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Does the New Testament Condemn Modern Practices of Homosexuality?

The third in-class debate (for the other two, see my two preceding posts) is in some ways the most controversial of all, as it hits at the heart of a highly fraught topic today.   And yet the resolution may seem to some people to be undebatable – that the answer to it is obvious.  As it turns out, it isn’t.  The third resolution is this:

Resolved:  The New Testament Condemns Modern Practices of Homosexuality

Again, the wording of the resolution is meant to make students think about the very words being used.  What is “homosexuality”?  And what are “modern” practices?   If you define homosexuality as same-sex sexual relations, and you define modern practices as things like men having sex with men, then it seems that the answer would be fairly obvious: yes the New Testament does seem to condemn that sort of thing.  But, actually, it’s not that simple.  At all.

There are tons of issues involved, which make this debate very complicated.   For one thing …

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Were Paul’s Views of Women Oppressive?

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Comments

  1. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  March 16, 2016

    So, then, why didn’t homosexuals get married in the ancient world?

  2. Avatar
    crucker  March 16, 2016

    I’ve heard arguments that the sexual acts named in Romans 1 were in the specific context of idolatry (since Paul does say these sexual acts were an effect of the previously named transgressions– language like “therefore” and “for this cause” in verses 24 and 26) and linked to specific pagan worship practices and/or temple prostitution. Specifically, I’ve heard people suggest the condemnation addresses the cult of Cybele, and that the readers would have been aware of these circumstances. How valid are these arguments?

    1
    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2016

      I think the logic of his rhetoric forces one to think that he is referring to *all* Gentiles, in the context of Romans 1-3.

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      • Avatar
        jhague  March 18, 2016

        To Gentiles who were considered to be pagans. So therefore related to their religious practices? Especially from the point of the Gentiles being involved in temple prostitution?

        • Bart
          Bart  March 19, 2016

          Possibly, but that is never mentioned in the text. The point is that all gentiles are condemned — so it almost certainly has to be more than just temple prostitutes and their customers for the logic to work.

          1
          • Avatar
            jhague  March 21, 2016

            Even though all Gentiles are condemned by the Jews in the first century in general, the Jews still had specific things that were mentioned that caused the Gentiles to be condemned. Men not being circumcised, not eating kosher, etc. Rom 1:23-27 certainly is discussing incorrect worship, especially worship that does not include the Jewish God. This particle passage does seem to be mentioning same sex relations as it pertains to incorrect worship as the Jews see it. This especially seems to ring true if the first century people did not think of same sex as an orientation. The Jews/Paul would have seen same sex act used in pagan worship as against their God so therefore wrong. Doesn’t it appear in the Old Testament clobber passages that the attempt is to get the Hebrews to not act like their neighbors from a worshiping God position?

          • Bart
            Bart  March 22, 2016

            Yes, the Hebrew Bible stresses the need for God’s people to worship him differently. But the sex acts in Romans 1 are not described as being part of worship, but as a result of worshiping incorrectly.

          • Avatar
            jhague  March 22, 2016

            That’s what I said…worshiping incorrectly via same sex relations. I think we’re saying the same thing. My point is that the Romans passage and the few other biblical passages are not talking about a loving relationship between two people. The biblical passages seem always be slanted toward how the gentiles approach worship in what the Jews/Christians perceived as incorrect.
            People today should not consider anything that the Bible says about this subject due to it coming from a completely different thinking. I think that might be what you are also saying?

          • Bart
            Bart  March 23, 2016

            Ah, no that’s not what I’m saying. As I read Romans, Paul thinks that the wrongful worship of idols has led pagans to become sexually promiscuous (not in the temple but in the bedroom). But I agree completely: Paul has no idea of loving sexual relations between people of the same sex.

          • Avatar
            jhague  March 23, 2016

            So if the worship of idols has led pagans to what Paul views as inappropriate sex relations, his thoughts are still tied to pagan worship. Would you say that all of Paul’s few comments regarding this topic always tie back to pagan idol worship in some way?

