New Testament and homosexuality

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The sin of homosexual relations is part of the Biblical category of immorality regarding fornication (sex with unlawful partners), which is prohibited and condemned in the Old Testament, and which judgment is confirmed in the New Testament. As has been traditionally established, from the beginning and throughout the Bible only opposite genders are joined in marriage, with the foundational basis for this unique union being first seen in Genesis 1:16,27; 2:18-24. The Lord Jesus also later confirmed that the marital union of a male and a female constituted the "what" of "what therefore God hath joined together." (Matthew 19:4; cf. Eph. 5:31).

In the Old Testament the principal texts condemning homosexual relations are Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, with the primary corresponding text in the New Testament being that of Romans 1:18-27. Less descriptive texts are 1 Corinthians 6:9, and 1 Tim. 1:10.

Pro-homosexual writers have labored extensively in seeking to negate these prohibitions, as well as to assert Biblical sanction for homosexual relations, with such attempts being refuted by traditionalist responses. For a more detailed treatment, see Homosexuality and biblical interpretation.


The restriction of relations to opposite genders, in marriage, has traditionally been held by both Jews and Christians. No doctrinal controversy regarding this position is manifest until shortly before the sexual revolution of the 1960's. Beginning with Anglican priest Derrick Sherwin Bailey in 1955, certain writers sought to negate the Biblical injunctions against homosexual relations, as well as to claim sanction for the same, thereby advancing a form of historical revisionism hitherto unknown. In response, numerous Christian scholars and authors have written refutations of these attempts, and those which force sex into passages regarding heterosexuals.[1][2][3][4][5]

This move toward liberal Christianity has been manifest in the ongoing division between pro-homosexual churches and those who hold to established historical Biblical doctrine on the issue. For a more detailed treatment, see Homosexuality and Christianity.

Silence of Jesus argument on homosexuality

An argument presented by many pro-homosexual writers contends that the absence of any specific censure of homosexual relations by Jesus, along with his emphasis upon love, works to disallow any Biblical prohibitions against homosexual relations. It is also asserted that this allows sanction of such, as long as it is consistent with love, though that is left to be defined rather subjectively.[6][7][8] Walter Wink is one whose emphasis upon this is most pronounced, and who much depends upon the upon the hermeneutic (principal of interpretation) behind it, as he concedes that, "Simply put, the Bible is negative toward same-sex behavior, and there is no getting around it." and that "Paul wouldn't accept a [loving] homosexual] relationship for a minute." But he advocates that while sexual conventions are necessary, we are, "in the name of love", to "choose for ourselves what is right," which he states Jesus meant in Luke 12:57.[9][10]

Traditional scholars and writers respond by exposing the spurious nature of the hermeneutics involved with this strategy.

Consistent with the principal of Galatians 3:19, Jesus silence is understood as being expected due to the extreme unlikelihood that homosexual relations would have been a prevalent problem among the Jews whom Jesus came to first minister to,[11] nor would incest have been, and that Jesus clearly upheld Old Testament moral laws,[12] and highly esteemed John the Baptist who rebuked Herod for an incestuous marriage. (Mk. 6:18; cf. Lv. 18:16; 20:21) Robert A. J. Gagnon asks, "shall we claim that Jesus had weaker convictions about bestiality and incest [than marriage] on the grounds that he said not a word about these subjects?"[13]

It is also pointed out that determining what is moral based upon whether Jesus explicitly condemned it could also sanction the practice of consensual incest, pedophilia, bestiality, or even cannibalism.

Similarly, it is argued that while love must be the motive, that by itself does not determine the validity of an action, and by using the "love justifies" hermeneutic, one could easily justify consensual premarital fornication, polyamory, wife swapping and prostitution, among other sins. And which seems to be goal of writers such as Walter Wink, who denies that that there any absolute sexual precepts universally valid in every time and place.[14][15]

It is also seen that rather than allowing love to serve as such a subjective basis for morality, the commandment sometimes invoked to support homosexual relations, "thou shalt shall love thy neighbor as thyself", (Lv. 19:18) is placed after and before laws which detail how we are basically to do so, and which unequivocally forbids and penalizes homosexual relations.

It is also seen that while Jesus did not specify every expression of sin, He dealt with the foundational issue behind them, and their primary expressions. In the Gospel of Mark 7:20-23, Jesus declares that sin begins in the heart, and the iniquities that come out of the heart including fornications, which being plural, includes all sexual relations outside marriage, as well as adultery.

In all His teaching, rather than abrogating moral law, Jesus is shown to intensify such, such as instituting stricter requirements for marriage, based upon its original establishment. [16][17][18] In so doing, He specified the male and female martial union as being what constitutes the "what" of "what God therefore God hath joined together". (Mt. 19:4-6; cf. Gn. 1:26,27; 2:18-24).

Hilborn states that Jesus "condemnations of porneia or 'sexual immorality' in Matt 15:19 and Mark 7:21 would almost definitely have been meant, and been taken, to include homoerotic sexual activity. Certainly, as Michael Saltlow has shown, such activity was typically condemned by the rabbis of the time whenever they considered it. Having said this, at least following the exile, there is very little evidence of, or extant comment on, such activity among Jewish men - so Jesus' not mentioning it in specific terms is hardly surprising. [19]

Gagnon also states,

It is not mere coincidence that when Jesus dealt with an issue of sexual behavior in Mark 10:2-12 he cited the same two texts from Genesis, 1:27 and 2:24, that lie behind Paul’s critique of homosexual practice. Jesus adopted a “back-to-creation” model of sexuality. He treated Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 as normative and prescriptive for the church (Mark 10:6-9). In contending for the indissolubility of marriage, Jesus clearly presupposed the one explicit prerequisite in Gen 1:27 and 2:24; namely, that there be a male and female, man and woman, to effect the “one flesh” reunion.[20]

