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What the Bible says and means about homosexuality

Conflicting interpretations
of 7 major passages about
same-gender sexual behavior.
Resolution through dialogue.

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Major or "clobber" passages:

Of the 20 or so Bible passages that have been interpreted as involving homosexual behavior, the seven listed below are mentioned most often. They are commonly referred to as "clobber" passages, because they are used by many social and religious conservatives to condemn homosexual behavior. The remainder are minor passages and are described elsewhere.

The following very brief descriptions are necessarily over-simplified. They do not cover the full range of conservative/progressive beliefs. However, you may well find the beliefs that you have been taught in one of these columns:

Location Typical interpretation by religious conservatives Typical interpretation by religious progressives & secularists
Genesis 19 Condemns all same-sex sexual behavior, whether by two men, two women, within a loving committed relationship or a "one-night stand.". Condemns anal raping of strangers for the purpose of humiliation.
Leviticus 18:22 * Condemns all same-sex sexual behavior. Condemns gay ritual sex in a Pagan temple, and/or males having sex in a woman's bed and/or men sexually molesting boys.
Leviticus 20:13 * Condemns all same-sex sexual behavior. Condemns gay ritual sex in a Pagan temple, and/or males having sex in a woman's bed and/or men sexually molesting boys.
Romans 1:26-27 Condemns all homosexual behavior as unnatural. Describes a group of heterosexuals who, against their basic nature, engage in same-sex behavior during ritual orgies.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ** Sexually active homosexuals will go to Hell, not Heaven, at death. Once truly saved, homosexuals will become heterosexuals. Male child molesters and the children they molest will go to Hell, not Heaven, at death.
1 Timothy 1:9-10 Condemns all same-sex sexual behavior. Refers to child molesters and the children they molest.
Jude 1:7 Sexually active homosexuals will go to Hell, not Heaven, at death. Humans who have sex with other species -- angels in this case -- will go to Hell, not Heaven, at death.

*Concerning Leviticus 18:22 and 30:13:

Prior to the mid-20th century, these verses were correctly translated from the original Hebrew as referring to men sexually abusing young boys. 1

**Concerning 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:

There are various interpretations of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 of which this is one. The Jerusalem Bible, New American Bible, and James Moffatt translation correctly use the word "catamites," or the phrase "boy prostitutes" to describe one group of individuals that Paul believed will go to Hell because of their behavior on Earth. Catamites and boy prostitutes were often boys or male youth who was kept as a sexual partner/slave by an adult male.

The verse is profoundly immoral by today's secular and most religious moral standards because it involves scapegoating: the transfer of sin and/or punishment from the guilty perpetrator to the innocent victim. This type of transfer is seen many passages throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Many religious liberals believe that these passages are immoral and should be ignored because they are clearly opposed to the will of God.

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Summary of opposing interpretations of the clobber passages:


To many -- not all -- conservative members of religions that revere the Bible -- primarily the Baha'i faith, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism -- the Bible condemns homosexual behavior and states that, after death, persons who have been sexually active with members of the same gender will end up in Hell, not Heaven.

Most fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians believe that because God is all powerful and hates same-sex sexual behavior, he will either:

  • Change a repentant lesbian or gay who is saved into a heterosexual, or

  • Help a saved lesbian or gay choose and later maintain a celibate lifestyle.

English translations of the Bible are far more supportive of these beliefs than are the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.


To many -- not all -- liberal/progressive believers, the Bible is silent same-sex sexual behavior within a loving, consensual relationship or same-sex marriage. God accepts persons of all sexual orientations and approves of sex that is consensual, non-manipulative, safe and within a loving, committed relationship. Liberals and progressive have a range of beliefs concerning safe, consensual, and casual sex by heterosexuals, bisexuals, lesbians or gays.

However the Bible condemns:

  • Males raping other men. In fact, it condemns all non-consensual sex.

  • One of two behaviors:
    • Either men engaging in ritual sex in Pagan temples, or

    • Men having sex in a woman's bed.

Thelogians have translated passages in Leviticus 18 and 20 both ways.

  • People having sex that violates their sexual orientation -- their basic nature. For example:
    • Persons with a heterosexual orientation having sex with a member of the same sex.

    • Lesbians or gays with a homosexual orientation having sex with a member of the opposite sex.

  • Men sexually abusing children. One passage also condemns young victims of sexual molestation.

  • People engaging in bestiality: having sex with non-humans, including angels.

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A solution to the conflict:

As with many other religiously-based conflicts like abortion access, equal rights for transgender persons and transsexuals, and -- in past years -- interracial, interfaith and inter-ethnic marriages, we see two opposing groups strongly disagreeing with each other, even as they tenatiously hold firmly to their beliefs. Harmonizing their beliefs would require dialogue. This involves sitting down together, explaining their beliefs to each other, and discussing their differences. The process encourages both sides to seek the truth, and to avoid trying to convince the other side to change their mind.

Webmaster's personal opinion; [bias alert]:

Unfortunately, both sides tend to stay apart, throw verbal rocks at each other, and teach their followers only one side of the conflict as absolute truth. Dialogue on sexual orientation is essentially non-existent. In the meantime, about one in four lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth are thrown out of their homes when they come out of the "closet" to their parents. Suicide ideation and completed suicide rates among LGBT youths are much higher than average. If a concensus were reached, there is every chance that these dreadful figures could be greatly reduced. With no consensus, the trail of coffins lengthens daily. Our opinion is that both sides exhibit depraved indifference when they do not actively engage in dialogue.  

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Has 'Homosexual' always been in the Bible," Forge, 2019-MAR-21, at:

See also:

  • Ed Oxford & Kathy Baldock, "Forging a Sacred Weapon: How the Bible Became Anti-Gay." Book is expected to be published in early 2020.
  • Kathy Baldock, "The word 'homosexual' in the 1946 RSV Bible – a moral wrong based on a factual error," Canyonwalker Connections, 2019-JUN-13, at:

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Site navigation:

 Home page > Christianity > Bible passages > Bible homosexuality > here

or Home page > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Bible homosexuality > here

Copyright © 2009 to 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2009-FEB-14, by coincidence, Valentine's day
Latest update: 2019-JUN-19
Author: B.A. Robinson

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