Covenant with Israel, not with Gentiles: homosexuality revisited

I’m not an academic person, but I read a lot of books written by academics. Here, I’m referring to books written by Jewish scholars.

It’s fairly clear that the covenant on Sinai was made through Moses with the people of Israel. It is a covenant with them and them alone. The covenant says that God promises the hold of the promised land and its bounty, on the condition of adherence to that covenant.

If you take the covenant to include all of the Torah (first five books of the Bible), then that is what applies to the Jews, even today. The Torah is very legalistic, what people should do and not do.

Jewish scholars today and in the past observe that not only does the covenant not apply to gentiles, but that gentiles should not even attempt to observe the laws of the covenant in the Torah.

What they say does apply to gentiles is what they infer (it’s not IN the Bible) as the Noahide covenant. Gentiles (the rest of us) need only obey these seven laws to maintain a healthy relationship with God and enter the Divine Presence after death. See here for example: (they are listed here)

On this basis, the prohibitions against homosexuality are really only applicable to the descendants of Israel.

I think this insight applies not only to anybody reading the Old Testament, but it explains the attitude of Paul in the new testament – why he does not compel converting gentiles to be circumcised, for example. Christianity was not just Judaism 2.0, it was altogether a different relationship with God.

Before my lifetime, the Church dropped its objections to gambling, after the Council of Trent. In my lifetime, the Church has explained away Limbo, It has come up with the idea of annulments, to get around the prohibition against divorce in scripture.

If the idea of “de-criminalizing” homosexuality and homosexual unions was ever to gain traction within the Church, I think it would have to start here, with reading the Old Testament as it is written, as a covenant with Israel which has been superceded by a new covenant.

I have run across articles in print and online from advocacy groups taking the Bible to task on individual points of scripture (rightly or wrongly) to “show” that it does not actually prohibit or condemn homosexuality.

Modern (and ancient) Judaism has and is divided into “camps” - with different interpretations.

As Pilate said, “what is truth?” The truth in U.S. Catholicism seems to be that a majority approve of abortion, artificial contraception, and even lately, same sex unions. but, the Church’s teaching is often stated without much depth of explanation.

I read some time ago, that the Torah has 613 commands (Jewish opinion since about the ninth or tenth century AD onward). It seems that somewhere, in more than a millenium of opportunity, some Catholic scholar would have stripped these down, one after another. As many know, there are FEW official pronouncements on interpretation of scripture (see the New Jerome Biblical Commentary essay on this subject).

doctrine is “teaching” which may change – homosexuality is in this category. It has not been discussed, as much as homosexual unions, female priests, etc. with dogmatic finality. One way or the other, it seems that the Church should speak as it ought, whichever way that would be.

While one could say that there has always been a prohibition on same-sex sexual acts and same-sex unions, as far as I understand it, the Church’s official teaching is not based on the fact that it was prohibited for the Israelites/Jews/Hebrews/whatever.

The truth in U.S. Catholicism seems to be that a majority approve of abortion, artificial contraception, and even lately, same sex unions. but, the Church’s teaching is often stated without much depth of explanation.

OK, so just because it is the truth that a majority approve of these things, it doesn’t mean that what the majority believes is true. Furthermore, what do you mean the Church’s teaching is “often stated without much depth of explanation”? Do you mean when it’s stated by individuals who are talking about the teachings, or do you mean that the official teachings of the Church do not have much depth to them? Because the information is more than readily available to all who want it - there is plenty of depth to the Church’s teaching on these areas, including the immorality of same-sex sexual acts.

I get the impression that you have the idea that the Church’s proclamations on the subject of homosexuality are not true or at least they’re not conclusive. There may be some things that the Church could clarify about homosexuality, or even about sexuality in general (in fact, I don’t believe the Church should use the language of “homo/heterosexuality”, that’s one way in which I think she could be more clear), but as far as I know, the Church’s teaching regarding the immorality of same-sex acts cannot change.

Anyway, to sort of summarize, the Church’s teaching on sexuality in general, which includes the topic of same-sex attraction, is not so much based on prohibitions in the Old Testament, as it is based on an argument from natural law. As far as I know, and I’m sure I will get corrected by individuals more knowledgeable of the Church’s official teachings than I on the matter if I am incorrect.

