Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Regarding the Judeo-Christian argument that homosexuality is a sin, I have another perspective. The basis of this argument by organized Judeo-Christian religion comes from Leviticus 18:22 which states:
"Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."
Leviticus is in the Old Testament and therefore part of the Torah, the book of faith of Jewish people. To further complicate things, there are different interpretations of Leviticus by Christians and Jews.
There are three major branches of Judaism: Reformed, Conservative and Orthodox. Reformed is the most liberal while Orthodox is the most conservative and Conservative is in the middle. In the news the other day was a piece about the Conservative (big "c" not little "c") governing body which had decided to let individuals congregations make up their own minds on gay Jews. In doing my own research, I discovered that there is a case of mistranslation concerning Leviticus 18:22.
So, I contacted a guy I used to work with to clear things up for me. He is an observant Jew who attended a Jewish school in Los Angeles. He also spent some time living in Israel. He's the closest friend I have who is knowledgeable on things Jewish. I sent him an excerpt which states the following:
"Many would regard 'abomination,; 'enormous sin', etc. as particularly poor translations of the original Hebrew word which really means 'ritually unclean' within an ancient Israelite era. The Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (circa 3rd century BCE) translated 'to'ebah' into Greek as 'bdelygma,' which meant ritual impurity. If the writer(s) of Leviticus had wished to refer to a moral violation, a sin, he would have used the Hebrew word 'zimah.'"
He responded asking if I was "simply making the point that the verse is ambiguous and widely misunderstood because of the complexity of the Hebrew word?". He followed with:
That being said, the Hebrew word mentioned on the religious tolerance website, "to'evah," has confused Jewish scholars and translators for centuries. It doesn't really mean "abomination"; I would use it more as an adjective, more like "ritually forbidden." This doesn't change many things for modern Conservative or Orthodox Judaism. Both movements are rooted in "halacha," or Jewish Law, and therefore take biblical or rabbinic verses as literally as possible. Conservative Jews, however, have made every effort to distinguish themselves from the Orthodox by taking changes in society and culture into account and applying traditional Jewish standards to contemporary life. Hence, we get to the Time article, which discussed yesterday's big decision by those Conservative rabbis. If you read that article--and the official press release--very closely, you'll notice that these rabbis essentially said, "There are homosexuals in our community. We can't push them aside anymore and we have to respect them. So, each individual congregation and institution will be allowed to treat the issue in its own way--as long as there remains a place for gays and lesbians to practice as Conservative Jews." They were very careful, though, to maintain the existing translation of that verse from Leviticus which, on a literal level, forbids acts of sodomy. (Something else to note about that technically only forbids "lying with another man," i.e. sex, not homosexuality itself. Interesting, huh?)
Given all that, I still question all religious texts that are taken literally (the Koran, Torah, Bible or Vedas). I think that people who practice this are textualists.

My personal conclusion from the Judeo-Christian religious texts is that homosexuality is the equivalent of not keeping kosher. I won't send someone to hell for eating a pork chop or for being gay (not that I have a say in the matter either way).

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