Zapiro is a cartoon character and the front for a very talented artist and social commentator. My comments and observations are in response to what this cartoon character says.
Despite the derisive tone of Zapiro’s queries I have chosen to take his first question seriously and I would like to at least try to advise him ‘on a few other things’. I see little point in responding to each of the ten, generally facetious, questions because it seems to me that they are just a way of asking one overriding question – “If such seemingly petty prohibitions are found in the same Bible that you quote against homosexuality, then how can you expect me to take you seriously?” Zapiro’s ‘What is good for the goose is good for the gander’ contention is a spurious argument because it is based on both an apparent misunderstanding of the purpose of the Old Testament law, and the presumption that important issues such as homosexuality and same-sex marriage can be settled by means of simplistic biblical comparisons to unrelated Old Testament regulations.
God gave us his laws not to control us, put us in bondage, or rob us of joy.
To the contrary, he gave us his laws, principles, and priorities so that we can live abundantly. The Ten Commandments are a case in point. For instance, ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ addresses the object of human devotion. Polytheism is confusing to both society and the individual, atheism is hopeless, and self-deification is a sure prescription for disaster. Dishonour of parents, another of the Ten Commandments, is the first step into anarchy. Murder, adultery, and theft seriously damage human relationships, society, and individual self-respect.
The Lord Jesus Christ put the Ten Commandments into their proper perspective when he responded to the accusation that his followers were violating the fourth commandment. He said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28). God gave us his commandments to help and protect us, and if we ever needed evidence of this we need only look at what theft, corruption, and murder are doing to our country.
The laws given by Moses to the Israelites covered a wide range of personal and societal issues but they were all designed to protect the ‘chosen nation’. Some related to diet. In those days pork was usually infested with parasites and so the Israelites were prohibited from eating it. Zapiro’s ninth question contains a number of ‘biblical parasites’ and so I will comment briefly on it. The Law prohibited eating pork, not touching pigskin (by the way it is Leviticus 11:7 and not verse 6 that mentions pigs). Moses would not have conceived of ‘touch rugby’ and even if they had played such a sport, he would not have legislated against pigskin rugby balls. The matter of parasitic infection was a serious matter and eating pork could have badly affected individual and national health. I am dealing with this, not to be picky (I almost typed ‘porky’) or to correct Zapiro’s biblical reference, but because it raises an important exegetical principal. We need to read the scriptural texts in context. Firstly, we must read a text in the context of the passage in which it is positioned. Then, we need to interpret the text in terms of its literary and historical-cultural contexts. The scriptural context of Leviticus 11:7 is ‘clean and unclean foods’ not sport materials. The historical-cultural context is fifteenth century BC Israelite and not twenty-first century South African.
Two of Zapiro’s tongue-in-cheek questions relate to slavery. In the ancient world there were several forms of slavery ranging from captives of war to voluntary servitude. Some forms were barbaric but some served to protect individuals against such things as the penalty for unpaid debt. Slavery was but one of the cultural practices of the day that the Law of Moses sought to regulate. We cannot assume that God approves of slavery. All we can assume from what is written, is that Moses set out rules and procedures for regulating the current practice. Divorce is another such issue. Malachi 2:16 records how God feels about divorce; “I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel…’ However, Deuteronomy 24:1-4 regulates how divorce was to be executed. The point is that Israelite men were divorcing their wives in order to enjoy intimacy with other women. Often they would later remarry their wives. In this way, they believed they were not violating the commandment prohibiting adultery (talk about having your kike and eating it!). Jesus dealt decisively with this in Matthew 5:31-32.
The point I am making is that the Law of Moses was designed to bring peace, harmony, and wellbeing to his people. The essence of the Law is the Ten Commandments and to that Moses added dietary, cultural, social, and ceremonial regulations.
Of course the real issues Zapiro is addressing is homosexuality and same-sex marriage. He is deploying one of the several ‘biblical’ arguments presented by advocates of homosexuality. The argument’s essential thrust is ‘if you cite the Old Testament against homosexuality then why don’t you also prohibit certain foods, and so on.’ The extension of the argument is ‘if you hold that the dietary and other laws were for a certain people in a certain culture at a certain time, then how can you hold that the prohibition against homosexual activity still applies?’
Well the Bible doesn’t end with Malachi, and the New Testament has several references to homosexuality. Two passages are particularly pertinent to Zapiro’s underlying argument. Romans 1:24-27 contains the following; ‘Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another…. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.’ NIV
1 Timothy 1:8-11 teaches, concerning the Law of Moses that, ‘we know these laws are good when they are used as God intended. But they were not made for people who do what is right. They are for people who are disobedient and rebellious, who are ungodly and sinful, who consider nothing sacred and defile what is holy, who murder their father or mother or other people. These laws are for people who are sexually immoral, for homosexuals and slave traders, for liars and oath breakers, and for those who do anything else that contradicts the right teaching that comes from the glorious Good News entrusted to me by our blessed God.’ NLT
The biblical perspective on homosexuality is not presented through a comparison to selective Old Testament dietary, social, and religious regulations, but through a survey of the full scriptural revelation concerning this issue. Same-sex marriage is a corollary to the issue of homosexuality yet there are several concerns that relate to marriage itself.
Well Zapiro, I hope I have at least gone some way towards clearing all this up for you. Of course there is so much to say but my space is limited. May God, the God of the Bible, bless you.