To’aiva: A Rabbi Speaks


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.


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).


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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The Word of Truth

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2Ti 2:15).

The word orthotomounta (Gr ὀρθοτομοῦντα) is used only once in the New Testament. The prefix ortho is recognized, for example, in the word orthodox. Used in the context of Paul’s letter to Timothy the word is interpreted as accurately handling (NASB), rightly dividing (KJV), and straightly cutting (INT) the word of truth.

To understand Scripture within its proper context we must keep in mind basic principles of Exegesis, or what is the Bible saying as opposed to Eisegesis which is a conclusion based on what the reader thinks it means. Hermeneutics is a method of theology that seeks to interpret our exegetical explanation. Take, for example, this passage from Paul’s letter to the assembly at Thessalonica:

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever (1Thess 4:16-17).

We can exegete, or explain, that these verses speak of the resurrection of the saints. By our method of Hermeneutics we might determine that this event comes before or after the Great Tribulation. Your theology will determine whether you are a Preterist (the Great Tribulation has already occurred), or Futurist (the time of trouble is an event yet to be fulfilled).

The Apostle Paul admonished the assembly at Corinth that there be no divisions amongst the brethren (1Co 1:10). Denominations had lined up behind the teachings of Paul, Apollos, Peter and Christ. Those divisions have continued through 2000 years of church history. Christians, in modern times, follow the teachings of any number of men and women: Wesley (Methodists), Luther (Lutherans), Calvin (Presbyterians), Miller and White (Seventh Day Adventists), Smith and Young (Mormons); and Baptists who can trace their origin to the Separatist movement that emerged in Holland (1608) under the guidance of Anglican priest John Smyth.

Many, who are turned off by division, simply turn on the television and divide themselves among a plethora of TV evangelists from Joyce Meyer to Joseph Prince. I listen and watch, too; but with an opened Bible and discerning spirit. It is imperative that we be equipped to determine if the teacher is rightly dividing the word of truth.

A television pastor who teaches verse by verse through the scriptures believes that the Bible — from Genesis to the Gospels — was written exclusively to, and for, the Jews. His proof-text is found in Matthew 15:21-24:

Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and [began] to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.” But He answered and said, I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

The context is that a Gentile woman pleaded with the Lord that He might be merciful and heal her daughter. The disciples were in a frenzy that this woman would dare to even approach Jesus who explained that He was sent only to minister to the Jews.

The pastor (who exhorts his listeners to rightly divide the word) ends the discussion at verse 24, but that is an exegetical mistake for we read in the following verses that the woman persists in her pleading and Jesus is so compelled by her faith that He heals the woman’s daughter (Mt 15:28). This is in harmony with Paul’s teaching to the Romans that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, but that all who call upon the Lord will be saved (Rom 10:12-13).

Another example he cites as proof that the Gospel was intended only for the Jews is found in the Book of Acts. Stephen had been stoned to death, and the assembly was scattered because of the persecution. Luke (who authored Acts) wrote that the disciples made their way to Phonecia, Cyprus and Antioch speaking the word to no one but the Jews (Acts 11:19). Again, he ends the discussion prematurely because in the very next verse Luke records that some of the men went to Antioch and preached to the Gentiles (Acts 11:20).

As well, he contends that nowhere in the Gospels is reference even made of the “church”, or what we might call the assembly of believers. Please examine the following passage from the Gospel of Matthew:

I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it (Mt 16:18).

Clearly, our Lord is referencing the Day of Pentecost when Peter stood before the assembly in Jerusalem, preached the Gospel and 3000 souls were baptized into the body of Christ. In this passage, the word for “church” is ekklēsian (Gr ἐκκλησίαν) meaning those called outassembly or congregation — and it is mentioned by no greater authority than our Lord.

This is what we mean by rightly dividing Scripture.

One of the Christian networks was having a monthly pledge drive. At the end of the segment a gathering of ministers prayed over the names of those who had made a contribution. (So, those viewers who didn’t give were excluded from the blessing?) For the specific prayer of physical healing the pastors cited this verse from Isaiah:

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed (Is 53:5).

How many times have we heard a TV pastor cite this passage, and command supernatural healing of all the viewers who are physically afflicted? By His wounds you are healed of (fill in the name of your ailment).

