Diversity: new solutions, new problems

Finnish scholar Joanna Töyräänvuori has convincingly demonstrated that Leviticus 18,22, a passage that is commonly, not to say „notoriously“, used to underpin the Bible’s alleged verdict against homosexuality, actually reads: „You shall not lie with a male in the bed of a woman“, which means that it prohibits two men from having sex with the same woman, and does not refer to homosexual acts.

That insight is very supportive to the development of a due novel anti-homophobic Christian theology. With Töyräänvuori’s reading for several philological and cultural-historical reasons inevitably having to push through, gay people are rightly „acquitted by the Bible“, as the Bible is not interested in any hypothetical problem about homosexuality.

Which, however, is not to be misunderstood as a „glorification of the biblical world“: Rather, I’m afraid it would have been so mandatory to hide homosexuality in Ancient Israel that there was no societal problem with it for the simple reason that it was publicly invisible anyway. But to me this sad suspicion is not even the biggest downside of Töyräänvuori’s discovery yet, alas.

The interpretation that a woman should not have two male sexual partners – „within a narrow time frame“, one may add – all the more clearly points to a deep-rooted racist motivation behind Leviticus’ „sanctity legislation“: „The Israelite race shall be kept pure.“ Some of this connection is explained by typical Iron-Age assumptions about the dynamics of biology, as Töyräänvuori shows. It’s all about getting „racially proper offspring“. Homosexuality is an irrelevant topic in that context – whereas dehumanizing condescension regarding supposed ethnic inferiority of every societal-cultural, especially religious and political „collective otherness“ is the comparatively far more virulent issue, looked at from a reproductive angle that is inevitably „identitarian“ in the Torah.

So, what in following the Töyräänvuori reading we „purchase“ instead by „bartering away“ gay suffering is a significantly increased issue with blunt ancient racism in the Bible. But the latter is the far more honest theological fight to take up.

Jesus from Nazareth took up precisely that latter fight, and he did so pointedly as a Jew who never believed to become un-Jewish by doing so – and as a man in whom homophobic aversions are simply unimaginable.

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