Most people agree that there are parts of the Bible that are not applicable today.  We don’t normally execute people for being witches or for disobeying parents anymore (at least in the U.S.).  But what about same-sex relations?  Are the Bible’s injunctions still applicable about *that*?  It turns out the issues that are involved are different from those surrounding witches and rowdy kids, and n ways most people wouldn’t suspect.

It’s not as easy to explain why, and so I’ve been laying the background generally by talking about the Bible’s understanding of sex and gender broadly.  So far I’ve talked about the creation of Adam and Eve and what it says about gender and the relationships of male and female (the only gender categories available to the authors), and about how that basic story underlies the insistence by some early Christian authors (1 Timothy 5:11-15, e.g.) that women should be completely submissive to men, and therefore not exercise authority over them or even speak in church (or does it mean generally, unless spoken to?).

Now I’d like to explain how people in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds — the world of the New Testament — understood the relations between the genders generally.   It’s not at all the way most people today think about it, in a surprising way.  I’ve talked about it on the blog before, but it’s important to talk about it here again!  Here is how I discuss the matter in my Introduction to the New Testament.


People in our world typically consider males and females to be two different kinds of human beings related to one another like two sides of the same coin. We sometimes refer to “my better half” or to “the other half of the human race.” In antiquity, however most people did not think of men and women as different in kind but as ….

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