rehabilitate the world. He came to rehabilitate Israel. Later, as the inauguration of the New Covenant continued to progress through history, the rehabilitation of a remnant of the people of the nations would begin to take place through Israel. Since Michaelson doesn’t view Christianity or the teachings of Jesus through a Messianic lens, this aspect of the impact and timing of the New Covenant would have escaped him, thus his misunderstanding of why Jesus didn’t have to care about a Roman centurion and his boy slave/companion.

If, on the other hand, Jesus had discovered this sort of relationship or any other form of sexual immorality among his people Israel, the Master’s response would have been quite different.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking about John 8:1-11 where Jesus “changed the Law” about adultery and gave the woman caught in an adulterous relationship a free pass. But did he?

I won’t quote the text here, but the Torah states that anyone caught performing a violation of Torah with terminal consequences had to be brought before the Sanhedrin (see Leviticus 20:10). A trial would have to be conducted, witnesses called, and only two or more eye-witnesses could condemn the woman before the court. Only then would the court pronounce its sentence of death, and only then would the eye-witnesses lead in the stoning of the convicted woman.

None of that happened. Instead, these thugs dragged the accused woman in front of Jesus and only as a way to trap him in speaking against the Torah. It didn’t work and the trap having failed, the accusers dropped their stones and left. Since Jesus wasn’t a witness to the affair and since he wasn’t the appropriate “court,” according to the Torah, he was in no position to condemn her. But no one asked him about any legitimate cases that had come before the Sanhedrin and what he thought of their verdicts (For a more detailed description of this event and its background, see the article “Woman Caught in Adultery” by D. Thomas Lancaster in the Fall 2014 issue of Messiah Magazine, pp.10-13).

The only other thing I found in that chapter even remotely relevant was Michaelson’s treatment of “eunuchs” and how he considers those who were “eunuchs by choice” not just as celibate, but specifically attracted to men and not women. However, at best, Michaelson is being speculative with just a very small amount of evidence and a great deal of agenda to support.

The Jewish PaulChapter 10: “Romans” was very contradictory. Michaelson, on the one hand, says Paul (and all of his peers…and everyone in his period of history) had no concept of “sexual orientation” and thus Romans 1:26-27 could not possibly be applied to “loving same-sex relationships”. On the other hand, if that’s true, then nothing in the majority of the New Testament could be used to support said “loving same-sex relationships” either. You can’t have it both ways.

He did make a good point about people being “given over to their lusts” since someone “naturally” oriented to love/want sex with a same-sex partner isn’t given over to some desire and activity they’re already involved with. But he makes a mistake, a big one:

This is not exactly a celebration of sexual diversity. However, even before we turn to the language of verses 26 and 27, their context should be clear. Paul is not preaching that homosexuality is a sin — he is preaching that some form of illicit homosexual behavior is a consequence of sin. Whatever sexual behavior Paul is writing about, it is the symptom, not the cause, of the Romans’ failure: the Romans turned from God, and therefore (dio) God gave them over to sexual immorality (Rom. 1:24). This is like a parent telling a child, “If you don’t wear your jacket, you’ll get a cold.” Obviously, getting a cold is not desirable, but it’s not a sin. The real sin is not wearing a coat, or, more generally, not being careful.

-Michaelson, p.80

Here Michaelson attempts to totally disconnect behavior from consequence, as if what the type of consequence had nothing to do with the behavior that precipitated it.

Does he imagine that turning from God and engaging in pagan practices had nothing to do with sexual sin? If a person is struggling with a sin but refuses to give it up, then God can and likely will turn the person over to that specific sin, give them enough rope to hang themselves, so to speak, until (hopefully) they experience such discomfort from the sin that they will be motivated to give it up, repent (remember Christ’s central message), and return to God.

If a person is a member of the community of faith and struggles with alcohol or drug abuse, refuses to seek help or even to attempt to repent, then God could turn them over to that behavior until the consequences began to pile up, which (again, hopefully) would act as a motivator for the person to give up their sin, repent, and return.

Using Michaelson’s model of disconnected sin and consequence, it would be like saying to the drug abuser, “because you continue to abuse drugs and worship foreign gods, you will have to wear an umbrella on your head until you’re ready to repent.” No, the actual statement would go something like, “because you continue to abuse drugs and worship foreign gods, your drug abuse behavior will go out of control and your body and spirit will deteriorate until you either die or stop your sinful behavior and repent.”

When all else fails in this part of his book, just like Part One, Michaelson reverts to…

In the words of Rev. Michael Piazza, “From dogs to dolphins, same-gender sexual attraction is a reality. What is ‘natural’ for one individual may be a direct violation of another’s nature.”

-ibid, p.83

Except people are not dogs or dolphins. We are the only living beings created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Animals aren’t held morally accountable for their actions because they don’t have the unique calling of human beings, therefore, citing “natural law” to explain that if a male dog humps another male dog, then it’s OK for two men or two women to have sex as part of nature doesn’t cut it. There’s a difference between the broken nature of the universe and God’s plan for the redemption of that universe through Israel and thus through the redeemed remnant of the nations.