In addition, Jesus also promised further inspired revelation, under which laws against sexual sins (in particular) are clearly upheld as a class. (Rm. 1:29; 2:22; 13:9, 1Co. 5:1; 6:13, 8; 7:2, 2Co. 12:21, Gal. 5:19, Eph. 5:3, Col. 3:5, 1Th. 4:3, Jam. 2:11; Rev. 2:22 21:25; 9:21; 14:8; 17:2,4; 18:3; 19:2)

While Wink invokesLuke 12:57 to advocate a subjective judgment which does not to be bound by Biblical injunctions against illicit sexual partners, this text is understood not as relating to moral laws, but eschatology, specifically about discerning the Messianic time, in which salvific decisions must be made.[21] And which recognition and salvation depends upon taking the Scriptures in a way contrary to the subjective interpretive grid of Wink.[22]

Some contend that Jesus (and Paul) categorized sexual sin to be merely ceremonially unclean in Mark 7:23, though it is evidenced there, and under the New Covenant, that such refers to moral uncleanness. (1Cor. 3:17; 1Tim. 1:10; Jude 1:8; Ja. 3:6; Rv. 21:27)

The traditional response thus understands Jesus upheld the moral law which also forbids homosexual relations, and that contrasting the laws of God such as define marriage and sexual partners with love is a false dichotomy. D. J. Atkinson states that such manifests,

a misconception of the relationship between love and law in the Bible. The Biblical understanding of the nature of love is always related to the description or expression of God's character in Himself on the one hand, and the character of life appropriate to the people of God, on the other hand.[23]

Romans 1

For a more detailed treatment, see Romans 1.

(Rom 1:19-27) "Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. {20} For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: {21} Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. {22} Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, {23} And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. {24} Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: {25} Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. {26} For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: {27} And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet."

In Romans 1, Paul is seen holding the Gentiles accountable for the truth revealed by creation, which by its very nature refutes the idea of man made idols being gods worthy of worship. The apostle works to show Gentiles as idolaters who rejected the “natural revelation” of God's creation given them, (Rm. 1:18-23) which testifies of His wisdom, power and majesty, and reveals the “material shape of the created order,” which enlightens man as to “the nature of God and God's will.”[24] They then “changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man,” as well as to animals. Consequently, God gave them up unto vile [dishonorable, shameful] affections, that of same-sex eroticism. Homosexual relations thus may be seen to be presented as a form of "natural idolatry", in which just as souls exchanged the one true God, with whom man (unlike animals, but perhaps like angels) is uniquely made to have spiritual union with, (Jer. 3:14; 1Cor. 6:16,17; Eph. 5:31,32) for one made in accordance with perverted affections, so they consequently were given over to perverted sexual desires, by which they exchanged the kind of partners which they were exclusively designed and decreed to have sexual union with, for partners contrary to nature as established by God by design and decree. Gagnon comments,

Those who disoriented themselves by a turn from the true God were more likely to be disoriented in their behavior...Gentiles were rendered liable because they sinned against the revelation about God and God’s will available to them in creation/nature.[25]

In both cases, "orientation" may be claimed, but such desire, and acting upon it, is condemned. In relation to this aspect, it is notable that "lust" as in Rm. 1:24, is not restricted to sexual craving, but it may more widely usually applies to various sinful desires, when qualified as such, as seen by Rm. 6:12; 13:14; Eph. 2:3 (in fulfilling fleshly desires); Col. 3:5 (which specifies "evil" lusts), but it may also denote holy desire/passion (Mt. 13:17; Lk. 22:15; Phil. 1:23; 1Thes. 2:17) Thus lust which is condemned in Rm. 1:24 can include "loving" homosexual affection.

Further fruits of idolatry, which is the mother of all sins[26], are also listed. (vs. 28-31) The appeal to natural revelation here is also seen to draw upon the creation account of Genesis 1+2,[27][28] as well as the Mosaic laws against immorality and their death penalty.[29] (Lv. 18; 20; Dt. 27:14-26)

In Romans 2, Paul also reveals that Gentiles have an innate sense of God and of the essentials of right and wrong, obedience to which would make them superior to a more enlightened Jew who has the surpassing revelation of the scriptures, but who acts in critical disobedience. Having indicted the Gentiles in chapter of sin in the light of basic natural revelation, Paul goes on to convict the Jews as sinners in need of salvation,[30] which is his purpose, and which he particularly expounds upon beginning in chapter 3 until chapter 12. While Paul's gospel purpose is to convict man of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment, as an instrument of the Holy Spirit ,(Jn. 16:8-11) the sins he condemns are just as damnable as he presents them to be.

It is also notable that just as Leviticus is unique in condemning both active and passive homosexual partners, whereas cultures then and afterward usually only condemned the former (if that), so in Romans 1 female homoeroticism is condemned, which is rarely mentioned elsewhere and condemned.

Responses to pro-homosexual revisionism

As is seen in more detail in the Romans 1 page, and condensed below, pro-homosexual revisionists have labored, with various and contradictory attempts, to negate the censure of homosexual activity in this chapter,[31] and which are refuted by responses upholding the traditional position.[32] The different pro-homosexual attempts consist of five main arguments:

  • 1. Robin A. Scroggs confesses that, "It might seem that only a series of verbal pyrotechnics could eliminate the seemingly obvious reference to homosexuality in Romans 1. This has, however, occasionally been attempted." He himself confirms that the apostle is condemning homosexual acts, but relegates these to only targeting pederasty. However, Scroggs concedes Paul would have opposed any form of homoeroticism.[33]

