The Bible and homosexuality
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Leviticus 18 and 20
- "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination." Chapter 18 verse 22
- "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them." Chapter 20 verse 13
These two verses have historically been interpreted by Jews and Christians as clear overall prohibitions against homosexual acts in general. More recent interpretations focus more on its context as part of the Holiness Code, a code of purity meant to distinguish the behavior of Israelites from the polytheistic Canaanites. One of those interpretations is from Janet Edmonds, which says:
"To interpret these passages of Leviticus, it’s important to know that this book of the Bible focuses on ritual purity for the Israelites, and setting guidelines for the Israelites to distinguish themselves from their pagan neighbors, the Egyptians and Canaanites, who lived in the lands before they were settled by the Jews. This is shown in Leviticus Chapters 18 and 20 by three specific scripture passages (Leviticus 18:2-3, 18:24 and 20:23) that state that the Israelites should never do what the Egyptians and Canaanites did." 
Bible scholar Idan Dershowitz concludes "there is good evidence that an earlier version of the laws in Leviticus 18 permitted sex between men."
Sodom and Gomorrah
The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis does not explicitly identify homosexuality as the sin for which they were destroyed. Some interpreters find the story of Sodom and a similar one in Judges 19 to condemn the violent rape of guests more than homosexuality, but the passage has historically been interpreted within Judaism and Christianity as a punishment for homosexuality due to the interpretation that the men of Sodom wished to rape, or have sex with, the angels who retrieved Lot.
While the Jewish prophets spoke only of lack of charity as the sin of Sodom, the exclusively sexual interpretation became so prevalent among Christian communities that the name "Sodom" became the basis of the word "sodomy", still a legal synonym for homosexual and non-procreative sexual acts, particularly anal or oral sex.
While the Jewish prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos and Zephaniah refer vaguely to the sin of Sodom, Ezekiel specifies that the city was destroyed because of its commission of social injustice as well as its commission of 'abomination':
Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.
The Talmudic tradition as written between c. 370 and 500 also interprets the sin of Sodom as lack of charity, with the attempted rape of the angels being a manifestation of the city's violation of the social order of hospitality; as does Jesus in the New Testament, for instance in Matthew 10:14–15 when he tells his disciples that the punishment for houses or towns that will not welcome them will be worse than that of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Later traditions on Sodom's sin, such as Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, considered it to be an illicit form of heterosexual intercourse. In Jude 1:7 the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah are stated to have been "giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh", which may refer to homosexuality or to the lust of mortals after angels. Jewish writers Philo (d. AD 50) and Josephus (37 – c. 100) were the first to assert unambiguously that homosexuality was among the sins of Sodom. By the end of the 1st century Jews commonly identified the sin of Sodom with homosexual practices.
David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi
The account of the friendship between David and Jonathan in the Books of Samuel has been interpreted by traditional and mainstream writers as a relationship of affectionate regard. It has also been interpreted by some authors as of a sexual nature. Theologian Theodore Jennings identifies the story as one of desire for David by both Saul and Jonathan, stating, "Saul's jealousy has driven [David] into Jonathan's arms." Michael Coogan addresses the claim of their homosexual relationship and explicitly rejects it.
One relevant Bible passage on this issue is 1 Samuel 18:1:
- When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. (NRSV)
Another relevant passage is 2 Samuel 1:26, where David says:
- I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. (NRSV)
The story of Ruth and Naomi in the Book of Ruth is also occasionally interpreted by contemporary scholars as the story of a lesbian couple. Coogan states that the Hebrew Bible does not even mention lesbianism.
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|“||For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.||”|
This passage, part of a larger discourse in 1:18-32, has been debated by some 20th and 21st-century interpreters as to its relevance today and as to what it actually prohibits and whether it represents Paul's view or rhetoric that Paul is actively arguing against. Although Christians of several denominations have historically maintained that this verse is a complete prohibition of all forms of homosexual activity, some 20th and 21st-century authors contend the passage is not a blanket condemnation of homosexual acts, suggesting, among other interpretations, that the passage condemned heterosexuals who experimented with homosexual activity or that Paul's condemnation was relative to his own culture, in which homosexuality was not understood as an orientation and in which being penetrated was seen as shameful. These interpretations are in a minority.
