WHERE WE ARE
In Part 8 of this series , I presented some general points in support of my fourth reason for doubting the view that we should condemn homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus:
4. Leviticus is NOT an historically reliable account of actual events.
In Part 9 of this series , I presented a number of examples of contradictions between Leviticus and other books in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) to provide additional evidence in support of this fourth reason.
There are dozens of contradictions between Leviticus and the other books in the Torah. Nearly all of these contradictions cast doubt on the historical reliability of the book of Leviticus and also cast doubt on the historicity of the books of the Torah in general.
If the book of Leviticus is historically UNRELIABLE or if it contains a number of false or dubious historical claims and assumptions, then we can draw two conclusions: (1) we cannot rely on Leviticus to present accurate information about what Jehovah communicated to Moses (even if Jehovah actually existed and if Moses was an actual person), and (2) Leviticus was NOT inspired by God. Both conclusions are good reasons to reject using the content of Leviticus as a basis for moral condemnation of homosexual sex.
Because the evidence for my eighth reason is similar to the evidence that I have previously given in support of my fourth reason, I am going to skip over the fifth, sixth, and seventh reasons (for now), and move on to supporting my eighth reason:
8. Leviticus contains logical contradictions.
I will use more examples from Dr. Steven DiMattei . He has identified and explained 74 different contradictions between passages in Leviticus and other passages in the Bible. Of those 74 contradictions, 67 contradictions are between passages in Leviticus and passages in other books in the Torah (i.e. Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), books that are traditionally ascribed to Moses. Some of the 74 contradictions, however, are internal contradictions, contradictions between one part of Leviticus and another part of Leviticus.
1 The Lord called Moses, and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying,
2 “Speak to the people of Israel, and say to them, When any man of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of cattle from the herd or from the flock.
(Leviticus 1:1-2, Revised Standard Version)
37 This is the law of the burnt offering, of the cereal offering, of the sin offering, of the guilt offering, of the consecration, and of the peace
38 which the Lord commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day that he commanded the people of Israel to bring their offerings to the Lord, in the wilderness of Sinai.
(Leviticus 7:37-38, Revised Standard Version)
The book of Leviticus, although written by a single priestly guild—the Aaronides—does nonetheless exhibit editorial reworkings and insertions of texts most likely written at different periods.
Two traditions seem to be intertwined in the opening chapters of Leviticus—one which acknowledges that the sacrificial law code was given at mount Sinai, and one which stipulates that it was given to Moses at the Tent of Meeting. Indeed one could argue that the Tent of Meeting sat at the foot of Sinai so there really isn’t much of a contradiction here. But in actuality it does look as though we have two different textual traditions, which were later edited together. Here’s how they might have originally stood.
Exodus 40:34-35 relates how, after the Tent of Meeting is erected on the New Year, Moses was not able to go into the Tent because of Yahweh’s presence. In Leviticus 1:1, we are informed that Yahweh spoke to Moses “from the Tent of Meeting.” Furthermore, the sacrificial legislation in Leviticus 1-5 is directed to the people: “Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them…” It is quite possible that this body of literature once existed as a separate document which instructed the people about bringing their sacrificial animals to the Aaronid priest before Yahweh’s altar, and in each case—the burnt-offering, the peace-offering, and the sin-offering—what to do.
Leviticus 6-7 is directed not to the people, but only to Aaron and his sons. In Leviticus 6:1 Yahweh tells Moses to instruct Aaron and his sons about how to perform each sacrifice. The sacrificial descriptions in Leviticus 6 & 7 are solely directed at the Aaronid priesthood, and they detail how to perform each sacrifice.
It is not a coincidence, then, that each of these two texts written for/to two different groups also identifies two different locales for the giving of these laws: from the Tent of Meeting (Lev 1-5) and at Sinai (Lev 6-7).