In response, traditionalists usually understand that, while the condemnation of homosexuality would include pederasty, to restrict Rm. 1:26 to that form is unwarranted, as both grammatically and descriptively "men with men" (similar to Lev. 18:22; 20:13), not "men with boys," are indicated. Not only does Paul first list female homoeroticism as part of the degeneration of mankind, and then likewise “also the men,” but elsewhere the Bible is seen to use the term “young men” or “younger" to make necessary distinctions between ages of males, (Mk. 14:51; Lk. 15:12,13; Acts 2:17; 5:6,10; 1Ti. 5:1; Tts. 2:6; 1Jn. 2:13,14) The word for men in "men with men working that which is unseemly" (or shameful) is not the generic word anthrōpos (cf. Lk. 13:4), nor the word neaniskos which is used to specify young men,[34] but the gender specific word arrhēn arsēn, which always denotes males[35]

Gagnon submits that Paul's culturally surprising inclusion of lesbian sexual practice in verse 26 "casts a wider net than abusive, male, pederastic relationships, inasmuch as lesbianism in the ancient Mediterranean world was not confined to pederastic models or rigid active versus passive roles." And that, "the fact that Paul segues from lesbianism in 1:26 to male homosexual behaviour in 1:27 with the words, 'and likewise also' (homoios te kai) suggests that he rejects both forms of homosexual behaviour for the same reasons; that is, not the grounds other than their exploitative or oppressive character." He thus concludes that the contrast here "is not between exploitative homosexual relationships and loving homosexual relationships but between heterosexual and homosexual conduct."[36]

  • 2. The late John Boswell asserted, as do many others, that a culturally ignorant (of homosexual orientation, as seen in Greece) Paul condemned homosexual acts as being “contrary to nature”, (Rm. 1:26,27) but was referring to heterosexuals acting as homosexuals (the “sin” being choosing one's orientation, as Daniel Via argues). Bowell also denies that Paul was using a "natural law" argument that was based upon the creational order, supposing that was a later theological development.[37]

This also is seen as being an ideologically driven, unwarranted response, as the theme leading up to the two verses at issue is not that of acting contrary one's own "orientation," but contrary to what is ordained of God, as a result of perverted desire. The Gentile idolaters are not condemned because they were worshiping idols while being actually being monotheists, but because idolatry is wrong in and of itself. Likewise homoeroticism is presented as a perverted practice, acting contrary to to what God revealed, by design and decree, as ordained by Him, and thus is unconditionally condemned, as are the other iniquities which are also listed as a fruit of this spiritual declension. (Rm. 1:29-32) Regarding the latter, Kyle Butt states, "No scholar would remotely contend that “unloving,” “unforgiving,” and “unmerciful” were cultural traits that do not transcend the passage of earthly time and culture.[38]

Schmidt states that Boswell's solution

shifts the meaning of "natural" from Paul's notion of "that which is in accord with creation" to the popular notion of "that which one has a desire to do." But deeply ingrained anger does not justify murder, nor does deeply ingrained greed justify theft or materialism, nor does the deeply ingrained desire of many heterosexuals for multiple partners justify promiscuity.”[39]

Gagnon states,

Nothing in the language of Rom 1:24-27 suggests "homosexuality" is a chosen condition of constitutional heterosexuals. The "exchange" that Paul portrays is not the "willful" exchange of felt heterosexual desires for manufactured homosexual feelings, as Harper contends. Rather, the exchange is that of (1) the truth which God has revealed in creation concerning what is natural intercourse for (2) the gratification of preexisting desires for unnatural intercourse between members of the same sex.[40]

Gagnon also reveals[41] thag even Louis Crompton, a modern homosexual liberal scholar, acknowledges that “However well-intentioned", the interpretation that "Paul’s words were not directed at 'bona fide'homosexuals in committed relationships…. seems strained and unhistorical. Nowhere does Paul or any other Jewish writer of this period imply the least acceptance of same-sex relations under any circumstance. The idea that homosexuals might be redeemed by mutual devotion would have been wholly foreign to Paul or any other Jew or early Christian. "[42]

New Testament scholar Richard Hays of Duke Divinity School is among those who are also critical of Boswell's mishandling of the New Testament material. He states that Boswell's interpretation, "has no support in the text and is a textbook case of reading into the text what one wants to find there."[43]

Moreover, refuting Boswell's idea that attributing the use of a "natural law" argument to Paul is anachronistic, Hays evidences that,

There are abundant instances, both in the Greco-Roman moral philosophers and in literary texts, of the opposition between "natural" (kata physin) and "unnatural" (para physin) behavior.... In particular, the opposition between "natural" and "unnatural" is very frequently used (in the absence of convenient Greek words for "heterosexual" and "homosexual") as a way of distinguishing between heterosexual and homosexual behavior.... For example,...Plutarch has Daphnaeus, one of the speakers in his Dialogue on Love, disparage "union contrary to nature with males" (he para physin homilia pros arrenas), as contrasted to "the love between men and women," which is characterized as "natural" (te physei). A few sentences later, Daphnaeus complains that those who "consort with males" willingly are guilty of "weakness and effeminacy," because "contrary to nature (para physin)," they "allow themselves in Plato's words 'to be covered and mounted like cattle'" (Dialogue on Love 751C, E).[44][45]

Paul's use of "natural law" is also seen by some in 1 Cor. 11:1-12, in which an ontological distinction is made between the male and the female. This references back to the Genesis man/female union, and which Rm. 1:26,27 is also understood to do.

In addition, there is no real warrant for assuming cultural ignorance of the widely traveled Paul, who would have known of those in Greece who seemed predisposed to homosexuality. Paul was born and educated in Tarsus in the region of Cilicia, one of the three centers of Greek culture in his day, (Acts 21:39) and E. M. Blaiklock states that Tarsus "became the Athens of the eastern Mediterranean, the ancient equivalent of a university city, the resort of men of learning, the home town of Athenodorus (74 B.C.-A.D. 7), the respected teacher of Augustus himself, the seat of a school of Stoic philosophers, a place of learning and disputation, and the very climate in which a brilliant mind might grow up in the midst of stimulus and challenge and learn to think and to contend."[46] Malick notes that Paul was hardly an isolated Jew in a Greek world, and would thus be well aware of the homosexual activities of his time without depending on "Jewish rumor mills."[47] Luke, Paul companions, describes the Athenians in Acts 17.