Scholars, noting that Romans 1:18-32 represents an exception in the book of Romans as a whole and uses vocabulary elsewhere not seen in Paul's letters, have for decades puzzled over the passage. Several scholars believe these verses are part of a much larger non-Pauline interpolation, a later addition to the letter. Others argue that the grammar of the Greek original demands that Romans 1:18-32 be read as a rhetorical set up, a summary of Hellenistic Jewish legalist rhetoric that Paul actively forbids followers of Christ from using in Romans 2. 
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
|“||Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.||”|
In the letter to the Corinthians, within the list of people who will not inherit the kingdom of God, Paul uses two Greek words: Malakia (μαλακοὶ) and arsenokoitai (ἀρσενοκοῖται).
Arsenokoitai (translated 'sodomites' in above translation) is a compound word from the Greek words 'arrhēn / arsēn' (ἄῤῥην / ἄρσην) meaning "male", and koitēn (κοίτην) meaning "bed", with a sexual connotation. Its first recorded use was by Paul in 1 Corinthians (and later in 1 Timothy 1, attributed to Paul) although many scholars consider it to be adapted from the wording of the Septuagint translations of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:23" Arsenokoitai has been variously rendered as "sodomites" (NRSV), "abusers of themselves with mankind" (KJV), "men who have sex with men" (NIV) or "practicing homosexuals" (NET), while Martin Luther and others translated the term as 'pederasts.'"
Malakoi (translated 'male prostitutes' in above translation) is a common Greek word meaning, of things subject to touch, "soft" (used in Matthew 11:8 and Luke 7:25 to describe a garment); of things not subject to touch, "gentle"; and, of persons or modes of life, a number of meanings that include "pathic".
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Bishop Gene Robinson says the early church seemed to have understood it as a person with a "soft" or weak morality; later, it would come to denote (and be translated as) those who engage in masturbation, or "those who abuse themselves"; all that is factually known about the word is that it means "soft".[better source needed]
|“||But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.||”|
Most scholars hold that Paul had two passages of the Book of Leviticus, 18:22 and 20:13, in mind when he used the word ἀρσενοκοῖται (which may be of his coinage) with most commentators and translators interpreting it as a reference to male same-sex intercourse. However, John Boswell states that it "did not connote homosexuality to Paul or his early readers", and that in later Christian literature the word is used, for instance, by Aristides of Athens (c. 138) clearly not for homosexuality and possibly for prostitution, Eusebius (d. c. 340) who evidently used it in reference to women, and in the writings of 6th-century Patriarch John IV of Constantinople, known as John the Faster. In a passage dealing with sexual misconduct, John speaks of arsenokoitia as active or passive and says that "many men even commit the sin of arsenokoitia with their wives". Although the constituent elements of the compound word refer to sleeping with men, he obviously does not use it to mean homosexual intercourse and appears to employ it for anal intercourse, not generic homosexual activity. Particulars of Boswell's arguments are rejected by several scholars in a way qualified as persuasive by David F. Greenberg, who declares usage of the term arsenokoites by writers such as Aristides of Athens and Eusebius, and in the Sibylline Oracles, to be "consistent with a homosexual meaning". A discussion document issued by the House of Bishops of the Church of England states that most scholars still hold that the word arsenokoites relates to homosexuality. Another work attributed to John the Faster, a series of canons that for various sins provided shorter though stricter penances in place of the previous longer penances, applies a penance of eighty days for "intercourse of men with one another" (canon 9), explained in the Pedalion as mutual masturbation – double the penalty for solitary masturbation (canon 8) – and three years with xerophagy or, in accordance with the older canon of Basil the Great, fifteen without (canon 18) for being "so mad as to copulate with another man" – ἀρρενομανήσαντα in the original – explained in the Pedalion as "guilty of arsenocoetia (i.e., sexual intercourse between males)" – ἀρσενοκοίτην in the original. According to the same work, ordination is not to be conferred on someone who as a boy has been the victim of anal intercourse, but this is not the case if the semen was ejaculated between his thighs (canon 19). These canons are included, with commentary, in the Pedalion, the most widely used collection of canons of the Greek Orthodox Church, an English translation of which was produced by Denver Cummings and published by the Orthodox Christian Educational Society in 1957 under the title, The Rudder.
