About the biblical story of Sodom & Gomorrah in Genesis 19
Who are today's Sodomites?
Various Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups interpret Bible passages in totally different ways, and reach
mutually exclusive conclusions:
Religious conservatives: Many believe that the story of Sodom
and Gomorrah in Genesis 19, like
passages elsewhere in the Bible, refers to homosexuality as a forbidden, detestable practice
deserving of the most serious punishment -- not only death to those
attempting the homosexual act but also a mini-genocide of the entire
cities of Sodom and Gomorrah including adults, youths, children, and
infants. God created the institution of heterosexual
marriage as the only valid relationship for humans within which sexual activity
can be performed without
Liberal Christians: Many believe that texts in
Genesis and the rest of the Bible make it clear that Sodom was punished
because of the violent, abusive, inhospitable, greedy, and unsympathetic
behavior of its citizens towards visitors, widows, the poor and other
disadvantaged persons. Liberals often interpret Genesis 19 as condemning homosexual rape simply
because it is rape. It would then be consistent with passages like Deuteronomy
22:25-29 which condemns heterosexual rape.
Genesis 19 does not impact
on consensual homosexual activities between consenting
adults, and is totally unrelated to loving, committed, same-sex
relationships, civil unions and marriages.
Most religious liberals are are faced with the inescapable and rather surprising conclusion that the
condemned activities in Sodom probably had nothing to do with sodomy -- i.e.
anal sex. As one Christian editor
wrote: "To suggest that Sodom and Gomorrah is about homosexual sex is an analysis of
about as much worth as suggesting that the story of Jonah and the whale is a treatise on
There is ironic aspect to this passage that is rarely
discussed: To judge by other biblical references to Sodom, God seems to condemn the citizens for insensitive treatment and
harassment of others. But, this is the very passage that many conservative and
some mainline Christian faith groups use to verbally attack gays and lesbians.
The real story of Sodom may well have involved a mob who mistook the angels
for ordinary humans. Driven by fear, suspicion, and/or
hatred there intent was to humiliate, by rape, what they assumed were strange
people visiting their city. The
Sodom situation has many parallels to gay-bashing today, with
homophobes trying to assault gay and lesbian strangers. 4
Who, exactly, are today's sodomites?
To most religious and social conservatives, the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was
homosexuality -- specifically men who wanted to engage in sexual behavior with
other men. The term is widely used in conservative Christian circles as a
derogatory term. In some cases, conservative Christians have even proposed the
death penalty for "sodomites." Jim Rudd, a commentator who writes for The
Covenant News, suggested in an article titled "Put Homosexuals to the
"The word of God commands that sodomites are to be executed, and God
gives our civil officials the sword to do the job. Until our civil officials
turn from their wicked way by administering Justice, we can only be judged
with the most depraved pagan nations in history." 11
However, there is another definition for "sodomite"
that is being occasionally used by religious liberals and others. They interpret
Genesis 19 and other biblical references to the city of Sodom as teaching that
the true sin of the people of Sodom was maltreatment, rejection and lack of
caring for the oppressed, exposed, poor and sick. The people of Sodom are
criticized through the Bible for their treatment of strangers, widows, children,
the poor, etc. If we consider homosexuals to be oppressed, then perhaps the term
"sodomite" can legitimately be used to refer to their oppressors -- some
religious and social conservatives.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Fred Tasker, "What does the Bible say about homosexuality?",
Philadelphia Inquirer, 1997-JUL-13. The article was based on an earlier survey of
religions opinion of 6 theologians and religious leaders covering the range from
conservative to liberal thought:
David Bartlett, professor at Yale Divinity School
Rev. Timothy Crater of the National Association of Evangelicals
Reuven Kimelman, professor of near Eastern and Judaic studies at
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Seminary
The Rev. Jill Nelson, pastor of the Sunshine Cathedral Metropolitan Community Church
Krister Stendahl, ex-dean of Harvard Divinity School.
Father Basil Isaacs, "Proofx booklet", Fountain of Life Western
Orthodox Church Catholic Mission. Available for $2.50 from 1928 E. Highland, Suite
F104-142, Phoenix, AZ 85016.
We refer to "the author of Jude" rather than use his name. This is
because there is no consensus on the identity of the author. Conservative
Christian theologians generally believe that the book was written by Jude, a
brother of Jesus circa 67 to 73 CE. Liberal theologians generally believe that
the author is unknown, and that the book was written some time after 100 CE.