Savage posted another column on May 1st, further justifying his interpretation of Scripture: “There are untrue things in the Bible—and the Koran and the Book of Mormon and every other ‘sacred’ text—and you don't have to take my word for it: just look at all the biblical ‘shoulds,’ ‘shall nots,’ and ‘abominations’ that religious conservatives already choose to ignore. They know that not everything in the Bible is true. All Christians read the Bible selectively. Some read it hypocritically—and the hypocrites react very angrily when anyone has the nerve to point that out.”
Perhaps there are actually principles of interpretation that help Christians (and Jews) understand and apply the Scriptures?
Let’s start here: Christians are quick to point to Leviticus 18:22 in their condemnation of homosexual practice: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” Gay activists and their straight allies are quick to ask: “But what about all the other abominations listed in Leviticus?”
Actually, within Leviticus, only homosexual practice is singled out as an abomination, but elsewhere, the people of Israel are told that they should not eat shellfish (see Leviticus 11, although the word abomination is not used there) while in Leviticus 19, the text says, “You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material” (Leviticus 19:19). Why don’t Christians pay attention to these other verses?
The answer is simple. Within the Torah (God’s Teaching and Law), there were many laws given to Israel to keep them separate from the nations (like Leviticus 19:19). That’s why the Torah said that certain foods, like shellfish, were unclean for the Israelites but not for all people (see Deuteronomy 14:7, 19). On the other hand, there were laws given to Israel that were universal in scope, like the command not to murder.
When it comes to homosexual practice, not only it is the only sinful action singled out in Leviticus as an abomination, but it is part of a list of universal moral prohibitions, including incest and other forbidden sexual acts. We know this because the chapter states that the Lord judged the pagan nations for these very acts, and if acts were wrong for idol-worshiping pagans, and they were wrong for the people of Israel (see Leviticus 18:24-30). And when we see that the prohibition against homosexual practice is reiterated in the New Testament, the case is settled for those who accept the Bible as God’s Word.
Dan, are you following? I’m not angry with you at all. I’m simply trying to help. We’ll tackle the issue of the Bible and slavery next.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.