You are on page 1of 9

Robby Ranshous

Western Civilization Paper

1 Timothy 3:16 (TNIV): "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and

training in righteousness."

The term 'homosexuality' is believed to have been coined by German psychologist Karoly Maria Benkert in

the 19th century. This term is used as a label for those who are attracted to members of their own sex in the

same manner which other are attracted to those of the opposite sex. The Greeks and Romans did not have any

concept of sexual orientation, as is evident by their languages lack of a word to describe the idea. There is no

strait gay dichotomy. This is important to note when considering homosexual acts within the context of the

ancient world.(Dunn, 6) For the Greeks and Romans the sex of the person you are attracted to is a detail of

personal taste such as hair or eye color. It was understood (and I would argue still is) that beauty could be

appreciated in either sex. (Springett, 5)

Social status was the main concern within a relationship to the Romans. There were two understood roles

within a relationship: active (penetrator) and passive (penetrated). The passive roll was suitable for those of

inferior social tiers, such as slaves, women, and male youth. Older men would choose the boy he wanted to

court. The courtships were not exclusively about the physical homosexual acts, but were for the more noble

interest of the passing of knowledge from an older generation to a younger generation. Erastas was the title

of the older man, eromenos was the title of the younger. Because of the importance of social rank once an

eromenos began to grow facial hair, in so becoming a free adult male citizen, he was no longer appropriate to

court. Neither participant was seen as being homosexual and the act was condoned by the Roman people.

(Dover, 172)

Where does the Bible say about homosexuality and homosexual acts? Not much. There exist only a few

ambiguous passages for us to interpret. These passages are cited by many as being proof of God's will. Let's
take a look at both the New and Old Testament passages which are interpreted as being on the subject of


“And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and

closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a

woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh:

she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his

mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and

his wife, and were not ashamed..” (Gen. 2: 22-24 King James Version)

God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, right? This passage in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, is

proof enough to many people that God created man to be with woman and woman to be with man

exclusively. God in this Passage creates the first woman (Eve) out of the rib of the first man (Adam). The

church points to this passage as God's example of the only acceptable behavior. It should be pointed out

though that there is no reference to marriage, love, etc.

"Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all

the people from every quarter; and they called to Lot and said to him, "Where are the men who came to you

tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them." But Lot went out to them at the

doorway, and shut the door behind him, and said, "Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly. "Now behold, I

have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to

them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my

roof." (Gen. 19: 4-8 New American Standard Bible)

Here we have another often cited passage. Here we find Lot defending his visitors (angels as it would turn

out) against the angry mob which has formed outside his home. The mob wants Lot to give up his visitors so

that the crowd can have “relations” with them. He does not want to give up the visitors and instead offers his

two virgin daughters to the crowd so that they may “do to them whatever [they] like” as long as they leave
him and his guests in peace.

"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned;

they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did

away with them as you have seen."(Gen. 16: 49-50 Today's New International Version)

Here in Genesis we find God explaining why he destroyed Sodom.

"In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality

and perversion."(Jude. 1: 7 TNIV)

This passage from the New Testament is a letter from Jude referencing Sodom, Gomorrah, and their

surrounding towns as taking part in “sexual immorality and perversion.” It should be noted that this passage

was authored after the concept of 'unnatural' had infiltrated the church. Scholars place it's time of writing

between the end of the first century and the beginning of the second century (Trickler, 324).

"And with a man you shall not lie with as a man lies with a woman; it is an abomination."(Lev. 18:22, TNIV)

"If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is

detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads."(Lev. 20:13, TNIV)

This is the most direct text in the Bible on the subject of homosexual acts. Note that the passage does not talk

about female homosexual relations, nor does it talk about a nonphysical loving relationships between men.

"And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he

was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt."(1 Samuel

18:3-4, TNIV)

"I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more

wonderful than that of women. "(2 Samuel 1:26, TNIV)

“After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan

three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the

most.”(1 Samuel 20:41, TNIV)

Some scholars have interpreted this as showing that there was a sexual relationship between Jonathan and
David, though the text does not explicitly state that. The text does show that intimate love which is “more

wonderful than that of women” and demonstrates that nudity and kissing are seemingly acceptable between

two men.

