Scriptures (New Testament)
About this essay:
There is a general agreement among the over 1,500 Christian denominations and
sects in North American about what the Bible says. But there is a wide
diversity of belief about what Bible passages meant when they were
written. There is also disagreement on which passages were only intended for
ancient Hebrews and early Christians during biblical times, and which are still valid today.
This essay gives a brief description of the "clobber" passages in
the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) that have been used to attack
homosexuals and homosexuality.
See a companion essay for the clobber
passages in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament)
In this essay, we briefly describe very conservative and very liberal
interpretations of these passages. It is important to realize that there are
many other belief systems about homosexuality that are
intermediate between these two liberal viewpoints.
Romans 1: Changing the natural use into that which
is against nature....
Romans 1:26-27:"For this cause
God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the
natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men,
leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another;
men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that
recompence of their error which was meet." (King James Version)
Paul directed this book to Christians in Rome -- a city known for its sexual
debauchery. Earlier verses in Romans 1 describe how some former Christians,
presumably all heterosexuals, had
reverted to Paganism. They once more worshiped idols, and engaged in ritual sex
orgies. God caused them to engage in same-sex sexual behavior. This is the only
passage in the Bible that directly refers to women having sex with other women.
In the first sentence of this passage:
In the original Greek, the phrase translated "vile affections" does not
refer to passion or lust. it appears to refer to
the "frenzied state of mind that many ancient mystery cults induced
in worshipers by means of wine, drugs and music." 1
The "women did change" (or "exchanged" or
"abandoned") their normal sexual activity, which had been with
a man or men. They engaged in sexual activities with members of the same
sex, in violation of their heterosexual orientation.
In the original Greek, the phrase "para physin" is often translated as
"against nature" or "unnatural" or "immoral." It actually means
"Deviating from the
ordinary order either in a good or a bad sense, as something that goes
beyond the ordinary realm of experience." 2
A common religiously
The late Bennett Sims, the former
Episcopal Church, USA bishop of Atlanta, GA was a supporter of equal rights for
gays and lesbians. During a talk that supported same-sex marriage, he expressed well the
interpretation of this passage that is held by many conservative
Christians. He said: "For most of us who seriously honor Scripture
these verses still stand as the capital New Testament text that
unequivocally prohibits homosexual behavior. More prohibitively, this
text has been taken to mean that even a same-sex inclination is
reprehensible, so that a type of humanity known as 'homosexual' has
steadily become the object of contempt and discrimination."
A. Mohler said: "The
passage makes it clear that homosexuality is ultimately a rebellion of
human nature against the divine creator. It deals with the heart of
homosexuality, the passion of man for man or woman for woman." 4
A common religiously liberal interpretation: It is important
to realize exactly to whom this passage refers. It involved some former
Christians who had converted back to Paganism and started worshiping
idols in the form of humans, animals, and birds. They engaged in wild
sexual orgies -- activity which was common in Pagan worship at the time.
Although their sexual orientation was presumably heterosexual, under the
influence of emotion, alcohol, frenzied activity, they engaged in
same-sex behavior: women had sex with other women; men with other men. In doing
so, they violated their own nature, which was heterosexual. They were in
turn punished, probably with an STD which was very common at the time.
They were being punished because their behavior was opposite to their
fundamental nature. The passage is a condemnation of men and women with
a heterosexual orientation engaging in same-sex behavior outside loving
committed relationships. It does not refer to persons with a homosexual
orientation. It does not refer to persons with any of the three sexual
orientations who were engaging in sex within a committed relationship.
By extension, this passage could be interpreted as forbidding
opposite-sex sexual behavior by persons with a homosexual orientation,
because it would be against their basic nature to have sex with a person
of the opposite sex.
1 Corinthians 6: Behaviors that will prevent a
person from attaining Heaven:
1 Corithians 6:9-10: "Know ye
not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived:
neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate [makakoi],
nor abusers of themselves with mankind [arsenokoitai] Nor thieves, nor
covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the
kingdom of God." (King James Version)
The New International Version translates the second highlighted group as
"homosexual offenders." In Today's English Version, it is "homosexual perverts."
There is an enormous range of interpretations that
biblical commentators have made of the word "arsenokoitai."