Either Jehovah contradicted himself about where he gave Moses commands about sacrifices, meaning that Jehovah is NOT God, or else the book of Leviticus gives us FALSE information about where Jehovah gave Moses commands about sacrifices, meaning that Leviticus is an unreliable source of information about Jehovah’s interactions with Moses.
24 If any man lies with her, and her impurity falls on him, he shall be unclean seven days; and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean.
(Leviticus 15:24, New Revised Standard Version, emphasis added)
18 If a man lies with a woman having her sickness and uncovers her nakedness, he has laid bare her flow and she has laid bare her flow of blood; both of them shall be cut off from their people.
(Leviticus 20:18, New Revised Standard Version, emphasis added)
In Exodus Chapter 31, the similar phrase “cut off from among the people” clearly means put to death:
14 You shall keep the sabbath, because it is holy for you; everyone who profanes it shall be put to death; whoever does any work on it shall be cut off from among the people.
15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall be put to death. (Exodus 31:14-15, New Revised Standard Version, emphasis added)
The similar phrase “cut off from the people” appears in Leviticus Chapter 17:
3 If anyone of the house of Israel slaughters an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or slaughters it outside the camp,
4 and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, to present it as an offering to the Lord before the tabernacle of the Lord, he shall be held guilty of bloodshed; he has shed blood, and he shall be cut off from the people. (Leviticus 17:3-4, New Revised Standard Version, emphasis added)
Here again, this phrase appears to mean “put to death”:
He shall be cut off by death, either by the hand of God, in case men do not know it or neglect to punish it, or by men, if the fact was public and evident. (Matthew Poole’s Commentary)
… and that man shall be cut off from among his people; not merely excommunicated from the church of God, deprived of the privileges of his house, but even put to death; for such a man was guilty of blood, that is, of death, and therefore to be put to death either by the hand of the civil magistrate, if his case was known and came under their cognizance, or by the immediate hand of God by a premature death, which seems to be chiefly intended; (Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible)
Leviticus Chapter 18 uses the phrase “cut off from their people” the exact same phrase found in Leviticus 20: 18:
29 For whoever commits any of these abominations shall be cut off from their people.
30 So keep my charge not to commit any of these abominations that were done before you, and not to defile yourselves by them: I am the Lord your God.
(Leviticus 18:29-30, New Revised Standard Version, emphasis added)
Some commentaries interpret this phrase in this passage to mean that the perpetrator is to be put to death:
29. the souls that commit them shall be cut off—This strong denunciatory language is applied to all the crimes specified in the chapter without distinction: to incest as truly as to bestiality, and to the eleven cases of affinity [Le 18:7-16], as fully as to the six of consanguinity [Le 18:17-20]. Death is the punishment sternly denounced against all of them. No language could be more explicit or universal; none could more strongly indicate intense loathing and abhorrence. (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary )
…and will cut him off from among his people: that is, supposing him to have been guilty of the above horrid crime, and there being not sufficient evidence given of it by witnesses, or the magistrates negligent in doing their duty; and the matter being known to God the omniscient, he, according this declaration, would deal with him himself, and cut him off out of the land of the living, from among his relations, friends, and neighbours, by his own immediate hand; otherwise the law before provided a penalty, which is death by stoning, whereby he would be effectually cut off from his people, and deprived of all natural, civil, and religious privileges in this life… (Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible)
Some commentaries, however, interpret the phrase “cut off from their people” in this passage to mean excommunication (see for example, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible). Whether the phrase “cut off from their people” in Leviticus 20:18 means put to death or excommunicated, it is clear that this is a more severe punishment is decreed for sex between a man an a woman during her period than what was previously stated in Leviticus 15:24. So, either Jehovah contradicted himself in Leviticus, which means that Jehovah is NOT God, or else, Leviticus contains FALSE information about the words and messages of Jehovah, which means that Leviticus is an unreliable source of messages from Jehovah.
(Ex 22:18; Lev 20:15-16 vs Lev 18:22-23 vs Deut 27:21)
Our oldest text, E, clearly assigns death for this hideous act: “Anyone who lies with an animal shall be put to death” (Ex 22:18). Clear and simple.
