Homosexuality and the Bible:
Are Homosexual Relationships Truly Condemned?
Note: This article is by no means meant to condemn Christianity or any religion. Secondly, to assume that the I am a lesbian simply because I wrote this article is ridiculous, whether I am or am not is irrelevant. So, if you feel the need to send me messages preaching to me trying to "cure" me through the "love of Jesus" or "his wrath," remember it will gain you nothing.
The United States of America, land of the free and home of the brave, came into existence by way of Puritans in search of religious freedom. Although the United States does have freedom of religion allowing for nearly every belief to have followers here, the religions with the most followers read the Bible or place an importance on it. For this reason, it is these Americans that condemn homosexuality. They read the Bible and take every word of it for truth. The question is not whether or not such words are true, but are they taken in context? When passages are taken from the Bible out of context, they can easily make Christian religions seem ignorant and teaming with blind believers. If studied carefully, one can see that the Bible does not condemn homosexual relationships but rather instances of fornication, rape, sodomy, and other sin.
The Bible states that fornication of any kind is sinful and of the flesh. "Of the flesh" meaning that it is not from God or the Holy Spirit. It teaches that sin comes from every person at the time of birth since the fall of humanity in the book of Genesis. Thus, if something comes from the flesh, it is innately ungodly and sinful. In the ten commandments, God commands the people to put no other god before Him. If one were to chose only two commandments to follow, to love your neighbor as yourself and to not commit idolatry would encompass all of the rest. The book of Colossians tells us that fornication truly is sinful, "Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry" (3:5). Because fornication means to have sexual intercourse outside of marriage, sodomy and rape are also sinful.
When discussing sodomy, the first thing that comes to mind is the story of Sodom and Gomorra. After all, Sodom is where the word sodomy originates. Many believe that God firebombed the city of Sodom due to its raging homosexuality. However to say that would be the equivalent to saying a criminal who curses at the executioner on his way to death is then killed for his cursing (Robinson). In reality, the citizens of Sodom - Sodomites – sinned incessantly, but not only in ways of sexual perversion. Sodomites sinned in the ways of pride, laziness, lack of hospitality, neglect of the poor, greed, and idolatry (Ezekiel 16:48-50). Other passages than the one found in Ezekiel concerning Sodom and Gomorra never mention homosexuality. In the story, God sends two angels to Lot's house to warn him and his family of God's plan to destroy the city for its sin. Genesis chapter 18, the chapter before God sends the angels and later destroys Sodom, shows God telling Abraham of his plan, Abraham barters with God to save the righteous in the city. This shows that God planned to condemn Sodom and Gomorra ahead of time. The event that leads people to believe that homosexual acts are sinful occurs when God sends two angels to Lot. A mob appears asking to "know" (Genesis 19) the angels; Lot refuses. He instead offers his two virgin daughters who were probably fourteen-years-old at the time. The mob does not accept the offer. Fundamentalists deduce that the mob wished to gang rape the angels with use of anal sex due to the mob wanting to "know" the angels. "To know" in Hebrew is the word yadha and meant to check one's credentials, to know thoroughly, and sometimes to have sex with someone. At the time, the Jews had strict hospitality codes, and rape violates these codes as an act of violence. Lot and his family then leave, and God destroys the city. As stated earlier, it is illogical to say this one incident led to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra. However, the Bible says fornication of any kind is sinful. If this passage condemns any homosexual behavior, it is homosexual gang rape. Other than that, it does not explicitly mention any other homosexual act.
Fundamentalists also heavily cite the book of Leviticus (Knight) where it says, "you shall not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; it is an abomination" (18:22) and "if a man also lie with mankind as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination" (20:13). They regret to state that Leviticus also prohibits cross-breeding livestock, tattoos, shaving one's beard, eating certain meats, wearing certain types of jewelry, sowing a field with mixed seed, wearing clothes from blended textiles, and having sex with a woman during her menstrual cycle (Shepherd). Today, these seem ridiculous, but many do not know that Galations tells Christians they are no longer bound by these laws which were originally meant for high priests (3:22-25). It is nothing more than a misinterpretation.
Misinterpretations are quite common when examining the Bible without researching the context; two verses often quoted together are 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. First Corinthians is a letter to the inhabitants of Corinth and tells them that homosexuals, along with a long list of other people, will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. First Timothy says that the law of God is not written for the righteous but rather for perverts and “whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God” (1:10). Although both verses seem very clear in the message sent, they grow increasingly obscure when referring to the original Greek (Wink). First Corinthians refers to homosexuals as the effeminate and the abusers of themselves with mankind as does 1 Timothy. Aside from the connotation that only masculine homosexuals go to heaven or masculine men in general, and aside from the fact that masculinity and femininity are cultural and change from time to time and place to place, the Bible uses malakee, the Greek term for effeminate, more than once to describe someone who lacks moral discipline (Shepherd) or to describe one as soft and fine (Robinson).
Arsenokeeteh is the Greek word used to describe the “abusers of themselves with mankind” from the two verses. This word literally means “male-active-bed.” Due to its obscurity, it can be translated as “child molesters” and “people with infamous habits” as seen in the past (Shepherd). If Paul, the man believed to have written 1 Corinthians, wanted to overtly describe homosexual men, he would use the Greek word paiderasste which was standard (Robinson). The issue extends further than a couple of mistranslations, however.
