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Passages in Genesis that may relate to homosexuality

Adam, Eve, Noah and opposite-sex marriage

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Quotation:

bullet"God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve," Anon.

Genesis 2:18-22:

God decided that Adam needed a "helper." Some translations use the term "companion," "helpmate" or "partner" here. God marched all of the animals past Adam, looking for a suitable helper, but none was found. So God put Adam to sleep, removed one of his ribs and created Eve from the bone. Although this implies a cloning operation, it obviously was not, because Adam, being a male, had XY sex chromosomes; Eve was a female with XX chromosomes.

Typical interpretation:

bulletConservative Christians:  God created Eve to be Adam's wife. He made a woman to be the companion of Adam, a male. This indicates God's intent for humanity: that men and women are to pair off, and form permanent, heterosexual relationships.

bullet Liberal Christians: If either Adam or Eve were homosexual, the human race would not have developed. Thus, God obviously needed to create both Adam and Eve as heterosexuals, so that they could be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth with humans, even though that required their children to commit incest.

God stated in Verse 18: "It is not good for the man to be alone" (NIV). This shows the importance that God gives to committed relationships. For a heterosexual, the only suitable companion is a person of the opposite gender. For a homosexual individual, the only suitable companion is a person of the same gender. To say that gays and lesbians should not form committed relationships is to say that it is good for people to remain alone. This is a direct contradiction of God's statement; it implies that God is a liar. More details

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Genesis 2:23-24:

"The man said, 'This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh'...For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh."

Typical interpretation:

  • Conservative Christians:  God created Adam and Eve to be heterosexual, expecting them to be fertile and to populate the world with humans. During the sexual act, their bodies unite, and symbolically rejoin as "one flesh." That is God's plan: for people of opposite genders to marry, raise children and have dominion over all the earth. Homosexual behavior is apart from God's plan, an attempt to distort and pervert what God intended from the beginning. If gays and lesbians cannot change (or do not wish to change) their sexual addiction, they must remain celibate in order to fit into God's planned intent for humanity.

  • Liberal Christians: The first creation story in the Bible is seen in Genesis 1:1 to 2:3. It describes that God's stated plan was for humanity to "Be fruitful and increase in number." (NIV, Genesis 1:28). The second creation story appears in Genesis 2:4 to 2:25. It states specifically that a man will unite with his wife. (NIV, Genesis 2:24).

    • The above texts refer only to males and females. But three additional intersexual genders exist. These are people who are neither male nor female, and thus not covered in the simplistic view of Genesis. Dr. Fausto-Sterling of the Division of Biology and Medicine at Brown University recognizes five biological groupings: male, merm, herm, ferm and female. 1 Approximately 3 to 10 million Americans are intersexual. Many are operated upon shortly after birth to make them appear like "normal" males or females.

    • A significant portion of the population is sterile and thus cannot be fruitful and multiply.

    • Some people, for any number of reasons, remain celibate throughout life and never marry or have children.

    • Some women marry when they are beyond child-bearing age and are unable to conceive and give birth.

    • Some people carry serious genetic defects and choose to not conceive in order to avoid creating a child who would have disastrous health problems.

    • Gays or lesbians are, by definition, not attracted to members of the opposite gender, and thus cannot form lasting opposite-sex relationships involving one man and one woman.

God's plan was for Adam and Eve to form a heterosexual relationship and have children. By implication, the plan expects the same behavior of at least some of Eve and Adam's descendants. But it would not necessarily apply to all individuals.

We are all God's children: male and female, black and white, lesbian, gay, bisexual and straight. Many of us, from all races, all genders and all sexual orientations, will want to form a committed sexual partnership with other person. Sexuality, in all its varieties, is a gift of God. It helps individuals of all sexual orientations to form partnerships with another person and become all that they are capable of becoming. The Genesis texts can thus refer only to a majority of individuals, not to everyone. It is a general plan for society, but not universally applicable to all.