PaulChapter 11: “Corinthians and Timothy” seems to be another case of saying that whatever Paul is prohibiting, it can’t possibly have anything to do with what we now consider “sexual orientation” and “loving same-sex relationships”. If that’s true, than any commentary on Paul’s opinions and beliefs are moot. If Paul is condemning same-sex sexual contact within the context of pagan worship practices, it’s still same-sex sex. We have no evidence of any “loving same-sex relationships” as we understand them (or as we’re told we should understand them) in the world today, particularly within the ekklesia (assembly, body) of Christ (Messiah). So we have no template for understanding same-sex sexual contact other than the pagan worship context, which apparently, has nothing to do with what’s going on in the modern world (though some might say otherwise).

In Chapter 12: “David and Jonathan,” the shocker for me is that Michaelson actually has a go at the relationship of Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi. For him it seems inconceivable that two women could be so close and so devoted to each other that there wouldn’t be a sort of “romantic” and even possibly “sexual” relationship between the two. Except we see absolutely no indication of such a relationship. It’s as if Michaelson can’t imagine two people of the same-sex being very close and sex and romance not playing a part.

Frankly, my wife is very close to my parents but I can’t in any way shape or form think of their relationship as romantic let alone sexual. Michaelson has definitely introduced another red herring here.

David and Jonathan as lovers. I’ve heard this one before. Even Michaelson doesn’t believe David is gay based on his relationship with Bathsheba and his multitude of wives and concubines.

The only thing I didn’t see coming was Saul accusing Jonathan of having a sexual relationship with David:

Saul knows it too. When David fails to appear at court for a feast, Jonathan makes an excuse for him. Saul replies, enraged: “You perverse and rebellious son! Behold, I know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your shame, and the shame of your mother’s nakedness! For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the Earth, you and your kingdom will not be established” (I Sam. 20:30-31). The second line in Saul’s admonition frames Jonathan’s action in dynastic terms — but the first is clearly sexualized. Jonathan has chosen David to his shame — the Hebrew root is “bushah.” As if that weren’t clear enough, Saul emphatically calls Jonathan “perverse” and adds that his love affair with David is to the “shame of your mother’s nakedness” “ervat imecha,” a term that unambiguously refers to sexual sins.

-Michaelson, pp.98-9

Not knowing Hebrew (and Michaelson may have been counting on the majority of his readers not having access to the original language) I can’t adequately respond to Michaelson’s interpretation, but even if all this is true, Saul defines a sexual relationship between Jonathan and David as “perverse” and a “sexual sin,” and assuming that Saul’s understanding of the Torah is accurate, this transaction doesn’t support and justify same-sex romantic and erotic relationships, it condemns them.

We know that David committed other grave sins including sexual sins and that he ultimately paid for them, so even if Michaelson is accurate, the case he makes doesn’t necessarily support his cause.

Of course, even Michaelson realizes he’s guessing and can’t be sure of his conclusions, at least up to a point:

At the very least, surely we would all agree that what Jonathan felt for David can be described as a romantic love with erotic overtones.

-Michaelson, p.101

I don’t have to agree with that and, as I said, if it’s true, it doesn’t represent Biblical support for gay relationships. Add to that Michaelson’s previous statement that sexual orientation wasn’t understood as such in ancient times, and maybe we can’t compare whatever did or didn’t happen between David and Jonathan to same-sex relationships today. I think Michaelson is overextending his examples to make his point or to force his point.

gay marriagePart Two ended with Chapter 13: “Sexual diversity in Christian theology,” in which he describes, from his unique perspective, how the Bible has been misinterpreted by the Church to be “anti-gay”. Actually, I completely agree that the so-called “Church fathers” did unspeakable violence to the Biblical text, particularly in reinventing the Bible as a non-Jewish document and transforming the Jewish Messiah into a Goyishe Prince. It’s quite possible that the early Christian “luminaries” also doctored their interpretations to magnify prohibitions against homosexuality.

But I don’t really care about what Gentile Christianity did to the Bible if, removing their influence, we can’t see the Bible undeniably supporting and affirming man-to-man and woman-to-woman romantic and erotic relationships due to in-born traits, and that those relationships were accepted and normalized in ancient Biblical Judaism and Christianity (and I say “Biblical Christianity” with the understanding that in the days of the apostles, Jewish and Gentile disciples of Messiah were practicing a form of Judaism).

Michaelson criticizes any anti-gay statements or reforms issued by “the Church” (which for much of its early history was represented by the Roman Catholic Church) and celebrates more recent events in socially and politically liberal (i.e. “politically correct” or “progressive”) churches:

In contrast, there have been openly gay priests in the Episcopal Church since the 1970s, and surveys show that 75 percent of U.S. Episcopalians think that gays can be faithful Christians.

-ibid, p.108

And yet the actions and beliefs of the Episcopal Church can’t automatically be assumed to represent the desire of God for human beings in the ekklesia of Messiah.

Michaelson attempts to show that churches that repress homosexuality within their walls promote an increase in sexual and other sin:

As we have already mentioned, evangelical megachurch leader Ted Haggard (now making a comeback) had a multiyear relationship with a drug-dealing male prostitute. Rev. Paul Barnes, pastor of a Denver megachurch, had numerous affairs with men. Pastor Eddie Long has recently been accused of sexually abusing several teenage boys. And as we’ve already noted, George Rekers, cofounder of the Family Research Council, hired a male prostitute to accompany him on a trip to the Caribbean. Eros repressed is eros distorted, so it is no surprise that so many of the most vocal anti-gay voices are themselves…gay.