          • Bart
            Bart  March 24, 2016

            Only to the extent that it was the worship of idols that made people sexually licentious (because they rejected God, God rejected them)

          • Avatar
            jhague  April 18, 2016

            Based on what I have read from you and others on this topic, I believe the answer to your question, “Does the New Testament Condemn Modern Practices of Homosexuality?” has to be no it does not. With that said, in the year 2016, people who do not form their thoughts and opinions regarding sexual orientation on what they believe that religion or the Bible says should not have any problem with homosexuals in general in more than they have any problems with heterosexuals in general.
            In your opinion, Does the New Testament Condemn Modern Practices of Homosexuality?
            I know they did not have an understanding of homosexuality, but with what they wrote and how we understand what they wrote, were they condemning homosexuality or something else? (I think it was something else)

          • Bart
            Bart  April 18, 2016

            They were certainly condemning same sex sexual relations. But they couldn’t be condemning what we think of as homosexuality since for them that didn’t exist….

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          • Avatar
            jhague  April 19, 2016

            Right. So why were they (Paul) probably in your opinion condemning same sex relations.

          • Bart
            Bart  April 20, 2016

            It was widely seen as hugely transgressive. But for reasons other than today. (What was “natural” and “unnatural” was so for different reasons back then — less about anatomy [what fits where] and more about who should be dominant and who more submissive)

          • Avatar
            jhague  April 20, 2016

            So the Old and New Testament verses that are against same sex relations are because the writers of those times believed that it was morally wrong for a man to take a submissive role.
            What is Paul’s issue then with women and same sex relations in Rom 1:26?

          • Bart
            Bart  April 21, 2016

            It was also wrong for woman to take a dominant role.

          • Avatar
            jhague  April 21, 2016

            There are some authors who believe that some of the opposition to same sex relations in both the old and new testaments is because of the immorality of temple prostitution, rape and pedophilia. Do you see this as an issue with the biblical writers or do you see it all as the morality of the dominance vs submissive issue?

          • Bart
            Bart  April 22, 2016

            If it was there concern, they never say so.

          • Avatar
            jhague  April 22, 2016

            So the term,natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, is referring to dominance and submissiveness? Not a heterosexual performing a homosexual act? Or a homsexual performing a heterosexual act? Going against that which is natural. In ancient times, going against what is natural was a man being submissive when a he should be dominant or a woman being dominant when she should be submissive.

          • Bart
            Bart  April 24, 2016

            That’s the point — they didn’t have any *sense* that there were such things as homosexuals and heterosexuals.

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          • Avatar
            jhague  April 25, 2016

            So the biblical verses have nothing to do with the way we live, think and understand today. But try and get the conservative Christians to understand this point. I’m afraid it will never happen.

            1
          • Bart
            Bart  April 25, 2016

            I would say that if biblical verses *are* relevant, they have to be retranslated into the contemporary idiom and situation.

            1
          • Avatar
            jhague  December 4, 2017

            Why does Paul think that the worship of idols has led pagans to become sexually promiscuous? Has this been mentioned by anyone else in the first century and before?

          • Bart
            Bart  December 4, 2017

            It appears to be standard Jewish polemic against pagan idolaters.

          • Avatar
            jhague  December 5, 2017

            Ah! So like me being told when I was growing up that dancing leads to premarital sex, card and dice games lead to gambling, etc, right?

            1
          • Avatar
            jhague  June 1, 2018

            Do you have a thought on why Paul mentions women’s unnatural acts in Romans but women are not mentioned in the OT?

          • Bart
            Bart  June 2, 2018

            I suppose he was taking the idea a step further.

            1
          • Avatar
            jhague  June 4, 2018

            1. How does Paul know about these “unnatural acts” since sex is normally private? Is he hearing about it due to people saying what they are doing? Is any of it being done in public places?

            2. You have explained that same sex acts were considered unnatural due to the male was thought to be always dominant and the woman was to be submissive. Would there have been any issue of Paul thinking that same sex relations were odd since it was not the norm? So he therefore did not like it?

          • Bart
            Bart  June 5, 2018

            How do *you* and *I* know about “unnatural” sex acts that we have never seen personally? And yes, he thought the “norms” were god-given.

            1
          • Avatar
            jhague  June 5, 2018

            I guess I was thinking that communication is different in modern times. I wasn’t sure what kind of “gossip” tree Paul may have been listening to. Also wondering if some of the acts were known about due to public bath house and/or participation in pagan temples.

          • Bart
            Bart  June 7, 2018

            I wish we knew!

  3. Avatar
    Wilusa  March 16, 2016

    I can’t help being amused by the thought that Catholicism, at least, used to make it easy: *any* sex outside of marriage was a mortal sin, and same-sex marriages weren’t legal anywhere in the U.S., so the issue of homosexuality didn’t have to be discussed at all! Now, of course, the Church has had to take a stand, because they could, legally, marry same-sex couples…and they don’t.

