Today’s most consistently used passage to violate both dispensationalism and human rights.
You’d think that as a Stuart I would regard the King James Version (KJV) to be inviolate, the actual word of God. But I don’t and being a Stuart is one reason why. James VI of Scotland and I of England, a bisexual monarch of the House of Stuart who commissioned what would later become the version of the Bible that bears his name, strove to build academic excellence in his kingdom. While I don’t claim connections to my namesake by patrilineal descent, as no modern Stuart can rightly do today, I see the “good King James” intended the KJV as a stepping stone for all people to more closely study the texts that made it, not a final word within itself.* More than that, honoring what James set forth means questioning what was a remarkable achievement for that time, for in questionings one gains insight to deeper meanings and intentions. Certain verses like this underscore the need to do so.
Deuteronomy 22:5 (featured image) is like that: a passage popularly regarded as a textual island of damnation within a larger passage of mercy. Before encountering this verse in Deuteronomy we read about the karmic necessity of returning lost property. After this verse we read about not taking a mother from her young and installing a parapet on rooftops to guard people sleeping there from falling off. Throughout the first part of the chapter the theme is mercy. Yet we find no mercy in Deuteronomy 22:5 as popularly written.
Professed Christians most particularly (not Jews usually) use this passage more than any other verse to condemn transgender people, mainly in attacks upon cross dressers but against transsexuals as well. They have also used it to justify pogroms that have historically included:
- Harassment and termination from employment.
- Refusal of medical treatment in health care facilities.
- Eviction from dwellings.
- Expulsion from family circles.
- Street harassment and taunts, often as a prelude to physical violence.
- Summary arrest and legal prosecution due to incongruent sex identification.
- Denial of educational opportunities.
- Assault and battery.
- Erasure of any history of transgender individuals.
This has been how “Christians” have treated transgender people over the past 16 centuries of the Abrahamic Oppression.** Christians everywhere have rarely come to terms with the evil that has too often defined their bloody history of partisan oppression, especially those who superficially identify with Christianity. Evidence of the converse (transgender people against Christians) scarcely occurs anywhere in the historical record. Christians must understand: the cry for civil rights by transpeople is the result of oppression by merciless religionists, not an organized attack upon the genuinely transcendent ideas Y’shua taught.
Deuteronomy 22:5, as appears in the King James follows thus: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.”1 As it stands it sounds like God hates transgender people and that God intends all of us to hate transgender people as well.
Of course, the “New Covenant” isn’t supposed to be about hating anyone. Modern Fundamentalism typically asserts another idea: that of dispensationalism.
Dispensationalism means that God dealt with people differently at different times. There was a Patriarchal Dispensation prior to the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai, a Mosaic Dispensation from the giving of the Law till Y’shua, and a Christian Dispensation after that. Several verses in the writings of Paul have been used to support this idea including: “blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” That “handwriting of ordinances” is, of course, those of the Torah itself, rendering all that was commanded therein is no longer applicable today according to doctrine that prevails today in Evangelical Christianity.**
So because this is not the time of the Mosaic Dispensation, it’s okay to not do the other things in Deuteronomy 22. We don’t have to put any tzitzit (fringe) on our garments and we can wear cotton and polyester together like we often do now. While it still makes sense to return property to another, an element of “finders keepers” gets some wriggle room; and it’s considered to be okay to take a mother hen and her eggs at the same time without worrying about any moral violation at all.
But when it comes to transpeople, “real believers” still have to hate them. The verse is accepted by dispensationalists as absolute and inviolable. Why? Because what’s stated regards the character of God, that God regards all transgender people to be abominable, disgusting, a people to be oppressed and spat upon. After all, God doesn’t change His basic character, does He? The New Testament does say in true Trinitarian fashion, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever,” right?3
Just a minute, please. Do we really read correctly from this passage that God hates transgender people? If the dispensation of the New Testament must apply like some legal code (which it isn’t), then the passage deserves a much closer look than has been given to it.