Walvoord concludes,

The idea that Paul is only condemning heterosexuals acting as homosexuals is "strained exegesis unsupported by the Bible", with the Bible recognizing only one valid natural sexual relationship.[48]
  • 3. Thomas D. Hanks and others disallow Romans 1 from being a moral indictment of homoeroticism, but attribute Paul's words to homophobia, insecurity, repressed anger, and like Daniel Heliminiak[49] render it to being a polemic in which Paul quotes Jewish prejudice against homoeroticism in order to reprove the arrogance of self righteous Jews or a Jew, and have Paul liberating homosexuals from such oppression, by making the uncleanness of v. 24 to refer to the abrogated ceremonial purity code, an argument Countryman also attempts.[50][51][52]

This polemic is seen to be contrary to the traditional exegesis on every level. The idea that Paul was motivated by vengeance against Jews, and sought to justify homosexuality, is negated by Paul's confirmation of the esteem he shows toward being part of the circumcised, and his Moses-like heart toward Israel as expressed so deeply in the same letter. (Rm. 9:1-5; and 20:1ff.) In addition is his upholding of moral laws, and fornication in particular, while listing the types of laws which were ceremonial. (Col. 2:14-17; Heb. 9:10-10:24; (presuming Paul's authorship) Gal. 4:10; Rm. 14)

Both the idolatry that preceded vs. 24-27 and the proceeding verses (29-32) evidence a progression of degeneration, and not simply seeking to enrage some Jew(s) by listing ceremonial sins which Paul would later sanctify, as the pro-homosexual polemic contends. Hilborn comments that "the fact that Paul declares such hypocrites to be guilty of ‘the very same things’ (gar auta, 2:1) as the sinners they attack only confirms that those ‘same things’ are nonetheless to be viewed as consistently and intrinsically wrong." He adds, "Countryman’s tortuous attempt to recast the vocabulary of Chapter 1 wholly in terms of a superseded Levitical holiness code hardly reflects Paul’s more complex handling of the Law in the rest of the letter (cf. 3:19; 7:7-25; 7:28 etc.), and, as Schmidt shows, would collapse immediately if [even] only one term in vv.24-8 did actually connect with ‘sin’, rather than mere ritual purity.[53]

The word uncleanness in v. 24 (akatharsia) is evidenced in the New Testament to always denote, not ceremonial, but moral uncleanness, (Mt. 23:37; Rom. 6:19, 2Cor. 12:21, Eph.4:19; 5:3; Col. 3:5, 1Ths. 2:3; 4:7) and which category sex with illicit sexual partners always falls into, with fornication being abundantly condemned.

In Rm. 1:26 it is also stated that God gave them up unto vile affections, which word (vile) denotes dishonor and shame in all its uses, as does unseemly.

  • 4. Another approach is taken by Walter Wink, and Gary D. Comstock, but which is not directly against the condemnation of homosexuality here, but against the Bible being the moral authority its words requires it be. Those who resort to this position, which is observed to be the overall effective result of pro-homosexual apologetics, are not only in opposition to the traditional meaning, but also the attempts by their fellow apologists to invoke the authority of the Bible on their behalf. Wink distinctly expresses this, as he concedes, "Simply put, the Bible is negative toward same-sex behavior, and there is no getting around it." And that “Paul wouldn’t accept [a loving homosexual] relationship for a minute.” Comstock understands that there is insufficient evidence for Scrogg's pederasty conclusion, as well as the "contrary to nature" argument of Boswell, and recognizes Paul as condemning homosexuality, equating it to Godlessness.

However, Wink and Comstock reject this as a valid condemnation, and seek to use more subjective means as a basis for sexual ethics.[54] [55]

Comstock advocated removing Paul's condemnation form the canon of Scripture, and Wink presents the Bible as offering no coherent sexual ethic for today, and that absolute proscriptions are examples of legalistic hypocrisies, even when it comes to prohibiting all sexual activity by young teens are examples.[56] Instead he and similar revisionists hold that people possess a right to sex that supersedes Biblical structural requirements for sexual unions, and essentially proposes that sexual ethics are best determined by one's own subjective understanding of Christian love. (contra. Dt. 12:8; Jdg. 17:6; Mt.4:4)[57]

That the Bible both claims and evidences that it is not only a, but the supreme and transcendent moral authority is abundantly testified to, (Neh. 9:13,29; Ps. 19: 7-11; 119; 147:19,20) even in Romans. (2:17-20; 3:2; 9:4) In addition, the alleged lack of coherence is seen to be caused by the pro-homosexual attempts to negate the evident injunctions against homosexual relations, while forcing such into passages it does not belong in.

Robert Gagnon responds extensively to Wink, [58] [59] stating that while Wink alleges that “the Bible has no sex ethic. It only knows a communal love ethic”, and that “everything is to be critiqued by Jesus’ love commandment”, "the problem with this is that Jesus applied the love commandment in ways that run 180-degrees counter to Wink’s application." Gagnon's extensive response to Wink also serves to cover Comstock's position as well.