    I’m not sure attitudes today are as different as you say. I think people who object to homosexuality still think gay men aren’t “manly,” and gay/lesbian women are “unfeminine.” And personally, I’m still not convinced “orientation” is completely inborn, not influenced by life experiences. But I have no objection to someone’s being homosexual or bisexual, so my understanding of it doesn’t really matter.

    I must admit, I find it puzzling that people want to be called “gay,” or even “lesbian” (though the origin of that term is slightly more dignified), rather than homosexual. When discussing a possibly-homosexual person from an earlier era, I *never* refer to him as “gay.” And I think of myself as heterosexual rather than “straight”…but I sometimes wonder whether the younger generation knows what “heterosexual” means!

    • Pattycake1974
      Pattycake1974  March 18, 2016

      Is it nature or nurture that makes people who they are? I think it can be one or the other or both.

      • Avatar
        shakespeare66  March 30, 2016

        In my view, being gay is not a choice. I agree that it can be shaped by both one’s genetics or one’s environment; however, I think genetics dominates those who are deemed gay. I have known more of those than those shaped by their experiences.

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    jamesrodkey  March 16, 2016

    Is it possible to have a reasonable expectation of what the historical Jesus’ views about human sexuality would have been? For a Jew living in the Roman world, were there conflicting cultural ideologies in the realm of sexual activity? Is there a possibility that the gospel writers might have had a different view from that of the historical Jesus on these kinds of matters?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2016

      Yes, the only plausible way to get to the question is by seeing what we know from authors who explicitly talk about such things, or whose writings clearly presuppose an implicit view. Then as now, of course, there were ranging views.

  5. Avatar
    Wilusa  March 16, 2016

    P.S. to previous: I’m assuming, of course, that “gay” is derived from those Depression-era hobo couples calling themselves “dingbats” (the older ones) and “gaycats” (the young ones).

  6. Avatar
    Dipsao  March 16, 2016

    I find it curious that for all Paul’s prudishness, he never condemned master-slave sex acts, especially if it was a Christian master involved. (Maybe he did but I’m not aware of any mention of it. His most specific condemnation is, what some would call today, an act of “incest” in First Corinthians chapter five and even then we are not told much.) My question is, Would Paul’s lack of giving direction in master-slave sex acts be a refection of the attitudes you’ve described as dominate/submissive or one reflecting property ownership?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2016

      Yes, he never seems to have questioned slavery at all, but presupposed that it was normal and right.

      • Avatar
        TGeiger  October 15, 2017

        I even heard a pastor teach that Paul didn’t condemn slavery because it was economically necessary. My head nearly exploded.

  7. talmoore
    talmoore  March 16, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman, I notice that the ancients associated abstinence with religious purity. That’s why virginity was so praised, especially amongst women like the Vestal Virgins, but also why Cynics, who freely had sex publicly, were not considered religious ascetics or holy in any way. There was something about the sex act itself (regardless of whether if was heterosexual or homosexual) that set apart sanctified individuals from profaned individuals (I think it’s significant that the Hebrew word for “holy”, qodesh, literally means to “set apart”, i.e. those things that were worthy to be set aside for a deity). Being abstinent, therefore, was the ultimate gesture of “setting yourself apart” for God. That’s why chastity and celibacy are often seen as the ultimate expression of religious devotion.

    But the human species is not going to last long being completely abstinent, so some people have to have sex simply for the sake of procreation. And that’s why sex purely for the sake of procreation is the next level down on the scale of acceptable behavior. And since sex outside of marriage runs the risk of creating a society of bastards, such sex for the sake of procreation must be done within the confines of a marriage. So on a scale of 1 to 10 — 1 being gross profanity and 10 being the epitome of holiness — chaste celibacy is a 10 and sex for procreation within a marriage is a 9. That’s why Paul says that the former is the ideal, but the latter is an inferior yet acceptable alternative. Anything else immediately profanes one’s holiness. This includes not only same-sex sex, but ANY sexual behavior that is not for the sake of procreation within a marriage.

    That being said, I think this attitude toward sex had the exact same effect on the individual back then as it does today. Namely, if one is *naturally* inclined toward same-sex relations (as we now know that homosexuality is hard-wired into an individual, so to speak) then any attempt to stigmatize that innate inclination is going to have a negative effect on that individual’s psyche — usually in the form of shame and guilt. That is to say, the same way that current closeted gay men and women will often we’ll ashamed and guilty of their orientation (because of societal stigmatization), we would expect that ancient gay men and women would have felt the very same sense of shame and guilt.

