Wink, sexuality and hermaneutics

The Old Fool felt for gays and lesbians because he listened to their life stories and believed them. Scholars did not convince him because scholars can not always agree. However, he still respects scholars and their findings. Walter Wink was a scholar.

bible-studyIn 1979 Wink was asked by the New York Conference of the United Methodist Church to do a biblical analysis of the issue of homosexuality. He undertook the assignment with his usual attention to details. The result was an essay that Wink felt was his most objective study.

The gist of Wink’s findings was that the Bible has no sexual ethic. Instead, the Bible reports a variety of sexual “mores” (pronounced: mo-rays.) A more (mo-ray) is a pattern of behavior practiced by a particular people, time and place. Mores may change from time to time, from culture to culture.

Wink believed that most readers would agree with the Bible in rejecting, incest, rape, adultery, and intercourse with animals.

Wink found that the Bible condemns some sexual behaviors which are now generally allowed: Intercourse during menstruation, celibacy (some texts) exogamy (marriage with non-Israelites) naming sexual organs, nudity (under certain conditions) masturbation (some Christians still condemn this) birth control (some Christians still forbid this). The Bible regarded semen and menstrual blood as unclean.

Wink found seven behaviors permitted by the Bible which are condemned today: prostitution, polygamy, levirate marriage, sex with slaves, concubinage (cohabiting without marriage) treatment of women as property, very early marriage (for the girl, age 11-13), Wink noted that while the Old Testament accepted divorce, Jesus forbade it.

Of the sexual mores listed, Wink said that today’s mores are in agreement with only four mores found in the Bible and in disagreement with it on sixteen mores.  Of same sex relationships, Wink admitted that when homosexuality is mentioned in the Bible it clearly condemns it. With the fearlessness and the integrity of a scholar Wink questioned if the Biblical judgment was correct.

sexWink maintained that all sexual mores must be judged by the love ethic practiced by Jesus. For Wink the Bible contains the principles for its own correction. Anyone freed from worship of the bible can restore it to its proper role as a witness to the Living Word of God, Jesus.

The Bible should be given careful interpretation with appropriate change.  The church changed its views on slavery, patriarchy, and violence, and it can do the same with homophobia.

living well

Living Joyfully

Wink wrote Just Jesus while struggling with dementia.  Doctors Glen Miller and Jep Hostetter post blogs on living joyfully, dying well. This week Dr. Miller began a series on grumpypain and  dementia, and Dr. Hostetter wrote on being grumpy or gracious. These expert scholars are worth reading.

About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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5 Responses to Wink, sexuality and hermaneutics

  1. Micheal McEvoy says:

    Martin,
    Here is an interesting look at violence in the Bible. This talks about how the Old Testament shows violence, and then the after effect of that violence on the people involved, in this case it was David.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/teachingnonviolentatonement/2014/08/davids-sling-israel-and-interpreting-biblical-violence/

    Micheal

    • Thanks for making this link available to me and the readers of these comments. There is much in the Bible that we fail to see, as with the rebuke of capital punishment in the aftermath of the story of Cain and Abel.

  2. Miriam says:

    I find it very difficult to see how scholars of hermeneutics can, with integrity, dispute Wink’s findings.

    • Raymond Martin says:

      To me its a matter of being able to listen with ones heart. I see that is where Martin started. I too started my journey on this issue when my heart condemned me for a very un-pastoral response to two men who were partners in a loving relationship. When I saw my homophobia I repented and with a new attitude began to search the scriptures and whatever theological help I could find. I cannot turn back nor do I want to.

  3. Freda Zehr says:

    Raymond Martin, you hit the nail on the head. My eyes were opened when I did a study on Homosexuality, inborn or chosen. I started out on one side, but after delving deeply into the issue, and having long conversations with as many of the gay young men I knew at the time, as in tears and sorrow they spoke of the pain and the longing of several wanting just end it all in suicide, I soon was totally on the other side.

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