June is celebrated as Pride month within The LGBTQ+ community, and if you are interested in how you, if you are a Christian, can view Pride, read the article on Premier Christianity: https://www.premierchristianity.com/opinion/as-a-gay-christian-heres-how-im-marking-pride/4398.article
David Bennett and I take slightly differing views in our applications of our respective theological approaches, and over the next couple of Blogs it will become clearer why I take this slightly different line – though some of what I have said previously, will give some clues. The various media outlets of Premier (in the above link), tend to try to cover the issues, without being too inflammatory, but when push comes to shove, to me at least, the bias still seems to doff the cap to the ‘traditional’ church narrative, which is frustrating, so David’s article is very welcome.
Having fully explored the Old Testament “Clobber” passages we now need to turn our attention to the New Testament. Roman Catholic, religious right wing and evangelical Christianity view the LGBTQ+ community as being guilty of serious sin, or moral failings, so it’s perhaps strange that the first time we come across a passage that can potentially be quoted against the community is in the book of Romans. None of the Gospel writers say anything. In fact, far more pointedly, Jesus says nothing against those who are LGBTQ+, even though, at the time, there would have been those we would identify as falling within our LGBTQ+ definitions. The difference is that, at the time of Jesus, they are likely to have been married, because that was the cultural expectation of the time.
We come at this with a 21st century worldview and culture, so it’s difficult to be objective. Some would want to argue that marriage was obviously a good thing that the same thing should happen today. Really? Marriages in the time when the Bible was being written were arranged. Couples were frequently pledged to be married from pre-teen years – it having been arranged by their parents. They would marry anytime from 12/13years old and onwards. Today, LGBTQ folk talk about knowing they were different from around 8±yrs old, so in those days, they would sometimes have known who they would later marry from around this same period. Wives were frequently objects, not partners, with very few real legal rights. If her husband died early, she was likely to have been left destitute. We see this sometimes today, in the Third World. Marrying for love was rare. Healthcare as we know it, was non‑existent, and childbirth, dangerous. Romans kept mistresses so they could have sex, because the duty of the wife was to bear and raise children. The mistress therefore took the greater risk, so the wife was protected to a degree. Sex was for procreation rather than for fun. So, don’t look on those days as being some sort of Edenic idyll. They had their social problems, just as we have ours.
Just now I mentioned that widows could easily be left destitute following an early death of a husband. To illustrate this, as an occupied country, there were several uprisings against the Romans, and life was cheap, with many being killed in Romanic crackdowns. In my last blog I mentioned that Jesus called an anti-Roman freedom fighter to be his disciple (Simon the Zealot). In the revolt that occurred sometime around 6 or 4BC (sources seem to differ – but this would have been around the time of Jesus’ birth or when he was an infant) the town of Sepphoris, which was the capital of the Galilee area, was attacked. Once the revolt was quelled, the Romans crucified 2,000 people on crosses lining the roads around Sepphoris. This would have left a lasting effect on the areas around Galilee. (A comparison in today’s terms: remember the lasting scars of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, still felt today.) As I read around this subject, I found that Sepphoris was only 4miles from Nazareth and, during the life of Jesus, the Romans did a lot of construction work, to repair the damage done to the town in the revolt. Hence, it is entirely likely that as Joseph and Jesus were jobbing builders (the Bible uses the term “Tekton” – Greek for construction worker), they may have both worked there, since there was so much work being done. It also makes me wonder whether it was because work in Sepphoris was becoming plentiful, that Joseph had chosen to live in Nazereth (Matt 2: 22-23) on their return from Egypt when Jesus was young. I’m not sure whether Jesus’ family would have personally seen the rebellion and the crucifixions, but, without doubt, they would have known all about it!
That was an unplanned detour! However, before we look at Romans, I want to pick up where I left off last time, with that story of Jesus healing the Centurion’s servant in Matthew 8: 5-13. I won’t go into too much detail here, as I look at it more thoroughly in the chapter coming out with the blog. However, there is some circumstantial evidence that the servant in the story may have been a pederastic partner of the Centurion. This is because of the words Matthew used to describe the servant. I understand the word he uses is ‘pais’ which is strange because that word implies a sexual component to the relationship. I cannot read New Testament Greek, so I am relying on others who can! If he had been the son of the Centurion, or a typical male slave, other words would/should have been used. Our word pederasty comes from this word “pais”.
On the other hand, when Luke tells the story (Luke 7: 2-10) he just talks about the servant as being “highly valued” or “precious”. Hence, I don’t want to make too big an issue of this, but it is certainly an interesting story, and those words Luke uses might include an element of euphamism. If Matthew is correct, it is fascinating that Jesus doesn’t use this opportunity to teach about what sexual practices are acceptable, or not acceptable. It would make sense to us but may have been utterly irrelevant to them.
However, Matthew and Luke were writing to different audiences – Matthew to a Jewish audience and Luke to the Greeks. So perhaps Luke was telling a different story: that of a strange crossover of cultures, where an enemy Roman, but in this instance, one who was surprisingly sympathetic to Judaism, was supporting and paying for the building of a Jewish synagogue. In addition, this strange Roman was showing a faith in Jesus that few native Jews had done to this point! This was important because it showed that Jesus saw Gentiles had a role to play in His Kingdom, not just the Jews.
