Linda A. Malcor
The other day I found myself in yet another argument about what the Bible does and does not say about homosexuality. The gentleman who was screeching at me insisted in the literal truth of every word in the Bible and was adamant that we cannot choose which laws we will or will not observe. The Bible was the Word of God, and that was all there was to that for him. Predictably, he hauled out Leviticus 18:22: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination." as proof of his position that homosexuality is an abomination to God. Equally predictably, he seemed rather oblivious to Leviticus 20:13 "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them." Mr. Literal walked away from the conversation, apparently seeing no conflict between his unwillingness to argue that people should be put to death for "homosexual acts" and his insistence in the literal truth of everything else in the Bible--except those pieces he chose to ignore. I, in contrast, found myself puzzling about the word he emphasized: "abomination". I came to the conclusion that I did not have a very good sense about what did or did not constitute an "abomination" in Biblical terms, so I decided to do a bit of research. Just because it is possible to do such things these days, I called up a copy of the Revised Standard Version (the translation favored by my denomination, the Presbyterian Church--USA) of the Bible online and searched for the word "abomination". I found the results perplexing.
Of the sixty-seven times that the word "abomination" is used in the Bible (Revised Standard Version), only twice does it appear in the New Testament. Revelation 21:27 simply says that anyone who practices abomination will not enter Heaven. In Luke 16:15 Jesus defines the love of money as an abomination to God. That's it as far as abominations in the New Testament are concerned, in spite of all the hoopla about Romans 1, which does not use the word.
Of the sixty-five occurrences of the word in the Old Testament, five refer to something as being an abomination to another people. Thirteen of the things labeled "abominations" are dietary restrictions, the observation of which would bar a person from consuming such things as clam chowder, shrimp and, one of my favorites, the non-existent four-legged insect, which certainly refers to something besides what we call "insects". Seventeen refer to improper sacrifice, although I am hard pressed to think of a single Christian (or Jewish, for that matter) congregation that slaughters animals on their altars these days. Outright adultery and adultery cause by divorce, which is prohibited by the Bible even though it is a widespread practice today, account for three of the verses. In addition to Jesus's comment in Luke, the love of money is decried as an abomination in two Old Testament passages. Four related verses cite dishonest trading practices as abominations. Twelve other verses list behaviors ranging from murder to women wearing "anything that pertains to a man" (for example, pants). Eight passages, including the one from Revelation, are not clear about what they mean by "abomination." Precisely two refer to homosexual behavior, though there was no understanding in biblical times of homosexuality as we define it today.
Reading through this list, two things strike me. The first is that many of the items pertain to someone pretending to be something he or she is not. Yet that is exactly what so many literalists ask gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people to do by insisting that such folks remain in the closet. The second is that the very people who scream the loudest about two passages in Leviticus are themselves in violation of several verses that would render them "abominations". Aside from the dietary laws and the prohibition against ignoring the laws, which we do every time we fail to offer blood sacrifices and perform other practices that are demanded by the Bible, Proverbs 6:16-19 ("There are six things which the LORD hates, seven which are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and a man who sows discord among brothers.") jumped out at me. I can think of few other things that have caused more discord in our society, in our families and in our households than has the insistence on the literal reading of one passage from Leviticus (As I mentioned before, most people find it impossible to read the second passage literally.).
So where does that leave me with Mr. Literal? Probably in the same place I was when he walked away from our conversation. But at least now I have a better understanding of what an "abomination" is, in the Biblical sense. I do find myself wondering, though, if, when Mr. Literal is busy labeling a group of people who engage in certain behaviors as "abominations", if he realizes how many times over he could rightfully be called an abomination himself.
The List of Abominations
These pasages are taken from the Revised Standard Version (RSV) simply because that is the text favored by the Presbyterian Church (USA) and by the individual who prompted me to do this textual, rather than contextual, study. See below for a concordance for other translations.
Abominations to Other Peoples
Genesis 43:32 They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians.
Genesis 46:34 you shall say, 'Your servants have been keepers of cattle from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,' in order that you may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians."
Proverbs 13:19 A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul; but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools.
Proverbs 29:27 - (2) An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous, but he whose way is straight is an abomination to the wicked.
Leviticus 7:18 If any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering is eaten on the third day, he who offers it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be credited to him; it shall be an abomination, and he who eats of it shall bear his iniquity.
Leviticus 11:10-19 - (6) "But anything in the seas or the rivers that has not fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and of the living creatures that are in the waters, is an abomination to you. They shall remain an abomination to you; of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall have in abomination. Everything in the waters that has not fins and scales is an abomination to you."
