Thomas B. Dozeman* has conducted one of the more faithful explorations of the text of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 and the related argument of Paul in Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11, and 1 Timothy 1:10. What is generally known as the Holiness Code of Leviticus and the proscriptions of the apostle Paul.
Dozeman begins his exploration by affirming that both the Israelite tradition and the later developing christian tradition place human sexuality within the frame work of creation theology. This theological context is due in part to the belief that the act of sexual union, as the way of producing offspring, is essential to God’s designs for the continuance of creaturely life.
Leviticus 18:22 states, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” Leviticus 20:13 states, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.” Both passages are part of the Holiness Code – a portion of scripture which gives the rules for insuring community and individual holiness.
These texts clearly condemn same sex acts between two males on the ground that such a relationship cannot produce children and thus tears at the fabric of creation upsetting God’s order: a design established with the creation of humans as male and female and the blessing on them to be fertile and fill the land (Genesis 1:24-31).
Here I should add that the trajectory of thought emerging from the Leviticus passages is that any sexual encounter which does not lead to a pregnancy is less then God’s will for the world. Left unanswered are questions relating to couples who cannot biologically reproduce or choose not to reproduce, unfettered procreation in a world where human population is presently tearing at the seams of creation, and, curiously enough, guidance around lesbian coupling.
Paul condemns homosexual relations in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. While supplying a list of those excluded from God’s new reign Paul writes: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, not idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind… “(KJV). Similarly Paul disparages homosexuality in 1 Timothy 1:10 by including “sodomites” (Greek – ajrsenokoitai literally “male bedders”) in a list of those condemned by the law. In these two texts Paul reiterates without reflection the teachings of Leviticus.
It is Paul’s statement in Romans 1:26-27 that demonstrates his own reflection on the subject of queer relations. “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”
Dozeman notes that Paul’s thesis moves the issue from procreation (a concern of creation theology) to an issue of idolatry (a concern of correct worship). Paul argues that humans replace the image of God with the image of themselves’ (idolatry) and then list homosexuality as one of the many examples of this exchange of images. It must also be noted that Paul includes females in the act of homosexuality. Obviously by the time of Paul the female role in reproduction is better understood and since same sex acts among females cannot lead to pregnancy either, females are also condemned along with their male counterparts.
I do not dispute that the Holiness Code and Paul condemn queer relationships. I do want to note that both condemn homosexuality as an act. Neither set of scriptures engage in a reflection of sexuality as part of our psycho-spiritual-physiological makeup. Neither set of scriptures raises an understanding of sexuality as deeply embedded self-identity markers. Rather both sets of scriptures view sex as an act somewhat divorced from the personalities involved in the performance of sexual coupling.
Dozeman draws attention to Paul’s model of theological reflection as portrayed in the Romans passage. In this text Paul takes an injunction from the Holiness Code of Leviticus and applies it to his time using knowledge of nature and general human understanding to create a pronouncement that is set in a different arena of concern, namely correct worship as opposed to creation theology.
Probing this model of theological inquiry, Dozeman explores the relationship between general revelation and special revelation. General revelation refers to Paul’s use of knowledge that is gleaned from nature and human understanding. Special revelation refers to the knowledge of God that is gained through Jesus the Christ. Dozeman concludes “Both the priestly writers and Paul illustrate that changes in human culture influence their understanding of creation. Through the interaction of special and general revelation, however, both past tradition and the dominant culture change.” Dozeman encourages the contemporary church to fashion a new theology of creation and human sexuality with the interplay of special and general revelation in mind.
I humbly add that when two people share their lives part of what is being expressed in their loving is the care of God for them. Even in the lives of queer people the experience and expression of love is constant. Queer loving is a part of God’s challenge to do righteousness/justice just as other forms of loving are a part of that challenge. I do hope that someday the church as a whole, and not just in parts, will support queer folk in our struggle to faithfully express God’s care in our lives and relationships.
* Creation and Procreation in the Biblical Teaching on Homosexuality. Union Seminary Quarterly Review 49 (1995) 169–91