So, how many sermons are going to deal with this text?Posted 2 June 2009 by Bob Chapman
On Sunday, June 28, 2009, we hit a bump in the road in the Revised Common Lectionary. At least it will be a bump in the road for people who pay attention to the reading from the Hebrew Scriptures for this day, 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27.
On the surface, it looks like scripture is speaking favorably about something it isn’t supposed to be speaking favorably about: a man saying another man’s love for him was better than the love of woman. Worse yet, it is David expressing this love.
Yes, that David. The future King David. It could raise the question on whether the Psalms of David where the show tunes of the day.
Earlier, Jonathan had made a covenant with David and removed his clothes to put them on David. There was the emotional farewell in the dark between Jonathan and David while embracing and kissing. There is a lot to run with here. After all, marriage in the Hebrew scriptures is a covenant-type contract (but not all covenants are marriages).
All you have to do is add the passage about David dancing for joy in front of the Ark of the Covenant–naked–and you could make David look like the Queen of the Jews.
This point of view may or may not be fair.
Traditional commentaries turn this expression of love into a “brotherly” or “familial” love. My thoughts about this want to know who would say that the love for their brother (or other close family member) is better than the love of the opposite gender? Do these people realize the implication of the type of relationship they are suggesting David had with his family if it is “brotherly” or “familial” love?
At the same time, we have to be careful not to impose our cultural norms on that period.
Men in that day kissed as a sign of friendship, just as they do in many areas of the world today. It is possible that Jonathan’s covenant with David was more like an adoption than like a marriage. There is nothing in the text that says there were sexual relations between Jonathan and David.
This passage requires further unpacking.
How many people today realize that homosexuality was only defined in the 1800s? This does not mean that homosexuals did not exist before that point. It only means that to say any passage in scripture, Hebrew or Christian, makes a reference to homosexuality is an interpretation. It is not a translation.
How many people realize that a person does not need to be in a same-gender loving relationship, or even to have had sexual relations, to be homosexual? For that matter, a person does not have to be a homosexual to have engaged in same-gender sexual relations? It would be like saying someone had to actually love a prostitute before having sexual relations.
(How many preachers would touch the text from the Hebrew Scriptures in that last link?)
I would ask this question:
- Was David in a relationship with Jonathan that was more important than any other relationship he ever had with anyone else?
Yes, we know David let lust get the best of him once. Did David’s relationship with Bathsheba ever go beyond lust and eventually providing a son? Did David care about Bathsheba? Or, did David only care about Bathsheba producing a son?
So, what do we do if we start coming up with our own commentaries that differ with the professional commentaries?
- Would you use the Bible to justify slavery today? Or, would you even use scripture to justify holding someone as a serf today? If you would not do this, remember that Martin Luther used scripture to tell peasants to stop rebelling and continue being serfs. Be content with the state you are in!
- Would you use the Bible to justify plural marriage today? Where in scripture, Hebrew or Christian, does it say a layperson must have only one spouse?
Changing a traditional point of view of Scripture must be done carefully and with consultation. But, there are times in the past it was done because it needed to be done.
(Edited on June 9, 2009.)