    I’m actually currently working on a novel about the historical Jesus, and though ultimately it’s a fiction in which I fill up the historical gaps with my own speculations and artistic license, I’m trying to at least make it historically plausible. One of my bits of artistic license is that I’m making Jesus a gay man who, living in a world that stigmatizes same-sex sex, feels ashamed of his innate desires, and so seeks consolation in his faith. (Yes, I have Jesus attempting to pray away the gay.) And that desire to overcome his shame is what drives his motivations and furthers the plot. Anyway, just thought I’d share that.

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    godspell  March 16, 2016

    Leviticus pretty clearly condemns the ‘dominant’ partner, by saying it is an abomination to lie with a man as with a woman. You’ll get to that, I’m sure.

    However, it’s always amusing to see fundamentalist scholars try to make the Old Testament condemn lesbian relationships. As far as the Old Testament authors were concerned, those relationships did not matter, could scarcely be said to even exist in any meaningful sense. What women did when men were not dominating them, or propagating with them, was not consequential. No semen is involved–and the ancients had a very poor understanding of the mechanics of conception. Only men can produce the seed of life, and women are merely a vessel for that seed to grow in. So with no man involved, no seed is being wasted (as when a man lies with a man, or masturbates), and no children can be produced, and no property issues are impacted in any way. Let the women amuse themselves however they wish when no man is around–it doesn’t matter.

    Really, when you read through Leviticus, you realize that lesbians are basically the ONLY people who get off scot-free. Very little of Leviticus is about homosexual behavior. And I have never understood for the life of me how any Christian Fundamentalist can eat pork and shellfish with a straight face. You should pardon the expression. 😉

    1
    • Pattycake1974
      Pattycake1974  March 18, 2016

      I’ve wondered about those same things–no laws against lesbian acts….and then the shellfish/pork issue. I think it goes back to Peter (I think) having a vision and all foods being declared clean.

      • Avatar
        godspell  March 22, 2016

        I–just had a vision! All sex acts are hereby declared clean, unless somebody is being used against their will. And as long as they don’t do it in public and frighten the horses. It shall be anathema to frighten the horses.

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    • Rick
      Rick  April 10, 2016

      Leviticus is such a treasure chest of direction on what we can and cannot do… but I do have a question:
      Leviticus 11:6-8 says that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

    • Avatar
      Elagabalus  October 16, 2017

      “Leviticus pretty clearly condemns the ‘dominant’ partner, by saying it is an abomination to lie with a man as with a woman.”
      That view has been challenged in an article that just came out in the Journal of Biblical Literature, “Who Is Doing What to Whom Revisited: Another Look at Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13.”

  9. Avatar
    jhanna2  March 16, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman. I was wondering what you thought of Robert Gagnon’s book The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics or Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views with contributions from Dan O. Via and Gagnon?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2016

      I think that he has a seriously homophobic agenda.

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        MMahmud  March 19, 2016

        Most Christians believe it to be an immoral sin. I understand based on different perspectives, this is either a religious value to be respected or a belief that is innately homophobic.

        What of you Bart? Lets get your perspective. Is believing gay sex to be sinful homophobic?

        • Bart
          Bart  March 19, 2016

          I think that anyone who opposes someone from having sex with someone they love is being inexcusably prejudicial, if that answers your question.

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            MMahmud  March 19, 2016

            I think it does answer my question. By this understanding, the vast majority of Muslims and Christians in the world are inexcusably prejudicial because the vast majority oppose this act.

            *How* they oppose it varies of course, but the vast majority have always opposed it at the very least by considering it sinful.

            In fact, most Muslims, and probably a huge number of Christians would excommunicate their brethren for failing to affirm it’s sinfulness.

            I count myself among them simply because this is the stance of literally every single Muslim in the past. I don’t think there was ever a time, even a day or even an hour in the past 1400 years where religious authorities *wouldn’t* be willing to excommunicate a Muslim who refused to affirm that these acts were sinful. Add to that, there hasn’t been a single religious authority for 1400 years from the time of the very earliest Muslims who did not consider the act as sinful and immoral. There are some modern day “imams” who’ve come out in support of it but practically nobody considers them to even be Muslims, let alone imams.

            I don’t think for most of Christian history, this was much different either. And I definitely think you pretty much admitted it-Paul would not approve of gay sex. Gay sex I don’t think, has gone major theological changes (haha joking) in the past 2000 years.

