By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 1/21/2020
Posted: 3/4/2006
Topics/Keywords: #ReligiousPolitics #GayRights #GayMarriage #TheBible Page Views: 3113
I have nothing against the Bible. In fact, it's a pretty Good Book. Too bad more Christians don't read it.
David & Jonathan

Although I do not self-identify as a "Christian," I have nothing against the Bible. In fact, it's a pretty Good Book. Too bad more Christians don't read it.

Oh, most Christians claim they read it. But they can't understand it because they've never studied the original languages in which the books of the Bible were written. So they rely on their preachers' interpretations of the Bible and think that is the Bible…and it's not.

Take all this fuss over gay marriage. Christian extremists who want to impose their own lifestyle and beliefs on me insist the Bible defines marriage as being between "one man and one woman" and that is their basis for the oppressive laws they propose. Well, even if true, that shouldn't matter because the Constitution of the United States is the basis for our law, not the Boy Scout Handbook, Redbook, and certainly not the Bible.

Even so, they're still wrong. The Bible isn't nearly as clear-cut as fundamentalists would like to think on the subject of marriage. In fact, it describes eight different types!

One Man, One Woman

Genesis 2:24 describes how a man leaves his family of origin, joins with a woman, consummates the marriage and lives as a couple. This is what we today call a nuclear family; it's the kind of marriage the Christian Extremists insist is the only kind. Note, however, that the man isn't free to marry just any woman. A bride who has been misrepresented as a virgin was stoned to death by the men of her village. (Deuteronomy 22:13-21) There was no similar penalty for men who engaged in consensual pre-marital sexual activity. So the thing about no sex before marriage is not supported here, as long as you're a guy.

One Man, Many Women

Lamech, in Genesis 4:19, became the first documented polygynist, having two wives. Other men the Bible documents as having polygynous relationships include Esau with three wives; Jacob with two; Ashur with two; Gideon with "many"; Elkanah with two; David with many (not to mention his affair with Jonathan); Solomon with 700 wives of royal birth (the first documented case of snobbery?); Rehaboam with three; and Abijah with fourteen. Jehoram, Joash, Ahab, Jeholachin and Belshazzar also had multiple wives. So, Biblically speaking, it's okay to have sex with lots of women as long as you marry each one first! The folks who insist the laws of the United States reflect the mores of the Bible should not be hassling those throw-back Mormons, after all.

A Dead Man, His Brother, and Their Wife

In Genesis 38:6-10, we are introduced to the concept of a "Levirate" marriage. This involved a woman who was widowed without having borne a son. She was required to leave her home, marry her brother-in-law, live with him, and engage in sexual relations. If there were feelings of attraction and love between the woman and her new husband, this arrangement could be quite agreeable to both. Otherwise, the woman would have to endure what was essentially serial rapes with her former brother-in-law as perpetrator. Their first-born son was considered to be sired by the deceased husband. A widowed man could also enter into a Levirate marriage with his sister-in-law. Is this a marriage variant we should make legal? If we agree with the argument of the Christian Extremists, we should. Better start cultivating a better relationship with your brothers-in-law, ladies.

A Man, a Woman, and their Slave

In Genesis 16, Sara gave her slave, Hagar, to her husband Abram so he could have a son. While there was no marriage in the Christian sense, God wasn't displeased; in fact, he rewarded Abram with a son by Sara and made Hagar's son, Ishmael, "Father of a Nation" (the Arabs). If you think the Bible defines marriage, you might consider taking more care in hiring your next cleaning lady.

A Man, Many Women, and Many More Women

A man could keep numerous concubines, in addition to one or more wives. As little power as wives had, these women held an even lower status. As implied in Genesis 21:10, a concubine could be dismissed when no longer wanted. The list of men with concubines, in addition to wives, includes Abraham, Saul, David, and Solomon who had more than 300. (How did he find the time to write the Psalms?)

A Man and a Virgin Captured in Battle

Numbers 31:1-18 tells how the army of the ancient Israelites killed every adult Midianite male in battle, then slaughtered most of the captives, including all of the male children. Only the lives of 32,000 women—all virgins—were spared. (The mind boggles at the logistics of the determination procedure.) Some of the latter were given to the priests as slaves. Most were taken by the victors as captives of war. Deuteronomy 21:11-14 describes how each captive woman shaved her head, pared her nails, and was given one month alone to mourn the loss of her family, friends, and freedom, after which she was required to submit to her owner sexually, as his wife.

A Rapist and his Victim

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 demands that a female virgin who is not engaged and has been raped, must marry her attacker, whether he's cute or not. A man could marry the girl of his choice by simply attacking her sexually! Well, he did also have to pay his new father-in-law 50 shekels of silver. There is one disadvantage to this approach: he was not allowed to subsequently divorce her.

Considering the new laws being proposed that forbid abortion even in the case of incest and rape, perhaps we aren't so far from seeing this type of marriage legalized, either.

One Male Slave and one Female Slave

Exodus 21:4 indicates that a slave owner could assign one of his female slaves to one of his male slaves as a wife. There is no indication that the enslaved women were consulted during this transaction.

Two Men

Now, if you've been counting, you'll have noted just eight marriage types so far. This would make nine. And the fact is, there are plenty of examples of gay couples in the Bible whose claim to each other is at least as valid as that of a captured virgin…and a lot more romantic, too.

