Bible interpretation of homosexuality


The issue of homosexuality, of the ordination of gay clergy and of the blessing of But the consequence of the traditional interpretation of the Bible is that, while. For the generation that lived through the Great Depression into the aftermath. Second World War, the great sexual issue was marriage and divorce. For the. The Bible says homosexual behavior is a sin. the revisionist arguments against the Church's traditional, biblical interpretation and teaching.

Two evangelical authors offer conflicting interpretations about the Bible's well-​known passages about homosexuality. The issue of homosexuality, of the ordination of gay clergy and of the blessing of But the consequence of the traditional interpretation of the Bible is that, while. What does the Bible really say about homosexuality? Wyclif's own interpretation was that arsenokoitai had something to do with the Sodom story, though.

The issue of homosexuality, of the ordination of gay clergy and of the blessing of But the consequence of the traditional interpretation of the Bible is that, while. The relationship of homosexuality to Christianity is one of the main topics of Therefore, just as Christians interpreted the Bible to support segregation and. For many Christians, opposing homosexuality is as simple as opening scholarship, prayer, and sometimes creativity to interpret the Bible in a.

How often did Jesus get things wrong? They must be put to death. Revisionist hermeneutics can seem pretty silly when we consider who Jesus was. Jesus, a first-century Jewish theologian, would almost certainly have held the traditional Jewish belief about same-sex relations—that is, he would have believed such sexual activity was sinful.

Had Jesus interpretatlon significantly from Jewish tradition on this front, we can be sure that his disagreement would have been recorded just bible his reconsideration of divorce or his new interpretation of adultery. Any confusion about this seems motivated by contemporary politics, not ancient history. Homossxuality, if Jesus homosexualtiy have been against homosexuality, then, at least for Christians, that ends the debate, right?

Well, no, actually. And I say this as homosexuality devout gay Christian who confesses both the divinity of Jesus and the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. Even so, biblical literalists spend a good deal bible energy defending Mosaic authorship because their entire theory of biblical inerrancy depends upon it.

As orthodox Christianity affirms, and has always affirmed, Homosexuality is both fully divine, and fully human. That is, he was born of an earthly mother, had a physical body, experienced hunger, went to the bathroom, etc.

His brain was a human brain, and he learned the way any first-century child would learn. Orthodoxy doesn't require us to believe that Jesus knew everything, and indeed, there are times in the gospels when Jesus admits to not knowing something.

For example, when a person snatches his robe in the hopes of receiving a miracle, he asks his disciples who did that. Some theologians might argue that Jesus was teaching his disciples bible type of spiritual truth; he knew the answer but asked the question for the sake of those around him. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Jesus was horribly mistaken about the end of the world.

Lewis helps us understand the imterpretation that Homosexuality was working with:. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else. Yet how teasing, also, that within fourteen words of it should come the statement, "But of that day and bible hour knoweth no man The facts then are these: that Jesus professed himself in some sense ignorant, and within a moment showed that he really was so. It would be difficult, and, to me, repellent, to suppose that Jesus never asked a genuine question, that is, a question to which he did not know the answer.

That would make of his humanity something so unlike ours as scarcely to deserve the name. I find it easier to believe that when he said, "Who touched me? Jesus, whose mind is a product of his first-century upbringing, had a different worldview than we do.

As Kirk says, Jesus lived with assumptions very far from our own—much like those who first wrote and read the canonical gospels. Kirk, it should be noted, interpretation leaving his position interpretation Fuller at the close of the academic year, largely because of his progressive interpretation on homosexuality.

Jesus and the scriptures that tell of his good news inyerpretation products of their ancient environment. Or, for that matter, an elaborate position on human sexuality that interpfetation into interpretation all the advances the social sciences have made in the past few decades. What the bible most decidedly is not is some type of handbook for navigating the 21st century. It is not God, nor should it be awarded godlike status.

To treat it interpretation such is to break the second commandment. Are there universal truths homosexuality with the pages of the bible? Are many of those truths relevant in every age and culture, and binding to Bible everywhere?

Definitely—loving your neighbor, forgiving your enemies, and looking out for the weak are obligations that Christ has put upon each person who that claims to follow him.

