Tag Archives: Bible

Blogging Leviticus: Chapter 3

Continuing a series.

Chapter 3: 1 If the

offering is a sacrifice of well-being, if you offer an animal of

the herd, whether male or female, you shall offer one without

blemish before the Lord. The first thing I

noticed here is that the language has changed slightly from the

previous two chapters. In the previous two chapters, the

descriptions of both sacrifices begin with “when.” When you bring

this offering, here is how you should do it. The first two

sacrifices, while not commanded for this time or that, still carry

with them a mandate that the people of God would be offering them.

This one is different. It says “if.” The second thing is that the

Hebrew word that is translated as “well-being” or “peace” offering

in many Bibles is the word “selamim”, which has “shalom” (SLM) as

its root. The idea of this sacrifice is not that you draw near to

God, not to remember the covenant with God or to help God remember

you, but to get shalom. In Hebrew, Shalom can mean peace, but also

carries with it the larger idea of wholeness. So perhaps this is

the sacrifice you make if you have made the others already, and

yet, like Bono, you still haven’t found what you are looking for…

2 You shall lay your hand on the head of the

offering and slaughter it at the entrance of the tent of meeting;

and Aaron’s sons the priests shall dash the blood against all sides

of the altar. 3 You shall offer from the sacrifice of

well-being, as an offering by fire to the Lord, the fat that

covers the entrails and all the fat that is around the

entrails; 4the two kidneys with the fat

that is on them at the loins, and the appendage of the liver, which

he shall remove with the kidneys. 5Then

Aaron’s sons shall turn these into smoke on the altar, with the

burnt offering that is on the wood on the fire, as an offering by

fire of pleasing odor to the Lord. This

sacrifice, is somewhat like the grain offering, in that not all of

the sacrifice itself is burned completely. In the grain offering,

the majority of the bread goes to Aaron’s sons, to feed them. In

this case, the fat and entrails go to God (actually, the whole

sacrifice goes to God, but God gives back the majority as we will

see later). This begs the question, where does the rest of the

sacrifice end up? In Deuteronomy 12 and 16, we see how this

sacrifice played itself out in the ancient community. When the

animal is given to God, God, rather than being invited to a meal,

as was the custom in the other ancient near east sacrificial meals,

instead receives the offering and sets the meal out for

others and invites them to dine with him. God is the host, not us.

Once the fat and entrails have been offered, the person offering

the sacrifice, along with his family, Levites, any servants, AND

the stranger/outcasts, orphans, and widows were invited to the

meal. And in both references, the word “rejoice” is commanded.

So the idea behind the “well-being” offering is that if you want to

be “made whole” or find “peace,” then you need to take what you

have, give it back to God, and then find your place at the table

which is set by God, and have a party, all along, bringing with you

and blessing your family, those who serve God, those who serve you,

those who are the “other” to you, and those who can’t help

themselves. Sounds like Shalom to me…

6If your offering for a

sacrifice of well-being to the Lord is from the flock,

male or female, you shall offer one without

blemish. 7If you present a sheep as

your offering, you shall bring it before

the Lord 8and lay your hand on the

head of the offering. It shall be slaughtered before the tent of

meeting, and Aaron’s sons shall dash its blood against all sides of

the altar. 9You shall present its fat

from the sacrifice of well-being, as an offering by fire to

the Lord: the whole broad tail, which shall be removed close

to the backbone, the fat that covers the entrails, and all the fat

that is around the entrails; 10the two

kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the

appendage of the liver, which you shall remove with the

kidneys. 11Then the priest shall turn

these into smoke on the altar as a food offering by fire to

the Lord. The first section details an offering

from the herd. This section details, essentially the same customs,

but using an offering from a flock.

