Ancient Justification for Modern Practice

Kevin Barney’s post over at BCC has me thinking about the ramifications of female Apostleship (capital A): What it would mean if we came to agree that the New Testament bore strong witness to there having been women in roles now held only by men?* The question, when placed within the larger framework of our penchant for finding ourselves in the past, presents an interesting dilemma: Could a future opening of the Priesthood to “all worthy persons (not just males)” find scriptural justification for itself in the same way that we see the Book of Mormon in such difficult places as John 10 and Ezekiel 37?

As is well known, we are fond of justifying our ban on homosexuality with reference to Leviticus 20:13, but have no qualms about neglecting passages such as Lev. 19:27: “You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard,” or 17:10, where anyone who eats meat with blood in it will be excommunicated. (Note that the “ban” on homosexuality is part of the “Law of Moses” …)

So here’s a question: What are some issues not currently part of LDS practice for which one might find justification in the scriptures? (This question is more about discerning our use of scripture than about calling for social change.)

*A good place to start for female apostleship is Anne Brock: Mary Magdalene, The First Apostle: The Struggle for Authority.

  • http://ldsbackslider.blogspot.com/ The Backslider

    An excellent book that tackles this issues is one titled When Women Were Priests by Mary Torjesen.

  • jupiterschild

    Thanks. And I realize I misspelled the author’s name: Ann Brock.

  • http://ldsgospeldoctrine.net Kurt

    Note that the “ban” on homosexuality is part of the “Law of Moses”
    Yes, and no. That particular ban is, but there are NT rejections of the behavior as well, as Jesus rejects GR:porneia in Matt 17:19, a blanket reference to all forms of sex immorality. Paul similarly rejects the beheavior in Rom. 1:26-27.

    What are some issues not currently part of LDS practice for which one might find justification in the scriptures?

    How about the D&C 89 suggestions on what should and shouldnt be eaten, beyond the explicit prohibitions? And the various NT and D&C admonitions to live Law of Consecration? As far as helping the sick, widows and orphans, I wonder what the participation rates are for charitable donations aside from tithing and fast offerings for the American LDS community. We’re also told to avoid contention in the BofM, and the Naccle has plenty of it.

  • a random John

    and the Naccle has plenty of it.

    Not that Kurt would know anything about that. :)

    I also claim to be ignorant on that subject, btw.

  • http://ldsgospeldoctrine.net Kurt

    I will vigorously fight to the death to defend my reputation of being a non-confrontational peacemaker. And if I have to beat you, arJ, into submission to prove my point, I will.

  • jupiterschild

    Kurt,

    I don’t doubt that porneia (did you mean 15:19?) covers homosexuality in this period, but the fact that it’s not made explicit forces us to base our current stance on this Leviticus reference (and not infrequently on Genesis 19–Sodom & Gomorrah, which is also not explicit, not about homosexuality being the chief problem, anyway). Outside Leviticus, all of these other cases can easily be read as forbidding sexual immorality, which leaves a lot of room for interpretation. (There’s a HUGE difference between the lesbian couple we know who are committed to each other and to raising their daughter well, and the depiction of the depravity of Sodom. Again, not to debate homosexuality, but our use of scripture to justify our stance.)

    This relates to smallaxe’s recent post on scripture as a vehicle that leads to experience. In this case, though, I wonder whether it isn’t the other way around: experience/reality driving the interpretation, or some blend of the two.

    I agree with you heartily on the Law of Consecration, widows and orphans, etc. I’d extend that to include our stance on capitalism and its effects, the war, and ESPECIALLY torture. I’m bothered that so much attention is devoted to the defense of marriage and so little to human rights, for which we can find plenty of scriptural justification.

  • http://www.theculturalhall.com Ann

    I have ranted about this before: it drives me nuts, absolutely nuts, when people make up ancient things that must have happened because they happen now. Temple marriage for the prophet Hosea. John the Baptists priesthood ordination. Jesus turning water into grape juice at the marriage at Cana.

    We don’t need scriptural justification for modern practices. We pull our facts out of thin air…or other, less decorous places.

    I will stop ranting now.

  • http://ldsgospeldoctrine.net Kurt

    I don’t doubt that porneia (did you mean 15:19?)

    mea culpa.

    covers homosexuality in this period, but the fact that it’s not made explicit forces us to base our current stance on this Leviticus reference

    There are other explicit NT references dealing with the subject as well, and they are unambiguous in their position on the matter, so we dont have to resort to the OT.

    (and not infrequently on Genesis 19–Sodom & Gomorrah, which is also not explicit, not about homosexuality being the chief problem, anyway).