Jesus's discussion of marriage
In Matthew 19 (and parallel in Mark 10), Jesus is asked if a man can divorce his wife. In that context, Jesus replies:,
He answered, ‘Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning “made them male and female” [note 1], and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” [note 2]? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’— Matthew 19:4-6 (NRSV)
Robert Gagnon, a theologian, argues that Jesus's back-to-back references to Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 show that he "presupposed a two-sex requirement for marriage".
On the other hand, Bart Ehrman, Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, states of Jesus's references to Genesis 1 and 2, "Yeah, [Jesus is] not actually defining marriage. He’s answering a specific question." Ehrman notes further "And here the conversation is quite easy. In our surviving records Jesus says nothing about same-sex acts or sexual orientation. Nothing. Nada."
Matthew 8; Luke 7
In Matthew 8:5–13 and Luke 7:1–10, Jesus heals a centurion's servant who is dying. Daniel A. Helminiak writes that the Greek word pais, used in this account, was sometimes given a sexual meaning. Donald Wold states that its normal meaning is "boy", "child" or "slave" and its application to a boy lover escapes notice in the standard lexica of Liddell and Scott and Bauer. The Greek-English Lexicon of Liddell and Scott registers three meanings of the word παῖς (pais): a child in relation to descent (son or daughter); a child in relation to age (boy or girl); a slave or servant (male or female). In her detailed study of the episode in Matthew and Luke, Wendy Cotter dismisses as very unlikely the idea that the use of the Greek word "pais" indicated a sexual relationship between the centurion and the young slave.
Matthew's account has parallels in Luke 7:1–10 and John 4:46–53. There are major differences between John's account and those of the two synoptic writers, but such differences exist also between the two synoptic accounts, with next to nothing of the details in Luke 7:2–6 being present also in Matthew. The Commentary of Craig A. Evans states that the word pais used by Matthew may be that used in the hypothetical source known as Q used by both Matthew and Luke and, since it can mean either son or slave, it became doulos (slave) in Luke and huios (son) in John. Writers who admit John 4:46–53 as a parallel passage generally interpret Matthew's pais as "child" or "boy", while those who exclude it see it as meaning "servant" or "slave".
Theodore W. Jennings Jr. and Tat-Siong Benny Liew write that Roman historical data about patron-client relationships and about same-sex relations among soldiers support the view that the pais in Matthew's account is the centurion's "boy-love" and that the centurion did not want Jesus to enter his house for fear the boy would be enamoured of Jesus instead. D.B. Saddington writes that while he does not exclude the possibility, the evidence the two put forward supports "neither of these interpretations", with Wendy Cotter saying that they fail to take account of Jewish condemnation of pederasty.
In Matthew 19:12, Jesus speaks of eunuchs who were born as such, eunuchs who were made so by others, and eunuchs who choose to live as such for the kingdom of heaven. Jesus's reference to eunuchs who were born as such has been interpreted by some commentators as having to do with homosexual orientation; Clement of Alexandria, for instance, cites in his book "Stromata" (chapter III,1,1) an earlier interpretation from Basilides that some men, from birth, are naturally averse to women and should not marry. "The first category – those eunuchs who have been so from birth – is the closest description we have in the Bible of what we understand today as homosexual."
The Ethiopian eunuch, an early gentile convert described in Acts 8, has been interpreted by some commentators as an early gay Christian, based on the fact that the word "eunuch" in the Bible was not always used literally, as in Matthew 19:12. Some religious commentators suggest that the combination of "eunuch" together with the title "court official" indicates a literal eunuch who would have been excluded from the Temple by the restriction in Deuteronomy 23:1.
