New Internationalist

Let’s get literal

Issue 370

Dr Laura Schlesinger is a US broadcaster who dispenses advice to people who call her radio show. This is a letter from an appreciative listener.

Dear Dr Laura
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to follow them.

a) When I burn a bull on the altar of sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odour for the Lord (Lev 1:9). The problem is my neighbours. They claim the odour is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness. (Lev 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.

d) Lev 25-44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, providing they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

e) I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev 11: 10) it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?

g) Lev 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev 19:27. How should they die?

i) I know from Lev 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

j) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev 24: 10-16) Couldn’t we just bring them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev 20:14).

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Your faithful listener, P. Uzzled

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This article was originally published in issue 370

New Internationalist Magazine issue 370
Issue 370

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New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

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– Emma Thompson –

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