I am going to quote both, Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13. Here is the first reading, ‘You shall not lie with a male as with a women; it is an abomination’. Second reading, ‘If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; there blood is upon them’.
I bind these two verses together because they are so close to one another in context, and they are both part of a larger section in the book of Leviticus often called the Holiness Code. You have heard of Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci’s Code’, well this is the ‘Holiness Code’, which is located in the Book of Leviticus from chapter 17 to chapter 26.
What prompted the code?
To properly understand these verses within the Holiness Code requires that we look at their context, both textual and historical. Until we understand what prompted these rules and regulations in Ancient Israel, we will not be able to determine if the same rules should be applied in today’s context of homosexual people who are living in a committed, loving relationship. I surmise that the Hebrew Scriptures itself provides a clue to the meaning of Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13. Three times in Leviticus chapter 18 of we are told that the rules set forth in chapter 18 and 20 are meant to prevent the Israelites from committing the same abominations that the Egyptians and the Canaanites had done. The Holiness Code was set up to create a holy people and prevent Israel from being defiled by corrupt influences of the surrounding gentile nations.
‘The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: speak to the people of
Israel and say to them: I am the LORD your God. You shall
not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and
you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan to which i
am bringing you. You shall not follow their statutes’.
‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, for by
all these practices the nations I am casting out before
you have defiled themselves...(for the inhabitants of
the land, who were before you, committed ALL
[emphasis mine ] of these abominations, and the land
became defiled ’ (Lev.18:24, 27).
Therefore, if we can determine what type of homosexual behaviour was common among the Canaanites and the Egyptians, we will better understand what these verses in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 were meant to prohibit. This requires that we learn the history of their periods. We need to learn everything about their cultural context, not just the Jewish context but the contemporary pagan cultures as well. We need to learn their literary conventions and the meanings latent in those forms.
What does the code forbid?
Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13 has been interpreted by scholars in various ways in that it forbids certain things, but what is it that these verse are forbidding? Is it forbidding:
a) All homosexual behavior, by either men or women, or
b) All sexual behavior between two men, or
c) Only anal sex between two men, or
d) Only anal sex in a Pagan temple ritual, or
e) Sexual activity between two men in a woman's bed?
You can also add to this the question does this forbidden behaviour apply only to ancient Israelites or does it include modern-day Jewry as well. Does it apply to us who are gentiles? Does it apply to us today who are male or female? Or is it a combination of some of the above or just ONE of the above – namely ancient Israel itself living under the purity laws of the First Covenant.
Unfortunately, there is no consensus on the meaning of these verses. Many people tend to select that interpretation that most closely reinforces their initial biases about the Bible and homosexual behavior. It is my hope that we are not looking for loop-holes here, but that we are genuinely seeking what the original writer of these passages meant when they were first written. Though even that may not give us full clarity because Gerhard von Rad acknowledges that the Holiness Code has undergone a deliberate compiling that included a lot of editing and re-editing so much so that the final product gives us the impression that the Holiness Code was hand delivered by God himself. 
Purpose of the Holiness Code 
The purpose of the Holiness Code is to cause Israel to reflect on the holiness of God. This holiness was understood as having the character of completeness or perfection.
In this Holiness Code ancient Israel considered some people, animals and activities “clean” and “unclean” but often it is not clear why. For example why is an animal that chews cud but doesn't have cloven hooves be considered “unclean”? (Lev. 11:6). In explaining many of these distinctions can be found in Dirt, greed and sex: sexual ethics in the New Testament and their implications for today by L. William Countryman, pp. 24-25. Ancient Israel constructed what they deemed an ideal order of creation, anything that violated that order was considered unclean or an abomination. For example, a fish was the ideal sea creature. Anything in the sea that did not have scales and fins (as a fish did) was declared “unclean” (Lev. 11:9-10). Another example is the ox that was seen by ancient Israel as being the ideal cud chewing animal, hence anything that seemed to chew cud, but didn't have hooves, was declared unclean (Lev. 11:6). Similarly, the ideal human is a male who in terms of his physical body is unflawed and unblemished.
