What Does the New Testament Say about Homosexuality?

new testament bible homosexuality same-sex marriageThere are two primary places in the New Testament where homosexuality is a condemned practice.

Source #1: First Corinthians

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9–10).

The early Christians built their religion on Scripture—what we call the Old Testament. As I noted in the last post on this subject, Leviticus categorizes homosexuality as a ritual abomination—that is, something that’s bad by definition, not by its nature. Leviticus puts gay sex in the same category as eating a ham sandwich or sowing a field with two different crops.

Christians have rejected all of the Old Testament’s ritual abominations (animal sacrifices, kosher laws, and so on), and they can’t now come back to retrieve a few that they’re nostalgic for.

And it’s not even clear what Paul was referring to. The word translated “men who have sex with men” is the Greek word arsenokoitai, and it’s not certain what it means. Different Bible versions have translate it differently. One source notes:

“Arsenokoitai” is a Greek word that appears to have been created by Paul when he was writing 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. No record remains of any writer having using the term before Paul.

The word is a hapax legomenon, a word used so infrequently that its meaning is unclear. (Another example is the Hebrew reem, guessed to mean “unicorn” in the King James Bible but in later versions as “ox.”)

Source #2: First Timothy

We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine (1 Tim. 1:9–10).

Here again, ritual abominations like homosexuality are mixed in this list with actual crimes such as murder.

As an aside, it may be worth wondering who wrote this book. Though its first line says that it’s from Paul, this book is widely considered to be pseudepigraphical (that is, written by someone claiming to be an important figure). So we have a book of unknown authorship with a wide range of possible dates of authorship. It’s part of the canon, but not much of an authority.

But that’s not all these books say …

If we’re to find moral advice in these two books, let’s look at a few other things they say.

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church (1 Cor. 14:34–5).

For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man (1 Cor. 11:8–9).

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner (1 Tim. 2:11–14).

(Yeah, it’s about time we got some old-fashioned Bible values back in society! Let’s correct society’s lax approach toward women.)

Note 1 Timothy’s reference to Genesis. The Garden of Eden story makes clear to this author that women are inferior to men. That doesn’t put Genesis in a good light. But Genesis is where many Christians go for their definition of marriage: “a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). (That they skip over all the places where God has no problem with polygamy reveals the agenda.)

Let me suggest another source of advice. Romans 14 recommends that we be flexible about others’ ways. If someone has more or fewer restriction about what he eats, for example, just let it slide. As Ambrose noted, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Maybe Christians can apply this laissez-faire thinking to homosexuality as well.

Sympathy for homosexuals?

I’ve heard some Christians say that we should treat homosexuals with sympathy. This sounds like giving sympathy to those pathetic individuals cursed with left-handedness in society.

The Catholic Church held for over a thousand years that being left handed made you a servant of the Devil and that anything left-handed was evil. (Source)

Sympathy might have been the best response in a world that saw lefties as evil or demon possessed, but society has gone beyond that. Left-handedness is irrelevant. No one cares. We don’t give sympathy because none is necessary. Shouldn’t that be the goal with homosexuals, another of society’s minorities?

While I know this sympathy is meant as a generous sentiment, it doesn’t come across that way. “Hate the sin; love the sinner” may be as distasteful for the homosexual as “I love you, but you’re going to hell” aimed at the atheist. In either situation, being told that you deserve an eternity of torture in hell for living your life in a way that is honest to who you are and that hurts no one else is simply offensive.

Pointless rules

Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan? The Pharisee and the Levite in the story were ritually clean as they walked past the beaten man lying in the dirt. They avoided him because touching blood or a dead person caused ritual uncleanness. But the Torah didn’t forbid touching such things; it simply stated that you were ritually unclean after doing so and had to cleanse yourself. No, the moral of the story isn’t to help people in need. According to the Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, “Jesus, your big hero, was saying that if you have some rule or conventional wisdom that causes you to do harm to people, violate the goddamn rule.”

Jesus broke lots of rules—going postal on the money changers, harvesting grain and healing on the Sabbath. Remember “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”? The prohibition against homosexuality is another that the Christian needs to break.

You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image
when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.
— Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 3/16/12.)

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  • Y. A. Warren

    Two thumbs up on this post! I am always amazed at how much Paul is given precedence over Jesus by bible thumpers.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker


      Yeah, some random dude just gets to define the religion however he sees fit? Who died and left him god?

      • Y. A. Warren

        Many a brain is permanently changed by a serious concussion. same for stroke…

        Marketing is everything, and Paul was a heck of a PR guy, even though he got much of it wrong. So, sue him for false advertising!

        • MNb

          He had to, given his political goal to raise the new movement to much more than just another jewish sect.

        • smrnda

          I also think Paul was a rather self-loathing guy who was particularly down on human sexuality. Him and Augustine sure were no fun.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Some hypothesize that Paul was gay. Perhaps that was his undefined “thorn in the flesh.”