  10. Avatar
    LWE  March 16, 2016

    Aristophanes’s Speech from Plato’s Symposium comes relatively close to modern conceptions of homosexuality, so I think it rebuts the “strong” thesis of ancients not being able to think like that at all. However, the question of how widespread similar concepts were is a different issue. It’s possible that this way of thinking was marginal.

    Sex = dominance concept still exists in modern world as well, although its influence is lessened by other concepts. Mass consciousness is often contradictory even in matters less taboo than sexual ones.

  11. Avatar
    MMahmud  March 16, 2016

    Bart….I am pretty sure you will affirm that Jews back then would not approve of any gay behavior…..I think you will affirm yourself that the historical Paul is not someone who would approve of any sexual behavior or actions between two people of the same gender. The same with Jesus.

    And the New Testament itself is really nothing but what it’s authors intended.

    What Romans may have said or done I’m the Roman world is distinct from what Jews in the Roman world would have said or done. There is no way a religious Jewish preacher back then is going to have anywhere near the same view of gay sex as a Roman.

    I can’t even see how this is a debate. One side can just win by saying “Paul was a Jew.” End of story.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2016

      I suppose it depends on *which* Jews you are talking about. Jews in antiquity did not have the same view about anything any more than Jews today do.

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      • Avatar
        MMahmud  March 18, 2016

        Ok

        Do you think there is an iota of chance that the historical Paul would have not disapproved of any gay sexual behavior?

        Heck, is there any evidence anywhere of ANY Jew let alone a religious preacher NOT disapproving of any form of gay sex?

        • Bart
          Bart  March 19, 2016

          Paul certainly would have condemned same-sex sexual relations. But he would have understood what such relations *mean* in a radically different way from most people today.

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          • Avatar
            MMahmud  March 19, 2016

            Sure, but like you said yourself, he would have condemned gay sex. Sure people in the modern era understand relationships differently, but since he would have condemned gay sex, that settles the gay sex acts aspect of the debate.

    • Avatar
      rwfitch45  April 1, 2016

      How much significance should we give to the Apocalyptic urgency of both Jesus and Paul? In reference to marriage, Paul says to stay in whatever state you may – married or unmarried. It is more important to proclaim the Good News as the imminent coming of the Kingdom is at hand.

      • Bart
        Bart  April 3, 2016

        It depends what you mean. If by significance, you mean “significance for interpreting what Paul had to say about ethics” then yes, it is highly significant.

  12. Garrett20
    Garrett20  March 16, 2016

    The New Testament was written by Jewish men (with the exception of Luke), so would it not be more important to understand how they viewed homosexuality/sexual relations ? You cited Greek and Roman beliefs in antiquity, but it was the Jews that understood well what “sexual sins” were; which are not limited to homosexuality but also sex with animals, sodomy, adultery, etc… The NT is plainly against the practice of ANY sexual sin, which is defined clearly in the OT. I believe from the Jewish perspective these sexual sins are condemned explicitly. I know that homosexuality is often highlighted as controversial, but we cannot ignore that the biblical authors condemn *all* sexual sin, not homosexuality alone. After all, Jesus was Jewish and he knew what sexual sins were; he rebuked women who were practicing adultery such as the woman at the well in John 4.

    I believe Paul wrote the Romans passage you displayed to explain how the Lord was *against* such Greek and Roman practices. I also believe there had to be *some* sense of sexuality or the Jews would not have written about it so extensively in the Law of Moses. For example, the author of Leviticus chapter 18 draws a distinct circle around sexual sins.

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    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2016

      A conception of sexual sin is not the same thing as the conception of sexual orientation.

      • Garrett20
        Garrett20  March 18, 2016

        Correct, maybe I should re-phrase my question: could you explain how you think the *Jews* viewed sexual orientation? I do understand your citing of Roman and Greek viewpoints, but I feel the Jewish viewpoint is much more important in relating to the biblical texts. There were, of course, Jews that were Roman citizens but Jews held to a very different world view. I think this important to consider.

        • Bart
          Bart  March 19, 2016

          From what we can tell, Jews understood sexual orientation the same way everyone else did — i.e., not at all. (They had no conception of it).

      • Avatar
        MMahmud  March 18, 2016

        Yeah but if someone is disapproving of gay sex, that takes care of the bulk of the matter.

