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See also Leviticus 18

(Lev 18:22) "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."

(Lev 20:13) "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

While many pro-homosex polemicists admit that sexual moral codes are transcultural and transhistorical, attempts are made to find grammatical, categorical, cultural and motivational aspects that would disallow the injunctions which prohibit homosex. These attempts here, as others, manifest a foundational position on the Bible contrary to its own statements relative to both its Divine inspiration and transcendent coherent moral relevance and authority. As stated by prohomsex author Richard Hasbany,

"Here again, two interpretive foundations are opposed, that of traditional Judaism which holds that the law of God as understood through the Talmudic literature is immutable, and ultimately higher than man's full comprehension (Ps. 40:5; 92:5), and those who hold that present Western values should influence man's moral interpretation of the Bible." (cf. Dt. 12:8) (Hasbany, Homosexuality and Religion, p. 50,51)

Universal, Cultural and Ceremonial laws

Grammatical, categorical and cultural polemics: 1. Tô‛êbah and zimmâh. 1a. Use in the Septuagint. 2. Zakhar

Psychologically based polemics

Dt. 23:17,18: Sodomites


As the arguments on both sides manifests, proper exegesis of these texts requires consideration of different categories of laws. The Bible is generally recognized as evidencing three broad types of Mosaic Law: moral, civil/judicial, and ceremonial/ritual. (The Bible As Law, Gerald R. Thompson' Greg L. Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics Nutley, NJ: Craig Press, 1977, p. 214; Ceremonies and the ceremonial law, Kaufmann Kohler) Bahnsen points out that the early third century church document Didascalia Apostolorum clearly distinguished between the Decalogue and the temporary ceremonies.) ( Christians usually clearly differ with Jews as regards the transcendence of the latter as concerns the requirement of literal obedience. (Ceremonies and the ceremonial law

Within the first category are those which deal with basic human actions and heart attitudes which are directly applicable to mankind in general. Idolatry is the first command, (Ex. 20:2,3) and whatever holds our ultimate allegiance, or is our ultimate object of affect or source of security is our god, at least at that time. (Dt. 10:20; Ezek. 6:9; 14:3-7; 20:16; Rm. 6:16; 14:4; 1Cor. 10:31; 16:22) All willful sin against what one knows God has ordained is idolatry. (Rm. 6:16) Within this first category are moral laws which deal with mans behavior toward others, and which are shown in the whole of Scripture to transcend historical and cultural boundaries, such as honoring parents, unjust killing, illicit sexual unions, etc.

The second category are civil laws and judicial penalties (judgments), which laws which are based upon foundational moral laws. Both the judgments and certain aspects of laws are often culture specific, yet what they enjoin can usually be literally applicable to all cultures and times, by way of modification in accordance with the principal behind them, though some controversy exists regarding details of such. (Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen, For Whom Was God's Law Intended?) (Moses' Law for Modern Government) Every culture may not need a law against being gored by an ox, (Ex. 21:28-36) but the jurisprudence behind such is easily applied to contemporary culture. While the exact penalties may not always be exacted today, that they have penalties testifies to their sinfulness. However, laws in this category sometimes are later evidenced as not necessarily setting the highest standard, yet they can be seen as moving in that direction. Such things as "a eye for an eye" is a restriction of restitution, moving toward the benevolence seen in the New Testament, where loving one's neighbor is also expanded. (Mt. 6:38-48) Laws ameliorating the accompaniment cultural practice of slavery can be seen as moving towards an original ideal, (1Cor. 7:21-23; Philemon 1), (God Against Slavery, by George B. Cheever, D.D) towards the charitableness seen in the genesis of the church, while divorce laws became stricter, (Mt. 19:4-9) in conformity to their Genesis original.

A final distinct category is that of ceremonial laws, which mainly deal with practices which are not inherently moral, and which the New Testament reveals were typological, serving as physical examples of Christ and realities realized under the promised (Jer. 31:31-34) New Covenant instituted in Christ's blood (Lk. 22:20; Heb. 9:16). These consist of laws on sacrifices, the liturgical calendar, diet and washings (Lv. 1-16,25; Is. 53; Jn. 1:29; 1Pt. 1:18,19; Col. 2:16,17; Heb. 4:3; 9:10; 10:1-22; Gal. 4:10). These laws overall do not target pagan cultic activity, but together with the other laws they served to make Israel distinctive by supplying them with superior standards in every respect. Though unlike moral laws, literal obedience to ceremonial laws for moral purposes is not enjoined upon Christians, and literal obedience to many of these laws was made impossible by the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D.), yet these ordinances do contain edifying qualities which can serve as a guide to good diet and cleanliness, etc.

However, a crossover between categories may be discerned, being part of what has been referred to as “culturally applied laws,” (Does Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 Flat-Out Condemn Homosexuality?, J. P Holding) these being religiously based laws which target certain practices that were a direct expression of formal idolatry and superstition, from temple prostitution (Dt. 23:17), to child sacrifices to a specific idol, to cutting oneself for the dead. (Lv. 19:28) In addition were certain practices which had become distinctive of paganism, such as strange ways of cutting one's hair or beard, (Lv. 19:27) or planting trees near the tabernacle. (Dt. 16:21) These prohibitions are not typological in nature, yet not all of them are unconditionally morally wrong, as is determined by by how such are treated in the whole of Scripture, and their foundational. While the practice of prostitution is wrong in any context, as is child sacrifice to any false god, things such as how one cuts his beard has little to warrant it being more only contextually wrong. Boswell's error in this regard is that he lists temple prostitution in Dt. 23:17 and 1Ki. 14:24, as well as child sacrifice to idols (2Ki. 16:3) as being merely violations of "ritual impurity. (ibid pg. 100; The Church and the Homosexual: An Historical Perspective, 1979) However, both practices are wrong in any context (nor could mortal man now literally sacrifice his son as the pagans did, even for the true God. Gn. 22:2 was a case in which Abraham had clear warrant that he had received a revelation, which was before the law was written, and he never did slay his miraculously conceived son, while Judges 11 is open to interpretation, and if literal, it cannot sanction such as a practice, while Jesus willingly allowed Himself to be crucified for us).

