The learned Adrian Schenker is one of the contributors to this new volume, just reviewed in RBL. From the review-
In the second essay Adrien Schenker turns from narrative to legislation in a discussion of Lev 18:22 and 20:13. He proposes three reasons for what he sees as the prohibition on sexual relations between men, all three of which have a social rather than an individual focus. The first two, the maintenance of Israel’s national exclusivity and the protection of fertility, he characterizes as historically contingent, but the third, the preservation of harmonious family relations, is different. Roles within families must be clear, in order to maintain the stability of the family unit: the “attraction between members of the opposite sex is difficult enough without adding to it the complication of love between two men. For love relations between men add to occasions of friction with the family” (56). As though to underscore the universality of this claim, Schenker argues that, although the composition of Lev 18:24–30 and 20:22–24 may date from as late as the fifth or early fourth centuries B.C.E., such “rules [about ‘licit and illicit sexual relations within families’] are deeply rooted in minds and consciences. This is why they change rarely and not easily” (68).
This third reason for the prohibition on homosexual relations, then, would seem not to be historically contingent, and Schenker backs up his claim by stressing the literary position of the prohibition, closely associated with those other notable durable taboos, incest and adultery. Schenker has set out a clear and coherent rationale of the traditional interpretation of these texts. But there are places where the reader can glimpse an ideological substratum. For instance, by analogy, he declares, a law “is always capable of a number of applications that are implied in its formulation” (70). This is why, he goes on, “we can state the probability that, according to the Bible, sexual relations between women is also prohibited” (70), and he cites Paul for support. Women must not be allowed to slip through the net! The logic here is more convenient than convincing.
Again, his uncompromising reading of the two texts falters in the face of Lev 20:13. If homosexual relations really are an abomination, then surely the death penalty is a fitting punishment, as indeed as the law in England, at least, recognized until the nineteenth century (and, of course, this situation still obtains today in certain parts of the world). But for Schenker this “penalty is intolerable for modern sensibilities” and “that one should kill those who practice it [homosexual relations] seems rightly barbarous and inhuman” (63). To get around this problem, Schenker argues that the acts listed in Lev 20 were carried out in secret and that the severity of the penalty was intended to induce the offenders to confess all to the priests and to receive a lighter punishment. These “penalties are not executed but rather commuted in an act of grace and by compensation” (65, emphases original).
Once more convenience triumphs over logic. In his conclusion Schenker comments that “the question that the Bible can raise with respect to contemporary thought is this: does not homosexuality that is lived and publicly recognized contribute to the disintegration of a society already prey to disintegration?” (70). For this reviewer at least, the question is this: Does not the author realize that, never mind the death penalty, the very prohibition of homosexuality in Leviticus, if such it is, is “intolerable for modern sensibilities” and “rightly seems barbarous and inhuman”?
I’m going to have to get it. I can scarcely believe the reviewer has rightly, or fairly, apprehended what Schenker is doing so following my own requirements, I’ll read Schenker himself rather than settling for simply reading about Schenker from the viewpoint of another.