The Bible and homosexuality
Detailed introduction, Part 1
"I want God's gay and lesbian children
to know of God's unconditional love and acceptance of them as well. We
cannot find any condemnation in scripture for committed monogamous
same-sex relationships." Rev. Charles Coppinger,
Chaplain of the Arizona Legislature in a letter to legislators,
sent 2000-NOV-7, announcing that he is gay. 1
"The Genesis passage is very clear, that the sin of Sodom that brought
on the destruction of the city was indeed linked to homosexuality." A. Mohler,
president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. 2
Time.com called him the "reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in
"The half-dozen biblical references to homosexuality do not reflect
what we understand today about loving relationships. This is an identity, not a
sin." The Rev.
Dan Johnson of Good Samaritan United Methodist Church in
"The witness of the Bible is univocal about same sex sexual
activity. It is always rejected as sinful. There is no distinction made
between homosexual behavior that is part of the consensual acts of
adults and other forms of such behavior." Ben Witherington III, evangelical
biblical scholar. 3
"Homosexuality and sodomy are not ethical sins. No one is being hurt,
no one is being cheated, nobody's rights are being infringed upon. Homosexuality
is a religious sin, analogous to other Biblical prohibitions, like not eating
the carcass of a dead animal, or not sleeping with a woman during her menstrual
cycle." American Orthodox Rabbi Shmuley
"I am always amazed at how the Bible, that portrays my Lord embracing the
outcasts, touching the lepers, welcoming the Samaritans, not judging the woman
taken in the act of adultery, and inviting 'all of ye,' not 'some of ye,' to
'come unto me,' can, in the hands of a few distorted people be turned into a
book of hatred, violence and judgment." J.S. Spong, an author and retired
bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA.
"In reality, there are no biblical literalists, only selective
literalists. By abolishing slavery and ordaining women, millions of
Protestants have gone far beyond biblical literalism. It's time we did
the same for homophobia." William Sloane Coffin, former chaplain of
Yale University and, peace activist, and leading liberal clergyperson. 6
There are at least six well defined viewpoints on the
nature of homosexuality, and on how heterosexual should respond
towards homosexuals and bisexuals.
In this section, we explain the two most extreme viewpoints on what the Bible
says about homosexuality:
||That of most religious fundamentalists, whether Jewish, Christian,
||That of most religious progressives, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, human
sexuality researchers and therapists.
Many Americans express views somewhere between these extremes.
The Bible's six "clobber" passages:
Two of the six texts, one in Hebrew
and one in Greek, clearly condemn certain specific homosexual acts:
||Men attempting to engage in bestiality -- sexual acts with another species (Jude
||Heterosexuals who engage in homosexual acts which are against their essential nature
Interpretations of four additional "clobber" texts differ among Christians:
Religious progressives have often interpreted these passages as condemning men
who sexually abuse boys, men who engage in homosexual ritual sex in
Pagan temples, men attempting anal rape, etc. They view the Bible as being silent on sexual behavior
within a consensual, monogamous committed homosexual relationship.
For example, they might identify the sin of the
men of Sodom as explained in Genesis 19 as attempting to rape
strangers as an act of humiliation. Alternatively, they might quote other biblical passages
mentioning Sodom to show that the main sin of that city was their uncharitable
behavior towards strangers, and their uncaring conduct towards the
poor, the widows, and needy.
Religious conservatives often interpret all of the Biblical passages that
touch on same-sex activity as condemning homosexuality in all its forms.
For example, they generally identify
the sin of the men of Sodom to be homosexual behavior. Homosexuality
is seen as one of many manifestations of mankind's sinful nature which
are a direct result of Adam and Eve's activities in the Garden of Eden.
The story in Genesis 19 is interpreted by conservative Christians as
describing the one result of the fall of humanity.
The Bible refers to specific homosexual behaviors in a few passages. None of
references are positive.
In order to understand the intent of these passages, one must make fundamental
decisions -- whether to:
Accept the teachings of one's faith group. If you do so, and
If you follow a
conservative denomination's teaching then you will probably be taught that homosexual behavior
changeable abnormal, unnatural, and condemned by God. It is something that a person
does. You will probably be taught that all
six of the "clobber" passages condemn all same-sex behaviors, from anal rape,
to one-night sexual encounters, to long-term, loving committed relationships.
you follow a progressive faith group's teaching, you may well accept homosexuality as an alternative,
normal, natural unchangeable sexual orientation for a minority of humans, which
is accepted by God. It is something that a person
is. You will probably be taught that the six
"clobber" passages condemn specific same-sex sexual acts that are unrelated
to loving, committed
Personally study passages from your favorite English version of the Bible
to reach your own conclusions. Unfortunately, this is filtered
by the theological beliefs and homophobia (if any) of the translators. If so, then you
will find many passages in the Bible which condemn certain forms of
homosexual behavior as well as homosexual behavior in general.