12If your offering is a goat,

you shall bring it before

the Lord 13and lay your hand on

its head; it shall be slaughtered before the tent of meeting; and

the sons of Aaron shall dash its blood against all sides of the

altar. 14You shall present as your

offering from it, as an offering by fire to the Lord, the fat

that covers the entrails, and all the fat that is around the

entrails; 15the two kidneys with the

fat that is on them at the loins, and the appendage of the liver,

which you shall remove with the

kidneys. 16Then the priest shall turn

these into smoke on the altar as a food offering by fire for a

pleasing odor. All fat is the Lord’s. This

last section details the same offerings as above, but with specific

rules concerning offering goats. After these sections, there is one

thing that struck me. The first two kinds of offerings in Leviticus

both had allowances for the poor to bring offerings, a lesser

offering if needed. This offering does not. However, it gets back

to the word used at the very beginning, not when, but “if.” The

Bible assumes that when the peace offering is made, it is not the

poor that will be giving it, but those who have an abundance and

the poor will be invited to participate. Nice. Doesn’t Jesus say

something about throwing parties and inviting the poor?

17It shall be a perpetual

statute throughout your generations, in all your settlements: you

must not eat any fat or any blood. Fat was allowed

to be eaten at other times, just not for any sacrificial purpose.

And blood was never ok. And still isn’t. Gross…

The Bible, Homosexuality, and Christianity: Marriage in the Scripture

This is the sixth post in a series. I highly encourage that you read those previous posts before reading this one. The preface is here. The guidelines are here. A discussion of relevant Hebrew Bible texts is here. A study of Romans 1:26-27 is here. A Study of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 can be found here.

Having studied the relevant passages that have traditionally been the directly relevant ones in regards to homosexual practice, we now must do more difficult work. It has been relatively straightforward to show that the Scriptures do not unequivocally condemn homosexuality or homosexual practice. It is something else to suggest that Christians should embrace homosexuality, homosexual practice, or homosexuals themselves, because, as many argue, that this may have consequences for, or even undermine, the Biblical ideal of marriage and sexuality. So, making no attempt to be exhaustive, we now turn to a study of marriage in the scripture.

It used to amuse me, but now I find it a bit sad when I hear people use the phrase “biblical marriage.” Really, to call for “biblical” anything is courting a war of words that the people who usually use phrases like that are doomed to lose. The reason is, that like most ideals or practices, there simply isn’t one “biblical” form of marriage. The Bible is full of much teaching, and many examples of marriage that look much different than the ones we are used to. While this doesn’t mean that there isn’t one form of marriage we should endorse, it certainly means two things: 1) that we shouldn’t simply run around, shouting things like “biblical marriage,” that may sound good in a sound bite, but when scrutinized, make us look foolish… and 2) that unless we bother to take the time and study the scriptures that we claim to follow, we remain just as ignorant as others about the scriptures.

Various Types of Marriage in the Scriptures:

Heterosexual, Monogamous Marriage:

Hebrew Bible Instruction: In Genesis 2:22-24, the scripture reads: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

New Testament Instruction: In Mark 10:8, Jesus calls back to mind the teaching from Genesis and adds to it, “‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”

Biblical Example(s): Adam and Eve, Isaac and Rebekah, Gomer and Hosea, Priscilla and Aquilla

Commentary: The Genesis passage is not meant to explain how we should act in marriage, but rather to explain how we got to where we are and describe how marriage started. If Adam and Eve were the only example of correct marriage, “biblical” men should only take mates that have been cloned from their ribs.

Jesus is talking about divorce, and the importance of staying together once married. He cites the first marriage, because of what it says about unity. If Jesus had meant “one flesh” to be taken as prescriptive rather than descriptive, he might have told the caught in adultery that she should go back to one of the men who she had slept with, and be his wife, rather than telling her, “so and sin no more.”

While the Scripture never says anything negative about one man and one woman being married, the verses that define marriage as only between one man and one women simply don’t exist. Which we will see below.

Interracial Marriage:

Hebrew Bible Instruction: Deuteronomy 7:3 states, “Do not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for that would turn away your children from following me, to serve other gods.”

