Vines: God and the Gay Christian, Part 3 (Sodom & Gomorrah, Leviticus)

We are considering one of the latest, and best reviewed, books supporting Christian gay marriage, Matthew Vines’ God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships.

Sodom and Gomorrah

Vines next begins working through the six passages usually cited as condemning homosexual sex. He begins with Sodom and Gomorrah.

Now, Sodom and Gomorrah are referenced several times in the Scriptures as an example of the consequences of incurring God’s wrath. Moreover, as Vines notes, with one possible exception, Sodom and Gomorrah are held up as examples of sins other than homosexuality — such as inhospitality. The one passage we need to consider is Jude 7 —

(Jude 1:7 ESV) 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

The NET Bible translators note regarding “unnatural desire” —

This phrase has been variously interpreted. It could refer to flesh of another species (such as angels lusting after human flesh). This would aptly describe the sin of the angels, but not easily explain the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. It could refer to the homosexual practices of the Sodomites, but a difficulty arises from the use of ἕτερος (ʿeteros; “strange,” “other”). When this is to be distinguished from ἄλλος (allos, “another”) it suggests “another of a different kind.” If so, would that properly describe homosexual behavior? In response, the language could easily be compact: “pursued flesh other than what was normally pursued.” However, would this find an analogy in the lust of angels (such would imply that angels normally had sexual relations of some sort, but cf. Matt 22:30)? Another alternative is that the focus of the parallel is on the activity of the surrounding cities and the activity of the angels. This is especially plausible since the participles ἐκπορνεύσασαι (ekporneusasai, “having indulged in sexual immorality”) and ἀπελθοῦσαι (apelthousai, “having pursued”) have concord with “cities” (πόλεις, poleis), a feminine plural noun, rather than with Sodom and Gomorrah (both masculine nouns). If so, then their sin would not necessarily have to be homosexuality. However, most likely the feminine participles are used because of constructio ad sensum (construction according to sense). That is, since both Sodom and Gomorrah are cities, the feminine is used to imply that all the cities are involved. The connection with angels thus seems to be somewhat loose: Both angels and Sodom and Gomorrah indulged in heinous sexual immorality. Thus, whether the false teachers indulge in homosexual activity is not the point; mere sexual immorality is enough to condemn them.

W. Hall Harris, ed., The NET Bible Notes (1st, Accordance electronic ed. Richardson: Biblical Studies Press, 2005), n.p.

Richard Hays comes to the same conclusion despite his rejection of homosexual marriage by Christians.

The phrase “went after other flesh” (apelthousai opis sarkos heteras) refers to their pursuit of nonhuman (i.e., angelic!) “flesh” The expression sarkos heteras means “flesh of another kind”; thus, it is impossible to construe this passage as a condemnation of homosexual desire, which entails precisely the pursuit of flesh of the same kind.

Hays, Richard (2013-07-30). The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation, A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethic (p. 404). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Hence, while Sodom and Gomorrah were undeniably destroyed because of sin, including sexual immorality, the prophets and the NT writers do not accuse them particularly of being destroyed for homosexual acts. After all, the proposed rape of Lot’s visitors was sufficient to merit destruction, whether the rape was homosexual or heterosexual.


The next two key passages are —

(Lev 18:22 ESV) You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.

(Lev 20:13 ESV) 13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. 

Vines struggles to articulate a principle by which we determine what parts of the Torah survive Jesus’ atonement and which parts do not. He rejects the “moral law” vs. “ceremonial law” distinction, and instead suggests that we should look back to his interpretation of Gen 2.

While I happily admit that Gen 2 continues to be a guide for how we should live in NT times, his analysis is worse than inadequate. After all, in 1 Cor 5, Paul compels a church to disfellowship a man for incest, quoting language from Lev 18. Paul and Jesus both require the church to act only on the testimony of two or three witnesses, based on Deu.

In our studies of the covenants, we recognized that the Torah is not so much repealed as fulfilled. After all, if the Abrahamic covenant remains in effect, so that we’re saved by faith, then in some sense the Mosaic covenant remains in effect. And we covered this in detail in the recent “How to Study the Bible” and “Exile and Repentance” series.