      • Avatar
        godspell  March 19, 2016

        Men who are desperate for some kind of sexual contact, and have no opportunity to be with females (most of whom would be off-limits in the society we’re discussing now), do not, historically speaking, have to be gay in order to have sex with other males, or with farm animals for that matter. I’m not being humorous, this is literally true now, and certainly was then.

        The Old Testament segments dealing with sexuality mainly condemn all practices outside marriage (including masturbation), because the goal of the authors is to channel that energy strictly into propagation. The concern is not about ‘homosexuality’, because as you say, they don’t necessarily recognize this exists–certainly not as a condition one is born into. They probably thought that men who sought sexual release with other men and with animals and even though self-stimulation were debasing their natures, and might eventually become like those Sodom & Gomorrah fellows. Not so far from what many think now. But even sleeping with loose women was bad, of course. For certain men of high rank, concubines were acceptable, as long as they were exclusive.

        They were asking a very high standard of behavior, which many if not most men simply couldn’t live up to. Not that all men have equally strong sex drives (thankfully we don’t all have Augustine of Hippo’s sex drive), but we all need release more often than we can find it through accepted channels.

        And a thorough reading of the Old Testament shows many instances, of course, of men who can’t live up to these standards, even though they are beloved of God, and chosen for great things.

        Was David bisexual? We can’t know about the real man, but the character in the Old Testament certainly shows certain proclivities.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_and_Jonathan#Homoeroticism

    • Rick
      Rick  April 3, 2016

      You cite the NT as plainly against the practice of sexual sin, but – the NT is four gospels, one book about early Christianity, 20 some letters and an apocalyptic revelation, maybe 8 or 9 authors? Is not saying “it” is for or against anything oversimplifying?

      • Bart
        Bart  April 4, 2016

        Yup! But I suppose the question would mean “Any of ‘it'”

  13. Avatar
    gavriel  March 16, 2016

    Ancient people , like modern people, could not have failed to notice that certain individuals were consistent in their sexual practices, avoiding heterosexual relations.
    To me it looks like Paul, in Rom 1:26, says that God gives certain types of sinners a perverted sexual orientation as a punishment, and that it is this orientation that causes same-sex practices. Or is the Greek original to be understood differently?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2016

      No, I’d say Romans doesn’t say anything about them being given an orientation. Ancients had not idea of an orientation. Romans is indicating that these people were handed over to their crass desires. They lost hte divine protection from doing wicked things.

    • Avatar
      LWE  March 19, 2016

      A hypothesis I have that food taste is a pretty good analogy. We notice that certain people consistently like spicy food while other people like less pungent dishes, but we don’t have the concept of a “food taste orientation”. (This would make for a funny parody: “eating ketchup is a sin, desire to eat it is inherently disordered”, “ketchup-lovers were born that way”, etc).

      • Avatar
        LWE  March 19, 2016

        Although ancients who emphasised preference and de-emphasised the act would likely come close to our orientation concept (but only as an extreme part of the continuum).

  14. Avatar
    Steefen  March 16, 2016

    It’s not complicated at all.
    Part I
    One of the New Testament’s teachers is the figure Jesus.
    Given what appears below, the question, “Does the New Testament Condemn Modern Practices of Homosexuality?” is equivalent to “Does the Old Testament Condemn Modern Practices of Homosexuality?”

    Part II
    Second, the Maccabeans revolted against Greek ways. The New Testament probably does not represent a 180 degree turn from Maccabean culture.

    Part I
    https://carm.org/questions/about-jesus/what-did-jesus-teach-about-old-testament
    What Did Jesus Teach about the Old Testament
    Source of Authority
    When confronted by Satan, Jesus appealed to the Old Testament as a source of authority by stating, “It is written,” (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10).

    Imperishability
    “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished,” (NASB, Matt. 5:18).

    Unbreakability
    “The Scripture cannot be broken,” (NASB, Jn. 10:35).

    Source of Doctrinal Authority
    Jesus appealed to Scripture when correcting false doctrine stating, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God,” (NASB, Matt. 22:29).

    Truthfulness
    “Your word is truth,” (NASB, Jn. 17:17).

    Historical Reliability
    Jesus affirmed the historical existence of Jonah (Matt. 12:40), Noah (Matt. 24:37-38), and Adam and Eve (Matt. 19:4-6).

    Scientific Reliability
    Jesus affirmed that God created the world (Mk. 13:19, cf. Matt. 19:4).