  • Lesbian scholar Bernadette Brooten and thinks Scrogg's theory is doubtful, and understands that Paul was universally condemning female and male homoeroticism as a violation of the social order created by God. However, she rejects the prohibition of female homoeroticism due its perceived basis upon male headship (while wrongly stating that an Israelite could have sexual relations with his own daughter without penalty).[60]

This polemic also acknowledges the condemnation of homoeroticism in Romans, 1, while the attempt to negate it as concerns women is refuted the evidence that God instituted the headship of the male, based upon creational, not cultural considerations. [61]

  • 5. Less common is the position that since homoeroticism is listed as a consequence of idolatry, then Paul was only referring to homosexual relations as part of pagan temple practice, thus making the condemnation thereof conditional, and allowing a "loving" sanctioned form of it..[62]

Countering this is the traditional response which point outs that idolatry is the mother of all sins, and which takes many forms. And as that religious pagan behavior was an integral part of the culture, including the Roman gladiator and chariot contests,[63] and can be linked to multitudes of iniquities which are condemned, (Exo. 20:2; 23:24; Lev. 18:27-30; 20:23; Dt. 12:4; 12:30-31; Jer. 10:2-3; Exo. 20:2; 23:24; Lev. 18:27-30; 20:23; Dt. 12:3,4; 12:30-31; Jer. 10:2-3; 1Co_5:1; Eph_2:2-3; 4:17,18; 1Thes. 4:5; Titus 3:3; 1Pe_1:14; 4:3,4) but which do not restrict the prohibitions of such things as fornication to a religious context, nor are they sanctified by a proper motive.

Also responding to this pro-homosexual contention is Gagnon, with 15 reasons for the traditional position.[64]

"Nature" and lesbian sex

Romans 1:26 states that "even their women change the natural use into that which is against nature", Derek Sherwin Bailey and Vern Bullough[65] seek to attribute that to women who adopt the dominant position in heterosexual intercourse, as being contrary to women being in subordination to men (Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:8; Tit. 2:5). Others have proposed it refers to a perverse means of intercourse which was notable among the Greeks.

In response it is seen that the word “likewise” in the beginning of v. 27 denotes a like contravention of the natural order by men as with women. There is also evidence that what is now referred to as homosexuality existed among women,[66]

Hilborn[67] states,

Few serious scholars doubt that when Paul here condemns the use of human bodies ‘against nature’ (para phusin)", and the he has in mind sexual acts performed by men with men, and by women with women", and points to the this "the clear rhetorical and grammatical parallels which the apostle is drawing between women and men, the latter of whom are explicitly said to have abandoned heterosexual practices (krēsin tēs thleias) for homosexual ones (orexei autōn eis allēlous). Moreover, both this and the first reading disregard the universal sweep of Paul’s natural theology, focused as it is on sexual relations as such, rather than on specific sexual techniques. Indeed, the fact that Paul uses the more generalised vocabulary of ‘male’ and ‘female’ here (arsenes; thēleias), rather than the terminology of ‘men’ or ‘women’ (gunē; anēr), may well bear this out.[68]

1Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10

1Co 6:10 "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, [malakos] nor abusers of themselves with mankind, [arsenokoitai] Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God."

1Ti 1:9,10 "Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, [arsenokoitai] for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;"

The controversy here focuses upon two obscure words, malakos (soft) and arsenokoitai (male beds), which pro-homosexual advocates have much labored with to disallow them as referring to homosexuals or homoeroticism in general, and which attempts and their nature can be best seen in traditionalist responses.[69][70][71][72][73][74][75]

Scroggs perceives arsenokoitai as referring to pederasty. Boswell believed that it referred to “active male prostitutes. . . . capable of the active role with either men or women”[76]

Wright questions both Boswell’s arguments and his linguistic abilities, and notes that Boswell is almost the only one taking this position.[77]

Guenther Haas states,

As noted in D.F. Wright's response[78] to Boswell's explanation of the Greek term, it is much more likely that this compound term developed under the direct influence of the two parts of the compound used in Lev. 18:22 and 20:13. Wright repeats this point in his review of Scroggs' book.

The significance of this is that Paul's usage of arsenokoites is informed by the two passages of Leviticus, which are certainly not confined to pederasty. Wright drives the point home with two pointed questions:

If Paul had wanted to condemn (a kind) of pederasty, why did he not use one of the several Greek words or phrases for it current in Hellenistic Jewish writings [e.g., paidophthoreseis]? Why did he (create or) adopt a (relatively) new, certainly unusual term inspired by a Levitical prohibition and therefore one which prima facie has a broader meaning than pederasty?[79]

Scroggs knew that the coined term arsenokoitai Paul used in 1 Cor. 6:9 for “abusers of themselves with mankind” was made up of two parts found in Lev. 18:22 and 20:13, and believes the compound word is a literal translation of the Hebrew term mishkav zakur ("bed with a male" as with a women: Lv. 20:13). But he believes, without providing any sources, that the rabbis used this term in their condemnations of pederasty, to which application Scroggs restricts it, though as seen together in Lv. 20:13 no such restriction (to pederasty) is made. However, the Bible distinguishes between men and young men when needed, while even though some sources do use arsenokoitai to censure pederasty, it presumes much to hold that such a general term can be restricted to simply one form of homoeroticism. Rather, it is far more conceivable that Paul is condemning both in Romans. Moreover, the culpability of both persons is shown by the penalties against the condemned practice, evidencing this condemnation was not simply directed against a victim/perpetrator case, but a consensual practice.