-ibid

According to Michaelson, the answer to all of this messy sexual business is to open the doors of all the churches everywhere and accept, affirm, and support all gay people and all gay relationships. If the church stops calling homosexuality a sin, then gays in the Church won’t have to hide who they are and men like Haggard, Barnes, and Long can function perfectly well in their churches as openly gay Pastors.

But if Eros repressed is Eros distorted, what does that mean for the concept of sexual sin in general? Michaelson’s assumption is that if you stop forbidding or repressing something, then it becomes a normal and natural part of the religious environment. Long is accused of having sexual contact with teenage boys. Assuming these boys were under the age of 18, doesn’t that belong in the area of child abuse? I know Michaelson is refuting the idea that homosexuality can involve an adult having sex with a minor, and I’m not suggesting that such a “slippery slope” necessarily exists, but once sexual boundaries start to loosen and become “fuzzy” in the church, how much control will anyone have about where those boundaries are “reset.”

Messiah Journal issue 117

Yesterday, I posted my review of David Hall’s article for Messiah Journal and I think Hall hits closer to the mark. Thematically and purposefully, the Bible may not forbid or prohibit what modern society considers consensual, same-sex erotic and romantic relationships but it definitely doesn’t support them either. I’ve thrown (in my opinion, anyway) enough “reasonable doubt” into Michaelson’s interpretations and assumptions to conclude that he hasn’t successfully made his point or adequately supported his position, thus, at best, there is insufficient Biblical evidence to warrant treating same-sex relationships in an identical manner as opposite-sex relationships within the context of Christianity and Judaism. The scriptural template for romantic/sexual relationships as part of God’s plan remains one male and one female in marriage.

While Michaelson may be correct in saying that homosexual behavior in the animal world is well-represented, that something is “natural” for animals doesn’t mean God intends that behavior for human beings. How can I explain the overwhelming number of anecdotal reports from gay men and women that they have experienced same-sex erotic attraction since childhood? In an absolute sense, I can’t. However, that doesn’t automatically mean those feelings were programmed into them by God.

We are all born broken in some way. That doesn’t mean we should allow people to remain broken and accept “broken” as natural, normal, and the final expression of God’s plan for human beings. Faith in Jesus is about taking a broken world full of broken people and starting to heal them. When Messiah comes again, he will heal everyone. Until then, all we can do is the best we can to facilitate our healing in whatever way we happen to be hurt.

I’ll be publishing an “unofficial” review of a small portion of Part Three of Michaelson’s book in tomorrow’s “morning meditation” and then an “extra meditation” later that same day as a “tying up” or conclusion to this project.

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35 thoughts on “God vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality: My Review of Part Two”

  1. Your report of Michaelson’s interpretation of the friendship between David and Jonathan reminded me of one of the exceptionally regrettable casualties of the GLBTQ war on biblical sexual morality. In such a climate, emotional non-sexual intimacy between men becomes impossible due to fear of it being misread or fear of it becoming a “slippery slope” toward abomination. Only in a climate that unambiguously prohibits any such relationship, even in thought or in “orientation” — in which the abomination would never occur — can two men be free to become emotionally close, in much the way that military comrades who have survived death many times together feel attached to one another’s well-being and would readily sacrifice their own lives for the sake of their comrades. This is why homosexuality in the military is exceedingly dangerous and diminishes the capacity for any such camaraderie.

    As for the notion of two same-sex “parents” raising children (*shudder*), that is nothing less than a misanthropic denial of the nature of the human species and what is required for it to survive by continued propagation. Children can hardly be expected to develop heterosexual patterns of sexual interaction that they have not seen modeled during their formative years, especially if the behavior that they *have* seen modeled is anti-heterosexual.

    Dennis Prager’s article may be correct that the biblical definition of sexual morality was an uncommon innovation — which would imply that the human species managed to limp along sufficiently because enough heterosexual activity was occurring, in addition to whatever other kinds, to produce subsequent generations which also accomplished sufficient impregnation of females and survival of offspring. However, even in the absence of a Hobbsian social contract, such that life was “nasty, brutish, and short”, humans may survive — they may merely enjoy it much less than under better moral conditions.

  2. Having finished Michaelson’s book (my final two commentaries on it will publish tomorrow), I discovered he’s not trying to make a case for equality but rather, a radical redefinition of Biblical theology such that gay people are not only to be considered equal participants in Christianity and Judaism, but as having unique roles to play in these communities of faith. I was really surprised when Michaelson “let the other shoe drop,” so to speak, in part three of his book. If he thought he was going to convince the more conservative elements of the Christian and Jewish worlds that queer theology was acceptable and sustainable in the religious mainstream, he sadly misunderstood his audience.

  3. What does it all come down to? Certainly a same-sex couple can raise healthy children. They can love one another. They can contribute as citizens to society as well as any other. They also can divorce, fight, cheat on one another, be abusive towards one another or children, just like straight couples do. So, what does it come down to?