I tried to explain the fulfillment of Torah in Christianity in this post. Regardless of how you see it, though, it’s clear that Paul still imposes the sexual immorality standards of Lev 18 from 1 Cor 5 as well as his repeated condemnations of “sexual immorality” (as well as those of Jesus). Paul was speaking to a largely Jewish audience whose scriptures were the Old Testament. If “sexual immorality” isn’t defined by Lev 18, then where is that definition to be found?

Jesus specifically condemned “sexual immorality” in Matt 15:19, speaking to a Jewish audience, who doubtlessly heard Jesus as affirming the wrongness of sexual practices condemned by the Torah.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus strengthened the Torah commands by insisting that we look at the purpose and heart behind the commands. There’s not the least indication anywhere in the NT that the sexual immorality commands of the Torah have been loosened for Christians.

Vines points out that Christianity largely did not adopt OT polygamy or concubinage, but this only reinforces the point that the NT tends to be stricter than the OT when it comes to sexual immorality.

Vines argues that the Talmud imposes greater penalties for anal sex (death) than for other kinds of homosexual sex, because the sin is actually the sin of acting like a woman. This argument is based on Philo, a First Century Hellenistic Jew, 1500 years removed from Moses. But, of course, the Talmud prohibits other forms of  homosexual sex as well, and the Talmud does not reflect attitudes even as old as the NT.

The fact is that the rabbis, following Torah, universally prohibited homosexual activity, and there were no exceptions. There may have been degrees of punishment, but that’s far different from approving homosexual activity.

Among the sexual perversions proscribed as criminal offenses in the moral code of the Torah are homosexual relations between males (Lev. 18:22). Both offending parties are threatened with capital punishment (Lev. 20:13), though minors under 13 years of age are exempt from this as from any other penalty (Sanh. 54a). Talmudic law extends the prohibition, but not the penalty, which is limited to flagellation, also to lesbianism, i.e., homosexual intimacies between women, based on the general warning not to indulge in the abhorrent practices of the Egyptians and the Canaanites (Sifra 9:8).

The Jewish Virtual Library.

Vines’ argument is that the prohibitions in Lev 18 and 20 are based on a low view of women, but his evidence is very thin, very distant in time, and not supported by a closer look at the evidence.

He builds his case on the false dichotomy that homosexuality must be banned solely because of anatomical differences between men and women or because of patriarchal, hierarchical attitudes toward women. But it could be that God knows that permitting homosexual sex is simply very unhealthy for society as a whole.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in Homosexuality, Uncategorized, Vines: God and the Gay Christian, Vines: God and the Gay Christian. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Vines: God and the Gay Christian, Part 3 (Sodom & Gomorrah, Leviticus)

  1. John F says:

    So it seems to a generality: when scripture says something we do not like or with which do do not wish to comply: we say, scripture is not clear on this point, let me explain it to you — listen to me, read my book /blog.

    It is usually not difficult to find the flawed reasoning or sophistry, as Jay has pointed out above in this case, but this subject is just one of many. Unfortunately, many can be led astray

    2 Cor 11:3-5
    But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. 4 For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.

    A thousand pages of the “wisdom of the wise” leading away from the “simplicity and purity” is not worth a single line of scripture

  2. Gary says:

    Jay, the Leviticus passages on homosexuality would apply only to the act of anal intercourse. I know that’s how observant but sexually active gay Jewish men understand it. If you have any evidence of the prohibition being applied through the centuries to other homosexual acts please share it with us. Despite popular assumptions and unrealistic media portrayals (as in Brokeback Mountain) anal intercourse is not nearly as common as most people think in the gay community. One 2011 survey of American gay men found that it was the least common form of physical intimacy between gay men. It is quite possible and common for gay men to have satisfying physical relationships without anal intercourse. Intercrural intercourse by no means died out with the ancient Greeks.

