LITERAL Truth? No, in context! No....
October 19, 2004 9:46 AM   Subscribe

Same Sex Relationships in The Bible "The Bible describes three emotionally close relationships between two people of the same gender. They appear to have progressed well beyond a casual friendship."
posted by troutfishing (21 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

That's very interesting. But when the Bible is so specific and unambiguous about the evils of homosexuality, you can understand why many people overlook these subtle hints.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:56 AM on October 19, 2004

here is more
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 10:09 AM on October 19, 2004

Cool! How come they never taught us that in Sunday School?:-)
posted by orange swan at 10:11 AM on October 19, 2004

They were clearly homophobic.
posted by troutfishing at 10:24 AM on October 19, 2004

Bible is so specific and unambiguous about the evils of homosexuality

Not necessarily. There is of course, much disagreement on this, but quite a few biblical scholars look at the passages in Romans, as more of a condemnation of idolatry (putting an unhealthy emphasis on any kind of sex to the point where it substitutes for worship of the almighty) than a specific condemnation of homosexuality.

Similarly, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah speaks more of the idea of domination and the tradition of raping vanquished soldiers as a form of domination and humiliation than merely about sexuality. Remember, Lot offered his daughters to the angry mob rather than have them rape his male guests. Nice guy, huh?
posted by psmealey at 10:31 AM on October 19, 2004

psmealey - good point.

orange swan - I have to apologize. My reply there was unfair to all and - in reality - that's a very common question which points to a province in the realm of the psychology of addiction that is so rife with fear and so deeply problematic for many that it ruins lives. You see, many people can't discuss the issue of homosexuality in the Bible with a clear head because they are deeply torn up inside and worried sick about getting stoned to death if anyone were to discover their secret addiction to eating shellfish - which is an abomination in the eyes of God and punishable by death.
posted by troutfishing at 10:36 AM on October 19, 2004

Not to imply that this was your intention, but as far as strategies for fighting Christian anti-gay bigotry, I don't see much value in using liberal Biblical apologetics, bending over backwards to try to portray the Bible as something other than the homophobic document that it clearly is. Add Pretty_Generic's observation above to the observation that people will read whatever they want into the Bible (including liberals, obviously) and this approach starts looking pretty useless.

As homosexuality becomes more acceptable in the wider culture (and that seems to be happening at a decent pace), Christianity will suffer embarrassment to the degree that it continues with the homophobic crap. Eventually the Biblical proclamations against homosexuality will be treated the same way as the calls for adulterers to be stoned to death (i.e. viewed as a curious anachronism). Either that or Christianity will simply become irrelevant in American moral life (which would be my preference, but I try to be realistic).
posted by boredomjockey at 10:39 AM on October 19, 2004

boredomjockey, I agree that this approach doesn't hold much value for those that don't put much stock in the Bible, but for those that do, and still can't abide homophobia, you can make a fairly persuasive case that the people that would use it to propagate bigotry and hatred are the ones that don't understand scripture.
posted by psmealey at 10:57 AM on October 19, 2004

This sounds like relationships in many other epics (even Lord of the Rings) where deep friendships are formed. This may be sexual, but it's more likely to be a bond formed by hardships (Ruth and Naomi's husbands had both died). Ruth later married Boaz, so she wasn't completely converted to carpet munchery.

Regardless, I think we have a very different view of close relationships and too quickly brand any closeness between members of the same sex as homosexual. Did you have a best friend of the same sex when you were younger?

Even if these characters engaged in homosexual actions, what's the point of arguing about it? We'll never know and you're definitely not going to change a christian's mind.

On preview: boredomjockey: agreed.
posted by zelphi at 10:58 AM on October 19, 2004

> Ruth later married Boaz, so she wasn't completely converted to carpet munchery.

This is such a completely contemporary narrow view of human sexual behavior -- shared, by the way, by many gay people these days.

That's one of my problems with the whole "Don't be hatin' us, we can't HELP ourselves, it's genetic!" argument in favor of gay tolerance.