    The truth is this: It comes down to “did God say?”

    The rest is just red herrings like James points out, and if it comes down to “did God say” that homosexuality is forbidden, what does that say about the torah in the broader sense?

    How can a man tell another man that he must repent of breaking the law of homosexuality because “God has said”, and then tell him he does not have to keep the rest of the law (or any piece) that “God has said?”

    When all is said and done, any true follower of Messiah will say “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

    Homosexuality becomes a certain proof that the law is for everyone, not just for Jews. Why? Because only in the law is it forbidden. Every other reference to condemnation of homosexuality stems from the Torah. If the law did not say homosexuality is forbidden it would not be forbidden.

    Did God say? Then let us gays deal with it. Not on our terms, but his.
    Lord, not my will be done, but your will be done. Change me into the image of your son and give me strenght to be honest, live right, do justly, and give me the strenght to endure this hell….to the end. In faith I will seek and one day I will see you face to face.

  4. BTW, “J” — I meant to ask what spurred the return to this topic at this time? Is it impelled by some pre-election frenzy in the USA that has brought this issue to the forefront of political discussions (and, hence, to that of religious discussions)?

  5. i decided to read Michaelson’s book because it was recommended to me. A former Lutheran Pastor of my acquaintance said the book was better and more informative than the Matthew Vines book I had previously read and reviewed. Since this Pastor has recently left his position at his former church, I can only assume that his attitudes toward gays in the church have changed enough that required such a decision.

    Since I respect his opinion and wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing something, I decided to read Michaelson’s book. The fact that it was available at my local library made it pretty easy to get a copy. Since it is my opinion that traditional Christian doctrine is in error about how it teaches the relationship between Messiah, Torah, and the Jewish people, I have to at least consider that Christian doctrine can be in error on other topics, such as how it interprets the Biblical prohibitions against homosexual activity.

    However, Michaelson didn’t have much to say that I hadn’t already heard or read about and those things he wrote that were new to me either didn’t make a difference or, in my opinion, actually hurt his case.

  6. Do keep in mind, Steven, that portions of Torah record or include instructions that are generic to all humankind. These are sometimes referred to as the Noa’hide laws. For example, the very first commandment given to humans was also previously given to fish and other animals, which was to be fruitful and multiply. The command about eating from the trees in the garden, though a moot point now, was for all humans (at that time, both of them). Nonetheless, there is a listing of other laws preserved in the Torah that rabbis have extracted as being applicable to all, now that we’re outside the garden and have survived the great flood. Some of these were reiterated in more detailed form to Israel with an emphasis that would contribute to our distinctiveness and purity. Hence, while most of Torah represents HaShem’s distinctive instructions for Jews only, some of it is still applicable to everyone. So, while perhaps homosexual behavior in Israel was considered “toevah”, “abomination”, with the severest of penalties, it was nonetheless also unacceptable for other humans outside the Jewish covenant, even without such severe sanctions and penalties, because it directly contravenes the nature of humanity as HaShem created us, namely, male and female who are designed to reproduce by copulation, gestation, and parturition. The relationship designed by HaShem is quite explicit. This also is “what G-d says” even if no specific statement of command is recorded in Torah, much as Rav Yeshua noted in Mt.19 as he interpreted the basis of prohibitions against divorce. Similarly, what we have learned of human psychology and sexual identity development can help us to infer the implications of “what G-d says” with respect to the ideal qualifications for raising children to have a proper sexual identity.

    While humans are surprisingly resilient in some ways, capable of coping with all sorts of non-ideal circumstances in order to survive, the principle I outlined in my initial post above about children requiring heterosexual modeling of proper heterosexual behavior in order to assimilate it into their own identities is certainly valid. Two homosexual caregivers trying to raise a child to adequate heterosexual identity is not unlike two blind parents trying to guide the development of a sighted child. Can it be done? Perhaps, but there are many aspects to the use of sight that only a sighted person can appreciate; and thus only a sighted person who knows how to use that faculty can truly guide other sighted persons to do similarly. Thus, by extension, only persons who are heterosexual can properly guide the development of a child into “healthy” heterosexuality. Now, this does not rule out a parent who has struggled with flaws in their sexual programming, so long as they have mastered their sexuality into conformity with HaShem’s explicit plan for the human species.

  7. I remember literally feeling set free when I learned that everything I do is a choice (I had an abusive childhood which gave way to many poor choices, and subsequent consequences). Although I was “programmed” like everyone else from my childhood, the world around me, my temperament etc., there was nothing that mandated me to “act” on every, or any, urge or desire that I felt. I was shocked to discover those locked into a “theology” of homosexuality were aggressivly opposed to this idea.

    “…the Bible has been misinterpreted by the Church to be “anti-gay”. Actually, I completely agree that the so-called “Church fathers” did unspeakable violence to the Biblical text…”

    Homosexual practice, and other Biblically defined sexual immorality, was common place in the pagan world. Nero married two men (other Emperors married men too) and so it seems a bit strange for Christianity, under the influence of the Church Fathers, to have determined one man and one woman was the only correct environment to express oneself sexually, and – what a coincidence – so does the book of Leviticus.

