*I did NOT write this* but I do know the person who did. I am sharing this in hopes that the TRUTH will finally begin to surface, and that the centuries of hate between Christians and the LGBTQ community might someday be a thing of the past.
“This study is the end product of much research, dialogue, and prayerful reflection. I sat down one day and decided: I want to know once and for all what the Bible really says about homosexuality.
Homosexual: The English word homosexual is a compound word made from the Greek word homo, meaning “the same”, and the Latin term sexualis, meaning sex. The term “homosexual” is of modern origin, and it wasn’t until about a hundred years ago that it was first used. There is no word in biblical Greek or Hebrew that is equivalent to the English word homosexual. The 1946 Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Bible was the first translation to use the word homosexual.
Sodomite: There is no word in biblical Greek or Hebrew for “sodomy.” A Sodomite was simply an inhabitant of Sodom, just as a Moabite was an inhabitant of Moab. Any translation of the New Testament making use of the words “sodomy” or “sodomite” are interpretations and not faithful translations.
LOOKING AT THE BIBLE
There are six Bible accounts that have in recent years been used in reference to homosexuality. These include:
Genesis 1-2 Creation Account
Genesis 19:1-9 Sodom & Gomorrah Destroyed
Leviticus 18:22, 20:13 Holiness Code
Romans 1:24-27 Letter of Paul
I Corinthians 6:9 Letter of Paul
I Timothy 1:10 Letter of Paul
THE SODOM ACCOUNT (GENESIS 19:1-9)
The story of Sodom is an appropriate text to begin with, as it has taken a central role in the study of homosexuality. We must understand the context of this account. God, according to this story, sent two angels to warn Abraham’s nephew, Lot, about the approaching destruction of Sodom. Let us stop here for a moment. Even before sending the angels, God intended, according to this story, to destroy Sodom. Whatever the reason for the city’s destruction it had to do with the sin of Sodom before this event.
The story continues: The angels came to the city of Sodom and Lot welcomed them to his home and prepared a meal for them. Then a grouping of men surrounded the house and asked where the angels who had come to the house were. They basically shouted, “Where are those men who came to your house? We want to have sex with them!” Lot refuses but offers his daughters instead, giving the reason: “Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. Don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof” (19:8). The crowd of men insisted on what they wanted and tried to break through the door. The angels ended up pulling Lot into the house and blinding the crowd.
First of all, in interpreting this event we must take into account the entire situation. Whatever is happening here it is a form of rape. The crowd of men wished to sexually assault or “gangbang” the angels. The situation is also sewn through with appalling violence. Many assert that Lot’s offer of his daughters instead of the male angels implies that homosexual sex would have been worse than heterosexual sex, but Lot himself gives his reason for his action: “Don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” In our time, this does not make entire sense, but in Lot’s time, hospitality was a nearly sacred concept, and it is that distinction that Lot expresses: the visitors are his guests.
Nonetheless, if we were to accept that the distinction is gender-based, we could only conclude homosexual rape of angels is worse than heterosexual rape. To use this story to condemn all homosexual behavior is unfounded and truly stretching this story outside of its historical framework, but that is exactly what has happened. As Jeffrey S. Silker, in reference to such distortion of this text, wrote in his article in Theology Today, “David’s sin of adultery with Bathsheba does not make all heterosexual expressions sinful!”
An interesting (dis)connection to this story:
In the 1508 Wycliffe translation of the Bible into Middle English, the Greek word arsenokoitai (arsenokoitai) in 1 Corinthians 6:9 was translated “synn of Sodom.” Wyclif’s own interpretation was that arsenokoitai had something to do with the Sodom story, though nothing is implied as such in the New Testament text. The author could very well have written “sin of Sodom” if he had wanted to. If your Bible translation has “sodomites” on that list in 1 Corinthians 6:9 it is because of Wyclif. We will look more closely at the word arsenokoitai below in our study of the 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy texts; however, it is remarkable to see how the story of Sodom, filled with rape and violence, has taken such a central role surrounding the topic of homosexuality and more precisely in the development of the word “sodomite” as what it means today.