    More broadly and more importantly, the Law of Moses was for the Jewish people only and is not binding on Christians today. That bits and pieces of it surfaced in the early church as recorded in the NT does not change that fact. It is also not surprising. There were two fundamentally different Christianities in the first century: Jewish Christianity led by James and the Jerusalem church and Gentile Christianity led by Paul. Jewish Christianity essentially died with the destruction of Jerusalem although remnants of it survived apparently for several centuries. The two Christianities were in a larger sense still one church but were quite different because one clung to the Law of Moses and one did not.

    What you and other conservatives are doing is picking and choosing what parts of the Law you want for today and ignoring the rest. We’ve had many exchanges about this already of course. After much coaxing you have shared your understandings of two other sexual prohibitions in the Law: heterosexual intercourse during menstruation and remarriage of a divorced couple after the death of the woman’s second husband. I cannot remember where you came down on heterosexual intercourse during menstruation. You did state that the Deuteronomy 24 prohibition of a divorced couple remarrying after the death of the woman’s second husband is still an abomination today. I still appreciate your straightforwardness on that subject.

    But here’s the problem that invalidates your binding of the homosexuality passages on Christians today. (I’ll assume that you believe that heterosexual intercourse during menstruation is also still prohibited today.) Those are only theoretical positions for you. Please correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t believe you’ve ever publicly taught Christians that those sexual prohibitions are binding today. In practice you ignore them. If a Christian is sinning today by violating either of those prohibitions they would never know it from you, would they? It simply is not credible to condemn gays today on the basis of the Law of Moses and ignore other sexual prohibitions. And of course there’s a whole lot more than sex in the Law. What about tatoos that are prohibited by the Law but are ubiquitous today even among Christians? I hate tatoos! I could really get into banning them!

    If the homosexuality passages of the Law are binding today it’s all binding today. That expression of Christianity has not been viable since A.D.70. It’s a losing proposition to try to resurrect it today only for gays.

  3. Dwight says:

    the scripture that talks of men lying with men being condemned doesn’t necessarily imply anal intercourse, but does include it. The fact is that God would not only condemn bestiality, but those things associated with it.
    The Law of Deut. was a moral law and was part of the laws on fornication of which Jesus commented on and in Romans Paul directly condemned this. While part of the Jewish moral law, the other nations were also held in judgments to those moral laws. The moral laws, which include murder, lying, stealing, etc. were not done away with in the NT.
    While it might feel justifiable to condemn Jay because of his stance on a law that was not hit upon in the NT (intercourse during menstruation) and was not considered an abomination worthy of death, you are avoiding the obvious apparent scriptures that you say you are openly involved in. This site from what I understand is about looking at scriptures and issues and not about accusing others, but taking scriptures and applying it to ourselves. From what I understand you should not judge Jay or others, until you have judged yourself with the scriptures. It is not hypocritical to make valid points, but it is to accuse others when you are doing the same.

    Leviticus 15:19 says, “When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening.” Similarly, Leviticus 15:24 says. “If a man lies with her and her monthly flow touches him, he will be unclean for seven days; any bed he lies on will be unclean.” Finally, Leviticus 20:18 declares, “If a man lies with a woman during her monthly period and has sexual relations with her, he has exposed the source of her flow, and she has also uncovered it. Both of them must be cut off from their people.”
    Now these aren’t moral laws, but rather laws of uncleanliness. Only the moral laws continued as Christian laws. Christians can touch corpses without impunity of sin.
    But even if you abide by the above laws, then this still didn’t carry the severe weight of sin that sins like adultery, bestiality, incest, homosexuality, did which was punishable by death. This is like comparing apples to oranges. The most that would happen to the breakers of the laws of uncleanliness had to deal with was either being kicked out from the tribe and/or having to wait for seven days and/or go through a cleaning ritual for acceptance back in.

  4. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    Jesus repudiated the oral law rather famously, such as in the case of criticism of his disciples for not washing their hands. His view of the oral law was not at all favorable. There are severa examples.