New Testament Instruction: Galatians 3:28, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

Biblical Example(s): Moses and Zipporah, Ruth and Boaz, Esther and Ahasuerus

Commentary: While many have condemned the Bible for this verse, saying that the Bible forbids interracial marriage, in reality, this verse is not about race at all. This verse (as Paul does in 2 Corinthians 6) critiques marrying those who will take your faith away from God. This reality of life, that our spouses deeply influence our actions, causes Moses to instruct those who are joining with God on a mission to save the world, that if they want to remain faithful, they should marry those who have the same goal. While Israel did become somewhat xenophobic, the Marriages of Moses and Zipporah, Ruth and Boaz, and Esther and Ahasuerus prove that God is not opposed to interracial marriage on the basis of race, and can use these marriages quite successfully to further God’s goal of love.

Rape and Marriage:

Hebrew Bible Instruction: Deuteronomy 22:28-29′ “If a man meets a virgin who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are caught in the act, the man who lay with her shall give fifty shekels of silver to the young woman’s father, and she shall become his wife. Because he violated her he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives.”

New Testament Instruction: Not mentioned.

Biblical Example(s): Dinah and Shechem. Kinda.

Commentary: Deuteronomy states that a man that rapes a woman who is not engaged must marry her. Understandably, this scandalizes us. However, as with any engagement with the past, it is unfair, even in this case, to judge those in the past by our standards. Then, if a woman was raped, she was unfit for marriage. She was likely unable to make any living for herself other than prostitution. She would likely die childless and in poverty. So, Moses commands that if a man rapes a woman, rather than collecting a dowry, he would instead have to pay $. He would be forced to marry her and never divorce, ensuring that she would be taken care of for her whole life. And the fact that towns were much smaller than they are today would shame this man into treating her well, lest he bring further shame on himself. Now, no sane person would call this a good solution, but it is at least understandable why Moses would command that the man have to pay and never stop paying, and how this would serve as a deterrent to rape, rather than simply condemning raped women to loneliness childlessness, or prostitution. The only Biblical example of this is Dinah and Shechem. Shechem rapes Dinah, tries to marry her, but her brothers kill his whole village instead. So it is clear that the Scripture calls foul on the whole rape-as-a-plan-for-marriage deal.

Concubines:

Hebrew Bible Instruction: None.

New Testament Instruction: None.

Biblical Example(s): Abraham and Hagar, Jacob and Bilhah and Zilpah, The Levite and his Concubine, David and his Concubines, and Solomon and his Concubines.

Commentary: There is no explicit instruction about concubines given in the scripture. It is simply taken for granted in the culture in which the Scripture was given. And there is some confusion as to what concubine refers to as well. The word that is translated as concubine, is likely better translated as “second wife,” with the distinction between first and second wives being that first wives (and their children) have rights of name and inheritance, while second wives do not. The scripture does make it clear that you take more wives, you should not neglect any of them. Like Abraham did… like the Levite did… And you should also not let them affect your faith because you have to many… like Solomon did…

Levirate Marriage:

Hebrew Bible Instruction: Deuteronomy 25:5-6, “When brothers reside together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her, taking her in marriage, and performing the duty of a husband’s brother to her, and the firstborn whom she bears shall succeed to the name of the deceased brother, so that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.”

New Testament Instruction: no instruction

Biblical Example(s): Judah and Tamar

Commentary: The idea is this: your culture tells you that getting married and having children is essentially the biggest blessing you can get, and if you were a women, essentially your only worth. This idea was not started by the Bible, but it was considered true in the cultures where the Bible sprang into. As such, if a women was barren, she considered her life not worth living and cursed (Sarah, Naomi, Hannah, etc..). So in order to preserve a male’s name and assure that his widow did not fade into obscurity and poverty, the levirate marriage was instituted. A man’s brother takes care of his sister-in-law, sleeps with her until she has a child, and then raises the child as if it was the child of his brother. This strikes us as bizarre and wrong, but that is because we are imperialistic and judgmental towards the “other” who lived in the past and clearly care more about our nice, neat morality than God did about the poor widows of old.