It does require a bit of work, though, to get past the ghastly King James translation (with its thousands of documented errors) and the homophobic preachers and televangelists to find out what the Book is really trying to say.

1 Samuel 18:1
"…Jonathan became one in spirit with David and he loved him as himself." (NIV)

"…the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul" (KJV)

Most translations use the term "soul" rather than "spirit" to describe the bond. They speak of an "immediate bond of love", their souls being "in unison," their souls being "knit", etc. In modern English, people use "soul" and "spirit" interchangeably; but in the original Hebrew Genesis 2:7 describes how God blew the spirit into the body of Adam that God had formed from earth, so that Adam became a living soul. Clearly the word "soul," to the writers of the Bible, meant a combination of bodyand spirit. Thus David and Jonathan loved each other both emotionally and physically. You know, like in Brokeback Mountain.

1 Samuel 18:2
"From that day, Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father's house." (NIV)

David left his parent's home and moved to Saul's. That was Jonathan's house. In other words, David and Jonathan were living together. And that was fine with Jonathan's dad.

Okay, it was a big house. (There were a lot of those concubines living there, too.) Still, this indicates that Jonathan and David's relationship was, to say the least, extremely close. And notice the similarity to the phrase in Genesis 2:24:

"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."

1 Samuel 18:3-4
"And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt." (NIV)

Okay, remember a covenant is what we today we call a contract. As in "marriage contract"? If not, since people in those days did not wear underwear, Jonathan was now naked in front of David. If it wasn't marriage contract, what the heck kind of contract was it?

1 Samuel 18:20-21
"Now Saul's daughter Michal was in love with David, and when they told Saul about it, he was pleased. 'I will give her to him', he thought, 'so that she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him'. "Now you have a second opportunity to become my son-in-law." (NIV)

In the King James Version, the end of Verse 21 reads:

"Thou shalt this day be my son-in-law, in the one of the twain." (KJV)

Saul's belief was that David would be so distracted by a wife that he would not be an effective fighter and would be killed by the Philistines. He first offered his daughter Merab, then he offered Michal. There is an interesting phrase used at the end of verse 21. In both the NIV and KJV, it would seem that David's first opportunity to be a son-in-law was with the older daughter Merab, and his second was with the younger daughter Michal. The KJV that David would become Saul's son-in-law through "one of the twain." "Twain" means "two", so the verse seems to refer to one of Saul's two daughters.

However, this is a mistranslation. The underlined phrase "the one of" does not exist in the Hebrew original. (The words are shown in italics in the King James Version; this is an admission by the translators that they made the words up.) If the KJV translators had not been shackled by King James' political demands, they would have written:

"Thou shalt this day be my son-in-law, in the twain."

Remember, these folks had no compunction against plural marriages. In modern English, an accurate translation of the Hebrew is: "Today, you are son-in-law with two of my children." Since David did not marry Merab, this can only refer to Saul's son Jonathan and his daughter Michal. The Hebrew original recognizes David and Jonathan's homosexual relationship as equivalent to David and Michal's heterosexual marriage. Saul may not have been fond of his dual son-in-law, but he appears to have recognized both relationships as being legitimate…and equivalent.

1 Samuel 20:41
"After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together - but David wept the most." (NIV)

Other translations have a different ending to the verse:

"…and they kissed one another and wept with one another, until David exceeded." (KJV)

"…and they kissed one another and wept with one another until David got control of himself." (Amplified Bible)

"and they sadly shook hands, tears running down their cheeks until David could weep no more." (Living Bible)

Shook hands??! A blatant mistranslation. So much for God protecting the Bible from inaccuracies!

"They kissed each other and wept together until David got control of himself." (Modern Language)

"They kissed each other and wept aloud together." (New American Bible)

"Then David and Jonathan kissed each other. They cried together, but David cried the most." (New Century Version)

"Then the kissed one another and shed tears together, until David's grief was even greater than Jonathan's." (Revised English Bible)

"…and they kissed one another and wept with one another until David recovered himself." (Revised Standard Version)

The original Hebrew text says that they kissed each other and wept together until David became great. The word which means "great" in this passage is gadal in the original Hebrew. The same word is used elsewhere to refer to King Solomon being greater than all other kings. In spite of the misleading English translations across the board, I don't think it takes a Bible scholar to understand what made David "great" after an extended makeout session with his lover.

2 Samuel 1:26
"I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women."

In ancient Israel, men and women did not become "friends" — it simply wasn't done. In fact, they rarely even spoke together in public, even when they were married. (Some things never change!) Therefore, David would only have had sexual relationships with any woman other than his mother; and to compare Jonathan's love to a woman's has to be a statement of sexual preference.

You don't have to take my word for this. Hebrew is not a dead language; it is spoken by every Jewish kid after his bar-mitzvah. (He has to learn it for that ceremony.) All this stuff from what Christians call "the Old Testament" is from the current Jewish Bible, which every synagogue has in the original Hebrew.

I encourage the Christian Extremists to make friends with their Jewish neighbors and find out what the Scripture they would enforce really says.

Homosexuality is not a choice. But arrogance, ignorance and bigotry are.