Sexuality and Scripture

Finding Jesus– Review of Part One
Kingsman– The Secret Service
Finding Jesus— Reboot
Forward Thinking on ‘Reading Backwards’–The Interview Part Six
  • Jeff Raker

    Thank you for teaching from a scripture centered perspective. Very helpful. As Wesley said: “I am a man of one book.”

  • Jebus

    It doesn’t matter what forms of academic language you couch this in, you are still a bigot.

  • Ben Witherington

    When you use that sort of pejorative language, then of course Jebus its impossible to have a meaningful dialogue about what the Bible says about homosexuality. I’m afraid you’ve misused the word bigot, which involves bias without reason, even hatred without reason. I certainly don’t hate gay people. I have gay friends, and I love them, even though I disagree with them about their sexual behavior. It does not help either the civility or the meaningfulness of a discussion to simply foreclose the discussion by using this sort of emotive language. What that does it present you as a bigot, and I would hope you’re not.

  • Kenny Johnson

    Did you happen to see John Byron’s post about your video?

    I posted a response in the comments, but didn’t get a reply. I’m wondering what you think of his criticism? There are claims on an inconsistent hermeneutic.

    How do we read the Bible and conclude that slavery is immoral and women are equal (for example), but at the same time conclude that the ban on homosexual practice is an absolute moral sin and not tied to culture, progressive revelation, etc.

  • Patrick


    That’s a fair question. Homosexual “conduct”(which I am pleased was the focus of the presentation instead of the inclination) isn’t the only issue you could ask about along these lines.

    It is condemned in Leviticus. The Divine example of marriage and/or legit sex is one guy, 1 girl in Genesis. In the NT, it is further condemned.

    Adding all that up, I can’t help but think gay sex is wrong like straight sex is outside marriage.

    This doesn’t seem to be one of those issues where we can see Yahweh was allowing the Jews certain leeway in conduct, but, it wasn’t His highest and best idea(polygamy, slavery(subject deserves more serious review, the term in the Bible rarely meant what we did in Alabama in 1820, patriarchal society, etc).

    A subject that might counter this view is non kosher food. Illegal/sin in the OT( I assume), perfectly legal now if we receive our food with thanksgiving.

    BTW, where I do disagree a little with the presentation is not “is it a sin”.

    I disagree the gay believer must try and change this predilection upon belief. I see the term “repent/change” as relating to belief(change from unbelief to belief) and not conduct though, most folks assume the change is in conduct. The truth is we are all going to sin until we die.

  • Kenny Johnson


    Thanks for the reply. It doesn’t really address my question or Byron criticism though. For example, slavery is condoned in the OT and doesn’t seem to condemned in the NT, but yet we believe it to be immoral today. Why do we make that conclusion with slavery, but come to a different conclusion with homosexual practice? It would seem to be an inconsistent hermeneutic is being used.

    Someone on Byron’s blog mentioned the argument made by Richard Hays that there is a trajectory in the Bible that leads us away from slavery for example, but that no such trajectory exists for homosexual practice. I’m aware of that argument — and I believe its used by many others as well (I think Scot McKnight uses something similar in Blue Parakeet for example). Byron responds to this as at least partially unimpressed with the argument and I was hoping Dr. Witherington could respond.

  • Ben Witherington

    The analogy with slavery doesn’t work. In the first place it is not endorsed in the OT. Was it practiced —yes. But Hebrews above all new the hideous nature of slavery and were warning to ‘remember when you were slaves in Egypt….’ In the NT slavery is indeed subverted. Paul in Philemon not merely calls for the setting free of Onesimus, he reminds Philemon— that he is and should be viewed as ‘no longer a slave, but more than a slave, a brother in Christ’

  • David Capp

    Thank you for your kind and thoughtful response to Jebus. I recently was in a discussion with someone who was calling the late Chuck Colson a bigot because of his stand on homosexuality, and I find that much of what I said, you are saying here…. although you say it more eloquently than I did.

    Thanks for sharing the video as well, I think it is well stated, and hits both at graciousness and truth.

  • Tim Collins

    Jebus, by responding with an ad hominem attack you suggest you don’t have a response on Biblical grounds. Was that really your intention? But then, since you chose for your name a sacrilegious reference from the Simpsons, I am not too surprised.

    Ben, thank you for your clear presentation on this topic, here and elsewhere. Recently I had an exchange with an Episcopal clergywoman who suggested that so long as we are willing to eat shellfish and mix our fibers we should allow homosexuality.

    If there’s an argument to be made along those lines, I haven’t seen it done well. It gives me concern for the state of modern education at some seminaries.


