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The Bible and homosexuality

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The Bible and homosexuality is a subject that influences how homosexuality and homosexual sex are regarded in societies where Judeo-Christian tradition has made a strong impact.citation needed

The Bible is considered by believers to be inspired by God and to record God's relationship with humanity and in particular, with the nation of Israel.citation needed Conservative Christianity sees the original texts of the Bible as inerrant, or at least infallible, and being the literal word of God, although many critics point out that translations exist which somewhat differ due to manuscript sources, and interpretations.[1] Likewise, Orthodox Judaism sees the Torah as the literal word of God and infallible to error.

The understanding of some Biblical interpreters is summarised by David Hilborn (2002, p. 1) who argues: "It must be granted that direct references to homosexual activity in the Bible are relatively few. However, these more explicit texts belong to a much broader Biblical discourse on creation, love, holiness and human relationships - a discourse which goes to the heart of God’s purpose for humankind".citation needed Additionally, within Christian groups such as Roman Catholicism these passages have traditionally been interpreted in light of other accepted revealed sources, such as the revelations to the mystic-saints, which often do contain more explicit and detailed descriptions clarifying the matter (e.g., St. Hildegard von Bingen's visions in Scivias). Protestant denominations generally do not make use of such sources.citation needed

Traditionally, Jewish and Christian scholars have interpreted these biblical passages as forbidding all forms of homosexual activity. However, some recent writers have argued that these passages refer to other forms of sexual behavior between members of the same sex (sexual activity within a committed relationship, pagan rites, casual sex, pederasty, and same-sex rape, for example), and not to all types of homosexuality as a general category like heterosexuality.citation needed

Passages from the Hebrew Bible


A medieval copy of the Bible

The Hebrew Bible (called the Tanakh by Jews and the Old Testament by Christians) is widely regarded by both Jews and Christians as having been written directly or inspired by God. Orthodox and Conservative Judaism consider its laws and halakha as normative and binding whereas Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism do not.

For Christianity, it has been aserted that mainstream Christianity has always recognised the authority of many of the ethical commands of the Old Testament.[2] For example, Article 7 of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England says that Christians are still bound by the moral commandments, although not the ceremonial, ritual or civil laws.

Genesis 1 and 2: Creation

The first two chapters of the first book of the Bible, Genesis describe God's creation of the world and his creation of man and woman. In the King James version that for many centuries was the most common translation of the Bible in English, Genesis 1:27-28 states:

So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Genesis 19: Sodom and Gomorrah

The text

Genesis chapters 18 and 19 are concerned with the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by God. In the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the Hebrew of Genesis 19:4-8 is rendered as:

Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; and they called to Lot and said to him, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may meet them." But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him, and said, "Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly. "Now behold, I have two daughters who have not met men; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof."
The meaning of yada

In Genesis 9:5 the Hebrew word "yada" translated "relations" in the NASB and most often "know" in the KJV and many other translations, occurs frequently in the Old Testament, and usually simply means to know someone or something in a non-sexual way. About a dozen times it is used as a euphemism for knowing someone sexually, as in Genesis 4:1, and Genesis 38:26.

Classic sources on Genesis 19 and homosexuality

Most Jewish views still regard the sins of Sodom to be "failing to practice hospitality", and even though same-sex activities are condemned most harshly in Leviticus, the opinion that Genesis 19 might refer to any other sexual act other than with Lot's daughters is alien to most ancient Jewish tradition, the culture that brought forth or was inspired by the Old Testament. See documentation at Sodomy.

The Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo (20 BC - 50 AD) described the inhabitants of Sodom in an extra-biblical account.

Questionable morality of Lot?

The story's morality, as a whole, has been called into question, not just specifically the debate concerning whether or not it condemns homosexuality.

Leviticus 18 and 20

These chapters of Leviticus form part of the Holiness code. Leviticus 18:22 says:

Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; it is an abomination.

and Leviticus 20:13 states:

If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

The Book of Ruth

This book concerns the love between Naomi and her widowed daughter-in-law, Ruth. Naomi's husband and her two sons die and Naomi tells her daughters-in-law to return to their homes:

At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye, but Ruth clung to her.
(Ruth 1:14; TNIV).

Instead of leaving Naomi, Ruth pledges to stay with her (Ruth 1:16-18). This relationship has therefore long been commended as an example of self-sacrificing love and close friendship (eg. Issues in Human Sexuality para. 2.7). However, some have interpreted this relationship as probably sexual in nature.

Books of Samuel: David and Jonathan

The account of the friendship between David and Jonathan was recorded favourably in the Books of Samuel (1 Samuel 18; 20; 2 Samuel 1) and although religious scholars have always interpreted it as referring to platonic, some secular writers have argued that it refers to sexual love.

