To’aiva: A Rabbi Speaks


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From the writings of Rabbi Dr. Nachum Amsel (with comments following):

The Torah clearly states its views about the act of homosexuality. The act of homosexuality, i.e. two men having sexual relations, is prohibited (Leviticus 18:22). The act is twice called a To’aiva — an abomination …

If not for the fact that homosexuality is prevalent in Western Society today, there would be little controversy about this Torah sin. It is clearly forbidden and never condoned anywhere in the Torah.

Usually, the Rabbis do not explain the meaning of Torah words. And the meaning of abomination seems reasonably clear — it is abhorrent to God. But in this case, the Talmud does offer a specific explanation. Based on a play on the Hebrew words, the Talmud says that in the act of homosexuality, the person is straying.

The commentaries on the Talmud say that by abandoning heterosexual sexual relations, the person is straying from one of his prime goals in life — to procreate and populate the earth (Genesis 1:28). (See also  Romans 1:26). We will amplify this theme below, but this explanation does not seem to be the abhorrence that the word TO’AIVA implies in the simple meaning. The classic explanation of why homosexuality is prohibited in the Torah is because of straying, i.e. failure to populate the earth. The Chinuch explains that any ‘wasting of seed’ on homosexual relations is preventing procreation and inhabiting the earth, the prime directive of man. This prime directive is echoed by Isaiah 45:18 in describing the purpose of Creation — to be inhabited. This explanation does not point to the unholiness of the homosexual relationship, but, rather, the violation of man’s purpose on earth.

CHINUCH, MITZVAH 209

At the root of the precept lies the reason that the Eternal Lord blessed is He, desires the settlement of the world He created. Therefore, He commanded us that human seed should not be destroyed by carnal relations with males. For this is indeed destruction, since there can be no fruitful benefit of offspring from it, nor the fulfillment of the religious duty of conjugal rights (due one’s wife).

Messiah Gate Says:

To’aiva is not exclusive to the homosexual act. G-d took the life of Onan when he did not fulfill his conjugal obligations towards his deceased brother’s wife:

Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord; so He took his life also (Genesis 38:8-10). 

G-d created sex between a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation and bonding. The most natural form of birth control is the fear of pregnancy. The Pill radically altered — even overturned — the fundamental precepts of Biblical morality. Abortion and gay marriage have further eroded what G-d intended.

I have engaged in a lengthy debate at a gay Christian website regarding arsenokoitais (ἀρσενοκοίταις) as it is referenced in Paul’s epistles, e.g. 1 Timothy 1:10.

Arsen (men, man, male) and koitas (beds, from which we get the word coitus) is understood by gay Christians to be a condemnation of prostitution, pedophilia (pederasty) and idolatry — not homosexuality.

The moderator refutes all of the relevant Biblical text (both Torah and B’rit Chadasha) by reinterpreting Scripture contrary to the ancient Judeo-Christian tradition.

Following is a summary of my rebuttals:

… men with men (arsenes en arsesin) committing indecent acts (Romans 1:27) … 

Paul is quite clear in this passage. Subterfuge is not good hermeneutics. Otherwise I could use 1 Timothy 5:23 to justify getting drunk every night.

(Moderator called me anti-gay.)

With regards to Romans, I have read all of the contrarian viewpoints and they are not dissimilar from the faulty exegesis that asserts G-d destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their inhospitality.

(Moderator asked me to provide Scriptural support that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for homosexuality and not inhospitality.)

Look, we can’t interpret the Bible from the bias of contemporary mores thousand of years removed from the original text. You can’t defend any type of behavior by asserting that the Bible doesn’t say what it clearly meant to the ancient people to whom it was written.

This is evident in the Halacha (Oral and Written Law) which has preserved the Rabbinic interpretation of Torah that this particular act is to’aiva — an abomination.

It is not difficult to find arguments within Reformed Judaism to support your position. However, orthodox Rabbin hold to ancient tradition. 

Ben Witherington wrote:

The word [arsenokoites] literally and graphically refers to a male copulator (cf. Sib. Or. 2:73; Greek Anthology 9.686), a man who has intercourse with another man. It is true that this term can refer to a pederast (an older man who has sex with a younger man or a youth), but the term is not a technical term for a pederast; rather, it includes consenting adult males who have sexual relationships in this manner, as well as any other form of male-to-male intercourse.

Andreas Kostenberger wrote:

In light of the discussion of teaching in the Old Testament and the book of Romans above, it appears very unlikely that what is universally condemned in the Hebrew scriptures might, in New Testament times as well as ours, be acceptable. Arsenokoitas most likely refers to the general practice of homosexuality.

It appears like that the term arsenokoitas, which does not seem to appear in the extant literature prior to the present reference, was coined by Paul or someone else in Hellenistic Judaism from the Levitical prohibition against males “lying or sleeping with males” (Lev. 18:22). This suggests that the term is broad and general in nature and encompasses homosexuality as a whole rather than merely specific aberrant subsets of homosexual behavior. This is important since some want to make arsenokoitas refer specifically to pederasty.

The argument that Paul’s use of arsenokoitas refers to pederasty falls short on six counts:

a) There was a clear and unambiguous word for pederasty (which Paul did not use), the term paiderastes.

b) The attempt to limit Paul’s condemnation to pederasty is contradicted by Paul’s reference to the male partners’ mutual desire for one another in Romans 1:27.

c) In the same passage in Romans 1:26, Paul also condemns lesbian sex, which did not involve children, so that an appeal to pederasty does not adequately account for the prohibition of same-sex relations in this passage.

d) Even if (for argument’s sake) Paul were to censure only pederasty in the passages under consideration, this would still not mean that, as a Scripture-abiding Jew, he would have approved of homosexuality as such. Quite the contrary. In contrast to the surrounding Greco-Roman world (which generally accepted homosexual acts), Hellenistic (Greco)-Jewish texts universally condemn homosexuality and treat it (together with idolatry) as the most egregious example of Gentile moral depravity.

e) Not only is Paul’s view of homosexuality as contrary to nature in keeping with the foundational creation narrative in Genesis 1 and 2, but it is also illumined by prevailing views of homosexuality in contemporary Greco-Roman culture.

f) Ancient sources do not support the idea that homosexuality was defined exclusively in terms of homosexual acts but not orientation. Paul refers to both. Some scholars erect a false dichotomy between the two, and then use the false dichotomy to reason that the concept of  ‘homosexuality’ has changed.

Final Word

Arsenokoitais is not a reference to prostitution, idolatry nor pederasty, but (as the Talmud concurs) male-to-male sexual intercourse. How curious that the teachings of Augustine, Luther and the Rabbin are irrelevant in this age of enlightenment — or deception?

Christians who have preserved (in their hearts) the original context of the eternal Word of G-d are a minority in this fallen world. Those in-name-only need to stop imitating an ostrich and prepare for the persecution. The UMC minister who chastised me for predicting a dystopian future because of his gay advocacy should read the headlines. The future is now.

The Master’s Seminary posted an article about the Bible and homosexuality on its website, and within hours received a cease and desist order to take down the post. A lamenting judge told his pastor that, by law, he now has to marry homosexual couples. Said the judge, “I cannot.” Maybe there’s room for him in the jail cell of the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

The world will be given over to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28), but G-d is unchanging and He will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7).

Credits:

Homosexuality in Orthodox Judaism, article by Rabbi Dr. Nachum Amsel.

“Arsenokoitais” (ἀρσενοκοίταις) in 1 Timothy 1:10 (et. al.), article by John Piippo.

Witherington, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, Volume 1: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John, 198).

Kostenberger, God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation (with David Jones)..

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