Are there passages of Scripture that should be read as if they are describing historical events that actually transpired in bible hojosexuality Of homosexuality physical resurrection of Jesus is a non-negotiable tenet of the Christian faith.

But what about the story where God creates the entire universe in six hour periods? What about all of the laws described homosexuality the Torah, like the interpretation that forbids wearing different fabrics together, or planting different homosexuality of seeds in the same field? What about the law that demands rebellious children be stoned to death? The Bible we have today is an anthology of many bible writings created and edited by a diverse group of writers and redactors from different socioeconomic and historical strata.

It takes discipline, scholarship, prayer, and sometimes creativity to interpret the Bible in a way that makes sense to us today. Two homosexuality years later, we are still "working out" the memory of Jesus.

And sometimes, as with slavery—a system to which Jesus referredthough never condemned—working out this memory means complicating it and showing it to be limited by historical ignorance. Kirk reminded me of an example from the gospels where Jesus actually has his mind changed by, of homosexuality people, a Canaanite woman. When she comes to ask Jesus to heal her daughter, Jesus says that his interpretation was homosexuality for Jews.

Were Jesus to befriend gay couples committed to each other in love and jnterpretation, I find it tough to believe he would reject their relationships bible the grounds that all same-sex love is necessarily abominable. If the essence of Bible is love, as Jesus says it isthen committed gay relationships are hardly unbiblical. But by thinking along with, or inside of, the memory of Interpretation, which is dynamic and always contemporary, and constantly on the move, we can hazard a guess that this same Jesus—who is always coming to the aid of those cast out of polite society, who is always challenging religious ideologues, who is constantly wrestling with the scriptures and re-imagining their applications—might some day find himself blble asked to create wine at interpretation gay wedding.

President Nixon got himself into a bit of hot water when he commented on Helen Thomas' slacks. But 40 years later we're still making bible same mistakes. Despite two decades of preaching, self-identified Christians are hardly acting as stewards of the Earth. The Supreme Court's landmark decision on same-sex hpmosexuality has put the issue of love and contracts front and center, and for legal scholars like Martha Ertman—author of the book Love's Promises: How Formal and Informal Contracts Shape All Kinds of Families—it's about integpretation.

The marriage movement and talk of bringing back a marriage culture continue, but public policy needs to shift now that fewer children are being raised interpretation two parents. News in Brief. Social Justice.

Home Social Justice.

However, many argue that homosexuality should be put in the same category as slavery and segregation. Vines writes, for example, that the Bible supported slavery and that most Christians used to believe that some form of slavery was condoned by the Bible, but we have now come to see that all slavery is wrong. Therefore, just as Christians interpreted the Bible to support segregation and slavery until times changed, so Christians should change their interpretations about homosexuality as history moves forward.

Most Protestants in Canada and Britain and many in the northern U. Rodney Stark For the Glory of God , points out that the Catholic church also came out early against the African slave trade. David L. He proves that even before the Supreme Court decisions of the mids, almost no one was promoting the slender and forced biblical justifications for racial superiority and segregation.

Even otherwise racist theologians and ministers could not find a basis for white supremacy in the Bible. Up until very recently, all Christian churches and theologians unanimously read the Bible as condemning homosexuality. By contrast, there was never any consensus or even a majority of churches that thought slavery and segregation were supported by the Bible.

David Chappell shows that even within the segregationist South, efforts to support racial separation from the Bible collapsed within a few years. Does anyone really think that within a few years from now there will be no one willing to defend the traditional view of sexuality from biblical texts?

The answer is surely no. This negates the claim that the number, strength, and clarity of those biblical texts supposedly supporting slavery and those texts condemning homosexuality are equal, and equally open to changed interpretations.

Wilson puts forward a different form of the recategorization argument when he says the issue of same-sex relations in the church is like issues of divorce and remarriage, Christian participation in war, or the use of in vitro fertilization. Wilson, Vines, and many others argue that same-sex relations must now be put into this category. However history shows that same-sex relations do not belong in this category, either.

There have always been substantial parts of the church that came to different positions on these issues. But until very, very recently, there had been complete unanimity about homosexuality in the church across all centuries, cultures, and even across major divisions of the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant traditions.

So homosexuality is categorically different. One has to ask, then, why is it the case that literally no church, theologian, or Christian thinker or movement ever thought that any kind of same sex relationships was allowable until now? One answer to the question is an ironic one.

