Sexual Orientation & What the Bible Says
What the Bible Says…
To start with, it is important to note that there is no word “homosexual” in the original languages that the Bible was written in and therefore, the original transcripts that are available (Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic). This word has been added in through mistranslation over time.
It is very important that when we read the bible, we understand that we all look through “tainted lenses” concerning this issue, because we come to the Bible with preconceived ideas before we even start interpretation.
1) Does God love me as a gay or lesbian person?
Absolutely! As Apostle Deborah says, “Christ came to change our hearts, not our fingerprints!”
The Bible says in John 3:16 that God so loved the world, that whoever would believe in God’s Son would receive eternal life. Nobody is excluded! The Bible also tells us that “there is now therefore no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
The Bible has never changed, but our interpretation of it changes over time, because the reality is that we live in a changing world.
Unfortunately, due to homophobia and misinterpretation / mistranslation of 6 Biblical texts, many, in ignorance, believe that it is a sin to be gay or lesbian.
2) Wasn’t Sodom destroyed because the inhabitants were gay?
In Genesis 19, two angels visit the city of Sodom. Lot urges them into accepting his hospitality, and they stay at his house for the night. Later that night, there is a gathering outside Lot’s house and they demand that the angels be brought out to face the mob, so that they may “know” or “have sex with” them (Hebrew word for “know” is “yada”). Lot and his household escape, and the town is destroyed.
If we are to believe that those who gathered around Lot’s house intended to have sexual relations with the angel, this was a case of utter and cruel attempted rape. Rape is not about sexual orientation, but about power and control. The people of Sodom wanted to show power over their enemies, these “foreigners”, in the way that they knew best.
Sodom had already been pre-ordained by God in Genesis 13:13 to be destroyed, so it was not simply because of this single act. However, this was one of many examples of Sodom’s greed and inhospitality. Scripture itself explains the sin of Sodom:
Here is the reason that Sodom was destroyed:
Ezekiel 16:49-50, NIV:
“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned: they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.”
Furthermore, if the people surrounding Lot’s house were all gay men, and Lot knew this, surely it would’ve been futile for him to offer his virgin daughters to them?
Lot would have at least had some reason to believe that the people of Sodom might accept his offer, since he was so desperate to protect the foreigners he’d let into his home.
It is completely unscriptural to conclude that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for being “gay cities”.
The story of Sodom does not approach homosexuality or sexual orientation, and certainly is not about God rejecting or wanting to destroy people because of it! Genesis 19 tells us of an angry mob that were clearly inhospitable and greedy! No Jewish scholars before the first century AD considered either of these stories from Genesis or Judges to be related to homosexuality – why should we?
3) Doesn’t Leviticus tell us that homosexuality is an abomination?
“You shall not lie with a male as those who lie with a female; it is an abomination.”
“If a man lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination and they shall surely be put to death.”
The book of Leviticus was written as a “rule book” for the priests of the Levi tribe. It was required in order for them to be legally holy (set apart) and thus showed that they were God’s people. Many laws prohibited them from imitating the rituals and sacrifices of their ex-captors, the Egyptians, and the Canaanites, who dwelled in the land they were going to (see Leviticus 18:30).
We can see here the reason for the prohibitions against this same-gender prohibition is that they are “abominations”. The Hebrew word used for this is “toevah”, and, in the books of the Torah, is broadly (mostly, but not always) used to refer to ritual idolatory. Should the authors have wanted to refer to an act that is evil within itself, even outside of religious or cultural grounds, they would have used the readily available Hebrew word, “zimah”, which designates a moral offense (as in Leviticus 19:29).
The prohibition is held within the context of Leviticus 18:21-24 where it speaks about not sacrificing to Molech. Molech was one of the Canaanite fertility gods. People profaned the name of God by worshiping their gods via sexual acts dedicated to these false gods, performed by the male temple prostitutes (verse 22) and they performed ritual acts with animals in temples also dedicated to their gods (verse 23).
To be certain that the male-male acts prohibited in verse 22 are referring to the male cult prostitutes, let’s examine an important scriptural link. In verse 24 of this passage, it tells us that God is going to drive out the nations because they became defiled by performing the ritual acts (toevah) mentioned in preceding verses 21 to 23. Now, looking at 1 Kings 14:24 (referring to a later time) we read “There were even male shrine-prostitutes (qadeshim) in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices (toevah) of the nations that the Lord had driven out before the Israelites.”
If God had driven the people out of Israel because of homosexuality, God would not have specifically referred to male temple cult prostitution in the land in 1 Kings 14:24. The reason God drove them out was because of their temple prostitution in which they performed male-male acts, dedicated to their gods in idolatrous worship.
If we read Leviticus 18:24-30, we see that this cultic context of idolatrous worship continues to be the theme here! Remember, one of the most important concepts of interpretation: scripture interprets scripture – the Bible as a whole is giving us one big picture, and verses separated from their context and surrounding verses obscure much of their meaning and purpose.
The Rest of the Holiness Code
If we are still to confine ourselves to the laws in Leviticus, we must also pay heed to the laws of not eating shellfish, not shaving our beards and wearing clothing woven of two kinds of material. There is no point in preaching one of the laws if the rest of them are not going to be followed also. Leviticus 26:14-16 warns the followers of the old law of a great curse if they do not carry out all the commands of the law!
It seems unreasonable for us to hold all humanity to a single residing prohibition concerning males having sex with males in the context of a pagan ritual, which has no relevance to today’s acts of intimacy between two consenting adults in a loving, monogamous relationship.
4) What about the book of Romans, where it talks about men and women giving up the natural for the unnatural?