    As more and more attempts are made to manipulate the scriptures to be pro-homosexual behavior (or, at least attempts to manipulate the readers of the scriptures) I wonder why other sexual prohibitions aren’t discounted as well. What other sexual sins does Leviticus “mistakenly” list? Why are those engaged in gay behaivior only advocating for their particular desire? Isn’t that a little too convenient? What about prostitution, incest, bestiality? And, if the practice of such sins is proved to exist historically and are accompanied by strong desires to do so, perhaps even from childhood, is that really evidence that those Biblical prohibitions are misguided, harmful, taken out of context, and can also be tossed?

    Perhaps that’s the issue of sin, that we all carry. We struggle for and desire things that God says we shouldn’t do, especially if we belong to Him.

  8. @Steven:

    The Apostolic Decree (Jerusalem Council, Acts 15) gives Gentiles coming to Messiah 4 Laws to keep, one of which is to obstain from sexual immorality – which was rampant in the pagan world. Obviously, this must be understood from a Jewish perspective of sexual immorality.

    I think Markus Bockmuehl points out (could be mistaken on author) that all 4 Laws listed in the letter that went out to the churches are written in the same order as they appear in Leviticus 17 & 18. Even more illuminating, those laws say they are for all of Israel, and the aliens/foreigners etc. who sojourn with them. Hence, this doesn’t remove the distinction of Israel, or make the entire Torah incumbent upon Gentile Christians.

  9. @PL: To the best of my knowledge, the available research on kids who have been raised by two gay men or two gay women indicates those kids are no more likely to be gay than kids raised by a man and a woman. That said, we probably don’t have a huge number of studies of this sort covering more than a few decades, so any more granular details about their development is probably not available or if it is, the data may be skewed to produce a pro-LGBTQ result, given the state of political correctness in the medical/scientific world currently. On a visceral level, I can’t help but agree that the best parenting environment for a child is two married, loving, heterosexual (male and female) parents, but with the divorce rate in the U.S. somewhere around 50%, a huge number of children aren’t being raised in the ideal home anyway, so the risk to children from less than optimal parenting extends well beyond kids being raised by gay couples.

    @Sojourning: If I were to employ the “slippery slope” approach to this topic, I’d have to say that once homosexuality and “marriage equality” become normalized in secular society and even within the community of faith, then other prohibitions listed in Leviticus will follow. Of course, Michaelson and other, similar authors and pundits deny this, but they’re looking at the physical/natural world as the final arbiter of reality, not the spiritual world where human beings are being manipulated by supernatural forces for the purpose of dragging humanity away from God. Once we factor that “other” world in, then explaining why those behaviors that were once considered taboo are now celebrated as “progressive” isn’t so difficult.

  10. The fruit of the forbidden tree was not death in itself. (it was good for food and able to make one wise and open eyes”. Pork is not death in itself. Where comes the death from? When God said “in the day you eat thereof” and “you shall not eat.”

    You guys seem to believe that “man shall live by certain things God said, and Jews shall live by other things God said” rather than

    MANKIND shall live by EVERY WORD that proceeds from the mouth of God.

    Like the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden, homosexuality has no death in itself. Death only comes from “what God has said”

    Not sure why Jews would defend their lawas exclusive, they don’t keep it never have. Jesus said none of you keeps it.

  11. Steven, I’d appreciate it if you’d stick to the topic at hand. I haven’t written anything in this blog post/book review that addresses the debate regarding “One Law”. We can put that aside for another time. Thanks.

  12. “@Sojourning: If I were to employ the “slippery slope” approach to this topic, I’d have to say that once homosexuality and “marriage equality” become normalized in secular society and even within the community of faith, then other prohibitions listed in Leviticus will follow.

    Yes well, it already is. A father-daughter “couple” are attempting to bring their case for sexual “equality”, so are some folks who “enjoy” animals.

    And, to be honest, with the excuses the homosexual advocates use to defend their position, such as — supposed sexual attraction to same sex from childhood = they are born that way = they cannot and should not try to stop said feelings and therefore must act upon them for the sake of their emotional health = the Bible was wrong, or we misunderstood it–then, what can we *not* use the same argument for, regarding ANY human behavior?

    One could bring up serial killers, rapists, kleptomaniacs or any “immoral” or illegal behaivior that stem from a strong desire within the perpetrator, but lets keep it apples to apples and just apply this “logic” to sexual sins. Doing so makes it rather arbitrary to just toss out or reinterpret homosexual behavior based on the argument that it was different then. After all, there have been developments and innovation with prostitution too, and the gal I knew in high school who dreamed of being a “high-class hooker” wasn’t aspiring to “temple prostitution.”

  13. Yes well, it already is. A father-daughter “couple” are attempting to bring their case for sexual “equality”, so are some folks who “enjoy” animals.

    Oh yuk.

  14. “since “sexual morality/immorality” would have to be defined from his Jewish perspective.”

    “The Apostolic Decree (Jerusalem Council, Acts 15) gives Gentiles coming to Messiah 4 Laws to keep, one of which is to obstain from sexual immorality – which was rampant in the pagan world. Obviously, this must be understood from a Jewish perspective of sexual immorality.”

    I think you mean the law? Where did the Jews get their perspective?

