Never Have I Ever, Leviticus edition

Tad’s Happy Funtime scores himself against the list of “76 Things Banned in Leviticus.”

Seeing them all listed out like that does seem to invite a marathon game of “I Never.” (Or, depending on regional variations in college drinking games, “Never Have I Ever.”)

But seeing them all listed out like that also invites a more meaningful exercise: Evaluating the consistency of one’s biblical hermeneutic.

That’s fancy seminary talk for an interpretive framework, or more generally for how you read the Bible.

Look at that list of “76 Things Banned in Leviticus.” Pretty much everyone can skim through that list and note several items that they agree ought to be forbidden. And pretty much everyone can skim through that list and note several items that it just seems weird to treat as morally significant in any way.

I personally reject many of these prohibitions while affirming many of the others. No. 39, for example, from Leviticus 18:22, forbids a man from having sex with another man as though “with a woman.” I don’t think that’s binding or meaningful today.

My disregard for that verse and that prohibition leads some of my fellow American evangelicals to accuse me of being “liberal” or insufficiently respectful of the authoritah of scripture.

But none of those folks has any problem with No. 42, maximizing profits (or “Reaping to the very edges of a field”), or with No. 48, “Holding back the wages of an employee overnight.” Most of them don’t believe in No. 66 — forbidding them to treat foreigners differently than they treat the native-born. And they utterly, vehemently reject No. 75, “Selling land permanently.”

Yet somehow their disregard for all of those biblical commands never results in them being accused of “liberal” tendencies or a suspicious failure to respect the scriptures.

They’re picking and choosing.

And so am I, of course. The difference is I can explain why.

Here is the basis on which I do my picking and choosing:

He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

That tells me that No. 47, “Defrauding your neighbor,” still applies. And No. 67, “Using dishonest weights and scales” still applies. Those are both expressions of love for, and justice toward, your neighbor. But No. 61, “Trimming your beard,” does not still apply. In another time, place and culture, leaving one’s beard untrimmed may have been an expression of love for God. But not here, now, in this culture.

So far, everyone I’ve heard trying to defend No. 39 as a form of love for neighbor has resorted to making that case by violating No. 45 (lying), No. 53 (bearing a grudge), No. 67 (dishonest weights and scales), and especially No. 51 (spreading slander).

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  • Viliphied

    One of my old college profs had an interesting take on “as with a woman”. He said that in those times, women were treated as less than men, so the verse, instead of prohibiting sex with men, was rather sayin that you should treat your male sex partners as equals.

  • Kelex

    I’ve heard something along similar lines.  That the word translated in that verse as “to lie with” is actually closer to “rape” than just plain “sex.”  So it’s okay to force a woman, because…y’know, she’s just a woman.  of course, I haven’t verified that myself, so take it with a grain of salt.  But not the same salt you  include with your offerings to god.  That’s special salt.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke
  • Kelex

    That IS a tricky one.  On the one hand, we’re told to “be not quick to anger,” (or words to that effect) so one COULD think that the sorrow-based salt would be preferable to the lord.  But on the OTHER hand, tears of sorrow are by far the more common, and we are to give our first fruits.  I believe the salt from tears of anger would be the proverbial “fatted calf” of biologically produced saline emissions.  But of course, that’s just MY interpretation of scripture, no more valid than any others.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    What would seem to be most in-character for Old Testament Yahweh to prefer would be salt from the tears of sorrow spilled by the enemies of the LORD. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Or you could just hit up ol’ Lot. He’s got plenty. 

  • Tricksterson

    i ld gowith the Tears of Laughter but that’s because U follow the Path of Trickster.

  • Tricksterson

    Meant “I”, not “U”

  • Mau de Katt

    Offhand, I don’t remember if the OT forbids charging interest at all, charging interest to a fellow Israelite (translated to “fellow RTC” in today’s “literal interpretation” churches), or just forbids usury.  But as you’ve pointed out before,  much if not most of our modern capitalistic society is based upon those very things.  Including usury, thanks to the modern Republicans.

  • heckblazer

    Originally “usury” meant charging interest, full stop.  The Catholic Church relented once it became clear they were encouraging extremely creative work-arounds and outright loansharking.  That the pope and bishops were frequent customers of bankers offering “it’s totally not an interest bearing savings account” probably helped that decision along.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Practically everyone but the Mormons violates #14;
    #41 appears to specifically ban Rob Halford.
    #50 has been violated by every human society ever, all the time.

    Does anyone know what #11 (bringing unauthorized fire)  is on about? I’d imagine bringing unauthorized *ANYTHING* into a temple would be against the law; that’s kind of what “unauthorized” means. 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Given that construction methods back then may have involved a lot of wood, I can see why banning fire from being where it shouldn’t was a pretty good idea.

    Also, you can wreck a farm easily if you burn the crops.

  • Tonio

     

    #41 appears to specifically ban Rob Halford.

    Heh. Modern scholars interpret the phrase as applying only to his solo work and not his albums with Judas Priest.

  • Lori

     

    Practically everyone but the Mormons violates #14;  

    Actually, there are quite a few tea teetotaler branches of Christianity who don’t, but your basic point is correct. Many people who get all righteously indignant about anyone (supposedly) breaking #39 themselves break #14 on a regular basis.