The Bible makes these basic categories of law discernible, as it lists the type of sins which were ceremonial, (Gal. 4:10; Col. 16,17; Heb. 9:10) while explicitly reincorporating many of its basic moral commands into the New Testament code, (Homosexuality and the Old Testament, P. Michael Ukleja, ref. Charles C. Ryrie, "The End of the Law," Bibliotheca Sacra 124, July-September 1967: 246) upholding basic universal moral laws by type and often individually. While Christians are "not under the law" because they are justified by faith in Christ and His blood, rather than by the merit of our works, (Rm. 3:25-5:1) yet true faith compels pursuit of the morality of the law, which is holy, just and good, (Rm. 7:12) with Christians being mandated and rightly motivated and enabled to fulfill “the righteousness of the law.” (Rm. 8:4) Obedience to which goes beyond the letter of the law (so that sin is of the heart, not simply in the act), though it is evident that this usually requires keeping the letter of basic universal moral laws as well, (Rm. 13:8-10; Heb. 10:28; Ja. 4:11; 1Cor. 10:7; 2Cor. 6:16,17; 1Jn. 5:21; Rv. 9:20; 13:14,15 14:11; 1Tim. 6:1; Eph. 6:1-3; 1Cor. 9:8,9) with unlawful sex between outlawed partners or outside marriage being abundantly prohibited in the N.T. (Mat. 5:32; 15:19; 19:9; Mk. 7:21; Jn. 8:41; Acts 15:20; 15:29; 21:25; Rom. 1:29; 1Co_5:1; 1Co. 6:9,13, 18; 7:2; 2Co. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; 1Ths. 4:3; Heb. 12:16; 13:4; 1Pet. 4:3; Rev. 9:21; 14:8, 17:2, 4; 18:3; 19:2) The prohibitions against homosex clearly fit in this category by type, and it is condemned in the New Testament, (Rm. 1:16,27) while accompaniments such as simply where to worship or eat would only be contextually wrong. (1Cor. 8,10) Gudel concludes, "The Holiness Code contained different types of commands. Some were related to dietary regulations or to ceremonial cleanliness, and these have been done away with in the New Testament (Col. 2:16-17; Rom. 14:1-3). Others, though, were moral codes, and as such are timeless. Thus incest, child sacrifice, homosexuality, bestiality, adultery, and the like, are still abominations before God." (That Which is Unnatural" Homosexuality in Society, the Church, and Scripture by Joseph P. Gudel, on ICR)

The distinction between different kinds of laws may be seen by analogy. Principled parent may forbid their children from dressing, in clothing or haircuts, etc., like a certain notorious gang of drug dealers, etc., in order to guard against assimilation of their destructive culture, and uphold standards, though there may be the latter's appearance may not be exactly immodest or otherwise immoral. The parents may also restrict their offspring from certain places, which, while not being immoral in themselves, are not truly needful and would serve as an undue temptation to immorality. Yet they may also forbid them from acting as the gang examples in committing acts that are evidenced as being are universally immoral, based on underlying principles and censure in outside gang life, though the example of the gang is what is explicitly invoked.

The primary argument made against the condemnation of homosexual relations here is that, due to the cultural setting of the institution of these laws, it only referred to homosexual relations as part of pagan religious ceremonies, and had priestly or religious ritual purity (ceremonial law) in mind, and which were given simply to make Israel a distinctive people. It is thus asserted that there is no prohibition of “loving, committed homosexual partnerships”. However, injunctions against homosex are not joined by type with outlawed practices which can be shown to have been effected simply in reaction to pagan corruptions, such as worshiping in groves, (Dt. 16:21) nor is sanction for homosexual unions established anywhere in Scripture (unlike for instance, eating pork, etc.). Rather, Leviticus 18 is part of the body of laws which overall deal with basic sexual practices, which laws are overall manifest in Scripture as transcendent, and which have their moral foundation in the establishment of marriage by God between the male and female. Moreover, unlike Leviticus 16 and 17, which is directed toward the priests, chapter 18 is directed toward the children of Israel, and while its laws were given against the backdrop of cultic pagan worship, it is evident that such idolatry, whether if be that of an formal or informal kind, often served as negative illustrations of moral (versus cultic) behavior which is universally sinful, with the proscriptions in both Testaments against such being not restricted to the the context which exampled them. (Lv. 18:3; 24; Dt. 20:18; 1Kg. 14:24; 2Kg. 16:3,21:2; Ezek. 23:8; Rm. 12:2; Eph. 2:1-13; 5:7-11; 1Cor. 6:9-11; Col. 3:5-7; 1Pt. 4:2-4). The law against prostituting one's daughter in Lv. 19:29 is in the immediate context of ceremonial law, but is not restricted to that context. Other examples of unlawful sexual partners in Lv. 18 are not simply wrong in a religious context, but are universally wrong. However, the consistent use of the pro-homosexual hermeneutic operative in their attempt to negate the universality of Lev. 18:22, would also allow the negation of all the accompanying laws, from adultery to bestiality, and which is clearly disallowed by Scripture.