Doctrine cannot change, period. It is the immutable teaching of the Church, inspired by God through the Holy Spirit. Disciplines can change, such as the discipline of priestly celibacy; but doctrines, such as the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, cannot be changed because God’s will does not change.

While the gentiles were not subject to the cultural laws of the Jewish people, they are still subject to natural law, which is where the laws on homosexuality and sexuality in general are derived from. The natural law extends beyond cultural and religious boundaries, and applies to humanity as a whole.

Paul rejected circumcision for gentiles because it was not in keeping with Christ’s covenant. In Judaism, circumcision is the physical sign through which a person enters into the Abrahemic covenant. In Christianity, we have baptism. Circumcision is the proto-baptism, and became unnecessary when Christ instituted Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The demand for circumcision, being unnecessary for salvation under Jesus Christ, would only serve as an impediment to entry into Christ’s Church, and as such was rejected.

I’m not really concerned with Jewish opinions on what Christians should or shouldn’t believe.

I don’t have time to respond to all of the points you brought up at the moment. Maybe later. For now, this will have to suffice:

Anyone who rejected God’s Son was grafted out. Read Romans. They need to be brought into the New Covenant. We are not in the Old Covenant anymore. God does not will that anyone reject His Son. He wills their Salvation. For reasons He has not fully explained yet, He hardens some and has mercy on others. Our prayers and sacrifices do change things. There is the issue of invincible ignorance and where that line is drawn seems to be something God has not revealed yet. But if someone who is not invincibly ignorant rejects God’s Son - their soul is in grave danger.

Homosexuality is addressed in the New Testament.

1 Timothy 1:10
…9realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 10and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, 11according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.

1 Corinthians 6:9
…8On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren. 9Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.…

It should be noted that there is a difference between a practicing homosexual and a person with same sex attraction.

Practicing homosexuals are in grave sin. If done with full knowledge and deliberate consent, their souls are in danger of eternal fire. God is not going to change His mind on this. It is an intrinsic evil.

Trust the Holy Spirit. He guided us into all Truth just like Jesus said He would. He is the one who gave us all of our Doctrine and Dogma and it has never changed.

May the grace and peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

you posted a lot, so I’m only going to address your last three paragraphs.

  1. I do not believe the "majority of Catholics approve of abortion or same sex unions. If you were to poll the majority of Catholics who come to Mass each week, my gut tells me that the numbers would be mostly in line with the Church’s teaching. Birth control - different topic. I don’t believe it is fair to count non-practicing Catholics (aka people who were born Catholic but do not practice the Faith and do not practice something else) as “Catholics” for these kind of polls. They really should be their own statistical category.

  2. Catholic scholars did not strip anything down. Many (not all) of the Jewish Laws were either discipline (like many of the Catholic Cannon Laws) or based on the Priesthood of Levi (from Leviticus). Jesus restored Priesthood of Melchizedek. This means that many of the Levitical laws would no longer apply because the Priesthood of Melchizedek was restored.

  3. Doctrine is teaching that cannot be changed (thought it can be developed, aka defined). Discipline is teaching that can be changed. “Dogmatic Finality” usually only takes place when Doctrine is being challenged. In regards to Homosexuality, homosexual unions, female priests, etc… The Church HAS spoken on these and there is Doctrine on each of these. They may or may not be totally defined Dogmatically, but the Doctrine is there.

The church’s teaching against homosexuality is based in natural law not Mosaic laW.

Murder is in the mosaic law as a prohibition…does that mean murder is ok now? Of course not.

Also, the old law was not replaced but fulfilled. It stands modified but not forgotten.

I think you are way off on this.

The relevance of Jewish Bible studies, as the Church has pointed out, should not be rejected, out of hand. (, ) St Jerome and Martin Luther, in their respective eras, studied Hebrew and Aramaic from Rabbis.

It’s always relevant to get to the most accurate sense of what Scripture says. It’s not the authority of the Jewish scholars that I am referring to, it’s (take it or leave it) what Scripture actually says. And, Jewish scholars might have and do exhibit their biases and their point of view, but what they say cannot be ignored. Card. Ratzinger says it would be foolhardy to ignore their centuries of Bible study.

