Friday, July 06, 2012

Robert Gagnon's The Bible and Homosexuality - Ancient Near East Culture

Hello Book-Reading Friends:

I'm slowly reading through Robert Gagnon's The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics.

Some thoughts are:

It's very academic, serious and informed scholarship.

In the beginning Gagnon writes about the surrounding culture of ancient Israel. Why? This is socio-cultural, socio-rhetorical work that is needed to understand the meaning of the biblical texts that were written in the midst of that culture. To me it's like this. If, a thousand years from now, someone wanted to understand this note I am writing, they would be helped by looking at how the words I am using are used in my cultural setting.

So, how was homosexuality viewed in the ANE? (Ancient Near East) Gagnon writes:

The Middle Assyrian Laws did not criminalize any consensual homosexual practice.

Homosexual cult prostitution was apparently an accepted part of Mesopotamian society. The masculinity of certain men had been transformed (Kindle Locations 1062-1063)
The Levitical laws, however, criminalized not only the behavior of all homosexual rapists but also the behavior of both partners in a consensual act of same-sex intercourse. Both have committed an abominable act… The level at which the Levitical laws stigmatize and criminalize all homosexual intercourse, while not discontinuous with some trends elsewhere, goes far beyond anything else currently known in the ancient Near East. (Kindle Locations 1071-1073)

In the section after this Gagnon looks at key Old Testament passages relating to homosexuality such as, e.g., Noah and Ham, and Sodom and Gomorrah.