    I’m leaving off the one law arguement. But if the law is only for Jews, then homosexuality is ok for everyone else. The Apostolic decree was from the law of Moses, it sure was not from the Romans and Greeks?

  15. I don’t think anyone is “decoupling” the Torah from the Apostolic Scriptures, just applying it differently for different populations based on covenant distinctions. I’m publishing a blog post on Thursday that addresses this very well from, interestingly enough, the perspective of a Chabad Rabbi.

  16. “just applying it differently for different populations based on covenant distinctions”

    Yes James, I get that. That is why I’m pointing out that the gentiles were never commanded to refrain from homosexuality. Proclaim points to laws that were universal before Moses but can he point to pre Moses scripture forbidding homosexuality? Sojourning points to Apostolic decrees for gentile believers in Christ, but the Apostles were getting their decision from Moses.

    Did God tell gentiles they could not be gay?

    Are you saying that the law against homosexuality is “applied differently for different populations based on covenant distinctions.”?

  17. If we take the “four essentials” from Acts 15 at face value, Gentiles weren’t commanded not to steal or covet either, so it seems like we can get away with a ton of stuff that we commonly understand as sin. That’s why we can’t isolate the Jerusalem letter without other commentary, and it’s why I tend to think the Didache is the fuller “commentary” to the Acts 15 letter. The Didache was almost canonized but in the end, it “didn’t make the cut”. Nevertheless, I think it helps “flesh out” the larger list of instructions for how to teach a Gentile disciples to be a disciple, which would include laws of sexual purity (i.e. only male/female sexual relationships within the context of marriage).

  18. Sojourning and James,
    There was a case in America where a man wanted to adopt his girlfriend to be his daughter for reasons of sheltering his money from a court decision (but supposedly just because he wanted her to be his daughter). They lost the attempt..

  19. @ Steve

    “Sojourning points to Apostolic decrees for gentile believers in Christ, but the Apostles were getting their decision from Moses.

    Actually, I said in the second para of my response to you, that the 4 laws of the Apostolic Decree come from the Torah, Leviticus 17 &18 to be exact, and if you take the time to look them up you will see that they are for all of Israel and the foreigners who sojourn with them, which goes to PL’s point that some are universal, some are for Israel only etc.

  20. Sojourning with Jews,

    RE: “…the 4 laws of the Apostolic Decree come from the Torah, Leviticus 17 &18 to be exact, and if you take the time to look them up…”

    With respect, you keep repeating in this thread that there is a correlation between the Fourfold Decree and Leviticus 17-18 and you offer this as a basis for your claim that “Torah is not incumbent upon Gentile Christians” but in fact it is you who has not taken the time to look up the source text:

    “Leviticus 17-18 as the source….However, this view too has some problems. First, the alleged correspondences are not as close as they might appear. Neither the phrase [alisgematon ton eidolon] from Acts 15:20 nor the clarifying term [eidolothuton] is used in the Septuagint of Leviticus 17:8 (or elsewhere in Lev. 17-18). The suggested correlation to ‘things strangled’ [pniktos] in 17:13 is tenuous since the Leviticus passage actually talks about draining the blood of hunted game. One wonders whether this association would be made if one were not looking for a connection to the prohibitions. Likewise, although 18:6-23 does refer to various kinds of prohibited sexual activities, the term [porneia] is not used in the Septuagint. As Wedderburn notes, ‘the only straightforward link between Lev 17-18 and the Decree is the latter’s prohibition of blood, the eating of which is forbidden in Lev 17:10-11.” [A Reexamination of the Prohibitions in Acts 15 by Charles H. Savelle]

    Shalom,

    Peter

  21. @Steve — You asked: “Did God tell gentiles they could not be gay?” You might just as well ask if G-d told gentiles anything at all. You see, the scriptures from which we derive our understanding of HaShem were compiled by Jews from their interactions with HaShem. What they contain is HaShem’s instructions for Jews about their covenantal responsibilities. These writings require a degree of mining and analysis to derive the general principles for which all of humanity is responsible. Some of this analysis is the basis for Rav Shaul’s instructions to various gentile assemblies that we now have preserved in the apostolic writings. A similar analysis is responsible for the Didache, and for later rabbinic compilations of the Noahide prescriptions. If HaShem revealed any such information directly to any gentiles, we do not possess any documents wherein they might have recorded such revelations. If any such documents ever existed, they have been lost and destroyed over the passage of time. And even if someone managed to dig one up, we have no background by which to verify the credentials of its writer as a reliable gentile prophet. Balaam was reported in Torah as that sort of gentile prophet who actually was able to speak truth from HaShem (despite his other moral failings). However, we only know of him because of the Jewish scriptures that have a long continuous history of accurate preservation.

    Now, since Noah was a gentile, and HaShem gave him explicit instructions about the ark and the coming flood and how humans were to conduct themselves after the flood-waters abated, it is clear that HaShem has no qualms about revealing information to gentiles. Clearly some of that information was preserved at least until Moshe Rabbeinu summarized it in the Torah. Thanks to archeological efforts, we possess some documents even today for comparison, such as the legal code of Hammurabi (though, apparently, he did not address the sexuality issues that are of such interest today).

