HOMOSEXUALISM IN THE BIBLE
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Monday, June 11, 2012 at 1:31pm
QUESTION: Can you summarize the Biblical data on homosexualism?
ANSWER: The Bible is clear about God’s creation-intention for sexuality. The male-female, husband-wife sexual relationship is established in the creation (Gen. 1:27-28; 2:18-25) and is assumed everywhere else in Scripture. Jesus reaffirmed the divine plan in Matt. 19:4-6; Paul does the same in 1 Cor. 7:2. The Bible clearly teaches that homosexual behavior is sinful. (My practice is to refer to homosexual behavior, which is always sinful, as homosexualism. I refer to the homosexual condition as homosexuality.)
The Biblical evidence against homosexualism is five-fold. ONE. Sodom’s sin is clearly homosexualism, and it is condemned (see Gen. 19:1ff.). The men of Sodom said of Lot’s guests, “Bring them out unto us, that we may know them” (v. 5, KJV). The verb “to know” often means “to have sexual relations with.” See 4:1; 17, 25; 19:8; 24:16; 38:26. See also Luke 1:34. Their intentions were clearly homosexual, and the sinfulness of their intentions is confirmed by 2 Peter 2:6-11 and Jude 7. The men of Sodom “indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh” (Jude 7).
TWO. The law of Moses specifically condemns homosexual acts. Lev. 18:22 says, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” Lev. 20:13 says this is “detestable,” and applies the death penalty.
THREE. First Corinthians 6:9-10 uses two key words referring to homosexuals that are part of a list of other gross sinners who will not inherit the Kingdom of God. One word (v. 9) is malakoi (plural for malakos, an adjective). Its basic meaning is “soft, soft to the touch.” Used of persons in a neutral sense it could mean “soft of nature, gentle, tender, delicate.” It was also used in a derogatory sense to mean “effeminate, faint-hearted, cowardly.” But it was also used to refer to the male homosexual partner who was soft and yielding and receptive, i.e., the passive partner.
Immediately following this word in v. 9 is arsenokoitai (plural of arsenokoites, a noun). This term literally means “male in a bed,” and is generally taken to refer to homosexuals who take the active role. The term is a combination of two other Greek words: arsen, “male”; and koite, “bed.” Koite is sometimes used as a euphemism for sexual relations (Rom 9:10; 13:13; Heb 13:4).
In this passage Paul thus condemns homosexualism in no uncertain terms. It is listed with unequivocal sins that exclude from the Kingdom of God those who practice them.
FOUR. In 1 Timothy 1:8-10 Paul uses the term arsenokoites again (v. 10), as part of a list of grievous sins. All the sins listed here, including homosexualism, are contrary to God’s law (vv. 8, 9a) and contrary to “sound teaching” (v. 10).
FIVE. Paul’s strongest condemnation of homosexualism is in Romans 1:18-32, particularly vv. 24-27. (For more detail see my commentary on Romans.) Verses 22-24 condemn perverse, immoral behavior in general, especially sexual impurity. Then in verses 25-27 homosexualism is singled out for special emphasis as the prime example of the “shameful lusts” which draw God’s wrath (vv. 18, 32). In verses 28-32 a whole list of other sinful attitudes and acts are named, but homosexualism is still the one sin that is singled out for detailed discussion and condemnation (vv. 26-27). It is specifically condemned for being against the natural state of things as created by God.
We should note that the defenders of homosexualism have devised alternative interpretations of all of the above texts in order to deflect and escape the clear teaching that it is sinful. In general the secular world does not resort to such revisionism, because it does not care what the Bible says. The revisionism is found mostly among some liberal [“progressive!”] Christians, and increasingly among some evangelical Christians as part of a general capitulation to the pressures of modern culture.
One attempt at revisionism is to use Galatians 3:28 to negate Genesis 1:27. But this ignores the context of the Galatians statement, which is not sexuality but the question of how salvation is received.
Regarding the sin of the Sodomites (Gen. 19:1ff.), the revisionists claim that the Sodomites’ sin was either (a) inhospitality—being rude to strangers; or (b) homosexual RAPE, not homosexualism as such. However, Lot’s response—the offer of his two virgin daughters—shows (a) that the men’s intent was to have sexual relations with the two strangers, and (b) that the issue was not rape but homosexual sex as such. 2 Peter 2:6-10 and Jude 7-8 also show that Sodom’s sin was sexual in nature, and that the sexual sin was homosexual (see Jude’s reference to “strange flesh”).
The Leviticus passages (18:22; 20:13) are dismissed on the alleged grounds that these verses condemn homosexual acts only because they were too closely associated with Israel’s idol-worshiping neighbors, either as a common practice or in connection with the actual worship of idols (i.e., temple prostitution). But, say the revisionists, this does not mean that homosexual behavior as such is immoral. In response we should note that the Leviticus texts themselves give no evidence that only a certain type of homosexual behavior is being prohibited. The condemnation is unqualified.
Likewise the revisionists claim that Paul’s texts condemning homosexualism refer ONLY to perverse kinds [!] of homosexual activity, such as temple prostitution, pederasty (sex with boys), promiscuity, or homosexual acts between those who are not homosexual by nature. Thus Paul never meant to exclude homosexual activity within committed relationships between those who are homosexual by nature.
However, the texts themselves do not give any such limitations or qualifications. Of special importance is Romans 1. In this text Paul is condemning homosexualism not as something that is unnatural for certain individuals (as revisionists claim), but as something that is contrary to the created order or to nature as such, and thus contrary to human nature as created in the beginning. It abandons the natural for the unnatural.
In reference to the idea that homosexual acts are “natural” for some people, we must remember that not everything that exists in the physical world today is “natural” in the sense of normative or approved by God. The physical or “natural” world today is FALLEN. The effects of the Fall permeate the physical world, including our physical bodies. The original creation has been distorted and disrupted by sin. Some things that are “innate” (e.g., genetic diseases, mortality) are in reality unnatural. See Gen 3:1ff.; Rom 5:12ff.; Rom 8:19ff. Thus the whole question of whether the homosexual “tendency” is innate or acquired is irrelevant. Homosexual behavior (including homosexual lust) is wrong either way.