A human sexuality and progressive Christian viewpoint:
Human sexuality researchers and others who have studied the nature of sexual orientation might reject Paul's belief that homosexuality is beyond the normal. Many religious liberals reject Paul's condemnation of homosexual behavior, particularly when Paul's support for the oppression of women, and his acceptance of slavery as a normal social practice in (Philemon 1:15 to 16) are considered. They might feel that this passage in 1 Romans should be rejected as immoral and outside the will of God, much as other biblical passages are immoral by today's ethical standards and should be ignored -- including those passages that regulated human slavery, required some hookers to be burned alive, advocated genocide, required victims of rape to marry their rapist, allowed the torture of prisoners, and required the execution of non-virgin brides
Interpretation by the Archbishop of Canterbury:
Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion talked to theology students at the University of Toronto in Canada in 2007-APR. He discussed the use that conservative Christians have made of biblical passages to condemn homosexuality. He concentrated on Romans 1. He said that this passage was intended to warn Christians to not be self-righteous when they see others fall into sin. He said:
However, right after that passage, Paul warns readers not to condemn others:
Or as Williams rendered the passage:
Williams said that Romans 1 favors neither side in the debate over equal treatment of gays and lesbians in the Anglican Communion:
He concluded: "This does nothing to settle the exegetical questions fiercely debated at the moment" in the Anglican Communion. 7
The passage is unrelated to homosexuality:
The complete passage describes how a group of Christians left the church, converted to Paganism, and engaged in orgiastic, presumably heterosexual sexual activities. This type of behavior was common among Pagan fertility religions in Rome during Paul's time. Paul writes that, later, God "gave them over" to something new: homosexual behavior. This implies that they had a heterosexual orientation and had engaged only in heterosexual sex throughout their lifetime. God influenced them in some way to engage in homosexual orgies. This was, for them, an unnatural, and thus sinful, activity.
Paul criticized them because they were engaged
in sexual activity which was unnatural for them. For a person with a
heterosexual orientation, homosexual behavior is "shameful,"
"unnatural," "indecent," and a "perversion."
The passage in Romans is not a condemnation of homosexual
behavior. Rather, it disapproves of sexual behavior that is against a
person's basic nature (i.e. homosexual behaviors by people whose orientation
is heterosexual). 2
As C. Ann Shepherd
writes: "When the scripture is understood correctly, it seems to
imply that it would be unnatural for heterosexuals to live as
homosexuals, and for homosexuals to live as heterosexuals." 3
The passage is not related to permanent, loving, committed same-sex relationships:
Some question whether the word "perversion" in Verse 27, and "such things" in Verse 30 are related to only certain types of gay and lesbian behavior. e.g.:
These probably were the only forms of same-sex activity that Paul was familiar with. Paul may well have not been thinking of gays and lesbians in committed relationships when he wrote this passage. He never referred to such couples in his writings, and may well have never encountered any during his lifetime. He might simply have been condemning homosexual orgies and other sexual activities outside of a monogamous same-sex relationship.
The passage's homosexual implications of minor importance:
Many English translations render the end of Verse 27 as "due penalty of their error." Their basic error was not homosexuality. It was for former Pagans who converted to Pauline Christianity to leave the faith, return to Paganism, and engage in idolatry. That is the main theme of the argument. From the idolatry flowed sexual orgies, sexual behavior against their nature, wickedness, greed, murder, etc. The intent of the passage is to show how idolatry leads to complete degeneration of their behavior: to evil, envy, treachery, spite, gossiping, etc. The reference to what was, for them, unnatural homosexual behavior seems almost incidental, to the story. It was merely one symptom of the results of Pagan idolatry.
Arland J. Hultgren writes:
Passage refers to bisexuals not homosexuals:
In Greek and Roman society of the time, bisexuality was regarded as quite natural; people in some walks of society were expected to engage in sexual activity with persons of both genders. Since most of them were heterosexual, bisexual activity would be against their personal nature. Romans 1 discusses such individuals first engaging in opposite-sex orgies, and then migrating to same-sex orgies. That is, by engaging in both opposite-sex and same-sex behavior, they were attempting to behave as bisexuals; this would be against their heterosexual nature.
The Apostolic Restoration Mission, a Pentecostal organization, states
Additional interpretations of Romans 1 are listed elsewhere on this web site.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Copyright © 1996 to 2013 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
This page translator works on Firefox,