Likewise, Leviticus 20 deems this act punishable by death:
…What does it mean to be “cut off”? Presumably, we would understand that the individual is cut off from the people of Yahweh, and perhaps also the land that Yahweh gave to his people according to this writer. …
…these “crimes” were punishable by expulsion/exile from the community.
Here is the relevant passage from Leviticus Chapter 18:
19 You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness.
20 You shall not have sexual relations with your kinsman’s wife, and defile yourself with her.
21 You shall not give any of your offspring to sacrifice them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.
22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
23 You shall not have sexual relations with any animal and defile yourself with it, nor shall any woman give herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it: it is perversion.
26 But you shall keep my statutes and my ordinances and commit none of these abominations, either the citizen or the alien who resides among you
29 For whoever commits any of these abominations shall be cut off from their people.
(Leviticus 18:19-23, 26, and 29, New Revised Standard Version, emphasis added)
If “cut off from their people” means “exiled”, then either Jehovah contradicted himself, and is thus NOT God, or the book of Leviticus provides us with FALSE information about what Jehovah has declared, meaning that Leviticus is an unreliable source of information about messages from Jehovah.
However, if “cut off from their people” means “put to death”, then although this particular example would not involve a contradiction, it would provide additional support for contradiction #185 discussed above, because if the phrase “cut off from their people” in Leviticus 18 means “put to death”, then that is powerful evidence that the phrase “cut off from their people” in Leviticus 20 also means “put to death”.
(Lev 19:2 vs Lev 8; Num 3)
There is the literature that is P proper, Leviticus 1-16, and then there is what has come to be labeled as the Holiness code or H, Leviticus 17-25. The latter, H, exhibits some minor differences when compared to its parent tradition P.
In P, there is a heightened emphasis on the holiness of the Aaronid priests, and only the Aaronid priests (Ex 40:12-16; Lev 8:13, etc.; see #148-149, #153-154). Only the Aaronid priests may minister before Yahweh, enter the Tent of Meeting, and touch the holy sancta. In other words, in this strand of the P source, even the Levites, who minister to the Aaronids, are not allowed to enter the Tent of Meeting nor touch any of the Tabernacle’s sacred objects (see particularly Num 3; #152).
In H, however, the term holy (qodesh) is extended in its use to include all the people. This best comes through in the repeated refrain throughout H: “You should be holy, because I, Yahweh, your god, am holy.” This declarative statement is the heading of H’s moral legislation, i.e., the Holiness code. In other words, all the moral or ethical legislation in this strand of the Priestly source stress that any violation of Yahweh’s commandments is in reality a breach from their, the people’s, state of holiness.
MORAL CONTRADICTIONS IN LEVITICUS
I have previously focused mainly on factual and historical contradictions between Leviticus and the other books of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), and between different passages within the book of Leviticus. But there are some striking contradictions between some of the moral principles asserted in Leviticus, and some of the laws and practices promoted in Leviticus. Let’s begin with some of the moral principles asserted in Leviticus:
18. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself...
(Leviticus 19:18, New Revised Standard Version)
33. When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.
34. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt…
(Leviticus 19:33-34, New Revised Standard Version)
These are admirable principles that modern educated people find appealing. But many of the laws and practices promoted in Leviticus are clearly contrary to these lofty moral principles. God, if God exists, is perfectly good and is all knowing, so God would not teach such lofty moral principles in Chapter 19 of Leviticus, and then also teach laws and practices that are clearly contrary to these principles. Thus, this is powerful evidence that the book of Leviticus was NOT inspired by God, and thus we have another good reason to reject the condemnation of homosexual sex by the book of Leviticus.
