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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

What the Bible Really Tells Us: The Essential Guide to Biblical Literacy

I wrote the author's books discussing women in the Bible. 

This book is also helpful. Her books have a few issues. For instance, she discusses Paul based on what Acts and his letters say without noting the former should not be relied upon without a big grain of salt.  Her care in not just letting the Bible be the end all is mixed. This might mislead some.  

And, this one lays it on a bit too thick about how much our law and culture rests on the Bible. This is so especially without emphasizing it often is based on broader principles shared by other traditions.  Still, as with her others, even if you do not agree with parts of it, it is a good thought piece for the average reader.

I can say or summarize (I took some notes) more about the book but will leave with two comments. 

First, she talks about that basic question: why is there suffering in the world.  The three basics: who knows? (and how dare you ask, look at what God did!) [Job], you deserve it [or are victims of God punishing those who did], and demons [post-exile/Jesus].   

My gloss on the Book of Job is that one reading is that "this is bullshit."  Like reading between the lines of Pravda, this basically is a biblical author making a point about the injustice of it all without directly challenging God.  But, that is what a reader should get out of it when Job is a plaything, and when he finally asks "why," he gets a speech from God about how he created the world and everything.  Charming.  Back to my question.

There is also a chapter on sex and sexuality.  First, we are told that the Bible is not aware of sexual orientation.  So, the writers just see what they deem as homosexual acts.  The Sodom example is about inhospitality and rape.  Leviticus is largely about what are seen as foreign impure acts done by pagans.  And, it isn't quite clear what Paul is talking about.

(Also, to mix it in, the types of homosexual relationships the biblical authors often imagine would be seen as unbalanced abusive ones such as older men having sex with young boys.  I'm sure they happened, and there is some evidence of them in ancient writings, but the Bible simply never really deals with what we would deem as run-of-the-mill same-sex relationships. Male prostitutes or the like are not the basic concern to us.)

It also addresses the two passages some deem gay-friendly.  Ruth is Naomi's daughter-in-law and has run-of-the-mill marriages. David and Jonathan are like a ton of "I love you man" soldiers, basically.  The idea they are gay is a big stretch. Lots of men and women have deeply close relationships without it being sexual.

I think we need to be honest here. The Bible (and the book grants it is patriarchal) has an understanding of the proper roles of the sexes. A passage not addressed directly bans improper dress (see trans debates) that violates gender norms. The assumption is men and women marry and have children.  Anything else is "unnatural" as Paul directly suggests in the basically one crystal clear verse in Romans.  Clear sex discrimination!

The emphasis given to all of this by the Catholic Church in particular as if it is basic to the faith is absurd. Nonetheless, like father-daughter incest not being discussed, a major reason same-sex relationships are not dealt with more is that is just out of the realm of imagination.  

We can note that biblical authors are not knowledgeable about homosexual orientation.  We can note they were not as obsessed about the whole thing as some make them out to be.  We can mix in some "we need to realize they lived in another time" as we can do when handwaving some sexist stuff. But, bottom line, we need to push back some if we give an honest accounting of what the Bible says about proper sexual relationships.


I talked about a book about protecting intimate privacy and another about menstruation in the past.  Full reviews are now up on another website.

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