  • LoneWolf343

    Eating fat? Wow. Americans are regular heathens, aren’t they?

  • heckblazer

    Interesting how Jacob violated  #35,  Marrying your wife’s sister while your wife still lives.  Though the subsequent rivalry between Rachel and Leah is a good demonstration of with it’s a bad idea.
    The laws in Leviticus basically come in two flavors, those about justice and those about ritual purity.  Fred pretty much accepts the ones about justice while feeling free to ignore the ones about ritual purity.  And that is perfectly justifiable as Jesus preached all about elevating love and justice above ritual purity, e.g. in the parable of the Good Samaritam where the two passerby ignore the mugging victim because if he was dead touching his corpse would have made them ritually unclean.

  • christopher_young

    Interesting how Jacob violated  #35,  Marrying your wife’s sister while your wife still lives.

    Jacob was in the clear. He lived umpteen generations before Moses, so God hadn’t thought that one up yet in his day. Jacob would have been bound by the Seven Laws of Noah; arguably, so are Americans.

  • Tonio

    The laws in Leviticus basically come in two flavors, those about justice and those about ritual purity.

    That could almost explain the fundamentalist obsession with homosexuality and Catholic teachings on sexuality in general. The former in particular seem to have never even read the New Testament. Of course, from my outsider’s perspective, I see no point in even having codes that are based in anything other than justice or in one’s interactions with others.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    I’ve never even wanted to eat a kite. Why would anyone? All you’d be doing is gnawing on pieces of fabric and string or choking on splinters from the wooden frame. As Old Testament sins go, that one’s hardly a temptation for anyone without pica.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Well, insects don’t have four legs. I guess you’re not supposed to eat an insect that has lost two of its legs. Unless the legs are jointed. Which all insects’ legs are. So… eat as many insects as you want!

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Lot and his daughters stepped all over 25-34, no?

  • Ross Thompson

    Lot and his daughters stepped all over 25-34, no?

    It says nothing about father/daughter sex, so…. no. I’m pretty sure he’s guilty of breaking #63, though.

  • Tricksterson

    Yeah but the children of that incestuos tryst grew up to becme some tribe  (Moabites I think, but don’t quote me) that were enemies of the Isrealites so basically that whole passage )like the curse of Ham which actually fell not on Ham but his son  Canaan, was just propaganda saying “This is why God wants you to hate, slaughter and enslave these people.”

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    You could probably fold 25 – 34 into something like, “don’t bang your relatives. yes, even that one.”

    LOL

  • Lori

     

    Incidentally, I kinda want a hoopoe. I’ve never even seen one but the name makes it sound adorable. 

    I wouldn’t call them adorable, but they are pretty cool looking. I like a bird with a ‘do.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=hoopoe&hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=fflb&prmd=imvns&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=XEjXT7SsN5SI8QSo-aDnAw&sqi=2&ved=0CGsQsAQ&biw=1280&bih=661

  • Tricksterson

    I definitely wat to chow down on a hoopoe now.
    Notice cousins apparently aren’t forbidden.  Or did I miss one?

  • Nirrti

    Sooo….  Anyone who doesn’t read the EULA and just clicks on “Agree” is violating Leviticus 5:4.

    I’m so going to hell…

  • Nirrti

    And didn’t Abraham, the doggone patriarch of Judaism violate Lev. 18:11?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I’ve never even wanted to eat a kite.

    I got curious about the word as given in Leviticus. Apparently there is a bird species colloquially called kites. At least one branch are called buzzards, and IIRC buzzards tend to be those who feast on dead animals. So eating an animal that eats dead animals could have been major like ewww for obvious reasons (probably the same reason pigs are considered ritually unclean; disease transmission seems to be easier when eating some animal meat versus other animal meat in an era where you couldn’t guarantee meat would be completely cooked).

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    bird nerd mode = on

     There are quite a few bird species called “kites” including the insanely beautiful Swallow-Tailed Kite, native to North America.

    Usually “buzzard” refers to Buteos (in Europe) or vultures (in North America).  Kites are neither Buteos (large broad-winged hawks like the Red-Tailed Hawk) or vultures.  Some of them are apparently called “buzzards” though.

    Pretty all raptors will eat dead things given the chance, though. 

    bird nerd mode = off

  • Wade

    Not mentioned is the scholarship that the book we currently call Leviticus doesn’t actually date back to the early days of Israel, but is rather more recent. In fact, there are strong arguments that significant portions of the Torah has been edited by various peoples. People with agendas, no less.

    Of course, some of the underlying lore does indeed go back that far! But do we know how much of the prohibitions do and which have been added by later editors?

  • AnonymousSam

    Don’t trim your beard or sideburns?

  • Woomod

    God has a thing for beards alright.

  • Abigail Nussbaum

    Holding back your employees’ wages overnight is a pretty big deal when your employees are day-laborers, as they commonly would be on a farm in Biblical times (and even nowadays, for all I know).  More broadly interpreted, this is a prohibition against delaying payday, still a pretty big deal – to the extent that it’s usually considered a crime.  In Israel, the legal name for it is still holding wages overnight, even though most people are paid monthly.