Books of Kings

Both Books of Kings (1 Kings 14:24, 15:12, 22:46; 2 Kings 23:7), refer to historical intervals when kadeshim ("consecrated ones") rose to some prominence in the Holy Land, until purged by Jahwist revivalist kings such as Jehoshaphat and Josiah.

The kadeshim were connected in some way with the rituals of the Canaanite religion. The Hebrew Bible consistently parallels the female equivalent, a kedeshah, with zanah, the word for a common prostitute. This has led to the inference that there may have been a sexual element to the rituals. The King James version systematically translates the word as "sodomites", while the Revised Standard version renders it, "male cult prostitutes".

Elisha and the dead boy

In two parallel events in the Books of Kings, Elijah (1 Kings 17:1-24) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:8-37), respectively, bring a young boy back to life by stretching his arms or body over the boy. In 1 Kings, Elijah lays the dead boy on his bed and then:

he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the LORD, "LORD my God, let this boy's life return to him!" The LORD heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived.
(1 Kings 17:21-22; TNIV).

Passages from the New Testament

The attitude of Pauline and sola scriptura Christians to the Bible is based on 2 Timothy 3:16 (TNIV):

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.
Fundamentalists interpret this to mean that the bible is God's actual words and therefore not meant to be interpreted.


James the Just, whose judgment was adopted in the Apostolic Decree of Acts 15:19-29, c. 50 AD: "...we should write to them [Gentiles] to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood..." (NRSV)

Matthew 15; Mark 7: What defiles

In Matthew 15: 19-20 (KJV) Jesus is reported as saying:

For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual impurities, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

In Mark 7: 20-23 (KJV) it says:

And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, sexual impurities, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

Matthew 8; Luke 7: "pais"

This event is referred to in both Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 and tells of Jesus healing a centurion's servant.

Luke 7:2 (TNIV) says:

There a centurion's servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die.

The term translated from the Greek as "servant" is pais. This can be translated in a number of different ways including "child" (eg., Matthew 2:16; Lk 2:43, 8:51-54 where it refers to a girl), "son" (John 4:51), "servant" (Lk 15:26, Acts 4:25), or be unclear whether "son" or "servant" is meant (Acts 3:13, 3:26, 4:27, 4:30) (Marston 2003).

There are several instances in Ancient Greek literature of the term also having been used to denote a homosexual partner. For example, it is claimed that the connotation arises in the written work of individuals such as Thucydides (460-400 BC), Eupolis (446-411 BC), Aeschines (390-314 BC), Plato, Plutarch and Callimanchus (305-240 BC).

Romans 1

In the Epistle to the Romans 1:26-27 (EMTV), Paul writes

For this reason [idolatry] God gave them up to passions of dishonor; for even their females exchanged the natural use for that which is contrary to nature, and likewise also the males, having left the natural use of the female, were inflamed by their lust for one another, males with males, committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was fitting for their error.

This has been described as "the most important biblical reference for the homosexuality debate" (Hilborn 2002, p. 5). It is also the only apparent reference in the Bible to female homosexuality, though some maintain that this prohibition applies only to male homosexuals.[1] Hilborn (2002, p. 6) argues that in the wider passage (Romans 1:18-32) Paul writes that the "global scope of salvation history has been made manifest not only in ‘the gospel of God's Son’ (cf. v.9), but also in the very ‘creation of the world’ (v.20)." In common with many traditional commentators, Hilborn (2002, p.7) goes on to argue that condemnation of homosexual activity is derived from the "broad contours" of Paul's argument, in addition to the selective reading of individual words or phrases.

1 Corinthians 6; 1 Timothy 1

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (TNIV), Paul says:

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

The word translated as "practicing homosexuals" has challenged scholars for centuries, and has been alternately rendered as "abusers of themselves with mankind" (KJV), "sodomites" (YLT), or "men who practice homosexuality". The original term is very unusual, ἀρσενοκοίτης (arsenokoitēs), thought to mean "one who has sexual intercourse with a male" (Greek ἄῤῥην / ἄρσην [arrhēn / arsēn] "male"; κοίτην [koitēn] "sexual intercourse"), rather than the normal terms from the Greek culture. Within the Bible, it only occurs in this passage and in a similar list in 1 Timothy 1:9-10.

See also


  1. Augusta Free Press - ‎Oct 30, 2009‎ Christians hold the Bible to be the infallible Word of God and believe that Jesus was the Son of God who was sent to be the atonement of sin... Google News, retrieved November 23rd, 2009
  2. Issues in human sexuality, para. 2.24; see also Old Testament#Christian view of the Law


External links

Texts and definitions


This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at The Bible and homosexuality. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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