Arsenokoitai (arsenokoitai) – This Greek noun is formed from the joining together of the Greek adjectival prefix for male (arseno-) and beds (koitai). Literally then, it would mean “male beds.” It is found in 1 Timothy 1:10 and 1 Corinthians 6:9. This is the first appearance of the word in preserved Greek literature and outside of these two verses this word does not appear in the New Testament. The Greek word arsenokoitai is mentioned in both 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 and its meaning is debated. Because of the obscurity of this word and the lack of outside sources to shed light on its meaning, we must derive its meaning from the text.
1 TIMOTHY 1:8-10
“Now we know that the law is good, if any one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, immoral persons, sodomites, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine…” (RSV)
Let us keep in mind that the word translated sodomites is the Greek word arsenokoitai. Our question right now should be, “What is this talking about?” In order to answer this question, we will begin by breaking up the phrase into its structural pairs. You will see these groupings reflected below in the English as well as the Greek.
1 Timothy 1:9-10 (ENGLISH, RSV)
A: Lawless and disobedient
B: Ungodly and sinners
C: Unholy and profane
D: Murderers of fathers / murderers of mothers / manslayers
E: Immoral persons / sodomies / kidnappers
F: Liars / perjurers / and whatever else
As we see in the English there seems to be a relationship between the words in each row A, B, C, D, and F. What about row E, though? What do “immoral persons, sodomites, and kidnappers” have in common? To answer this question, we will need to explore the Greek. The three Greek words present in line E are: pornoi, arsenokoitai, and andrapodistai.
Some commonly read Bible translations include King James Version (KJV), New International Version (NIV), New King James (NKJ), and Revised Standard Version (RSV). These words were, respectively, translated in the following manner:
pornoi arsenokoitai andrapodistai
KJV: whoremonger them that defile themselves with mankind men-stealers
NIV: adulterers perverts slave traders
NKJ: fornicators sodomites kidnappers
RSV: immoral persons sodomites kidnappers
As we see there is no clear-cut agreement as to what these words mean, though the above translations agree on the general sense of such words. To determine the precise meanings, a lexicon will be used. A lexicon is a scholarly dictionary used to determine the meaning of biblical words. A search through the online Greek lexicon available at searchgodsword.org gives the following information on the Greek term pornos, which is the stem of the word pornoi, the first of the three words:
Pornos derives from the verb pernemi meaning “to sell” and the following three definitions are given:
– a male who prostitutes his body to another’s lust for hire
– a male prostitute
– a male who indulges in unlawful sexual intercourse, a fornicator
Andrapodistes, the stem of the word andrapodistai, the third word, returns the following definitions:
– slave-dealer, kidnapper, man-stealer
– of one who unjustly reduces free males to slavery
– of one who steals the slaves of others and sells them
Arsenokoitai, as previously indicated, is made up of the Greek words for male (arseno-) and beds (koitai). In Greek, the word koitai, literally meaning beds, is commonly used as a euphemism for one who has sex. Arseno- is an adjectival prefix, thus literally we could translate this as “male bedder.”
We should now be able to derive an exact understanding of the word arsenokoitai based on the two words that surround it. We have, first of all, the enslaved male prostitute, the “male-bedder” (arsenokoitai), and the slave dealer. The New American Bible offers a footnote that might shed some light on the historical context of the time:
“The Greek word translated as boy prostitutes may refer to catamites, i.e. boys or young men who were kept for the purposes of prostitution, a practice not uncommon in the Greco-Roman world. In Greek mythology this was the function of Ganymede, the “cupbearer of the gods,” whose Latin name was Catamus…” (NAB)
There was a common practice in which men of Paul’s time would have slave “pet” boys whom they sexually exploited. These boys were prepubescent and without beards so they seemed like females. Today, this practice is referred to as pederasty. Regardless, however, the pornos is clearly a prostitute.