    Old Testament Canonicity1
    Jesus made reference to the Law and Prophets as a unit, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill,” (Matt. 5:17).
    Jesus explained the Scriptures, “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures,” (NASB, Luke 24:27).
    Jesus referred to the entire Canon by mentioning all the prophets from Abel (from Genesis, the first book and first martyr) to Zechariah (Chronicles, the last book, and the last martyr) (Matt. 23:35).

    Part II
    About the year 200 BCE, there arose among the Jewish population a group called the Misyavnim, meaning Hellenists, who adopted Greek culture as a way of life to such a degree that, almost invariably, they gave up their Jewish culture and identity.

    For instance, the Greeks were great believers in nudity. Their sports were done in the nude. Their bathhouses were attended in the nude. In the ancient world, the Jews and some Arabs were the only people who were circumcised. Thus, if you wanted to be a good Greek, you were embarrassed to go to the bathhouse or participate in sports. Consequently, Hellenized Jews underwent painful operations — at a time with minimum anesthetics — to restore their foreskin and appear Greek.

    Imported along with the Greek language, customs and sports were Greek idols and modes of worship. Temples to the Greek gods and statues of Zeus littered the countryside. Each Greek home had its own set of idols, a patron god custom-made for the family, as well as a whole set of sacrificial rites. Worst of all, Greek strongholds embraced all the terrible moral looseness of the Greek world.

    As time passed, more and more Jews not only spoke like Greeks, but took on their customs, attitudes and behaviors, which on so many levels were antithetical to the values of Judaism. Estimates are that a 30-40% of the Jewish population became Hellenists. Most of the upper class was simply swept away by this tide of Hellenist thought. … from http://www.jewishhistory.org/the-hell-in-hellenism/

  15. Avatar
    fishician  March 16, 2016

    I was a Christian fundamentalist but also a physician. The more I dealt with people of different sexual orientations and read the research about sexual orientation the less I could accept the idea that homosexuality was just a sinful lifestyle “choice.” The more I studied the Bible the less convinced I became that they really had an enlightened concept of gender orientation. Jesus never married and surrounded himself with men. Paul seems to claim that an “asexual” lifestyle is best to serve God. David, “the man after God’s own heart,” loved Jonathan deeply but seemed to have shallow relationships with his wives. But the bottom line: why should we listen to ancient texts about things like this, when they can’t provide any real evidence that their teachings are divine, especially when there are so many factual and moral flaws in their writings?

    • Avatar
      godspell  March 19, 2016

      Actually, there was no problem with Jesus surrounding himself with men–it was his many relationships with unmarried women that probably raised eyebrows, not necessarily because he was having sex with them, but because he talked to them as if they were conscious sentient beings, who needed instruction and guidance as much as men. An extremely rare attitude in that era, in any culture, anywhere.

      Though the Twelve were all men, Jesus clearly had many female disciples, and it was they who reportedly found his empty tomb, and first witnessed the resurrection.

      To not marry is not proof of anything–Jesus was rejecting all earthly things, including the propagation of heirs. Heirs to what? He literally owned nothing but the clothes on his back. This is one thing that makes me question whether he really thought he’d be an earthly king. An earthly king wants heirs. So unless he believed he would live forever in the flesh after the Kingdom of God was instituted (possible but hard to prove), it was most likely his expectation to be with God in heaven.

      So that leaves the question of his sexuality rather open–if he’d been sexual with men, his followers would have abandoned him. If he’d been seducing young unmarried women, probably same thing. He was perceived as someone of great discipline. I suspect he gave up not merely sex, but sexuality itself (after perhaps experimenting in his youth).

      This is not impossible for men to do by any means (Pedro de Alcantara of Medieval Spain is said to have viewed all people, male and female, as if they were trees walking around). Just really really difficult. And this would explain why he could interact so freely with women–and talk to them as fellow human beings. Nobody would need to tell him “Hey, my eyes are up here.” He was already looking into their eyes. 🙂

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    Jana  March 16, 2016

    I’m going to throw in a contemporary example here in Mexico continuing with the dominance theme. It has been very difficult for Health Officials to follow AIDS (called SIDA) cases in Mexico because culturally the only partner who is considered homosexual is the passive partner. The dominant person is NOT culturally thought to be homosexual. So there are those in Catholic Mexico who have same sex relationships and are not thought of as homosexual and therefore not in violation of Church doctrine. What would Christ have thought as a Rabbi?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2016

      I wish we had some evidence to say!

