Homosexuality and the Bible — A Jewish Perspective

The Conservative movement within American Judaism is debating the issue of homosexuality, centered in the questions of the ordination of homosexuals as rabbis and the blessing of same-sex union. As with Christian denominations, the inescapable issue is the authority of the Bible. The Old Testament’s clear words of condemnation for all homosexual behavior would seem to be clear enough, but the Virtual Talmud blog offers this explanation:

The question of same-sex marriage is controversial, of course. It would be easy to argue, as many do, that same-sex marriage, and by extension all homosexuality, is biblically prohibited. Leviticus 18:22 clearly states, “Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman, it is an abhorrence.”If we were to read the Bible as a fundamentalist would, those words might be enough for us. But as Jews, we don’t act simply on the literal words of the Bible. We seek to understand God’s will for us through the lenses of (rabbinic) interpretation, predicated on and understood within its socio-historic context. That the biblical prohibition on homosexual relations is found among a list of illicit, largely incestuous, relationships leads us to ask whether this prohibition includes the monogamous relationships that many homosexuals seek today.

The Conservative movement in American Judaism emerged out of an attempt to find a middle way between the Orthodox tradition and the more liberal Reform movement. Once again, the peril of the middle way emerges with arguments like the one found above. The words of the Bible are not directly denied, but the insinuation is that the Bible just doesn’t speak to the issue of homosexuality as we know it today. Heard that before?