Keeping this in mind, let’s look back at what we have so far: the enslaved male prostitute, the “male-bedder” (arsenokoitai), and the slave dealer. This contextual dynamic leads one to understand arsenokoitai as being the one who sleeps with the prostitute, the man who literally lies on the bed with him. It is as if Paul were saying, “male prostitutes, men who sleep with them, and slave dealers who procure them…” Not only does the syntactical and historical context point to this understanding, but also the very literal sense of the word arsenokoitai itself.
If this translation of arsenokoitai is correct, it should also make logical sense where it is also used in 1 Corinthians 6:9, either confirming or refuting our understanding of this word.
1 CORINTHIANS 6:9-10
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (RSV)
The term translated “sexual perverts” in RSV is actually two different words. The first word is malakos, which is the singular form of the word malakoi, and the second term is arsenokoitai.
Some commonly read translations include…
|KJV:||effeminate||abusers of themselves with mankind|
|NIV:||male prostitutes||homosexual offenders|
The term malakoi, as an adjective, literally means “soft.” In Matthew 11:8 it has been used as an adjective in reference to clothing. In this text, however, it is used as a noun and its meaning is debated. Does our understanding of arsenokoitai as revealed in 1 Timothy 1:10 as “men who sleep with male-prostitutes” make sense next to this word malakos which is translated by both NIV and RSV as male prostitutes? The Jerusalem Bible even translates the term malakos as catamites, those young, soft, prepubescent “pet” boys mentioned earlier. The syntactical and historical context of 1 Timothy 1:10 reveals the meaning of the word arsenokoitai as men who sleep with prostitutes, and the fact this also fits the context of 1 Corinthians 6:9 seems to confirm that we have found the meaning of these obscure words. It makes perfect sense that Paul would rebuke not only the prostitute, but also the “male-bedder” or the man who sleeps with that prostitute.
As we see, these two verses are about this practice of prostitution, and possibly pederasty, but what about Romans 1:27. It clearly says, “…and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.” Isn’t this clear enough? There are no obscure Greek words. How are we to understand this?
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,
25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural,
27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. (RSV)
To understand what Paul is writing about we must look at the event as a whole and not isolate a single portion of it. Each verse in this story gives us a glimpse into the situation.
- Verse 24: “Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity.” If we are painting a picture, it begins with the image of LUST.
- Verse 25: “…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” Now there is a FALSEHOOD as well as IDOLATRY involved (i.e. worshipping something other than God).
- Verse 26: “God gave them up to dishonorable passions…” Now DISHONORABLE PASSIONS are presented. Looking back at this now we see this as a situation of lust, falsehood, idolatry, and dishonorable passions.
- Verse 26 and 27 continue: “Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another…”
Looking at the men first will help to clarify the passage: “The men likewise gave up natural relations with women…” Stop. Did you see that? They gave up natural relations with women, which implies that these men were heterosexuals by nature. The phrase translated as “gave up” is the Greek word aphente, meaning to leave behind, forsake, neglect, or divorce. These men, therefore, divorced themselves from their own nature, that of heterosexuality, and were consumed with passion for one another. Women did likewise. As we see, Paul is talking about heterosexual individuals engaging in homosexual sex, which is contrary to their nature.
Why would men do that? As any biblical scholar will tell you: “Context is everything.” This is a situation of lust, falsehood, idolatry, and dishonorable passions. In this account there are a number of men and a number of women, both plurals. This would most definitely be an orgy…everyone filled with lust and “dishonorable passions” having sex with whomever, however. But why would Paul be talking about orgies? A little research uncovers the pagan practice of “sacred sexual orgies.” Baal was the Canaanite deity that was worshipped with sexual orgies on Mount Peor in Moab, with which Paul would have been familiar. With this contextual understanding let us read this story again:
“Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”
Anyone who isolates the phrase “natural relations” to declare homosexual relations unnatural is interjecting their own prejudice and reading entirely outside of context. Even if we were to isolate that phrase it could only be used to condemn heterosexuals who go against their own heterosexual nature and engage in homosexual activity. As Peter J. Gomes, preacher to Harvard University, further clarifies in his book The Good Book, “It is not clear that Saint Paul distinguished, as we must, between homosexual persons and heterosexual persons who behave like homosexuals, but what is clear is that what is ‘unnatural’ is the one behaving after the manner of the other” (page 157).
