Harvard University’s Dr. Idan Dershowitz—Society of Fellows Department, Post-Doc. Studies Biblical Studies, Iron Age (Archaeology), and Torah/Pentateuch—wrote of the opinion piece “The Secret History of Leviticus,” for The New York Times e (July 21, 2018).
Dr. Michael Brown has written a thorough debunking of it, under the title A new version of Leviticus to support gay sex, so I will merely make a few notes on the issue.[fn]Dr. Brown served as adjunct professor of the Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, adjunct professor of Jewish apologetics at Fuller Theological Seminary School of World Mission, and President of practical theology at the Fellowship for International Revival and Evangelism School of Ministry[/fn]
Firstly, the title refers to a “Secret History” and if that stinks of conspiracy then, you got the point: to inspire or fan the flames of skepticism—in this case, hyper-conspiratorial-skepticism.
He cannot help but admit that Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 “prohibits sex between men” in stating, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
Well, Dr. Idan Dershowitz takes a documentary hypothesis view of the text whereby, or so he claims:
“Leviticus was created gradually over a long period and includes the words of more than one writer. Many scholars believe that the section in which Leviticus 18 appears was added by a comparatively late editor, perhaps one who worked more than a century after the oldest material in the book was composed. An earlier edition of Leviticus, then, may have been silent on the matter of sex between men.”
Since, let us face it, this all implies making up stuff thus, he hilariously states, “But I think a stronger claim is warranted” and refers to that “there is good evidence that an earlier version of the laws in Leviticus 18 permitted sex between men” (italics in original). Moreover, that the text was “revised in an attempt to obscure any implication that same-sex relations had once been permissible. The chapter’s original character, however, can be uncovered with a little detective work.”
But no: no such stronger claim is forthcoming.
So, just what is this secret history? No, he does not cite ancient manuscripts and elucidates how they differ from one another on this point. No, he does not cite any of the earliest commentaries, liturgies, translations, paraphrases, etc.
Rather, he peppers his assertions with weasel words such as “Many scholars believe…perhaps…may have…I believe…If…unlikely…It seems.”
Furthermore, refers to “gloss…gloss…gloss…gloss…glosses…glosses…gloss…glosses…glosses” which refers to those places in the text where he—biasedly and subjectively—simply supposes that a later editor has inserted comments.
To review thus far: unlike circa two thousand three hundred years’ worth of translators, commentators, academics, scholars, etc. living in different cultures, dealing with Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic and other languages he—yes, he!—is the first and only one to discover that while the only known versions of Leviticus “prohibits sex between men,” it turns out that (and keep the timing in mind: more on this later) it actually permits it.
Note the tactic of referring to “Many scholars”: 1) we are clearly supposed to be impressed, 2) he does not name a single one, 3) it is an argument from authority, 4) he does not even tell us in what field these many scholar have expertize, 5) “Many” is a relative term so we do not even know what he subjectively means by it.
He claims that his “little detective work” uncovered “evidence of editorial intervention” whereby “the prohibitions in Leviticus against incest no longer outlawed any same-sex couplings” so that “homosexual incest is prohibited” but “non-incestuous homosexual intercourse is permitted.”
Oh well, if that is the case then the Bible is intolerant hate-speech because it condemns homosexual incest!!!
Again, these conclusions are not based on manuscripts nor even textual criticism or higher criticism but on form criticism which is as subjective as his claims have sounded thus far: Hey, I think that some words in verse thus and such were added later—and now I can publish about it!!!
He presumes that this was all done (surely, via a mass conspiracy), “If a later editor of Leviticus opposed homosexual intercourse.” But why assert as much? Surely, it is because his liberal (a term that today means militant authoritarian dogmatist) readership, particularly via the New York Times (which has admitted to be liberally biased) would swallow that mere assertion hook, line and stinker.
Why not assert a much more likely assertion which is that “If a later editor of Leviticus opposed homosexual intercourse” and manipulated the text to reflect his bias, then other editors, priests, scribes, etc. would have shown him the (tent) door. Dr. Idan Dershowitz seems to have invented a super-hero/villain who was omnipotent within his community so that his editorializing literally became law, only left glossy traces, and whose edited text has been promulgated to this day.
Besides biased and subjective form criticism he, of course, also brings philosophizing into it. For example:
“A lawmaker is unlikely to specify that murdering one’s father is against the law if there is already a blanket injunction against murder. By the same token, it’s not necessary to stipulate that sex between two specific men is forbidden if a categorical prohibition against sex between men is already on the books.”
Notice that his presupposition, that upon which he bases his argument and therefore his conclusion, is that a categorical prohibition against sex between men was already on the books, which would make condemning incestuous homosexuality unnecessary.
But why not take the much less problematic and commonsensical approach that, guess what, it was within Leviticus that sex between men is specifically categorical prohibited? This simple approach, which is verified by any and all manuscripts of the text (and commentaries upon it, and translations of it, and paraphrases of it) actually turn the tables on Dr. Idan Dershowitz and make his claim that it only condemns incestuous homosexuality unnecessary: since it categorical prohibits sex between men, it does not need to have him invent the idea that it categorical prohibits incestuous sex between men.
The fact is that Genesis chaps 1 and 2 have always been viewed as laying out the template for stable and health God ordained sex, marriage and family via the coming together of one man and one woman for life. This is the premise upon which the rest of the Bible’s references to sex, marriage and family follow.
Lastly, back to my point about keeping the timing of this revelation of a secret in mind. Dr. Idan Dershowitz does not venture a guess about when these glosses were perpetrated (it must have been very, very, very early so as to leave absolute zero tangible evidence behind) but we need not guess about why and when Dr. Dershowitz makes such claims.
Is it a mere coincidence that Dr. Dershowitz—and neo-clergy—who support LGBTQIAP+ only figured out such things now? Now, when fallen, corrupt, condemned, secular and Pagan (at once) culture is demanding not only tolerance but approval of such lifestyle choices?
Culture leads, and they merely follow—and condemn anyone who does not.
And so we come full circle—an ouroboros circle which devours itself—in that the conspiracy theory claim is that “If a later editor of Leviticus opposed homosexual intercourse” then he manipulated the text and yet, we end up with 100% assured proof that Dr. Idan Dershowitz is an editor of Leviticus who approves of homosexual intercourse.
For further reading, see my book In Consideration of Rev. Dr. Mel White on Christian Homosexuality and my article The Queen James Bible.
For more details, see my relevant books.
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