The passage can be transliterated thus: Lo-yihyeh khli-gever ‘al-ishah v’lo-yilbash gever simlat ishah ki to‘avat YHVH Eloheikha kol-‘oseh elleh.4
The phrase “khli-gever” deserves special scrutiny. A view of the Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible doesn’t place this word under “clothing” like it does other words that generically refer to clothing: lavashim, bagadim, etc. Instead we find it in recent editions of Young’s under the word “pertaineth” since the concordance is keyed according to the KJV. Actually the KJV, and subsequently Young’s, apply that single 3-letter word (khaf-lamedh-yudh) to 4 words: “that which pertaineth unto.” The trouble is, nowhere else in the entire Bible do we find kli used that way though we find it translated in other ways.5
In fact the word is common enough to find a place in a primer like The Essentials of Biblical Hebrew by Kyle M. Yates, PhD and John Joseph Owens who define it as “vessel” or “implement”.6 By “vessel” this passage cannot refer to a boat because, apart from context, the Septuagint translates the term to the Greek σκεύη (skeuē)7 which the New Testament uses to describe the “tackle” that gives a ship the ability to sail, not the ship itself or even to adornments designed beautify it.8 Instead the vessel should be likened to that of a hard pot or tool like the kli-shoreiss, the metal pan used in the temple by the priests for the minchah (grain) offerings.9 As “implement”, that which is worn by a man, if conceived as hard like a pot, is an implement of war, and as a result we find lexicons sometimes include definitions of this word as “armor”, armament” or blatantly as “weapons” or “arms”.10
The word “simlat”, forbidden to males, also demands scrutiny. In Modern Hebrew the word refers to a woman’s modern dress. However, what was worn by both sexes at the time of ancient Hebrews would have appeared like what Egyptians depicted as “Asiatics” in a famous fresco.11 You can see that this would count as a “simlat” in Israel as well as anywhere in the West today. If the ancient dress that would count as a modern woman’s dress had been universally used by both sexes, it makes more sense to depict the ancient simlat of a female to the mantle worn by women who tend the household. It’s a garment that covered the head and upper body.
Clearly, the context of the passage refers to what each sex wears or “puts on.” But since the language offers specific words, not general words to describe them, we would be amiss to apply them to garments generally. We must consider the phrases “armament of a man” and “mantle of a woman” to be idiomatic.
Idioms occur in languages all over the world. In English we say, “He wears many hats,” not to say that a man walks around wearing literal hats on top of other hats. Instead we mean “He serves the function of multiple occupations.” It makes sense to treat the idioms “armor of a man” and “mantle of a woman” with similar intentions: referring to the designated occupations of each sex at that time. Men were expected to defend their households and communities in battle. Women were expected to primarily tend to the maintenance of the household and upbringing of children. These occupational designations brought out the best in both.
In which case, what God considers to be abominable has little to do with outer implements but with the heart. Cross dressing was long known as an effective military skill of deception in any culture. But according to the KJV we would be compelled to believe that any such use of military tactic would doom the campaign and possibly the nation.
But the verse, consistent with the verses around it, opens up a divine promise: that if Israel continued in God’s ways, then there would be no need for women to go to war or men to be kept in the position of household slaves. They would be free men and women, and compromising this freedom is an abominable act. Men must not abandon defending their communities. Women must not abandon their household duties.
In that context, read the passage again:
Lo-yihyeh Not will be
khli-gever armament of a male
‘al-ishah upon a female
v’lo-yilbash and not will put on
gever a male
simlat a mantle
ishah of a female
YHVH of YHVH
kol-‘oseh all doing
But does this apply to cross dressers today? If by cross dressing one neglects one’s own duties, then there’s nothing to defend the cross dresser and those who perform in drag today quickly denounce others who do so.
The case of transsexuals is different yet because a male to female transsexual already knows herself to be female and a female to male transsexual male. The common assertion that once assigned a certain sex is immutable refuses to allow that assignments could be wrong and that only a dichotomy of male and female can possibly exist with humans despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In such cases, forcing the transwoman into a male role is by this very passage enforces an abominable state, and so is compelling a transman to live in a female role.
