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We recommend that you read an essay giving background information before reading this essay.

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Topics covered in this essay about same-sex marriage (SSM):

Evaluation of lifestyle options:
  1. Celibacy
  2. Sexually active single
  3. Committed relationship

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Evaluation of option 1: Celibacy:

This is the first of three basic lifestyles open to homosexuals (and for that matter, for heterosexuals and homosexuals). The Bible contains a few references to celibacy:

bullet Genesis 2:18: God is recorded as saying: "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." As noted above, God created Adam and Eve as heterosexuals of different genders, so that they could support each other in a fulfilling, loving relationship, and procreate and fill the earth with humans. Currently, about 5% of humans become homosexual adults. Since gays and lesbians are equally capable of forming long-lasting, sexually active, supportive, loving relationships, one could infer that the intent of God is that they also should form this type of bond. That would imply that celibacy is not a good life style for a persons with either a heterosexual or homosexual orientation.
bullet Matthew 19:10-12: Jesus is recorded as promoting celibacy, but only for those who can handle it.
bullet 1 Corinthians 7:1-2, and 7:7-9: Paul writes that celibacy is a preferred choice over marriage. His opinion might have been influenced by his belief that the end of the world was coming in the immediate future. He gave heterosexual marriage is an option for those who would otherwise burn with sexual lust. He appears to have given no consideration to homosexual marriage. He was probably unaware of loving, committed homosexual relationships.
bullet 1 Timothy 4:1-3: Although this epistle states that it was written by Paul, liberal theologians generally believe that 1 and 2 Timothy were written by unknown author(s), some 35 to 85 years after Paul's death. In this passage, the anonymous author condemns other branches of the Christian movement, probably Gnostic Christianity. He is critical of their beliefs and practices, including their requirement that their members remain celibate.
bullet Revelation 14:1-5: This passage discusses 144,000 singers during the end times, who seem to be given an elevated status because they are virgins who were "undefiled with women." They follow Jesus wherever he goes. "And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God." The implication is that sexual activity pollutes individuals. The anti-sexual message of Revelation seems out of sync with the rest of the Bible. But then, so is the portrayal of God as a wrathful, hateful, vindictive deity bent on revenge which is seen throughout the book. These may have been the themes in Revelation that caused Martin Luther to reject the book, and relegate it to the appendix (along with James) in his German translation of the Bible.

It would seem that the Bible's message is that most people are happiest in a loving, supportive, committed relationship. However, if a person can handle celibacy, then the Bible promotes it as an alternative and perhaps a preferred option.

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Evaluation of option 2: The sexually-active single:

The Hebrew Scriptures seem to have taken a very dim view of unmarried women who were sexually active:
bullet A seduced, engaged woman: Deuteronomy 22:23-24 states that if she engages in sexual behavior with a man who is other than her fiancé, she and the man would be stoned to death.
bullet Any woman pretending to be a virgin: Deuteronomy 22:13-21 requires that any women who had been presented as virgin brides, and could be proven to have engaged in intercourse before being engaged or married, would be stoned to death.
bullet Prostitutes: Leviticus 21:9 states that "the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore" shall be burned alive.

There do not seem to be any comparable sanctions against males in the Hebrew Scriptures, except:

bullet A man raping a woman: Deuteronomy 22:25 states that if the woman was engaged, that the rapist would be executed. If the woman was not engaged, he would only have to marry her and give 50 shekels of silver to her previous owner: her father.
bullet A man engaging in homosexual ritual sex in Pagan temples: Leviticus 20:13 calls for the death of both parties

Other passages from Hebrew Scriptures:


One of the Ten Commandments: Exodus 20:14 states: "Thou shalt not commit adultery." This passage is sometimes cited as a general condemnation of sexual activity by single people. However, it actually refers only to a man engaging in sexual intercourse with a woman who was either married or betrothed to another man.


Another Commandment: Exodus 20:17 says: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's." This might be interpreted as condemning sexual activity by singles with a man's sons and daughters. Coveting is often a prelude to sexual activity. A man's house, wife, slaves and children were generally considered to be his property.