"And these you shall have in abomination among the birds, they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the osprey, the kite, the falcon according to its kind, every raven according to its kind, the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk according to its kind, the owl, the cormorant, the ibis, the water hen, the pelican, the carrion vulture, the stork, the heron according to its kind, the hoopoe, and the bat."
Leviticus 11:20 "All winged insects that go upon all fours are an abomination to you."
Leviticus 11:23 "But all other winged insects which have four feet are an abomination to you."
Leviticus 11:41 "Every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth is an abomination; it shall not be eaten."
Leviticus 11:42 "Whatever goes on its belly, and whatever goes on all fours, or whatever has many feet, all the swarming things that swarm upon the earth, you shall not eat; for they are an abomination."
Leviticus 19:7 "If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is an abomination."
Isaiah 66:17 "Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following one in the midst, eating swine's flesh and the abomination and mice, shall come to an end together, says the LORD."
Deuteronomy 7:25 The graven images of their gods you shall burn with fire; you shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, or take it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it; for it is an abomination to the LORD your God.
Deuteronomy 17:1 "You shall not sacrifice to the LORD your God an ox or a sheep in which is a blemish, any defect whatever; for that is an abomination to the LORD your God."
Deuteronomy 18:10-12 "When you come into the land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, any one who practices divination, a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD; and because of these abominable practices the LORD your God is driving them out before you."
Deuteronomy 27:15 "'Cursed be the man who makes a graven or molten image, an abomination to the LORD, a thing made by the hands of a craftsman, and sets it up in secret.'"
1 Kings 11:5 For Solomon went after Ash'toreth the goddess of the Sido'nians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. (Foreign god who demanded human sacrifice.)
1 Kings 11:7 - (2) Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. (Foreign gods who demanded human sacrifice.)
2 Kings 23:13 - (3) And the king defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem, to the south of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had built for Ash'toreth the abomination of the Sido'nians, and for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. (Foreign gods who demanded human sacrifice.)
Proverbs 15:8 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is his delight.
Proverbs 21:27 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with evil intent.
Isaiah 1:13 Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and the calling of assemblies--I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
Isaiah 44:19 No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, "Half of it I burned in the fire, I also baked bread on its coals, I roasted flesh and have eaten; and shall I make the residue of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?"
Jeremiah 32:35 They built the high places of Ba'al in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.
Daniel 11:31 Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the continual burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate.
Daniel 12:11 And from the time that the continual burnt offering is taken away, and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.
Deuteronomy 24:1-4 "When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a bill of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man's wife, and the latter husband dislikes her and writes her a bill of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring guilt upon the land which the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance."
Ezekiel 22:11 One commits abomination with his neighbor's wife; another lewdly defiles his daughter-in-law; another in you defiles his sister, his father's daughter.
Leviticus 7:21 And if any one touches an unclean thing, whether the uncleanness of man or an unclean beast or any unclean abomination, and then eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the LORD's peace offerings, that person shall be cut off from his people."
Love of Money
Jeremiah 6:15 "Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown," says the LORD. (Greed for unjust gain.)
Jeremiah 8:12 Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among the fallen; when I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the LORD. (Greed for unjust gain.)
Luke 16:15: But he said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
Deuteronomy 25:13-16 "You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, a large and a small. You shall not have in your house two kinds of measures, a large and a small. A full and just weight you shall have, a full and just measure you shall have; that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you. For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the LORD your God."
Proverbs 11:1 A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.
Proverbs 20:10 Diverse weights and diverse measures are both alike an abomination to the LORD.
Proverbs 20:23 Diverse weights are an abomination to the LORD, and false scales are not good.
Other Improper Behaviors
Deuteronomy 22:5 "A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman's garment; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God."
Deuteronomy 23:18 "You shall not bring the hire of a harlot, or the wages of a dog, into the house of the LORD your God in payment for any vow; for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God."
Judges 20:6 "And I took my concubine and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel; for they have committed abomination and wantonness in Israel." (Referring to the rape and murder of the concubine of a Levite who was a guest.)
Proverbs 3:32 for the perverse man is an abomination to the LORD, but the upright are in his confidence.
Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things which the LORD hates, seven which are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and a man who sows discord among brothers.
Proverbs 11:20 Men of perverse mind are an abomination to the LORD, but those of blameless ways are his delight.
Proverbs 12:22 Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight.
Proverbs 16:5 Every one who is arrogant is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished.
Proverbs 17:15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.
