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Gabrielle Healy wrote:

Hi, guys —

My name is Gabrielle Healy and I am writing a paper on Christianity for my (IB) International Baccalaureate World Religions class regarding Leviticus 18:22.

As someone who has attended Catholic school and has been raised Roman Catholic I still have many questions about this specific passage and how religion has become intertwined with culture in some aspects because of it. I would greatly appreciate if you could answer the questions below and include any additional information that you feel is relevant.

  1. How has the Church's stance on Leviticus 18:22 changed with the modern world?
  2. 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.

  3. What key words in this passage cause the most confusion in its interpretation?
  4. How has translation of the passage from Hebrew to English and various other languages impacted its interpretation?

Thank you for your time,

Gabrielle Healy

  { Can you answer some questions on the interpretation of Leviticus 18:22 and its translation? }

Eric replied:


These are strange questions you are being asked to answer. Everyone knows that the Catholic Church has not changed her stance on this; the principle is affirmed in the New Testament and has been a constant teaching of the Church and cannot change.

I don't understand Question 2 because it seems pretty obvious. Maybe the only question is the term lie because those who don't know the Bible may not understand what it means, but within the context of the Bible it is crystal clear that it means sexual congress (see Deuteronomy 22:22, Deuteronomy 22:29, 2 Samuel 12:24).

As for Question 3, it hasn't impacted it at all, again, it is pretty clear and straightforward.

It seems to me two things are true:

  1. Your teacher is trying to get you to regurgitate what she or he taught you;
  2. Your teacher is trying to distort the obvious meaning of the passage, to water it down and complicate what is very simple.

Homosexual acts are forbidden in Christianity, especially Catholicism, period. Full stop, end of story. They always have been, they always will be, regardless of what the culture is trying to say. Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is doing you a disservice. We can talk about why this is from a theological and moral standpoint, but facts are facts.

Here is the official statement from the Catholic Church on homosexuality from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is definitive; do not let anyone convince you this is not Catholic teaching. The Catechism was published in the 1990s so it is recent.

Chastity and homosexuality

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, (cf. Genesis 19:1-29; Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:10; 1 Timothy 1:10) tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.(Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith, Persona humana 8) They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times:

  • by the support of disinterested friendship
  • by prayer and sacramental grace

they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

For more information see On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons (1986).

Whether you opt to regurgitate the teacher's errors on an assignment to please her is up to you.


Eric followed-up later:


I'd like to add a clarification. The Catholic Church has never advocated the death penalty for homosexual acts and does not now.

I am referring strictly to the moral character of the acts.


Gabrielle replied:


These questions are not assigned from a teacher but based on my own interest of the topic and how it borders the line of political and religious issues. My questions are not meant to create controversy but instead to question how there may be different interpretations, considering that the Bible has been translated hundreds of time.

This also relates to the fact that Leviticus 18:22 is seen in both the Christian and Muslim faiths. Between the two religions alone there are countless interpretations and I was just searching for some clarification between the two.


Eric replied:

Oh! My apologies, I misunderstood you.

I hope I didn't offend you. I'm trying to understand your question about translation, though. It sounds like you're assuming that the passage was translated into one language, then into another with the original language lost, then likewise serially into different languages like the telephone game.

That is not the way it happened; we have the original language of the text (Hebrew) and a faithful translation into Greek of earlier manuscripts (the Septuagint) and these agree. While certain translations may be inaccurate, everyone's working from manuscripts in the original language (or a language one translation removed) so there are really no inaccuracies introduced by all the translations, because they are all translated from the same sources (not other translations).

It's not comparable to making N-generation photocopies of photocopies of photocopies until it is unreadable; it's like making hundreds of photocopies from one master, one generation each (and verified against one photocopy of a lost original).

I suppose there may in fact be countless interpretations, but that's only a recent phenomenon. Until the culture at large started opposing Christian teaching on the topic, (in the 1980s or 1960 at earliest), the interpretation was uniform.

It was only when people sought to justify the culture's acceptance of homosexuality that people tried to re-interpret Scripture to fit the culture's values, thus introducing the countless interpretations. I challenge you to go back to 1900 and see how many of these countless interpretations are sustained by history. In any case, Catholics interpret Scripture in light of Tradition as discerned by her teaching office (the Magisterium), and whatever other Christians may argue from Scripture, the Catholic teaching on this matter will remain the same. Since the very beginning people have distorted Scripture (2 Peter 3:16), so that is why Catholicism relies heavily on Tradition and its teaching office in interpreting Scripture.

I'm not sure how Islam factors into this. They do not consider Leviticus to be inspired Scripture; they rely only on the Koran. While there are many points of contact between Islam and Christianity and Judaism, last time I checked, Islam rejected the Hebrew Scriptures — as we have them — as corrupt.

It's confusing because they acknowledge many of the people and stories and what they believe to be the original Scriptures, but they do not believe that what the Christians and Jews confess as Scripture is authentic.


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