  • Jenny Islander

    Another take on the “as with a woman” is, “If you’re really into sex with women, go have sex with women; don’t make men into pretend-women so that you can get around the whole ‘women can get pregnant, some women you just plain can’t have sex with, women can’t have sex at certain times’ part.”  IOW, “don’t be jail-gay.”  This would pretty much leave pronouncements on what we call homosexuality entirely out of Leviticus, as if it were not injurious to either social justice or ritual purity (gee whodathunk).  But in that case–did two bachelors set up house together in those days, with nobody getting a say in whether the cheek-kissing and handholding (IIRC) permitted in public went further in private?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    Or it just means that God doesn’t want men to have sex with men and women shouldn’t have sex with women, because that was the cultural belief of the people who wrote it. :shrug:

    The fact that it ended up included in a book of sacred writings doesn’t mean we’re obliged to follow all the cultural beliefs of people who lived over 2,000 years ago. 

    For one thing, IIRC they had very strong negative feelings about mildew, fungi I consider annoying but not really something I think has a religious dimension.(The Bible was the only book my Mom would let me read in Church growing up, and for some reason I was really fascinated by Leviticus.)

  • Benly

    So, hey, the jointed-legs thing is a case of people who aren’t invested in the rule not paying attention to it.  What it means is that it’s kosher to eat the kind of insects that have a huge visible knee for leaping like grasshoppers and crickets. There are rabbinic discussions of why these are kosher and (for example) ants aren’t, but it’s not a random incoherent babble, it’s just that when you tell people “this part of the law no longer applies to you” it turns out they get pretty lazy about their translations. If you read the actual text (at least in Jewish translations) that bit of text is more straightforward: it’s not “animals with four legs”, it’s “animals that go on all fours”, that is, animals that crawl, and the bit with the joint explicitly goes on to say “such as locusts and their ilk, and grasshoppers and their ilk”.

    Personally I’m not a fan of the “But look at all the other silly rules! What kind of silly person would pay attention to such rules?” school of argument, but what do I know? I’m just a Jew.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Possibly the distinction is that they didn’t want people to think of insects in general as food because its kind of gross (which seems to be the reasoning behind half of these), but locusts are pretty much what you’ve got after a swarm of them wipes out your crops.

    Locusts can be cooked in bread and its said to be quite tasty.

  • Benly

     There’s a couple of reasons beyond “it’s gross”, actually. A big one is the issue of diet – what an animal eats is actually one of the primary determinants of whether it’s kosher or not. Predators other than fish and some poultry birds are all treyf to eat, and carrion-eaters are super unclean. A lot of insects will eat any damn thing, but locusts and grasshoppers eat almost exclusively plants. They are also really, really conspicuous about it, so that even ancient people knew it.

    Another I heard suggested by my rabbi years ago but don’t know the historicity of is that since grasshoppers move around primarily by hopping rather than crawling, they’re not seen as crawling around in feces the way “creeping” bugs will tend to do.

    Regardless, locusts and the like were a moderately common food of the time and place, so I don’t think “grossness” is a huge part of it.

  • Trixie_Belden

    Thanks for your post – I’ve been curious about that ever since I wandered onto a site for Conservative and Orthodox Jews where they were discussing what sort of foods and drinks out in the world could be considered kosher and several comments were made to the effect of “no Campari allowed, because of the bugs”.  I assumed they were referring to the cochineal insects that may or may not still be used to give Campari its color.  I had a dim memory at the time that Leviticus allowed at least some bugs.  “Hey,” I said to myself, “is that really correct?  If Leviticus allows some types of bugs, like Locusts, couldn’t a bug like the cochineal be acceptable too?”  This sent me to Wikipedia, where I wasted a fruitless half-hour or so trying to figure out whether the order Hemiptera (for the cochineal) would be” in” or “out” re Leviticus and trying to figure out the difference between that order, the order Orthoptera (for the locusts) and all those suborders and such and finally I just gave up. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

     

    Personally I’m not a fan of the “But look at all the other silly
    rules! What kind of silly person would pay attention to such rules?”
    school of argument, but what do I know? I’m just a Jew.

    It’s not so much that the rules themselves are silly, but why exactly is it that the conservative movement in this country focus all of their attention on just one of the dozens of rules listed here? There doesn’t seem to be anything in the actual text of Leviticus that raises the prohibition on homosexuality (regardless of how you parse the sentence) so far above the rest that it must be codified in the secular laws of every nation in the world, while the others can be safely ignored by anyone except for experimental bloggers and profoundly religious people.

    What’s silly isn’t Leviticus; it’s the people who think that they’re some kind of pious angels of light because they manage to adhere to one taboo or restriction while enthusiastically violating 75 others.

  • Tonio

    I had assumed that the phrase embodied the sexist idea that intercourse is inherently about man as dominant and woman as submissive, and that the Torah’s authors were really objecting to men being in a submissive position.

  • Ursula L

    I had assumed that the phrase embodied the sexist idea that intercourse is inherently about man as dominant and woman as submissive, and that the Torah’s authors were really objecting to men being in a submissive position. 