Now, turning to the Romans passage, the frequent focus has been on chapter 1 verses 26-27, but to focus on those verses without looking at the context gives a totally wrong and dishonest impression of what Paul is saying. To have any integrity you need to start reading much earlier, so I would start at verse 18 and continue to verse 32 to fully understand the context. I also believe you must ask the basic questions:
- Who was Paul talking about?
- What was the issue he was primarily addressing?
Verses 21 and 32 imply that these were people who used to know and recognise God, but who had now fully embraced paganistic rituals and idolatry. It is utterly ridiculous and illogical to say these verses address the gay community. Look at them. There is a chain of causes and effects: although they knew God, they rejected him –> their thinking became futile, and their hearts were darkened –> they became fools –> they worshipped sticks and stones looking like humans, animals, birds, and reptiles –> God washes his hands of them –> they indulged in orgies.
As a result, they were “29… filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.” NIV
How can you possibly read a description of the gay community into that? If you know a gay person, do they match that description? Of course not! There is nothing in this Biblical text to say that at the beginning these people were gay. No, these were typically normal people who had become infatuated with idol worship, probably fuelled with drink and drugs. And unbridled sex was just a part of it to such a degree, that they were having sex with whoever was around, both men and women. They were so alienated from God and any kind of moral compass, that they were, to use Pauls words, “filled with every kind of wickedness”.
Yes, same-sex activity was occurring, but that wasn’t homosexuality, just as the attempted homosexual rape we looked at last time in Judges, and previously at Sodom, wasn’t homosexuality.
The other two main New Testament passages I will take in one go because they are very similar. Both describe vices that prevent those practicing the vices from inheriting the kingdom of God. These vice lists can be found in 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 and 1 Timothy 1: 8-12. There seem to be three major issues with these verses:
- If you look through these vice lists it looks like every vice can be stopped at the choosing of the offender. Hence if you are a thief or a swindler, and you renounce it, and stop offending, you are no longer a thief or swindler. This is not true, or possible, for the someone who is gay. They may have no current partner, or they be abstemious from gay sex, but they are still gay. I have asthma, and there are times when my asthma doesn’t affect me, but I don’t stop being an asthmatic. It’s built into my body chemistry, just as being gay is built into the body chemistry of a gay man or woman. A gay or lesbian cannot choose to be straight, although they can choose to be celibate, which we will come to next time – but that is an entirely different issue.
Because being homosexual cannot be stopped, whereas all the others can, it convinces me that an incorrect word choice has been made, when the translation was being worked on.
Incidentally, 1 Corinthians 6: 11 frequently gets trotted out by those advocating gay conversion therapy, as a proof text to say that gays and lesbians can be healed, but this is a wrong application of the text. If the word homosexual has been wrongly used in the first instance, it is therefore the fruit of the poisoned tree to say lesbians and gays can change. If it is instead referring to sexual abuse, or exploitation of minors, that would be very different, because that can change.
- Once again, when you read through these vice lists, you can notice that each of the vices listed, results in harm to themselves/others and creates victims. For example, the adulterer harms the relationship with their spouse forever. Not just that, but their relationships with any children, (or other relatives and friends, who are forced to side with one person or the other) will be permanently, and usually, negatively affected. Alternatively, the prostitute, whether male or female, is not only regarded as an object that doesn’t matter but may be the victim of violence from their johns and pimps. You must also consider the long-term harm done to their families, including children brought up in that environment.
The homosexual does not create victims. They do not damage anyone. On the contrary they build up, comfort, help and support those who have been damaged. However, they are made victims because people, especially faith groups, sadly, reject and ostracise them. In my experience I have found that there is a far stronger bond and support between members of the LGBTQ+ community, than exists between members of most churches.
- The third issue is to do with the words that get translated into English as “homosexual”. These are the words malakoi and arsenokoitai, and there is huge debate about what these words truly mean. Malakoi generally gets viewed as meaning soft, and I understand that Jesus’ garments were described as being ‘malakoi’ when he was transfigured on the mountain. Malakoi sometimes gets translated as ‘effeminate’. However, we can’t just use that word, we need to understand what the original Greek truly meant, not simply use a word that fits our world-view. And in any case, just as ‘sodomy’ no longer means what it meant when the King James’ Version was published, so too, ‘effeminate’. Rather than get sucked into a detailed description of both words (the chapter released today deals with that in a bit more detail), let me just say here that no-one is certain exactly what these words mean, so, in view of the other evidence we have looked at over the last months, I believe we cannot, and must not, use these verses to batter those who are part of the gay community. As I understand it, arsenokoitai only featured in literature less than 100 times over 600 years, and where it was used, it always referred to money, and linked with exploitative or abusive sex between men – in fact probably between a man and a boy. To reiterate: this is not sex between two people of equal status in a caring relationship. So, as a result of my studies, I feel it is much safer to view it as some form of sexual exploitation, or abuse, or violence, especially towards children. These days we would probably also have kiddie-porn and human trafficking in mind and add it to the definition. If you are interested, you can read about the effects of human trafficking here, and make up your own mind: https://theexodusroad.com/causes-effects-of-human-trafficking/
To quote from my chapter 11, being released today:
“Among the early Greek-speaking Christian theologians who condemned homosexuality the words malakoi and arsenokoitai were never used. When John Chrysostom (347-407 A.D.) and other contemporaries preached against homosexuality, they’re not recorded as referring to these two passages, and likewise, when Clement of Alexandra preached on these passages, homosexuality was never mentioned (Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century by John Boswell, pages 335-353.)