Polygamy:

Hebrew Bible Instruction: Exodus 21:10, “If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife.”

New Testament Instruction: 1 Timothy 3:2,12 and Titus 1:6 , Elders (and Deacons) “must be above reproach, married only once…”

Biblical Example(s): Lamech (and his two wives), Abraham (and Sarah and Hagar), Jacob (and Rachel, Leah, Zilphah, and Bilhah), David (and his 18+ wives/concubines), and Solomon (and his 1000+ wives and concubines)

Commentary: No Hebrew Bible mandates for or against, other than the ones listed with concubines. Take care of them, don’t neglect them if you have more than one, and don’t have too many or ones that cause you to fall from God. Solomon might have had trouble keeping the last few of those rules. However, the New Testament make a move regarding wives. Paul teaches that men who want to be leaders should only have one wife, indicating that those in church leadership at least, perhaps due to the extra commitment, should not be married to more than one person.

Celibacy:

Hebrew Bible Instruction: No direct mention.

New Testament Instruction: Matthew 19:12, “For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.” and 1 Corinthians 7:8-9 “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.”

Biblical Example(s): Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul

Commentary: Celibacy in the Hebrew Bible is rare. It is reserved for people who consider themselves stricken (Jephthah’s daughter or for those who are already considered outcasts (Jeremiah). However, Jesus makes an interesting move in his teachings about celibacy. In this context, Jesus speaks of eunuchs, who are those who don’t (or can’t) have sex because they usually have been relieved of the necessary tools. Jesus claims that some are born that way (which may have been astounding to Jews whose Rabbis sometimes taught celibacy as a sin), Jesus claims that some are made eunuchs by others (as in some royal cases for personal servants), and some who have chosen it for themselves for the kingdom of God. In other words, Jesus suggests that there are those who act like eunuchs (no sex) in order to serve God. Paul supports this when he suggests that he wish everyone was celibate (Paul says this, not God), but that if you are too hormonal, go ahead and get married because it is better than sex outside of marriage.

Conclusion: The scriptures do not clearly teach one particular way of being married. The scriptures validate marriage, and while I didn’t get into this, the scripture validates sex within the context of marriage over sex outside of marriage. Scripture seems to react to cultural forms of marriage by introducing boundaries and guidelines for the already-existing forms of marriage of the day. The exception being that the scripture validates celibacy and raises it up to equality with marriage, and the scripture seems to indicate that those who want to be leaders in the church should not be married to more than one person. However, that is a far cry from suggesting that there is only one form of “Biblical marriage.”

King David was considered a man after God’s own heart, even though he had numerous wives and never thought it was bad, and never repented from it.

Jacob, the father of the 12 tribes of Israel, had 4 wives. He never repented from it, nor did he see anything wrong with it, nor do we see God correcting him for it, and yet God used those 12 children to create a nation that was “God’s” to assist in righting the world.

David and Solomon, both commended in the New Testament and regarded as Israel’s greatest kings, both had concubines, and were not rejected by God, even though they were warned not to have too many.

And Jesus was celibate and suggests that how we are born affects our sexuality.

There are things that the Bible (and its culture) took for granted that we simply find abhorrent. And things that we have outlawed that the Bible did not. If we look to the Bible for an airtight case about what is and isn’t marriage, we won’t find it. What we will find, is that the Scripture is more concerned about how we treat each other, and injecting the law of love into whatever cultural forms of marriage that the society takes. In the New Testament, however, we do see Jesus claiming that God is the one who joins people in marriage, and that we should be careful about separating them as a result. This leads me to believe that Jesus suggests that marriage is a spiritual union as well, not just a sexual and emotional one. As such, God’s people must act according to their faith in these matters, regardless of what the society around us is doing. If the church believes that marriage is between a man and a woman only, then they should not allow the government to tell them what marriage is or who they can or can’t marry.