So far, we have looked at all three of the New Testament scriptures used in reference to homosexuality as well as the Genesis narrative about Sodom. That leaves us with two other scriptures that are mentioned when this topic is brought up: The Creation Narrative (Genesis 1-2) and Leviticus 18:22 (& parallel verse 20:13).
THE CREATION NARRATIVE (GENESIS 1-2)
This is a story about Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!! We’ve all probably heard that somewhere. The fact is, it was Adam and Eve. In The Good Book, Gomes writes the following pertaining to the creation narrative:
“…the authors of Genesis were intent upon answering the question ‘Where do we come from?’ Then, as now, the only plausible answer is from the union of a man and a woman…The creation story in Genesis does not pretend to be a history of anthropology or of every social relationship. It does not mention friendship, for example, and yet we do not assume that friendship is condemned or abnormal. It does not mention the single state, and yet we know that singleness is not condemned, and that in certain religious circumstances it is held in very high esteem” (pages 49-50).1
In other words, Adam and Eve is the only relationship for this specific account that makes sense. It is a story about creation, and only a procreative (i.e. hetero-sexual) relationship would be appropriate for this particular story. If someone, in spite of this, were to base his or her opinion of homosexuality on the Creation story alone, their stance would not only be out of context, but also based on a weak argument.
That leaves us with two Leviticus laws: Leviticus 18:22 & parallel verse 20:13.
Let us look at a few different translations of Leviticus 18:22…
- KJV: “Thou shalt not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
- NIV: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”
- Living Bible: “Homosexuality is absolutely forbidden, for it is an enormous sin.”
The questions we should ask are, “What does this really say, and what is the context of this law?” Leviticus is the book of the law. It contains everything from commandments for men not to shave the edges of their beards; orders not to have intercourse during menstruation; not to harvest different crops in the same field; as well as strict dietary laws. The Holiness Code, as it is called, was written to distinguish the Hebrews, morally and ritually, from the Babylonians and Canaanites. They are often referred to as the purity laws. Now let us look at what the New Testament says about the law:
“Likewise, my brethren, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit” (RSV Romans 7:4-6).
“Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian [i.e., The Law]. For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (RSV Galatians 3:23-26).
Other New Testament Scriptures on the Law include: 2 Corinthians 3:6; Colossians 2:13-15; Hebrews 8:8-13, Romans 10:1-4.
If we are “not under the law” does that mean we can lie, cheat, steal, etc.? In Romans 6:15 Paul answers this question himself, “By no means!” Didn’t Christ himself in Matthew 5:17 say that he came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it? So, what is the law? Jesus was once asked, “Rabbi, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (RSV Matthew 22:36-40)
Paul would later echo this idea in Romans as he wrote
“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” (RSV Romans 13:8-10)
Christian tradition has distinguished Old Testament laws that pertain to “purity” and those that pertain to “morality,” the latter of which still apply. If love is the true fulfillment of the law, then for Christians should not love be the measuring stick for determining by which laws we are to abide (i.e., which are “moral laws”)?
Now let’s look back at the verse. Literally translated from Hebrew, Leviticus 18:22 reads: “And with a male you shall not lay lyings of a woman.”
First of all, “lay lyings” has no clear interpretation. The only way of making sense of this is to insert something to produce a smoother, more commonsense English translation. For example, one can insert “as the” or “in the” after the first lay as shown below:
- “And with a male you shall not lay [as the] lyings of a woman.”
- “And with a male you shall not lay [in the] lyings of a woman.”
Even if we accept the NIV or KJV translations, (KJV: “Thou shalt not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination.”) we still must understand the historical context of how a man laid with a woman, for this is the qualifier of the phrase. Rabbi Arthur Waskow explains, “The whole structure of sexuality in the Torah assumes a dominant male and a subordinate female.” 2 The status of women in that time was much lower than that of men, and women were even considered property of the men. This belief regarding gender relations is rejected by most of the Christian church today, but in order to make sense of this specific Jewish law we must keep in mind this context in which it was written. We simply cannot ignore the second half of the phrase, “as with a woman” as most interpretations tend to do.