This, however, is flawed exegesis. Isaiah is referring to the healing of our sin condition. Sin is a disease that, for a believer, was put into remission when Jesus Christ shed His blood upon the cross. Without the shedding of blood there can be no remission, or forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:22). David pleaded unto the LORD, Heal my soul for I have sinned against Thee (Ps 41:4). Peter declared that Christ bore our sins in His body on the cross that we might receive spiritual healing (1Pe 2:24). By His stripes our afflicted soul is healed of its anguish and spiritual poverty. Beware the prosperity teachers who preach the salvation of your finances. [1]

How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding for her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold (Pr 3:13-14).

Wisdom counsels that we might occasionally turn off the television preachers, read the Bible and listen to the Holy Spirit. Present yourself, therefore, a workman who is diligent and not ashamed of the truth.

That, my brethren, is good exegesis and sound theology.


1. Compare Matthew 8:17 with Isaiah 53:4 to see how the gospel writer interpreted the context of these passages. There is no contradiction, but that the ministers of healing might quote Matthew instead.

Suggested Reading:

How to Interpret the Bible

What is Good Biblical Exegesis?

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Seek Ye the Truth

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is [really] not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! (Gal 1:6-9)

This is a difficult topic to discuss because it risks sowing division within the body of Christ. There are six things the LORD hates, and a seventh that is an abomination which is spreading strife among brothers (Pr 6:16-19).

Paul wrote to the assembly at Rome:

Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting (Ro 16:17-18). 

Dissension and discord are spread when pastors and teachers corrupt or distort the word of God. Let’s examine the following passages:

Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son (Jn 14:13).

Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you (Mk 11:24). 

Kenneth Copeland recently aired a week-long series titled How to Believe God for a House — that by simply exercising their faith a person could boldly claim the promises of God and receive the home of their dreams fully furnished to their heart’s every desire.

This is what is called the Word of Faith Gospel, or (in derision) Name it and Claim it.

Copeland told this story on his blog:

I remember in the early days of this ministry when Gloria and I reached the point where we needed a station wagon to get us and our children from one place to the next so I could preach. Like anything else we needed, we went to God’s promises concerning our need, then we prayed, sowed seed, believed God and started speaking the Word. That’s what we did for that car.

He recalled they were short $3000.00 for the purchase of the car until a man called a few days later:

In less than a week, a man called me, crying. “Oh, Brother Copeland, I’m so ashamed of myself. God told me to send you $3,000 a few days ago and I didn’t do it. I’ve hung on to it until I cannot stand it anymore.” The first time that man heard God tell him to send us the money was the same time we talked about getting the car.”

Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar (and many others on Christian television) exhort believers to simply exercise their faith to get from God whatever they need. The gospel they preach (gleaned from Malachi 3:10) emphasizes that sowing seed into their ministries will reap material blessings. It is not uncommon for Hinn to ask for thousand dollar (or more) donations to his program. The foundation of this false gospel is built upon a distorted interpretation of Scripture:

Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure — pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return (Lk 6:38).

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully (2Co 9:6).

These passages are ancient Jewish allusions to the substance of giving, and dealing fairly with all people. We will be remembered in our time of need by those to whom we give liberally in their time of poverty. A Hebrew understood, however, that his charity might not be returned in the form of material but spiritual blessings.

The prosperity gospel emphasizes, as well, this passage from Paul’s second letter to the assembly at Corinth:

Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness (2Co 9:10).

Word of Faith preachers interpret this to mean if you donate $1000.00 to their ministry, God will increase your abundance so you can give even more. But, here, Paul is alluding to a passage found in the Tanakh:

Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD until He comes to rain righteousness on you (Hosea 10:12). 

We sow, then, to reap spiritual blessings which YHWH may choose to confer in this life, or after. Warning: If you give $3000.00 to Benny Hinn don’t expect that God will give you the house of your dreams. That is a perverse understanding of the Jewish custom of giving. To give money with the expectation that the LORD will pay you back with interest reflects not a generous heart, but one that is wicked.

One final note on this subject — it is interesting that the New Testament does make reference to the word of faith. In Paul’s letter to Rome he mentions the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Ro 10:8-9).

My question to our readers is this: Which word of faith gospel do you believe? The gospel of prosperity, or the gospel of Jesus Christ?