Incest is sometimes focused on, as it once was allowed before the establishment of the law (even Moses was a product of such). Yet once it was outlawed - most likely being necessitated due to the progressive effects of the Fall - its proscription is upheld, including in the New Testament. (Mk. 6:17,19; 1Cor. 5:1-5) Moreover, motive is not a factor in outlawing illicit sexual partners, and such are nowhere sanctioned by love or commitment, except as manifested by the social contract of marriage, and which is instituted by God to specifically join male and female, as confirmed by Jesus Christ. (Gn. 1:16,27; 2:24; Mt. 19:4)

Linguistical, categorical and cultural polemics

Tô‛êbah and zimmâh

As Lv. 18:22 declares homosexual relations between men to be an "abomination", Boswell and most other polemicists promoting this contend that the Hebrew word "tô‛êbah" (or "tow`ebah") usually translated ''abomination'' seldom refers to something intrinsically evil, like rape or theft, but something which is ritually unclean for Jews, like eating pork or printing marks on one's flesh, or against mixed fabrics. Helminiak claims that tô‛êbah means "dirty" or "impure", and was wrong merely "because it offended sensitivities". (Daniel Helminiak, What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality, pp. 51; cf. A Reformed Response to Daniel Helminiak's Gay Theology)

Rather than prohibiting same gender sex in general like other laws against illicit partners, Boswell and like revisionists generally assert that these Levitical injunctions against homosex (and even all the sins of Lv. 18 and 20) were only given to make Israel distinctive (akin to “team colors”), and only prohibit pagan temple prostitution. Or that they were concerned with the wasting of reproductive seed,(Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality. Pp 100-01; Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality By Jack Bartlett Rogers, p. 72; Horner, David loved Jonathan, p.73,85) though even pro-homosex author Robin A. Scroggs thinks these latter ideas are conjecture which is best not to speculate about. (The New Testament and Homosexuality, p. 73)

Instead of tô‛êbah, Boswell asserts that the the Hebrew word ''zimmâh'' would have been used if the prohibitions of Lv. 18:22; was not a mere form of "ethnic contamination," (Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality. p. 100) like laws against unclean foods, or that of strange haircuts.

However, examination of the use of tô‛êbah in the original language text reveals that it is not used in Leviticus for dietary violations, and is only used 2 or 3 times elsewhere to refer to such things as abominable for Israel, and in contrast, tô‛êbah is the word most often used for abomination in reference to grave moral sins, including those which are unmistakably universally sinful. Collectively it is used for all the sins of Lv. 18 + 20. (Lv. 18:27,29) As idolatry is the mother of all sins, tô‛êbah is often used for such. (Dt. 32:16) ( Anchor Bible Dictionary, Abomination of Desolation)

The word, which, when used, always denotes ceremonial abominations is sheqets (Lev. 7:21; 11:10-13,20,23,41,42; Is. 66:17; Ezek. 8:10), while the word from which it is derived, "shâqats," is only used in Leviticus for dietary violations, (Lev. 11:11,13,43; 20:25) and a "cursed thing in Dt. 7:26, and an abhorred cry in Prv. 22:24.

The word, which, when used, always denotes ceremonial abominations is sheqets (Lev. 7:21; 11:10-13,20,23,41,42; Is. 66:17; Ezek. 8:10), and then shâqats, from which it is derived, which itself is only used in Leviticus for dietary violations, (Lev. 11:11,13,43; 20:25) and a "cursed thing in Dt. 7:26, and an abhorred cry in Prv. 22:24.

Majority of specific sins which are said to be tô‛êbah

*1. idolatry or idols (Dt. 7:25,26; 13, 2Kg. 21:2-7; 23:13; 2Chr. 33:2,3; Is. 44:19)

*2. empty, vain worship (Is. 1:13)

*3. witchcraft; occultism (Dt. 18:9-12)

*4. illicit sex (Ezek. 16:22,58; 22:11; 33:26)

*5. remarrying divorced women (Dt. 24:2-4)

*6. marriage with unbelievers (Ezra 9:1,2)

*7. male homosexual and (collectively) heterosexual immorality (Lv. 18:22; 18:27-30; 20:13)

*8. temple prostitution (1Kg. 14:24; 21:2,11)

*9. offerings from the above (Dt. 23:18)

*10. cross-dressing (Dt. 22:5)

*11. child sacrifice to idols (2Ki. 16:3; Jer. 32:35)

*12. cheating in the market by using rigged weights (Dt. 25:13-19, Prov. 11:1)

*13. dishonesty (Prov. 12:22)

*14. dietary violations (Dt. 14:3; Jer. 16:18)

*15. stealing, murder, and adultery, breaking covenants, (Jer. 7:10),

*16. violent robbery, murder, oppressing the poor and needy, etc. (Ezek. 18:10-13)

*17. bringing unbelievers into the holy sanctuary of God, and forsaking the holy charge (Ezek. 44:78)

