Homosexuality in the Bible: How it happened and why feminists should be concerned.

Consider the following quote from Wycliffe’s English Bible: “If a man slepith with a man, bi letcherie of a womman, euer either hath wrouyt vnleueful thing, die thei bi deeth; her blood be on hem”. Lechery comes from the Old French lecherie, which is interestingly similar to the French le cher, meaning “dear” or “loved one”. It’s also important to note that more than four hundred and fifty translations of the Bible currently exist, which are merely copies of copies – the original manuscripts were lost or destroyed, which leaves the purest interpretation of biblical scripture to the reader.

But I digress already…*cough*

In the King James Bible, lecherie consistently means “adultery”, especially in the Old Testament where many of the “clobber passages” (i.e. passages condemning homosexuality) come from. Vnleueful, the Middle English variant of unlawful, means illegal; during the time Wycliffe translated the Bible (his is actually the earliest complete translation from Latin into English, 14c.) fencing, selling any vegetable save carrots on Sundays, and hanging a bed out of a window were unlawful as well. Unlawful, in Wycliffe’s Bible, was translated directly from the Latin statuere meaning “establish”, and statuere from stare meaning “to stand”, and from the Proto-Indo-European stā- meaning “stand” or “pillar” or “place”. A version of stā- exists in Persian (-stân) meaning “place of”. The etymology implies a pillar with which an ideology is supported (i.e. The Four Pillars of Democracy), not a Godly and spiritual law, as “stand” and “pillar” and “place” are irrefutably concrete and earthly.

If the etymology of letcherie therefore implies “adultery”, not “abomination” or “sin”, and unlawful most literally refers to man-made law, than the warning in Leviticus 20:13 which states that “if a man slepith with a man, bi letcherie of a womman, euer either hath wrouyt vnleueful thing, die thei bi deeth; her blood be on hem.” (Wycliffe), most literally refers to two men who are separately married and pursue adultery. No such stipulation exists for unmarried men or women.

In the Geneva version of the Bible (translated directly from the Hebrew text and scribed by figures of the Puritan movement), it states that “the man also that lieth with the male, as one lieth with a woman…[have] both committed abomination” (Lev. 20:13). In this chapter of Leviticus, certain things are condemned for their “uncleanness rather than” their weight as “a sin” (Via 2). In a patriarchal society, “homosexuality compromises purity in the production of male heirs”. Women, valued solely for their ability to produce an heir, were ultimately worthless, and therefore an encumbrance as a result of homosexuality. Families desperately seeking to purge unwanted daughters, then, execrated homosexuality as one might loathe insolvency, accumulating daughters like debt. Furthermore, the word abomination, translated from the Jewish ’ebah, is used to mean “the breaking of either a moral or ritual law” and pertaining only to a “certain time and place” (White 2).

If the Wycliffe Bible and the Geneva Bible are free of the word “homosexuality”, and if the word doubled in textual reference between the years 1950 and 2000 (Baptiste), a likely explanation of its astronomical trend is the publication, in 1952, of The Revised Standard Version of the Bible. One million copies were sold in the first two days after its publication, most notably for its unique interpretation of Lev. 20:13; instead of describing “lechery” or “adultery” or “abomination” as a sin, the text used the word “homosexuality”. It was the first English version of the Bible to do so (Barker). As the Civil Rights Movement approached, with women and African Americans threatening to purloin the supremacy of the American social hierarchy, the socially conscious and predominant majority directed their hatred to a new group.

Despite the overwhelming evidence contrary to the supposed sin of homosexuality, the Revised Standard Version of the Bible combined “the fear of the other, fear of sex, and the fear of the feminine” – as a result, “homophobia [was] well founded in our psyche” (Gomes 5).

Surprise, surprise. Another social construct created to subjugate women, gain capital, and centralize hate-based focus on the next unsuspecting minority. What on earth will they think of next?

Work Cited

Barker, Kenneth. “The American Translations of the Bible”. Help With Bible Study. 2001. Web. 21 Jan. 2012.

Foucault, Michael. The History of Sexuality. London: Penguin, 1976. Print.

Gomes, Peter. Interview. For the Bible Tells Me So. 2007. Film. 23 Jan. 2012.

Via, Dan Otto. Homosexuality and the Bible. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2003. Print.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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