That would explain why sexual emissions (Lev 15:1-12) make a person unclean, as do menstruation (Lev:19), including childbearing (Lev 12:1-5), and marital sexual intercourse (Lev 15:18). This would also explain why a priest with bodily deformities would therefore profane the sanctuary (Lev 21:16-24). Therefore, same male gender acts would seem to mix the sex role of the imperfect woman with that of the ideal man, rendering the participants unclean; just as mixing fabrics (Lev. 19:19) or seeds (Lev. 19:19) or livestock (Lev. 19:19) was considered unclean.
Needless to say women didn’t fare highly on this hierarchical order of creation but were seen as the property of men and were created to serve men, as in the case of Genesis 18-19 and Judges 19 where women were used as disposable property. In applying this order of creation to our texts of Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13, if a man was penetrated in sexual intercourse he was being treated like a woman and so was degraded in the mind of ancient Israel. The offense was not that this was a homosexual act, the offense was that a man was treated like a woman. If this line of thinking is correct it would serve to explain why there is no prohibition against female homosexual acts in the First Covenant.
Comments from Bible scholars
Anglican scholar L. William Countryman  who had authored the book Dirt, greed and sex, has stated that the two verses in Leviticus (18:22; 20:13) forbid some type of sexual activity between men (possibly anal intercourse). He then makes the point, ‘A question arises here as to the basis for the prohibition. Some hold it was to prevent cruel abuse of prisoners of war, others to prevent non-procreative use of semen, others to exclude non-Israelite religious rites. The text itself, insofar as it species a reason, treats the matter as a violation of ancient Israel's purity code—a code that New Testament writers treat as no longer binding on gentile (and perhaps even Jewish) Christians (cf. Acts 15; Rom. 14-15).
Robert A. J. Gagnon an evangelical scholar argues a good case that the historical context of the prohibition in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 is shrine prostitutes. He states: There is good evidence of homosexual cult prostitution in Israel during the period of the divided monarchy. A number of texts speak of the existence of quedesim (sg. Quads , twice used as a collective), literally “holy/sanctified men, “consecrated men,” “men dedicated to the deity” (Deut 23:17-18; I Kgs 14:24; 15:12; 22:46; 2Kgs 23:7; Job 36:14). The term is usually rendered in standard English translations to denote men at cult sites who engaged in homosexual prostitution: “male temple (or cult, shrine, sacred) prostitutes.”
Jewish scholar, David Daube has argued that Lev 18:22 & 20:13 are against anal intercourse, because the only way a man can penetrate another man as he might a woman is by anal intercourse.
Author and rabbi, Jacob Milgrom  suggests that these two passages do not prohibit homosexual behavior generally but only:
(i) for ancient Israelites, or to inhabitants of the land of Israel, and
(ii) who are engaging in anal intercourse, and
(iii) who are men, not lesbians, and
(iv) (perhaps) who are of the same kinship connections that would prohibit heterosexual relations. Furthermore, Jacob Milgrom states that the prohibition in Leviticus 18:22 only applies to Israel alone. ‘Compliance to this law is a condition for residing in the Holy Land, but not elsewhere. Thus it is incorrect to apply this prohibition on a universal scale’ .
Milgrom further states:
‘Both occurrences of the prohibition (18:22; 20:13) contain the phrase
mishkeve ‘isha , an idiom used for only illicit heterosexual unions.
Thus carnal relations are forbidden only with males who are of the
equivalent degree of the females prohibited in these lists. For example, \
the prohibited relations would be nephew-aunt, grandfather –
granddaughter, and stepmother-stepson, but also nephew-uncle,
grandfather-grandson, and stepfather-stepson. This implies that the
homosexual prohibition does not cover all male-male liaisons, but only
those within the limited circle of family. But homosexual relations with
unrelated males are neither prohibited nor penalized.’