Gagnon also sees that arsenokoitai is formed from the Greek words for “lying” (koite) and “male” (arsen) which appear in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Levitical prohibitions of men “lying with a male” in Lv. 18:22; 20:13), but that it intentionally applies to the same absolute Levitical prohibitions against male-male intercourse. Among other reasons he gives for this is that "the rabbis used the corresponding Hebrew abstract expression mishkav zakur, “lying of/with a male,” drawn from the Hebrew texts of Lev 18:22 and 20:13, to denote male-male intercourse in the broadest sense." And that "the appearance of arsenokoitai in 1 Tim 1:10 makes the link to the Mosaic law explicit, since the list of vices of which arsenokoitai is a part are said to be derived from “the law.” [80]

James B. DeYoung states,

ARSENOKOITAI (lit. "male beds") does not occur prior to Paul because Paul likely coined it as he coined other terms. He almost certainly derived it from two words that occur together in the LXX of Lv. 20:13 (aresenos koiten) "whoever shall lie with a male a bed as a women"). This suggests that Paul had in mind the prohibition of adult homosexuality in Leviticus. Support for this position comes from the list of vices in 1Cor. 6:9-11 and 1Tim. 1:10, which correspond, even in word order, to the 10 commandments. In both lists, Paul adds "homosexuals" to adulterers in expanding the range of prohibited sex, as he does with other commands.[81]

Calvin Smith adds,

Wright has highlighted a major problem here. If Paul simply borrowed an existing vice list referring to very general sexual vices, including widespread and very general forms of pederasty, how can Scroggs then suggest Paul is identifying a very precise form of this vice?[82] A number of other exegetes concur. .... example, malakos could mean `call-boy', or something similar, and both words together could be referring to the active and passive roles in the homosexual act (thus malakos would be the male But Malick argues the terms clearly mean more than this, that linguistically they cannot be limited to this understanding alone (other traditionalists agree).[83].

Michael Ukleja also has identified these terms in several examples of classical Greek literature, which clearly refer to homosexuals.[84]

Bible Issues adds that if Paul had intended to discuss temple prostitution, he could have used the Greek word porne. The Hebrew word qadesh means cult prostitute (as seen in Deuteronomy 23:17), and when the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew into Greek (the Septuagint), the translators used the Greek word porne - not malakoi or arsenokoitai. "This is a damning indictment against the gay advocate’s argument". [85]

Gagnon concludes,

the term arsenokoitai is not restricted to homosexual prostitution. Boswell was clearly wrong. Robin Scroggs back in 1983[86] acknowledged these two points, though Scroggs himself was wrong in other ways.[87]

Jesus and the centurion's servant

Faced with the evidence that not only does the Bible condemn homosexual relations, but fails to establish sanction for it, pro-homosexual polemicists have labored to not only negate the injunctions against homosexual relations to extrapolate sanction for them. As with the former, these also find refutations by traditionalist responses.[88] In the New Testament, such attempts extend to asserting that that Jesus approved of a homosexual relationship between a Roman Centurion and his servant, in Matthew 8: 5-13; Lk. 7:1-10).

Jack Clark Robinson[89] and others pro homosexual writers[90] attempt to support this assertion, in which it is supposed that,

  • A. Since a slave had no rights, "why on earth should he refrain from sodomizing his houseboys?" (citing prohomosex author Eva Cantarella).
  • B. Centurions were not allowed to marry during their military service, and thus he assumes the ones Robinson mentions were homosexuals.
  • C. The word translated “servant” is the Greek word "pais", which can denote a boy, But it could refer to a fully adult male as black slaves were in America. And pais is sometimes used to "denote a complicated relationship of unusual intimacy in the New Testament".
  • D. In Acts 10:1–11:18, a presumably homosexual centurion was accepted into the Christian community, thus making it "unmistakably clear" that both Christ and the Holy Spirit opened the doors of the Christian community to homosexuals and their partners.

Countering this revisionist attempt are traditionalist responses which lists multiple problems in the homosexual argument, concluding that while a centurion may have had liberty to sodomize servants, neither the grammar or the context provides evidence that Jesus was sanctioning a homoerotic relationship in occurring in this story.

  • 1. The question as to whether a marriage ban applied to centurions, or to what extent or for how long, is a subject of contention. As Phang writes,

the survival and transmission of of Roman legal sources is highly problematic. It [the ban] is not found in the main collection of juristic excerpts before A.D. 240, or in Gaius' Institutes (c. 160) or in the Gnomon of the Idios Logos. There is no direct evidence as to what ranks where affected by the marriage ban. Cassius Dio 60:24:3 Herodian 3.8.5, Libanius Or. 2:39-40 refer to generic soldiers; there is no mention of higher-ranking officers such as Centurions and principales. It is certain that equestrian and senatorial officers were not included in the ban, which would have contravented the Augustan legislation promoting marriage of the upper orders.

There is no direct evidence about whether centurions who were affected by the marriage ban. Most modern authors have assumed that they were permitted legal marriage. (P. Meyer (1895) pp, 103-4; Renz (1976) 55, Chery, marriage of equestrain oficers (1997) p. 113) Allason (1989) p. 58, states that "Below the rank of centurions soldiers were forbidden by law to marry", with Hassall (1999; pp. 35-40), giving 35 as the age which centurions could marry. (The marriage of Roman soldiers (13 B.C.-A.D. 235), by Sara Elise Phang, pp. 129-133)

  • 2. In addition, to claim that the all centurions were homosexuals or the ones Robinson mentions is presumptuous. The Bible evidences that it makes noteworthy aspects of the subjects of interest manifest, as a study of even the individual recipients of healing will show, and if the Holy Spirit is showing homosexuality being favored, as Robinson asserts He is, then we can expect that this aspect would be included, as well as sanction for it being made evident, as with the case of heterosexuals. As the opposite is done for homoeroticism, promoters of such must resort to asserting that the Bible was much a work of "homophobic"" editors.
  • 3. The word word translated “servant”, "pais", most predominately means servant, someone in subjection, and sometimes refers to God's servant Jesus or David, and others (Mat. 12:18; 14:2; Luk. 1:54; 1:69; 7:7; 15:26; Act. 4:25) or child (Mat. 17:18, Luk. 2:43; 9:42; Act. 4:27,30) It is not used in a gender exclusive way, as it can refers to a female. (Luk. 8:51,54). Apart from Robinson's imagination, its use nowhere in Scripture denotes a complicated relationship of sexual intimacy, and its use in non-Biblical literature is exceedingly rare. What might be possible is that the "pais" here was a son (cf. Acts 3:13,26) of the centurion (through a maid servant wife), as is the case in the parallel story of John 4:46-53. (Fred Butler,; Gagnon, Did Jesus Approve of a Homosexual Couple in the Story of the Centurion at Capernaum?, though the "Q" document aspect is a theory)
  • 4. There is absolutely nothing in the story of Acts 10:1–11:18 that indicates the centurion there was a homosexual, and instead it indicates how men must resort to imagination force a text to say what they wish.