From Anita Cadonau-Huseby in her essay on the Christian Gay website: https://resources.christiangays.com/07-i-corinthians-69-i-timothy-1-9-10-words-matter/#more-29885
I have mentioned a few times, that prior to 1946, the word ‘homosexuality’ wasn’t to be found in the Bible. As I have previously written, it was used by mistake, but not deliberately. So, if you haven’t viewed the material yet, please go to https://canyonwalkerconnections.com/forging-a-sacred-weapon-how-the-bible-became-anti-gay/ and read how this significant and important error occurred. To quote a section from that page:
In 1959, a young, gay seminary student named David wrote a letter to the head of the Revised Standard Version biblical translation team challenging the RSV’s use of the word “homosexual” in 1 Corinthians 6:9. David wrote: “I write… because of my deep concern for those who are wronged and slandered by the incorrect usage of this word. Since this is a Holy Book of Scripture sacred to the Christian, I am the more deeply concerned because well-meaning and sincere, but misinformed and misguided people may use this Revised Standard Version translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 as a sacred weapon, not in fact for the purification of the Church, but in fact for injustice against a defenseless minority group.” Dr. Luther Weigle, the Dean of Yale Divinity School and the head of the translation committee, wrote back to David and admitted that the RSV translation was wrong—leading to a change in a later version of the RSV to the more generic phrase “sexual perverts” rather than a specific condemnation of gay people. The letters between David and Dr. Weigle remained buried in the Yale Archives until Kathy Baldock and her colleague Ed Oxford found them in 2018.
This translation error has had serious repercussions because it has stigmatised a group of people, through no fault of their own, and it has caused many Christians, and churches, to behave in a totally un-Christlike way. In addition, other Bible translations took their lead from the RSV, and used the word ‘homosexual’, in their own later translations, exacerbating the damage.
People of faith show this by: simply ignoring, or turning their backs on people in the community, at one end of the spectrum, through parents making their gay children homeless, churches throwing LGBTQ+ attenders out of services, to vitriolic hate-speech at the other end of the spectrum (under the pretend guise of righteous anger at perceived sin). As a consequence, this seeming Biblical validation that being gay is against God’s created order, adds voracity to others outside the church, who see it as giving a green light for making violent attacks on the community.
The final “clobber” passage is to be found in Jude verse 7 where an expression, sarkos heteras is used. This is translated as ‘sexual immorality and perversion’ and some people like to read back into that, the word, ‘homosexuality’. There are no grounds for that. Interestingly our word ‘heterosexuality’ is derived from the word ‘heteras’. There is plenty of scope for ‘sexual immorality and perversion’ within a heterosexual context, but Jude seems to be addressing sexual acts with fallen angelic beings – however that works. That is so far outside my ability to deal with, that I’m not going to try!
Assuming sex with angelic beings is possible, it should really come under the description of ‘bestiality’, because sex with anything that is not human, is bestial. Once again you won’t be surprised that I tackle the verse in a slightly more detail in the chapter, but that is only because it is referring back to Sodom and Gomorrah. This is the only passage in the Bible that points to a sexual element as the reason for God’s judgement on Sodom, but as it was written so long afterwards, and runs counter to all the other Biblical authors, and additionally, borrows from pseudegraphical books I cannot give it much weight. (Pseudegraphical books were books that were written between 200 BC to AD 300 and made to look like scripture. These are not recognised as scriptural canon because of their false claims – and in all likelihood, much of their contents may be false – ‘fake news’ as someone once said! You can find out more at: https://www.gotquestions.org/pseudepigrapha.html or https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-apocrypha-and-pseudepigrapha and a more detailed page at https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/apocrypha-and-pseudepigrapha)
With that, the theological heavy lifting is complete and in the remaining chapters I work through some of the ramifications that follow my conclusion that scripture cannot, and must not, be used to beat up on LGBTQ+ people. So, next time we’ll look at the issue of celibacy. This has been an issue because Christians have weaponized that as well: “we all know homosexuality is wrong, so if you want to play a part in the life of this church, you need to be celibate”. And we know how well celibacy worked out for the Catholic church!
I always enjoy receiving helpful comments. Do you agree with my stance? How do we differ? What do you think? Have I missed something? Do you have information I haven’t referred to here or in the essay? We all have different backgrounds and different ways of understanding, and different influences. You can use the Contact page or email me on: email@example.com