“When a Man Lies with a Man as with a Woman” – Westar Institute

People today widely believe that the Bible condemns being gay. They get this idea from, well, reading the Bible. When most people leaf to Leviticus 18:22 in their Bibles, they read something like this: “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination.” In Leviticus 20:13 they find identical words, only adding death by stoning as punishment. That seems pretty clear. End of story. In our early twenty-first-century American culture, a man who “lies with a man as with a woman” is usually thought to be gay.

But the Bible was not written in our day nor for our time. These two texts were written about 2,500 years ago in a time and place scholars generally refer to as the Ancient Near East. What did it mean for “a man to lie with a man as with a woman” in the Ancient Near East? Male-male same-gendered sex in the Ancient Near East—so far as ancient texts discussed it—had three possible meanings: domination, recreation, and religious devotion. To understand the first, one need only think today of prison sex or war-time rape, or read the news from Syria, where male rape has recently emerged as a tool of government repression. This modern thing is actually a very old thing. In the Ancient Near East male-on-male sex was usually seen as an act of violence. This was (and is) not gay sex. It was heterosexual phallic aggression. It was generally frowned upon, unless done in a context where violence and domination were the point, as in war. Today the practice is shocking. In the ancient world, not so much.

Source:  – Westar Institute