Periodical Reviews -- By: John A. Adair

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 176:702 (Apr 2019)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: John A. Adair

Periodical Reviews

By The Faculty And Staff Of Dallas Theological Seminary

John A. Adair


“The Prohibitions against Homosexual Sex in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13: Are They Relevant Today?,” Jay Sklar, Bulletin for Biblical Research 28, no. 2 (2018): 165–98.

Commentators both liberal and conservative find wide consensus that the prohibitions against homosexual sex in Leviticus involve sexual relations between two men, that they reflect the Bible’s general perspective toward same-sex practice, that the relations described are consensual, since both men are to receive punishment, and that the focus of these two passages is on practice rather than orientation or attraction. Highlighting these areas of broad agreement, Jay Sklar, professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary, still recognizes wide divergence “on whether and how these prohibitions apply today, whether in terms of male homosexual sex in particular or homosexual sex in general” (166–67).

Sklar helpfully notes that the term translated “abomination” does not solve the problem of application, since the term can be used to refer to things that are intrinsically evil (Deut 12:31) as well as to cultural taboos such as ritual impurity (14:3). Since the passages on homosexual sex do not make clear which way the term is being used, Sklar sets out to examine three competing interpretations: (1) these prohibitions do not apply today because Leviticus no longer applies; (2) these prohibitions do not apply today because the rationale behind them no longer applies; and (3) these prohibitions do apply today because the rationale behind them still applies.

Two arguments are generally proposed to suggest Leviticus as a whole should not continue to apply today. The first points to “bizarre” laws in Leviticus, such as avoiding the mixture of materials in clothing. Since Leviticus prohibits such mixture, which is clearly a bizarre prohibition by today’s standards, maybe the prohibition against homosexual sex is also outmoded. Sklar points out that “the argument simply raises a theoretical possibility without proving it” (169). In other words, the argument remains unresolved.

Others suggest that Levitical prohibitions can apply today only if the entire book of Leviticus applies today. They suggest that those denying homosexual sex as part of God’s design are merely picking and choosing which laws they want to apply. Sklar argues against this by highlighting the long history o...

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