A grammatical–historical critique of the pro-gay hermeneutic in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13
Christopher, Mark Wayne
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Arguably, no ethical issue has dominated the recent cultural landscape more than that of homosexuality and same-sex unions. This one issue has been at the forefront of the moral horizon for the past twenty years and has not left the church unaffected. In the ongoing debate that surrounds this topic, the Bible figures prominently. The matter of what the Bible does or does not say regarding homosexuality serves as the flash point for the disputations that follow. Pro-gay advocates rightly acknowledge the role the Bible has played in western thinking regarding sexual ethics, and particularly homosexuality. Therefore, biblical discussions related to the promotion and normalization of homosexuality and same-sex unions are unavoidable. Yet, what few realize is that it is not simply a matter of “the Bible says …” that will settle the debate one way of the other. At its core, the biblical controversy is first and foremost a matter of bibliology, as it relates to biblical inerrancy and authority of the Scriptures. For the interpreter’s view on this one aspect of doctrine is primarily influential in determining the hermeneutic (method of interpretation) that will be used. The demise of biblical authority has prompted the rise of new methods of interpretation seeking to overturn long held interpretations on biblical passages related to homosexuality, like Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. As it relates to homosexuality and the Bible, there are two hermeneutical systems that are employed to determine how the Bible addresses this most contentious issue. The first is the traditional grammatical-historical method of interpretation. This method seeks to uncover the biblical writer’s originally intended meaning as it was received by the original audience i.e., the literal meaning. This includes examining the ancient culture, background, lexical and grammatical issues, comparing the discovered meaning of the text with the larger biblical framework, and then applying that meaning to the present setting of the interpreter. The second method of interpretation is the new pro-gay hermeneutic. The pro-gay method is predicated on a more relativistically derived method of interpretation that begins with present-day culture. This method seeks to subjectively and philosophically interpret the pertinent biblical passages in light of prevailing culture. Thus, the hermeneutical horizon of the original author is exchanged for the interpreter’s horizon, yielding a revised meaning of the text. This hermeneutical dispute finds its Old Testament epicentre grounded in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Here, pro-gay proponents restrict the meaning of keywords like “abomination” (תּוֹעֵבָה ) and the surrounding grammar and syntax through novel, but speculative humanistic theories and arguments from silence. Conversely, grammatical-historical practitioners find the time-tested canons of a literal hermeneutic harvesting an enduring meaning from these texts — a meaning that resonates down through the ages to the present day. The primary purpose of this study is to investigate this hermeneutical debate surrounding Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 from the time-honoured grammatical-historical perspective and, then, evaluate the hermeneutical and exegetical claims of pro-gay interpreters. The sum of these deliberations focuses on the question of which central authority should govern the interpreter’s approach to these two Levitical texts — sola Scriptura or sola cultura? That is the question this research seeks to answer. In keeping with the purpose of this research, the following chapter summaries outline the development of this dissertation’s purpose statement: Chapter 1: An introduction to the stated hermeneutical problems surrounding Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 is explained before the proposed solution is discussed. Then the proposed methodology for this dissertation is outlined and described. Chapter 2: The primary pro-gay hermeneutical presuppositions are investigated and discussed in relationship to their unique approach to the lexical and grammatical elements of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Then a brief survey of the pro-gay hermeneutic in related Old Testament passages is presented before offering an analysis of how the pro-gay interpreters apply their restricted meaning of the Levitical texts. Chapter 3: This chapter focuses on the crucial presuppositions of the grammatical-historical methodology, examining how they approach the contextual, background, lexical, and grammatical issues associated with Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Next, the literal interpreter’s use of analogia fidei (comparing Scripture with Scripture) is presented related to the pertinent Old Testament texts associated with the Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 (Gn 1-2; 19:1-11; Dt 22:5; 23:17-18; Jdg 19-20; Ezk 16:50). Chapter 4: The nature, purpose, and place of the Mosaic law in the Old Testament is explained in its context before exploring its relationship to the New Covenant environment. A paradigmatic methodology for establishing the law’s application in a New Testament economy is detailed and Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 tested to determine how these two laws are applied today. Chapter 5: A survey of what Jesus, Paul, and Jude thought about homosexuality is explored (Mt 19:4-6; Mk 7:19-23; Rm 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:9-11; 1 Tm 1:9-10; Jude 7). This is explained by demonstrating the New Testament’s moral continuity to the creation account, Mosaic law, and Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Chapter 6: Built upon the meaning the grammatical-historical hermeneutic yields, the issues of applying Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 are discussed. The rules for applying biblical meaning are outlined before practically demonstrating how the modern-day interpreter should apply these two Levitical texts in a 21st-century setting. Chapter 7: The final chapter evaluates the pro-gay hermeneutical assumptions, exegesis, and application from Chapter 2 in light of the literal hermeneutic discussed in Chapters 3 to 6. Conclusion: A final summary and the writer’s conclusions are offered.
- Theology