It’s a separate issue, but this is the basis of inter-faith dialog with Judaism and Catholicism.
Blessed will be the day when that dialog results in agreement…no? (OH, AND BY THE WAY, the Jewish Study Bible [Oxford U. Press] says in parallel with what I said in my OP about there being few definitive interpretations of scripture by the Church, Judaism DOES NOT HAVE ANY OFFICIAL interpretations of any verse of scripture. What’s going on HERE?)

This is relevant:

Natural law argument: I believe generally in the natural law, but when it runs into superficial rationalizations, it is strained. Some people are undeniably born with mixed or uncertain gender.

Every generation should re-examine natural law, no? People with same sex attraction and gender ambiguity don’t seem to be covered by the generalizations of natural law. There are babies born without brains or limbs or with a hole in their heart or with genetic digestive or respiratory problems. Babies born blind or with Down’s syndrome. Natural law seems so often to be pounding square pegs into round holes.

From my understanding, the book of Leviticus contains two different types of laws, what we would call “natural laws” and “civil laws.” The first type instructs us as to what is immoral, or indeed, what God considers to be “an abomination.” The second type proscribes for the Israelites and the Levitical priesthood curative methods for dealing with these “abominations.” Therefore, the natural laws, as Christ said, “will not pass away,”… but the civil laws on the Israelites obviously passed away with the coming of the gospel, if not at least the end of the Levitical priesthood.

Chapter 18 of Leviticus concerns mostly the moral determinations on unlawful sexual activities, which are still binding on all, being based on natural law. Chapter 20 though, deals with the [harsh by our standards] ways that God expected the Levitical priesthood to deal with these offenses where people were unrepentant.

It may be helpful to think the morally instructive Chapter 18 is what Christ is saying “will never pass away”… and that the civil penalties outlined in Chapter 20 are the penalties that Christ took upon himself for these sins, so that no more would they need to be meted out in the same way again… ie. “stoning.”

In short, homosexual acts are still immoral, but Christ paid the penalty for them in the new covenant, and instituted a church to effect the absolution for them.

There are hermaphroditic people, true; but there are exceptionally rare, and are not nearly as “gender confused” as people would have you believe. Most, if left to their own devices" show leanings towards one particular gender. An accident of birth does not negate natural law.

Also, why are you calling natural law superficial?

Every generation should re-examine natural law, no? People with same sex attraction and gender ambiguity don’t seem to be covered by the generalizations of natural law.

Given that they remain human people, they remain subject to natural law. The fact that they have disordered inclinations doesn’t preclude them from adherence.

There are babies born without brains or limbs or with a hole in their heart or with genetic digestive or respiratory problems. Babies born blind or with Down’s syndrome. Natural law seems so often to be pounding square pegs into round holes.

None of these things have anything at all to do with natural law… I’m not trying to be insulting, but do you know what natural law is?

Here is a very, very brief explanation of the difference between natural law and the laws of nature (the latter being what your examples would fall under):

Let’s also remember what Leviticus itself says about the proscriptions in Chapter 18… as far as who they apply to and why…

“24 “‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. 25 Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things, 27 for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. 28 And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.” (Leviticus 18:24-28).

It’s pretty clear that the laws of moral conduct apply to everyone, Israelites and the “foreigners among them.” Also, God’s judgement on the gentiles for not keeping these laws is no different than what God promises the result will be for the Israelites should they not keep these laws.

That’s one of the problems with the Jewish religion. They were to be the light to the world, but instead they kept the oracles of God to themselves. It took God himself in a human body to become that light for the world, our salvation, something the Jews could never fulfil.

St. Thomas Aquinas distinguished between three types of commandments in the OT:

  1. moral commandments, like the Decalogue, being the basic guidance of human life, always valid;
  2. judicial commandments - the legal rules on property, family, punishments, etc. - were historically binding for the Jews, not binding now, but having a solid and valid point for all nations and all times;
  3. ritual commandments - most of the 613 mitzvot on purity, diet, sacrifices, rites, etc. - were specific to the period before coming of Christ, so they are not imitable nowadays.

All these commandments, nevertheless, are fully grounded in natural law. They are not just arbitrary “agreements” between God and the chosen people - “do this and you will be saved”. So, although a punishment for adultery, homosexuality and other offences may be more lenient in a modern society, the immorality of such acts is part of natural law and will always remain such.

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