Transsexual cases, therefore, aren’t ones in which the transsexual has abandoned the duties assigned to them. But when expelled from home or business, the abomination rests with those who expel them from those duties instead.This use of the passage violates dispensationalism by imposing this verse to disburse hatred in a covenant intended to disburse love and such use violates the human rights of transgender people.
You can see how a closer examination opens up ideas not in the vernacular and reveals common biases. An example can be found in the Mesorah Parvah on this passage , pictured with the red arrow immediately above. After some numerical statistics we find the words: “v’kol yotzer chafetz chamdah” meaning, “and all willing a desire of lust.” It’s a statement consistent with the Jewish practice of “building a fence around the Torah” in which practices set a perimeter that catches any who might stray into violation of the verse. But it also reveals the bias that prevailed at 1000 CE depicting transpeople as stereotypically lustful monsters during which the Leningrad Manuscript and the Mesorah Parvah would have been written.11
A closer look also teaches something else: that even in what appears initially to be a statement of damnation, one may find a broadly applicable current of compassion and liberty. The work of King James led to that, granting new liberties over that of the previous dynasty, and setting the groundwork for liberty to be realized in greater measure thereafter. That’s an intention I freely honor for my namesake through deeper inquiry.
Images: Top: Deuteronomy 22:5, Hebrew; Bottom: Detail of the Mesorah Parvah on Deuteronomy 22:5 from the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensi showing “v’khol yotzer chafetz chamdah”.
*Unless otherwise noted, all translations from the Hebrew are the blog writer’s. Her comments concerning the bisexuality of “the blessed King James” and modern Stuarts are known in her family and are accepted as such despite attempts by others to whitewash the history thereof. Her comments upon dispensationalism follow those taught at Ozark Bible College (now Ozark Christian College), Joplin MO and are known to be common to other denominations as well.
**The Abrahamic Oppression begins in the 4th Century CE when the “conversion” of Constantine resulted in pogroms committed upon transgender priesthoods of that day including the Gallae of Rome who served Cybele. The Gallae were replaced with a monastic priesthood, and Cybelline observances at the Vatican Hill were subverted by the growing Church of Rome. The oppression was codified in the Edict of Rome, August 6, 390 CE, consigning transpeople to death by burning, and the law was carried into the Corpus Juris Civitatis that set the legal standard for Europe and their colonies in the centuries to come.
- Deuteronomy 22:5, King James Version
- Colossians 2:14, KJV
- Hebrews 13:8, KJV
- Deuteronomy 22:5, Hebrew from Masoretic Text: Alt, A.; Eiβfeldt, O.; Kahle, P; editors, Elliger, K. and Kittel, R. Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1977) Deutche Bibelstiftung, Stuttgart. ISBN: 3 438 05218 0
- Concordance entry: “pertaineth”: Young, Robert. Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible. (1984) Hendrickson Publishers, ISBN-13: 978-0917006296.
- Yates, Kyle M. and Owens, John Joseph. The Essentials of Biblical Hebrew (n.d.) Harper & Row, Publishers, New York and Evanston. No ISBN. 172.
- Deuteronomy 22:5, LXX: Rahlfs, Alfred, DD. Septuaginta. (n.d.) Deutsche Bibelgesellshaft, Stuttgart. No ISBN.
- Moulton, Harold K. The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised.(1981) Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI, ISBN: 0-310-20280-9 p. 368.
- Oppen, Menachem Moshe. The Korban Mincha: A Pictorial Guide to the Korban Mincha (1987) M’chon Harbotzas Torah, Inc. Baltimore MD. No ISBN, p. 17.
- Davidson, Benjamin. The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (1974) Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI No ISBN, 379.
- (image) Heard, Dr. Chris. The Exodus Decoded: Exhibit C. (n.d.) Web: Higgaion. http://theheards.us/chris/?page_id=201 . Retrieved June 30, 2016.
- Mesorah Parvah on Deuteronomy 22:5 from Alt, A.; Eiβfeldt, O.; Kahle, P; editors, Elliger, K. and Kittel, R. Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1977) Deutche Bibelstiftung, Stuttgart. ISBN: 3 438 05218 0