Last week, mega church leader Joel Osteen told Oprah Winfrey that he believes gay people will be accepted into Heaven, even though homosexuality is a “sin.” “I believe that homosexuality is shown as a sin in the Scripture, I do.”
However, Joel M. Hoffman, a linguist who specializes in Biblical translation, is calling out the popular Evangelical for “hiding behind Scripture” and cherry picking the parts of the Bible he chooses to believe:
When Piers Morgan asked him in October whether he supports the Biblical position of a life for a life, Pastor Osteen admitted (in this video): “I don’t know,” because the death penalty is a “complicated issue.”
In other words, Pastor Osteen doesn’t feel compelled to support everything in Scripture. He openly ignores Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, and Dueteronomy 19:21. He reserves the right — as we all do — to pick and choose. This is why I don’t think there’s any merit or integrity to his argument that he is forced to condemn homosexuality because Scripture calls it a sin.
Hoffman also disagrees with the popular “translation” of Leviticus 18:22, which says “Do not practice homosexuality; it is a detestable sin.” “The Hebrew in Leviticus — as is widely known — is more complicated,” he argues and notes that when the translation “introduces the word ‘sin’ for the Hebrew to’evah, I think it has left the realm of translation behind, replacing it with their understanding of modern dogma.”
Historians like John Boswell have similarly written that to’evah refers “to something which is ritually unclean for Jews like eating pork or engaging in intercourse during menstruation.” Condemnation of homosexuality arises within the context of Mosaic Law, whose restrictive rules and specifications were actually dismissed by early Christian leaders trying to attract a large number of Christian converts, Boswell argued, suggesting that Christian leaders are again cherry picking passages that correlate with or substantiate the prejudices of today’s Church leaders.