On Fri, 16 Sep 1994, MADAVIDS.US.ORACLE.COM wrote:
> Hi -
> At the risk of cutting off scholarly discussion, might I offer one word:
> dayenu! Enough, already. I feel that both sides have analyzed, exegesised,
> interpreted, and cited enough sources and lexicons to stock the New York City
> Public library.
> I find it very difficult to believe that there is really anything new under
> the sun linguistically speaking; if Leviticus 18:22 really only referred to
> male prostitution, then why hasn't one of the commentators of the past come up
> with this interpretation (especially as this type of behaviour was certainly
> not unknown in the Hellenistic period)? Seems to me that most of the Jewish
> commentators in particular loved to interpret, argue, and expound on what the
> scripture meant - not unlike the discussions that have ensued on b-greek on
> this topic.
> Has one single reputable commentator (i.e. non-Boswell, whose motives are
> suspect and scholarship appears sloppy) ever come up with this interpretation
> before? If not, then perhaps it is because A is A; Leviticus 18:22 is exactly
> what it appears to be.
At the risk of breaking Leo's moratorium on Lev. 18:22 (I had already
moved it to B-Hebrew myself), I would like to say something about this.
First of all, it is only in modern times that Christians or Jews have
started to think realistically about the origins of their religion.
Today we don't think twice about assuming that religion changes over
time, or that the Biblical texts reflect differing conditions, cultures,
and situations, as opposed to our ancestors who thought that the entire
Bible was a unanimous, univocal, homogeneous statement. Archaeology,
comparative cultural studies, etc. show us that the world in which the
earliest parts of the Bible were written (including Leviticus) were very
different from those of later Bible times. Certain critical moments in
Jewish history effaced or distorted the memory of earlier conditions and
beliefs. That is why it is perfectly reasonable to assume that the
original meaning of, say a Leviticus passage, might have been lost until
present day reconstructions. As you say, Jews of later times were
certainly able to *argue* about the meaning of a text, but because their
methods were so poor you could hardly expect them to recover an original
meaning any more than you could have expected them to look for real
evidence when they considered what we would now call scientific
questions. Their legal twistings and pullings were often transparently
disingenuous even to them.
For at least the existence of a disagreement over Lev. 18:22 in
ancient times, see Sanhedrin 33b. The Sadducees, who were usually more
conservative in their interpretation of the Law than the Pharisees (who
often exaggerated commandments and generalized them), were apparently
in the habit of acquitting those the Pharisees would condemn to death
because of Lev. 18:22.
You say Boswell's motives were suspect: well so should everyone's
be. I suspect the motives of most every interpreter of Lev. 18:22 until
now, considering how homosexuals have been treated since late
antiquity-early middle ages. In the same way I would suspect the
motives, or even abilities to think clearly, of male interpreters of
texts relating to females, considering that there has almost never been a
woman in a position of authority to interpret a text since the early
middle ages. And if you think Boswell's scholarship was sloppy, then his
conclusions could be dismissed by more careful scholarship. So far I
haven't seen any.
- From: "MADAVIDS.US.ORACLE.COM" <MADAVIDS@us.oracle.com>