    Moreover, many interpretations are dated well after the apostolic age — and it’s not possible to date much of what is in the Talmud. So we shouldn’t treat the Talmud as inspired or even close to inspired.

    Nonetheless, while I really don’t enjoy reading about anal sex, I thought I’d check out what you’ve said. Here is what I found.

    Per the NET Bible translator notes, the literal Hebrew of Lev 18:22 is —

    Heb “And with a male you shall not lay [as the] lyings of a woman”

    This becomes important, as you’ll see.

    Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 7:6, Mishna V, says,

    GEMARA: … “As they lie with a woman” means to say that with a woman there are two kinds of lyings, one usual and one unusual; and one is guilty as to both. Said R. Ishmael: This verse came to teach that which was just mentioned, as if not for this teaching it would be pleonastic [redundant], for regarding a male there is only one kind of connection. “Both of them have committed an abomination, they shall be put to death”–by stoning, but perhaps by some other death. Therefore it is written: “Their blood shall be upon them.”

    I assume that the two “lyings” with a woman are vaginal and anal sex. “One usual and one unusual” as the rabbi says. Hence, “regarding a male there is only one kind of connection” is perhaps a reference to anal sex. Penalty is death. This is based on the Heb in which “lie” is plural: “lyings.”

    This is according to Rabbi Ishmael (early second century This is hardly to be taken as relevant to the interpretation of Romans or 1 Cor. I mean, it’s not as though Paul could have been aware of this interpretation when he wrote Romans over half a century earlier or 1 Cor 6 even earlier.

    But I can see where the interpretation is coming from, although I must say that the language is more than a little obscure. I can’t imagine that Moses intended Lev 18:22 to be read this way.

    Moreover, we’re not dealing with Lev 20:13, which parallels Lev 18:22 and also orders the death penalty —

    If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.

    Here “lies” is singular in the Heb, which means the interpretation of Ishmael makes even less sense here.

    When I dig around Jewish sites, they uniformly declare homosexual conduct sinful. Almost none mention R. Ishmael’s rather fanciful interpretation. Moreover, other Talmudic passages speak more broadly —


    On account of the following four things an eclipse of the sun occurs (see Succah, p. 40): When the head of a college (Ab Beth Din) died and was not properly lamented; when a betrothed damsel cried for help (Deut. 22.23-28) in town and no one offered help; male sodomy; and the shedding of the blood of two brothers at one and the same time (there is no explanation of this in any of the commentaries, and it seems to us that there happened something like that in the author’s time which is unknown to us).
    “Love all men too.” That is to say, that one should love all men, and not hate them; for so we find with the men of the “generation of the division,” because they loved each other, the Lord was reluctant to destroy them, but only scattered them to all four corners of the world. The men of Sodom, however, because they hated each other, were annihilated by the Lord, both in this and the world to come, as it is written [Gen. 13.13]: “But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly. “And sinners” implies that they were guilty of illegal unions; “before the Lord” implies that they were guilty of desecration of the Holy name; “and exceedingly,” that they sinned wilfully.
    Tosephtha–Aboth of R. Nathan.
    “The men of Sodom”–have no share in the world to come, and they are not judged, as it is written [Gen. 13.13]: “But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.” “Wicked”–one with another; “sinners”–in consanguinity; “before the Lord”–inasmuch as they desecrated the name of God; “exceedingly”–they did all that intentionally. And it is written [Ps. 1.5]: “Therefore shall the wicked not be able to stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.” The first part of the passage relates to the generation of the flood, and the second to the men of Sodom. R. Nehemiah said: “Even in the congregation of the wicked they are not included, as it is written [ibid. 104.35]: ‘May the sinners cease from off the earth, and the wicked be no more.'”

    Even rabbis post articles condemning homosexuality, which make no mention of R. Ishmael’s interpretation —

    Then again, I find that very, very conservative Jews accept R. Ishmael’s interpretation quite literally —

    Following the Daf Yomi program, the page of the Talmud which was studied yesterday was Sanhedrin 54. This page states that sodomy is punished with death. In fact, this is a death penalty for both Jews and non-Jews. I believe that the United States government should amend the Constitution to make male to male anal intercourse a capital crime.

