I am a gay Christian. I had my conversion experience at the age of 13 and came out as gay when I was 17. It was not until I was 24 that I fully committed my life to Jesus, but not before doing my due diligence on how I could reconcile my homosexuality with my faith. I am very much a man that cares about the truth in all things, and I needed to know that Jesus accepted me as a gay man before I came back to Him wholly. The Bible says, “God is love”, but that does not curb my desire to know more in light of the intellectual attacks I have faced as a gay Christian – I need to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the entirety of Scripture does not condemn homosexuality. I needed a deeper knowledge of the Word of God. I had more questions than answers because of the common rhetoric around homosexuality in the Bible and English translations of Scripture that insert the word ‘homosexual’ baselessly in their versions. So, here is what I found in my quest for truth…
Does the Bible condemn homosexuality?
Like generations of others, I have struggled with this question for most of my adult life. The Bible requires context. And a failure to appreciate that context leads to its misappropriation and consequent weaponization. It can even lead to oppression. 1 Timothy 2:11-12 for example, has been used against women to prevent them from holding leadership positions and Ephesians 6:5-7 was used as a means to justify slavery. You can see where the problem lies in taking Scripture out of context.
One particular result of this non-contextual reading that affects the gay community is the inclusion in some modern Biblical translations of the word ‘homosexual’. The term homosexual was not even coined until after 1850, and it was not used in a Bible until after 1940 – its first occurrence there was by those who wrote the Revised Standard Version (RSV) in 1946. Sexuality in general – not just homosexuality – is very much a modern construct. God gave everyone free will, thus inaccurate translations took place from a lack of Biblical exegesis. I recommend reading Kathy Baldock’s book, Walking The Bridgeless Canyon – it contains copious amounts of research starting from Jesus’ time to now on human sexuality / orientations. Baldock states, “As used by Paul in the first century, arsenokoitai [which the RSV translates as ‘homosexuality’] likely includes pederasty, amongst other abusive forms of sex. Pederastic relationships, inherently abusive and exploitative, are not equivalent to committed, loving, and monogamous same-sex relationships today.” Pederastic relationships, for those who do not know, are relationships between an older man and a typically prepubescent boy. If you are a visual learner and love watching videos, you can watch Baldock present Part 1 and Part 2 of Unclobbering The Tangled Mess.
Our earliest transcripts of the Bible – found typically in Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek fragment form – contain no mention of the word ‘homosexual’ or any terminological equivalent because sexual orientation in Jesus’ time was conceptualized very differently from today. However, there were phrases in Jesus’ time that we have found in contemporary literature and history books (i.e. in the context) that indicate an identity that would be somewhat recognizable to us today as a sexual minority.
For example, common nomenclature for people in a sexual minority was ‘eunuch’. To you, ‘eunuch’ might mean castrated male; but it also means ‘trusted one’, or ‘impotent towards women’. The eunuch’s job was to keep watch over the King’s wife, to counsel and protect her, etc. You might call them the royally appointed BFFs. Some eunuchs who watched over the wives were straight men (who were castrated, and had to be), some were gay men (again, as we know homosexuality today) who got to keep their genitalia since women failed to arouse them. The goal, of course, was to prevent sexual misconduct and illegitimate heirs. It was a matter of dynastic security.
The Greeks in particular were notorious for same-sex relationships. They were common and considered necessary in civilized society (even though the Greek texts show a bias against ‘effeminate’ men). What the Disciples knew of same-sex interactions were in the context of pagan idolatry, sexual pagan orgies, rape, unequal relations between soldiers and boys, pederasty, temple prostitution, etc. They spoke of sinful sexual interactions that were not of a monogamous, loving, God honoring nature.
In light of reading Scripture within context and word studies, the RSV’s mistake in inserting the word ‘homosexual’ into their version has caused oppression from the Church against the LGBT+ community. You have to read Scripture within context; otherwise you make the grave error of being anachronistic, thus diluting the original meaning of Scripture. Below I have listed some of the common Scriptures that have been misused against the LGBT+ community with links posted if you’d like more in-depth information on the subject. There are also quotes from several reputable scholars (even from those who disagree with the Christian LGBT+ community) on the topic of how these Scriptures have nothing to do with homosexuality as we know it today.
The ‘Clobber’ Passages
1. Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis Chapters 18-20)
The gist of this story is that the citizens of Sodom were inhospitable towards the Angels that Lot was hosting in his home and consequently suffered divine retribution – fire and brimstone, etc. Upon hearing that Lot had two visitors in his home, the people of Sodom came to his house and said that they wanted to ‘know’ (which most Biblical scholars concur means ‘to have sex with’) the visitors within; they essentially wanted to gang rape the Angels. Lot denied them this demand, offering the people his two virgin daughters instead.
