Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Story So Far

It might be wise, at this point, to recap some of what I have been saying about the Bible and homosexuality.

First, the general revelation, i.e. reason and experience, has given us a new understanding of homosexuality. We now recognize that homosexuality is a normal variant of human sexual orientation. This new understanding was foreign to the thinking of the biblical writers.

Second, while the book of Leviticus prohibits same-sex acts, the prohibition applied only to the men of Israel (not to women, nor to Gentiles). The Levitical code is not a moral code but a purity code. It was intended to set Israel apart from other nations as the Lord’s people. Christians freely disregard most of the laws found in Leviticus.

Third, there are three passages of the New Testament that address same-sex acts. I’ve looked at two of them. The Greek word malakoi occurs at 1 Corinthians 6:9. It literally means “softs” and is, I think, approximately equivalent to the derogatory English term “sissies.” The word arsenokoitai (literally “man-beds”) is found in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. This word is notably difficult to translate, as 1 Corinthians is its first known occurrence. It is likely, though by no means certain, that both of these words describe practitioners of some homosexual act. Neither of them can legitimately be translated as “homosexuals” since the concept of homosexuality did not exist in biblical times. Nor can they be taken as a condemnation of same-sex marriage as that concept did not exist in biblical times either. This does not, of course, mean that the writers of the Bible would approve of same-sex marriage. Even had they shared our new understanding of homosexuality, we cannot say what they would have thought.

In my next post I will be looking at the last of the New Testament passages dealing with same-sex acts, Romans 1:18 ff.

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