    So where does that leave us? Well, if you’ve read Winters’ book on divorce under Jewish law as background for the teachings of Jesus and Paul, he explains that by the time of Jesus, the rabbis had no heart for enforcing the death penalty provisions of the Torah for adultery and many other crimes. Hence, the rabbis found more and more clever rationalizations to make it difficult — nearly impossible — to impose the death penalty.

    Of course, this humane attitude was likely influenced by Rome’s insistence on being the only government with power of capital punishment. And Rome wasn’t about to kill someone for adultery! For that matter, no Roman governor would impose the death penalty for homosexual acts. The Roman governor probably had a male concubine!

    By the time of Paul, the Sanhedrin was said to be “bloody” if it killed one person during a 40-year term — making their persecution of Christians all the more astonishing. Blasphemy (as they saw it) was much worse than any other crime.

    So I take R. Ishmael’s interpretation — assuming I read it correctly, which is far less than certain — as both irrelevant and merely reflective of a tendency of Roman-occupied Jews to soften the Torah to avoid capital punishment in most cases, esp. where the Romans weren’t going to let them execute someone anyway. It avoided moral dilemmas — whether to obey Torah or Rome.

    And most conservative Jewish rabbis evidently don’t follow this interpretation, which I’m sure is because they read Lev 18:22 and 20:13 and see that R. Ishmael was being too clever by half. The text just doesn’t say what he says it says.

  5. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    PS — In re my public teaching, I’m pretty sure the Internet constitutes “public.” You’re bringing up points I responded to months ago — in public.

  6. Gary says:

    Again Jay, correct me if I’m wrong but I believe the only time you’ve written online on heterosexual intercourse during menstruation or the remarriage of a divorced couple following the death of her second husband was in response to my repeatedly bringing them up. But my overall point stands: that conservatives today want to ban homosexuality on the basis of the Law of Moses but ignore the other sexual prohibitions in the Law. My comment about public teaching was in reference to any teaching on these matters on the congregational level.

  7. Larry Cheek says:

    The text in scripture which communicates about lying with a same sex partner as a man does with a woman is not restricting the actions involved to a penetration. It would also include fondling (any contact which would arouse desires in the partner). A lack of penetration does not exempt the activity from being classified as sin.

  8. Gary says:

    Jay, I’ve read your response on Leviticus twice and again I’m still not aware of a single instance of the Leviticus homosexuality passages being applied in any specific case to any homosexual act other than anal intercourse over the many centuries since the writing of Leviticus. (Of course all other homosexual acts were forbidden to Jews but on the basis of “Onanism,” the sinful spilling of seed. That’s a different basis than Leviticus.) If you insist on using Leviticus to condemn gays today the burden of proof is on you to show that the Leviticus prohibitions apply to more than anal intercourse.

    More broadly, either Christians today are bound by the Law of Moses today or we are not. Which is it? The Law was given only for the Jews. It was never intended to be universally applied to all people. As far as I can see this question was settled for all time in the first century. If all physical expressions of homosexual love are sinful today as you contend, it cannot be on the basis of Leviticus.

  9. John F says:

    Still waiting to hear of benefits of the “sexual revolution.”

  10. Gary says:

    John F., that’s what that post was about. Read it again. Also talk to some women outside of the homeschooling community and you just might find that they count not having 6, 8 or 12 children as a wonderful benefit!

  11. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    I agree that “lying” with a man as with a woman is not limited to penetration. That’s a very legalistic, rationalized reading, likely imposed on the text to avoid imposing the death penalty.

  12. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Gary wrote,

    If you insist on using Leviticus to condemn gays today the burden of proof is on you to show that the Leviticus prohibitions apply to more than anal intercourse.

    Which is why I quoted three passages from the Talmud and three or four current rabbis agreeing with my interpretation. And I could add a dozen modern commentaries that read Lev 18:22 as I do. In fact, I couldn’t find a single one that agrees with your reading. Not even a footnote.