Genesis 9:20-29:

This passage is rarely cited in connection with homosexuality. But there may possibly be a connection. The verses describe how Noah became intoxicated and lay naked in his tent. He had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japeth. Ham saw his father in the tent and apparently did some unspecified act, He told his two brothers. The Hebrew word for nakedness is here "ervah," which connotes a display of the genitals. Shem and Japeth then cover their father without looking at him. When Noah wakes up, he laid a verbal curse. It was not placed on Ham, the person responsible for the act. It was placed on Ham's son Canaan, and all of his descendants. He swore: "A curse upon the Canaanites...May they be the lowest of slaves."

Typical interpretation:

bullet Conservative Christians:  Some theologians interpret this passage to mean that Ham's descendants were cursed because Ham had observed his father naked. This would imply that nudity with a family is forbidden behavior. Others interpret it to mean that Ham ridiculed his father's nakedness and was being punished for his disrespect. That would be more in agreement with Exodus 21:15 and Leviticus 20:9 which calls for a son to be punished if he curses or shames his parent (the Hebrew word here has a dual meaning). Finally, Ham might have engaged in a sexual activity with his father.

bullet Liberal Christians: The behavior of Noah seems strange, for a number of reasons:

bulletBy delivering a verbal curse, he is engaging in evil sorcery, a form of black magic. This is condemned elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures (e.g. Exodus 22:18).

bulletThe passage contains three examples of a major theme found throughout the Bible: that it is OK to transfer sin and punishment from the guilty to the innocent In most of the world's ethical systems, people are not held responsible for events that happened before they were born, or for which they have no involement:
  1. To enslave an entire tribe of people forever because of the actions of one individual seems fundamentally unjust.

  2. Enslaving all of the future descendents of a tribe also appears unethical and is another example of sin transfer from the guilty to the innocent.

  3. If Ham committed a despicable act, it seems strange that he is not punished but that his son Canaan is harshly dealt with. It seems profoundly unjust to punish the innocent son for a crime committed by his father.

bulletVerse 24 mentions that "Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him" (NIV) The KJV translation is almost identical: "Noah...knew what his youngest son had done unto him." Some have speculated that this passage hints that Ham did a great deal more than simply catch a glimpse of his father's genitals; he must have engaged in some overt act. Perhaps he went into the tent and engaged in some form of sexual activity with his father. This would be a type of homosexual rape, since Noah was drunk and unable to consent to sex. Perhaps incestuous rape was the crime that Ham was guilty of and for which his son and other descendants were eternally punished.

This passage of the Bible was widely used to condone human slavery up to the 19th century. Africans were assumed to be descendents of Ham. Thus it was a biblical mandate to enslave them and treat them as sub-human. Modern-day Christians of all persuasions can probably agree that the sin of Ham is unrelated to human slavery, that slavery is a profound evil, and that this passage remains a mystery.

Conclusions:

Various Christian groups interpret Bible passages in totally different ways, and reach mutually exclusive conclusions. For example:

bulletConservative Christians:  God created the institution of heterosexual marriage as the only valid relationship for humans within which sexual activity is without sin. Homosexual activity, even if it is done within a committed, loving, relationship is outside of God's plan for humanity and is thus inherently sinful. Gays and lesbians are called by God to either change their sexual orientation or remain celibate.

bulletLiberal Christians: Sexual activity can certainly be sinful, when it is manipulative, unsafe, or not consensual. But if done within a committed heterosexual or homosexual relationship, it is not sinful. God said that it is not good for a man to be alone. Since a gay or lesbian can only develop a relationship with a person of the same gender, then it is obviously God's intention that they form such committed partnerships.

References:

  1. William O. Beeman, "What Are You: Male, Merm, Herm, Ferm or Female?", available at: http://www.buddybuddy.com/beeman-1.html
  2. M.D. Jordan, "The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology," The Chicago series on Sexuality, History and Society. University of Chicago Press, (1997). Read reviews and/or order this book from Amazon.com on-line bookstore.
  3. Inge Anderson, "Sins of Sodom," at: http://glow.cc/isa/sodom.htm
  4. R.S. Truluck, "The six Bible passages used to condemn homosexuals," at: http://www.truluck.com/html/six_bible_passages.html

Copyright © 1996 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-SEP-20
Author: B.A. Robinson.

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