The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Friday, August 31, 2012

What harm will come to your soul

I've been taking some time off of online trollery, but I did pick up on this from Samson J. at Auster:

Why, I am not sure, but I believe there is a very good reason why the story of Sodom and Gomorrah occupies such a prominent place in Scripture: it’s not only about the danger of tolerating homosexual behaviour. It’s also a warning about the sorts of people who will hate you if you say that homosexuality is wrong.

(The title of this post refers to Sebastian the Fox's solo in Feebles. h/t, Slappy at Ace's.)

Samson brings up two points. First, he asserts that the Sodom story is in "a prominent place"; second, he believes that this is deliberate.

It's been noted a few times that the Sodom story is part of the "hidden book in the Bible": which portions, over the Pentateuch, scholarly convention flags "J". The Sodom story did not actually happen in history - I mean, there were ruined cities on that plain, but there survives no extraBiblical record of why God destroyed them. The J source based its narrative on the more-likely-historical account of the Levite at Gibeah (Judges 19).

To whatever extent we think that the Sodom story is factual; the original author thought it was important. The J author wanted the reader to understand the event now in Genesis as factual, at least as factual as the parallel event in Judges (which nobody serious has ever seen fit to deny - by criterion of embarrassment, I think). And the J author stuck these events in Abraham's day, waaay up in the first half of his book. So now we need to know why he did that.

And for that, we need to know the point of the story. If I recall my Kugel, there have been questions over the centuries about what, exactly, was Sodom's "wickedness and sin" (Gen. 13:13). Were they wicked (with their hospitality)? or, were they sinful (with their bodies)?

If it were just about wickedness, the J author would have just left the story as he'd found it in Gibeah. What made the Sodom story more famous than the Gibeah story - besides its more prominent location - is the sin angle.

I think that, perhaps, the Dead Sea plain did have a reputation for "tolerance" for homosexuality in the early Iron Age, when J was writing. The Salt Sea was and remains famous for its medicinal properties. That means it was southern Syria's bathhouse from the Bronze Age to the rise of Israel. Certain parts of the coast possibly got reputations for being, shall we say, mens' only clubs. And how would they have treated whatever patriarchal Yerushalmi hillbillies came on down to visit and preach?

We don't really know. But we can get a rough idea.

posted by Zimri on 17:49 | link | 0 comments

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