The Apostle Paul also wrote the book of Romans which describes how horrified he was at the sight of people using the natural, interpreted as heterosexual sex, for the unnatural, often interpreted as homosexual sex (1:26-27), and explanations for this passage lie in understanding the era, science, and the difference between sexual behavior and sexual orientation. It says that God forsakes these people, the Romans, and fundamentalists preach that God forsakes homosexuals as well. However, God rejects these people for not worshipping him; they engage in sexual behavior as a form of worship to their Roman gods. These relationships come from a place of lust and do not portray committed, loving homosexual relationships. Paul also assumes these people are indeed heterosexual, because the idea of a homosexual relationship was not available to him in his atmosphere (White):
And Paul believes that homosexual behavior is contrary to nature, whereas we have learned that it is manifested by a wide variety of species, especially (but not solely) under the pressure of overpopulation. It would appear then to be a quite natural mechanism for preserving species. We cannot, of course, decide human ethical conduct solely on the basis of animal behavior or the human sciences, but Paul here is arguing from nature, as he himself says, and new knowledge of what is "natural" is therefore relevant to the case (Wink).
By definition, the determination of one's orientation comes from the sex one is attracted to emotionally and sexually; as can be assumed, one does not need to be homosexual to have homosexual sex. The Greek words for “unnatural” and “natural” actually mean “uncharacteristic” and “characteristic” (Shepherd). For a heterosexual to live as a homosexual truly is unnatural and uncharacteristic as it is for a homosexual to live as a heterosexual (Wink). A lack of scientific knowledge also has a part in this. Jews at the time believed that sperm contained all the was needed for life and that women acted as incubators. For a man to “spill his seed” (Gen. 38:1-11), in Jewish mentality, equates to someone getting an abortion or murdering a baby (Wink). “Spilling your seed” in a time where populating the earth is crucial is unacceptable.
A particular saying thrown left and right to combat homosexuality states, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” When reading Genesis, one can see God does indeed make Adam and Eve, and frankly, making Adam and Steve would not do anything to populate the planet. However, this argument connotes that a relationship is only natural when it involves procreation. Thus, infertile couples and single people are also unnatural. After all, God made Adam and Eve, not just Adam or Eve. Are the people who use this argument willing to say that the Apostle Paul is unnatural or that Jesus himself is?
If the Bible truly sent a message against homosexuality as people say it does, why does Jesus not say anything about homosexuality? Why do the Jewish prophets forget to mention it? Why does it not say anything about lesbians? Lastly, why does it not discuss same-sex marriage? The answers to these questions all lie in one statement: God does not send a message of hatred toward homosexuality via biblical text, but the readers of said text twist the words to further their own agenda.
Finally, one must take into consideration the fact that societies change and with them changes what society considers normative. There no longer exists a death penalty for having sex with a woman who is going through menstruation. Not only that, but there are no laws against it at all, and it is accepted with the exception that some people find it disgusting and unhygienic. Adulterers are no longer stoned to death; they are only frowned upon by some. Nudity was considered sinful and to see someone nude was also a sin. Nude beaches are a bit extreme, but society accepts the occasional nudity in the locker room. To practice polygamy and concubinage was accepted and common. The wisest of Israel's kings, King Solomon, had a thousand or more concubines. Why do we no longer practice this? Also, fornication as stated before is deemed sinful, except if the woman is no longer a virgin before the sex takes place. Jesus himself forbade divorce, and yet, half of the population of the United States is divorced. That number is also growing. One can see the point. Society changes. Its values change. The values of the western civilization obviously differ from the values of ancient Judaism.
When misinterpreting text and taking phrases out of context, one can make any book condemn a group of people or make a book promote one's own cause. When read and studied carefully, the Bible does not condemn homosexuality or promote it. Jesus does not say anything about homosexuality and neither do the Jewish prophets. In addition, the Bible is a book about God and stories that reflect His existence. It is a book calling people to believe in God. It is not a book about human sexuality. Furthermore, when reading the Bible and solely focusing on the sex rather than the story itself, the original message becomes insignificant (White). The moral of the story becomes nonexistent and no longer fulfills its purpose: to teach. Using the Bible to spread messages of hate when the rest commands humanity to love one another causes people to believe the Bible contradicts itself. When in this case, the Bible does not contradict itself but its readers do. The reality is the Bible condemns idolatry, fornication, and other sin, homosexuality as an orientation is not one of them.
The Student Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984.
Knight, Chris. "Pray Together, Gay Together." National Post 11 Jan. 2008, national ed.: PM6. Academic. LexisNexis. Irvine Valley College. 10 Dec. 2008
Religious Tolerance. 1995. Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. 10 Dec. 2008 .
Shepherd, C A. "The Bible and Homosexuality." PFLAG Detroit. 11 Dec. 1998. PFLAG. 10 Dec. 2008 .
White, Mel. "What the Bible Says - And Doesn't Say - About Homosexuality." Soulforce. 2008. Soulforce. 12 Dec. 2008 .
Wink, Walter. "Homosexuality and the Bible." Soulforce. 2008. Soulforce. 11 Dec. 2008