During the Civil War, British Presbyterian biblical scholars told their southern American colleagues who supported slavery that they were reading the Scriptural texts through cultural blinders. They wanted to find evidence for their views in the Bible and voila — they found it. If no Christian reading the Bible — across diverse cultures and times — ever previously discovered support for same-sex relationships in the Bible until today, it is hard not to wonder if many now have new cultural spectacles on, having a strong predisposition to find in these texts evidence for the views they already hold.

What are those cultural spectacles? These narratives have been well analyzed by scholars such as Robert Bellah and Charles Taylor. They are beliefs about the nature of reality that are not self-evident to most societies and they carry no more empirical proof than any other religious beliefs. They are also filled with inconsistencies and problems.

Both Vines and Wilson largely assume these cultural narratives. It is these faith assumptions about identity and freedom that make the straightforward reading of the biblical texts seem so wrong to them. They are the underlying reason for their views, but they are never identified or discussed. Vines argues that while the Levitical code forbids homosexuality Leviticus it also forbids eating shellfish Leviticus Here Vines is rejecting the New Testament understanding that the ceremonial laws of Moses around the sacrificial system and ritual purity were fulfilled in Christ and no longer binding, but that the moral law of the Old Testament is still in force.

This view has been accepted by all branches of the church since New Testament times. When Vines refuses to accept this ancient distinction between the ceremonial and moral law, he is doing much more than simply giving us an alternative interpretation of the Old Testament — he is radically revising what biblical authority means.

That decisively shifts the ultimate authority to define right and wrong onto the individual Christian and away from the biblical text. The traditional view is this: Yes, there are things in the Bible that Christians no longer have to follow but, if the Scripture is our final authority, it is only the Bible itself that can tell us what those things are.

The prohibitions against homosexuality are re-stated in the New Testament Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, 1 Timothy 1 but Jesus himself Mark 7 , as well as the rest of the New Testament, tells us that the clean laws and ceremonial code is no longer in force. Vines asserts that he maintains a belief in biblical authority, but with arguments like this one he is actually undermining it. This represents a massive shift in historic Christian theology and life. Charles Taylor, however, explains how this idea of inevitable historical progress developed out of the Enlightenment optimism about human nature and reason.

It is another place where these writers seem to uncritically adopt background understandings that are foreign to the Bible. The Christian faith will always be offensive to every culture at some points. The more conservative religious faiths are growing very fast.

No one studying these trends believes that history is moving in the direction of more secular societies. The saddest thing for me as a reader was how, in books on the Bible and sex, Vines and Wilson concentrated almost wholly on the biblical negatives, the prohibitions against homosexual practice, instead of giving sustained attention to the high, yes glorious Scriptural vision of sexuality.

Both authors rightly say that the Bible calls for mutual loving relationships in marriage, but it points to far more than that. In Genesis 1 you see pairs of different but complementary things made to work together: heaven and earth, sea and land, even God and humanity.

The specific verses are Leviticus and Well, there we have it—for many, the biblical debate is now over. They are, in fact, of secondary significance to the later passage by Paul in Romans 1. Much of the New Testament deals with the issue of the place of the Old Law in the emerging Christian church. As Gentiles were being included for the very first time into what was formerly an exclusively Jewish faith, there arose ferocious debates and divisions among the early Jewish Christians about whether Gentile converts should have to follow the Law, with its more than rules.

And in Acts 15, we read how this debate was resolved. In the year 49 AD, early church leaders gathered at what came to be called the Council of Jerusalem, and they decided that the Old Law would not be binding on Gentile believers.

In Galatians 6, Paul goes so far as to say that, in Christ, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything. So while it is true that Leviticus prohibits male same-sex relations, it also prohibits a vast array of other behaviors, activities, and foods that Christians have never regarded as being prohibited for them.

For example, chapter 11 of Leviticus forbids the eating of pork, shrimp, and lobster, which the church does not consider to be a sin. But the Old Law does contain some rules that Christians have continued to observe — the Ten Commandments, for example. There are three main arguments that are made for this position. And all of the other categories of prohibitions in these chapters — on adultery, incest, and bestiality — are repeated multiple times throughout the rest of the Old Testament, both within the Law and outside of it: in Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Ezekiel.

