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Does the Old Testament Condemn Homosexuality?

Bible homosexualityThe Sodom and Gomorrah story is where many Christians point when arguing that God rejects homosexuality. That’s a lot to place on just six verses. Let’s look at them:

All the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them [literally: so that we can know them].”

Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 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. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

“Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door. (Gen. 19:4–9, NET Bible)

There are a couple of interpretations of this story beyond the typical conclusion that homosexuality is so bad that it gets your town destroyed.

Did angels have secret knowledge?

We’re so familiar with to “know” in the Bible meaning “to have sex with” that we forget that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. The Hebrew word in question is used 947 times in the King James Version, most of which have nothing to do with sex. For example, “When you eat from [the fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5), “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:22), and so on.

If that’s the interpretation, what might the townspeople have wanted to know? Robert Price suggested that the idea of supernatural visitors wouldn’t have been too surprising within that culture. It was a violent time, and any military advantage for their town would have been helpful. Angels could have provided important information.

What to me undercuts this is Lot’s response, “Don’t do this wicked thing,” which isn’t in keeping with a request for knowledge, though it’s conceivable that this was added by later copyists. But if we conclude that gang rape is commonplace for this community, why is this godly man still living there? The story leaves this unclear.

Does the homosexual argument even make sense?

Let’s consider a second interpretation: if the townsmen were homosexual, why would Lot have offered them his daughters? Perhaps instead they were simply violent bullies who wanted to use rape for domination or humiliation. Isn’t this how rape is sometimes used in prison?

(That Lot volunteered his virgin daughters as if they were merely expensive possessions raises other issues, but let’s not go there.)

One unambiguous conclusion from the story is that gang rape is bad. Okay, no disagreement there. But what critique does this give of a loving homosexual relationship, which is the issue that society is addressing today?

Next time: we’ll conclude with Part 2.

Acceptance without proof is the fundamental characteristic of Western religion, 
rejection without proof is the fundamental characteristic of Western science. 
— Gary Zukav

Photo credit: Wikimedia

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 3/9/12.)

About Bob Seidensticker

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