    This makes a great deal of sense.  

    From what I can tell, the Bible has no particular sense of “consent” as we understand it.  

    Rather, it has a series of rules about how and with whom men can have sex, and rules about which specific man has the right to control a given woman’s sexuality and reproductive capacity, an obligation on men to respect another man’s right to control the sexuality and reproductive capacity of a woman, and an obligation on women to submit to a man who is permitted to have sex with her, resist a man who is not permitted to have sex with her, and obey the man who has a right to control her sexuality.

    To have sex with a man “like a woman” would be to treat a man as an object whose sexual abilities are property.  You can have sex with your wife or concubine, because she was born with her father controlling her sexuality, and he gave her to you.  You can have sex with a slave because you bought her and with her the right to control her sexuality.  You can have sex with a woman captured in war because you’ve captured her and the control of her sexuality.  You can have sex with a prostitute because no particular man owns her sexuality, so any man can use it, or because her sexuality is owned by her pimp, from whom you have rented the right to temporarily use it.  You can’t have sex with a woman married to another man, because the other man owns her sexuality.  You can’t have sex with an unmarried woman because her father or male next-of-kin owns her sexuality. You can’t have sex with certain female relatives, because their sexuality is the property of other men in your family, and you have a particular obligation to respect the rights of men who are your kin, particularly older men or men of a previous generation, even if younger than you (such as an uncle younger than you born to your grandfather in his old age to a younger wife/concubine.)

    Who you want to have sex with and who wants to have sex with you is pretty much irrelevant. It’s a glaring absence in all those rules.  “Don’t have sex with anyone who isn’t enthusiastically agreeing to have sex with you of their own free will.”  

    And the absence of that rule is sufficient, as far as I’m concerned, to eliminate the Bible as an authoritative source on sexual ethics.   It starts with the wrong premise – the premise that sexuality is a property women have that is owned by a particular man in her life, and that property right must be respected.  Rather than that the correct starting premise for understanding sexual morality, that sexuality is something everyone has for themself, and you must respect everyone as a human who is your equal.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

     “Don’t have sex with anyone who isn’t enthusiastically agreeing to have sex with you of their own free will.”  
    And the absence of that rule is sufficient, as far as I’m concerned, to eliminate the Bible as an authoritative source on sexual ethics.

    Absolutely. 

    Then I thought about it for a minute, and realized this one is a good basis for sexual ethics:  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  Also do unto others as you would have them do unto you. You wouldn’t have anyone ignore your consent, nor would you want anyone else to prevent you from being with whom you love.

    Basically, I don’t see how people who elevate Leviticus above the New Testament and what Jesus specifically taught can consider themselves Christians.

  • Ursula L

    Then I thought about it for a minute, and realized this one is a good basis for sexual ethics:  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  Also do unto others as you would have them do unto you. You wouldn’t have anyone ignore your consent, nor would you want anyone else to prevent you from being with whom you love.

    Basically, I don’t see how people who elevate Leviticus above the New Testament and what Jesus specifically taught can consider themselves Christians.

    Misogynists who like the sexual ethics of Leviticus can easily reconcile all the Leviticus-rules with “love your neighbor as yourself.”

    Because, if you embrace a Leviticus-level of misogyny, then “love your neighbor as yourself” is an instruction to men to love other men as themselves.  Which means respecting a man’s control over a particular woman’s sexuality to the same degree that you would have them respect your control over the women you have a right to.  

    A woman is neither person nor neighbor nor like the person being told to love another like themself.

  • Lunch Meat

     I wonder if that’s related to all the slippery slope arguments about people marrying children and dogs and toasters–because if a father can consent on behalf of his (adult) daughter, then why shouldn’t a father consent on behalf of his (child) daughter, or an owner consent on behalf of his dog or his toaster? If men are the only ones doing the consenting, then we have to make sure they can only marry women or they’ll all be consenting on behalf of trees or jellyfish, and THE HUMAN RACE WILL DIE OUT.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Ahem…bishops: Number 6? For that matter, 72.

    70 would be pretty hard for funerals.

  • Ross Thompson

    70.   Entering a place where there’s a dead body as a priest

    Well, that makes sense. If they’ve put a dead body in a position of authority like that, staying the hell away is a really good idea.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Zing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ed-Mix/100000574306150 Ed Mix

    This is a pretty clear prohibition against zombies.

  • Tricksterson

    Well, yeah, zombies are the guilt free monster.  One can empathize with the pights of various versions of werewolves and vampires but zombies?  They’re the last acceptable prejudice.  Even us fat people get off easy compared to them.

  • http://twitter.com/bmk bmk

    I think Funny or Die condensed this into its purest form in “Marc Shaiman’s ‘Prop 8: The Musical'” (http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/c0cf508ff8/prop-8-the-musical-starring-jack-black-john-c-reilly-and-many-more-from-fod-team-jack-black-craig-robinson-john-c-reilly-and-rashida-jones)

    To this day, every time I come across an example of this, I mentally start singing and clapping, “We pick and choose!”

