Re: Lev. 18:22 (LXX)
On Tue, 6 Sep 1994 Dvdmoore@aol.com wrote:
> The word KOITH is also often used euphemistically for sexual intercourse.
> This is most assuredly its use in this passage. The Hebrew underlying
> KOITHN is a *plural* noun in the construct state. The use of the plural
> where it would not be expected suggests an idiomatic expression. There are
> three examples of this expression in the Hebrew Bible: the text under
> discussion (Lev. 18:22), Lev. 20:13 which is parallel to the former and Gen
> 49:4. The reference in Genisis is undoubtedly to sexual intercourse since it
> refers to Reuben's laying with his father's concubine (Gen. 35:22). It is
> logical to believe that an idiomatic expression of this sort has a like
> meaning in the other two passages mentioned.
I was not under the impression that I had implied that Lev 18:22 was not
about sex. What else happens in a marriage bed, except sex? The point
is, that here and elsewhere the idiom using beds, combined with the
distinguishing choice of word for "wife" contrasted with "male", implies
a marriage situation. Adultery and fornication, naturally, can happen
elsewhere: say, under Gary Collier's tree; so this may be the thinking
behind the idiom. The use of gunE throughout Lev 18 can be read as
"wife" quite consistently, especially since many English translations
assume licit and illicit marriages and threats to marriages are being
systematically dealt with here.
> from the text itself. Although GUNH, which means "woman," may be used for
> "wife," normally one would expect to see clear indications in the text if the
> meaning were "wife," either by a context that demands such an understanding
> or by a genitive refering to a husband or by the use of the article make the
> reference specific. If one will peruse the instances of "wife" in the OT and
> look at the contexts and the underlying Hebrew one finds a similar situation.
> For invariably the context specifies the relationship, where there is not a
> construct-state noun or a pronoun suffix to make the the husband-wife
> relationship clear.
> We may get an idea of the general meaning of GUNH in Lev. 18:22 by comparing
> it to the correponding part of the expression in Gen. 49:4. In the latter we
> have KOITHN TOU PATROS SOU indicating that Reuben had introduced himself into
> a sexual relationship that properly belonged to his father (note both the
> article and the second-person posessive pronoun). In the case of Lev. 18:22
> (and also 20:13) we have simply KOITHN GUNAIKOS. If the meaning had to do
> with a sexual relationship that properly belonged to the man's *wife*, we
> would expect to find THS GUNAIKOS AUTOU or something of the sort. Since
> GUNAIKOS is both anarthrous here and also lacks any modifying pronoun, the
> most natural way to understand it is to assign it a general sense.
I suppose you realize the difference between Lev 18:22 and the passage in
Genesis you mentioned. Leviticus 18 is part of a legal code, addressed
to all males, not any specific male. Although in English we might say 'a
husband will not cheat on *his* wife', say, there is no reason to assume
that the Hebrew rendering, and the LXX which follows it slavishly, is anything
other than a reflection of a general prohibition, say, something like 'a
husband will not cheat on a wife' with "his" implied as usual.
> The use of ARSHN in place of ANHR and the use of GUNH in stead of QHLUS are
> not of enough significance to affect the meaning here, and these coices of
> synonyms certainly do not, in and of themselves, imply a marriage
First of all, if they are exact synonyms, then why is the LXX so careful
to render them with the correct choice from semantic pairs in Greek
corresponding to the Hebrew ones? Lev 18:22 reads "V'et zakhar lo
tishkav mishkevey issha." Notice the contrast:
ish (man/husband) vs. issha (woman/wife) [cf. Gk anHr/gunE]
zakhar (male) vs. nekeva (female) [cf. Gk arsEn/thElus]
The LXX keeps the distinction carefully, following the Hebrew in this
passage. The distinction is however abandoned in the Latin, which had less
of a distinct set of pairs, in the Vulgate: "cum masculo non commiscearis
coitu femineo". The pairs mas/femina and vir/mulier are not as distinct
in regards to marriage in Latin (mas, e.g., can mean a husband); but
perhaps here we can see the incipient trend to making the passage fit a
heterosexist/homophobic agenda not found in the original.
> Nevertheless, assigning a meaning to Lev. 18:22 does pose somewhat of a
> problem because of the idiomatic nature of the expression corresponding to
> KOITHN GUNAIKOS. It would appear, however, that the essential meaning is
> that you shall not lie with a man as in the sexual relationship one might
> have with a woman.
> David Moore
If the Greek, or Hebrew, text had wanted to say "one shall not lie with a
man/male as with a woman/female" it certainly could have: something like
"meta arsenos ou koimEthEsE hOs meta thElus / meta andros ou koimEthEsE
hOs meta gunaikos", or in Hebrew "et zakhar lo tishkav mishkevey kaasher
et nekeva / et ish lo tishkav mishkevey kaasher et issha" [not sure about
my grammar, but you get the picture], but neither the Greek nor the
Hebrew say this. It is much easier to assume that the English
translators inserted their own cultural differences, including a
different and special bigotry, when they set about translating this
passage. This has already been abundantly pointed out in the use of the
"abomination" accompanying this verse.