Abomination (EoH)

From William A. Percy
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In contemporary usage the terms abomination and abominable refer in a generic way to something that is detestable or loathsome. Because of Old Testament usage, however-Leviticus 18:22, "Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination" (cf. Leviticus 20: 13; Deuteronomy 225 and 23: 19; and I Kings 14:24)-the words retain a special association as part of the religious condemnation of male homosexual behavior. In Elizabethan English they were normally written "abhomination," "abhominable" as if they derived from Latin ab- and homwhence "departing from the human; inhuman." In fact, the core of the Latin word is the religious term omen. In any event the notion of abominatioln) owes its force to its appearance in Jerome's Vulgate translation of the Bible, where it corresponds to Greek bdelygma and Hebrew t62bgh. The latter term denotes behavior that violates the covenant between God and Israel, and is applied to Canaanite trade practices, idolatry, and polytheism. The aversion of the religious leaders of the Jewish community after the return from the Babylonian captivity to the "abominable customs" of their heathen neighbors, combined with the Zoroastrian prohibition of homosexual behavior, inspired the legal provisions added to the Holiness Code of Leviticus in the fifth century before the Christian era that were to be normative for Hellenistic Judaism and then for Pauline Christianity. The designation of homosexual relations as an "abomination" or "abominable crime" in medieval and modern sacral and legal texts echoes the wording of the Old Testament. The complex web of prohibitions recorded in the Book of Leviticus has defied full explanation from the standpoint of comparative religion. Recently influential among social scientists (though not amongBiblica1 scholars) has been the interpretation of the anthropologist Mary Douglas (Purity and Danger, London, 1967)) who views the abominations as part of a concern with the boundaries of classification categories, strict adherence to which attests one's purity in relation to divinity.

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