      1
      • Avatar
        godspell  March 19, 2016

        He never talks about sex at all, does he?

        He doesn’t think it’s that important.

        One area in which I vehemently disagree with him, and yet somehow admire him.

    • Avatar
      mjordan20149  March 18, 2016

      I have read that this is evidently true for many cultures around the world. The passive partner is the one who is gay, not the partner who is active in the act.

    • Garrett20
      Garrett20  March 18, 2016

      Great question, Jana. If you do not mind, I will try to offer you a theological answer from a biblical perspective. Jesus did not uphold to any *cultural* viewpoint that contradicted Scripture. For example, He felt the Jews of His day had a lower viewpoint of divorce than Scripture, so he rebuked them for their error in Matthew 5:31-32. So regardless of what any church approves, if it stands against God’s written word, Jesus most certainly would be against it.

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    madi22  March 17, 2016

    Thanks for clearing this Bart, from my understanding these texts are also talking about temple prostitution to fertility gods? In saying that what you’ve just covered here just proves the point on how complex this subject is and how nobody actually really understands the bible at all. There is no definitive answer and its exactly the reason why the church has built a massive wall between believers and non believers. I also am aware that 1 in 2000 babies are born trans gendered and the doctor asks the parents what sex they want. The church needs to get with the times! get with science and human biology, because there enslaving people to rules and regulations from a book they don’t even understand as far as i’m concerned!

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2016

      I think the logic of Romans 1-3 requires us to think Paul has in mind *all* Gentiles.

    • Avatar
      MMahmud  March 19, 2016

      Perhaps you mean intersex rather than transgender.

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    Triassicman  March 17, 2016

    Bart, am I right in assuming there are two sides to the same coin here, the sexual act and sexual orientation? A man who lives where he is deprived of female connection (prison) may have a sexual act with another man, void of any romance, but reverts back to females at the first opportunity. However, a man with a homosexual orientation will ONLY have sex with other men and has romantic feelings toward his sexual partner owing to finding them physically attractive. In Romans 1:26–27 Paul appears to conflate these two. I note that in modern times in the West being of homosexual orientation was never illegal but performing the homosexual act once was.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2016

      Yes, I’d say we see it as two sides of a coin in some sense; but ancients didn’t have a two-sided coin.

    • Avatar
      Elagabalus  June 25, 2016

      ” However, a man with a homosexual orientation will ONLY have sex with other men . . .”
      Not necessarily. Here’s Fleur Adcock’s translation of epigram 5.116 by Marcus Argentarius (1st century BCE — 1st century CE) in The Greek Anthology:

      Hetero-sex is best for the man of a serious turn of mind,
      But here’s a hint, if you should fancy the other:
      Turn Menophila round in bed, address her peachy behind,
      And it’s easy to pretend you’re screwing her brother.

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    pstrst@pacbell.net  March 17, 2016

    I would love to hear more about the specific Greek word you are referring to in relation to same-sex acts. Also, since it takes two to tango, isn’t it impossible to condemn one partner without condemning the act itself? Without the “submissive” partner there would be no same-sex act.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2016

      The most debated word in this context is ARSENOKOITES, often translated “homosexual” but very rare and difficult to unpack.

      • Avatar
        Elagabalus  July 8, 2016

        “difficult to unpack”

        I guess unpacking it would be rather difficult after having packed it. 😉

    • Avatar
      LWE  March 19, 2016

      The claim is that being penetrated in any way feminizes, so only the receiver is being feminized, and being feminized for a man is Very Bad and Shameful ™. I agree, however, that a strict moral rigorist would end up condemning both partners, even if he starts from a point of view that explicitly condemns the receiver only.

  20. Avatar
    Wilusa  March 17, 2016

    A further thought… Catholicism, at least, used to imply that the only legitimate reason for having sex, even in wedlock, was to produce babies. Catholic authorities still consider “artificial” methods of birth control (e.g., use of condoms) sinful. The Pope recently granted an “exception” for women in Latin America who’re at risk from the Zika virus! (But they were never really consistent, since they didn’t deny the right of people who were sterile, or women past childbearing age, to marry.)

    To what extent did that attitude – a belief that sex is only acceptable if it can produce babies – influence views about homosexuality in the New Testament era?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2016

      My sense is that sex was widely seen as acceptable within marriage, and not just for babies. But there was a lot of discourse about wanting to restrict sexual activity (for one thing, it was often thought that the loss of semen meant the loss of manly power….)

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