In addition to the presumption that centurions, and this one in particular, were not married, and that this meant he was engaging in homosexual relations, other aspects render Robinson's rendition of this story untenable:

  • A. Homosexual relations are condemned wherever they are explicitly dealt in the Bible, and to sanction a homosexual relationship would be a radical new revelation, even more so than making all food clean, which the New Testament makes clear did not apply to moral laws such as regarding sexual partners.
  • B. Robinson has Jesus sanctioning homosexual relationships. However, Jesus is not seen overthrowing the moral law of the Old Testament, and instead He actually reinforced and expanded its depth, and in so doing He explicitly stated what constitutes the "what" of what God joined together, (Mt. 19:4-6; cf. Gn. 1:26,27; 2:18-24) and to suppose that Jesus actions support the sodomizing of a servant, or even that He would sanction any homosexual relationship without expressly making that evident, is held as absurd. It is evidenced that laws regarding sexual partners are manifest in Scripture as belonging to the primary category of moral laws regarding man's relationship with each other, and are not simply part of civil legislation, and nowhere are these abrogated in the gospels or under the New Covenant. Instead such are often reiterated. (Mat. 5:32; 15:19; 19:9; Mk. 7:21; Jn. 8:41; Acts 15:20; 15:29; 21:25; Rom. 1:29; 1Co_5:1; 1Co. 6:9,13, 18; 7:2; 2Co. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; 1Ths. 4:3; Heb. 12:16; 13:4; 1Pet. 4:3; Rev. 9:21; 14:8, 17:2, 4; 18:3; 19:2)
  • C. Robinson depends upon the theory that all centurion were forbidden to marry, and thus his construct has Jesus sanctioning sex outside marriage.
  • D. As homosexual relations were universally condemned by the Jews, and if what Robinson imagines was the case, then we can be sure that the adversaries of Jesus would have made this radical departure from the law a specifically manifest issue. However, this was never the case.

In summation, the work of Robinson and company is seen to evidences again that as the Bible offers absolutely nothing that manifests sanction for homosexual relations and the necessary providence of marriage for it, and instead it explicitly condemns such, prohomosex polemicists are forced into reading sex into such passages as the one at issue here.

Jesus and John

In what is seen as the height of homosexual blasphemy and insolent striving to force sex into passages it does not belong, many pro-homosexual activist apologists portray the LORD Jesus and the apostle John as being involved in a homosexual relationship. One traditionalist states, "that is another case which manifests the unholy imagination of prohomosex authors, who see homosexuality wherever the Bible describes close brotherly or even Divine love, and into which they proceed to read pro-homosexual western thought into ancient custom."[91] The sparse substance out of which this homosexual relationship is alleged centers on the description of John as the "disciple whom Jesus loved", and of him leaning on Jesus' chest at the last supper. To which Holding responds,

To put it bluntly, such arguments view intimate relationships through jaundiced Western eyes. Put your head on the breast of another man today here in America, and the jokes will fly. But in the ancient East, not so; and even today, such affectionate displays are typical on that side of the world, and well-publicized..., which is probably why we don't hear these sorts of verses brought up in service of homosexual Bible characters, except by the incredibly underinformed.
Abraham Rihbany (The Syrian Christ, 65), a native of the East early last century, bore with some patience the misinterpretations of modern Westerners who read the Bible through their eyes and tastes and missed certain points about what was being said and done. The particular instance of John 21:20 represents a custom "in perfect harmony with Syrian customs. How often have I seen men friends in such an attitude. There is not the slightest infringement of the rules of propriety; the act was as natural to us all as shaking hands. The practice is especially indulged in when intimate friends are about to part from one another, as on the eve of a journey, or when about the face a dangerous undertaking. Then they sit with their heads leaning against each other, or the one's head resting upon the other's shoulder or breast."[92]

Due to the extreme degree of eisegesis (that of reading into a text) in this argument, few traditionalists find much of an extensive response necessary, though Gagnon deals with this somewhat at length in "Was Jesus in a Sexual Relationship with the Beloved Disciple?", as part of his extensive reproofs of pro-homosexual apologetics.[93] by Robert A. J. Gagnon, Ph.D.