False teaching abounds within the Charismatic movement that is seen worldwide on Christian television. That was the featured discussion of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference. MacArthur is pastor of Grace Community Church, host of the media program Grace to You and president of The Master’s College and Seminary. He is a Reformed Theologian and Five Point Calvinist whose teaching is framed by a Dispensational eschatology. His credentials, at least, afford MacArthur a respected seat in the assembly of Christians who are diligently seeking the truth of God.

Strange Fire, as a reminder, is a reference from the Torah relating to the sons of Aaron, brother of Moses:

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD (Lv 10:1-2).

Briefly, the priests were to approach the altar in a manner of holiness acceptable to YHWH. Aaron’s sons violated the commandment of the LORD, and died.

MacArthur’s point was that many within the charismatic movement are approaching God in a manner that is unholy in attitude and practice. Their style of worship might even be considered blasphemous. The crux of the issue is a debate between continualists and cessationists — those who believe that the assigned gifts of the Holy Spirit (miracles, signs and wonders) which were given to the apostles as confirmation of their authority) ended when the last Apostle died, and those who believe that these gifts continue today. [It is important to note that MacArthur believes the Holy Spirit is still active in the world drawing people to Christ, and restraining Satan.]

Those who disagree with MacArthur were quick to respond:

So, it’s about time someone started a broader public discussion and issued an open challenge to some of this (charismatic) theology. But what we got instead was a reckless condemnation of half a billion Christians with little distinction maintained throughout. MacArthur did put in a little qualifier in his opening discussion, but did not maintain it at all later. Indeed, he did the opposite. When the moderator would bring up extreme cases as examples for discussion, MacArthur seemed to use them as a launching point to speak in broad generalities, and with sweeping condemnation of “these people” to hell. With his careless rhetoric, MacArthur locked charismatics and anyone who could be associated with them all in the same building, and then burned the place down, standing proudly in righteous self-justification as he tossed the match. (Reckless Fire, Dr. Joel McDurmon, The American Vision Biblical Worldview Ministry)

Countered by those who agreed:

If you believe in truth and error, facts and falsehood, right and wrong, then you recognize the need to seek truth as opposed to false teaching. This is the position of John MacArthur, and it should be the position of every evangelical Christian, including those who disagree with MacArthur’s cessationist views. Here’s the fact of the matter – the continualist who believes MacArthur is wrong and the cessationist who believes MacArthur is right are closer to each other than the person who says this debate doesn’t matter or cannot be decided. Why? Because both the committed continualist and the committed cessationist believe God has revealed Himself on this issue and that we are accountable to live according to God’s revealed truth. If MacArthur is wrong, he is in the frightening position of attributing the work of the Spirit to satanic deception. If MacArthur is right, charismatics should repent of false belief and practice. As you can see, the stakes are high. (The Right and Wrong Way to Engage John MacArthur’s “Strange Fire” Conference, Trevin Wax, The Gospel Coalition) 

John MacArthur’s summation:

There is one other group we’d like to address in the wake of Strange Fire—the folks on either side of the debate who are simply sad, tired, and wish the whole matter would just go away. That group is made up of cessationists, continualists, and charismatics who had set aside their differences in the name of unity and love, and now feel as though a bomb has gone off in the midst of their beloved middle ground. If you’re one of those people, please understand that the decision to hold the Strange Fire conference was not made capriciously. Strange Fire was a response to a tidal wave of dangerous, damning lies that are leading hundreds of millions of people to hell. Unity through silence has not held back that tidal wave—it’s sweeping across the global church. Truth does matter, and it’s worth fighting for.

When does our search for truth violate the faith of fellow believers? Will God judge me as I have judged the Word of Faith teachers? Or as John MacArthur has judged the charismatics? John the Apostle said that we must test the spirits for many false prophets have gone out into the world (1Jn 4:1); Paul warns against the deceitful workmen who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ (2Co 11:13); and Luke wrote, Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:30).

We might note that when Paul and Silas were sent to Berea the resident Jews diligently searched the Scriptures to examine the truth of the Apostle’s teaching (Acts 17:10-11). A charismatic, or Word of Faith teacher is not validated just because they are seen daily on Christian television.

Test the spirits — because truth matters.

Suggested Reading: The Gift of Discerning Spirits

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View Part 1 of this Q&A here.