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Homosexual passages in the Bible

Part 2: More interpretations of Romans 1:26-27
by various theologians, writers
, & webmasters

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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Romans 2 interprets Romans 1, but is being largely ignored:

Jack Levison, author of the book: "Fresh Air: The Holy Spirit for an Inspired LIfe," wrote an appeal just before the 2012-NOV elections that legalized same-sex marriage in Maine, Maryland and Washington State, and defeated a constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage in Minnesota.

He writes:

"Only about seven references to homosexuality -- some as short as a single word -- occur in the Bible, and most of them are difficult to interpret and even tougher to apply to the contemporary world. Still, at the end of the day, it's usually one text to which most Christians hitch their star on the issue of same-sex marriage: the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans, where Paul condemns men who burn with lust for men and women who burn for women.

This text is a point of serious contention in the church, for good reason. It's filled with ambiguous words and inscrutable phrases. On the basis of this letter, opponents of same-sex marriage argue that all homosexual acts are "unnatural," immoral and sinful. Proponents of same-sex marriage argue that it would be "unnatural" for gays and lesbians to seek out straight relationships." 1

Levison suggests that Romans 2 contains vital information by which Romans 1 should be interpreted. Romans 2 introduces the theme that people must not stand in judgment towards others. Paul writes in Romans 2:1:

"Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the same things."

Levison suggests that:

  • In Romans 1, Paul is condemning the Pagan world of the Romans with their wild sexual behavior.

  • In Romans 2, Paul is condemning the Jewish world where others are condemned and judged harshly.

  • Romans 2 emphasizes that no matter which side a person is on, when a person is judgmental of others, that person is condemning themselves as well.

Levison concludes:

"When communities splinter over the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans, therefore, they miss the point. Paul penned this letter to make sure people of different backgrounds with divergent moral codes, both Jew and pagan, wouldn't split. Yet with our endless haggling, our eternal debates, our nonstop vitriol, we've transformed an ancient and urgent appeal for unity into a reason to divide, to argue, and to fracture community to the core. We've promulgated, in short, exactly what the letter was intended to prevent." 1

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Anita Cadonau-Huseby of Christian Gays discusses what Paul meant in Romans 1:

Cadonau-Huseby raises a number of points in her essay:

  • She suggests that when conservative Christians quote Romans 1:26-27 in isolation, they are "... engaging in the practice of proof-texting." This involves selecting a biblical passage in isolation to support a belief without regard for the context provided by the surrounding text as interpreted within the author's culture.

  • Paul's view was that the purpose of sex was procreation, and that it is supposed to involve a male dominating a submissive female. He wrote, in Greek, that any other sexual activity was "para physin" -- beyond the ordinary. Unfortunately, that phrase has been often mistranslated into English as "unnatural" or "perverted." In today's culture, what Paul would consider to be "para physin" would include a broad range of sexual activities that are considered quite normal, natural, and acceptable by most adults.

  • In the culture of Paul's time, sexual activity between two men would be interpreted as requiring one of them to lower his status to that of a woman. Obviously, this concept is not necessarily valid today when most beliefs about sexual behavior are based on equality between the sexes.

  • Paul viewed all passions as uncontrolled, negative, and dishonorable. 2

The actual nature of homosexual orientation was only begun to be understood by human sexuality researchers in the mid 1950s. There was little or no understanding of sexual orientation during the mid-1st century CE when Romans was written. As a result Paul attributed same-gender sexual attraction to punishment by God for prior idolatry. Today, most people attribute it to a homosexual or bisexual orientation.

If the experiences of a lesbian, gay or bisexual person (LGB) today were to be interpreted in terms of Paul's writing then:

  • They would have committed idolatry shortly before the first time that they experienced their sexual attractions to a member of the same sex.

  • They would be able to remember when their transition from a heterosexual to a homosexual orientation occurred.

  • They would be without faith and filled with hatred towards God.

  • Their relationship(s) would be based solely on lust, not love. 2

None of these experiences probably resonate with the vast majority of LGB persons.

Cadonau-Huseby concludes:

"While there's a clearly negative word here regarding homoeroticism, it's exclusively a punishment of God for idolaters in Paul's understanding and so remains an empty closet for those of us today who are gay and lesbian and continue to worship God and God alone." 3

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Jeramy Townsley interprets much of Romans 1 to be an attack on Pagan Goddess worship:

He concludes:

"The cumulative evidence suggests that Paul’s context for the entire pericope of Rom 1:18-32 is idolatry, and that Rom 1:26-27 is a reference to the gender and sex-variant practices of the goddess cults. 

Further, considering that at least four sources from the early church imply or state that 1:26b is a reference to heterogenitality, it seems that the tradition linking this verse to “lesbians” is dubious, thus problematizing the idea that in 1:26-27, Paul is describing the “category of homosexuality.” 

There is little reason to believe that Paul's intent in this passage is anything but an exhortation against the worship of non-Yahwist gods, and even less basis to infer the general content of Paul's beliefs about sexual orientations, specifically the use of this passage as a condemnation of contemporary queer relationships." 4

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The CreatedGay.com web site teaches that Romans 1 attacks idolatry:

The author writes that Romans 1:21-27:

"... is about idol worship. The context of the verses is not a discussion of the morality of homosexual relationships. The apostle Paul does not start the verses by saying, 'Men having sex with men is a sin.' He starts the passage by talking about people who refuse to worship God. The chain of events is that the people know God, but refuse to worship the True God. Then they make images of animals and worship those animals. As a result of their idol worship, God allows them to become express their worship of other gods by engaging in homosexual acts in temples built to glorify pagan gods.

Matthew Henry, a well-respected, conservative commentator, indicates that Romans 1:23 to 25 are the 'outward acts of idolatry.' A case can be made that verses 26 and 27, which mention same-gender sexual relationships are also outward acts of idolatry. This is supported by Matthew Henry's remarks about verses 26 and 27. He comments:

'Perhaps the apostle especially refers to the abominations that were committed in the worship of their idol-gods, in which the worst of uncleannesses were prescribed for the honour of their gods; dunghill service for dunghill gods.'

The Barnes commentary observes:

'On account of what had just been specified; to wit, that they did not glorify him as God, that they were unthankful, that they became polytheists and idolaters . . . He now proceeds to show its practical influences on their conduct.'

The worship of other gods resulted in evil conduct. The evil conduct Paul lists in verses 29 and 30 include fornication, covetousness, maliciousness, envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil and disobedient to parents.

The context of the verses is not a condemnation of homosexual relationships, but is a strong condemnation of worshipping other gods. From the context, we can see that this passage was used to show that those who worship other gods stand condemned before the Lord." 5

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Jack Levison, "Homosexuality and the Bible: An Election Day Appeal," Huffington Post, 2012-NOV-02, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  2. Anita Cadonau-Huseby, "Romans 1: Read the Whole Chapter Kiddo," Christian Gays, 2013, at: https://christiangays.com/
  3. Anita Cadonau-Huseby, "Romans 1: The Way Too Long Version," Christian Gays, 2013, at: https://christiangays.com/
  4. Jeramy Townsley, "Paul, the Goddess Religions and Queers: Romans 1:23-28," Jeramy's Web Space, 2002, at: http://www.jeramyt.org/
  5. "The Bible and Homosexuality: Romans, Chapter 1," CreatedGay.com, undated, at: http://www.createdgay.com/
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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2013-FEB-25
Latest update: 2013-FEB-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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