Homosexuals and Shellfish

by Steve Ray on May 10, 2020

I received a copy of an e-mail which was very sarcastic. The sceptic’s words are in red. He wrote:

“Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from you, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.”

I cannot give an answer that would satisfy the sarcastic interlocutor without a great deal of time and even then he will only listen if he wants to. But, one has to realize that God deals with different people in different ways within their times, their knowledge and their cultural confines. Also, much of the Mosaic Law was to punish the Israelites for their stubborn, stiff-necked rebellion against God which was not imposed on all men for all time. I suggest that the whole problem here is that our e-mailer has a bone to pick and has very little historical or biblical understanding, or he wouldn’t ask such things.

Here the first example from his list:

1) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

In ancient cultures slavery was a way of life.  Life was cheap and slaves were property that could be treated and disposed of any which way. That was a fact of life. The very fact that Moses wrote laws to protect the servant with certain legal and moral safeguards put the Israelites light years ahead of the neighboring nations. Slaves with rights—unheard of! But also, the e-mailer should realize that the term slave here can be misleading in that it may very well refer to a bond servant or maid. In early America, many people were able to afford immigration by selling themselves as bondservants for a time. In any regard, over time the full revelation of God impressed men with a more comprehensive understanding and practice of justice and dignity for human life.

shellfish2) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

Yes there are degrees and the differing extent of punishments reflected the degrees. The laws concerning shellfish were not part of the Noahide laws (Gen 9) relating to all men. They were only applied to the Israelites under the Mosaic Law. Shellfish laws were not applicable to Gentile Christians in the NT (see Acts 15). The Mosaic laws and proscriptions are not universal, they were local and for a specific people for a specific time. They were intended partly to make Israel separate from the nations. It was selectively applied to one people, not universally to all mankind.

But, homosexuality is prohibited both to the Israelite and in the NT to all people because it is a violation of natural law as well as the written Law of God. It is a universal prohibition. Shellfish are not part of the moral law. The MORAL commands apply to all men. They are universal axioms. They are declared in the Old Testament and carried on into the New. Homosexuality is condemned in the OT and also in the NT eating lobster is not.

The e-mailer must also realize that all 613 Laws of Moses are no longer binding on the Christian, or mankind in general, though the basic Ten Commandments are. Stealing, lying, murder are morally wrong and apply to all men. Jesus not only requires our obedience to the Ten Commandments but even ups the ante! I have a study on my website about our continuing obligation to the Big Ten.

3) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is, my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

Even a cursory reading of Leviticus makes it clear bulls were not burned in everyone’s back yard therefore offending neighbors. We do burn cow flesh in our back yards today though, in fact I have a prime rib grilling now. The sacrifice went to the tabernacle or the temple where such sacrifice would not effect the neighbor across the fence.

But, why kill bulls? Because Egypt worshiped bulls and Israel rejected God in their insane desire to continue “bull worship” which they learned in Egypt. They built a Golden Calf and bowed before it saying, “This is the god that brought us out of Egypt.” It was easier for God to get the Jews out of Egypt than to get Egypt out of the Jews. They were ordered to kill cattle to constantly remind them that cattle were NOT gods. Also, sin is odious to God and death shows just how horrible sin really is—it brings death. The death of Jesus eliminates the need for animal sacrifice both in back yards and in temples.

Does all this mean that God is confused or the Scriptures unfair? Of course not. It just means our questioner did not think clearly or deeply on these matters. The writer of this silly list of questions does not take any of this historical information into account. He just picks up a hammer and starts swinging it around to the detriment of himself and others.

I think the words of St. Augustine are appropriate when he said that believing is necessary for understanding. Honesty and a bit of historical and biblical understanding are helpful too.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Howard May 11, 2020 at 9:39 AM

HAROLD SAYS:

"But, one has to realize that God deals with different people in different ways within their times, their knowledge and their cultural confines." That is an assertion that is often made but rarely defended. You certainly do not defend or justify it here; you simply assert it on your own authority, or perhaps as what you think is a self-evident fact. That is a cop-out for this topic, and it is of course subject to abuse. You really, really need to at least provide a reference to a more careful, if lengthier, discussion to back this up.

STEVE RAY HERE: First I think Howard for writing and for his polite tone and questions/assertions. It is obvious on its face (prima facia) that God deals differently with different peoples and times. The fact that he dealt differently with Jew than Gentile is an obvious example. That he dealt differently with Adam and Eve than with Noah when he gave the basic law of mankind than with Abraham and with Moses and the Children of Israel. Not sure what Howard's objection is but if I understand him correctly, I think my argument is true prima facia. But even though God deals differently with different peoples and nations and times, he never contradicts his own essence and character, nor is he arbitrary in his creation and moral demands. He made them male and female and told them to multiply. He never gives them the option to chose one of multiple genders or to violate the natural law he established.

HAROLD SAYS:

"Also, much of the Mosaic Law was to punish the Israelites for their stubborn, stiff-necked rebellion against God which was not imposed on all men for all time." You will find many biblical passages praising the Law, and some passages from St. Paul noting that the Law cannot bring salvation, but none that back up this assertion. Oh, there were punishments a-plenty for the Israelites, including wandering in the desert, famine, disease, and exile from the Promised Land, but absolutely no hint that the prohibition against bacon double cheeseburgers is a *punishment*.

STEVE RAY HERE: In no way was I saying that the laws imposed by God on the Israelites were all punishments. Many laws were based on the natural law, the way God made the world and are in place to protect, not to punish. There are three categories of laws for Israel: the civil law, the moral law and the ceremonial law. Eating hamburgers with cheese would have fit under the civil or ceremonial law, not the moral law. Homosexuality is also a prohibition based on the moral law and is imposed on all, not just Israel.