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    About the, “as with a woman,” thing.  I know absolutely nothing about ancient Hebrew thoughts on sexuality, but I wonder if it’s specifically about penetration.

    In ancient Greece and Rome a man being in a sexual relationship with another man was no big deal, in certain contexts it was completely expected, but a male citizen (as opposed to a slave) being penetrated was scandalous and wrong and reflected poorly on the one being penetrated and so on.  Fun sexy-times between male citizens were supposed to involve non-penetrative sex.

    Definitely not exactly the same thing since the biblical prohibition would include male slaves, but I wonder if it could come from the same kind of focus on penetration.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Not… really.

    In Rome, a man being in a sexual relationship with another man was a big huge honkin’ deal, and very frowned on. Penetration doesn’t enter into it. Men were not supposed to have sexual relationships with men.
    In Greece, a man being in a sexual relationship with a much younger man was expected. Penetration was also expected and not frowned on at all in these relationships, with the older man being the “top”. 

    Rome and Greece were extremely different cultures. People tend to get confused because Rome adopted Greece’s gods — but Rome changed those gods to be more in line with their own cultural mores. Jupiter (Zeus) was no longer a philandering rapist, he was a wise and stern and just father and husband. Juno (Hera) was no longer a jealous wife, she was a wise and kind and loving wife and mother. Rome did something similar with art; they used Grecian techniques, but Roman art tended to be more realistic and down to earth than Greece’s ultra-idealized stuff.

    Rome was a huge, centralized empire; Greece was a bunch of city-states that fought among themselves. Women in Athens were treated as property, lumped with slaves, considered stupid and well-nigh pointless except as incubators (though some writers pushed against this view, and we don’t really know what most people believed). But women in Sparta were treated as near-equals to men. Women in Rome were neither equals to men nor property —  Roman women could own property and be educated, their husbands and male relatives were not supposed to mistreat them, and they were considered valuable participants in the Empire, with rights of their own, though their roles were constricted relative to free male citizens’. 

  • MadGastronomer

    Two men in a sexual relationship was very frowned on in Rome, but it still had a firm active/passive split: A man who penetrated another man was still manly, but a man who was penetrated was not. The man who was (or, more accurately, presumed to be) the “passive” partner came in for most of the scorn there, while the “active” partner was more making poor choices about where he stuck his bits.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Penetration was also expected and not frowned on at all in these relationships, with the older man being the “top”.

    Could you cite a source for this because if you’re right then I definitely want to contact the chair of the department at my university and … well, warn her that she’s apparently somehow managed to miss the relevant research and she had better revise that lecture she keeps going around giving and seriously consider redoing all of her research that she’s put into her upcoming work on pederasty in ancient Greece and Rome.

    It wouldn’t be the biggest mistake someone in academia has ever made, but it would be a major fuck up and I’d like to spare her that.

    Also, she could probably stop squicking prudish students by explaining what intercrural sex is (the reason for the explanation as is, she explains it was what was done in such relationships as opposed to penetrative sex.)  Then again, could isn’t would.  If she were trying to avoid squicking there are a lot of kylixes she would never have shown.

    Other than that, I shortened things a lot in my original post because I figured that making this about Rome and Greece would going too far off topic.  I did consider just saying, “Athens” instead of Greece because Sparta definitely was entirely different and most places outside of Athens we know of mostly by non-written artifacts or what Athens thought about them.

    And with Rome it’s worth noting that there seem to be multiple standards at play where they’ll at once look down on the Greeks for having same sex relations and also have same sex relations.  And then there’s parsing of which of the insults thrown at Nero were meant to be most severe, and the fact that the definitely were male slaves used to be the sexual objects of their masters and it wasn’t kept a secret.  And given that the literary evidence spans styles from Horace to Petronius it gets very complicated very fast.

    Rome did something similar with art; they used Grecian techniques, but Roman art tended to be more realistic and down to earth than Greece’s ultra-idealized stuff.

    That depends on when you’re talking about.  Julio-Claudian art was definitely calling back specifically to the idealized forms of classical Athens, and there’s some Republican art that was just as far from realistic as the idealism of the Greeks you’re talking about, but in the opposite direction (embracing wrinkles and flaws to the point they become laughably unreal in their overemphasis).  (And Flavian art, when it started at least, called back to the Republican style.)

    And then there’s the complication that a fair amount of Greek art is known only via Roman copies, and the fact that what kind of art was in use depended not just on when it was made but also where it was made with the eastern part of the Roman empire being more open to styles that called back to political ideologies the western part of the empire did not like.

    Anyway, if we’re trying not to oversimplify, then it’s definitely the case that Greek and Roman art are way more complicated than you make them out to be.

    So, in short, I agree that I oversimplified a lot.

    Also, could you cite a source for your claim that the eromenos was expected to be penetrated and that this was not frowned upon?  I’m completely serious about knowing someone working on that very area that seems not to be aware of that.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Eek, no, I don’t have any citations. This was stuff I learned in my Gender in Ancient Greece class about a decade ago. It’s likely the woman you’re talking about has newer research, or maybe more specific research. 