Yet, even before the men of Sodom attempted to rape the Angels, the Lord had decided to destroy the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because Lot failed to find 10 righteous people in the city. The people were inhospitable towards both Lot’s family and to the Angels, which at that time was considered a disservice to God: refusing to open your doors to a traveler could result in their death (lack of food, water, etc.); so being hospitable to travelers was considered a tithing to God. In fact, God’s damnation of the two cities is never, anywhere in the Bible, expressed as a punishment for homosexual desire. Ezekiel 16:49 even describes the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah explicitly: “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.”
Now, do you think that if the sins of the city were of same-sex loving relationships that the prophet of God, Ezekiel, would say it was their failure to show hospitality?
Jesus even says in the book of Matthew 10:11-15,
“Whatever city or town you enter, ask who is trustworthy in it, and remain there until you leave. And when you enter into the house, salute the family. And if the family is trustworthy, your salutation of peace shall come upon it; but if it is not trustworthy, your salutation shall return to you. Whoever will not welcome you and will not listen to your words, when you leave the house or the village, shake off the sand from your feet. Truly I say to you that it will be easier for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that city.”
Jesus treats being hospitable towards people as highly important, which we can see by His statement. Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin was being inhospitable (as well as wanting to gang rape the Angels and committing other forms of evil in Ezekiel 16:50) as we can see from the prophet Ezekiel and Jesus’ own words. God is very serious about taking in the marginalized and we can see a comparison here with how the Church today treats the LGBT+ community – virtually committing the same sin by disallowing LGBT+ individuals to serve in Church leadership positions, condemning homosexuality, and promulgating inhospitality towards the LGBT+ community – thereby ‘othering’ us.
2. Leviticus 18:22
The newer Bibles translate the Word entirely incorrectly from the original Aramaic and Hebrew texts; some even toss in the word homosexuality (which is a perversion of the language and displays a gross lack of care in their exegesis). This site glosses the text best:
The Hebrew literally says: “You shall not lie with a male [on] the bedding (or bed) of a woman (or wife), it is a despised thing (or despicable act).” The Bible does not always tell us why something is “despised,” and hence we have to use reason. It is likely that the two men were having sex on the bed of the woman to despise her and rub it in her face that she was not woman enough. Reuben slept with his father’s wife on his dad’s bed to despise his father Jacob. Also, according to the book “How the People Lived in the Bible [HPLB], on pg. 117, it states: “The women’s portion of the tent was separated by a curtain from the men’s half, and it was strictly off limits. A male stranger who entered a woman’s quarters could be punished with death. Sisera hid in Jael’s tent, but paid for it with his life (Judg. 4:18-21).”
The abomination lies not in having homosexual intercourse but in having extramarital sex on the bed you share with your wife/husband – that is the act punishable by death in this case. Leviticus and Deuteronomy are about the desecration of marriage. Unfortunately (perhaps deliberately), translators have obfuscated that meaning somewhere along the way. If God wanted to forbid anal sex or homosexuality, then only the first part of the verse is required. Again, it is all about context – in this instance, we need look not in contemporary history books but just a line beyond the verse that is most frequently quoted. There is a reason why the words “on the bed of a woman (wife)” were added. The first part is conditional.
Since dilution of the original meaning seems to go hand in hand with most modern English translations, we must base our interpretation on the original Aramaic and Hebrew texts. In those texts, it is much harder to claim that God proscribes homosexuality in any definitive terms. With Leviticus, God is cementing the importance of faithfulness in a marriage with a spouse – one of the Ten Commandments, “thou shalt not commit adultery”, which Jesus expands on in the New Testament in Matthew 5:27-28.
Also, let us just hypothetically say that God was explicitly outlawing homosexuality in Leviticus (which He was not). Anyone who claims that they follow each and every one of those laws – there are over 300, by the way, and they ban things like the eating of fat (3:17), letting your hair become unkempt (10:6), getting a tattoo (19:28), wearing polyester or any other fabric blends (19:19) and even the unthinkable crime of picking up grapes that have fallen in your vineyard (19:10) – is clearly forgetting some important parts of the New Testament. For example, Paul confronts Peter who was forcing the Gentiles to follow Jewish laws, and he rebukes this in Galatians 2:15-16. And, Jesus and His Disciples said that complete love for your neighbor as for yourself is the fulfillment of the law (Galatians 5:14).
