An abomination

So, for not-mere-Christianity, we   can agree at once that a lot of the law is good sense, and we would want to adhere to it anyway.  The problems start because most  Christians are not Jews, and they do not want to keep all of the law, most especially the parts which refer to keeping the Sabbath (in as far as we keep any holy day still, it has become the Sunday, and not the Saturday) and the rules governing food.

Pretty early in the history of the church, Peter had a vision  which convinced  him that the disciples ought to be preaching the good news about Jesus to Gentiles as well as Jews, and after a dust-up and some incredibly tough arguments, Paul convinced him that Gentiles could not be made to stick to Jewish food and purity rules.

And this is the first time we get a clear distinction being made between purity laws and moral laws.  The Torah,  the Law, the first five books of the Bible, know nothing of this distinction.  It is a tricky distinction to set about making because of this very fact: it is an artificial distinction.  The writers of the texts did not set them up to be divided in this way.  They had no concept of two kinds of laws.

It used not to matter so much; a consensus had been reached that food/washing/sacrifice laws were no longer biding on Christians, end of.  Then the question arose of whether it was right for a man to have sex with another man.  This is quite plainly forbidden in Leviticus, one of the books of law, where this is described as ‘an abomination’.  For  many this ends the argument.

However, quite a lot of other things are described as ‘an abomination’.  These include things like incest, which we still forbid, and other things, like eating ‘unclean’ birds which we do not.  Indeed, by implication, one passage suggests strongly that eating any forbidden food (shrimps, pork) will be ‘an  abomination.’   Christian opponents of equal sex values don’t give up eating  pork, do they?

I see how the church got backed into this position, because I see why the Jewish church wanted to cling to the profound moral values found in the Torah,  while letting the Gentile church off the hook of the dietary laws.  But it led them into an exceedingly awkward place.  And in my next thrilling instalment, I will look at those piercing profound laws on which we have not touched yet; laws so enlightened that even today they sound radical.

 

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2 responses to “An abomination

  1. I’ve been on tenterhooks ever since you posted this. Is a follow-up still on the way?

  2. rosemaryhannah

    Oh help yes – just need to sit down and write it…

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