I've mentioned this anecdote in lots of different places, but I'll give it a permanent place here, then in the future I can just be lazy and post a link. :) And since the topic is homophobia, I decided it would make a good post for the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.
|Badge for the Hop Against Homophobia, Bi-, and Transphobia|
Plus I had it partially written, and have I mentioned I'm lazy? :)
Okay, hang on to your hats; it's about to get Biblical up in here.
People who don't believe in same-sex marriage and/or civil rights for gay people like to quote verse 20:13 from Leviticus to explain why The Gay is a bad thing. (These people generally tend to ignore everything ELSE in the Bible that's described as a bad thing.)
Verse 20:13 (and verse 18;22, which says basically the same thing), were written in Hebrew, as was the rest of the Torah (Old Testament). When people study to become rabbis, even Reform rabbis, they learn to read the Torah in the original language. Our temple's rabbi talked about that passage of Leviticus one year at Yom Kippur services when he said that if a same-sex couple came to him to get married, he would perform the ceremony.
|A picture I used in last year's HAHAT, but it's just so pretty, I'm going to use it again. :)|
The rabbi explained that the word usually translated as "abomination" does not actually have such a strongly proscriptive meaning in in Hebrew. A better English translation of that word ("toevah") would be "something we Jews do not do."
While researching my as-yet-unfinished pirate novel, I learned a little bit about homosexuality in Islamic cultures. In most Mediterranean cultures, going back thousands of years, men have had (and do have) sex with men, both before and after marriage to women. We know about Greek Love and the "snails and oysters" scene from Spartacus.
Oddly enough, the ancient Hebrews did not follow this custom. I don't know why; maybe it was considered disrespectful to one's wife to go off and have sex with teenaged boys? Or maybe the men were all just "ew, homosex is icky"?
Whatever the reason, it seems clear to me that a more accurate translation of those Leviticus passages would be "men having sex with men is something we Jews do not do." Looking at the history of the region, everyone else did have that custom; the Jews simply did not. And that is reflected in the Torah.
(As for using even this interpretation to decry today's same-sex relationships, keep in mind that people had a LOT of customs back then that no one does anymore. Killing a bullock and offering it up as a burnt sacrifice in your suburban backyard? I think you'd get a visit from the police....)
In an online discussion once, a commenter told me my rabbi was "aspostate" (a disbeliever, one who has renounced their faith) for offering up this translation of the Leviticus verse. IMO, it's UNBELIEVABLY arrogant to declare someone else's interpretation of a Bible verse invalid because it disagrees with yours. Not only do people not agree on what the Bible means, some people can't even agree on which Bible to use.
So the next time someone claims that the Leviticus verse justifies homophobia, feel free to direct them to this blog post. Or to tell them, "That translation is not accurate." Or to tell them they have their head up their ass, but that probably won't change hearts or minds. :)
Thank you for letting me participate in this year's Hop Against Homophobia, Bi-, and Transphobia! Please comment for a chance to win... well, I'm not sure what you'll win. What would you like to win? An e-copy of one of my books? (Available for any of them except Dorm Porn 2; that's only in paperback.) A $20 donation in your name to Atlanta's LGBT youth shelter, Lost-n-Found? Some other LGBT-related prize worth up to $20? Please let me know in the comments. I really have no idea what would be good.
Thanks for reading!