- Biblical law in Christianity
- Christianity and homosexuality
- Homosexuality and Judaism
- Homosexuality in ancient Greece
- Homosexuality and religion
- Women in Christianity
- Abomination (Judaism)
- Sexuality of Jesus
- Leviticus 18:22 Bible Gateway provides 42 other English translations of the verse.
- Leviticus 20:13. Bible Gateway provides 42 other English translations of the verse.
- Coogan, Michael (October 2010). God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says (1st ed.). New York, Boston: Twelve. Hachette Book Group. p. 135. ISBN 978-0-446-54525-9. OCLC 505927356. Retrieved 5 May 2011. The Hebrew Bible only prohibits this practice for men. This is clearly seen by contrasting these verses with Lev. 18:23 and 20:15-16 respectively, where sex with animals is prohibited for both men and women. More recent interpretations focus on its context as part of the Holiness Code, a code of purity meant to distinguish the behavior of Israelites from the Canaanites. Siker, Jeffrey S. (2007). Homosexuality and Religion. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-313-33088-9. Retrieved 10 April 2013 – via Google Books.
- Edmonds, Janet (2016). "The Bible Doesn't Say Homosexuality Is A Sin" (PDF). Rm Network.
- Dershowitz, Idan (21 July 2018). "The Secret History of Leviticus". New York Times.
- "My Take: What the Bible really says about homosexuality". Retrieved 20 September 2019.
- Powell, Mark Allan (2011). HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-207859-9. Retrieved 11 March 2014 – via Google Books.
- Crompton, Louis (2006). Homosexuality & Civilization. Harvard University Press. pp. 37–39.
- "Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
- Ezekiel 16:49–50
- J.A. Loader, ''A Tale of Two Cities: Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament, Early Jewish and Early Christian Traditions''. Books.google.com. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
- Matthew 10:14–15
- Greenberg, David F. (1990). The Construction of Homosexuality. University of Chicago Press. p. 201. ISBN 978-0-226-30628-5. Retrieved 10 April 2013 – via Google Books.
- Jude 1:7
- Ellins, J. Harold (2006). Sex in the Bible. Greenwood Publishing. p. 117. ISBN 0-275-98767-1. Retrieved 10 April 2013 – via Google Books.
- Boswell, John. Same-sex Unions in Premodern Europe. New York: Vintage, 1994. (pp. 135–137)
- Halperin, David M. One Hundred Years of Homosexuality. New York: Routledge, 1990. (p. 83)
- Jennings, Theodore (2005). Jacob's Wound: Homoerotic Narrative in the Literature of Ancient Israel. Continuum. pp. 13–36. ISBN 9780826417121.
- Coogan 2010, p. 121.
- 1 Samuel 18:1
- 2 Samuel 1:26
- Havrelock, Rachel (27 October 2011). River Jordan: The Mythology of a Dividing Line. University of Chicago Press. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-226-31959-9.
Contemporary exegetes have perceived lesbian undertones in the relationship between Ruth and Naomi.38 38. See Rebecca Alpert, "Finding Our Past: A Lesbian Interpretation of the Book of Ruth," Reading Ruth: Contemporary Women Reclaim a Sacred Story, ed. Judith A. Kates and Gail Twersky Reimer (New York: Ballatine Books, 1994). Lesleigh Cushing Stahlberg calls the book of Ruth "the prooftext the religious left needs for sanctioning forbidden marriages." Stahlberg, "Modern Day Moabites: The Bible and the Debate About Same-Sex Marriage," Biblical Interpretation 16 (2008): 474.
- Longman III, Tremper; Enns, Peter (6 June 2008). Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship. InterVarsity Press. p. 699. ISBN 978-0-8308-1783-2.
Among feminist authors perceptions of the book's message and value have varied widely, with some seeing the story as a model for lesbian relationships (Alpert), and others as a celebration of the relationship between two strong and resourceful women (Brenner 1983).
- Coogan 2010, p. 135.
- Romans 1:26–27
- Hertzog, Mark (1996). The lavender vote: Lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals in American electoral politics. NYU Press. p. 58. ISBN 0-8147-3530-4.
- Kruse, Colin (2012). Paul Letter to the Romans. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. p. 111.