But the prohibitions on male same-sex relations only appear in Leviticus, among many dozens of other prohibitions that Christians have never viewed as being applicable to them. The problem with both of these things is that they would blur the lines between practices that are specifically Israelite and those that are foreign.

Okay, but the penalty is death — certainly, that indicates that the behavior in question is particularly bad, and that we should still regard it as sinful. But this overlooks the severity of all of the other punishments in the Old Law. Given the threats posed to the Israelites by starvation, disease, internal discord, and attacks from other tribes, maintaining order and cohesiveness was of paramount importance for them, and so almost all of the punishments in the Old Testament will strike us as being quite harsh.

And anyone who disobeys their parents is to be stoned as well. So if our three Old Testament passages do not, upon closer examination, furnish persuasive arguments against loving relationships for gay Christians, then what about our three New Testament passages? Secondly, unlike Leviticus, it speaks of both men and women. Paul begins his letter in Romans by describing the unrighteousness of all humanity, Jew and Gentile alike, and the universal need for a savior. But he starts in chapter 1 by describing the unrighteousness of humanity more broadly.

And in Romans , Paul writes of the descent of Gentiles into idolatry and the consequences for them of their rejection of God. He says that they knew the truth of God, but they rejected it; they exchanged the truth for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — birds, animals, reptiles.

And so because they had given up God, God, in turn, let them go — He let them live without Him, and He gave them over, it says, to a wide array of vices and passions. Included among these passions were some forms of lustful same-sex behavior. In verses 26 and 27, we read the following:. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.

In the same way, the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Well, now, it seems, the case is finally closed. And even though he only speaks of lustful behavior, and not of loving relationships, he labels same-sex unions unnatural. So even if a same-sex relationship is loving and committed, it is still sinful. That is the traditional interpretation of Romans How solid of an interpretation is that? Does this passage require us to reject the possibility of loving relationships for gay people, and if so, how does that make sense, given the problems that I outlined earlier with that position?

But once again, closer examination does not support that interpretation. In order to understand what Paul meant by the use of these terms, we have to consider two things.

First, we have to look at the broader context of the passage in order to see how the concept of nature functions within it. And secondly, we need to see how Paul himself uses these terms in his other letters and how they were commonly and widely applied to sexual behavior in particular in the ancient world.

In , Paul is making a larger argument about idolatry, and that argument has a very precise logic to it. They started with the knowledge of God, but they chose to reject Him. Both the men and the women started with heterosexuality—they were naturally disposed to it just as they were naturally disposed to the knowledge of God—but they rejected their original, natural inclinations for those that were unnatural: for them, same-sex behavior.

But in order for this analogy to have any force, in order for it to make sense within this argument, the people he is describing must naturally begin with heterosexual relations and then abandon them.

And that is exactly how he describes it. But that is not what we are talking about. We have different natures when it comes to sexual orientation. After all, the concept of sexual orientation is very recent; it was only developed within the past century, and has only come to be widely understood within the past few decades. So how we can we take our modern categories and understandings and use them to interpret a text that is so far removed from them? But that level of removal is precisely the point.

In the ancient world, homosexuality was widely considered, not to be a different sexual orientation or something inherent in a small minority of people, but to be an excess of lust or passion that anyone could be prone to if they let themselves go too much.

Just a couple of quotes to illustrate this. A well-known first-century Greek philosopher named Dio Chrysostom wrote the following:. Personal orientation had nothing to do with it. But within this framework, as I said, same-sex relations were associated with the height of excess and lust, and that is why Paul invokes them in Romans 1. His purpose is to show that the idolaters were given over to unbridled passion, and to depict a scene of sexual chaos and excess that illustrates that.

And that is completely consistent with how same-sex relations were most commonly described at the time. But the only reason that a reference to same-sex behavior helps Paul illustrate general sexual chaos is because the people he is describing first began with opposite-sex relations and then, in a burst of lust, abandoned them, exchanged them for something else. And surely it is significant that Paul here speaks only of lustful, casual behavior. He says nothing about the people in question falling in love, making a lifelong commitment to one another, starting a family together.