    I took a class on ancient Rome at the same time I took that Greek class, btw. Tip: never do that. There was another woman in that class who did the same thing, and we both did very poorly on our papers about gender roles in Rome because we got them confused with Greece in the same odd way. It was the only history paper I ever did poorly on — luckily, the professor let me re-write it.

  • Robyrt

    I read things like #42 and #48 as prohibiting exploiting your workers and the poor who are gleaning from the edges of your fields, and also in the same vein of sustainability as #58 (eating fruit from a young tree) or #71 (slaughtering a cow and its young on the same day). Although Christians aren’t required to follow any of these commands, they sound pretty solid overall in an easily digestible list like that.
     
    The trouble I have with the “Love your neighbor as yourself” interpretive lens here is that it doesn’t provide any way of distinguishing between #39 and #33 and #40, which is exactly the point at issue most of the time people are talking about Leviticus.

  • erikagillian

     Does for me.  Though I tend to use the Love lens.  Anyway, staying away from your sister-in-law is about not treating your brother like dirt or if you want it as a societal thing is going to mess the family up and that’s not good.  Bestiality goes with consent for me but you could put it in the don’t mistreat your livestock, you need to keep them healthy column.  #33 has all kinds of ways it can be interpreted.  (I managed to spell ‘interpreted’ so badly the spell checker’s first suggestion was interpenetrated).  I wonder about the translation too, as ‘lie with’ and ‘like a woman’ can be very vague once you start looking at them closely.

  • Kirala

    It says nothing about father/daughter sex, so…. no.

    I figured that was covered under #34 – a man’s daughter would, by definition, be the daughter of a woman with whom the man had had sex.

    However, while I notice that one is prohibited from sex with one’s aunt (biological or no), there is no prohibition from sex with one’s niece. Why…?

  • Ross Thompson

     

    I figured that was covered under #34 – a man’s daughter would, by
    definition, be the daughter of a woman with whom the man had had sex.

    Hrm. I was thinking of that forbidding being in a relationship with them both at the same time, and Mrs Lot was  pillar of salt at the time. But I’ll cheerfully concede the point.

  • Tonio

     

    However, while I notice that one is prohibited from sex with one’s aunt
    (biological or no), there is no prohibition from sex with one’s niece.
    Why…?

    Perhaps they interpreted the former as undermining male authority over women.

  • LouisDoench

    OK,  I know we’re all having a good laugh at the silly Leviticus and all that but just skimming through I found…

    38.   Giving your children to be sacrificed to Molek (18:21)

    WTF? That kind of sticks out like a sore thumb don’t it? Why so specific? Is it ok to sacrifice my children to anyone besides Molek?

    Just don’t sac your kids to anybody, ok?

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    God might have wanted to keep the Abraham option open.

  • Abigail Nussbaum

    Quite a few of the Biblical laws are very specific to their era and place, and intended to counter the phenomenon of religious “drift” – a tendency to adopt the religious customs of neighboring tribes.  This was a time, after all, when religious affiliation wasn’t as codified as it is today – you weren’t a Jew or a Christian so much as you followed certain customs, and might combine them with the customs of your neighbors.  At several points, the Bible makes very specific and, to us, strange prohibitions that are a reflection of those neighboring customs.  Immediately following the ten commandments, for example, there’s a prohibition on worshiping naked, which is a response to a local custom.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    WTF? That kind of sticks out like a sore thumb don’t it? Why so
    specific? Is it ok to sacrifice my children to anyone besides Molek?

    Molek (or Moloch) figured largely in Jewish cultural tradition at one point and IIRC Jewish leaders were rather horrified at the very different and seemingly rather barbaric traditions around Moloch.

    The wikipedia entry reveals that the Canaanites, in addition to orther peoples, performed that kind of child-sacrifice. This might explain why the Torah effectively legalized permanent discrimination against Canaanites later on. (ISTR certain religious prohibitions against associating with Canaanites, for example)

  • TheFaithfulStone

    Eating – or touching the carcass of – any seafood without fins or scales

    Wait, does that mean God has banned catfish?  Because I won’t worship a God who bans catfish.

  • thatotherjean

     Sorry.  If you stick with YHWH, no catfish for you.

  • Lori

     

      Sorry.  If you stick with YHWH, no catfish for you.  

    Yeah, no catfish. See: earlier discussion about kosher being largely determined by what the creature eats. Catfish will eat anything and are basically swimming garbage dumps.

  • TheFaithfulStone

     

    Catfish … are basically swimming garbage dumps.

    Delicious swimming garbage dumps.  Mmmmmm…. swimming garbage dumps…uggglllhhh.

  • Tricksterson

    Were/are catfish even indiginous to the Middle East?  Aren’t they a New World fish?

  • Lori

     

    Were/are catfish even indiginous to the Middle East?  Aren’t they a New World fish?  

    I think so, but IIRC there are other fish with similar properties that have similar issues with what they eat. (Don’t quote me on that though.)

  • JenL

    Were/are catfish even indiginous to the Middle East?  Aren’t they a New World fish?

    Even if what you picture as a catfish wasn’t in the Middle East, there’d be some analog.  Bottom-feeders/garbage-eaters fill a need…

  • P J Evans

     What about pigeons? I’ve seen them called ‘feathered rats’.