  • Danny Dawson

    The shellfish/fibers discussion seems to show no understanding of differing rationales for rules and regulations, and you mostly hear it from people unfamiliar with the OT, especially nonbelievers that have had some bad experiences. Some accusations of poor hermeneutic remind me people who would claim contradicting arguments within a single book or letter – many times, the difficulty comes in assuming that a single author writing proficiently would have blantantly obvious contradictions (which would seem odd) rather than trying to understand why the author didn’t intend any contradiction.

    This is why calm, reasoned responses and discussions are vital – so many on both sides are ready to demonize the ‘other’ as ignorant, poor-reading, biased, etc. etc. etc. I’ve seen about my fill of facebook article links discussing how any non-Christian agenda item is obviously a deceptive cover for unspeakable evils to come. Can’t generalize in such a way with real talk.

  • Joe Canner

    Dr. Witherington,

    Perhaps slavery is not the best analogy, but how about the role of women? Paul “clearly” calls women to be silent, to cover their heads, to submit to male authority (even invoking arguments from nature). Yet, as you yourself have so brilliantly elucidated in previous episodes in this series, there are plausible arguments to be made that Paul was speaking to very specific situations that don’t necessarily apply today.

    Similarly, what evidence do we have that Leviticus 18, Romans 1, and I Corinthians 6 were addressing monogamous, life-long same-sex relationships? (or, in the case of I Cor. 6, that same-sex relations are in view at all?) Moreover, when God says “it is not good for man to be alone” and when Paul says “it is better to marry than to burn”, don’t we have some reason to believe that God may be more accepting of monogamous same-sex relationships than we give him credit for?

  • Kenny Johnson


    This is what Byron said in a comment on his blog regarding the analogy to slavery:

    “I am not sure that I would agree with Hays about the trajectory in slavery. I certainly see it with women, but not with slaves. Those who have studied slavery in depth find little that would support the Bible undermining it. In Gal 3:28, for instance, although Paul claims there is no longer slave nor free, those who are slaves are still slaves. In 1 Cor 7:21 Paul doesn’t really undermine it there either since his approach is more Stoic by the way he moves to metaphor. Besides, that is one of the most ambiguous verses in the Bible. And then there is Philemon . . . I think John Barclay got it right. Slavery was so ingrained in the first century that Paul didn’t know how to advise Philemon and I doubt that abolition was even a possibility.

    To combine this with the topic at hand, sexuality, I find it interesting that if a man sleeps with another man’s wife the punishment is death. But if he sleeps with another man’s slave the punishment is a fine and/or sacrifice (Lev 19:20). In this case the life of the slave is not worth as much as the free person and they can be used sexually.

    I can certainly see how one can argue for the improving situation of women in the NT, but I am not sure that it can be extended to the situation with slaves.”

  • Patrick

    Here are a couple of points on the OT slave issue to consider:

    1) Abraham had to force Hagar to leave. She was said to be “his slave”.
    2) The term “slavery” is used(Ben can say where, I can’t recall chapters&verses anymore) for fulfilling a contractual repayment agreement when the loan cannot be repaid within the terms of the contract, so the person has to do labor to pay it off. In our era, we just allow the loanee to not pay his obligations ,i.e. bankruptcy.

    3) Jesus calls Himself a dulos slave to The Father and Paul calls himself a dulos slave to Christ. Dulos is standard Greek for slave like we think of it, yet it isn’t meant that way here.

    Neither of those cases appear to me to be what we mean by the term, “slave”. You own another human.

    4) In ancient times, being a slave to a prominent person was a favored position. People wanted to be Caesar’s slaves for example. I bet they wanted to be Abraham’s, too.

    I suspect the other slaves were POWs myself and we do that now even perpetually as we see at Guantanamo which IMO is a good analogy for how ancient peoples handled POWs.

    In Israel, if the slave converted, he was to be freed on the year of jubilee.

  • Ben Witherington

    Hi Joe: Women is an even worse example since Paul had women teachers, preachers, deacons (Phoebe), apostles (Junia) and other female co-workers. Paul is correcting problems in 1 Cor. 14 and 1 Tim. 2, not ruling women out from exercising their God given ministry gifts. This should have been clear from 1 Cor. 11 where Paul is fine with women praying and prophesying in worship.

  • Joe Canner

    Dr. Witherington: No doubt the case for women in ministry is stronger, but it is by no means a slam dunk, given that large swaths of Christendom reject some or all of it, and most of Christendom has rejected it until recently. Although there is less Scriptural support for monogamous same-sex relationships, it still deserves a fair hearing. I would love to hear you or someone of your caliber interact with the textual and historical arguments regarding same-sex relationships as faithfully and with as much rigor as has been done regarding women in ministry.

    BTW, I *do* appreciate your efforts to counteract homophobia and to encourage Christians to love those in the GLBT community. Sadly, this seemingly elementary notion is still hard to find in many Christian circles.