The Bible and Homosexuality

There are very few families in 21st century America that do not have a family member or friend who is gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Because of strong religious beliefs, many individuals and families have torn apart over the issue of sexual orientation. It then becomes easy to feel alienated from the gay, lesbian or bisexual friend or member of the family, or from their religious organization, or from other family members. The Bible is most often used as the reason that homosexuality is against God’s plan for humanity. Hurt, anger, abandonment, fear, hopelessness, alienation, confusion, and self-hatred are the result.

In my last article I wrote about Sodom and Gomorrah, which is often referred to in discussing homosexuality. In fact, we get the word sodomy from the town of Sodom. What we discovered is that story is not about mature, freely chosen adult relationships, but about lack of hospitality and possibly gang rape.

There are 31,102 verses in the Bible. Only 5 of these verses can be taken to refer to homosexual behaviors. As a matter of fact, the words homosexual and heterosexual are products of the 19th century, so any translations that even use the word “homosexual” are using an 19th century word in a 1st century context, which is a great mistake. I will briefly discuss each of the 5 verses.

The first two verses are from the Old Testament book of Leviticus. Leviticus 18:22 says “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” Leviticus 20:13 then says “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.” In Leviticus 20:22, the writer tells why God gave these purity laws: “You shall keep all my statutes and all my ordinances, and observe them…You shall not follow the practices of the nation that I am driving out before you…” There were many groups or tribes from around the “then known world” that were in Palestine. The writer of Leviticus wanted to keep the Hebrews “pure” and make sure that they did not intermingle with these other cultures or their practices. Temple prostitution was a popular practice in many of these other cultural groups, and sexual interaction was part of the ritual and religion. This is what the writer was against – not freely chosen sexual intimacy between two adult persons of the same gender.

In the New Testament, there are two obscure verses in the letters of Paul to the churches in Corinth and Ephesus (where Timothy was working with the church). The verses are 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. The Greek words that Paul uses in these two verses are not found anywhere else in Greek literature, so each translator of the Bible uses a different English word to try and convey what sin Paul was addressing. The best biblical scholars seem to agree that Paul was probably referring to adult/youth sexual relations, which was a common practice that was being called into question. The church was probably caught up in this societal debate.

The last verse is from Paul’s letter to the church at Rome: Romans 1:26-27. In the letter to the Romans, Paul is addressing idolatry. One of the idolatrous practices in the various religions active in Rome was having sex as part of the religious service. I can image Paul, while he was staying at the Rome Hilton, watching what was going on across the street in the Temple of Aphrodite. He would certainly see this public display of sex as wrong.

So, it is my contention that the Bible really says nothing about mature, adult, freely chosen, responsible sexual behavior between persons of the same gender, whether female or male. With only these few verses out of the entire Bible, it certainly was not the big issue that many in our society are trying to make it today. My big questions are why would God deny sexual pleasure to anyone who makes a mature, adult, freely chosen decision to experience it with another adult or adults? What is so inherently evil about sexual intimacy when it does not cause emotional or physical hurt, is not coercive, and is among consenting adults?

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