Many people, if not most, fool around with both genders over the course of their lives -- and I don't mean in prison. Many of the guys I made love with over the years were primarily "carpet munchers," and the vast majority of those experiences came out of deep personal friendship and ended with orgasms. Genetic? Sure, what isn't? But insisting that people are binary, and that this binary schema is strictly determined, is like claiming, "I just can't eat chocolate ice cream -- I'm a vanilla man all the way, it's just my genes."
posted by digaman at 12:16 PM on October 19, 2004

For me, being a bit of a liberal biblical quaker-type, the scriptures are a flawed, complex document that was inspired by God and have been filtered through the morals and prejudices of man. the beauty of the document is that it holds such complexity and universal wisdom that indeed, it CAN be interpreted differently by those who choose to study it. And this is not bending it to one's whim, but rather appreciating it for what it is to YOU.

Calling the Bible a "homophobic document" is kinda dramatic don't you think? i mean all things considered that's a pretty minor part of the message it contains.

troutfishing, the passage in Leviticus is a part of a litany of rules and orders that seem silly nowadays, (unless, of course, you ever ate some bad shellfish). The verse there which argues that 'man lying with another man is an abomination' on close inspection really appears to be a condemnation of a man subordinating another man, sexually or otherwise. In other words, it's about preserving the patriarchy via not making other men your bitch.

of course that stuff is all old testament, which is sketchily parabolic at best.

zelphi, don't lump all christians together. that's painting with a seriously large brush.
posted by glenwood at 12:23 PM on October 19, 2004

I don't want to throw us off topic here, but basically exists as a cult apologist depot run to defend various predatory wackjobs.

But even cult members come up with interesting theological ideas sometimes.
posted by inksyndicate at 12:30 PM on October 19, 2004

With the caveat that I don't think that there's anything sinful about homosexuality, I have to say that calling these three relationships homosexual is far-fetched. If one of my students were writing a paper contending that one of these relationships was homosexual (I'm an English teacher), I'd have to point out to them that the theory is just not supported by the text or the context.

I'm reminded of something C.S. Lewis wrote:

"Those who cannot conceive of Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend."

One of my closest friends, about whom I could say "As the mother loveth her only son, so did I love thee" is gay, and we were roommates in college for four years. I am not gay, and he and I remain close friends and have never had even the hint of a romantic anything. When he came out to me, he let me know he wasn't attracted to me, and to my knowledge he never has been. He is like a brother to me.
Someone using this website's method would, of course, assume we were sleeping togther, which makes the theory's authors more like gossips than serious Biblical scholars.
posted by eustacescrubb at 1:16 PM on October 19, 2004

inksyndicate - well, waddayouknow ? I'm glad you investigated. That'll remind me to go into stuff I post - even somewhat whimsically - deeper than 1 ply. It could have been far worse than Scientology even....

So, what would we call that ? "Cultwashing" ?

"troutfishing, the passage in Leviticus is a part of a litany of rules and orders that seem silly nowadays" - yes, I know there were solid reasons, reasons of health, for Hebraic rules concerning what was Kosher which now seem silly to many. "The scriptures are a flawed, complex document that was inspired by God and have been filtered through the morals and prejudices of man." - my view as well - for a contextualized, non-literal interpretation of the Bible or, for that matter, any religious text from any religion : but fringe Dominion/Reconstructionist/Postmillenialist theologians given to literalist interpretations of the Bible, and who have an inordinate amount of influence in current US government, are, even as we type, working out the minutia of how Biblical punishments of stoning, and prescriptions concerning shellfish, are to be meted out and administered in the coming America theocracy.