    It isnt the primary problem, but is used to show the depravity of the inhabitants.

    Outside Leviticus, all of these other cases can easily be read as forbidding sexual immorality, which leaves a lot of room for interpretation. (There’s a HUGE difference between the lesbian couple we know who are committed to each other and to raising their daughter well, and the depiction of the depravity of Sodom. Again, not to debate homosexuality, but our use of scripture to justify our stance.)

    The Scriptures are clear and unambiguous in their blanket and wholesale unambiguous rejection of all forms of sexual immorality. Trying to parse the text for specific case examples and making exceptions when those specific cases are not found is like saying we can so methamphetamine because D&C 89 doesnt explicitly prohibit it. The Scriptures are unambiguously clear and totally uncompromising in their approach to human sexuality. That is something we dont like today and want very much to ignore, making all sorts of excuses. Israel’s ancient neighbors, from Moses to Paul, were perverts of the highest (lowest) order and we today have nothing on them when it comes to immorality. The Lord’s attitude towards those practices, all of them, is clear: Go and sin no more.

    I agree with you heartily on the Law of Consecration, widows and orphans, etc. I’d extend that to include our stance on capitalism and its effects, the war, and ESPECIALLY torture. I’m bothered that so much attention is devoted to the defense of marriage and so little to human rights, for which we can find plenty of scriptural justification.

    The Scriptural approach to human rights wouldnt jibe well with our modern one. The Law of Moses is OK with indentured servitude (while it vigorously encourages people to treat them well), flat out slavery, concubinage, polygamy, wars of extermination (under certain circumstances) and a whole host of things that we today find unpalatable. Picking contemporary hot topics and using the Scriptures as proof text for a particular political position will always lead to problems. The Scriptures have their own historical, social and religious context, and we have to keep them in that context in order to understand them as they were written. If we take them out of context and interpret them however we like, then we may as well read Song of Solomon to justify adultery and get it over with.

    I have ranted about this before: it drives me nuts, absolutely nuts, when people make up ancient things that must have happened because they happen now. Temple marriage for the prophet Hosea. John the Baptists priesthood ordination. Jesus turning water into grape juice at the marriage at Cana.

    Not sure where Ann is coming from on this (are you questioning the very accuracy of the original Scriptures?), but in general I agree with her that taking modern practices and injecting them into a ancient setting is anachronistic and incongruous. Ancient Temple ritual and modern ritual clearly had little in common, but D&C 84:28 indicates John was ordained, and John 3 states Jesus did turn water into wine. Not sure what the ancient-to-modern implications Ann sees there. John’s ordination was clearly a unique outlier and would have no modern equivalent and I cannot think of any modern water-wine applications.

  • http://ldsgospeldoctrine.net Kurt

    Crud. The paragraph “The Scriptures are clear… sin no more.” shouldnt be italics.

  • jupiterschild

    I agree with your point about scripture’s consistent rejection of sexual immorality. My point is that the “immorality” part is tricky, especially if you read it in their context, in which there was presumably no social mechanism that would allow homosexual couples to commit to each other and (presumably) an assumption that homosexuality is a result of sexual deviance or perversion. So is a homosexual couple who have committed themselves to each other, in the same way that heterosexual couples do, immoral? On what basis? Are we justified in considering that to fall under the rejection of porneia? Your assertion that “the Scriptures
    have their own historical, social, and religious context, and we have to keep them in that context in order to understand them as they were written” requires that we consistently check their compatibility with modern life, and I think that a one-to-one mapping of ancient and modern understandings of homosexuality distorts the problem.

    I’d like to see those additional NT references, if you wouldn’t mind. I suspect that they can be read like the OT ones: there’s nothing that marks “homosexuality” scriptures as any more relevant or true than those that tell women not to speak in church and to cover their hair, besides our own modern sensitivities. We reject the latter because we’ve come not to believe the way that particular author did.(And the neighboring countries were no worse than Israel when it comes to immorality–far less according to some prophets, who argued that Israel should know better… The stuff about Moab and Ammon is folk etymology and propagandistic folktale, and should not be believed as history.)

    The Scriptural approach to human rights wouldn’t jibe well with our modern one.

    Your point is well taken and is illustrative of the whole problem. I’m seeing plenty of justification for my own political stance in the emphatic and consistent injunctions against the exploitation of the poor by the wealthy and powerful. I do reject the herem (extermination) laws because there’s good reason to believe that they were political propaganda and “uninspired”, not to mention not carried out. To tell the truth, I was originally thinking of the Book of Mormon, in which there’s MUCH more concern for social issues than for sexual ones. But we focus on the latter and suppress the former. Interpretation of scripture says much more about the interpreter than about the scripture.