See also

External links


  1. [1]
  2. Marriage and Family in the Biblical World By Ken M. Campbell
  3. Straight & Narrow? By Thomas E. Schmidt
  4. Homosexuality By James B. De Young
  5. Robert A. J. Gagnon Articles Available Online
  6. Wink, Homosexuality and Bible
  7. Troy Perry, Don’t Be Afraid Anymore (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990), 40
  8. John J. McNeil, The Church and the Homosexual (Kansas City: Sheed Andrews and McMeel, 1976); Roger Shinn, “Homosexuality: Christian Conviction and Inquiry,” in Homosexuality
  9. "To hell with gays," by Walter Wink
  10. HOMOSEXUALITY and the BIBLE (Walter Wink refuted)
  11. Stanley J. Grenz, Welcoming But Not Affirming, p. 61
  13. Notes to Gagnon’s Essay in the Gagnon-Via Two Views Book
  14. The Wink-Gagnon Exchange Published in Christian Century
  15. Robert A. J. Gagnon, No Universally Valid Sex Standards?
  16. "Are There Universally Valid Sex Precepts? A Critique of Walter Wink's Views on the Bible and Homosexuality"
  18. The Bible and Homosexuality; Mark 7:7 Did Jesus include homosexuality in “fornication?
  19. Hilborn vs. Rowan Williams and Homosexuality
  20. Why “Gay Marriage” Is Wrong by Robert A. J. Gagnon, Ph.D.
  21. Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible
  23. D. J. Atkinson, Homosexuals in the Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 69-70.
  24. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, pp. 256-67
  25. Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Apostle Paul on Sexuality: A Response
  26. Ex. 20:2-6; Dt. 6:5: whatever is our chief source of security, or object of spiritual affection, is our god at that time, and overall as the case may be
  27. Gagnon, How Bad Is Homosexual Practice According to Scripture
  28. A Response to the 'Gay Christian' Movement, Vincent McCann, Spotlight Ministries]
  30. Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
  31. Thomas E. Schmidt. Straight & narrow? pp. 32,33
  32. Which is that Romans 1 condemns homosexual relations, though historically a few have understood the reference to women as denoting a wrong form of heterosexual sex.
  33. Scroggs, The New Testament and Homosexuality, pp. 115-18
  34. Mat_19:20, Mat_19:22, Mar_14:51 (2), Mar_16:5, Luk_7:14, Act_2:17, Act_5:10, 1Jo_2:13-14 (2), Mat_19:20, Mat_19:22-24 (3), Mar_14:51, Mar_16:5, Luk_7:14, Mar_14:51, Act_2:17, Act_5:10, 1Jo_2:13-14 (2)
  35. Mat_19:4, Mar_10:6, Luk_2:23, Gal_3:28, Rom_1:27 (3), Rev_12:5, Rev_12:13
  36. Gagnon, homosexuality and the Bible, p.348
  37. Boswell, Christianity, pp. 108-114
  38. Apologetics Press, Scripturally Speaking: Homosexuality—Sin, or a Cultural Bad Habit?
  39. Thomas E. Schmidt, Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology Homosexuality, Romans 1:26-27]
  41. More than “Mutual Joy”: Lisa Miller of Newsweek against Scripture and Jesus
  42. Crompton, Homosexuality and Civilization
  43. Richard B. Hayes, Professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School in The Journal of Religious Ethics (No. 14, 1986
  44. Richard B. Hays, "Relations natural and unnatural", Journal of Religious Ethics, vol. 14, no. 1, Spr. 1986, pp. 192-94
  46. Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, s.v. Tarsus, by E. M. Blaiklock, 5:602). Also see P. Michael Ukleja, "The Bible and Homosexuality; Part 2: Homosexuality in the New Testament," Bibliotheca Sacra 140 (October-December 1983): 354.
  47. David E. Malick, "The Condemnation of Homosexuality in Romans 1:26-27," Bibliotheca Sacra 150: 599 (1993): 327-340.
  48. The Bible Knowledge Commentary, by John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, Louis A. Barbieri Jr., Dallas
  49. Heliminiak, What the Bible really says homosexuality (pro gay), p. 76
  50. Hanks, Thomas D.; A Gay Apostle’s Queer Epistle for a Peculiar People: Romans 1:16-2:16; (compilation)
  51. Countrymen, Dirt, Greed and Sex, pp. 98-123
  52. Edwards, "Gay/Leban Liberation, pp. 85-102
  53. [Hilborn on Rowan Williams and Homosexuality]
  54. [ HOMOSEXUALITY and the BIBLE (Walter Wink refuted)
  55. Gary David Comstock, "Gay theology without apology." (1993) pp. 27-48
  60. Brooten, Love between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism, pp. 253 n. 106, 248-252, 257, 302, 361
  61. Are women pastors Biblical?
  62. "Rogers, How I Changed My Mind on Homosexuality”
  63. Anthony J. Blasi, Paul-André Turcotte, Jean Duhaime; Handbook of early Christianity, p. 562
  64. Bad Reasons for Changing One’s Mind
  65. Bailey, Derrick Sherwin, Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition. London: Longman, 1955, p.40; Bullough, Vern,, Sexual Variance in Society and History. New York: Wiley, p.180
  66. Seneca the Elder [55 BC - 40 AD]; Martial, [40-103/4 AD]; Dorotheos of Sidon (25-75 AD) (implied); Pseudo-Phoc/kylides, 30 BC-40 AD; Brooten, pp. 43-47, 19-123, 63-64, 248, note 99
  67. Hilborn vs. Rowan Williams and Homosexuality
  68. A point made by Cranfield, C.E.B., Romans I-VIII. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1975, p.125 and Morris, Leon, The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1995, p.92
  70. [ The Condemnation of Homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9 David E. Malick
  72. Homosexuality Revisited in Light of the Current Climate 1by Calvin Smith
  73. Linguistic Grounds for Translating Arsenokoitai as “Homosexuals” De Young, J. B. (2000). Homosexuality: Contemporary Claims Examined in Light of the Bible and Other Ancient Literature and Law. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications
  76. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality [University of Chicago Press, 1980], 344
  77. Wright, `Homosexuality: The Relevance of the Bible p. 296
  79. D.F. Wright, "Review of The New Testament and Homosexuality by Robin Scroggs," Scottish Journal of Theology 38 (March 1985): 119-20
  80. [ Does Jack Rogers’s Book “Explode the Myths” about the Bible and Homosexuality and “Heal the Church”?, Robert A. J. Gagnon, Ph.D.
  81. (cf. pp. 195-99) Homosexuality By James B. DeYoung
  82. Wright, `Homosexuality: The Relevance of the Bible’ (op. cit.), 296.
  83. [ Homosexuality Revisited in Light of the Current Climate1]
  84. P. Michael Ukleja, `Homosexuality in the New Testament' in Bibliotheca Sacra 140 (1983).
  86. The New Testament and Homosexuality
  88. Postulations or assertions of approved homosex
  89. Jesus, the Centurion, and His Lover
  90. T. W. Jennings
  91. Jesus and John
  92. John 21:20 Show That Jesus Was Gay?
  93. [2]