Ritual purity is such an important point! Indeed, Judaism sprang, in its earliest days, from a common pool of regional religions that emphasized purity as part of temple worship practices.

Leviticus and Deuteronomy are full of lists of activities that make a person ritually impure, meaning they would have to engage in a short washing ritual before entering the temple or before making an animal sacrifice outside the temple.

Many items on the list were ordinary daily activities. It doesn’t seem that any special moral opprobrium attached to them.

Another item on the list was, for example, being in the same room as a dead body. Anyone attending a funeral had to do ritual purification before entering the temple or making an animal sacrifice.

Another item? Menstruation. Same deal.

Many items on the list just seem bizarre. Like no reason could exist for their being ritually impure. But that was sort of the point of those religious practices. They were a complex, in-group-defining set of rituals that served to bind groups together and set them apart from outsiders.

Translations of the Bible by people who know some Hebrew but have no grounding in ancient Hebrew religious practices are very poor. They give no context and often, as in this case, mislead.

Something to think about: Male/male sexuality was pervasive in the Mediterranean world during the time that the Torah was coming into being and during the time that Jesus and his first followers lived.

Yet the Bible contains no stories in which men having sex with men are the villains. We have no clear condemnation of male/male love, except in extremely suspect translation in passages where context seems show something else is being talked about.

New Testament writing by Paul, for example, uses Greek vocabulary that is so obscure that scholars can’t find contemporary references. Meaning nobody is really sure what he was saying.

But here’s the thing: homosexuality was pervasive during Paul’s lifetime. And so was Greek vocabulary to talk about it.

If he really meant to condemn homosexuality, he would almost certainly have used some of that clear vocabulary. That he chose other words whose meanings puzzle scholars is pretty clear evidence that he was talking about something else.

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot. jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com

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