The Bible and Homosexuality – Things to Consider
by S. S. Shaw
Words represent concepts. If you don’t have a concept, you don’t have a word. (Bible authors did not have the concept or word homosexuality.) The concept of sexual orientation gave birth to the new words heterosexual and homosexual. The word homosexual is only 100+ years old: the youngest book in the Bible is over 1900+years old.
A person’s sexual orientation develops at a very young age. Some studies indicate that it develops prior to birth. It may be caused by a combination of “nature and nurture,” but it is not a matter of choice and therefore cannot be a moral or ethical issue.
Sexual acts are a choice. All are accountable to God for the choices they make. Sin is a choice and love is a choice. It is God’s will that we make all of our choices from a motivation of love.
There is a historical Judeo-Christian prejudice that all sex, including heterosexual sex that does not produce children is wrong.
The Bible was written in ancient Hebrew and Greek. Our Bibles are more recent translations into English.
The Bible does discuss sexual acts but does NOT discuss sexuality.
There are only a few Bible references to same sex acts, but there are hundreds of references to judgment of others, self-righteous pride, hypocrisy, and injustice.
When same sex acts are discussed in the Bible they are mentioned in an idolatrous setting. In a context of idolatry, all sexual activity, both heterosexual and homosexual, is condemned by God.
The “religious right” have said and are saying a great deal about what they think is God’s attitude toward homosexuality.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not mention same sex acts or homosexuality.
He is silent!
It is important that we know that as human beings we can neither be justified nor condemned by small segments of Scripture, but rather we must take the WHOLE testimony of God that is found in the Bible.
All of the law is fulfilled when we love the way Jesus loved. God knows our hearts and has excellent plans for our lives. Having a Christ centered relationship is possible for ALL Christians.
Scriptures Traditionally Used-Misused to Condemn Homosexuality
Old Testament Scriptures (written in Hebrew) The Sodom Story – Genesis 19:1-29
Homophobic Viewpoint: “Sodom was destroyed because of homosexuality.”
Scriptural Viewpoint: Sodom was a lush beautiful region of land whose inhabitants had known the goodness of God. Despite their exposure to, experience with, and witness of the one true loving Creator, the people of Sodom had rejected a relationship with God, and turned to numerous types of idolatry. When God’s messengers were sent to the city, the men of Sodom responded by threatening the ultimate act of violent abuse, disrespect and humiliation. They were going to RAPE God’s representatives. All other Old and New Testament references to Sodom involved the sins of idolatry, inhospitality, indifference to- ward the poor and the rejection of God’s messengers. There are NO REFERENCES to same sex acts or HOMOSEXUALITY.
Old Testament Sodom Scriptures
Pre-destruction: Genesis 10, 13 & 14. Judgment and destruction: Genesis 18, 19:1-29. Post-destruction: Deut. 29:18-26 and 32:3-32, Is. 1:1-9 and 3:8-9, Jer. 23:11-17, Ez 16:44-52, Amos 4:11, and Zeph. 2:8-11.
New Testament Sodom Scriptures
Mt. 10:11-15 and 11:23-24, Luke 10:8-12 and Luke 17:28-29, 2 Peter 2:1-10 and Jude 6-8.
The Holiness Code: Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13
The book of Leviticus was a priestly attempt to establish and maintain Jewish identity, purity and “holiness”. The Jews viewed holiness as the preservation of wholeness or completeness.
For the Jews, Holiness was: A whole physical body Social order with no confusion between what is and what seems to be Unmixed classes and categories of creation
The Jews believed that human life was in the semen. This resulted in many “sperm related” laws. This probably explains why sexual activity between women was not considered important enough to address in Leviticus or anywhere else in the Old Testament.
The Hebrew word “toevah” was used in Lev. 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13. “Toevah” has been translated in our Bibles as “abomination” or“detestable”. The “toevah” was used throughout the Old Testament for activity involving ethnic contamination and religious idolatry.
“Toevah” refers to things that were ritually unclean – like eating pork.
It is significant that another Hebrew word, “zimah,” also translated “abomination,“ which means intrinsic evil or evil by its very nature, was not used in Leviticus 18:22, or Leviticus 20:13.