For one of the men in the sexual encounter to be treated as one would treat a woman, the man would have been taking a lower status. To do so would have been reducing him to property and in effect defiling the image of God, which man was considered. To fully understand this law, we must consider the historical context in which it was written.
The Old Testament was initially a part of the Hebrew Scriptures of the Jewish people. The Septuagint was an ancient translation of the Old Testament from its original Hebrew into Greek. It was the “version” of the Old Testament that the New Testament writers quoted from when they cited Old Testament scriptures. The Hebrew word in this specific law we are looking at that was translated into English as “abomination” was translated in the Septuagint into the Greek word bdelugma. A quick search through a lexicon for the word bdelugma brings up the following definition:
- a foul thing, a detestable thing
- of idols and things pertaining to idolatry
This seems to point to the idea that this specific law has more to do with a matter of ritual purity and with the Hebrews not being like the idolatrous Babylonians or Canaanites. As we see, this law isn’t as simple as it appears. First of all, we have a very unclear law (“And with a male you shall not lay lyings of a woman.”). Second of all, we must consider the historical context of how men treated women in sexual encounters. Thirdly, as revealed through Christ, the fulfillment of the law is truly love. Rape, stealing, hating, etc. are immoral because they are not in line with the Law of Love, which Christ frames so perfectly when questioned about the law. Is a committed homosexual relationship in violation of this law? We could become like the Pharisees and Sadducees trying to pick apart this law forever, but if we look closely, Christ’s life truly reveals the Spirit of the Law. Surely this is what Paul meant when he wrote, “But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit” (RSV Romans 7:4-6).
SCRIPTURE STUDY CONCLUSION
As we see, the Bible really does not fully address the topic of homosexuality. Jesus never talked about it. The prophets never talked about it. In Sodom homosexual activity is mentioned within the context of rape (raping angels nonetheless), and in Romans 1:24-27 we find it mentioned within the context of idolatry (Baal worship) involving lust and dishonorable passions. 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 talk about homosexual activity in the context of prostitution and possibly pederasty. Nowhere does the Bible talk about a loving and committed homosexual relationship. The only thing the authors of the Bible knew about homosexuality was that which they saw expressed in the pagan worship of Baal, the temple prostitution, et cetera. To use the Bible to condemn homosexuality, as we see, involves a projection of one’s own bias and a stretching of the Biblical text beyond that of which the scriptures speak. Historically, however, the Bible has been taken out of context and twisted to oppress almost every minority one could imagine including women, African Americans, children, slaves, Jews, and the list goes on. Do we truly understand the greatest commandments? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (RSV Mat. 22:36-40)
And here is brief (much shorter than the first one) article expanding on the hospitality aspect of the Sodom and Gomorrah passage:
The Real Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah: https://blacksavedandsmart.com/2020/09/18/sodom-and-gomorrah/
Genesis 19 is where we find the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The book opens with two strangers approaching Sodom’s city gates. Immediately, Abraham’s nephew Lot (who was on guard that night) welcomed them into his home. Then, an angry mob appears demanding that Lot send the two strangers out so that they could have sex with them.
“Ha,” people say, “It’s right there! The mob was full of gay men who wanted to have gay sex!”
But there’s a couple of things to note. First, note that the mob is comprised of “men of the city of Sodom – from the youngest to the oldest.” It would stand to reason, therefore, that the entire crowd was not full of gay men. If they were, there would have only been older men and not younger ones.
Another thing to note here is that this story is not about two men in a loving, committed relationship with each other. It’s about a mob who wanted to forcibly rape two individuals. The detestable, vile thing that the men of Sodom wanted to do was gang rape. In truth, however, it’s about what the gang rape represents: asserting power and dominance over someone less powerful.