Romans 1:26-27 (NIV):
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones (para physin). 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Firstly, one must take into account the context and full passage of scripture. It is clear from the verses preceeding this text that these were not lovers of God, but people that didn’t glorify God or give God thanks. They also worshiped idols, including images of birds, reptiles and animals (Romans 1:21-23). This is a far cry from describing born again believers that are in a loving, committed homosexual relationship!
We must also grasp understanding of the term translated as “unnatural” in this passage. It is the greek term “para physin”, which means “that which is contrary to one’s intrinsic nature”. The people being referred to in this passage of scripture were likely to have mostly been heterosexuals engaged in acts of having sex with those of the same sex (completely against their own sexual orientation) in the context of ritual pagan worship.
It was common practice of pagan worshipers in Paul’s time to have mass-orgies with one another, as well as worshiping idols of birds, animals and reptiles. In the context of chapter 1, it is clear that Paul is addressing such ritual acts. This passage has nothing to do with describing gays or lesbians who love God!
5) What about Paul saying in the New Testament that homosexuals won’t inherit the kingdom of God?
1 Corinthians 6:9 (NIV):
“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 men who have sex with men…(arsenokoitai & malakoi)”
1 Timothy 1:9-10 (NIV):
“We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts (arsenokoitai), for slave traders and liars and perjurers–and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine…”
There are several places in scripture where Paul and his disciples list specific sins and sinners that will not inherit the kingdom of God. In two of these such “vice lists”, words have been used which many have used today to condemn homosexual people.
The concept of “sexual orientation” did not exist in the time of Paul’s writing so it is impossible that either of these words referred to “homosexuals”. Paul wrote to the people in Koine Greek, the communal Greek of the people of the time. These two words we shall examine are “arsenokoites” and “malakoi” (the latter only appearing in the first list). The simple and first truth to voice here is that nobody knows for sure what, or whom, these words mean or refer to exactly. To illustrate, let’s look at the wide differences in translation (and omission) in 1 Corinthians 6:9 among some of the versions used today:
• KJV: effeminate nor abusers of themselves with mankind
• NKJV: homosexuals nor sodomites
• RSV: homosexuals
• NIV: male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders
• Inclusive NT: hustlers and pederasts
This word appears only in 1 Cor 6:9 and in 1 Tim 1:10. Many believe Paul coined this term, as there is no written record of it existing before its use in these passages. It is derived from arsen (male or man) and kemai (to lie outstretched), which would transliterally render as “male bedder”; perhaps a man that is sexually loose or a “gigolo” in today’s terms.
Strong’s concordance defines it as “a sodomite: abuser of (that defile) self with mankind”.
However, the word “sodomite” more accurately represents a male temple prostitute. Even well into the first 100 years of the Christian era, people still participated in fertility worship to their gods and goddesses by means of sexual orgies. As cultic sex worship began to die, so too would the known colloquial meaning of “arsenokoites” have faded.
St Jerome rendered this word as “masculorum concubitores” in the official Latin Vulgate version of the Bible. St Jerome, who existed closer to Paul’s time than we do, certainly would’ve had a better understanding of its meaning. We could translate his wording to “the male prostitutor of men”, which is one of the types of homosexual acts Paul would’ve been familiar with.
Strong’s Concordance reads “malakos” (singular form) as “of uncertain affin,; soft, i.e. fine (clothing); fig. a catamite:–effeminate, soft”. This word’s literal translation would be a “softie”, and it is hard for us to determine meaning from the context here, especially since it’s in a list. It could easily have been translated as malleable (Latin “molles”), lazy, morally weak (in a sexual or general sense), cowardly, sickly or lacking self-control, none of which have any homosexual connotation. Back in ancient patriarchal society, the word “effeminate” would categorically sum up character traits such as these and explain its appearance in the King James Version.
St Jerome, once again closer to the era, translated the Old Testament “qadeshim”, or male cult prostitutes, as “effeminati”. He understood these people not to be effeminate, but people that wore female clothing in order to serve as transvestite male temple cult prostitutes, throughout Canaanite, Greek and Roman religions (they tried to transcend gender, imitating their gods and goddesses). This could also possibly help explain the use of “effeminate” in the King James Version.
Elsewhere in the Bible, this word has been translated as soft or fine (referring to clothing) in Matt 11:8 and Luke 7:25, and physical infirmity (malady) in Matt 4:23, 9:35 and 10:1.
Neither of these terms can be justified as referring to condemning homosexual orientation or a committed relationship between to people of the same sex! Nobody can truly identify with absolute certainty what “arsenokoites” meant in Paul’s day, and the meaning of “malakoi” is vague and one merely has to look at the many interesting translations and renderings of these words in contemporary Bibles to see there is a lot of confusion with these words’ definitions.
If Paul, being a well-learned Greek scholar, wanted to refer to all homosexual acts, he would’ve used more appropriate terms that were available to him at the time of his writing. These later translations applied are not from historical findings but from shifts in sexual ideology. The word “homosexual” simply did not exist in Paul’s time and has only been around since the last century.
Lastly, know that God created you just the way you are! Christ’s love is for ALL people.
Psalm 139:13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. (14)I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Reconciling our Faith & Sexual Orientation
Audio Podcast of Apostle Deborah Bell’s Series
Take a listen to this series with Apostle Deborah systematically exploring the reality of homophobia and delving into the scriptures to see what the Bible really has to say. This is good news for ALL people, including LGBT Christians!
PDF Documents on LGBTQ Sexual Orientation
Peruse these informative and concise documents, courtesy of Soulforce, provided free of charge.
What the Bible Says – And Doesn’t Say – About Homosexuality (Dr Mel White)