Arthur Waskow, a writer and rabbi, points out that: ‘The whole structure of sexuality in Torah assumes a dominant male and a subordinate woman. ’ In a male homosexual act of anal intercourse, one partner may be viewed as taking a passive role - the role normally played by a woman. Thus anal intercourse between two gay men would be as improper in Biblical times as a workplace situation in those days during which a woman supervised a man. Also, because woman were considered to play such an inferior role in society , sex between two lesbians are not condemned in the First Testament. All women were of low status and thus neither would be seen as adopting a dominant or a subservient role during sexual encounters. This interpretation would obviously make the verse refer only to the tribal culture of the time, and not to today's modern western culture.
Waskow cites two alternative meanings to the passage:
1. ‘Do not lie with a man as if it were the same thing as lying with a woman .’ That is, when two gay males have a sexual encounter, they should continuously be aware that it is different from a male-female coupling. It might be interpreted to mean: ‘Set up a parallel set of institutions for dealing with this kind of sexual relationship, different from those that apply to sexual relationships between a man and a woman. ’
2. ‘Do not sleep with a man as it were with a woman ’ . That is, if two males engage in a sexual act, neither should pretend that the passive partner is like a woman. They should be fully aware of their sexual orientation and maleness. i.e. they should come out of the "closet" and recognize their gayness.
He concludes that if this passage condemns some forms of homosexual behavior, it may refer only to the ancient Israelites, not to us living in the modern world today. Perhaps: ‘at one time of human and Jewish history the path avoided gay male sexuality, and at a later time this avoidance might be null and void’? 
He asks the question,’Can the circle of the beloved community widen as we mature? ’
Traditional Jewish and Christian belief is that God dictated the Torah to Moses. Thus every word was included for a specific reason. If God wished to ban all gay homosexual acts then it could be argued that the passage would have read ‘You shall not lie with a male .’ The addition of the phrase ‘as with a woman ’ must have been included for a specific reason. Perhaps it was added to give the passage one of the above meanings.
3. A fourth Jewish scholar, Rabbi Gershon Caudill , is: “not convinced that the biblical passages (Leviticus 18: 22 and also in Leviticus 20: 13) refer to homosexual activity that is within a monogamous, stable, and loving relationship.”  He suggests that the passages refer to sexual promiscuity, not to homosexual activity within a committed relationship:
He also notes that Leviticus 18:22 is located in a section of Leviticus that deals with incest and bestiality.
It is not usual for a gay man to have sex with another man as if he the latter were a woman. If he were to do so, then he would be pretending that he was with a woman and not with another man. Thus, he would not be in a homosexual relationship at all. The passage actually refers to a heterosexual male who is forcing himself to fantasize that he is having sex with a woman in order to be able to complete the act. In modern terms, this would be considered as a male heterosexual violating his own sexual orientation -- his own basic nature.
At the beginning of the chapter that includes this passage, Leviticus 18:3 states: ‘You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not follow their statutes. ’ Here, God is saying that ancient Israel are not to follow the practices of the Egyptians or of the Canaanites. Homosexual ritual sex in temples of both countries was common. Thus, one might assume that Leviticus 18:22 relates to temple same-sex rituals -- something that was ritually impure.
A context for Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13 
A possible context for Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 are NOT about homosexuality per se. These verses are about God’s prohibition of shrine prostitution, not homosexuality. That is why God placed the Holiness Code prohibition in v22, right after v.21, which forbids worship of the god Molech. The Bible addresses shrine prostitution under the rubric of Molech worship.
The context of this text is Molech/Moloch and Milcom the fire god and his female partner Ashtoreth/Asherah. The context is pagan religious worship of a false god and a false goddess, NOT homosexuality. The Holiness Code in chapters 18 and 20 addresses fertility cult worship under the rubric of Molech worship in conjunction with his female cohort Ashtoreth.
Fertility cults in ancient Canaan used same sex activity in worship rituals for many centuries before Israel entered the land. The worship of Ashtoreth involved anal sex between priests of the goddess and worshippers. This is the same sex practice God and Moses intended to prohibit. That same sex religious activity is what God prohibited Israelite men to practice in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Molech worship is linked with sexual sin and spiritual prostitution.
Hence, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 are aimed specifically at prohibiting Israelites from becoming shrine prostitutes and engaging in the idolatrous worship of Molech and Ashtoreth.