        • MNb

          Actually Augustinus was a lot of fun before he converted; that typically happened when his testosterone level began to drop (ie around 40).

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I don’t have much patience for the sanctimonious old guy telling young people what urges they must keep under control.

        • smrnda

          I should have specified the after conversion Augustine was no fun.

        • Y. A. Warren

          Paul apparently believed the world was ending in his lifetime. I don’t know whether it was fear or hubris that created such a sense of urgency in Paul’s “conversions,” but to say that he “had to” pervert the process of true spiritual growth by selling it as “Christianity Light” is to justify his behavior as if his fears were well-founded.

        • MNb

          “Christianity Light” is your terminology, not mine. In fact a strong case can made that separating christianity from judaism doesn’t make any sense before the destruction of the Temple in Jeruzalem.

          “Pervert” and “true spiritual growth” is your terminology as well. As far as I’m concerned they are meaningless regarding early christianity (and “spiritual growth” in general). What’s clear to me is that Paulus wanted the new sect to be more that just another jewish offshoot. He saw it’s potential to grow into something much bigger. My hat off for his political insights.
          I expect this book(s) to expand our understanding:


        • Y. A. Warren

          I own the words I use as my terminology. I’m not sure it ever made sense to divide Judaism and the followers of Jesus as the anointed one to lead into a new era.

          What Paul wanted should not have taken precedence over what Jesus exemplified and taught. “Christianity” is still a political system that should be called “Christendom”, not a system of spiritual growth because of Paul and his political “insights.” It is time to tear down the temples and seek The Sacred Spirit in all people, as the early followers of Jesus were doing before Paul.

          I am only fluent in many dialects of American English, so i don’t see me reading the book you recommend.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Interesting book. Just in Dutch, I assume?

        • MNb

          I’m afraid yes. But you might try to talk JL into a translation:




          I do feel there might be considerable interest in the USA for a book like this, though it’s basically my instinct.
          It wouldn’t be his first book translated in English:

          The guy is pro and a devoted one.

      • smrnda

        I once wandered into the main stacks and I found this small old volume where some Christian writer suggested that, much in the way that the church later rejected earlier theologians as having had bad ideas, that Paul should be kicked out of the Bible as a source of more bad than good. All said, he seems a rather contentious figure.

    • hector

      That Paul may well have been the first christian to write anything down may have something to do with it.

      • Y. A. Warren

        He was not an apostle of Jesus; he simply assumed the title. He may have bee the first “Christian” to write anything down, but he was not acquainted with the physical life of Jesus. Many follow Paul, but this does not make Jesus their “christ.”

        • hector

          Frankly, I doubt that Jesus or the apostles ever existed. There was likely no physical life of Jesus to be acquainted with. Paul makes it pretty clear that what he knows he knows from revelation direct from Jesus himself. I think the apostles were a later invention.

          But even if they did exist, the problem was they failed to write anything down. I don’t know why you can’t see how important Paul’s word would end up being because he wrote things down when the apostles did not, and he did it first.

          And why should the gospels be given more weight than Paul’s letters? We don’t even know who wrote them, they were written much later than Paul’s letters and Jesus’s alleged life, they contradict each other in important and irreconcilable ways, and they have been well demonstrated to be so shot-through with mythic elements and structure that no two biblical scholars agree on any historical fact they might contain. The idea they are first person accounts or even re-tellings of first person accounts cannot be sustained.

        • Greg G.

          The things that were revealed to Paul seem to have been from a new method of reading the Jewish scripture of the day.

          The new method was to take verses out of context and pretend they were long-hidden information about Jesus. Even the three “the Lord said” passages in 1 Corinthians. It was probaly easier to memorize verses than to copy them from scrolls. Sometimes Paul’s memory was pretty accurate, sometimes it wasn’t as accurate as he thought, and sometimes he knew he couldn’t quote it but tried to expound on the gist.

          It’s the passages that Paul and pseudo-Paul call the mysteries that hint that is how he reads the scriptures.

          Mark appears to have combined Hebrew, Greek, and Christian literature into a fictional story using advanced Greek compositional techniques like mimesis and chiasmus. HIf so, the rough Greek he employs may have been to make it look like it was written by an less educated person from, say, Jerusalem.

  • avalpert

    I really don’t understand why you spend so much time applying weak hermeneutics when your broader point is easily made without it and provides your reader an easy out to avoid the point.

    Your post from ‘that’s not all these books say’ on stand on its own and strongly demonstrates why what these books say ought to be irrelevant to morality and laws today. Your post before that is a muddled reading of texts. You introduce a distinction between ‘ritual abomination’ and ‘bad by its nature’ that the text does not and then act as if 1 Timothy is muddling said distinction by mixing in “ritual abominations” with “actual crimes like murder.” It is torturous to read, as opposed to the more natural reading that both Leviticus and 1 Timothy don’t see any distinction between it and ‘actual crimes’.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’m not following your points.