As regards ''zimmâh'', when used sexually, it is usually used in a general manner to describe the vile nature of universally sinful sexual immorality, such as are also specifically or broadly categorized as tōʻēḇā, (Lv. 18:17, 19:29; Jer. 13:27; Ezek. 22:9,11; 23:21,27,29,35,44,48,49) yet the use of the latter shows that the list of universal sinful things extends to more than those referred to as being zimmâh. Paradoxically, zimmâh also works to confirm the sexual nature of the sin of Sodom in Gn. 19, due to it's use in the parallel story to describe the offense of the men of Gibeah. (Judges 20:6)

Use in the Septuagint

Boswell and Helminiak look to the Greek LXX (Septuagint), an interpretive work of many translators of the Hebrew texts into Greek, for support here, arguing that its use of ''βδέλυγμα'' (''bdelygma'' or ''bdelugma'') in translating tô‛êbah in Lv. 18:22 and other places, (; abomination) indicates that the Leviticus passage should be interpreted as a violation of ceremonial impurity. They further postulate that a Greek word, ''anomia'', ( would likely be used if it were a violation of moral law (Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality. pp. 100-102) (What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality, Daniel Helminiak, pp. 64-65) In response, James B. De Young and others show the inconsistency of this argument in the light of more extensive research, and that the use of arsenokoitai in 1 Cor 6:9-10 and 1 Tim 1:10 (to which this polemic is related), works to evidence that the Levitical injunctions were not simply targeting temple sex, but (at least male) homosex in general.(Homosexuality, Contemporary Claims Examined in Light of the Bible and Other Ancient Literature and Law, pp. 65-69; The Condemnation of Homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9, David E. Malick; “Homosexuals or Prostitutes? The Meaning of ARSENOKOITAI (1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10)”, Vigiliae Christianae 38 1984 125-53; I Cor 6:9: What is really meant by these terms?)

That Hellenistic Jewish translators of the LXX (for whom all the Levitical laws were always to be literally obeyed, if possible) used both bdelygma and derivatives mainly for specific violations of the Holiness Code, while giving it a broader use in wisdom and literature, (Prov. 11:1,20; 12:22; 15:8; 15:9,26; 16:12; 20:23; 21:27; 27:20; 29:27); including using for cheating in the market under Moasic law (Dt. 25:13-19) However, only part of the holiness code is ceremonial, and that by type, Lv. 18:22 belongs within the moral category. (What was the Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? Gregory Koukl)

The Hebrew word ''sheqets'', when it occurs in the original language text (the Masoretic), is used exclusively for dietary laws, or (once) for touching that which is unclean. Likewise ''shâqats'' is only used for diet in Leviticus, while tô‛êbah is primarily used for moral abominations. The LXX does not always translate those words consistently, as comparison shows, ( such as using βδέλυγμά for sheqets in Lev. 11:10,13,23 (dietary), and for tô‛êbah in Dt. 24:4 (morally illicit marriage).

There are variants of βδέλυγμα (bdelygma) which do only occur as denoting ceremonial abomination/s, (βδελύγματος (bdelugmatov) in Lev 7:21; Βδελύξεσθε (bdelucesqe) in Lev. 11:11b and Lev. 11:13a; βδελύξητε/bdeluchte in Lev 11:43; βδελύξετε (bdelucete) in Lev. 20:25. The LXX uses different four variations of bdelugma in Lv. 18 for abomination/abominations/abominable: βδέλυγμα (bdelugma) in Lv. 18:22; βδελύγματα (bdelugmata) in Lv. 18:27; βδελυγμάτων (bdelugmatwn) in Lv. 18:26; 18:29) Ἐβδελυγμένων (ebdelugmenwn) in Lv. 18:30, with versus 26,27,29,30 collectively condemning all the forbidden practices of Lv. 18 as "abomination." We see by that the pro-homosex grammatical attempt to make illicit sex partners, of which Lv. 18 almost entirely consists, to be part of ceremonial law fails.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia comments,

Three distinct Hebrew words are rendered in the English Bible by “abomination,” or “abominable thing,” referring [except in Gen_43:32; Gen_46:34] to things or practices abhorrent to Yahweh, and opposed to the ritual or moral requirements of His religion. It would be well if these words could be distinguished in translation, as they denote different degrees of abhorrence or loathsomeness.

As regards anomia, 24 Hebrew words are variously rendered by this, and while anomia is a word that describes violations of law, it is most always used in a general sense, often like the Hebrew word ‛âvôn, and is rarely used to specify a particular sin, which in contrast is often the case with tô‛êbah in the Torah. Yet anomia is used in many verses where tô‛êbah later occurs in the Hebrew, and which iniquity is usually of a moral nature, such as illicit sex partners. (Eze. 8:6,9,13,17; 12:16; 16:2,47,51,58; 18:13,24; 20:4; 22:2; 23:36) As it is normally used in a general sense, when anomia is used in passages as Lv. 16:21; Is. 53:5, anomia is referring to all the transgressions of Israel, not simply those in the moral class. Yet in passages such as Lev. 22:16 it refers to things which Boswell and most traditionalists classify as mere ceremonial purity. In support of his polemic, Boswell classifies idolatry, such as making idols to worship, or offering one's child as a literal sacrifice to a false god (Jer. 32:35; Boswell cites 2Ki. 16:3), as merely being part of ceremonial laws of separation, rather than being practices which are universally and immutably evil and forbidden, which the whole of the Bible testifies to. (1Cor. 10:20,21; Rv. 14:11) In contrast to pro-homosex proponents, traditional exegesis manifests that homosex is not a corruption of a practice such as eating, for whereas the latter is contextually sanctioned, the sanctioned context for homosexual relations is (conspicuously) never established. As right worship is seen as being established by having the God of the Bible as its object, so likewise sanctified sexual relations is also established as being between eligible opposite genders, while homosex is revealed as a consequence of making God into an image of one's own liking, formal or informal. (See Romans 1)


