What Does the Bible Say About Homosexuality
“A text out of context is the pre-text for a proof-text.” In seeking to understand the Scriptures as the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), we must properly exegete each passage within its historical-geographical context, conscious of literary style, in light of and consistent with the whole revelation of God, always allowing the text to ‘speak for itself’ rather than imposing our preferred meaning onto a passage (eigesis vs. exegesis).
Let’s consider the four main passages that deal with homosexuality explicitly, and how those believing homosexuality is consistent with Scripture have interpreted them.
Genesis 19 Mutually-Consented Sodomy vs. Rape?
Sodomy is condemned, though as contended by some theologians, it is possible that the primary concern of God was the intention of gang rape by the crowd, rather than mutually consenting homosexual activity. Nevertheless, Sodom was deemed perverted (Jude 1:7).
Leviticus 18:22; 20:13 Contemporary Homosexuality vs. Temple Prostitution?
Some suggest these laws refer specifically to homosexual acts connected with the temple prostitutes, thus not presently applicable. There is no evidence for this re-interpretation, however. Even Sherwin Bailey, who proffered the re-interpretation of the story of Sodom, stated that it is hardly open to doubt that both the laws in Leviticus relate to ordinary homosexual acts between men, and not to ritual or other acts performed in the name of religion. Additionally, ceremonial laws (no longer relevant) drew relatively minor penalties, whilst moral laws (which still stand) drew the penalty of death. Sodomy fits the latter.
Romans 1:18, 21, 26-27 Inversion vs. Perversion?
Some argue that this passage condemns heterosexuals engaged in a lust-based perversion of sexuality, rather than the relatively recent inverted, ‘normal and natural’ monogamous homosexuality practiced by those ‘born’ gay. This neither does justice to the Scriptures (forcing an unsupported meaning onto the passage), history (homosexuality in all forms saturated Greek culture in Paul’s day), nor research on the state of most homosexual unions where promiscuity is the norm. “Unnatural” in this passage (verse 26) means contrary to God’s original intention for human sexual behaviour, plainly visible in the complementary function of the male and female sexual organs, irrespective of what ‘feels’ normal for the person. Design, not feeling, determines purpose.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Ill-Defined Words vs. A Practice Condemned?
Some contend that the Greek words ‘malakoi’ and ‘arsenokoitai’ have uncertain meanings, translated variously as ‘effeminate’, ‘soft’, ‘male prostitute’, and ‘sodomite’, ‘homosexual offender’, ‘sexual pervert’, respectively. They claim that clearer words could have been used that would definitely mean ‘homosexual’ as opposed to simply ‘morally weak’, and in the case of ‘arsenokoitai’ that by the second century it was interchangeable with a ‘pederast’ (paedophile with boys). Closer study reveals that these terms, whilst not the clearest available, would have been sufficiently clear to the readers of the day – the reference was to men who took the passive and active role in homosexual intercourse. ‘Arsenokoitai’ derives from ‘ar’sane’ meaning ‘male’ (as in Matthew 19:4), and ‘koytay’ means co-habitation within a bed (as in Romans 13:13), similar to our euphemism of ‘sleeping together’ – thus rendering the most straight forward reading as men having sex with each other, irrespective of the presence of love, and absence of lust, which would include but is not limited to pederasty (also used in 1 Timothy 1:10 in this context). Importantly, the translation has been made as ‘homosexual offenders’, to distinguish between the desire for homosexual sex (where temptation is not sin – Hebrews 4:15) and the actual practice of it which is condemned by God. It reminds us that the Scriptures honour people successfully struggling with temptation rather than condemning them for their temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 4:15).
In summary, in every context homosexuality (as defined, referring to the act, not the orientation) is mentioned, it is presented as a sin. In no place does it speak positively of homosexuality. Rationalisations on the grounds that the context was always fleshly indulgence and not a stable, loving relationship, are merely eigesis based on historical speculation, additionally failing to recognise the key purposes, standard and Biblical context given by God for sex. Sex is created exclusively for within marriage, and marriage is only between a man and a woman, their union reflecting the image of God. Does the Bible dwell on the issue, especially since parts of it were written in the Greek world, full of bisexuality? No, it does not. Homosexuality is simply one of the many fruit deriving from the root of sin, bound up in the heart of every person. Instead, the Bible focuses on its alternative. It encourages sexual expression in the context of a faithful marriage, and it exalts celibacy for those who cannot, or choose not, to marry (1 Corinthians 7:8-9). Both are honourable lifestyles. There is no third way.
(Note that this post does not refer to how we should treat others, whatever their lifestyle, just specifically what the bible says about it)