They probably won't be able to force all of America to keep Kosher, but they could inspire some pretty creepy legislation nonetheless

Boogah boogah !

eustacescrubb - OK, they're probably pushing the point a little.
posted by troutfishing at 1:18 PM on October 19, 2004

I'm going to self-link here, but I think this is worth it - I want to add that I think the reasons conservative Christians see homosexuality as a deal-breaker have nothing to do with their stated reasons (i.e. that the Bible tells them so) and so confronting them with other Biblical evidence, even if you had all the evidence in the world, would not change thier minds. The battle needs to be fought over ground that will be worth winning - in this case the issue is, I think, that the culture of conservative Chritians in this country encourages broken marriages, and being angry at gay folks is a scapegoat. Here's the self-link, to an essay in which I go into this with much greater detail.
posted by eustacescrubb at 1:24 PM on October 19, 2004

When the topic of interpretation and the Bible comes up often I wonder what some of the Bible as a literal record or historical document folks would think of Fearful Symmetry and by extension Blake or Frye? Add to that The Great Code and of course the followup Words with Power. When I disussed these books with an evangelical associate of mine he spoke of false intellectuals and the like, which I thought was rather dismissive and simply nonsense. I never did get the Great Code back. Of course, 'the gays' were also brought up in each contentious but civil discussion.
posted by juiceCake at 1:56 PM on October 19, 2004

eustace - and if you were my toucher, if you handed this back with the note "the text doesn't support this," we would have words. Words, I say.

Look. If you're going to criticize this on purely exegetical grounds, you're going to have to be a little more rigorous. When he (or she) starts going into the translations from ancient Hebrew and discussing how later versions have words put in italics to denote that the transcriptionist made them up, those are points of evidence that you can't dismiss out of hand. Stated another way, the arguments presented here go well beyond "they were good friends - a little too good if you ask me." He's presenting specific arguments for why he thinks it went beyond being buddies. Such as his argument that the comparison to a female only makes sense in sexual terms, since he holds that men and woman only interacted in a sexual context. If you don't think that's the case, that's cool, but you can't just blow it off.

If you want to dismiss it on grounds entirely unrelated to exegesis, that makes sense to me. I'm just reacting to your statement that "the text doesn't support this" because he makes a case that it does. :)

Not that it really matters, because yeah, it's not like Falwell is going to go "woah! I was totally wrong! Sorry folks, what you do in the privacy of your own home is none of my business."
posted by kavasa at 4:25 PM on October 19, 2004

That was a nice little self link, eustacescrubb. Thanks.
posted by interrobang at 6:10 PM on October 19, 2004

eustacescrubb - I was considering a post which embodied many of the points of yours which you mentioned in that notable essay , but "Same Sex Relationships in the Bible" appealed to my sense of whimsical mischief.

I suppose it all worked out for the best though and, for the record - your knowledge of Christian theology makes, of me, a little child. That was a fun read. Thanks.
posted by troutfishing at 7:14 PM on October 19, 2004

This particular link is cool to those of us who agree, but I fear easily dismissed/debunked/argued with by those who don't. The more comprehensive argument is this:

Christians arguing against homosexuality use three passages:

Leviticus, which is a clear denunciation but the most flawed for reasons that are obvious to anyone with a knowledge of the book.

Sodom and Gomorrah, which is the root of our term sodomy, but in CONTEXT is more about hospitality than homosexuality, in ancient times the lesson of "don't let people rape your houseguests" was somewhat more relevant in the days before motels. Telling them to take his virgin daughters instead removed the idea of "we can rape these guys because we'll never have to deal with consequences or be reminded of our actions because they're gone" -- if the story was about homosexuality, the fact that no one except lot offered hospitality wouldn't be included. Look at the story of Baucis and Philemon for a comparison.

A passage in Romans, the only New Testament mention -- you have to look at this as something written to the Romans, who engaged in homosexual sex adulterously and frequently with underaged male prostitutes and slaves. Some have argued that this denunciation actually refers specifically to the practice of having sex with underaged male prostitutes.
posted by dagnyscott at 12:40 PM on October 20, 2004

dagnyscott - now there's a comment! Thanks.
posted by troutfishing at 3:38 PM on October 20, 2004

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