This should not be challenging to understand. Our culture is full of men who do not need to rape in order to have sex. Rape is not about sex. Rape is about power. The perpetrator needs to feel more dominant than the victim. This was also the case in Sodom and Gomorrah.
In the ancient world, rape was a way to show your dominance over an outsider or an enemy. It wasn’t about being “gay”. It was about dishonoring them and stripping off their masculinity and (in the case of the patriarchal society) their humanity.
The Importance of Hospitality in the Bible
Hospitality is an extremely important theme in the Bible. While the love of neighbors and others feels distinctly New Testament, the truth is that the God of the Old Testament is just as concerned with showing love and kindness to foreigners.
To have an idea of what God considers to be true hospitality, just before the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, we find a very similar account of what happened when strangers encounter Abraham in Genesis 18. In Genesis 18, Abraham is sitting in his tent when he is approached by three strangers. Abraham bows before them, and invites them into his home for food and shelter.
God put this account just before the Sodom and Gomorrah story because it is supposed to draw our attention to just how deplorable the actions of the mob are.
What should you do? Welcome the stranger into your home.
What did they do? Tried to dehumanize, degrade, and destroy their guests.
This was the real sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. Their refusal to show hospitality and love towards people who were vulnerable.
Confirmation in Other Scriptures
This interpretation of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah seems to make sense when viewed with what the other Biblical writers had to say about it.
In Isaiah’s day, the people of Israel had stopped following God’s laws. This meant that they were no longer doing good: seeking justice, defending the oppressed, and tending to orphans and widows (the most vulnerable of society). Because of this, the prophet warns in Isaiah 1:9 “If the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah.”
Ezekiel gives an even clearer picture of the real sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. Let’s look at Ezekiel 16:49-50
Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen.
When God spoke through Ezekiel about the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, neither sex, sexual immorality, nor homosexuality was listed as a reason. The real reason? The most vulnerable of society needed help and hospitality and they offered none.
Finally, Jesus confirms this view as well in Matthew 10:14-15
If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave. I tell you the truth, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off than such a town on the judgment day.
Even Jesus relates the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah to a refusal to be welcoming and hospitable.
Lessons to Learn from Sodom and Gomorrah
In my opinion, what we can take from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is a call to return to hospitality in the church. To leave the comfort of our churches, cars, and homes. To hug and love on people who don’t look, act, think, or believe like us.
It can also be a warning. When we who are in positions of power try to gang-up on or take advantage of those who are less fortunate or vulnerable, it arouses the anger of God.
When we misuse this story as a way to unite against the LGBTQ community, we are technically the ones acting like a bunch of Sodomites.
Not addressed in those two previous articles (because the term homosexual is not used in any of the English translations), but frequently used in gay-bashing from pulpits, is Jude 1:6-7
And angels who did not keep their own domain but abandoned their proper dwelling place, these He has kept in eternal restraints under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these angels indulged in sexual perversion and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.
Verse 6 is referring to angels that rebelled against God’s authority, leaving heaven and the duties God had given them. According to some Biblical scholars and interpreters, some of these rebellious angels, called “sons of God” in Genesis 6:2, cohabited with “the daughters of man” (Genesis 6:1–4). The result of this human-angel sexual union was Nephilim, also translated as “fallen ones,” or “giants” in English Bibles. This unnatural union is apparently what led to the incredibly drastic judgment of God – a global flood, wiping out all of mankind except for Noah and his family.
Verse 7 starts with “just as” (NASB; the NIV starts with, “In a similar way,”) referring back to the sin committed by the angels in verse 6. The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were connected in some way to the sin(s) in verse 6. The actual words used in verse 7 to describe the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah are interesting. The first word, ekporneusasai, only appears once in Scripture. The prefix ek, according to Strongs, “seems to indicate a lust that gluts itself,” leading to the idea that the sin here involved complete sexual abandon, or the giving of themselves completely and totally to their sexual desires. The phrase translated as “strange flesh” in the original Greek is “sarkos heteras.” A literal translation would be “flesh different.” Swapping the order of the adjective and the noun to match how we think and speak in English would give “different flesh.” Ironically, the English word “heterosexual” is derived from “heteras.”