If this is the case, I would suggest that Scripture cannot mean now, what it did not mean then. Because Moses (or the priestly writer/redactor) were referring to the pagan practices and same sex activities of the Canaanite fertility goddess, and not the faithful, committed, non-cultic relationships between two women or two men, as we understand homosexual relationships today.
If Leviticus 18:22 & 2013 were not referring to faithful, committed, non-cultic homosexual relationships then, scripture is not referring to faithful, committed homosexual relationships now. Meaning that, the prohibitions of Leviticus are not aimed at homosexuality as we understand it today. Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 were aimed at preventing pagan practices related to the abomination of fertility goddess worship. Anal sex between male and male worshippers and male and female worshippers was viewed as an offering to the goddess. Furthermore, the Bible never says cult prostitutes are gay or lesbian and the Bible never links those pagan activities to being gay or lesbian.
Furthermore, many Christians make the mistake of equating qadesh and qedeshah, men and women devoted to the Canaanite fertility goddess, with modern gays and lesbians. Qadesh and Qedeshah are NEVER used in the Bible to mean homosexual. Furthermore, every verse in the Bible which mentions sodomites is referring to shrine prostitutes who worshipped the Canaanite fertility goddess. The Hebrew word for Sodom is Cedom , an entirely different word than qadesh or qadesha. Cedom is from the Hebrew root word meaning ‘to scorch or burn’.
Male wastage of seed
In the first five books of the Bible, the death penalty is an action to be meted out for about twenty offenses. Several of these relate to sexual matters. The sexual matters which are condemned can be broken down into two parts:
(1) Those that are forbidden due to who the sexual partner is (i.e. adultery, incest, close relatives, etc.);
(2) Those that are forbidden because of the act in itself.
In this second part, let us examine these offensive sexual acts.
(i) Withdrawal/Wasting seed/the sin of Onan (Genesis 38:6 -10)
(ii) Male homosexual intercourse (Leviticus 20:13)
(iii) Male bestiality (Leviticus 20:15)
(iv) Female bestiality (Leviticus 20:16)
(v) Intercourse with a menstrous woman (Leviticus 20:18)
What is the common element in these sexual acts? The answer, of course, is that they are each non-reproductive sexual acts. As we can see, the reason these are forbidden by God is that they each oppose God’s command of “be fruitful and multiply” and as such are perversions. Of course, items (i) and (v) could happen accidentally and no offense is involved when that occurs. (Lev. 15:24, Deut. 23:10-11).
An ancient view of gender
In regards to gender roles in ancient Israel it was assumed in that period that the male was active and the female was passive. The assumption of male superiority over female was deeply imbedded in that ancient world. The biblical laws pertaining to women place them firmly under male control, first by fathers (or brothers), then husbands. Women’s sexuality is controlled by males, even beyond the grave as in the case of Tamar where the law required her to remain widowed, thus regulating her sexuality for the sake of a dead husband (Deut. 25:5-10).
So when men and women are mentioned together in Scripture, the writer has in mind a human spectrum comprising NOT of equality but of strength and weakness. In that period they assigned what we regard as maleness or femaleness according to who penetrated (maleness) and who got penetrated (femaleness). Lesbian sex did not pose a problem for Torah because it did not involve penetration or the flow of semen. In that ancient world sex did not take place between equals.
Athalya Brenner has highlighted what is perhaps the essence of biblical views on female sexuality:
The Hebrew word for “male” – human (Gen 1:27), animal
(Deut 15:19) or inanimate (of image, Deut 4:16) is…from
root word denoting “to remember”. The more general and
superordinate term “man”…can sometime serve in a narrower
sense of “human male” – as for instance in Judg 11:39, where
Jephthah’s daughter “has never known a man”. A female
human (Gen 1:27) or animal, is …derived from a root
denoting “hole”, “cavity”, “opening”, “orifice”…A “female”
is sexed rather than gendered: he is the carrier of memory,
the one “to be remembered”, thus a social agent. The female
is there to be penetrated and to be receptive; the term…
implies that socially there is no difference between biological
and social functions. The male agent carries the burden of
social community, of culture (“remembrance”); he is there
to “give”, that is, penetrate the female “hole” or receptacle.