    So it is really not helpful to ask if G-d forbade gentiles specifically to do something which he did explicitly forbid Jews to do. At issue is not the lack of a prohibition, but rather the existence of a positive view of how human sexuality should be structured. While it also is part of the Torah’s instructions and information for Jews, it is presented as applicable to all humankind from the very beginning when they were created. We see Adam and his woman Hava (Eve); we may note specifically that Adam’s companion was not another identical type, and that the notion of sexual gender is presented as intrinsic to the human species. In trite terms, we see Adam and Eve rather than Adam and Steve. We see one each of two forms, who are to multiply in order to replenish their supply upon the earth (not to neglect their original mission to “tend the garden” and see to its replenishment as well). From this created example a number of fundamental principles can be derived about HaShem’s intended orders for humanity. Corruptions of or deviations from these orders do not need to be prohibited explicitly in order to recognize that they are to be avoided and prevented — or corrected if they should occur by some accident of human whim or impulse or mis-training.

    Bonobo monkeys seem to offer a natural example of primate sexual impulses “gone wild”; but a key theme in the creation story is that humans were created to be different from all the other animals, having been imbued with an “image of G-d”, or a “higher soul” by which they are responsible to rule over the animal impulses they find in their makeup. We humans are to control our sexuality and channel its behaviors into patterns that conform with our original marching orders. This applies to heterosexual behaviors as much as it applies to homosexual impulses. One question that seems to be too seldom discussed is exactly how does one overcome strong impulses or “orientation” that do not seem naturally to conform to the ideal patterns. How many who class themselves as within the GLBTQ population would avail themselves of treatment to do so if it could be developed? Some stories exist of individuals who seem to have done so (e.g., David Hall, as recently cited in one of James’ essays). It seems to me that the degree of strength impelling some mis-oriented individuals differs from that of others, hence some succeed more readily to overcome their malady and to re-orient themselves. I have speculated briefly in other responses on this blog about what sorts of treatment might be required in more severe cases (e.g., pattern response testing, hypnotic regression to locate examples when mistaken patterns and associations began to form), but even if diagnosis techniques and therapeutic treatments can be devised, the affected “Questioning” individuals must be willing to pursue them. As long as the GLBTQ “community” continues to press for political acceptance of their conditions as “normal” and required, such treatments will not become well-developed, even though some underground movement may continue to try.

  22. Just a reminder that this isn’t a “One Law” vs. “Distinctive application of Torah” debate. It’s a book review on an unrelated topic. Please try to keep your comments focused on the actual content of the blog post. If you want to discuss Jews, Gentiles, and “the light of Torah,” come back Thursday when that will be the topic at hand.

  23. @Marleen: That’s very interesting, however it’s not the case I’m talking about.

    @Peter: “With respect, you keep repeating in this thread that there is a correlation between the Fourfold Decree and Leviticus 17-18 and you offer this as a basis for your claim that “Torah is not incumbent upon Gentile Christians” but in fact it is you who has not taken the time to look up the source text…”

    I’m aware of the differing views of the Apostolic Decree Peter, and most I’ve read aren’t all that compelling. I cited a view from Markus Bockmuehl’s (again, I could be wrong about the author) which I do find compelling and apparently you don’t understand my point: there are aspects of Torah that ARE incumbent upon Gentiles.

    But you also mischaracterize my remarks and misquote me: “Torah is not incumbent upon Gentiles Christians.”

    Here’s what I actually said: “Hence, this doesn’t remove the distinction of Israel, or make the entire Torah incumbent upon Gentile Christians.”

    I see the role of Gentile Christians as a vital component to God’s plan of redemption and I feel no need to be Israel/Jewish to matter to God. Nor do I think that attempting to fulfil a role that was not given to me is somehow showing more love or devotion to God, especially when it harms those He covenanted with. And erasing their distinction, whatever form that takes, always causes them harm.

  24. Proclaim, So if I understand what you are saying, as it applies to James’ post, we can understand from Adam and Eve what is normal.

    I only want to examine the truth of that concept, not to go off subject, but to apply it to homosexuality and what the bible teaches (or does not teach) about it.

    With that said, if “God did not make Adam and Steve” (a slur, but perhaps you don’t know, so I take no offense), and we are to understand what God wants from all humaity as “only male/female relations, would that not mean that Gentiles should be offering sacrifices because Cain and Able offered sacrifices, Able was a gentile, his offering was accepted although there was no temple in Jerusalem, and God did not tell Cain not to offer sacrifices….so all gentiles should offer sacrifices, temple or no?

    Can you see the hole in logic?

    I’m not debating one law here, only addressing your logic about what God forbids in homosexual relations.

  25. @Sojourning: I figured that was the case.

    @Steven: Actually, Gentiles were allowed to offer sacrifices at the Temple through the Priests and will do so again in the Messianic Age.

    By the way, there is a “part three” that’s already online and my final summation goes online in about five minutes, so the conversation could easily continue in those venues with the benefit of having more of my review available.

  26. @Steve: “Able was a gentile, his offering was accepted although there was no temple in Jerusalem, and God did not tell Cain not to offer sacrifices….so all gentiles should offer sacrifices, temple or no.”