A common religiously
conservative interpretation: From a forum on homosexuality and the Bible
in the Philadelphia Inquirer: 4
A. Mohler: "I believe it explicitly relates to
homosexuality. It has been understood that way in the Christian Church
from the earliest era."
T. Crater: "It [malakoi] can have a meaning that's not
carnal. But the way it's used -- it's embedded in the same context with
adultery -- it's pretty clear what the meaning is...A hallmark of
Evangelicals is that we take a literal, normal, face-value
interpretation of the Bible. Some people attempt to keep some form of
Christianity and hold on to homosexuality, too. It leads to strange
interpretations of the Bible."
A common religiously
The Greek word "makakoi" does not actually mean effeminate. It can
refer to a range of behaviors: people with loose morals, cowards, lazy
The exact meaning of "arsenokoitai" has been lost. In one ancient
manuscript, the Hebrew "quadesh" (temple prostitute) is translated into
Greek as "arsenokoitai." Others suggest that it refers to gigolos; still
others suggest it means masturbators or men who sexually abuse boys.
Since we do not know to which behaviors this passage refers, it would not
be ethical to interpret as involving condemnation of homosexual behavior.
1 Timothy 1: "Arsenokiitai" are lawless,
1 Timothy 1:9-10: "Knowing this,
that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and
disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for
murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers,
for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars,
for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound
doctrine." (King James Version)
The King James Version translates "arsenokoitai" as those persons -- presumably men
-- "that defile themselves with mankind." The comments for 1 Corinthians
6 apply here as well.
Jude 1:7: "Even as Sodom and
Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to
fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example,
suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." (Emphasis ours)
The phrase rendered "going after strange flesh" has been translated as
"perverted sensuality," "unnatural
lust," "unnatural sex," "lust of men for other men." It
appears to refer to the incident in Genesis 19 when men of Sodom apparently
wanted to rape two angels who were in Lot's home. God responded with total
destruction of the two cities.
A common religiously
This verse is referring back to the story of
Gomorrah. The male mob in Sodom rejected the offer of two virgin women
for sexual purposes and demanded to have sex with the male angels instead.
This proves that they were all homosexuals. The passage clearly condemns
A common religiously
liberal interpretation: The verse is ambiguous. Two obvious
The intent of the mob was to
rape the angels. Rape is a clear perversion of God-given sexuality, whether the
crime is perpetrated on a person of the same sex or opposite sex.
The angels were created beings,
but were not of the same species as humans.
Raping them would involve bestiality. This would seem to match the
statement that the men of Sodom went after "strange flesh:" the rapists and
the rape victims were of different species.
A common conservative
conclusion: God's word repeatedly condemns same-sex
behavior, either between two men or two women. It delivers a consistent message from
Genesis to Jude.
A common liberal conclusion:
There is no passage in the Christian Scriptures that condemns same-sex committed
relationships or same-sex marriage.
condemns Christian apostates who apparently had a heterosexual
orientation and who engaged in what was for them unnatural sex: engaging in sex
with members of the same sex.
1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1 are
ambiguous. They might possibly relate to homosexual behavior; but they might
well refer to men who sexually abuse boys, or to male gigolos, or to male
temple prostitutes. We just don't know. If these passages actually referred to
persons with a homosexual orientation, they probably would not refer to loving,
consensual same-sex behavior in a committed relationship. Paul was writing before
the existence of a homosexual orientation was known. The only forms of
homosexual behavior of which he was probably aware would have been males
sexually abusing boys, and men engaging in same-sex orgies during Pagan
Jude 1:7 appears to refers to the desire by the men of Sodom to engage in
bestiality with another species -- angels. There is none of this going on in by
either homosexuals or heterosexuals today.
With the almost complete absence of dialogue between religious conservatives
and others on these topics, the massive gulf over homosexuality and the Bible --
and about the morality of same-sex sexual behavior -- will probably not be
resolved in the foreseeable future. One promising exception to the lack of
meaningful dialogue is a book by the North Como Presbyterian Church in
Roseville, MN in 2005. 5
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.
Included were R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist
Seminary and Jill Nelson, pastor of the Sunshine Cathedral Metropolitan