Homosexuality and the Bible: What does it really say?

14 Feb

Homosexuality and and the gay rights movement are in the news again with further legalization of gay marriage. Debate on this topic has elicited many arguments on each side. Usually it comes down to little more than one side saying it is allowing two people in love to legally celebrate that love, and the other side claiming it is against God, immoral, and should therefore be illegal. In exploring the issue further, what does the Bible really say about homosexuality?

 Genesis 19 is a passage people run to in regards to homosexuality when referencing the Bible. It details Lot’s visitation by two angels and the subsequent events. In short, the mob of townspeople wanted to meet with the angels to “know” them. Lot refused and offered his two virgin daughters to the mob to be heterosexually raped in their place. The mob declined and the city was destroyed. Nowhere does it say the city was destroyed because of homosexuality although it is the view many seem happy to accept. In Matthew 10:14-15 and Luke 10:7-16 Jesus implied the sin of the citizens of Sodom was not homosexuality but their inhospitable treatment of strangers. In Ezekiel 16:48-50 God clearly stated it was because of their pride, excess in food and drink, and worship of idols. No mention of sex anywhere. In short, the sins of Sodom had nothing to do with sodomy. Not in Dueteronomy 29:23, Isiah 1:9. Jeremiah 23:14, Lamentations 4:6, Amos 4:11, Luke 17:29, Romans 9:29, Jude v.7, or Revelation 11:8 which all make reference to Sodom does it ever bring up their sins as being sexual.

Leviticus verses 18:22 and 20:13 have long been a favorite clobber passages against homosexuality, but again, what does it really say? “Thou shall not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination.” This is a part of the Jewish Holiness Code which also prohibits polygamy, intercourse with a woman on her period, tattoos, dietary laws, poly blend clothing, cross breeding livestock, mixed field sowing, and requires a Saturday sabbath. It also states a woman is not telling the truth if she claims she was raped but no one heard her scream. Male homosexuality was considered as idolatry because man was viewed as the perfect representation of God. Also worth noting, only the male that was penetrated was considered to be degraded as he assumed the role of an “inferior” woman. Likewise, as women were considered imperfect and degraded at birth, lesbianism was perfectly fine.

Since the Christian faith system abandoned following he Jewish Holiness code nearly 2,000 years ago it has no right to enforce it. The Old Testament is Hebrew law, not Christian law. While the Christian church considers this Jewish Holiness Code to be obsolete, it still focuses on the two lines against homosexuality, while voiding all others. This implies it is okay to pick and choose what passages are to be followed and which can be disregarded based on personal preference. Even Hebrews 8:18 states: “For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect.” Consider Hebrews 8:13: “In that Christ says ‘a new covenant,’ Christ has made the first obsolete.”

 Interpretation of the original text of the Bible isn’t always right. Dueteronomy 23:17 (King James version) says that “There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel” This is incorrect. The original text uses the word “qadesh” which means holy one in the context of a man that participates in ritual temple prostitution. There is little to no evidence that temple prostitutes had sex with men. Other Bibles employ the accurate reflection of this, yet as the King James version is so popular this misconception survives. Any translation using the word sodomite or pervert are completely wrong. The same can be said of I Kings 14:24 and 15:12 in regards to the mistranslation of the word qadesh.

Corinthians 6:9 is the single most blatantly fabricated attack on homosexuality in the Bible. The original text was written in Greek by Paul using the term malakoi arsenokoitai. Malokaoi means soft, the translation of arsenokoitai has been lost but is believed to mean moral. This seems logical as the church translated this to English as meaning “soft morals” for centuries. Calvinist revised soft morals to mean masturbation. In the twentieth century it was revised to homosexual. Translating this as homosexual is inaccurate as there were many words for homosexuality in ancient Greek and the words malakoi and arsenkoitai never appear anywhere in conjunction with homosexuality. If Paul meant homosexual he could have used any number of those known common phrases to describe it. The same can be said of Timothy 1:9.

Judges 19 is the story of Levite which details his visit to Gibeah. A gang of men appeared and was made welcome by a farmer Levite had taken up with. The mob demanded Levite be sent out to be homosexually raped but the farmer insisted Levite not be abused and offered his own virgin daughter along with Levite’s concubine to be raped instead. The mob accepted this offer, raped his daughter repeatedly, and then murdered her. Why this is important is that again this was a matter of hospitality, not homosexuality. If there can even be any inference drawn out of this story it is that homosexual rape was wrong (In keeping with the Hebrew views on idolatry) and not heterosexual rape. It says nowhere consensual homosexual relationships are wrong.

 Romans 1:26-27 initially appears to condemn homosexuality, but take a closer look. Paul actually only criticizes people for engaging in sexual activity against their nature. At the time in Greece, where Paul was, homosexuality and bisexuality were accepted as natural for some people. Therefore, we can conclude this was actually aimed at people participating in sexual acts against their own individual nature. It quite simply cannot be said this was aimed at homosexual activity alone, but heterosexual acts considered unnatural as well. It is too vague for any blanket interpretation.

Many people often forget the Bible also depicts two same sex relationships, one lesbian and one gay. These were between Ruth and Naomi, Ruth 1:16, 2:10-11 and David and Jonathan, 1 Samuel 18:1-4, 20:41-42, and 2 Samuel 1:25-26, “Jonathan… your love for me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women.” These unions are respected and honored. While it cannot in all fairness be determined these were actively sexual relationships, it can be seen these were far more intimate than friendships. One does not need to engage in a homosexual sexual activities to be in a homosexual relationship.

What can we take from all this? Primarily that translations are sometimes inaccurate. Even what may seem to be a subtle difference can be significant. We can conclude that although homosexuality has never been popular from the Hebrew or Christian standpoint it cannot be said that consensual homosexual acts are wrong under the New Testament. We can conclude the arbitrary enforcement of only one section of the Hebrew Holiness Code by people not abiding by all it’s other laws is a ridiculous double standard. Christ made hundreds of references concerning belief and behavior but never said one word against or in regards to homosexuality.

The New Covenant ended the distinction of clean and unclean under the Holiness Code to allow all people to become a part of the New Covenant as evidenced in Acts 10. God told Peter to set aside his prejudice and that he could no longer condemn or exclude those who did not fit into the rules of the Old Covenant. Ephesians 2:11-22 states “In Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near… You are no longer strangers, foreigners or aliens, but fellow citizens with all God’s people.” Isn’t it time we all set aside our prejudices?.

Christianity, Social Tolerance, and homosexuality, John Boswell, University of Chicago Press, 1980, page 42)

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2 Responses to “Homosexuality and the Bible: What does it really say?”

  1. mandyf February 15, 2012 at 6:14 am #

    Thank you for this

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