  • Lori

     

      What about pigeons? I’ve seen them called ‘feathered rats’.  

    Pigeons will eat human food (they seem to love french fries more than I do), but they aren’t naturally flying garbage cans. I think people call them rats with wings because they’re annoying, plentiful and not the cleanest birds more so than because of what they eat.

  • Benly

    Okay, so. The rules vary from one category of animals to the next. There’s nothing that actually says “you’re not allowed to eat carnivores”, but in every case (except for certain fish) the rules are structured so as to forbid all known carnivorous animals of the time. Catfish weren’t known in the Old World, but similar bottom-feeders that lack visible scales were, and “fish that lack visible scales” were off the list.

    When you get to birds, things get a little weird, because instead of giving a solid rule for birds the Torah actually lists a long list of forbidden birds. The problem is that a lot of them are words where we don’t actually know anymore what bird that word is used to refer to in ancient Hebrew.

    Some of them we do. Hawks and vultures are forbidden, for example, which incidentally also means New World hawks and vultures are also off the list – they don’t have to be listed breed-by-breed. We don’t know what bird a “vomiter” or an “angry sniffer” is. There are later translations where we do know what birds they’re talking about in Greek or Latin – but these translations frequently disagree, with translators inserting locally-known birds hat seemed to make sense.

    So given all that, what do you do? Because birds are such a weird and special case, a common rule is “a bird is kosher if an unbroken tradition of how it is to be prepared as kosher meat can be confirmed to exist”. How long you have to go for it to be unbroken and traditional is a matter for rabbis to argue over. Everyone agrees that chicken, ducks and geese are kosher if properly raised and prepared. Not everyone agrees about swan, but nobody really eats swan these days so there aren’t huge arguments over it. Turkey was controversial for a while very early on, but at this point everyone pretty much agrees that turkey (a) was not on the forbidden list and (b) does not share the qualities generally considered to make food unclean, like carrion-eating and so on.

    Something I didn’t know before but a quick poke around has confirmed is that pigeons are actually a special case among this category of special cases! On the list of offerings for various occasions at the Temple, one of them is “doves or pigeons”. Since the meat remnants of offerings were to be eaten, pigeons are among the few birds that are incontrovertibly established as kosher. However, wild pigeons would be unlikely to meet the standards of health and cleanliness standards required – this would be domesticated pigeons raised for food, for the most part (usually called squabs).

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     Not all Jews agree about ducks, actually; the tradition my parents were brought up in considers ducks unkosher.

  • http://jesustheram.blogspot.com/ Mr. Heartland

    You can have my metal gods when you pry them out of my cold dead hands!!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8PIQp0RKaE

  • CAThompson

    As for 
    No. 39, I cannot find the Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic. But that explains it nicely as “God recommending sodomy.”

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    No. 39, […] as “God recommending sodomy.”

    That makes certain assumptions about how men lie with women that turn out not to be reliably the case.

  • http://www.nightphoenix.com Amaranth

    A couple of thoughts on the “a man shouldn’t have sex with another man as though with a woman” thing.

    I know very little about the Hebrew language, but in researching the topic I found several people pointing out that there are two different words being used here for “man”: a man (ish) shouldn’t lie with a man (zakar) as with a woman. It gets confusing because people disagree on what this meant and why it was significant. Because “zakar” was sometimes used to refer to a cultic male prostitute, it’s been theorized that the verse was actually forbidding a specific custom where a man would go to pagan temple and have sex with a (male) prostitute as an offering to a deity.

    It makes sense to me because that makes it fit in with the larger context of Leviticus 18, which was all about “This is stuff your neighbors do in their temples. Don’t do that.” Research on ancient Canaanite and surrounding areas suggests that people would specifically have sex with relatives in their temples, as offerings. (Found a lot of this here:) http://www.gaychristian101.com/Shrine-Prostitutes.html

     It ALSO makes the sore thumb verse about not sacrificing your children to Molech fit right in.

  • Ursula L

    It’s worth noting that #31, “having sex with your uncle’s wife,” is not the most precise translation, at least in the NIV.  Rather, the prohibition is on having sex with your father’s brother’s wife.  

    Having sex with your mother’s brother’s wife, who is also an uncle’s wife, and just as closely related, is permitted.  Neither is having sex with your’father’s wife’s brother’s wife (when your father has more than one wife, your mother and another woman or other women), who might be considered a step-uncle.  

    This distinction, again, goes to the point of who control’s a woman’s sexuality, and to which men you have a particular obligation to respect their control of a woman’s sexuality.  

    A man’s father’s brother is in the group of men who are close relations to a man so that they are his social and cultural superiors whom he must particularly respect, beyond the obligation of not having sex with another man’s wife.

    But a man’s mother isn’t that important – relationships that count flow from his relationship with his father, for the most part. 

  • Kirala

    But a man’s mother isn’t that important – relationships that count flow from his relationship with his father, for the most part.

    I’d be interested in seeing how this is meshed with the fact that Jewish religious/cultural inheritance flows matrilineally.

  • Ursula L

    I’d be interested in seeing how this is meshed with the fact that Jewish religious/cultural inheritance flows matrilineally. 