Arthur R Adams May 11, 2020 at 12:19 PM

Harold. In addition to what Steve said, the term “Law” means more than just the laws that were in place. When we meditate on the “Law” we are also referring to the Torah, the first 5 books of the bible and to Salvation History as a whole i.e. God’s constant and steadfast love and redemption offered to the Jews, Israelites and all the Gentiles. Also, this refers to how the Old Testament and Prophets point forward to Jesus.

Howard May 11, 2020 at 1:55 PM

An orthodox Jew would, I suppose, claim that the distinction between clean and unclean animals is itself a part of the Natural Law, even if, like everything else, it is been progressively revealed. After all, Noah was at least familiar with the idea (Genesis 7:2), regardless of how he might have classified shellfish. I suspect that you would agree that cannibalism is not merely a cultural taboo that has been banned as a part of ceremonial law. Budziszewski has argued that even the commandment to "remember the Sabbath day" is a specific realization of a general part of the natural law; since WHICH days to remember were specified in the Law of Moses, the only way to escape the Jewish (and Jehovah's Witness) adherence is to accept that the Church knows which parts can be changed and has the authority to do so. Fine; but anyone who accepts the authority of the Church is probably not arguing that homosexuality is OK.

Also, please take care not to use the term "ceremonial law" dismissively, which you seem to come close to doing. It is not for nothing we honor the seven brothers and their mother of 2 Maccabees 7.

Finally, forget shrimp and cheeseburgers, can you identify even ONE Mosaic Law that actually is a punishment (as opposed to one that would promises punishment if broken)? If not, your claim that "much" of it was punishment should be retracted.

P.S. My name's not Harold.

STEVE RAY HERE: Sorry Howard, don’t know why I used Harold. I an only suggest I was in a hurry, probably on the fly and made a mistake. My apologies. Thanks for writing.

Regarding your last question: there is a statement that “God could get Israel out of Egypt but he could not get Egypt our of Israel.” The first thing Israel did after the Exodus was to build a golden calf and call it their god, just as the Egyptians would have done. God is not so concerned about the sacrifice of animals, but with the obedience of heart. The Israelites in part were “punished” with the obligation of killing massive numbers of their animals because of their continued propensity to worship like the Egyptians.

“Sacrifice in its Mosaic form was also seen as a “renunciation” of the idols [of Egypt] themselves. In other words, the animals of Israelite sacrifice were animals revered in Egyptian religion as images of the gods and goddesses. Mnevis, for example, was worshipped under the form of a bull, Apis under the form of a bull calf, Hathor under the form of a cow, and Khnum under the form of a ram. To slay these animals in sacrifice was to declare war on Egyptian idolatry. The religion of Israel was thus defined in opposition to the religion of Egypt. All that Egypt revered in its idol cults, Israel renounced as false gods, and this in the very act of worshipping the true God.”

Scott Hahn, ed., Catholic Bible Dictionary (New York; London; Toronto; Sydney; Auckland: Doubleday, 2009), 797.

Ted Bruckner May 11, 2020 at 5:04 PM

You wrote in your article titled ‘Homosexuals and Shellfish’ : “The laws concerning shellfish were not part of the Noahide laws (Gen 9) relating to all men.”

The Noahide laws aren’t of the Bible but of the Talmud. The 7 Noahide Laws were signed into USA law in 1991 but haven’t been enacted yet.

Law # 1. Not to worship idols.

Each law has sub-laws. A sub-law of #1 makes it law that Jesus cannot be worshipped since it is considered blasphemy. Breaking one of these laws, the violator is subject to capital punishment by decapitation.

Unlike the Torah teaching found in Deuteronomy 17:6, that requires the testimony of two or three witnesses before one can be executed, according to the Noahide Law it only takes one witness! Breaking one of these laws, is subject to capital punishment by decapitation (Sanh.57a : “One additional element of greater severity is that violation of any one of the seven laws subjects the Noahide to capital punishment by decapitation.”

Be ye as wise as serpents … Know who our Lord and Redeemer called serpents. Interestingly, the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew (from what we know of it) read “Be ye wise more than serpents …”

The learned rabbis Tovia Singer and Nehemiah Gordon have stated that the present day Orthodox Jews are the Pharisees of 2,000 years ago. And Nehemiah Gordon said that rabbinic succession is from father to son.

God Bless. Yesou Christou rules!

Joe May 15, 2020 at 11:14 PM

Hi Steve,

I don't know if this was pointed out in the email you received, but the entire thing was copied and pasted from a letter that was written at least 20 years ago. The writer of the letter was Kent Ashcraft and the recipient was Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the radio personality.

STEVE RAY HERE: Joe, thanks for letting me know that. I was unaware that the comment posted against my blog post was plagiarism. Good to know and thanks!

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David Hewins May 20, 2020 at 12:05 PM

Most issues regarding OT laws are settled IMO by Catholic interpretation of the NT on forgiveness. To the point: the law is invariant, but the penalties can change. This suggests to me that the OT civil and ceremonial laws that are not types of and fulfilled in NT events are early hygiene and public health laws, or possibly early canon law, if you will. Eating shellfish and pork, for example, can be deadly if one lacks proper knowledge and tools for cooking. In the absence of modern biochemistry and the germ theory of disease, I view Moses' hygiene laws as really excellent! Invariant law: health and hygiene are good. Varied penalties: for eating pork, shellfish, depending on prudent consideration of conditions.

STEVE RAY HERE: good analysis and thanks. The civic laws applied to Israel as a nation which ended when Rome took over and even before. The ceremonial laws continued as long as the priestly sacrificial system continued. The moral law continues even to this day. God bless you David.

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