Allegedly anti-gay "clobber" passages in the Bible
A brief description of passages from
the Hebrew Scriptures (Old 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 Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) that have been used to attack
homosexuals and homosexuality.
|In this essay, we 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.|
Genesis 1: Be fruitful and multiply....
Genesis 1:27 & 28: "So
God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and
female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be
fruitful, and multiply, ..." King James Version.
|A common religiously
conservative interpretation: Moses recorded God as saying that he
created Adam and Eve in his own image as "male and female." Having
created them capable of procreation, God blessed
them and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. There is obviously a limit to the
number of children that Eve could give birth to. One might safely assume
that God's instruction to Adam and Eve were also binding to their children,
grandchildren, even down to the present generation. Thus, God intended each human to pair up with a member of the opposite sex, and to procreate.
There is no room in God's plan for same-sex marriage.|
|A common religiously liberal interpretation: The creation stories
in Genesis do not describe actual events and commands; they were copied and
Babylonian myths by an unknown ancient Hebrew priest. The injunction to
be fruitful and multiply may have had some validity in biblical times
when the ancient Hebrews were continually under attack by neighboring
tribes. However, today's world is overpopulated and is placing major strains
on the environment. The command can hardly
Throughout most of its history, the Christian church has rejected this
passage; it has valued celibacy as a higher calling than marriage.
God stated in Genesis 2:18: "It is not good for the man to be alone."
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 them to remain alone. This is a
direct contradiction of God's statement; it implies that God is a liar.
"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
|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).
One must interpret these sayings carefully. They obviously do not apply
to all people. For example:
|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
|Gays or lesbians are, by definition, not sexual attracted to members
of the opposite gender, and thus are most unlikely to be able to form
heterosexual relationships of one man, one woman.|
|Above all, they do not apply to most of the
other seven marriage and family types mentioned in the Bible.|
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 19: The story of Sodom and Gomorra:
This passage states that all of the
people from the city of Sodom gathered around Lot's house and demanded that he
send out two visiting angels so that the townspeople might "know" the
angels. The word "know" probably implies that they wanted to have sex with the
strangers. God later destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because
of the behavior of the people of Sodom -- the Sodomites.
|A common conservative interpretation:
Moses recorded God as destroying the city. R. Albert Mohler said:
"The Genesis passage is very
clear, that the sin of Sodom that brought on the destruction of the city was
indeed linked to homosexuality." 1
This is a popular passage often quoted in
conservative Churches because it so clearly condemns homosexual behavior.|
|A common liberal interpretation:
The sin of the men of Sodom
was to humiliate their visitors by engaging in "an act of sexual
degradation and male rape...These are acts of violence that are committed by
parties seeking to show their hatred for those they are degrading. It is not
an act of love or of caring" 2 The sin of Sodom was
the intent to commit of mass rape. Rape is a crime whether committed on a person
of the same-sex or opposite sex. It is a crime of power and control. Other biblical passages that mention
Sodom clearly indicate that Sodom was punished for being unkind to its poor,
widows, orphans, and strangers.|
Judges 19:14-29 appears to be a near exact copy
of Genesis 19, in which a Levite plays the role of the angels. The mob accepted
the offer of a woman to rape in place of the visitor. So, either the men in town
were bisexuals, or they wanted to rape the Levite in order to humiliate him. The
former is most unlikely, because male bisexuals are relatively rare. They total
only about 3% of all male adults. Again, men raping a man is a crime of power
and control. It has no connection with loving, same-sex behavior in a committed
same-sex relationship, just as a man raping a woman has no connection with
consensual opposite-sex behavior in a committed opposite-sex relationship.
Leviticus 18:22 in the King James
Version states: "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is
abomination." Leviticus 20:13 is similar,
except that it adds the death penalty as punishment.
Although the original Hebrew clearly refers to
male-male sexual activity, both the Living Bible and New Living Translation
refer to a prohibition of "homosexuality." This would include sex between two
women -- a behavior not mentioned anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures.
|A common conservative interpretation:
These verses clearly condemn sexual activity between two males. As such,
they are consistent with other passages discussed in this essay. No
exception is given for consensual sex between two men or for sex within a
loving same-sex relationship. All are an abomination to God.|
|A common liberal interpretation: The Hebrew word
"to'ebah" appears in both passages and is
generally translated as "abomination." Some religious liberals interpret
these passages as referring only to male Jews who engaged in same-sex
behavior in Pagan temples. The term would better be translated as "ritually
improper" or "involving foreign religious cult practice." Elsewhere in the
Hebrew Scriptures, the same word is used to ban wearing of clothing made up
from two materials (like cotton-polyester in today's world), or having a
tattoo, eating shrimp, eating pork, seeding lawns with a mixture of grass
types, etc. None of the passages invoking "T'ebah" are valid for non-Jews
Rev. Jill Nelson commented that
the passage "... is grounded in the old Jewish understanding that women
are less worthy than men. For a man to have sex with another man 'as with a
woman' insults the other man, because women are to be treated as property."
Deuteronomy 23:17 in the King James
Version states: "There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a
sodomite of the sons of Israel." There are similar passages in
1 Kings 14:24, 15:12 & 22:46 and 2 Kings 23:7.
|A common conservative interpretation:
Many Evangelicals prefer the KJV to the NIV translation of this verse. It
condemns all male homosexual activity, and is thus applicable to all male
gays today, whether they are engaged in casual sex or in a monogamous,
consensual, committed relationship. |
|A common liberal interpretation: The Hebrew word "quadesh"
is translated in the King James Version here as "sodomite." Other
Bible translations use the term "cult prostitute" or "shrine
literally "means 'holy one' and is here used to refer to a man who
engages in ritual prostitution" in a Pagan temple. 2
Among Pagan religions in the Middle East, worship often involved ritual sex
in the temple, "often with a sacred prostitute who was like a priest or
priestess. This sacred sexual activity was believed to encourage the god(s)
to bestow fertility on the earth and its creatures." [Typo corrected].
3 Male shrine prostitutes would have sex with females; female
prostitutes with males. |
|A common conservative
conclusion: God's word repeatedly upholds one-man, one-women marriage as
God's intent for relationships. It also repeatedly condemns same-sex
behavior between two men and perhaps between two women as well.|
|A common liberal conclusion: Genesis does mention the pairing off
of one man and one woman into a marriage-like relationship. But this is only
one of many possible marital or family relationships. There are a
total of eight types mentioned in the Hebrew
Scriptures. Genesis 19 definitely condemns rape. But this is unrelated
to consensual same-sex sexual behavior. The phrases in Leviticus only apply
to Jews engaging in same-sex activity in Pagan temples. The references to
sodomites in Deuteronomy etc. is a clear error in translation. Again it
refers to ritual sex in Pagan temples. |
There is nothing in the Hebrew Scriptures that condemns same-sex committed
relationships or same-sex marriage.
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. 4
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.
Included were R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist
Seminary and Jill Nelson, pastor of the Sunshine Cathedral Metropolitan
- "Deuteronomy 23:17,"
- "Free to be gay: A brief look
at the Bible and homosexuality," Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan
Community Churches, at:
Standards: Biblical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives,"
by the Ordination
Standards Task Force of North Como Presbyterian Church.
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
Copyright � 2006 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on
First posted: 2006-NOV-25
Latest update: 2008-MAY-04
Author: B.A. Robinson