Thursday, November 14, 2019

Homosexuality: What About Shellfish? Or Wearing Garments with Two Kinds of Fabrics?

(Ann Arbor)

This post is only for those who hold the Judeo-Christian Scriptures as authoritative. 

Someone recently presented this argument to me. I've heard it before. It's time to present the other, more biblically accurate, side. Because the argument relies on a misuse of the Bible, while appealing to its authority.

The argument goes like this.

"The prohibition against homosexual practice in ancient Israel was part of the ceremonial, Levitical law, which also prohibited things such as eating shellfish and pork or wearing a garment made of two kinds of fabrics. Obviously, those laws no longer apply to us today." (From Michael Brown, Can You Be Gay and Christian?: Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality, p. 106.)

Michael Brown's response is:

"There were some laws that God gave to Israel to keep them separated from the nations, such as the dietary laws, while other laws were based on universal moral prohibitions that applied to all people, such as laws against murder, adultery, and homosexual practice. These universal moral prohibitions obviously apply to all believers today, while the dietary laws do not." (Ib.)

Brown, who has a PhD in ancient Semitic languages from New York University, and who is arguably one of our greatest Messianic scholars, details this position in Chapter 5: "Levitical Laws and the Meaning of To'Evah (Abomination)."

When I first heard the "shellfish and mixed garments argument," I thought, "Something is wrong with this?" It struck me as hermeneutically naive. If you are going to use this argument in the same-sex discussion, please study it in more depth. Read Brown (and others, like *Robert Gagnon) on this. (It's interesting how these arguments float around in the minds of people who have never studied them, yet are used to support their position. I've done it. I give you permission to let this argument go.)

The prohibition against homosexuality was a universal prohibition. For example, the laws concerning murder are universal, for all people, and not just for Israel. Brown writes:

"How do we know this? It’s simple. The Bible tells us—just to give one example—that God judged Israel for eating unclean animals, but the Bible never tells us that God judged the nations of the world for eating unclean animals. Why? Because it was not intrinsically sinful to eat a pig rather than a cow (although in the ancient world, in particular, it might have been a lot more unhealthy to eat a pig), but it was intrinsically sinful to commit other sins, such as murdering another human being. 
That’s why laws against murder were established by God for all humanity after Noah’s flood, according to Genesis 9:6, whereas God permitted the human race to eat all animals for food (v. 3), as long as the blood was drained. In the same way, the Lord rebuked foreign nations for their sins against one another—acts of murder and violence—because these were wrong for all people, but, as stated, He did not rebuke them for eating animals that were considered unclean for the Israelites. This also carries over to the New Testament, where the authors reiterate God’s universal moral code—laws against murder and adultery, for example—while making clear that food in and of itself doesn’t defile us or make us holy. 

So, to repeat and summarize: there were laws God gave to Israel alone, and there were laws God gave to all people, including Israel, and for the most part, using the entire Bible as our guide, it is easy to see which are which." (Ib., 114)

What about wearing clothes with mixed fabrics? Brown writes:

"God never said that He judged the nations of the world for eating unclean animals or sowing their fields with two different kinds of seeds or wearing garments with mixed fabrics. Nor did He say that the land vomited them out for doing these things. But He did say that about the sins listed in Leviticus 18, including homosexual practice." (Pp. 115-116)

At this point I should just quote Brown's entire chapter. Don't make the shellfish.mixed garments argument any more without reading this.

***
* See Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, especially Chapter 1, "The Witness of the Old Testament." New Testament scholar Jürgen Becker calls Gagnon's book "the most sophisticated and convincing examination of the biblical data for our time."

For example:

"Lev 18:22 occurs in a larger context of forbidden sexual relations that primarily outlaws incest (18:6-18) and also prohibits adultery (18:20), child sacrifice (18:21), and bestiality (18:23). These prohibitions continue to have universal validity in contemporary society. Only the prohibition against having sexual intercourse with a woman "in her menstrual uncleanness" (18:19) does not."