    The only rabbi I could find agreeing with your view is a bit of a nut — wanting to amend the US Constitution to ban anal intercourse.

    The Jewish Virtual Library supports my interpretation, as well as a long history of banning homosexual conduct by the Jews —

    Among the sexual perversions proscribed as criminal offenses in the moral code of the Torah are homosexual relations between males (Lev. 18:22). Both offending parties are threatened with capital punishment (Lev. 20:13), though minors under 13 years of age are exempt from this as from any other penalty (Sanh. 54a). Talmudic law extends the prohibition, but not the penalty, which is limited to flagellation, also to lesbianism, i.e., homosexual intimacies between women, based on the general warning not to indulge in the abhorrent practices of the Egyptians and the Canaanites (Sifra 9:8). While the laws on both offenses are codified by Maimonides (Yad, Issurei Bi’ah, 1:14; and 21:8), the prohibition of homosexuality proper is omitted from R. Joseph Caro’s Shulhan Arukh. This omission reflects the perceived absence of homosexuality among Jews rather than any difference of views on the criminality of these acts. The Bible refers to actual incidents involving homosexuality only in describing the abominations of the sinful city of Sodom, where the entire population demanded of Lot the surrender of his visitors “that we may know them” (Gen. 19:5), i.e., have carnal knowledge of them (hence the common use of the term “sodomy” for homosexuality), and again in the story of similar conduct by a group of Benjamites in Gibeah, leading to a disastrous civil war (Judg. 19–20). In addition to these isolated cases, the Talmud records that the Egyptian Potiphar purchased Joseph “for himself ” (Sot. 13b), that is, for homosexual purposes (Rashi). For the talmudic period, too, the records know of very few such incidents (see TJ, Sanh. 6:6, 23c; Jos., Ant. 15:25–30). An instructive indication of the rare incidence of homosexuality among Jews may also be found in the interesting history of a legal enactment designed to prevent it. To this end R. Judah forbade two bachelors to sleep together under one blanket (Kid. 4:14); but the view of the sages prevailed that there was no need for such a safeguard against homosexuality (Kid. 82a). Maimonides (Yad, Issurei Bi’ah 22:2) still followed the Talmud in holding that “Jews are not suspect to practice homosexuality,” and therefore permitted two males to be closeted together. By the 16th century conditions had evidently changed to induce Caro, after recording this view, to add: “Nevertheless, in our times, when lewdness is rampant, one should abstain from being alone with another male” (Sh. Ar., EH 24). Yet, a century later R. Joel *Sirkes again suspended the restriction, except as a praiseworthy act of piety, on the ground that “in our lands [Poland] such lewdness is unheard of ” (Bayit Hadash to Tur, EH 24). Rabbinic sources advance various reasons for the strict ban on homosexuality which, incidentally, is regarded as a universal law included among “the Seven Commandments of the Sons of Noah” (Sanh. 57b–58a). It is an unnatural perversion, debasing the dignity of man (Sefer ha-Ḥinnukh, no. 209). Moreover, such acts frustrate the procreative purpose of sex, just as do any other forms of “spilling the seed in vain” (ibid.). A third objection is seen in the damage to family life, by the homosexual abandoning his wife (Tos. and R. Asher to Ned. 51a). Jewish law, then, rejected the view that homosexuality was to be regarded merely as a disease or as morally neutral, categorically rejecting the view that homosexual acts “between two consenting adults” were to be judged by the same criterion as heterosexual marriage – that is, whether they were intended to foster a permanent relation of love. Jewish law holds that no hedonistic ethic, even if called “love,” can justify the morality of homosexuality any more than it can legitimize adultery or incest, however genuinely such acts may be performed out of love and by mutual consent.

