Friday, August 29, 2008

Is it really about gay sex?

An interesting, if old post, on the meaning of Lev. 18:22 and 20:13. You can find it here.

Leviticus 18.22 and 20.13

As to Leviticus 20:13, the context is Leviticus 18:22. Chapter 20 is later, a way of making the half-forgotten Taboos of Lev 18 into a political programme; Social Engineering. Utopia.
The Sachsen Spiegel of the Jews, as Dr Martin Luther rightly called it.
So it's about Lev 18. This chapter consists of a frame: the dreamed Conquest of yore, being the Return in late Persian times from Babylonia.
The Ezraic Ethnic Reform of 398 BC.
The contents within this frame seems to be some ancient cultic Taboos, maybe from the First Temple. Hence (probably) the name Levitcus - but it seems we don't really know who these might have been...
Taboos are material (persons, places, tissues and so on), irrational (no one in Antiquity ever dreamt of "explaining" them with triquines, or even of dating them) and lastly specific.
The Social legislation of 16th century Geneva and other cities is, however, abstract (= post Scholasticism), rational (academic Neo-Platonism) and general (= useful).
The one is made into the other by way of 3 categories:
Civil law, Ceremonial law and Moral law.
Now "moral" is a Scholastic Abstract Concept, not to be found in the Bible – it's 12th century. Moreover, there is no such division in the Bible.
Try dividing Lev 18 without getting odd bits to the side!
Now as to the meaning of Lev 18.22, I'm not sure that we will ever know what this was in 1st Temple days, if be.
The 2nd century BC Septuagint (LXX) says one thing and the 2nd century Vetus latina of course the same. The LXX:
kaì metà / ársenos / ou koimethese / koíten gynaikós. Bdélugma gàr estín.
And with / a male / don't put yourself in / the bed of a wife. "Impurity" is therein.
Which would suggest that there is something amiss with the bed: "Impurity" is therein. Not with the parties.
Now, who the parties were we don't know. Nor the wife. Levites?
There are various speculations that this might have something to do with sacral prostitution. But we don't seem to know.
The 9th century Biblia Hebraïca says something slightly different, but the text seems to be damaged; there must an im missing. And the custom of the Mazorets is not supplying even "obvious" faults.
They do not believe in Indo-European Integrism, the Sufficiency and Harmony of the Holy Scripture in the singular, fallen from the Skies.
The Mazorets believed that this Holy Writ has been altered so many times by unwise people, that we will spoil it irretrievably if we change one iota more.
The In-Sufficiency and Dis-Harmony if the Holy Scriptures. It goes like this:
v'et zakar / lo tishkav / mishk'vey (pl.) ishah; toevah hi (f.).
and with a male / do not lie / "the lyings down" of a woman; it’s an abomination.
Also, interestingly, the LXX bed is in the plural; bed-s (or "lyings down") in the Hebrew.
"The lyings down" is a conjecture because of the missing in. Otherwise it would quite simply be bed(-s) as in the LXX.
The 12 century Parisian Versio vulgata, that is in this case the monks at Saint Victor near Paris, who dabbled in Hebrew, changed the 1000 years old, very reliable, Latin translation with the help of the missing Hebrew im.
They also changed the verb koimaomai into commit, the LXX bed into coitus and the wife into an adjective; womanly – indicating endless lasciviousness…
The result is that the Versio vulgata says the following:
cum / masculo / non commiscearis / coitu femineo, quia abominatio est.
with / a male / don’t commit / womanly coitus, for it is an abomination.
So, however this is supposed to read, 12th century celibatarians changed it into Neo-Platonist abstinence.
Don’t commit womanly coitus! underpinning the 2nd Lateran (1139) teachings on Mandatory Celibacy for priests.
Say no more…
As to what Lev 18 once might have been, taboo-wise, no idea. The differences between the LXX and the Hebrew might simply be that the LXX is closer to the reality of the Ideal Society intended by the framing and redacting in Ezraic time of ancient 1st Temple Taboos.
So – accepting the idea that the original taboo once had something to do with sacral prostitution – the change of the plural mishkvey in the Hebrew to singular koíten in the LXX, might reflect the change from no longer existant sacral prostitution to something more domestic.
But there seems to be no way to know.
So for a conclusion of sorts; what we have are 4 different sayings.
The 1st Temple Taboos turned into the Social Politics of Persian inspired Ethnic Ezraism, the LXX domestic realities don’t go to bed with a man in your wife’s bed, its 2nd century Old Latin translation, the 9th Century Biblia Hebraïca missing im ”layings down”, and finally the 12 Century Scholastic manipulations of St Victor, promoting abstinence in the pro Mandatory Celibacy Parisian Versio vulgata.
But the LXX is both the very first translation - and as such a very valuable interpretation - and the very first assembled Bible.
The Biblia Hebraïca is a thousand years younger - and quite a lot happened in that Millennium: the intolerance of the Byzantine Empire (persecutions), the Integrism of Islam (trouble with the spoken Torah) the Ikonoklasm 726-843, and so on.
So I would go for the LXX: and with a male don't put yourself in the bed of a wife, (cultic) impurity is therein.
Quite useless.
Oh yes, incidentally, Leviticus 20.13 has never been applied in Judaism, only in the European 2nd Millennium from around 1200 on. Unsystematically at first and then more systematically in the Italian City States of the Renaissance.
By then of course, people were burnt at the stake, for someone in late 12th century Paris declared that Leviticus forbade the spilling of blod...

9 comments:

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Wonderful study into the text, Robert.

Well, and let's go one step further. Even if the text meant exactly what we see in today's English, why is this any more of an abomination than all the other proscriptions in Leviticus, like eating the meat of my sacrifices three days later, eating shellfish, or wearing cotton-poly blend? Why is this particular one of such interest?

For that matter, I have a rash at the moment. If I showed it to you, would you make me unclean? (Then I would not have to go in to work, ha ha)

I would argue this one gets all the press b/c of what Louie Crew likes to call the "ick" factor. Some people think about gay sex and it seems "icky"to them, therefore it's a lot easier to be wound up about that rather than a pile of steam and eat shrimp!

But I am like you, I am not sure we will ever really know what that was supposed to say...

Robert said...

I should have been more clear. That post is not my work. The link take you to the author. But that said, I regret to inform you that I'm out of the rash inspection business! :)

In addition, why do we skip over the punishment?

FranIAm said...

If you find you have an hour this podcast is sooooo worth listening to. I think so anyway.

Great post.

Robert said...

I do subscribe to SOF now. I will have to go back up load that one on my ipod. Thanks for pointing it out.

FranIAm said...

I found it to be most compelling. Even the guy that was to the right on it all said some things that touched me, so I did not just feel angry.

The woman was amazing.

Doorman-Priest said...

Came to this late. Good exegesis Robert.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

How ever did you find my Blog?

Not to mention that it has been out of function for a couple of years (due to Google).

I'm flattered!

;=)

Robert said...

Hi Gorhan

Well I don't know why but when I click your name it takes me to your blog and there is a post there from last month. Maybe someone else is making posts on your blog!

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

No, it's me.

Some one somewhere directed me to a Google site where I was able to change the password (which hadn't worked for 2years - and still doesn't work for commenting).

So now I'm at it again ;=)

And still flattered!