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Passages from the Christian Scriptures that have
been associated with same-gender sexual
behavior (homosexual activity):

Jude 1:7

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Overview of Jude 1:7:

The book of Jude is quite short and only has a single chapter. For this reason, this verse is sometimes referred to as Jude 1:7, and other times as Jude 7.

The King James Version of the Bible translates it as:

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 translated as "strange flesh" in the original Greek reads: "sarkos heteras." Ironically, our English word "heterosexual" is derived from "heteras." "

Strange flesh" has been variously translated in other versions as "perverted sensuality," "unnatural lust," "unnatural sex," "pursued unnatural desire," "sexual sin, "even perversion," and (in the NIV) "perversion."

We have been able to find only one English translation of the Bible that precisely identifies what exact activity was attempted by the men. "Homosexuality" or "bisexuality" do not appear in any of the English translations that we checked. However, The Living Bible (TLB) does translates the passage as:

"lust of men for other men."

Unfortunately, The Living Bible is a paraphrase. It was created by Keneth N. Taylor. He explained how he was inspired to produce this translation:

"The children were one of the chief inspirations for producing the Living Bible. Our family devotions were tough going because of the difficulty we had understanding the King James Version, which we were then using, or the Revised Standard Version, which we used later. All too often I would ask questions to be sure the children understood, and they would shrug their shoulders—they didn't know what the passage was talking about. So I would explain it. I would paraphrase it for them and give them the thought. It suddenly occurred to me one afternoon that I should write out the reading for that evening thought by thought, rather than doing it on the spot during our devotional time. So I did, and read the chapter to the family that evening with exciting results—they knew the answers to all the questions I asked! : 5

Thus, as a translation of "sarkos heteras" from the original Greek is unreliable.

Of all of the passages in the Bible that various Christians have believed refer to homosexuality, Jude 1:7 seems to have generated the most controversy. At least, in this web site's incoming emails it is the most commonly discussed biblical passage related to the LGBT community.

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Contrasting interpretations of this passage in Jude:

This verse clearly referring back to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. However, faith groups interpret its exact meaning very differently:

  • Christian conservatives: 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 the men were sexually attracted to other men. That is, they were homosexuals. The passage clearly condemns all same-gender sexual behavior.

  • Christian progressives: Jude does not define exactly what activity he is referred to here. It seems to be sexual in nature, because it is often translated as fornication, vice, sexual immorality, etc. Jude might have been referring to:
    • The intent of the mob to rape the angels. Rape is a clear perversion of God-given sexuality, or

    • The fact that the angels were non-human. This would have involved bestiality, which is also forbidden, or

    • Both rape and bestiality.

    Violence is definitely implied by the text. The mob was clearly not interested in engaging in a consensual same-gender sexual activity.

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Translation of the key passage in Jude 7 into English by various Bible translations:

  • The American Standard Version as:

    "given themselves over to fornication and gone after strange flesh ..."

  • The Amplified Bible translates Jude 7 as:

    "... they in the same way as these angels indulged in gross immoral freedom and unnatural vice and sensual perversity... ."

  • The Contemporary English Version (CEV):

    "...became immoral and did all sorts of sexual sins... ."

  • The Easy to Read Version (ERV):

    "Like those angels they were full of sexual sin and involved themselves in sexual relations that are wrong."

  • The English Standard Version (ESV):

    "likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, ..."

  • The Harper Collin's New Revised Standard Version of the Bible uses the term "unnatural lust." A footnote comments:

    "The Sodomites attempted sexual relations with angels... ."

The translators apparently use the term "Sodomites" in its original sense to refer simply to inhabitants of Sodom.

  • The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB):

    "... committed sexual immorality and practiced perversions, just as angels did... ."

  • The King James Version of the Bible:

    "... giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh... ."

  • The Living Bible (TLB):

    "lust of men for other men."

  • The New International Version:

    "... gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion... ."

  • The New Living Translation (NLT):

    "... filled with immorality and every kind of sexual perversion... ."

  • The New Revised Standard Version:

    "... indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust... ."

  • Young's Literal Translation:

    "... having given themselves to whoredom, and gone after other flesh... ."

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Does Jude 1:7 condemn homosexual activity, rape, bestiality, or some combination of the three?

Over the past two millennia, this passage has definitely been interpreted by the vast majority of Christians as solely condemning same-gender sexual behavior. However, there are some important indications that this might not be the intent of the author of the passage:

Consider:

  • 1. Multiple translations of the Bible refer to the angels having previously engaged in the same activity as the men were attempting in Sodom. Examples include The Amplified Bible, The Easy to Read Version, The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), and the New Revised Standard Bible, For example, the Amplified Bible translates Jude 7 referred to the men in Sodom with the words:

    "... they in the same way as these angels indulged in gross immoral freedom and unnatural vice and sensual perversity... ."

    However, there is no indication in the Bible that angels at any time attempted to engage in same-gender sexual behavior with humans. However, Genesis 18 and 19 describe actual heterosexual bestiality between male angels and human women which resulted in some unusual offspring. Also, there is an ancient Jewish belief that human women successfully seduced some male angels who came down to Earth. 3 These would seem to give support to the concept that the sin of the men of Sodom was not some same-gender sexual activity. It increases support for the concept that the sin was bestiality.

  • 2. Jude appears to be in conflict with many other Biblical passages which also refer to Genesis 19, but stress that the crime of the citizens of Sodom was actually their lack of hospitality to strangers and insensitivity to the needs of the poor. This strengthens the interpretation that the sin of the men of Sodom was attempting to rape visitors -- the ultimate inhospitable act.

  • 3. There are ancient Greek words that Paul and the author of Jude could have used if they were referring specifically to male-male sexual activity: lakkoproktoi, paiderasste, and pathikos. If the author of Jude had intended to refer to men having sex with other males, then he would probably have used one of these words. Since he didn't, it is quite likely that he was referring to some other activity like rape or bestiality. 4

It is our opinion that:

  • The intent of the men of Sodom was not to engage in consensual sex with the angels. It was to rape them.

  • The unnatural vice referred to in the original Greek was attempted bestiality: men attempting to have sex with another species.

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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. The web site "Radical Experiences in Faith: Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Catholics" (formerly the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Catholic Handbook) deals in depth with this verse. See: http://purl.oclc.org/
  2. "Sweettp," "Is Jesus Silent?" at: http://members.tripod.com/
  3. Emil G. Hirsch, "The Fall of Angels," Jewish Encyclopedia, (1906), at: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/
  4. "What words could Paul have used if he intended to condemn homosexuality?," GayChristian101, 2016, at: http://www.gaychristian101.com/
  5. "The Living Bible, Wikpedia, as on 2016-NOV-05, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/

Copyright © 1996 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2017-JAN-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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