The musings of a previously unemployed Jewish Freemason. I write about the job search, about Judaism, and about Freemasonry.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Biblical Inerrancy

This was written in response to what The Euphrates wrote about Inerrancy and Homosexuality in the Episcopalian Church at Freemason Information, but I am reposting it here.

The Orthodox tradition in my faith starts with inerrancy of the Five Books of Moses, but provides extensive commentary and interpretation through the Mishnah (Oral Torah), the Talmud, and nearly two millennia of commentaries upon them. Thus, while Scripture unfiltered tells us, "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them [Leviticus 20:13]," there must be at least two witnesses [Deuteronomy 17:6], and the Talmud tells us that a court of 23 judges had to vote, and the vote could not be unanimous (which would hint at a conspiracy to execute the condemned), and that the two witnesses could not corroborate their testimony before testifying, but would have a moral obligation to intervene, warning the accused that their behavior carried the death penalty. Only if the accused acknowledged each warning, but continued their behavior after each of two witnesses warned them to stop could they stand trial. Thus while the Mosaic Law says put them to death, the Rabbinic Law requires that the two men have sex somewhere where a person could come upon them in flagrente delicto, warn them to stop or face the death penalty, and continue even after having been warned and having replied that they were going to continue regardless, have another person do the same thing, and then have the two witnesses, independent of each other, report the transgression to the authorities, and have a tribunal non-unanimously vote for their execution in order for the sentence to be carried out.

So while the Law is inerrant, the Rabbis in their wisdom made it nearly impossible to extinguish two lives for loving each other in a non-standard way.

Interestingly, the word abomination in the Levitical law is תּוֹעֵבָה, the same word used to describe eating the flesh of swine, hares and hyraxes, as well as fish without scales, and shellfish; having sex with a menstruating woman, using a rigged scale to cheat a customer, wearing women's clothing, remarrying a wife after divorcing her, possessing gold or silver taken from an idol, and for a woman to crush the testicles of one of her husband's assailants.

The death penalty is also assigned for a lot of offenses in the Torah: Fortune telling, blaspheming, violating the Sabbath, disobeying or publicly cursing one's parents, a woman losing her virginity before marriage, adultery with one's daughter-in-law, false witness, contempt of court, allowing a dangerous ox to gore a neighbor through negligence, prostitution by a daughter of a priest, worshiping Baal Peor or sacrificing to any other god than YHVH, and adultery with a married woman all carry the death penalty.

Execution took place via stoning, decapitation, strangulation, or being forced to drink molten lead. Moses orders people to be impaled, as does other leaders in the later books, but YHVH never proscribes that as a legal penalty.

The Talmud mitigates this severely by making it very difficult for a court to put anyone to death. The Talmud tells us that if a court executed one person in seven years, it was considered an excessively "bloody" court.

Because I'm not a Christian, I don't understand why a few Christians fixate upon the homosexuality of others; and yet eat pork, allow their children to curse at them at the mall, have pre-marital sex, and enjoy the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. Maybe Jesus or Paul says more about homosexuality that I'm not aware of. If the New Law trumps the Old Law, which Levitical sins still apply?

P.S. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because their inhabitants were cruel to strangers, and lacked basic hospitality. While they tried to bugger the Angel of the Lord that visited Lot, they had already been condemned to death for their previous sins of cruelty and inhospitality.

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