Leviticus 18 and 20 are part of a larger narrative construct in which Israel wished to separate itself from its cultural rivals, the so-called Canaanites, with whom Israel likely shared a great deal in common. From an exilic or post-exilic point of view, one can see that the sexual laws of Lev 18 and 20 are a way to account for Israel’s destruction, and a means for avoiding any future demise. Reading Lev 18.22 and 20.13 within its literary frame of didactic speeches (18.1-5, 24-30 and 20.7-8, 22-26) enables us to locate the prohibitions against male-male anal intercourse (not homosexuality in general) within a literary and historical context. Here I use Iris Marion Young’s concept of “border anxiety” to critique Lev 18.22 and 20.13 as an attempt to define the insider (Israelites) from the outsider (Canaanites). In other words, the proscriptions in Lev 18.22 and 20.13 are a descriptive of a social and historical location, not prescriptive for our contemporary understandings of human sexuality. This reading can allow GLBTQ people to place Lev 18.22 and 20.13 within its historical and cultural milieu in such a way that draws attention to the destructive and often violent use of biblical texts to single out and exclude the Other.
Mark Wirtz is a second-year MDiv - Academic Research student at McAfee School of Theology. His entire research project is available online in the Swilley Library Institutional Repository at Mercer University.