Did Leviticus originally allow gay sex?

A Biblical scholar says there is evidence that the infamous condemnation of gay sex in Leviticus was added into the text perhaps more than 100 years after it was compiled.

In an article published in the journal Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel, Idan Dershowitz argues that relationships between men may have initially been accepted in the Old Testament Book of Leviticus.

Chapter 18 of Leviticus is principally concerned with incest but has long been one of the most cited condemnations of homosexuality in the Bible, and a justification for outlawing same-sex sexuality and even for the killing of gay people.

Chapter 18 verse 22 reads, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” (Chapter 20 goes on to address the punishment – the death penalty.)

Dershowitz, however, believes that this condemnation was not part of the original earlier text and that there are subtle clues indicating this in the way it is written.

Dershowitz claims that the motive for reworking this passage was “to reverse the original text’s implicit sanctioning of male same-sex intercourse.” He adds that, “This conclusion finds support in additional biblical and ancient Near Eastern texts.”

Writing for the New York Times, the academic explains that, “Like many ancient texts, Leviticus was created gradually over a long period and includes the words of more than one writer.

“Many scholars believe that the section in which Leviticus 18 appears was added by a comparatively late editor, perhaps one who worked more than a century after the oldest material in the book was composed. An earlier edition of Leviticus, then, may have been silent on the matter of sex between men.”

Dershowitz goes on to state: “… there is good evidence that an earlier version of the laws in Leviticus 18 permitted sex between men. In addition to having the prohibition against same-sex relations added to it, the earlier text, I believe, was revised in an attempt to obscure any implication that same-sex relations had once been permissible.”

He notes that, “One can only imagine how different the history of civilization might have been had the earlier version of Leviticus 18’s laws entered the biblical canon.”

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