"but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the

judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever

shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." (Matthew 5:22; KJV).

This passage shows Jesus chastising people for being contempt, in this case using the term Raca, a word

some scholars translate as a homosexual slur.

The gospel of John contains four versus which refer to himself as being the “disciple whom Jesus loved”

(John 13:23; 19:26; 21:7; 21:20, TNIV) More examples of love between two men who are not related.

"Because of this [idolatry], God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural

sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women

and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in

themselves the due penalty for their error.”(Epistles to the Romans 1:26-27, TNIV)

This could be the only explicit reference to female homosexuality in the Bible. There is no explicit references

to what the womens unnatural sexual relations included. Nor does the passage specify what the men's

shameful acts were.

It is easy to see why so much controversy throughout the ages has originated from this debate. Even the most

explicit Biblical texts are ambiguous.

The early church used the term 'sodomite' to describe any person who committed an act of sodomy. This is

not the same as our contemporary idea of homosexuality, as it distinguishes between the act of a person and

the type of person. Simply having the urge to participate in homosexual acts did not make you a sodomite,

nor did non-physical affection toward someone of your own sex. To be labeled as a sodomite a person could

either have participated in a homosexual act or participated in an act of sodomy with a heterosexual partner.
If you, as a sodomite, repented for your transgression and promised to sustain from such acts in the future

you would lose your sodomite title and be accepted back in the community. It should be noted though that

homosexual sodomy was considered worse than heterosexual sodomy and that either could (in some places

and times) be punishable by death. (Greenberg, 227)

Plato is quoted by many as saying “Homosexuality is regarded as shameful by barbarians and by those who

live under despotic governments just as philosophy is regarded as shameful by them, because it is apparently

not in the interest of such rulers to have great ideas engendered in their subjects, or powerful friendships or

passionate love-all of which homosexuality is particularly apt to produce.” This opinion seemed to influence

the early church as well as the authors of the Bible until around 400 B.C.E when St. Augustine suggested that

there was a distinction between what was natural and what was unnatural. St. Augustine's idea that there

could be natural acts, or uses, for what God has given us quickly proliferated into the people of Rome. As

soon as 529 B.C.E we can see it's affect in the Roman law with the introduction of Justinian's Law, making

homosexual acts punishable under Roman law. The idea that acts are separate from person again is

recognized, you could repent and avoid your death sentence.

The church embraced the concept of “nature” as being a standard against which we can judge morality soon

after the Roman people did. Later, in 1179 Lateran III would state that “Whoever shall be found to have

committed that incontinence which is against nature” should be punished. This would be the first ecumenical

council to condemn homosexuality and set a precedent for the church.

The falling of the Roman empire brought a tolerance for homosexual acts to the people. “European secular

law contained few measure against homosexuality until the middle of the thirteenth century.”(Greenberg,

260) Though some parts of the church continued to denounce homosexuality and homosexual acts, through

the 12th century these acts went unpunished.(Boswell, ch.8-9)

By the 12th century and through the 14th century there was a general rise of intolerance. Homosexuals,

Muslims, Jews, and heretics began to be persecuted by the church and the people. This was when the first

condemnation of homosexual acts, by Lateran II in 1179, were decreed by the church. The decree did not
define what was unnatural, or whether things like homosexual acts could be in the nature of what we now

consider to be a homosexual. The enforcement of these rules though were sporadic and generally

underwhelming (Greenberg, 313). This sporadic enforcement continued until in the 18th and 19th centuries

there was a change in people opinion of what was 'natural'. If a person is born a homosexual than are

homosexual acts not natural for that person? Would heterosexual acts not be unnatural?

New discoveries in medicine and psychology as well as growing secular education for the youth helped shift

this the peoples opinion on homosexuality. Medicine recognized that people were born with innate

psychological qualities, which included homosexuality. Developing medicine characterized homosexuality as

a mental state, one in which “rehabilitation” was preferred to punishment. (Greenberg, ch 15) Secular

schooling for children created a more open minded environment. Think of the fuss Darwin created.

In our contemporary times the church has taken a very public role against homosexuality. Why has the

church suddenly started such a campaign against homosexuals?

