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This Blog is named after an ancient gnoseological riddle which hints hidden, disseminated, omnipresent wisdom.
I invite you to search, listen and observe with me for "the word of tree, whisper of stone, and humming together of the abyss and stars."


Biblical hermeneutics and homosexuality

Rutgers Church sent an overture to 220th General Assembly requesting some changes in the Book of Order which would unequivocally allow Presbyterian Churches to celebrate same gender weddings. I was assigned to advocate for this change from the perspective of reformation theology (And I plan to publish this argument soon), but I also prepared some elemental prolegomena from the perspective of biblical hermeneutics.  (Earlier article on this theme can be viewed in this blog under the title Biblical argument for same gender marriage.)
It has to be noted that there was no homosexuality before the middle of 19th century.
There certainly were same gender sexual or erotic attraction and behavior, but there was no "homosexuality" as we know it and name it today.
The word homosexuality (itself a strange combination of Greek HOMOIOS - “same” and Latin SEXUS - “gender”) appears only in the mid 19th century. The concept of “homosexuality” has all the characteristics of a social construct. It was developed as societal attempt to name, describe and control (proscribe) certain forms of sexual dispositions, feelings and behaviour.
Using the word “homosexuality” while dealing with the Bible is a clear example of an anachronism and betrays imprecise exegetical thinking. It does not help our understanding of the Bible and leads to the wrong application of biblical testimony today. What the bible (OT as well as NT) speaks about are perhaps some very narrow and highly specific aspects of what we would today describe as homosexuality. Almost all, if not all biblical passages which are so often quoted to condemn “homosexuality” actually address and condemn abusive sexual behavior. In today’s terms: the Bible condemns such aberrations like Abu Graib sexual humiliations and torture(and alike), not same gender loving and committed relationships.

One biblical example - Genesis 19 (infamous Sodom and Gomorrah passage) has a close, less known historical reworking of this classical mytheme (or mythical topos) in Judges 19 (Gibeah atrocity). When these texts are taken as a doublet, it becomes clear that these passages are not primarily about same sex relationships, but about:
     1) serious violation of the concept of Xenia (hospitality and protection of foreigners and guests), 

     2) Grave violence and sexual abuse regardless of gender, 
     3) Disintegration of society which leads to brutal consequences (in one case divine judgement, in another, what we would call, civil war).
     This understanding is further strengthened when you compare a
broader Sodom and Gomorah story (Genesis 18+19) with examples of theoxenia (visits by gods in disguise of strangers) in classical literature. Here I wrote about Philemon and Baukis.
For the ancients, it was lack of hospitality towards strangers and God(s) which constituted grave sin. 
And for those who read as far as here one more observation:
It is well known fact that the same gender penetrating sexual act between two males was the subject of a strong prejudice in the entire Ancient Near East World. It was severely punished not only in the Hebrew Bible!  For instance Middle Assyrian Laws Tablet A §§ 19 and 20 was quite clear and even in the Classical Greece male-male intercourse was hardly tolerated between men of the same rank. It is quite important to note that the penetrating party was usually punished while the penetrated was acquitted. From this pattern of punishment it is evident that same gender male sexual intercourse was perceived as (or was punished if/when perceived as) a form of abusive, forced and violent behavior towards the penetrated. This is another reason why ancient concepts, rules and laws cannot be easily and straightforwardly applied to different cultural setting many millennia later.

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