Alternatively, if the church believes that the clear teaching of scripture about what marriage is isn’t really that clear and seems to be in flux, then perhaps it desires to offer marriage to those of the same gender. And as such, it should not allow a government to tell them that they cannot marry two people of the same sex. The church is not bound to its culture or its government, but it can get out in front of it and lead the way to a more loving, just society. Whatever way God leads you, don’t let your country get in the way.

Jump to part 7, A few notes about gender in the Bible, here.

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The Bible, Homosexuality, and Christianity: 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy

This is the fifth post in a series. I highly encourage that you read those previous posts before reading this one. The preface is here. The guidelines are here. A discussion of relevant Hebrew Bible texts is here. A study of Romans 1:26-27 is here.

In the last post, the discussion turned around Romans 1, specifically verses 26-27 and the immediate context thereof. The discussion in this post will take us to the remaining two New Testament passages that are normally discussed when homosexual practice is discussed in the church. While not as often quoted as Romans 1, the similar passages of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 have served as verses to reject homosexual practice. It is to those we now turn.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

“Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.”

The two Greek words that are in question here are the words that the NRSV translates “male prostitutes” and “sodomites.” The word translated as male prostitute is the Greek “malakoi.” Literally, it means soft, as in fine clothing. But was often used to refer to “soft” men. These “soft men” have been interpreted in various translations, in addition to “male prostitutes,” as “effeminate men,” “adulterers,” “wantons,” and “those who make women of themselves.”

Malakoi has also been used to mean loose or flexible, bringing to mind the implication of someone with “loose” morality. According to a few studies and a few passages from books I have been exposed to, the early Church Fathers used malakoi in reference to both those who were easliy influenced and unstable, as well as referring to those who masturbate (because they were self-indulgent and of weak character). Please note that I have not confirmed this in the Church Fathers, so if anyone wants to examine the Greek writings of the Fathers, to refute or support this claim, I welcome that. Extra-Biblical texts from the same era use malakoi to refer to the lazy, those who didn’t like hard work, and the cowardly.

John Wesley’s Bible Notes says this about malakoi (and I only bring this up to note that the idea of “malakoi” being used for homosexual is very recent):

“Who live in an easy, indolent way; taking up no cross, enduring no hardship. But how is this? These good-natured, harmless people are ranked with idolaters and sodomites! We may learn hence, that we are never secure from the greatest sins, till we guard against those which are thought the least; nor, indeed, till we think no sin is little, since every one is a step toward hell.” 3

So while Wesley condemns “sodomites,” malakoi isn’t the word he claims to be referring to when he says it. In today’s terms, it seems more responsible to translate “malakoi” as “those who are lazy, with lazy morality, who don’t work for the common good, but take the path of least resistance through life, fulfilling their own desires. Using this word to refer to effeminate or homosexual is simply a poor (and biased) translation.

The second word in question is the word that is translated “sodomites” in the text above. This is the Greek word “arsenokotai.” In other translations, this word is translated as “homosexuals,” “homosexual perverts,” and “homosexual offenders.” Just by those various translations, you can see a bias developing. The literal translation is “male-bedders.” While it is very clear that this term refers to sexual sin, as bedding was a euphamism for sex, it is however unclear if it refers to those who are male and commit sexual sin or those who commit sexual sin with males. Since the term is masculine, it could mean, literally, a man-whore or a man who sleeps with men. That is simply the literal translation, however. And as we can see with English idioms like “hot dog,” “under the weather,” and “no dice,” the literal words aren’t always what the idiom refers to.