    See also —

    Applicability of Biblical death penalty[edit]
    Like many similar commandments, the stated punishment for willful violation is the death penalty. However, even in Biblical times, it was very difficult to get a conviction that would lead to this prescribed punishment. The Jewish Oral Law states that capital punishment would only be applicable if two men were caught in the act of anal sex, if there were two witnesses to the act, if the two witnesses warned the men involved that they committed a capital offense, and the two men — or the willing party, in case of rape — subsequently acknowledged the warning but continued to engage in the prohibited act anyway. In fact, there is no account of capital punishment, in regards to this law, in Jewish history.

    Rabbinic tradition understands the Torah’s system of capital punishment to not be in effect for the past approximately 2,000 years, in the absence of a Sanhedrin and Temple.[4]

    Classical rabbinic Jewish sources do not specifically mention that homosexual attraction is inherently sinful. However, someone who has had homosexual intercourse is considered to have violated a prohibition.[citation needed] If he does teshuva (repentance)—i.e., he ceases his forbidden actions, regrets what he has done, apologizes to God, and makes a binding resolution never to repeat those actions, he is seen to be forgiven by God.[5]

    Lesbian sexual activity[edit]
    Although there is no direct textual prohibition of homosexual acts between women (lesbianism) anywhere in the Torah, sexual liasons between women are widely viewed as forbidden by most rabbis. It is based on a Drash interpretation of the Biblical verse “Do not follow the ways of Egypt where you once lived, nor of Canaan, where I will be bringing you. Do not follow any of their customs.” (Leviticus 18:3).

    A midrash, Sifra Aharei Mot 8:8–9, states that this refers to sexual customs, and that one of those customs was the marriage of women to each other, as well as a man to a woman and to her daughter. Maimonides, in his Mishneh Torah, summarizes the matter as follows:[6]

    For women to be mesollelot [women rubbing genitals against each other] with one another is forbidden, as this is the practice of Egypt, which we were warned against: “Like the practice of the land of Egypt … you shall not do” (Leviticus 18:3). The Sages said [in the midrash of Sifra Aharei Mot 8:8–9], “What did they do? A man married a man, and a woman married a woman, and a woman married two men.” Even though this practice is forbidden, one is not lashed [as for a Torah prohibition] on account of it, since there is no specific prohibition against it, and there is no real intercourse. Therefore, [one who does this] is not forbidden to the priesthood because of harlotry, and a woman is not prohibited to her husband by this, since it is not harlotry. But it is appropriate to administer to them lashings of rebellion [i.e., those given for violation of rabbinic prohibitions], since they did something forbidden. And a man should be strict with his wife in this matter, and should prevent women known to do this from coming to her or from her going to them.

    Although death was only imposed for the sake of anal sex (and then almost never), same sex marriages incurred the penalty of lashing because it was “forbidden”.

  13. Monty says:


    You have the patience of Job and the love of Jesus.

  14. Gary says:

    Jay, according to the Wikipedia article on Homosexuality and Judaism, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism voted 13 to 12 in 2006 that only anal intercourse was forbidden by the Torah for Jewish men. I know for a fact that observant gay Jewish men who are sexually active believe this. So I don’t think the position of limiting the Leviticus 18 prohibition of homosexual intimacy to anal sex is as out of the mainstream as you think.

    I’m no fan of anal intercourse but one aspect of this subject that conservatives ignore is that if it is unnatural and sinful on that account for gays it is also unnatural and sinful for heterosexual couples. I don’t see how it could be natural for heterosexuals but unnatural for homosexuals. The church historically through the centuries condemned it for both.

    The broader and more important issue is that the Law of Moses was given only for the Jewish people. It was never intended to be applied to Gentiles. Unless we want to return to the Jewish expression of Christianity that was seen most prominently in the Jerusalem church before A.D. 70 we have no basis in the NT or in church history to bind the Law, any part of the Law, on Christians today. I believe there is much wisdom for Christians today in the Law of Moses but the wisdom is found in the underlying principles and not in the specific commands. None of us would stand today for a reimposition of the Law of Moses. To take just one example, would we really want to go back to male rapists marrying their female victims? The Law was a great step forward for the Hebrew people thousands of years ago but many of its specifics cannot be reconciled today with a lifestyle based on the life and teachings of Jesus.

Leave a Reply