According to Leviticus, a child who curses his/her parents should be put to death:
All who curse father or mother shall be put to death…
(Leviticus 20:9, New Revised Standard Version)
A child who curses his/her parents should be punished or corrected, but putting a child to death for such misbehavior is clearly the OPPOSITE of loving that child, and is clearly the OPPOSITE of loving the child as one loves oneself. Nobody wants to be treated with such cruelty and violence for losing one’s temper and saying something mean or disrespectful. So, this law is CONTRARY to the moral principle taught in Leviticus 19:18, and thus the book of Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.
According to Leviticus, if a man has sex with another man’s wife, then both that man and the wife should be put to death:
If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death.
(Leviticus 20:10, New Revised Standard Version)
Many Christians believe that only people who are married to each other should have sex, and that it is bad for a marriage for the husband or the wife to have sex with someone else other than their spouse. It is NOT obvious that this belief is true. Some people appear to find happiness in life by having sex with others but never getting married, and some people appear to find happiness in life by getting married and yet sometimes having sex with someone else other than their spouse.
But suppose for the sake of argument that the traditional Christian view is correct, and that people would in general be happier if they only had sex with someone with whom they were married. Nevertheless, it is obviously tempting, even for devout Christian believers, to sometimes have sex with someone who is not their spouse. Given that this can be a great temptation, a reasonable husband or wife would want their spouse to have some grace and mercy on them if they gave into this temptation once or twice in a lifetime.
Since any reasonable married Christian would hope and desire their spouse to forgive them if they did give in to this temptation once or twice, the principle that one should love others the way one loves oneself, would require that a married Christian be willing to forgive this failure of his/her spouse. In any case, no reasonable Christian believer would want (or expect) his/her spouse to KILL him/her for giving into such a temptation. At the worst, the offended spouse would be expected to leave the relationship and divorce the offending spouse.
To desire and seek the EXECUTION and DEATH of one’s spouse simply because he/she gave into the powerful temptation to have sex with someone else, is the OPPOSITE of loving that spouse, and the OPPOSITE of loving that spouse the way one one loves oneself. So, a law requiring the EXECUTION of both the offending spouse and the sexual partner of that spouse is CONTRARY to the moral principle asserted in Leviticus 19:18, and thus God did NOT inspire the book of Leviticus. So we have another good reason to reject the teaching of Leviticus on homosexual sex.
The book of Leviticus clearly teaches that it is OK to enslave foreigners but NOT to enslave fellow Israelites, and that it is OK to mistreat foreign slaves but NOT to mistreat servants who are Israelites:
39 If any who are dependent on you become so impoverished that they sell themselves to you, you shall not make them serve as slaves.
40 They shall remain with you as hired or bound laborers. They shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee.
41 Then they and their children with them shall be free from your authority; they shall go back to their own family and return to their ancestral property.
42 For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt [i.e. Israelites]; they shall not be sold as slaves are sold.
43 You shall not rule over them with harshness, but shall fear your God.
44 As for the male and female slaves whom you may have, it is from the nations around you that you may acquire male and female slaves.
45 You may also acquire them from among the aliens residing with you, and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property.
46 You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property. These you may treat as slaves, but as for your fellow Israelites, no one shall rule over the other with harshness.
(Leviticus 25:39-46, New Revised Standard Version)
This is clearly CONTRARY to the moral principles above that require Israelites to “love the alien as yourself” and that aliens “shall be to you as the citizen among you”.
Leviticus Chapter 25 teaches that Israelites are to be treated much better than “aliens” who reside among the Israelites and foreigners from other countries. Aliens may be purchased as slaves, treated as property, and may be ruled over with harshness. Fellow Israelites, however, cannot be purchased as slaves, or treated as property, and are not to be ruled over with harshness. Thus, what Leviticus Chapter 25 teaches is CLEARLY CONTRARY to the moral principles that are taught in Leviticus 19:33-34.
God, if God exists, is perfectly good and is all knowing, so God would NOT blatantly contradict himself in this way. This is another powerful piece of evidence showing that Leviticus was NOT inspired by God, and thus that we should ignore the teachings of Leviticus about homosexual sex.