Personally study the Bible's original Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek writings and attempt to understand
precisely what the writers taught. If so, then you may find that these same passages
condemn specific homosexual activities (rape, prostitution, child sexual abuse,
ritual sex in temples, etc.) But the
Bible appears to be silent about same-sex, committed, loving relationships.
Common mistranslations in English versions of the
There are two Hebrew words which are often associated with homosexual
passages and which are often mistranslated in English versions of the Hebrew
Scriptures (Old Testament):
"qadesh" means a male prostitute who engaged in ritual sex in a
Pagan temple. This was a common profession both in ancient Israel and
in the surrounding countries. The word is often
mistranslated simply as "sodomite" or "homosexual." (e.g. the King
James Version of the Bible, Deuteronomy 23:17). The companion word quedeshaw means
female temple prostitute. It is frequently mistranslated simply as "whore" or
"prostitute." A qadesh and quedeshaw were not simply
prostitutes. They had a specific role to play in the temple. They
represented a God and Goddess, and engaged in sexual intercourse in that
capacity with members of the temple.
"to'ebah" means a condemned, foreign, Pagan, religious, cult practice, but often
simply translated as "abomination." Eating food which contains both meat and
dairy products is "to'ebah" A Jew having a meal with an Egyptian
"to'ebah." A Jew wearing a polyester-cotton garment, or having a
In order to understand what the Bible has to say on heterosexual
could consult the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts, dividing all of the references to
heterosexual sex into different categories:
||sexual abuse of children;
||ritual sex in Pagan temples;
||non-exploitive, consensual, monogamous sex in a loving relationship, etc.
The final category above is the only one that would help us understand what the Bible teaches
about heterosexual activity
in a loving committed relationship. After all, a verse which describes how an army kidnapped some
female virgins for use as sex slaves does not tell us anything about the role of
sex in marriage
today. A verse that discusses temple prostitution during the worship of Pagan gods does
not instruct us about feelings of romantic love between a man and a woman.
order to comprehend what the Bible says about gay and lesbian relationships, we
must pass over the references to homosexual rape, male sexual abuse of boys, and
homosexual prostitution, same-sex orgies by heterosexuals, Pagan sexual rituals in temples, etc. We would be left
with only those references relating to consensual sexual activities within homosexual
partnerships. There may not be any of these.
The Bible may be as silent on loving, committed same-sex
partnerships as it is about planes, trains and automobiles.
There are biblical descriptions of three close and intimate relationships between members of the same
gender. But there are no unambiguous passages that show that they were sexually active.
The Bible often condemns heterosexual and homosexual
exploitive, manipulative sex, and prostitution, but may be totally
silent on consensual
One is left with many Biblical passages which condemn fornication - sex outside of
marriage. If one were to accept these passages as inspired by God, then one can conclude
that the Bible considers homosexual sex within a committed relationship as equivalent to
a man and woman living together common-law
without having being
Outside of the conservative wings of religions, the word "homosexual" generally refers to sexual orientation.
People have one of three orientations:
||Most are heterosexual: they are sexually attracted only to members
of the opposite sex.
||A minority are homosexual: they are sexually attracted only to
members of the same sex.
||A smaller minority are bisexual: they are attracted to both men and
women, but not necessarily to the same degree.
The term "homosexual" dates from the late 19th
century, when human sexuality first began to be studied as a science.
There is no term that means homosexual orientation in the
original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts of the Bible. The authors of the Bible did not understand sexual orientation and thus
did not write about it. Thus, when you see one of these words in an English
translation of the Bible, it is important to dig deeper and find what the original Hebrew
or Greek text really means.
This topic is continued in Part 2
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Legislature chaplain comes out as gay; position eliminated,"
People for the American Way, at:
Fred Tasker, "What does the Bible say about homosexuality? Church
people of differing beliefs debate the words -- and their meaning then and
now," Philadelphia Inquirer, 1997-JUL-13. Online at:
Ben Witherington III, "Was Sodom into Sodomy? What the Bible says
about sodomy, homosexuality and sin," The Word's Worth, Beliefnet.com,
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, "Homosexuality Is A Religious Sin, Not An
Ethical One Fighting gay sex--or even homosexual unions--only distracts
from making straight marriage better," Beliefnet.com, at:
J.S. Spong, "Dallas, Texas: A new vision," A new Christianity for a new world, 2006-OCT-18.
Bishop Spong described an event at a gay pride parade where "... a
group of Bible-wielding counter demonstrators ... with voices screaming
and faces contorted by anger promised us the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah."
William Sloane Coffin, "Commentary: It's clear that homophobia
was reason for ad's rejection," United Church News, 2004-DEC-15, at:
Copyright © 1996 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update and review: 2009-JAN-31
Author: B.A. Robinson