One must consider the spiritual truths presented in Leviticus and recognize the cultural teachings which no longer apply. The N. Testament teaches that as Christians, we are no longer “under the Law”, rather we are “under Grace”. Jesus taught that love for God and other people is the fulfillment of the law!!! (Mk 12:30-31, & Rom 13:10)
Scriptures Traditionally Used Misused to Condemn Homosexuality
New Testament Scriptures (written in Greek) The Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John It’s important to note that the Gospels, which record the life and words of Jesus, make NO mention of same sex activity.
Jesus is silent on the issue!
Letters from the Apostle Paul
Romans1:26-27 If taken out of context, this passage seems to condemn homosexuals. However, when Romans 1:26-27 is considered within the context of Romans 1:16 through Romans 2:16, the Scriptures clearly present a different teaching.
Paul was writing to the church in Rome. The Ro- man church had become troubled by divisions related to spiritual pride. Paul was addressing the Christians in Rome and teaching about the pagans in Rome. After declaring the power of Christ’s gospel to save all, he pointed out that the religious people of Rome had refused to even acknowledge GOD as one of their many gods. They had turned their backs on the one true living God and worshiped handmade idols. Paul explained that as a result of their idolatry, every part of their lives had become corrupt and vile. Paul then told the Roman Christians that they were not to judge others. To judge others is to condemn yourself (Rom 2:1). Christians are to love others out of their brokenness and into the healing wholeness that is found in Christ.
The Greek word Paul used, that has been translated in our Bibles as “natural /unnatural”, relates to that which is against one’s own inherent nature (i.e., heterosexuals engaging in homosexual acts). It was also related to Paul’s concept of what was culturally acceptable. The same Greek word is used in I Cor. 11:14-15 in reference to correct hair length for men and women and in Galatians 2:15 in reference to Jews and Gentiles who were such by “nature.” Paul emphasized that IDOLATRY (not homosexuality) was the evil which resulted in temple prostitution, sadomasochism, and lack of regard for others.
I Corinthians 6:9-11
Paul was attempting to educate the new Christians in Corinth as to what Godly living was all about. In verses 9-10, he listed ways of living that were not compatible with a Christ-centered life. In verse 11, Paul reminded them that they had been saved out of those destructive ways. There are two Greek words in I Corinthians 6:9, which sometimes are translated with a homosexual connotation. First word, “malakoi” or “malakos” – it literally means soft or mushy; it can mean spineless, wishy-washy or without backbone. “Malakoi” was used four other times in the New Testament and it always meant “soft. ”The context of I Cor, seems to imply a moral softness or decadence, a failure to stand up for what is right and godly. It is significant that for several hundred years there was no sexual connotation assigned to this word.
Second word, “arsenokoitai” or “arsenokoites” – it literally means, “males having sex.”
Early commentaries on I Corinthians related “arsenokoitai” to male temple prostitutes and to men having sex with boys. (Idolatrous prostitution and pedophilia are always wrong for those seeking to honor God.) Homosexual relationships were known in the Greco-Roman culture of Paul’s day. The Greek word commonly used in reference to adult male same sex partners was “arrenokoites.” Paul did not use this word. Instead, he created his own, “arsenokoitai.” If Paul had intended to condemn all adult male same sex partners, he would have used the common word for it. The first translation of the New Testament from Greek to another language was the Latin Vulgate. The “Latin Vulgate” translates “arsenokoitai” as “male concubines” or extramarital male sex partners. It was not until many years later that a Roman Catholic Pope first assigned “malakos” and “arsenokoitai” a homosexual connotation. However, the Pope did not include “arsenokoitai” in I Tim 1:10. Thus, I Timothy is sometimes translated without a homosexual connotation.
I Timothy 1:8-10
Paul lists types of people who need to hear the law. His list includes “arsenokoitai.” Again, it is significant that Paul did not use the Greek word “arrenokoites” which would have easily been understood to condemn all adult male same sex partners, had that been his intent. Evidently, it was not his intent!
God’s Love for you is Eternal!
Jesus said “Whosoever would call on Him would be saved” John 3:16