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  • Patti

Leviticus 18 and 20

These two passages are found in The Holiness Code described for the Israelites. How interesting is it that many non-believers can declare that the warning against homosexual behavior comes from Leviticus, yet they know nothing else about that book, nor do they follow the other laws that are laid out in the text.

Colby Martin says it very well in his book, Unclobbered, “These two verses have been used to condemn the LGBTQ community when in reality they were to help a group of liberated slaves understand how they were to be a uniquely called out nation in the world.”

Chapter 18 in Leviticus begins with an introduction to the reader to “do not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes.” This clearly describes the audience and sets out the important matter that these behaviors were prominent in the idolatrous communities that Israel was to set herself apart from.

Chapter 20’s introduction is similar, but identifies what was done by the followers of Molech. These verses were to identify to Israel some of the behaviors that idolaters practiced. Rabbi Chaim Rapoport says, “The Bible does not condemn homosexuality in general, but it does condemn three things: homosexual rape, the ritual prostitution that was a part of the Canaanite fertility cult that was apparently, at one time, in Jewish practice as well, and homosexual lust and behavior on the part of heterosexuals.”

What catches the attention of some non-affirming readers is that the chapter in the middle, Chapter 19 contains the most quoted and followed verse in Leviticus - Leviticus 19:18 Love your neighbor as yourself. The inclusion of a law that Jesus referred to and that Christians deem critical today, can cause someone on the fence to doubt their dismissal of Chapters 18 and 20. Yet, what is also found in Chapter 19 are laws that warn against planting your field with two different types of seed, to not wear clothing made of two types of material and to not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. Really? Yet we hold on to a verse in Chapter 18 and one in Chapter 20 that can supposedly apply to monogamous, covenantal same sex relationships today.

I do not want to appear to discount the importance of these passages in Leviticus; however it is important to put them in perspective and compare them to what we see today in individuals who recognize they have an identity, an innate understanding that they are not attracted to the opposite sex in the same way that heterosexuals are. Most of these 6 passages refer to behavior and not in any way to the identity or innate preference that a person is born with.

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