Sunday, April 24, 2005

Michael White on Homosexuality and the Bible

The Galveston County Daily News (not, I must admit, a paper I was familiar with) from Texas has a story featuring L. Michael White from the University of Texas at Austin:

Scholar says debate can't ignore Bible
By Kelly Hawes
. . . . “The movement to recognize gay and lesbian people in churches has stopped talking about the Bible,” he said, “whereas the other side says it’s all about the Bible. The two sides are like ships passing in the night.” . . . .

. . . . “The words that we often assume are found in the Bible are not even really there,” he said.

The word “homosexual” was not coined until 1869 as an effort by the medical profession to arrive at a more neutral term than “sodomy” or “sodomite,” White said, and even those words did not come into being until the 11th century, almost 2,000 years after the first portions of the Torah were written. Nonetheless, all appear in some translations of the Bible . . . .

. . . .White was even more emphatic in his analysis of a verse in the New Testament book of Romans that has been interpreted as a condemnation of homosexuality. White says he and many other scholars believe the verse actually refers to a practice called “pederasty,” an ancient Greek tradition in which older men had sex with young boys.

“It is to pervert the New Testament to try to make those passages apply to homosexuality in general,” White said.

Still, he said, it would be wrong to deny that the Bible frowns on homosexual relationships. Of course, it also frowns upon the presence of menstruating women in church, and it celebrates the murder and mutilation of a woman whose only sin was to have been raped . . . .
As a whole the article doesn't do badly to summarise White's lecture (I am guessing), but this paragraph is less careful. There is nothing about "menstruating women in church" that I can think of and what on earth is the other reference to? I'm probably being thick after a hard-working week, but I can't think what it might be referring to.

7 comments:

Stephen C. Carlson said...

IMHO, the "presence of menstruating women in church" is a reference to Lev 15:19-24 of the Holiness Code.

Also, I believe the "murder and mutilation of a woman whose only sin was to have been raped" is a reference to Judges 19:1-30.

John Edward Yancy said...

Either the article is poorly written or the lecture was schizophrenic (or maybe just transparently political). First White says we have to talk about the Bible when we talk about homosexuality and then he turns around and says, "The words that we often assume are found in the Bible are not even really there" so he dismisses the Bible's contribution. Then he states, "It would be wrong to deny that the Bible frowns on homosexual relationships." Which is it? Or is he just shifting from New Testament to Old when he contends that the Bible frowns on homosexual relationships? That might be the answer with his contentions that seem predicated on the Old Testament (menstruating women in "church", which isn't an OT term at all). Weird. I'm going to guess the article doesn't do the lecture justice.

But in any case is anything he is saying at all new? Boswell used much of the same reasoning in the early 80's.

Joe Weaks said...

I came to the comments section to list the suggested references which Stephen has already done. It would be hard to say if it was the journalist who changed the references of the OT "community" to "church". Even if those were White's words, I do not think the article points towards a schizo posture as John suggests. I think it's quite likely for instance that the article simply leaves out the in-between material where White introduces a warning about consulting the bible that involves attentiveness to language. White has been a great contributor to the academy here in Texas. To say, "The bible on the one hand says this, but on the other hand says this" is not schizophrenic, it's biblical.
John, your challenge about White saying anything new is more of a remark towards why Mark found the article worth mentioning (I suspect it simply popped up on his google-alert and he thought it interesting). I've spent more than one afternoon lounging on a balcony in Galveston, overlooking the gulf, browsing a copy of the Galveston County Daily News, and I can tell you that White's remarks are "news" to a large portion of that readership.

Ken said...

No biblical passage "celebrates the murder and mutilation of a woman whose only sin was to have been raped". Moreover, if this is a reference to Judges 19:1-30 as the previous commenter suggests, it is a poorly written reference as the murder and mutilation essentially coincides with the rape; it is certainly not a celebrated punishment for it as the journalist pretends.

John Edward Yancy said...

Joe, good points, I actually thought as I was writing my comments that the article must have just cut out the middle portions (thus my comment that the article doesn't do the lecture justice).

I actually questioned the "newness" of the information more on the basis of the article itself which seems to intimate that this adds something new to the debate. But your point that the information would be news to the particular readership is well taken.

Andrew Criddle said...

I see nothing in the text of Romans chapter 1 to suggest that it is focused on pederasty (1 Corinthians chapter 6 may be another matter)

Also I suspect that it is reading the NT in the light of modern concerns to see the early Christian condemnation of ancient pederastic relations (involving a teenager and an older man) as primarily due to the perceived exploitation of the younger partner by his older lover.

jay said...

You fellas might wanna swing over to www.robgagnon.net to see that Mr. White is not telling the whole story at all as regards the scholarly consensus on these questions.