    Lol, can we even talk “Jew” and “Gentile” prior to any distinction? Just like saying “the first day” vs “day one” in Genesis 1:5, is there such a thing as “male” without there also being “female”? Can there be day without a night? Or, “Gentile” before God creates, distinguishes, and covenants with, the Jewish peeps?

  27. @Steven — I’m not sure where you see a hole in some logical construct here. You are not on solid ground to infer that the example of Cain & Abel offering sacrifices is of equivalent value to the example of HaShem’s creation of a bi-gendered structure of human sexuality. The incidental actions of a couple of humans can hardly be compared to the design decision of G-d Himself.

    Now we may infer that C & A were following some instruction that HaShem had provided to them about sacrificial procedures, even though we have no explicit record of such instructions in the text of Genesis; but we can also see that Cain had misunderstood something about the instructions because his offering was not acceptable. Nonetheless, gentiles certainly did offer sacrifices in worship, as did Jews (which we can reckon as beginning with Avraham). And, as James has pointed out, even at the Jewish Temple much later in time gentiles were also able to offer sacrifices via the services of the Levitical priests and they will do so again in the future after the Temple is rebuilt and restored to operation. The advantage for future gentiles availing themselves of Jewish procedures in the Jerusalem Temple is that thus they may be assured of proper procedure that HaShem has defined as acceptable, and not suffer rejection of their offerings as Cain did.

    Notwithstanding any possible value to sacrificial offerings that we derive from biblical or even more recent Jewish understandings of them, the biblical implications of HaShem’s design for human sexuality and His statements about it are on a rather different and higher level of authority than the subsequent examples of early sacrifices.

  28. Sojourning, Yeah, it didn’t sound like the same case, but thanks for making it very clear. I thought of it as food for thought.

    James and Sojourning, As to a “slippery slope” where sexual matters are concerned, there are other slippery slopes that might not readily raise alarms. Yesterday was indeed voting day. I think it was in this thread that Proclaim Liberty asked about that. There are theories of money and of government (and even of heterosexuality and/or marriage or male/female dynamics although some of that would be more rarely spoken of in polite society of today over say a hundred years ago) that lead to things like prostitution, family/responsibility neglect, and sexual slavery and forced marrage and marriage that is very different from that to which we have largely become accustomed, etc. I’ve seen the leaven ruin lumps.

    Steven, I can see your point in homosexuality not being death itself, but sodomy (which can happen with homosexuals or heterosexuals but is more frequently and probably historically homosexual) does have inherent issues. I wonder if the “apple” or pom did too, in itself. It wasn’t after they ate that they “saw” it was good for food. I can see that a cake is good and then realize it’s not — either by the tasting of it (such as if salt was mistaken for sugar as happened in a recent cooking show) or by feeling sick after (whether due to too much sugar or a poison) or even passing out, etc.

  29. I have just one minor correction for you, Marleen, about the sequence of events that led to eating the fruit in the primordial garden. Gen.3:6-7a “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened …”. So it is clear that she, at least, saw that the fruit was edible before eating it, and her husband saw that it was edible in that she had already eaten it and had not immediately keeled over dead. Neither of them, of course, quite realized what a tummy-ache they and their descendants would suffer as a result (despite HaShem’s advance warning that they would begin to die).

    Incidentally, the type of fruit is never identified — neither as an apple, nor a “pom”, nor even a pomegranate. [:)]

  30. Yes, the type is not really named.

    Also, yes, he also ate.
    They perceived whatever it was as edible.

    I wrote something earlier today and didn’t have time for the final.touches, so didn’t post it. Here it is:

    There can also be symptoms of sickness that aren’t felt, like the slow development of diabetes. The sugar can be seen as an element of pleasure or a rush (in cake) or as knowledge of something (in the apple). Sugar (as in purified isolated bleached crystal) is almost a poison in itself and not a food, although technically it is food (at least if combined or consumed with things that fill out the food with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and so forth). The real is true food as a whole (even sugar cane juice as a small fresh treat would have more nourishment than a handful of white c&h), and as part of food more broadly (variety and food groups, not only very sweet things but greens and grains or nuts, legumes, etc.). As one can’t live “by bread alone” or by knowledge alone either [or an aspect of knowledge], a rush, as a piece of what pleasure is, alone isn’t life and sustaining. From another angle, the person might not be prepared for (or built for) a particular kind of knowledge or awareness (the full ramifications of which aren’t immediate) or for filtering a poison to expel rather than store.

    I also have a fragment I started and didn’t develop:
    Okay, I see, Steven, from another thread, that you mean the death of sorts precedes even seeing….

    [?]

  31. Marleen, I think the concept of Torah could explain the forbidden fruit. God said he set before us life and death, then commanded we choose life. The death is not in the torah, but in the application, or rather the choosing death.

    The fruit did not contain the death. The torah “do not eat” was not the death. The death was in the application “for in the day you eat”

    Contrast that to the torah “take and eat” “take and drink”. The life was in the blood and body of Messiah, but the application of obedience is present.

    So, we were alive and died due to application, once dead we are ressurected to live again due to application. Both to live and to die exist in “did God say” and Yeshua is the word made flesh, we eat and drink what God has said, and so we live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

    He is alive and living in us by his spirit and word and he will raise us up on the last day.

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