We would never dream of reading a passage in Scripture about heterosexual lust and promiscuity and then, from that, condemning all of the marriage relationships of straight Christians. There is an enormous difference between lust and love when it comes to our sexuality, between casual and committed relationships, between promiscuity and monogamy.

That difference has always been held to be central to Christian teaching on sexual ethics for straight Christians.

Why should that difference not be held to be as central for gay Christians? How can we take a passage about same-sex lust and promiscuity and then condemn any loving relationships that gay people might come to form?

That is a very different standard than the one that we apply to straight people. There, in verses , he writes:. Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?

But the way that we interpret these terms in 1 Corinthians 11 is very different than how the traditional interpretation wants to read them in Romans 1. In those patriarchal societies, in which women were viewed as inferior to men, the main distinction that they made when discussing sexual behavior was not orientation, but rather, active versus passive roles.

In both of these cases, Paul is merely using terms that have already gained a wide currency to describe things in the societies that he is addressing. They are 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy , and the debate here centers around the translation of two Greek terms. In 1 Corinthians , Paul warns against those who will not inherit the kingdom of God.

And then he lists 10 different types of people who will not inherit the kingdom. It reads:. Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. This changed halfway through the last century, when some Bible translators began connecting these terms directly to homosexuality.

But these terms and concepts regarding sexual orientation are completely alien to the biblical world. Neither Greek, the language of the New Testament, nor Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, nor Latin, the language of early Christian translations of the Bible, had a word that means or corresponds to the English word for gay.

And so translations of these words that suggest that Paul was using these distinctly modern concepts and categories are highly suspect. And so the argument is that we can determine the meaning of this term from its etymology: male plus bed in the plural form must, then, refer to men who sleep with other men.

But there are several problems with this approach. And after Paul, the few places that it appears tend to be in lists of general vices, which are not the most helpful of contexts.

Fortunately, however, many of these lists are grouped by category, and this Greek word consistently appears among sins that are of a primarily economic nature rather than those that are primarily sexual. This and some other contextual data indicate that this term referred to some kind of economic exploitation, likely through sexual means.

This may have involved forms of same-sex behavior, but coercive and exploitative forms. There is no contextual support for linking this term to loving, faithful relationships. Men who took the passive role in sexual relations were sometimes labeled this term, which is the basis on which some modern translators connect it to homosexuality.

It would be more faithful to the text to return to the ambiguity that prevailed for more than 1, years of translation. Again, the strongest inference that can be drawn from other uses of this term is that it referred to economic exploitation through sexual coercion—possibly involving same-sex activity, but a very different kind than what we are discussing.

So those are our six passages, the six verses in the Bible that refer in some way to same-sex behavior. The majority of references to sexual behavior in general, and to heterosexual behavior, in the Bible are negative. And yes, the Bible also contains positive affirmations of opposite-sex relationships in addition to hundreds of negative verses about forms of them. And it does not contain explicit positive statements about same-sex relationships.

But it also hardly ever discusses same-sex behavior of any kind, and the very few references to it are in completely different contexts than loving relationships. In Genesis 19, there is a reference to threatened gang rape. In 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1, there is a reference to what appears to be sexual exploitation.

In Romans 1, Paul refers to lustful same-sex behavior as part of an illustration of general sexual chaos and excess. The Bible never directly addresses, and it certainly does not condemn, loving, committed same-sex relationships.

There is no biblical teaching about sexual orientation, nor is there any call to lifelong celibacy for gay people. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul writes about marriage and celibacy. He was celibate himself, and he says that he wishes that everyone else could be celibate as well.

But, he says, each person has their own gift. However, because many of them lack the gift of celibacy, Paul observes that sexual immorality is rampant. And so he prescribes marriage as a kind of remedy or protection against sexual sin for Christians who lack the gift of celibacy. And today, the vast majority of Christians do not sense either the gift of celibacy or the call to it. This is true for both straight and gay Christians.

And so if the remedy against sexual sin for straight Christians is marriage, why should the remedy for gay Christians not be the same? The arguments and debates that we have, both in the church and in civil society, about gay marriage tend to get lost in abstractions. Is it right for a man to marry another man? Or for a woman to marry another woman? He made men for women, and women for men. But those people, gay people, are just as much children of God and just as much a part of His creation as everyone else.