Introduction to what the Bible says and means about same-gender sexual behavior
On this web site, the acronym "LGBT" refers to the Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender/transsexual community.
Important notes to consider:
The essays in this section on
homosexuality address a major concern in North American culture and cultures around the world. That is because many people's beliefs about
homosexuality and their actions towards homosexuals are religiously based. Because
such a large percentage of North Americans are English speaking and identify
themselves as Jews, Christians or Muslims, it is important to understand what
the Hebrew and Christian scriptures (Old and New Testament) say about this topic: both:
In its original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek
In modern times, after its translation into English, and after its interpretation by conservative, mainline and liberal theologians.
Seven or eight main biblical passages that may deal with same-gender sexual behavior are described in this section. They are often referred to as "clobber" passages, because they are frequently used to attack persons with a homosexual or bisexual orientation -- that is, to clobber lesbians, gays and bisexuals. They have been interpreted very differently by various religious denominations, para-church groups, and religious traditions. All groups recognize that at least some of these biblical passages condemn some types of sexual behavior but there is no consensus within a given religion whether they refer to consensual sexual behavior by persons with a homosexual or bisexual orientation, or whether they refer to everyone.
Only one passage, in Romans 1, focuses on both female and male same-sex sexual behavior. This text involves sexual behavior by male and female heterosexuals, who were former Christians. They had left the faith, reverted to Paganism, and apparently engaged in some form of religiously inspired same-gender sex orgy which was a violation of their basic heterosexual nature. The passage appears to refer only to heterosexual men and women and say nothing about same-sex behavior by gays and lesbians. Some liberal theologians have taken the logical step of interpreted this passage as also condemning persons with a homosexual orientation who engage in opposite-sex sexual behavior against their basic nature. Some conservative theologians have interpreted the same passage as condemning all same-gender sexual behavior whether by men or women with a heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual orientation.
Among the full spectrum of faith groups, from the most conservative to the most liberal:
Most conservative faith groups tend to interpret all of the clobber passages as condemning all forms of same-gender sexual behavior, whether by men or women, and whether by persons with a heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual sexual orientation. They do this, even though only one of the seven or eight passages actually refers to women, and that passage refers only to women with a heterosexual orientation.
Most liberal and progressive faith groups tend to interpret the same passages -- in their original languages of Hebrew and Greek -- as referring to condemnation of:
temple prostitution or two men having sex on a woman's bed. (The passage is ambiguous and can be interpreted either way.)
adults sexually abusing children.
engaging in sexual behavior that is against one's sexual orientation and basic nature.
engaging in bestiality -- sexual activity with a non-human species -- angels in this case.
Most mainline denominations and faith groups are split on these passages' interpretation, with part of the membership taking the conservative position, and another part taking the liberal/progressive interpretation.
Another important consideration about Bible interpretation:
As a general rule, when interpreting any biblical passage it is important to go beyond studying what the text says, to also consider:
Why it says what it does.
What the passage meant within the culture at the time it was written.
Whether it is still valid today.
In biblical times, science was in its infancy. Knowledge of embryology was non-existent. The idea of one very lucky spermatozoon fertilizing a human ovum to produce a pre-embryo, which eventually develops into a newborn was unknown.
"As recently as the 18th century, the prevailing notion in western human embryology was preformation: the idea that semen contains an embryo — a preformed, miniature infant, or "homunculus" — that simply becomes larger during development." 1
It wasn't until 1827 that Karl Ernst von Baer discovered the mammalian ovum. 1
In earlier times the role of the woman was believed to involve receiving this miniature infant and to nurture it so that it grows to the size of a full-term fetus and is born. The whole process was very similar to a single seed being planted in the ground and nurtured into an adult plant -- a process that the ancient Hebrews were very familiar with.
Thus, in the view of the ancient Hebrews, for a man to engage in sexual activity with another man involved the inevitable death of one or more miniature infants -- a death of human person(s). In biblical times, a high birth rate was extremely important for the survival of the tribe in a world where they were surrounded by enemies waging war. At the present time, with overpopulation taxing the world's resources and adding to climate change, a low birth rate may be optimum.
Still another factor is the "Yuck" factor. This is very strong in some people, and may contribute greatly to their rejection of same-gender sexual behavior. The term "heterosexual" generally is defined as a person who is sexually attracted only to members of the opposite-sex. Commonly associated with this orientation are very negative feelings -- stomach heaving and skin crawling -- at the thoughts of engaging in sexual activity with a member of the same-sex.
These considerations may have contributed negative attitudes towards same-gender sexual activity that is very common among older adults, but which has been largely abandoned by older teens and young adults. The latter form the first generation of individuals who have had a friend or close relative who is openly a member of the LGBT community.
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An excerpt from the documentary "For the bible tells me so" (2007):
This DVD discusses homosexual orientation from a religiously liberal/secular point of view:
A You Tube video: "What does the Bible say about homosexuality?"
This video discusses biblical passages on homosexuality from a conservative Christian point of view:
The following information source was used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.