- Massing, Michael (2018). Fatal Discord: Erasmus, Luther, and the Fight for the Western Mind. Harper. ISBN 9780060517601.
- O'Neill, J. C. (1975). Paul's Letter to the Romans. Penguin.
- Percy Neale Harrison, Paulines and Pastorals (London: Villiers Publications, 1964), 80-85; Robert Martyr Hawkins, The Recovery of the Historical Paul (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 1943), 79-86; Alfred Firmin Loisy, The Origins of the New Testament (New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1962), 250; ibid., The Birth of the Christian Religion (New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1962), 363 n.21; Winsome Munro, Authority in Paul and Peter: The Identification of a Pastoral Stratum in the Pauline Corpus and 1 Peter, SNTSMS 45 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 113; John C. O'Neill, Paul's Letter to the Romans (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1975), 40-56; William O. Walker, Jr., "Romans 1.18-2.29: A Non-Pauline Interpolation?" New Testament Studies 45, no. 4 (1999): 533-52.
- McKnight, Scot (2019). Reading Romans Backward. Baylor University Press.
- Porter, Calvin (1994). "Romans 1:18-32: Its Role in Developing the Argument". New Testament Studies. 40: 210–228.
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- 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
- Pregeant, Russell (2008). Stefan Koenemann & Ronald A. Jenner (ed.). Knowing truth, doing good: engaging New Testament ethics. Fortress Press. p. 252. ISBN 978-0-8006-3846-7.
- Greenberg, David (1990). The Construction of Homosexuality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-30628-3.
- "Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, ''A Greek-English Lexicon'', entry μαλακός". Perseus.tufts.edu. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
- Robinson 2012
- 1 Timothy 1:8–11
- Bromiley, Geoffrey W. (1995). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Q–Z. Eerdmans. p. 437. ISBN 978-0-8028-3784-4. Retrieved 11 March 2014 – via Google Books.
- Τὸ μέντοι τῆς ἀρσενοκοιτίας μῦσος πολλοὶ καὶ μετὰ τῶν γυναικῶν αὐτῶν ἐκτελοῦσιν (Migne PG 88, col. 1896).
- Boswell, John (1981). Christianity, social tolerance, and homosexuality: gay people in Western Europe from the beginning of the Christian era to the fourteenth century. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-06711-7.
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These are contained in several collections; the most widely used today in Greek-speaking Orthodoxy is the Pedalion.60 60 The Rudder (Pedalion) of the Orthodox Christians or All the Sacred and Divine Canons, ed. C. Cummings (Orthodox Christian Educational Society, Chicago, Illinios, 1957), from the metaphor of the church as a ship, 'the members of the Church [are] guided on their voyage through life by means of the holy canons'.
- "Cummings translation, pp. 1678–1697" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 November 2013.
- "Canons of the Holy Fathers". holytrinitymission.org.
- Text in the original Greek language, pp. 562–578
- Siker, Jeffrey S. (2007). Homosexuality and Religion. Greenwood. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-313-33088-9. Retrieved 11 March 2014 – via Google Books.
- Dunn, James D.G. (2006). The Theology of Paul the Apostle. Eerdmans. pp. 121–122. ISBN 978-0-8028-4423-1. Retrieved 11 March 2014 – via Google Books.
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- Berlinerblau, Jacques (2005). The secular Bible: why nonbelievers must take religion seriously. Cambridge University Press. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-521-85314-9.
- Matthew 19:4-19:6
- Robert A. J. Gagnon, "Why the Disagreement over the Biblical Witness on Homosexual Practice?: A Response to David G. Myers and Letha Dawson Scanzoni, What God Has Joined Together?" Reformed Review 59.1 (Autumn 2005): 19-130, 56. Available online at
- Ehrman, Bart (15 November 2019). "Jesus and Homosexuality". The Bart Ehrman Blog.
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- Matthew 19:12
- Clemente de Alejandria: Stromata II-III, Fuentes Patristicas, vol.10 (Marcelo Merino Rodriguez ed.), Madrid 1998, p. 315
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