There have been vastly different interpretations of this passage over the years.
Conservative groups tend to focus on the fact that the male mob in Sodom rejected the offer of two virgin women for sexual purposes and demanded to have sex with the male angels instead, claiming this proves that the men were sexually attracted to other men (i.e., that they were homosexuals). They go on to claim that the passage is “clearly” condemning all same-sex sexual behavior.
But what does the passage really mean? Here are a bunch of different translations:
- The American Standard Version as:
“given themselves over to fornication and gone after strange flesh”
- The Amplified Bible:
“… they in the same way as these angels indulged in gross immoral freedom and unnatural vice and sensual perversity”
- The Contemporary English Version (CEV):
“…became immoral and did all sorts of sexual sins”
- The Easy to Read Version (ERV):
“Like those angels they were full of sexual sin and involved themselves in sexual relations that are wrong.”
- The English Standard Version (ESV):
“likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire,”
- The Harper Collin’s New Revised Standard Version of the Bible uses the term “unnatural lust.” A footnote comments:
“The Sodomites attempted sexual relations with angels.”
The translators here are using the term “Sodomites” in its original sense to refer simply to inhabitants of Sodom.
- The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB):
“… committed sexual immorality and practiced perversions, just as angels did”
- The King James Version of the Bible:
“… giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh”
- The Living Bible (TLB):
“lust of men for other men”
- The New International Version:
“… gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion”
- The New Living Translation (NLT):
“… filled with immorality and every kind of sexual perversion”
- The New Revised Standard Version:
“… indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust”
- Young’s Literal Translation:
“… having given themselves to whoredom, and gone after other flesh”
So, what does the passage really mean?
Multiple translations refer to angels having previously engaged in the same type of activity as what the men of Sodom were attempting. But there is no evidence in Scripture of any same-gender sexual contact between angels and men, so it is likely referring to the heterosexual activity from Genesis 6. The focus here isn’t on the gender (male-on-male), but rather on sexual activity between angels and humans (“different flesh” = “different species”). Many argue that the men of Sodom did not know that the visiting men were angels, and that certainly seems to be the case, at least initially (maybe not so much after they were all struck blind). But does that really matter? If they wanted to gang-rape a couple of angels, does it matter whether or not they knew the men were angels, or is it enough that the men were angels and that the men of Sodom were “going after strange flesh,” possibly without knowing that to be the case?
Another possibility, addressed in some detail in the article on pages 13-15, is that the real issue was their lack of hospitality to the strangers – it doesn’t get much more inhospitable than attempted gang rape. And this interpretation is also the one which seems to make the most sense when you consider Jesus’ reference to Sodom and Gomorrah in Matthew 10.
This next link is a really interesting article that looks at how the Bible was translated into several non-English languages in the 1800s, showing the difference between English versions and what was done in French, German, Irish, Gaelic, Czechoslovakian, Polish, and more. Bottom line is that in ALL of these other languages (except English), the translations were completely different.
For example, a German translation of Leviticus 18:22 from the 1800s says, “Man shall not lie with young boys as he does with a woman, for it is an abomination.” And Paul’s passage in I Corinthians 6 in that same Bible says, “Boy molesters will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Martin Luther’s original German translation from 1534 uses the word “knabenschander,” literally “boy molester,” just like the 1800s translation. The first use of the word “homosexual” in a German translation of the Bible wasn’t until 1983. And that version was paid for by an American company, Biblica. Interesting?!?!
Same thing turns out to be true for a 1674 Swedish translation, and an 1890 Norwegian translation, both of which had similar “boy molester” translations. More details can be found here: https://www.forgeonline.org/blog/2019/3/8/what-about-romans-124-27
Bottom line is that it appears to me as if there have been hundreds of years’ worth of mistranslations of certain Greek and Hebrew words in English translations of the Bible. Wittingly or not, these errors have resulted in mainline evangelical denominations, and lots of likely well-meaning Christians, condemning gays and lesbians based on potentially flawed translations, and allowing Satan to drive a wedge between the homosexual community and God.