    Not sure where Ann is coming from on this

    What Ann is saying is that there’s no scriptural evidence (OT/NT) that John was ordained. Not only this, but the whole business of priesthood and ordination in the OT/NT is completely different from modern practice. Her emphasis was not on changing water into wine, but into “grape juice” (= the common LDS argument that wine in the NT wasn’t fermented, because of course Jesus must have kept the WoW as presently constituted). This is a most blatant example, and one that missionaries all over the world (including myself at one point) have perpetuated. And while Hosea was married, there is no evidence that there was such a thing as temple marriage, and even if there were, there’s no evidence that Hosea was so married. The “evidence” is supplied by our need to see ourselves in the past.

  • smallaxe

    Picking contemporary hot topics and using the Scriptures as proof text for a particular political position will always lead to problems. The Scriptures have their own historical, social and religious context, and we have to keep them in that context in order to understand them as they were written. If we take them out of context and interpret them however we like, then we may as well read Song of Solomon to justify adultery and get it over with.

    I would also add that neither can we divorce the past from our current circumstances in that 1) The past (especially the Biblical past) in some complex way has shaped our present. In other words, we can say that our concept of “human rights” was different from theirs; but I don’t think we can say that the two are unrelated. 2) We cannot escape our own culturally embedded position in examining the past; so in some regards we cannot simply discover the original meaning of a text.

  • http://ldsgospeldoctrine.net Kurt

    My point is that the “immorality” part is tricky, especially if you read it in their context, in which there was presumably no social mechanism that would allow homosexual couples to commit to each other

    Israel’s ancient neighbors were indulging in homosexuality all the time and those cultures considered it normal. You are arguing modern politics.

    and (presumably) an assumption that homosexuality is a result of sexual deviance or perversion.

    How are you going to establish that it isnt? An appeal to pop culture? The seeming lack of specificity of explicitly banning gay marriage in the Scriptures? Not compelling.

    I am not going to bother with NT quotes as you will just say they arent discussing homosexual monogamy.

    I’m seeing plenty of justification for my own political stance in the emphatic and consistent injunctions against the exploitation of the poor by the wealthy and powerful

    How come you use the lack of specificity argument in the case of excusing monogamous homosexuality and then completely disregard the lack of specificity in the case of capitalism, war and torture?

    was originally thinking of the Book of Mormon, in which there’s MUCH more concern for social issues than for sexual ones.

    Not sure I agree with that. If the Lehites/Mulekites had less of a problem with it in the first place (easily argued that it was a result of lack of influence from perverse neighboring cultures like the Canaanites, Philistines, Greeks, etc.), then that is a different issues. Also recall Jacob railed pretty hard on the Nephites for their concbinage/prostitutions and Mormon castigated both the Nephites and Lamanites for raping.

    What Ann is saying is that there’s no scriptural evidence (OT/NT) that John was ordained.

    It is implicit. John was first born son to a temple high priest, he had the birth right and lineage, he had to have been ordained. When confronted over baptising, none of those questioning him argued he didnt have the authority and should stop it.

    “grape juice” (= the common LDS argument that wine in the NT wasn’t fermented, because of course Jesus must have kept the WoW as presently constituted)

    Well, thats total crap.

    The “evidence” is supplied by our need to see ourselves in the past.

    It is our desire to use the Scriptures as proof text for our privately held beliefs, as opposed to taken them in entirely and weighing them as a whole. People dont want God to tell them what to do, they want to make it up for themselves. So they conveniently discard or ignore the bits they dont like and pay attention to the bits they do like.

  • smallaxe

    The Scriptures are clear and unambiguous in their blanket and wholesale unambiguous rejection of all forms of sexual immorality…. The Scriptures are unambiguously clear and totally uncompromising in their approach to human sexuality.

    Unless of course you count having sex with multiple partners… I mean multiple wives…

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    “all forms of sexual immorality” ?????

    It doesn’t take much to realize that this is an empty statement historically. This history of sexuality is long and complex and pretending that there is a unified history from the Bible down to the present is delusional. Our version of “sexual immorality” bears only a superficial resemblance to either ancient Israel, Jesus, Paul, or anything else we know about ancient Christians.

  • jupiterschild

    Kurt, buddy,

    I don’t want this to get overheated–and I’m certainly not trying to shoot down everything you say, though I do want to push the issue. The reason I asked for specific NT refs is that, as I wrote initially, the only clear prohibition on the matter is from Leviticus, a highly problematic text, in that most of its injunctions are not kept today, so why does that one get admitted as revelation and the others not?