The fact is, God no longer obligates us to follow Levitical laws. Choose to do so and you must bind yourself to them all. Ergo, break one, you break them all (James 2:10). But that is not what is asked of us – just read Romans 7:4-6, Romans 13:8-10, or Galatians 3:23-26.
3. Romans 1:22-27
“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 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 recompence of their error which was meet.”
Those who oppose homosexuality on Scriptural grounds commonly quote Romans. But Romans 1 centers around the discussion of idolatry. These sinners glorified and worshiped their idols of man, birds, four-footed beasts, and creeping things. It also says of these idolaters “…Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature [idols] more than the Creator.” Notice how it says they worshiped idols and then God says that He allows them to do whatever and to live in sin because they once worshiped Him but returned to their idols. The sexual activity referred to in Romans 1 is including temple prostitution from the imagery Paul is describing. Remember the Ten Commandments? Multiple were broken here and God was not pleased, the part that was atrocious to God was not the sexual activity per se, it was the idolatry of it (the temple prostitution). If you look at the Greek word that is ‘unseemly’, Paul is referring to things that are unacceptable in a public place. People in his time knew exactly what he meant when reading this because temple prostitution was quite common and people would be able to see individuals having sex, participating in temple prostitution, and idolatry in “unseemly” ways.
There is nothing explicitly describing homosexuality as inherently sinful. It is about the context, people!
4. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:10
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor [malakoi], nor [arsenokoitai], Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
Translating Greek text is difficult. And not just for me – for Biblical scholars around the world. German Bibles from the 1800s translated Leviticus 18:22 as, “Man shall not lie with young boys as he does with a woman, for it is an abomination.” In 1 Corinthians they also translated the word arsenokoitai (original Greek word) instead of ‘homosexuals’ as, “boy molestors will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Martin Luther’s (who was anti-gay) original German translation from 1534 also translates as the same thing! Ed Oxford, who is part of a research team with Kathy Baldock on uncovering why the RSV used the word ‘homosexual’ to begin with, says,
“They use the word knabenschander. Knaben is boy, schander is molester. This word “boy molesters” for the most part carried through the next several centuries of German Bible translations… The first time ‘homosexual’ appears in a German translation is 1983. To me that was a little suspect because of what was happening in culture in the 1970s. Also, because the Germans were the ones who created the word homosexual in 1862, they had all the history, research, and understanding to change it if they saw fit; however, they did not change it until 1983. If anyone was going to put the word homosexual in the Bible, the Germans should have been the first to do it! We had our German connection look into it again and it turns out that the company, Biblica, who owns the NIV version, paid for this 1983 German version. Thus it was Americans who paid for it! In 1983 Germany did not have enough of a Christian population to warrant the cost of a new Bible translation, because it is not cheap. So an American company paid for it and influenced the decision, resulting in the word ‘homosexual’ entering the German Bible for the first time in history.”
The German, Swedish, Norwegian, and the Dutch translations among others translated the phrase “boy molestors” for close to 500 years during the great Reformation. It was common knowledge in Biblical times of a system that was widely condoned by the masses where young boys were coupled by older men for societal advancement, even promogulated by a boys’ own parents. For most of history, most translations were of one accord where these verses actually were referring to pederasty, not homosexuality.
Did Jesus speak of sexual minorities?
Yes, according to original Scripture Jesus even spoke about some people being in a sexual minority. Even the Talmund which Jesus and others were familiar with speak of such individuals. Take Matthew 19:12, “For there are eunuchs who were born so from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. To him who can receive (or accept) [it], shall receive (or accept) [it].”
He was speaking in context of marriage and what is acceptable but also in a parable. Jesus frequently said, “Let him with ears, hear. Let those with eyes, see.” Was he talking about EVERYONE receiving his words? No, because He knew people could see and He knew people could hear. His emphasis was for those who could RECEIVE His messages, that they would, and they would understand them – even if what He said made no sense to others.
As we have already mentioned, in Jesus’ time a eunuch meant multiple things:
- castrated male
- trusted one
- people who had an aversion towards women
- those who chose to be celibate
Jesus was speaking to sexual minorities as well. He is basically saying that some people are born not straight, some men choose celibacy, some are castrated. His quote, “eunuchs who were born so from their mother’s womb”, would make no logical sense speaking about someone who is born a castrated male because men are born with the ability to procreate, so you have to read it in the context of the language of time to fully understand the translation.
