Re: An interesting essay for evangelicals

From: Robert Schneider (
Date: Thu Jan 23 2003 - 16:40:00 EST

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    Sheila writes:

    > Another comment suggested that Jesus' silence on the subject meant that He
    > also believed homosexual acts were wrong. Jesus Christ was not exactly
    > on the subject because He said that He did not come to add or subtract
    > the law but to fulfill the law; therefore, the law still stands.

    Bob's comment:

        Sheila, I think you are refering to Jesus' saying in Matt. 5:17: "Do not
    think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come
    to abolish but to fulfill," and that not one jot and tittle should be
    abolished. These sayings appear in the Sermon on the Mount in the section
    on the meaning of the law and the prophets, that concludes, "Unless your
    righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisee you will never
    enter the kingdom of heaven." Then Jesus goes on to show in what respect
    his audience must exceed the latter in righteousness, by revising the Torah
    to make its demands even stronger, e.g., love your enemies.

        What is interesting is that before Matthew's gospel was composed
    (between 80 and 90 AD), the early Christian community was already, by mid
    century, in a major crisis over the extent to which the law of Moses was to
    apply to Christian converts from among the Gentiles, as both Act. 15 and
    Paul's argument in Galatians shows. The community eventually came to
    conclude that some provisions of the Torah apply and some don't (the latter
    including any cultic provisions, as well as circumcision). So, it is a bit
    of a stretch to say that these words of Christ (5:17), which only Matthew
    reports, are to be taken literally, and in our own day. At least the early
    Christian community, however divided on the issue, eventually came to think
    they should not be taken literally. One must discriminate, they decided,
    when it comes to applying provisions of the Mosaic Code to Christian life.
    I'm not saying that this fact rules out applying an interpretation of the
    provisions in Lev. 18, 20 to Christian life, but it does not, in my view,
    automatically apply them. And according to John Boswell, whose study I have
    been citing, the early Christian theologians seldom refer to the Levitican
    codes in their entirety, most of whose provisions they ignored, especially
    the dietary laws; and when they express their hostility to gay sexuality,
    their condemnations rested on other arguments, not the "same sex" passages
    in Lev. 18 and 20, though some cite these passages to support their
    arguments. (Boswell, _Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality_)

        So, I do not believe that one can conclude simply from Matt. 5:17 that
    Jesus condemned homosexual acts. One could just as well argue from his
    silence on the matter that he didn't. I would be more confident of either
    if I had had a word from him about the matter. But this is one instance in
    which Jesus did not speak to a moral concern of our own society.

    Grace and peace,

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