Another attempt to relegate Lv. 18:22 and 20:13 to a unique cultic context is one that strives to attach a radical significance to the use of zakhar (H2145), which is the Hebrew word normally translated male/males throughout the OT, or the lesser used word for such, zekhur (H2138), by noting that in 90% of the occurrences it signifies those who have a special sacred significance (newborn sons, circumcised males, Levites, soldiers, sacrificial animals, returning exiles, etc.). By which he concludes that this signifies that the Levitical injunctions against homosex only pertain to sex with priests! (Uses of Zakhar/Zekhur (“Male”) in the to, by Bruce L. Gerig)

However, this conclusion derived from the use of zakhar/zekhur within special classes of creatures is easily shown to be unwarranted, when one realizes that all Israelite males fell into a special class of people, while zakhar/zekhur are strictly gender specific words which are used most often to differentiate between male and females in general, and which is the only special significance it provides, and therefore it is used for males within certain classes. The reason for their most prevalent use being within special classes of males is simply because that is most often the subject, from sacrificed animals to Jews returning from exile (part of his list). While zakhar is used for the descendants of Levi, (Lv. 6:18,29) it is also used for Adam, (Gn. 1:27) and in contrast with Eve, (Gn. 5:2) and for all the men of Shechem, (Gn. 34:22,24,25) and for Midianite males, (Num. 31:7,17,18,35; Jdg. 21:11) for idolatrous male images, (Ezek. 16:17) for male men of Manasseh, (Josh. 17:2) for slain male Edomites (1Ki. 11:15) for male children, (Lv. 12:2; Is. 66:7; Jer. 20:15) for fearful men, (Jer. 30:6) for circumscribed males, (Gn. 17:23), and for all the men of Israel, (Num. 1:2), as does zekhur (Ex. 23:17; Dt. 16:16) and for male enemies (Dt. 20:13) or male children (Ex. 34:23). This is a case of a grammatical distinction which makes no difference in whom the Levitical condemnation of homosex applies to. Moreover, in no place in Scripture are these words used to distinctly signify pagan male priests: in fact the common word for men ('îysh H376) is used for such. (Jdg 6:28,30; 1Ki 18:22)

Others contend or postulate that the grammar in Lv. 18:22 and 20:13 indicates only a prohibition of actual male intercourse, and only condemns the active party, not the passive one, with procreation being causative of the injunction, and or being due to the need for male dominance, but not forbidding lesbian eroticism. (Wrestling with God and Men, pp. 80-93, by Steven Greenberg) Or that it only targets coercive male intercourse, (A Time to Embrace, Stacy Johnson; cf. none of which distinctions are made by the Law Giver.

The focus here is on the words, ''îysh'' (man) ''shâkab'' (lieth) ''êth'' (with) ''zâkâr'' (mankind) ''mishkâb'' (lieth) "ishshâh'' ''nâshîym'' (women), with mishkâb, usually meaning ''bed'', being said to be restricted to only intercourse. But while that specific action (cf. Num. 31:17–18,35; Judges 21:11–12) is prohibited, yet to restrict "the "bed of love" (Ezek. 23:17; cf. 7:17) to only actual intercourse would appear to be too narrow. It is inconceivable that euphemisms such as "uncover the nakedness, or "lieth (''shâkab'' ) with" (''‛im''), which phrase occurs 160 times, and with one exception (Hos. 2:18) is always used for sex, or for dying, only forbid adulterous or incestuous intercourse while allowing all else, even if they may be seen as a lesser degree of eroticism. Though the sin of Reuben was that he went up to his father's bed (Gn. 49:4) inferring adultery/incest with his mother, certainly lesser forms of eroticism would not be sanctioned. Gagnon concludes that the idea that ancient Israel would have accepted other aspects of male with male erotic sex is preposterous, which apparently even Johnson is compelled to admit. (More Reasons Why Stacy Johnson’s A Time to Embrace Should Not Be Embraced: Part II) ("God and Sex" or "Pants on Fire"? , by Robert Gagnon)

As regards the idea that only the active partner is targeted in 18:22, simply because the man is specified does not mean the recipient is not culpable, and a distinction is made in jurisprudence when the latter is not. (Dt. 23:23-29) Likewise in verses before and after 20:13 the male is specified though it addresses a consensual act. (Lv. 20:10-12,14)

Regarding this, David Hilborn (Theological Adviser to the UK Evangelical Alliance) notes that "the same root text also deploys the generic term ‘male’ rather than any more specific word for ‘man’ or ‘youth’ - a detail which also points to a more comprehensive understanding of homoerotic activity. Furthermore, the death penalty in Leviticus 20:13 applies equally to the active and the passive partner: there is no implication of rape, in which case the rapist alone would have been executed (cf. Deut. 22:22-5). Nor is there any hint of coercion. The context, rather, would seem to include homosexual intercourse by mutual consent. Comparative literary study has revealed that the Assyrians outlawed forcible same-sex intercourse; it has also shown that the Egyptians banned pederasty; Israel, however, appears to have stood alone in viewing homosexual acts in general with this degree of severity. (Rowan Williams and Homosexuality.These points are based on Wright, David F. ‘Homosexuals or Prostitutes? The meaning of arsenokoitai (1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10), Vigiliae Christianae 38 (1984), pp. 125-53, Wenham, Gordon, ‘Homosexuality in the Bible’, in Higton, Tony (ed.) Sexuality and the Church. Hawkwell: ABWON, 1987, and Hays, Richard B., The Moral Vision of the New Testament. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, pp.382-3.)