One example of arsenokotai being used in another context is a non-Biblical work, the Sibylline Oracles, which uses the word to refer to an economically abusive sexual relationship, not necessarily homosexual. In the LXX, the Hebrew word “quadesh” is translated similarly to arsenokotai, (using forms of arsenos and koitn) and and is used of temple prostitution, not homosexuals.

But perhaps most important is the way that this word is used in Biblical contexts. So i’d like to put this word on hold as we turn to the 1 Timothy passage, which also contains “arsenokotai,” and see if its usage in that passage makes this word any clearer.

1 Timothy 1:9-10

As a purely indulgent and silly point – I can’t be the only one who thinks that it is sort of coincidental that both the 1 Timothy passage and the 1 Corinthians passage are verses 9-10… I digress.

The passage is as follows: “This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, fornicators, sodomites (arsenokotai), slave-traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching”

First, a note about the structure of this passage. The passage is in reference to those to whom the “law” is for. Not for the “innocent,” but for the following group of folks. This group is broken down into groups of closely related societal ills that have some sort of parallel or common thread. The groups break down thus:

lawless and disobedient (synonyms, both break rules), godless and sinful (those who are godless will be sinful, and vice versa), unholy and profane (synonymns, both mean that which is un-sacred), fornicators, sodomites, and slave traders (this is the crux of the discussion below), and liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching (these folk abuse the truth and act accordingly).

In order to get an understanding of what exactly is being condemned here by the word arsenokotai, we need to find out what “fornicators (pornoi), sodomites (arsenokotai), and slave traders have in common.

Pornoi refers to a prostitute, or other person who either has sex for money or is sexually exploited for money. And “slave trader” is fairly common sense. But why lump these together?

The only explanation that I have been exposed to that makes sense of this, as well as taking the cultural usages of arsenokotai into account, is the view that says that sexual sin is not the common denominator for this grouping of words in 1 Timothy, but rather that the three of these words are connected in regards to sexual exploitation for profit. In other words, the verse could be responsibly translated thus: “the law is laid down not for the innocent but for…. those who are prostitutes, the men who sleep with them, and those who procure them for profit…”

This makes sense of the word arsenokotai and how Paul might have used it, and is consistent with the earlier discussion, having to do with idolotrous or temple/ritual prostitution. Paul here, is not offering a blanket condemnation of homosexuality, but rather a scathing indictment on a system that abuses people and their sexuality for gain.

To further this point, if Paul had wanted to be more clear in a condemnation of homosexuality, there are a number of other Greek words that he could have used in order to be less ambiguous (although as I have stated above, if homosexuality isn’t Paul’s concern, then the verse is not ambiguous at all). The list of words Paul could have used are as follows:

arrenomanes (crazy for men)
erastes (usually older men who love younger men)
eromenos (usually younger man who loves older men)
euryproktoi (men who dress as women, also often used a vulgar reference to anal intercourse)
kinaidos (effeminate submissive sexual partner)
lakkoproktoi (vulgar reference to anal intercourse)
paiderasste (sexual behavior between males)
paiderastes (lover of boys)
paidophthoros (corruptor of boys)
pathikos (submissive male sexual partner)

So while Paul does have a bone to pick with those who sleep with other men/boys in an exploitative way, neither of these verses give an unequivocal condemnation of homosexuality as such. In fact, perhaps a few of the translations above were closer in meaning than they intended. Perhaps “homosexual offender” is not a poor translation of “arsenokotai,” as long as “fornicators” gets translated as “heterosexual offenders.” However, since the terms heterosexual and homosexual are severely anachronistic to use in translating ANY Bible verse, I think arsenokotai should properly be understood as “sexually exploitative.”

In the next post, I would like to turn to a related Biblical discussion that does not have to do with homosexual ethics directly, but will have a deep impact on how we understand those ethics. Next time, I want to touch on Biblical Marriage, gender roles, and what it means to take the Bible as a norm for our culture. See you then.

Jump to part 6, A discussion about marriage in the Bible, here.

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