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-Leviticus and Homosexuality

“If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their blood guiltiness is upon them.”

Leviticus and Homosexuality

By Gregory Koukl

A. Mosaic Law:

1. Leviticus 18:22-23 “;You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion.”

2. Leviticus 20:13 “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their blood guiltiness is upon them.”

B. The argument:

1. Leviticus is not where we go for our moral instruction. It is a central thesis of Paul that Jesus has freed us from the Law.

2. Leviticus is that book of the Law which has specifically to do with cult–sacrifice, priesthood, ritual purity. It is in this regard that it touches on homosexuality.

3. The Hebrew word “toevah” (translated “abomination” and “detestable act”) is a cultic, not a moral, term. The English “abomination” means abhorrent, loathsome, unspeakably bad. Toevah means ritually unclean. Eating pork is toevah; having sex with a menstruating woman is toevah. You cannot come to worship after doing these things until you have been purified.

4. Nor does the naming of the death penalty mark homosexuality as particularly heinous. Also punishable by death in the Law is disobedience to parents (no age specified), picking up sticks on the Sabbath, adultery, and many other actions.” [1]

C. Ralph Blair argues [2]:

1. That this was for ritual purity of the priests and not for moral purity.

2. The Law no longer applies to the New Testament Christian.

D. Analysis:

  1. a. Context determines the meaning here.

    b. The “toevah” (abomination) of homosexuality here is sandwiched between adultery (18:20), child sacrifice (18:21) and bestiality (18:23). Was Moses saying merely that if you committed adultery, bestiality, or child sacrifice you had to be careful to wash up before you came to church?

It’s true, much of the Law deals with religious activity rather than universal morality. However:

1. Ritual purity and moral purity are not always distinct.

2. This section was not addressed to the priests, but to all the “sons of Israel” (v. 2).

3. This isn’t merely ritual purity.

4. Moral aspects of the Law do still apply, as NT citations demonstrate.

5. It’s curious that some claim homosexual practice was minor because it was no more offensive to God than picking up sticks on the Sabbath. Why don’t they conclude that both homosexuality and Sabbath breaking etc. were so offensive to God and such a threat to Judaism that they were capital offenses? If you want to know how God really felt, look at the punishment.

E. No, Moses spoke clearly here:

  1. a. It’s not because it was unimportant; it was a capital crime.

    b. It’s because it wasn’t prevalent, like idolatry; homosexuals were executed.

1. The fact that the Law has just two references to it and none of the prophets directly address it is inconsequential.

2. The paucity of reference is do to one simple fact.



Footnotes

[1] – It’s curious Dr. Hart chose to conclude from this that homosexual practice was minor because it was no more offensive to God than picking up sticks on the Sabbath. Why didn’t he conclude that both homosexuality and Sabbath breaking were so offensive to God and such a threat to Judaism that they were capital offenses? If you want to know how God really felt, look at the punishment.

[2] – An Evangelical Look at Homosexuality, Moody Press, 1963

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