Passages in the Christian Scriptures:

There are 32 verses in the Christian Scriptures that contain the word "pornea" in the original Greek. It is normally translated into English as "fornication."  It is derived from the Latin word fornix, which meant a vault, or an arch. "The term also referred to a vaulted cellar or similar place where prostitutes plied their trade." 5 According to the Strong's Concordance "pornea" means harlotry, including adultery and incest. 6 However, most conservative Christian churches have greatly expanded the English term "fornication." According to Christs Freedmen, it now includes sex before marriage, "orgies, masturbation, oral sex, fetishes, anything to do with pornography, 'improper' thoughts about the opposite sex, homosexuality, and just about any other sexual sin you could think of. While some of these things are sin...this is a gross misuse of the word fornication." 6

Even though many biblical references to fornication seem to discuss adultery, incest and idolatry, it would appear that some condemn sexual activities by single people.

The Bible appears to be strongly opposed to sexual activities by singles. There are a number of reasons why the Bible might have condemned type of behavior:

  1. It leads to the rapid spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Recall that in biblical times, there were no effective methods of preventing the transmission of STDs, as there are today.

  2. STD's can lead not only to sterility, but to death. In biblical times there were no effective treatments to cure STDs, as there are today.

  3. Sexual activity by the vast majority of singles -- the heterosexuals in the society -- will often lead to pregnancy, childbirth, and single parenthood. Optimum raising of children in most cases requires two parents.

  4. Sexual activity on the part of single women lowered their value to their owners -- their fathers.

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Evaluation of option 3: Committed relationship:

As described elsewhere, the Bible is silent about loving, committed homosexual  relationships.  In 1st century Palestine, the only same-sex behavior of which Paul was most likely familiar with were orgies in Pagan temples, and sexual molestation of children and youth (often slaves) by abusive male pedophiles.  In 1 Corinthians 7:2, he wrote: "Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband." (KJV). Those are fine alternatives to celibacy for a heterosexual man and woman. However, they were not applicable for gays and lesbians. So, we have to infer from passages on other topics what our belief and practice should be about committed, same-sex relationships.


Genesis 2:18 describes God as saying: It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." This would seem to imply that humans should form loving, permanent relationships. For heterosexuals, this would be limited to partners of the opposite gender; for homosexuals, this would be limited to spouses of the same gender.


The Bible:

Does not condemn sexual activity within a heterosexual committed relationship, even when it is abusive and involves rape.


Is silent on SSM


Does condemn certain forms of abusive, blasphemous, and non-consensual behavior, whether same-sex or opposite sex. Specific passages involving these same-sex behaviors condemn rape, sex in Pagan rituals, and prostitution.

bullet Paul wrote about heterosexual ex-Christian men and women who went against their basic nature and engaging in same-sex Pagan orgies. See Romans 1:26. One could argue that this passage would also prohibit homosexual men and women from violating their basic nature and engaging in heterosexual sex.
bullet The Bible contains many passages proclaiming the beauty of sex within a loving, committed relationship. Most dramatic of these is the of Song of Solomon. The Bible is silent on similar same-sex committed relationships, probably because they were not known to exist by the authors of the Bible.

The first two chapters of Genesis stress that Adam and Eve and the other life forms on earth were to be fruitful and multiply. In this way, the world would be filled with life. That theme would seem to condemn same-sex relationships, because they would not have produced children, in ancient times. However, it is doubtful that this argument is still applicable today. One of today's most serious problems is overpopulation. The world cannot supply its current population with a decent standard of living. Couples having a high birth rate is no longer an advantage; it is over-stressing the environment.


There are many types of formal relationships described in the Bible, apparently without condemnation: the standard nuclear family, polygamous marriage, levirate marriage, A threesome involving a man, woman and slave, marriages involving concubines, a male soldier and a female prisoner of war, a male rapist and his victim, and a forced marriage between slaves. It would seem reasonable that if all of these forms of marriage were acceptable to the writers of the Bible -- even though some of them involved rape and abuse -- then a non-abusive, loving, homosexual committed relationship would also be acceptable.


The benefits of encouraging gays and lesbians to marry or form other committed relationships can be observed today, in the form of increased quality of life, reduced promiscuity, and social stability -- exactly the benefits reaped by heterosexual marriages.


Many religious liberals feel that the freedom to marry the person that they love should not be restricted on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other genetically determined factor.

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Copyright © 2002 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-JUL-1
Latest update: 2002-MAY-4
Author: B.A. Robinson

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