    On the issue of deviance, others (you know who you are!) can speak to this much more fully. But I’m not citing scripture nor the lack thereof as having any bearing whatsoever on the psychological aspects of the issue, except insofar as the Bible has shaped our present (see #11). It strikes me that homosexuality is shaped significantly for many bible believers by images of Sodom and Gomorrah, which is a highly distorted picture and of no comparative value in modern discussion of the issue.

    If you can supply accurate historical information about the debauchery of Israel’s neighbors, please let me know. (It’s an honest request–I’d really like to see where these ideas are coming from.)

    And on the Book of Mormon, do you think that lack of treatment of the topic of sexuality is due simply to a lack of influence by perverted neighbors? Do people really need neighbors to become “perverted”? And, anyway, I wasn’t arguing that it’s never treated in the BoM, just that my sense from study is that sexual issues are raised a fraction of the number of times the “social justice” issues are.

    And, finally, on the ordination of John, your point is well taken about his lineage. But lineage in the priesthood raises the very problem of modern-ancient comparison I’m trying to make. Since we don’t have priesthood based on lineage, does it make sense to talk of his “ordination”? Is this even an operative term for talking about OT or NT priesthood? In a sense, it might. Perhaps more appropriate would be something like “consacration” (although that is probably too charged in LDS discourse). Comparison, in any case, involves an acknowledgment of difference as well as similarity. And difference isn’t something that LDSs as a whole have learned to reckon with.

  • http://ldsgospeldoctrine.net Kurt

    smallaxe,

    Since when is polygany sexually immoral, according to the Scriptures? It isnt. It is conditionally endorsed in the OT, NT, BofM and D&C. If it isnt culturally popular today in America, how is that an issue?

    TT,

    We’re talking about Scriptural texts here, that is the original premise forwarded by our host. If you want to run off on tangents, knock yourself out. The Scriptural texts are pretty clear on the matter of what it and what isnt sexually immoral, across all of them. Adultery is always bad, fornication is always bad, and so on. As to whether the people lived it, that isnt my problem or the issue up for discussion.

    JupitersChild,

    Not getting overheated here, just addressing what appears to be your approach. It should be fairly obvious why the majority of regulations in Leviticus are no longer observed, because the Law of Moses was fulfilled. However, the spiritual law, the foundation of it, is still in force. The principles of the Law are present in the gospel of Christ, obviously. Only the Law of Sacrifice, physical-literal sacrifice, is done away. But, all of the spiritual teachings thereof are still relevant. The Ten Commandments are still relevant, right? Yes. If homosexuality was banned then, along with adultery, fornication, rape, incest, bestiality, etc., then one would be hard pressed to grant special exceptions after the fact for trendy popular cultural notions of what is now OK.

    As far as the homosexual practices of OT era Israel’s neighbors, take a look at:

    http://epistle.us/hbarticles/neareast.html

    Everyone knows about the NT era Greeks and Romans, so I assume I dont have to provide anything there.

    No, I wouldnt blame all local perversion on neighbors, but it certainly is a prominent issue in the OT as Israel is repeatedly explicitly warned against intermingling with their pervy neighbors. The Lehites clearly wouldnt have had that sort of influence.

    Ordination and consecration are two different things, and there are instances of non-lineage priests going into service (e.g., Samuel’s wearing an ephod in 1 Sam. 2:18, 28 is clearly suggestive of ordination, per Exod 28:4). Was the priesthood ministered/administered different back then? Absolutely. And people who think Lehi had the Melchizedek Priesthood as presently constituted are just dead wrong.

  • smallaxe

    Since when is polygany sexually immoral, according to the Scriptures? It isnt. It is conditionally endorsed in the OT, NT, BofM and D&C.

    Your third sentence contradicts the second two becuase in order for polygamy to be conditionally endorsed there must be times when it is immoral. And this is my entire point: Sexual (im)morality depends on one’s historical situation. I’m not justifying homosexuality (as I don’t see that as the point of this post, nor the issue that I am trying to discuss with you); but I do think this gets at the heart of the question of how the past relates to the present. I believe that the shift in norms from polygamy to monogamy is clear evidence that the “clear”, “unambiguous”, and “totally uncompromising” approach toward sexuality is neither clear, unambiguous, or uncompromising. There is a history to sexuality, which means that what is perceived as normal changes; even within the church (birth control is another example). Revelation is a part of this history, and as such does not totally transcend history (contrary to what it seems that you are asserting).

    If it isnt culturally popular today in America, how is that an issue?