Proverbs 28:9 If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.
Isaiah 41:24 Behold, you are nothing, and your work is naught; an abomination is he who chooses you. (Worshipers of people who set themselves up as gods.)
Malachi 2:11 Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god.
Proverbs 8:7 for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
Proverbs 15:9 The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but he loves him who pursues righteousness.
Proverbs 15:26 The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD, the words of the pure are pleasing to him.
Proverbs 16:12 It is an abomination to kings to do evil, for the throne is established by righteousness.
Proverbs 24:9 The devising of folly is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to men.
Jeremiah 2:7 And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination.
Ezekiel 18:10-13 "If he begets a son who is a robber, a shedder of blood, who does none of these duties, but eats upon the mountains, defiles his neighbor's wife, oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination, lends at interest, and takes increase; shall he then live? He shall not live. He has done all these abominable things; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself."
Revelation 21:27: But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.
Lying with a Man as with a Woman
Leviticus 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
Leviticus 20:13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.
The Old Testament word that is translated as "abomination" in the RSV is Hebrew tow'ebah or to'ebah (Pronounced: to-ay-baw'; Strongs 08441). tow'ebah is defined as "a disgusting thing, abomination, abominable; in ritual sense (of unclean food, idols, mixed marriages) ; in ethical sense (of wickedness etc.) " The vast majority of instances in the Old Testament refer to the usage related to the ritual sense; most of these prohibitions are blithely ignored by the modern literalist, with the exception of Leviticus 18:22, which does fall into the ritual sense catagory.
This concordance shows all occurrences of the Hebrew word tow'ebah and compares them to several popular translations. An "x" in a box indicates that the translation in question uses the same word ("abomination" in all translations except the NIV, which uses "detestable") to translate tow'ebah in Leviticus 18:22 as it does in the other cited passages where tow'ebah occurs. A number in parentheses following a biblical verse indicates that the word is used more than once in that verse.
|RSV||Revised Standard Version|
|KJV||King James Version|
|NIV||New International Version|
|NASB||New American Standard Bible|
|YLT||Young's Literal Translation|
|Exodus 8:26 (2)||x||x||x||x||x|
|Deuteronomy 18:12 (2)||x||x||x||x||x|
|1 Kings 14:24||x|
|2 Kings 16:3||x|
|2 Kings 21:2||x|
|2 Kings 21:11||x|
|2 Kings 23:13||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|2 Chronicles 28:3||x|
|2 Chronicles 33:2||x|
|2 Chronicles 34:33||x|
|2 Chronicles 36:8||x|
|2 Chronicles 36:14||x|
|Proverbs 29:27 (2)||x||x||x||x|
|Ezekiel 8:6 (2)||x|
|Ezekiel 16:51 (2)||x|
The following passages use the translation's preferred word for "tow-ebah" to translate another word.
|RSV||Leviticus 7:18, 21; 11:10-13, 20, 23, 41-42; 19:7; Judges 20:6; 1 Kings 11:5, 7; Isaiah 66:17; Daniel 11:31, 12:11. (Word Use in the New Testament: Luke 16:15; Revelation 21:27.)|
|KJV||Leviticus 7:18; 11:10-13, 20, 23, 41-42; 1 Samuel 13:4; 1 Kings 11:5, 7; Isaiah 66:17; Daniel 11:31, 12:11. (Word Use in the New Testament: Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14; Luke 16:15; Revelation 21:27.)|
|NIV||Leviticus 7:21; 11:12-13, 20, 41-42; Deuteronomy 29:17; 1 Kings 11:5, 7; 2 Kings: 23:24; 2 Chronicles 15:8; Jeremiah 4:1; 7:30, 13:27; Ezekiel 8:10. (Word Use in the New Testament: Luke 16:15; Titus 1:16; 1 Peter 4:3; Revelation 18:2.)|
|NASB||Daniel 11:31, 12:11. (Word Use in the New Testament: Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14; Revelation 21:27.)|
|Darby||Leviticus 7:21; 11:10-13, 20, 23, 41-42; 20:23, 20:25; 1 Kings 11:5, 7; Daniel 11:31, 12:11. (Word Use in the New Testament: Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14; Luke 16:15; Revelation 21:27.)|
|YLT||Leviticus 11:10-13, 20, 23, 41-42; 19:7; Numbers 11:20; 1 Kings 11:5, 7; Isaiah 66:17; Daniel 11:31, 12:11. (Word Use in the New Testament: Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14; Luke 16:15; Revelation 21:27.)|
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©2000 Linda A. Malcor
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