Scholars have debated about Jesus possibly having blessed a gay centurion’s servant in Matthew 8 and Luke 7.
The Bible never condemns homosexuality. When words from a pulpit spew condemnation, they must be countered by the light of researched truth. To read Scripture at face value from our English Bibles is to miss so much of importance. As Christians, it is our duty to investigate the Bible rather than to passively accept whichever translation we stumble upon. Always bear in mind that it is an interpretation from another language; coming to understand that has given me a profound love of word studies. Context – both linguistic and temporal – is necessary. The original Aramaic, Greek, and Hebrew words say nothing about homosexuality as we know it today. The authors of the Bible did not understand sexual orientation and thus did not write about it. When you see the word ‘homosexual’ in an English translation of the Bible, it is crucial to dig further to find what the original text actually means. Any Bible that uses the phrase ‘homosexual’ as a translation of arsenokoitai, is a contextually inaccurate translation. Period.
Dr. Richard Hayes is a well-known evangelical author who claims that homosexuality is a sin; yet he says, “there is nothing in the passage [i.e. Sodom and Gomorrah] pertinent to a judgment about the morality of consensual homosexual intercourse.” Dr. Mark Allan Powell, another eminent scholar, expresses similar views about Genesis 19 and Judges 19: “Such stories reflect a mindset that regards the rape of men by other men as abhorrent, but with regard to current questions concerning homosexuality, these texts have little to offer.”
And consider Dr. William Brownlee’s words: “The oppression of the stranger is the basic element of Genesis 19:1-9 [and] ‘sodomy’ in Genesis is basically oppression of the weak and helpless.” Thomas E. Schmidt on the topic of the creation story said, “The Genesis creation story does not provide explicit commands about sexuality.”
As Rick Brentlinger points out,
“If anti-gay, Complementarian reasoning about Adam and Eve is valid, we could also conclude that God is against grandparents because grandparents are not mentioned in Genesis 2. In reality, the traditional view of Genesis 2, believed by many Christians, distorts Scripture by assuming facts not in evidence. Genesis is an explanation of origins. It is not a dissertation on marriage relationships. God asserts the importance of human relationships by observing: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” (Genesis 2:18) The word “meet” means; suitable, fitting, appropriate for.”
He goes on to say,
“If the logic of Christians who condemn gay couples is valid, that since God did not mention other marriage models in Genesis, God must be against gay couples, we can use the same logic to prove any number of things which are not true. It sounds kind of silly but here is where such illogic takes us.
- The Genesis 2 marriage model says nothing about wedding gifts therefore God must be against wedding gifts. Of course, no one believes that and no [rational] thinking person would draw that conclusion from Genesis 2.
- The Genesis 2 marriage model says nothing about wedding rings therefore God must be against wedding rings.
- The Genesis 2 marriage model says nothing about getting married in church therefore, God must be against getting married in church.
- The Genesis 2 marriage model says nothing about adopting children, therefore God must be against adopting children. No one believes God is against adopting children simply because adoption is not mentioned in Genesis 2.”
Such arguments are called reductio ad falsum (reduction to the false) or reductio ad ridiculum (reduction to the ridiculous). Such reasoning leads to false and ridiculous conclusions.
Those that would claim the Bible is clear on “homosexuality is forbidden by God” are using poor Biblical scholarship and placing a clear bias on Scripture and are being anachronistic. What is condemned in Scripture is the adultery, idolatry, pederasty, violence, rape, shrine prostitution, and other evils – but not homosexuality.
The Bible has for so long been misappropriated to oppress minorities, POC, slavery, women, LGBT+, those with mental disabilities, Jews, children – the list goes on. It is time to take Scripture back and use it properly to help others, rather than tearing humanity down.
In light of this exegesis – in light of the context I have outlined here, I believe there really is no sound Scriptural argument that denies homosexual individuals the God-given right to be Christian whilst having monogamous loving relationships with people of the same-sex. Homosexuality does not fly in the face of also being Christian. For those dealing with fear and condemning thoughts, I will point you to this, “Whosoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13) and “Therefore there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
I hope you found this to be informative and empowering, regardless of your sexual orientation or self-identity. We must all work together to quell the hateful rhetoric within Christian discourse; we must start to respect, rather than selectively choose or ignore, the copious amounts of Biblical research that is out there. The truth should matter to a Believer, above all else. If we are to understand the Word fully within context and grasp its wisdom, we must enrich our faith with knowledge so that it may withstand the test of time and conquer ignorant rhetoric.
The Bible is not a book of condemnation, it is one of hope for ALL people.