As for procreation being the cause of the Levitical prohibition against homosex, this argument requires that procreation was the sole or determining basis of the original Genesis union of male a female. However, the Bible in its entirety evidences as that the basis for the complementary nature of the union of opposite genders transcends simply procreation, (Gn. 2:18; Prov. 5:15-19) and that even when that is not a critical issue, then sex is enjoined only between male and female, due to the nature of their marital union, and of human nature. (1Cor. 7:2-5) And that in no place is marriage afforded between same genders, with Jesus and the N.T. distinctly affirming "what God hath joined" as being male and female.

It also may be postulated that if wasting of seed is the real reason for prohibitions against homosex, then the Bible would have also explicitly addressed spilling of semen by sexual self stimulation, often called ''onanism'' by Orthodox Judaism, relating it to the Divine execution of Onan (Gn. 38:4-10) for ''coitus interruptus''. However, Onan's most evident sin appears to be his selfishness and disobedience in refusing to raise up seed to his brother, which requirement would later become codified in Mosaic law (Dt. 25:5-10). The Talmud has a passage (b. Niddah 13b) which links self stimulation and pederasty together as violations of marriage. The issue of man's seed of copulation going out from him is addressed in Lv. 15:16, but the manner is not evident, and for which the penalty was being unclean until the evening. While some disagree, self sexual release is usually held by conservative Bible believers as being contrary in principle to precepts concerning sexual joining, (1Cor. 7:2; 1Thes. 4:4) lust, (Mt. 5:8) and temperance, (1Cor. 9:7) and would be included in prohibitions against sexual uncleanness, as well as for the sake of one's testimony. (Eph. 5:3; 1Cor. 10:31,32) ( The point here is that as this would likely have been the occasion of wasting seed among Jews more than male homosex, then explicit regulations would be expected if wasting the seed were the reason for laws against the latter.

In response to the argument that male dominance was the cause for 18:22, it is evidenced that it is God, not society, that established and upholds the headship of the male, and this functional distinction is an intrinsic part of his unique union with the women, based upon creational distinctions, (1Cor. 11:1-12) and which exclude same gender marriage.

As regards the issue of lesbian sexual relations, it is likewise seen that to presuppose that condemnation of same-sex relations between males does not apply to same gender female sexual unions lacks Scriptural warrant, as such are also contrary in nature to the union of opposite genders originally established and uniquely affirmed throughout Scripture, with no principal or precept affording the contrary. In addition, though a phrase like "women lying with women with womenkind" is not specified in the Old Testament, commands and texts which are given to the ''male'' ('îysh) in Lv. 20:13 also can include women, such as in Lv. 20:9; Is. 53:6,11; Jer. 11:8; 16:12; 18:12. It is understood that most likely sexual relations between females was not a known (or a prevalent) practice then, and thus did not warrant a specific injunction. However, under the New Covenant, both male and female consensual homosex is condemned in Romans 1 as being contrary to the creational design of God, and ordained normality, and thus is a manifestation of idolatry.

Seeing the universal nature of the other laws against illicit partners, some seek to create a categorical division between Lv. 18:20, which prohibits adultery, and the next verse, and the next verse, which forbids child sacrifice to Molech, with this signifying a new division rendering the next law (v. 22) as only forbidding homosexual relations in that type of idolatrous context. In response it is argued that, as most interpreters in both camps hold v. 19 to be ceremonial (sex during menstruation), this same logic would relegate adultery (v. 20) to that category. In addition, only Molech in v. 21 is seen as being a culture-specific aspect of that law, while being universally applicable otherwise. In regard to this, today children are regularly sacrificed to destructive ideals as well as to the lusts of the flesh, as to a god.

An early and ongoing attempt (such as by David Bartlett, professor at Yale Divinity School) to negate the Levitical condemnation of homosexual relations is based upon the texts which invoke the surrounding pagan culture as examples of behavior which is forbidden to Israel. (Lv. 18:3,27,28) It then concludes that the Holiness Code was not about personal morality, but about "forming community definition" (by way of cultural distinction). However, the specious nature of this "team colors" argument is easily seen in examining it in the light of the whole of Scripture, in which unbelievers are often used, in both Testaments, as behavioral examples who are contrary to the laws on heart attitude and actions which God is instituting. (Exo. 23:24; Lev. 20:23; Dt. 12:4; 12:30-31; Jer. 10:2-3; Acts 17:30; Rm. 1:20-32; 1Cor. 6:11; Eph. 2:2-3; 4:17-19; 1Thes. 4:5; Titus 3:3; 1Pet. 1:14; 3:4,5) Considering the nature of such, (Psa. 106:35-38) and their being often given in the immediate context of moral laws, but not clearly ceremonial ones, and the reiteration of such in the New Testament - in particular those against fornications - (Mat. 5:32; 15:19; 19:9; Mk. 7:21; Jn. 8:41; Acts 15:20; 15:29; 21:25; Rom. 1:29; 1Co_5:1; 1Co. 6:9,13, 18; 7:2; 2Co. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; 1Ths. 4:3; Heb. 12:16; 13:4; 1Pet. 4:3; Rev. 9:21; 14:8, 17:2, 4; 18:3; 19:2) it is simply untenable to relegate such laws, and in particular those against illicit sexual partners, to being for purposes of establishing cultural distinction.

