- Jul 31, 2020
If translated word for word, Leviticus 18:22 is roughly ‘You shall not lie with (adult) man beds (plural noun) a woman/wife (singular noun).’ This final two-noun phrase is unclear in the original Hebrew; it is shared with Leviticus 20:13 (yet sometimes translated differently in the two verses), and it doesn’t occur anywhere else in the Bible. ‘Beds of a woman’ is generally how the phrase is translated into English — although anyone even loosely familiar with the culture of the time is aware that women owned nothing, could own nothing (see the story of widows Ruth and Naomi). Grammatically the relationship in Hebrew is quite different. ‘Woman/wife’ here have the relationship to ‘beds’ as in the phrase ‘the bedding of a woman/wife,’ i.e., the woman is the object of ‘beds,’ not the possessor of them. This still leaves the phrase fairly obscure, but in spite of its meaning in Hebrew, out of tradition a single basic line of thought nevertheless characterizes English translations.
Is the death penalty supposedly assigned to practicing homosexual males – though not among the Ten Commandments – somehow more important than the proscription in the Commandments against working on the Sabbath? Or perhaps more important than the death penalty assigned to someone who curses his/her parent (Leviticus 20:9) or who commits adultery (Leviticus 20:10)?
This passage could fairly well be translated ‘If a man has sexual intercourse with another man in the bed of a woman (or as part of a cult-like ritual), the two shall be cast out of society.’ You can see how this would not appeal to rabid fundamentalists.