    I’m not familiar with the particular reasoning behind that modern Jewish understanding of inheritance.

    But it isn’t inconsistent with seeing women as property whose sexuality is controlled by men.  

    If a Jewish man wants legitimate Jewish heirs, he must have them with a woman who is Jewish.  

    Which means that any children a Jewish man had whose mother was not Jewish, such as a foreign wife, a slave, a foreign woman captured in warfare, etc. could not inherit. Jewishness was preserved by men favoring the children they had with women who were the daughters of Jewish men whose father contracted with him to give the daughter to have the status of “wife.”    

    And a Jewish woman had her sexuality rand reproductive power controlled by Jewish men.  Her sexuality and reproductive power belonged to her father, when she was born.  She was expected to remain a virgin, and he was expected to ensure she remained a virgin, until he decided it was time for that status to change.  At that point, he could arrange a marriage for her to a Jewish man, so that her children would be legitimately Jewish.  Or he could arrange for her to be a concubine, or to sell her into slavery.  At that point, her sexuality and reproductive power became the property of the man she was transferred to.   And her children might be legitimate Jewish heirs to a Jewish man she was married to.  Or they might just be “other,” with the inferior status of being the child of a concubine or slave.  

    It isn’t any different than how, in the US, prior to the civil war, the children of a an enslaved woman were slaves.  Even if the father of those children was a free citizen.  Even if the father of the children was the man who had legal ownership of the mother.  

    If a free white woman had children with an enslaved black man, she was ostracized, and the child would be considered illegitimate.  She could not bear free and legitimate children to anyone but a free man to whom she was legally married.  

    A free white man’s legitimate heirs were the children he had with a woman he married who was the daughter of a free white woman married to a free white man.

    Status as “free” or “slave” was determined by your mother. If you were “free” whatever property, power and cultural status you had was determined by your father, and by the legitimacy of your mother’s relationship with your father.  

    That sort of inheritance law isn’t about empowering women.  It is about allowing men to control and limit the inheritance of property and citizenship rights without having to limit their sexual activity to the woman or women who were culturally appropriate to be mothers of his heirs. 

  • VCarlson

    I’d seen it explained somewhere that a lot of these rules are simply how to manage property rights. And women were/are simply property.

  • Abigail Nussbaum

    I think you’re confusing issues of legitimacy, inheritance, and the descent of Jewishness.  The concept of legitimacy in Judaism isn’t identical to the Christian one, both because classically Judaism doesn’t place the same emphasis on virginity and sexual purity that Christianity does (Orthodox Judaism has, of course, accumulated these preoccupations, but that’s more an artifact of strict patriarchy that has been justified by religion than a purely religious issue), and because historically Jews have not tended to have land to bequeath to their descendants.  A Jew is illegitimate (mamzer) if they are born to a married woman and their father is not her husband.  The child of a single, widowed, or divorced woman is not illegitimate.  

    Jewish law doesn’t codify inheritance very strongly in any case (most of the Biblical stories take for granted a system of primogeniture, but the laws neither reflect nor counter it), much less in the specific case of a bastard.  Bastardy is important mainly as it regards marriage – a bastard may not marry a legitimately born Jew but only another bastard.

    Where the maternal line comes into it is in the inheritance of Jewishness.  Being Jewish is, for the most part, something you’re born into, and the condition is having a Jewish mother – the father’s religion doesn’t matter.  Growing up, I was taught that this was because you could always be sure who the mother was, but not so much about the father.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira


    if you embrace a Leviticus-level of misogyny, then “love your neighbor as yourself” is an instruction to men to love other men as themselves.

    So it’s an instruction to engage in mutual masturbation with other men? Hm, that is basically the right wing… maybe if they did it literally, rather than metaphorically, they wouldn’t be so uptight.

    (I know, serious topic, but there’s only so much “love your neighbor” I can see in the context of sexuality without making the obvious jokes.)

  • Ursula L

    I know, serious topic, but there’s only so much “love your neighbor” I can see in the context of sexuality without making the obvious jokes.

    That may well be t he only way to stay sane while trying to understand what something means when read with a Leviticus-level of misogyny.  

  • Tricksterson

    What’s “authorized” fire as opposed to unauthorized.

    And no sacrificing children to Moloch?  Does that mean Baal is okay?  Or that adults are?

  • pharoute

    I’m so old I remember when Reagan got a pass for consulting with astrologers.

  • Tad Callin

    Thanks for the link!  (I wondered why my traffic was boosted!)

  • http://twitter.com/Didaktylos Paul Hantusch

    Marrying the wife’s sister while the wife still lives: well, the punishment for bigamy (so they say) is TWO mothers-in-law; so a man who marries a pair of sisters is clearly trying to get around that one …

    On a more serious note, I would imagine that “touching the carcass” would mean “using an unclean animal as industrial material” and thus removing rotting carrion so as to end a health hazard would be permitted.

  • Tricksterson

    Btw, aren’t there a whol;e bunch of rules and regs in Deuteronomy and some in Numbers?  How cum Leviticus gets all the attention?  Their feelings are hurt.


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