Another polemic by pro-homosex proponents is to assign a radical significance to (what is stated to be) only one prescription for the death penalty in the Old Testament for homosex, in contrast to most of the other sins of Lv. 20 being repeated elsewhere, mainly in Dt. 27:15-26. Upon which basis they restrict Lv. 18:22 to only prohibiting male homosexual temple prostitutes. (A Defense Theory, by Royce Buehler) These are mentioned as working in Judah, under Rehoboam (1Ki. 14:24), whom Asa largely purged (1Ki. 15:12), and which job his son Jehoshaphat finished (1Ki. 22:46), but was later needed to be repeated under king Josiah)

The errors of this argument are multiple, in that

Bailey (p. 37) rightly perceives that Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 "condemns such practices in the strongest possible terms", but seeks to negate these prohibitions as being against those who are homosexual by nature, (p. 157) but which is simply untenable, as the Bible recognizes that man possess sinful "inversions" or "orientations," and manifest that some realize such more in one way more than another. But it equally manifests that man is required and enabled to repent, and can find victory over such. (Gn. 4:7; Ezek. 18:27, 30-32; Jn. 8:31,32)

As Kinder notes, "the doubt created by Dr. Bailey has traveled more widely than the reasons he suggests for it", (Kinder, p. 137) an an more imaginative psychologically based argument is advanced by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, who imagines that Lv. 20:13 only forbids male with male intercourse when one pretends he is a women, but postulates that this verse is mandating a parallel set of institutions for positively dealing with male with male sex. (in Homosexuality in Leviticus 18:22, by B. A. Robinson) That this is a egregious example of "wresting" of Scriptures (cf. 2Pet. 3:16) should be obvious, but such is evidenced elsewhere in pro-homosex apologetics. In no place do emotions or imaginations, motives or mental attitude play a part in the prohibitions of sex with illicit partners, whereas when it does within laws regarding marriage (Dt. 24:3; Num. 6:12-31) or killing, (Dt. 19:11,12) then that is made evident. Likewise, the idea that a fundamental prohibition against male homosex, which is manifestly contrary to what God has sanctioned and established by design and decree, is somehow mandating a means of sanction for it, is utterly without warrant, and makes a mockery of the Bible as a coherent authority for even basic human behavior.

Nor is it indicated that "as he lieth with a woman" is making a distinction between an effeminate versus masculine internal disposition of the partner. Instead, the simile and euphemism serves to identify the sexual nature (intercourse) of laying down, and would distinguish it from simply sharing the same real estate to lay down on, as with women.

"There shall be no whore [qedêshâh] of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite [qâdêsh] of the sons of Israel. {18} Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God."

Rather than this passage being the specifically religious application of the general Levitical injunctions against homosex, those who favor that practice usually contend that the former is what Lv. 18:22; 20:13 only refers to. The key word at issue here is ''qâdêsh'' (H6945), the basic meaning of which is ''sacred'', or "set apart", contextually referring to a temple prostitute, which the translators of the King James Version rendered as "sodomite", due to its perceived denotation of men whose manner of sex was like that of dogs. (John Barclay Burns, Devotee or Deviate)

Keil and Delitzsch comment that "the price of a dog” is not the price paid for the sale of a dog, but is a figurative expression used to denote the gains of the kadesh, who was called κίναιδος by the Greeks, and received his name from the dog-like manner in which the male kadesh debased himself.(Keil and Delitzch)

Boswell states that the LXX uses six different words to translate qâdêsh, once mistranslating the gender, (1Ki. 15:12) and seeks to disallow Dt. 23:17,18 from meaning male homosexual prostitutes, as pagan fertility rites would include male/female prostitutional couplings. (Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality p. 99) Scroggs is also adverse to the use of the word "sodomite" here, and thinks that Dt. 13:17,18 likely refers to cultic prostitution by both genders, but that the LXX indicates a prohibition against secular male homosexual prostitutes, which is how the Palestinian Targum renders it, making prostitution the real offense. (New Testament and Homosexuality, pp. 23,86,87)

Young, who deals extensively with pertinent linguistic and historical/cultural aspects here, and the language of LXX in particular, (James B. De Young, Homosexuality, pp. 122-137) points out the problems of Boswell relegating Lv. 18:22 and 20:13 to cultic temple homosex, as well as denying that Dt. 20:13 refers to homosexual temple prostitution. In the Hebrew qâdêsh is masculine here, and v. 18 references this qâdêsh as a "dog," a description also found in Mesopotamian texts. (Reallexicon der Assyriologie 4, 465) In the Bible the term "dog" is used metaphorically and twice literally in various but usually unspecified derogatory ways. (Psa. 22:16; Prov. 26:11; Isa. 56:10; 56:11; Mat. 7:6; Phil. 3:2; 2Pet. 2:22) Its general meaning is that of an immoral person(s), and as the Gentiles overall illustrated the immorality that Israel was to avoid, so the term "dog" was often applied to them. (cf. Mt. 15:26. Dr. John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible; Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge) Likewise, the New Testament sometimes applies the term to the morally unclean, (Mk. 7:27; Rev. 22:15) perhaps even equating the Judaizers with such. (Phil. 3:2,3)