In his writings, Saint Paul insisted, “The written code kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (II Corinthians 3:6)

Sadly, it seems that as time passed less and less people recognize this. To overcome the ambiguity of Jesus'

message, the Church begins establishing rules which can be easily understood and followed by the people.

The Catholics, for example, have taken this to the extreme and have created the Catechism. A book which

outlines all Catholic beliefs and how you should follow them in order to obtain your assumed goal of getting

into heaven. It is the ridged linear style of thinking (Western style of thinking?) which is captured through

books such as this. The introduction of such ridged rules has allowed the followers of the faith to blindly

follow it. There is no motivation to read and interpret the Bible yourself if the rules have already been

extracted from it and laid down before you. People began to build layers upon Jesus' original message. Jesus'

very basic principles were slowly misinterpreted into layers of rules. The innate problem with developing a

specific set of rules is that there are always loopholes. I bet Jesus knew this.

This is not only the fault of the church, it is also the fault of the people. Since the first set of written rules

were laid down in 1760 BC, by Hammurabi, man has only created more rules. Paul spoke to the early church
about love and the connection that Christians should hold with Jesus. Paul says that the Holy spirit's fruits are

the virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Gal.5:22). Love is

the best way of all (1 Cor. 13). This is simple to interpret but has been lost on most Christians. The problem

comes when people see Christianity not as a way of life, but as a set of rules one must follow to get into

heaven. In reading the New Testament you see that Jesus is not laying out a set of rules to be followed, but

demonstrating a lifestyle which is for the betterment of man.

At first I thought the WWJD bracelets were stupid. I now recognize that it was probably the best thing that

had happened to the Christian youth in a while. What would Jesus do? The bracelet was a visual reminder to

follow the golden rule, to follow Jesus' example. Who did Jesus hate? How many wars would Jesus start?

How much of his money would Jesus donate to charity? To bad it was a fad and not a national awakening.

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah was not meant as a story about the punishment of people who participated

in homosexual acts, premarital sex, and sodomy. It was a story where God came down and punished a town

full of people who would not take care of their brothers (“She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and

unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy”). A message of love though would not scare the

populace into not having premarital sex.

It is the influence of control and power that have led to the warping of Jesus' original message. As society has

become more secular, the church has had to fight harder against things which it views as being immoral, to

exert it's control on society. Things such as premarital sex, noprocreative sex, and masturbation have become

increasingly accepted by the populace and therefore increasingly ranted against by the church. To help in this

battle they have reinterpreted Biblical texts to fit their need. No longer is Sodom and Gomorrah a moving

story about the people who would not care for their fellow brother, now it is a story about those terrible

things such as homosexuality and non vaginal sex for which God has no tolerance. It is interesting to note

that God did not punish Lot for trying to give away his two daughters to be raped or for impregnating both of

these same daughters once they left Sodom.

Within the United States religion has been continually trying to obtain more political power. As political
questions such as gay marriage arise, the church is there to put in it's two cents. Why than don't I hear more

followers of the faith on the twenty four hour news channels talking about loving our neighbor when the

subject of gay marriage comes up? What happened to the golden rule? Messages such as those do not make it

into the media. To be heard above the dull roar of society you must make more noise, you must stir up more

controversy, you need to get people angry. Like Jesus would.

Jesus' original message of love for all people from all people has been changed into a message of fear. You

should fear the wrath of God, fear hell, fear those around you who are different. Think how different this

nation would be if the eighty percent of Americans who claim to be Christian put the energy they use fighting

over gay marriage toward living more like Jesus.

Reference List

Boswell, John, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the

Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century, The University of Chicago Press, 1980.

Dunn, Laura. “The Evolution of Imperial Roman Attitudes Toward Same-Sex Acts”. Doctor of Philosophy.

Diss., Miami University, 1998.

Dover, K.L., Greek Homosexuality. Cambridge, MA, 1989

Greenberg, David F., The Construction of Homosexuality, The University of Chicago Press, 1988.

Manton, Thomas, Jude. Crossway Books, 1999.

Springett, Ronald M, Homosexuality in History and the Scriptures. Biblical Research Institute, 1988.