    It isn’t.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Kurt,
    I am talking about scriptural texts. You’re just wrong that there is consistency throughout the ages on this. Today, we have no levirate marriage. Masterbation is never discussed in the scriptures. It was perfectly acceptable to have sex with your slaves in the Bible. Prostitution (both male and female) was a religious category, not a sexual one. That is, sleeping with prostitutes was wrong because they were priestesses of a different cult.
    In the NT, Paul says that he prefers that we don’t get married. He argues that Christian-pagan married sex sanctifies the pagan partner. He also argues that sex with prostitutes pollutes the Christian community by contagion.
    None of these ideas are found in contemporary ideas about sexuality and sexual morality, though all of them are scriptural.

  • http://ldsgospeldoctrine.net Kurt

    smallaxe,

    No, the third sentence does not contradict the first. The conditions imposed are just that, conditions. In the OT, there are conditions imposed on polygyny (e.g., dont marry two sisters or a mother and daughter, etc), just as in the NT (e.g., bishops shall be husband of one wife), BofM (e.g., no additional wives unless the Lord commands it) and D&C (e.g., section 132). Those conditions regulate its proper use. How is that a contradiction? Because the conditions change somewhat over time? I am not arguing it transcends history. I am arguing “adultery” is and always will be “adultery”, and minor changes around the periphery of polygyny over thousands of years do pretty much nothing to change what adultery is.

    TT,

    Male masturbation is dealt with in Lev. 15:16-17. What difference does it make whether the idea is in contemporary sexual morality? None. We dont practice cult prostitution today, so that means we can toss all of the OT? The Lord doesnt have to be trendy and keep current with every permutation of human self-destructive behavior. The fact is the Lord unambiguously defines what adultery is and isnt and what fornication is and isnt. Does he have to categorically list every possible means of sin throughout all ages, inventing words that dont even exist in the present culture He is speaking to, in order to make Himself clear?

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Kurt,
    First, Lev 15:16-17 is talking about nocturnal emissions, not masturbation. Even if your reading were right, the text would then seem to condone masturbation since it gives a procedure for purification after the fact.
    Second, I think that you are missing my larger point, which is also the original point of the post. I am arguing that how we define sexual morality by appealing to the scriptures is necessarily selective. You keep insisting that fornication and adultery are always defined in the same way, and are the essence of sexual morality. I have given you a number of instances in which adultery as defined now is different from how it would be defined in the Bible, including sex with slaves and polygamy. Adultery is not a stable concept. Similarly, these cases are not the core aspects of sexual morality in the Bible. Ruth is entirely devoted to levirate marriage as a plot element. Genesis similarly deals with all sorts of different sexual moralities. Providing seed to your dead brother’s wife is a much greater concern in the Bible than fornication. Additionally, as I have said, Paul’s view of sexual morality is totally different from our own. Again, my point is that the terms that you think are so stable are actually highly interpreted through modern understandings and that the main message about sexuality in the Bible is actually very different from our own. I am not saying that we should throw it out, just that we should be aware of our interpretive context when we make authoritative claims based on our readings of scripture.

  • smallaxe

    How is that a contradiction? Because the conditions change somewhat over time? I am not arguing it transcends history. I am arguing “adultery” is and always will be “adultery”, and minor changes around the periphery of polygyny over thousands of years do pretty much nothing to change what adultery is.

    I’m not necessarily arguing that the texts are contradictory, I’m arguing that you, by asserting that sexual morality (polygamy in particular) has not changed, yet has “conditions” set on it depending on the historical context, are contradictory. Semantics aside, TT has more or less expressed what I wanted to convey in regards to the larger issue. That leaves me to point out the quickly shrinking grounds upon which your argument stands–from grand claims about sexual morality (“The Scriptures are unambiguously clear and totally uncompromising in their approach to human sexuality”) to giving ground on polygamy (which “minor” changes are anything but minor to the people involved), to now only talking about adultery (and fornication).

  • http://ldsgospeldoctrine.net Kurt

    TT & smallaxe,

    I disagree with both of you. Fornication has never been “OK” and adultery has never been approved. Period.

    Arguing around the peripheral edges doesnt suspend common sense. I disagree with just about all of TT’s particulars, and feel my feet planted firmly on the ground in doing so, smallaxe. Sex with slaves required concubinage, which had clear legal requirement that, while not granting the status, of a full free wife, did afford them legal protections for themselves and their offspring. As for your readings on Paul, I disagree with those as well. If you guys want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, go ahead. I dont see fringe arguments like the ones you are making as impeaching common sense or exempting what is otherwise clear and concise Scriptural positions. You guys are looking at

  • smallaxe

    I disagree with both of you. Fornication has never been “OK” and adultery has never been approved. Period.