One final thing worth addressing. I’ve heard more than a few well-intentioned Christians say things like, “But if we let them (gays and lesbians) into the church, how do we control their lifestyle.” Upon further questioning, it almost always comes down to an underlying assumption that “all gay men are pedophiles” or that “all gays are promiscuous” or the like. It basically ends up coming down to Christians who have some very negative stereotypes of “what gay people are like,” assuming that every gay man or lesbian woman is a sex-crazed, in-your-face zealot who is looking for nothing more than their next “hook-up.” To those who might hold those beliefs, I say the following:
Rape is wrong, period. It doesn’t matter if it is male-on-male, male-on-female, female-on-male, female-on-female, or man-on-angel; rape is wrong. And gang rape (like what the men of Sodom were attempting in Genesis 19) is really, really wrong.
Prostitution is wrong, period. No one, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, should be selling themselves for sex. The prostitute (pornoi), those who “bed” (sleep with) them (arsenokoitai), and the pimps who “sell” their services (andrapodistai) are ALL wrong. These are the Greek words used in I Timothy 1:9-10, which is very consistent with what we see in I Corinthians 6:9-10 with malakos (male prostitutes) and arsenokoitai (the men who sleep with them).
Pederasty is wrong, period. The practice of men having prepubescent “pet” boys as sex slaves was common in the Greco-Roman world, and it is quite likely that the readers of the time would have understood this as the intended meaning of malakos in the I Corinthians passage. In fact, it is translated that way (as catamites) in the Jerusalem Bible.
More broadly, pedophilia is wrong, period. Regardless of whether it is a young boy or a young girl, and no matter the gender or sexual orientation of the perpetrator, sexual contact with kids is wrong, period.
Infidelity is wrong, period. God places a premium on being faithful. He is faithful to us and expects the same of us in our relationship to Him. He also expects us to be faithful to each other, in word and deed. Promiscuity is the exact opposite of faithfulness.
So, regardless of whether you are straight or gay, there are things that honor God:
- Love (Him first, others second)
- Faithfulness (to Him, and to others)
- Kindness, gentleness, goodness, self-control (the fruit of the Spirit)
…and there are things that are clearly wrong:
- Anything that violates the first and greatest command to love God
- Anything that violates the command to love others
- In addition to a lack of love, anything that would squelch the remaining attributes of fruit of the Spirit
So how should the lifestyles of gays and lesbians “be controlled”? By the Holy Spirit, the same exact way the lifestyles of “straight” men and women should be controlled: we should love God (first and foremost), love others, be faithful (to God and to others), and allow the fruit of the Spirit to flourish in our lives. All Christians come to the Father through Christ and are members of one body. And according to I Corinthians 12 (and Romans 12, and Ephesians 4, and…), that one body has many parts, all of them different and created by God to fill a role in His body. It’s time the church, as the body of Christ, started living I Corinthians 12:25 “so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”
Regarding the interpretations of the passages in this letter, do I know I’m right? Of course not. But I do know I’ve done enough study on the topic to know that no one else knows they are right either. They may say they know and may be completely sincere in their belief, but lots of people are sincerely wrong. One thing I am absolutely certain of – when we get to heaven, we are all going to discover that we were wrong about a lot of things we thought we “knew” on this side of heaven.
I also know there are lots and lots of committed Christians who happen to be gay and who love God and desperately want to belong to a loving group of believers where they can worship, serve, give, and grow in their faith. As a church, we need to decide whether we are going to help them do that or whether we are going to take a stance that treats them like “second-class” Christians and could drive them away from God instead of drawing them to Him.
I hope and pray that someday the church will be a place where gay and lesbian Christians can be fully embraced as fellow partners in ministry and faith.
It will take some time. There will be a progression:
And some won’t like it (change is never easy), but making the transition will truly impact eternity.
“In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.”
Thank you for reading, and please, feel free to share. ♥️