So the human race in the ancient world divided itself into gender identities of ‘strong’ and ‘weak’, NOT ‘gay’ and ‘straight’. That is why nobody in the First Testament, the New Testament, classical Greece, ancient Rome, ancient Egypt, Sumer, Babylon, or anywhere else around the eastern Mediterranean have a word for homosexuality, homosexual, heterosexuality, or heterosexual for that matter. 
The “H” word in the Bible.
I wish to conclude by commenting on Bible translations and the emotionally loaded word in Leviticus “abomination”. Bible translations of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 in both The Living Bible and New Living Translation use the term “homosexuality ” that is unusually deceptive for three reasons:
1. The passage in the ancient Hebrew is clearly talking about male-male sex acts. By using the word "homosexuality ," the English translation appears to condemn lesbian activity as well. The latter behavior is definitely not mentioned in the original Hebrew text of this passage. In fact, lesbian behavior is not mentioned anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures.
2. The term “homosexuality ” has two distinct meanings in English. Sometimes it refers to sexual behavior (what some people do; their actions). Sometimes it relates to sexual orientation (what some people are; their feelings). One reader might conclude from an English translation that homosexual orientation is criticized in the Bible; others might assume that only homosexual behavior is criticized.
3. The word “homosexual ” was first used in the very late in 19th century. There was no Hebrew word that meant “homosexual.” Thus, whenever the word is seen in an English translation of the Bible, one should be wary that the translators might be inserting their own prejudices into the text.
A loaded word, “abomination”.
Many would regard the word “abomination ,” as being an “enormous sin ”, etc. as particularly poor translations of the original Hebrew word which really means “ritually unclean ” within an ancient Israelite era. The Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (circa 3rd century BC ) translated “to'ebah “ into Greek as “bdelygma ,” which meant ritual impurity. If the writer(s) of Leviticus had wished to refer to a moral violation, a sin, he would have used the Hebrew word "zimah ."
Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13 say nothing about consensual same-sex activity today. It only condemns same-sex religious prostitution in pagan temples. The seriousness of this idolatry in Hebrew eyes was compounded by the belief that ‘to lie with a man as with a woman’ violated the dignity of the male sex. Women were [considered] property but men were the direct image of God. To treat a man the way a woman was treated was to reduce him to property and, thereby, to violate the image of God. In my opinion the real issue in Leviticus was sex was being used in a idolatrous fashion thus declared an abomination and therefore declared “unclean”.
 Quoted from Henry T.C. Sun, “An investigation into the compositional integrity of the so-called Holiness Code (Leviticus 17-26),” (Ph.D. diss., Claremont Graduate School, 1990).
 The "Holiness Code" has been replaced by the "New Covenant" as exemplified in the following verses: Colossians 2:16-17, and Hebrews 8:13, 18, 9:9-10
 Robert A.J. Gagnon, The Bible and homosexual practice” texts and hermeneutics . Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2001, pp100- 110.
 David Daube, 1986, “Old Testament prohibitions of homosexuality.” Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung fur Rechtsgeschichte 103:20-93
 Jacob Milgrom, "Leviticus 17-22," Anchor Bible , New York, NY: Doubleday (2000), p1785-90.
 Jacob Milgrom, p 1786.
 Jacob Milgrom, p1786.
 Jacob Milgrom, p1786.
 Gershon Caudill.
 Gershon Caudill. See also, Robert Gagnon’s work, “homosexual cult prostitution in Israel”, pp100-110 in The Bible and homosexual practice , (2001).
 Athalya Brenner, The intercourse of knowledge :on gendering desire and ‘Sexuality in the Hebrew Bible. Leiden: Brill, 1997b, pp11-12.
 Gray Temple, Gay unions: in light of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason . New York, NY: Church Publishing, 2004, pp51-53.
 See also The Way:The Living Bible illustrated , Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1971, 1986.
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