    I guess I must have missed where I approved of fornication and adultery.

    I’ll let TT handle the exegesis if he feels inclined. I don’t think any of my claims are that tightly bound with it.

    Kurt, you’re totaly trying to shift the grounds of the argument by claiming that the only important things to sexual morality are adultery and fornication. What’s going to happen when it is proved that those concepts too have a history? You’re also attempting to win the argument by implying that we somehow endorse fornication and adultery. Please show me where we (and me in particular), do that. IMO, that’s either an unfortunate mis-reading on your part, or a desparate attempt to hold to a position that you’ve already lost on intellectual grounds.

  • http://ldsgospeldoctrine.net Kurt

    smallaxe,

    You and TT are arguing around the peripheral edges of sexual immorality in order to argue against peshat. You and he are taking the 1% periphery to obfuscate. I am adopting the 99% position, which is that adultery and fornications are banned. I thought that would be obvious, given the ending of your very own comment in #21. Now you twist that around to work it into a straw man accusation?

    What I have done is ceded the argument around the 1% periphery to you two because I dont want to bother anymore. You two think that if you can find even the tiniest ambiguity, then you have somehow impeached the peshat of the text, and successfully muddied the water enough that you can throw up your hands and say anyone who thinks they can discern what the ancient history and context is is delusional. Nonsense. The absence of modern Levirate marriages has no bearing on the peshat of adultery texts, the absence of modern concubinage doesnt impeach the peshat of the adultery texts, and so on and so on. You two think that finding tangential, peripheral obscurities means you have to suspend common sense and ignore the peshat.

    I do not cede ground on my position on polygny, as your argument that I am contradicting myself is weak, at best. A reasonably consistent set of conditions imposed over time are not a set of contradictions, as you would pretend. I do not cede ground to TT on his readings on Pauline passages or anything else he is trying to argue. I am tired of arguing with you. That is all, and so I wash my hands of your 1%. Have fun with it.

    I never accused you and TT of endorsing fornications and adultery, but thanks for twisting it all around in an effort to impugn my position. I find it entertaining that you and TT have to resort to such accusations of delusion, grand-standing, mis-reading and desperation in order to try to win your point. Sorry, but I just dont find that persuasive. If you could argue a position cogently, rather than resort to this kind of rhetoric, you would. Saying my position is contradictory because fringe regulations regarding its usage change over time ignores the simple fact that polygyny has always been conditionally approved. But, hey, why look at the 99% when you can pick at the 1%?

    If you think I have lost this argument on intellectual grounds, then all I can say is you see contradictions where there are none and make accusations rather than substantive arguments that address the issue. The Scriptures are abundantly clear on what adultery and fornications are, and picking at the 1% of messy gray area doesnt change that fact.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Where are you getting the 99% quantification? Where in the scriptures does it say that levirate marriage, sex with slave girls, polygamy, cult prostitution and Christian-pagan sex are “fringe” issues? I don’t see that in any scripture that I have ever read. It is a hardly a stretch to argue that these are in fact the primary issues in the scriptures. What you aren’t seeing is that you are INTERPRETING fornication and adultery (as presently defined) to constitute 99% of what defines sexual morality. This is a MODERN interpretation which has a clear HISTORY, not unmediated, obvious, natural, or transcendent truth. We are not talking about black, white and gray. We are talking about the process by which norms are produced. Whether or not you cede ground is irrelevant because you don’t seem to be engaging the actual argument.

  • http://ldsgospeldoctrine.net Kurt

    TT,

    You have picked a bunch of fringe issues that are murky, at best. And demanding a Scripture reference for what is an obvious figure of speech? Come on. You are in the fringes, the 1%. If you think my estimate is wrong, then provide some better estimate and give your rationale.

    levirate marriage,

    They are married, as defined in the Scriptures. How is this even relevant? It baffles me how you think this even matters. A brother takes on his deceased brothers former wife and she becomes his wife and the first born son becomes the deceased brothers legal heir to his name, property, etc, not the living literal father’s. So where is there even a question or hint of sexual immorality here? Because of Onan? He did it wrong, obviously.

    sex with slave girls,

    Obviously fornication or adultery, unless they are taken as concubines, then it is neither. Obviously defined as much in the Scriptures. Hence Nathan’s castigation of David and the commands in the Law about kings not multiplying wives and concubines unto themselves. They werent allowed to just randomly have sex with slave girls, they had to be legal concubines. We dont have slaves today so that casts the whole thing into doubt? David+concubines prior to Bathsheba=no sin, so says Nathan. Thomas Jefferson+Sally Hemmings=sin (assuming no clandestine marriage). How is this a hard one that is up for debate and historical nuance?