Young and others also reference that homosex and religious temple prostitution existed throughout many ancient societies, including the Ancient Near East, and in many centuries. According to the historian Eusebius, Constantine destroyed a temple in which certain priests were, "men who are women, not men, denying the dignity of nature. Wenham states, "in that homosexual male prostitution was well established in the ancient orient, it is not surprising that there are a number of laws in Mespotamian texts aimed at this particular phenomenon and its associated practices." (The Old Testament Attitude to Homosexuality, The Old Testament Picture, Gordon J Wenham)

The Bible further indicates such a practice in 1Ki. 14:24; 15:12; 22:46 and 2Ki. 23:7, with the last referring to them having houses by the temple of Israel, out of which they could practice their craft in times of Israel's spiritual and moral declension. An additional reference to qâdêsh is in Job 36:14, which refers those that "die in youth, and their life is among the unclean (qâdêsh") (KJV), which even today could easily refer to those who engage in regular promiscuous sexual activity. James B. De Young concludes that "both historical-comparative and linguistic-contextual studies show that the Hebrew qâdês used in Deuteronomy 23:17-18 bears both religious and sexual overtones." (Young, ibid. p. 133)

The issue then becomes the originally argument of Boswell and company, that the Levitical laws against male homosex only pertain to a cultic context. However, this requires relegating only one of many laws against illicit sex to a cultic context, when the language and structure is general, and and thus distinctively religious injunction against homosex is later added, as is done for heterosexual prostitution. (Lv. 21:9 ) In addition, if only the prostitutional or idolatrous aspect is wrong, this would postulate that physical ceremonial temple sex is contextually allowable, if done as part of Israel's worship, rather than such ceremonial sex always being an expression of idolatry. Yet Scripture offer no support for this, must less for ceremonial homosex, despite specious attempts by certain authors. Nor does the Bible provide the sanction of homosex marriage, which it desperately requires, considering the depth of the exclusivity of the male/female union consistently established in the Bible, which homosex intrinsically opposes.

As for the choice of the word ''Sodomite'' to denote homosexual prostitutes, this is itself fitting, as often words both come from and or are translated into terms that denote what they are associated with. The name ''Sodom'' itself means "scorched" or ''burnt'', evidently referring to the judgment of the city, while the word ''harlot'' (KJV) is thought to be derived from a European girl, named Arlotta (or Arletta, also known as Arlette, Herlève and Herleva) who fornicated with Robert, duke of Normandy, and to whom William The Conqueror is believed to have been born (Adam Clarke, commentary, Gn. 34:31; Likewise homosexuals themselves have appropriated "gay and "queer" to refer to themselves. TOC^

As Young concludes, on the basis of linguistic study, context and history, the "reinterpretation" of modern critics is fairly termed revolutionary and revisionist." (Young, ibid pp. 133-135) The following summation, while not exhaustive, provides reasons for the position that no grammatical, categorical, cultural or motivation argument warrants relegating the Levitical injunctions against homosex to merely being prohibitory of idolatrous temple homosex, or belonging to the class of ceremonial laws (which are not the same), or are only motive-specific, but that instead they are universal and immutable. As Hilborn states, the homosexual acts here "are deemed wrong not simply because pagan Caananites indulged in them, but because God has pronounced them wrong as such. (Response to Rowan Williams and Homosexuality and Scripture, by David Hilborn, Former head of The Evangelical Alliance)

Bailey, while seeking to justify homosex, stated, "It is hardly open to doubt that both the laws in Leviticus relate to ordinary homosexual acts between men, and not to ritual or other acts performed in the name of religion." (Bailey, Homosexuality, p. 30)

In response to the prevalent pro-homosex polemic that that "if the Israelite Holiness Code is to be invoked against twentieth-century homosexuals, it should likewise be invoked against such common practices as eating rare steak, wearing mixed fabrics, and having marital intercourse during the menstrual period." (Letha Scanzoni and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott) Joseph P. Gudel states,

Much effort need not be expended answering these objections. First, God did not condemn certain behavior for the Israelites only because Israel was to be kept separate from Canaanite practice. Otherwise, if the Canaanites did not practice child sacrifice and bestiality, would these then have been all right for the Israelites? Of course not! Having sexual relations with an animal and killing one's child are inherently wrong and evil, even when they are not related to pagan worship; they are abominations before God. And yet, these specific prohibitions also are listed in this passage, both immediately before and after the condemnation of homosexuality (Lev. 18:21-23). ("That Which is Unnatural", Homosexuality in Society, the Church, and Scripture, Leviticus 18 and 20, by Joseph P. Gudel, Christian Research Institute Journal) TOC^

Table of Contents


Part 4

Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13

Leviticus Summation

Part 1


Sexual morality in the Bible

Interpretive Foundations

Principal Sources

Part 5

Sex Laws versus Slavery

Silence of Jesus Argument and Love Hermeneutic

Part 2

Genesis: the Unique Union of Man and Women

1 Corinthians 11

Celibacy, Polygamy, and Procreation

Eunuchs and Exegesis

Proclivity and Permission Polemic (Social Justice) Summary

Part 6

Romans 1

1Corinthians 6:9 and

1 Timothy 1:10

Part 7

False postulations or assertions of approved homosex:

Ruth and Naomi

David and Jonathan

Daniel and Ashpenaz

1 and 2 Kings

Jesus, the centurion and his servant

Jesus and John

Was Paul gay?

Part 3

Genesis 19

Judges 19

Jude 1:7

Ezekiel 16:49 and Inhospitality Texts

Extra Biblical historical sources