    polygamy,

    Consistently approved throughout the entire canon, with only peripheral differences in how it is to be administered. How is this even a question? Lord always says, “Yes, if…” You say it is questionable because the …if… changes a little over time? Weak. It has always been a “Yes, if…”, never a “No way, not even”.

    cult prostitution

    Systematically, unequivocally condemned and rejected in the Scriptures, never promoted or endorsed. How is this even a grey area? Show me one place in the Scriptures where the Lord told Israel to use them or endorsed their use. Cannot.

    Christian-pagan sex

    The Scriptures make it abundantly clear that between married couples it is not fornication/adultery and among those who are unmarried it is fornication and is proscribed. In Paul’s discussion, he makes it clear he is talking about married couples. How is this even an issue. Its a “part member family.”

    What you aren’t seeing is that you are INTERPRETING fornication and adultery (as presently defined) to constitute 99% of what defines sexual morality. This is a MODERN interpretation which has a clear HISTORY, not unmediated, obvious, natural, or transcendent truth. We are not talking about black, white and gray.

    The Scriptures provide so much explanation and clarification on the Lord’s position on these matters that there is no “INTERPRETING” required. The peshat of the text is so obvious it is blinding. So obvious you have to resort to peripheral arguments that do not even really support your position.

    TT, I challenge you to provide one clear example of absolutely ambiguous or totally contradictory (to the peshat) Scriptural text on a matter of sexual immorality. Give me one, just one. Show me one passage that says it is OK for unmarrieds to have sex outside of marriage. Show me one passage where it says it isnt fornication to have sex with a slave girl that isnt your legal concubine. You are just waving your hands saying things are different now then they were back then. Yes, they are different. But, we have enough Scriptrual text and know enough of the history to understand very clearly what they meant and what it means to us. Like I said, TT, give me one glaring example of the Scriptures contradicting themselves or of genuine ambiguity on a matter of sexual immorality. One. Not un-adulterous mixed marriages, not legal concubinage, not regulated and endorsed non-adulterous polygyny, not explicitly condemned sex with cult prostitutes. There is no Scriptural ambiguity there, no matter how hard you want to see it. Differences from modern culture? Yes. Insufficient text to determine correct historical context? Absolutely not.

  • jupiterschild

    Kurt,

    No time to write a full response, but what about Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38)? Judah’s first two sons are put to death for neglecting their levirate responsibilities, but when Judah sleeps with Tamar because he thinks she’s a prostitute, there’s never any condemnation of him. In fact, there appears to be a subtle critique of the whole notion of morality, because he wants to burn her for playing the whore, but when it’s revealed that he was her client, there’s absolutely no condemnation of him, besides the phrase “she is more righteous than I”. Judah is not put to death, nor is Tamar, and her children from this encounter continue the line that would give us David and Jesus, according to some texts. At the very least, it seems, this story sets up a hierarchy of “morality”: the upholding of levirate marriage seems more important here than the injunction not to fornicate. Compare Leviticus 18:15 (“You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law”) and especially 20:12: (“If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall be put to death; they have committed perversion, their blood is upon them.” Both NRSV).

    Incidentally, this is one of several examples in the bible where the term qedeshah is thought to refer to some type of temple prostitute. There are many hints in the bible that there was something like this going on. Granted, the evidence is not clear nor direct, but it can’t be dismissed so easily, either.

  • smallaxe

    Kurt,

    Come on, you’re killing me!

    This entire debate centers on the question of changing norms. Is our view of “human rights” their view of human rights (assuming for the time that we can talk about them having a comparable concept)? You’re very clear early on that we must answer “no”. As you say, we shouldn’t argue “modern politics” from Biblical sources. But when it comes to the question of sexual morality you assert that there is a “clear”, “unambiguous”, “wholesale rejection” of anything immoral. The problem is that what is moral and immoral changes as well. You consent this in the case of polygamy (sometimes it’s moral sometimes it’s immoral), but then want to reaffirm that only fornication and adultery are the “99%” of sexual morality. The problem is that the core/essence of sexual morality changes too; and so to make the 99% claim without the qualification of which circumstance/time period you’re talking about is to do the same thing you accuse others of doing in regards to “reading modern politics” (in this case “modern sexual morality”) into the text. (Unless you are arguing about the Biblical time period which is a different case). It seems that you kind of state our view in the last few sentences of your last post. Basically our view of sexual (im)morality, is not their view of sexual morality. If you consent to this, then perhaps much of this debate is based on a mis-understanding of each other’s position.

    Asking TT for sources which contradict themselves in the way you are demanding is missing the point almost completely. We are not necessarily arguing that there is ambugiuty in the scriptures; we are arguing that there is ambiguity in our application of them–in one time period it is considered moral to marry your dead brother’s wife as an additional wife, and in another time period it is considered immoral.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Kurt,
    You are caught up on this issue about ambiguity, contradiction and gray areas. I have never made this claim. I have never said that at one time is was okay for unmarried people to have sex (except with “concubines,” a whitewashed term for sexually permissable slaves…). Rather, I am making an argument about “center” and “periphery.” I am arguing that the referent to the term “sexual morality” has changed historically. What would constitute adultery today is not the same thing as the past. Again, I don’t know how I can more clearly state my argument but it seems that I have failed to make it clear. What you are taking as obvious I can only see as an interpretation. I have already given several examples where the center of sexual morality is now very different from the past. Whereas at one time levirate marriage was commanded as a central issue to sexual morality, now it is completely ignored and would be highly questionable morally today as well. Kurt, I did not intend for this to simply become an argument. It seems that you either understand how history works or you don’t.

  • http://ldsgospeldoctrine.net Kurt

    JupitersChild,

    The Judah and Tamar account is a morality tale that definitely condemns Judah’s consorting with non-Israelites. Comments at:

    http://www.ldsgospeldoctrine.net/kn/ot/genesis38.txt

    Smallaxe and TT,

    If you are arguing that cultural norms change, I have already said as much repeatedly. I am not arguing they dont. I am arguing the Lord’s position on what is and what isnt sexually immoral doesnt change. You guys are arguing it does, by virtue of people interpreting the text differently. I am saying that is not an issue because it is impossible to interpret the text in a substantially different way without completely breaking the text or ignoring it altogether. Nobody could read the Biblical texts, not even today in an incredibly permissive and liberal cultural context, and say that God clearly condones fornications between unmarried persons, right? Why not? Because the abundance of text is clearly overwhelmingly hostile to any such notion. It is impossible to come up with that interpretation with a straight face. And, so, you two are working around the fringes to argue seemingly grey areas.

    It doesnt matter that the “center of sexual morality is now very different from the past”, we are discussing the interpretation of Scriptural texts, pop culture notwithstanding. You say it must necessarily be influenced by cultural norms, I say that is not the case. When sufficient text exists to unambiguously make the Lord’s position clear, where is there “interpretation” that is influenced by this history, which you allude I do not understand?

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Kurt,
    How do you know that levirate marriage is not the Lord’s will anymore?

  • smallaxe

    When I used the word “norms” above I was not refering to what you are calling “cultural norms”, which are apparently influenced by “pop-culture”. I was refering to Gospel norms.

    The Gospel norms of sexual morality change. Being sexually moral in Biblical times is not being sexually moral in the latter-days. I don’t deny similarities, but I’m not asserting (as you are) that they are the same.

  • jupiterschild

    The Judah and Tamar account is a morality tale that definitely condemns Judah’s consorting with non-Israelites.

    Kurt, your reference to your comments on your web site points up the thrust of this post: that our own lenses color the way we interpret the text. It appears to me that a major issue for you is the “infiltration” of non-Israelite population groups and the immoral behaviour that allegedly ensues. Otherwise why would anyone read Genesis 38 and conclude that the major point is a condemnation of consorting with non-Israelites? Does the text ever state this? And “definitely”? Is anyone ever condemned in Genesis 38? Of the whole of this chapter, you chose to focus on Hirah, a guy mentioned three times and playing no active role whatsoever? Talk about neglecting peshat…. At the most basic level, compare Judah with his sons: Why was Onan killed? Not for what we would consider at all sexual immorality. Why was Judah spared? If we read this according to your definition of sexual morality, we would expect Judah to have been killed (after all, Leviticus prescribes it!), and Onan spared.

    You have thus become primary evidence of what I’m getting at in this post: we can’t get away from reading ourselves and our context back into the text.

    For the record, I agree with TT: I don’t have a problem with this process. I’m not criticizing it. I’m stating that we need to recognize it for what it is.

    PS In the Hebrew Bible the labeling of someone by an ethnicon is so common as to be unemphatic.

    PPS What about all the stories in the Hebrew Bible and NT about the positive result of mixing with foreigners?

    PPPS What about Judges 19, where the point is made that it is the Israelites who are debauched, and the Canaanites are not? (This is the only time the Israelites are united in battle, and against one of their own!)


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