      I want to respond directly to the verses made by anti-homosexuality Christians because their own arguments don’t hold up.

      If you like the point that 1 Cor. and 1 Tim. have nutty stuff and that that invalidates them, great. I want to include other arguments in case that one doesn’t stick with a particular reader.

      • avalpert

        But you aren’t responding to those verses – you are saying those verses are mistaken because they ignore a distinction that you assert exists, not the text. Obviously the authors of those verses did not agree that homosexuality was a distinct kind of sin from the other types they list, why would an anti-homosexuality Christian think your reading of Leviticus has precedence over the reading accepted by their own canon.

        But for the later argument that you should reject the whole thing, you offer them nothing to combat those particular verses on their own.

        • http://empiricalpierce.wordpress.com/ EmpiricalPierce

          If I recall, the distinction of “ritual abominations” is one used by some Christians to justify following some parts of the old testament but not others. In that sense, I see Bob’s post as a response to that.

        • avalpert

          While I am not very familiar with exactly how Christians distinguished what parts of the old testament were binding and which weren’t (I always assumed they used a finger in the wind approach) I highly doubt it is connected to the word ‘toevah’ as Bob asserts – I know this because besides the uses of the word Bob notes in the previous post the Old Testament also uses the word to refer to murder, perjury, theft, business fraud and adultery among others. Are they too ‘ritual abominations’ that Christians reject?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The book of Hebrews is one place where, in several places, it says that the sacrifice of Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice that dismissed all the old rules. That’s how they justify not sacrificing animals, circumcision, kosher eating, etc.

        • avalpert

          Does it say which rules aren’t dismissed (for example, if Jesus is the replacement sacrifice is he dismissing all rules that were previously absolved via sacrifice?)? Or, I guess more likely, how do Christians determine what rules apply now (whether they existed in the past or not).

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Here are some verses that seem to address this issue: Heb. 7:11–14,18; 8:6–13; 10:1–18

        • avalpert

          Man, is that strange reading – anyway, the best I can gather from that is that the claim was he was replacing the need for other sacrifices for forgiveness but I don’t see anything that touches on laws that were not absolved through sacrifice.

          And it certainly doesn’t seem as if they take Jesus’ law as literal or else we would see a lot more one eyes christians (Matthew 5:29).

        • Ron

          Strange, isn’t it? The author of Hebrews maintains the first covenant was faulty. Yet Psalms 19:7 claims “The Law of the LORD Is Perfect” and Deut. 30:11 boldly proclaims:

          “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.”

          Score another point for doctrinal inconsistencies.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Where I come from, showing an inconsistency is an important way to show how a particular reading is wrong. If you’re saying that few Christians would care what I said if their denomination said something else, I agree. That doesn’t make my point flawed, however.

          New Testament authors can use flawed reasoning just like any of us.

        • avalpert

          Actually, what I’m saying is what you view as an inconsistency isn’t one based on the most natural reading of the text. What you hold out as inconsistency on the part of the authors of Timothy and Corinthians can also be evidence that your understanding of the word ‘toevah’ is incorrect. To someone who already accepts the authority of the text, whose reading are they more likely to follow yours or the authors whose authority they already accept?

          I would think you would have a lot more success showing the authors used flawed reasoning in comparison to demonstrable impossibilities (like the sun standing still) or historic inconsistencies then supposed textual inconsistencies that are not obviously true.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          We’re talking about ritual abominations. They’re arbitrary. Women are forbidden from shaving their hair, but it could just as easily been the other way around from God’s standpoint. Where is my error?

          like the sun standing still

          Good example, but one thing at a time. Today, it’s the turn of foolish NT reasoning on homosexuality.

        • avalpert

          No, you called them ritual abominations – but the same word ‘Toevah’ is used to describe acts in the Old Testament that would be considered general laws (like murder and theft) of the same type included by the authors above.

          Your error is in assuming that your reading of what the term ‘Toevah’ means is the right one – particularly in light of the textual evidence that the authors of the New Testament disagreed.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The link that I included gives this definition:

          a disgusting thing, abomination, abominable

          (a) in ritual sense (of unclean food, idols, mixed marriages)

          (b) in ethical sense (of wickedness etc)

    • MNb

      Oh, for a non-American like me it makes a lot of sense. BobS is offering an alternative to rabid, fundamentalist christianity, something that is too wide spread in the USA. He would make a lot less sense in countries like The Netherlands and Suriname, where the majority of christians don’t have problems with LBGT’s (or whatever they are called). But he is neither Dutch nor Surinamese.

      • avalpert

        But he is offering it on the turf of the rabid, fundamentalist christian and trying to do it convincingly to them – and frankly, as textual analysis it is too weak to succeed at that and thus I believe counter-productive.

        On the other hand, pointing out how contradictory and dissonant it is to maintain that rabid, fundamentalist christianity is much better grounded.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          How is giving two arguments counter-productive compared to giving just one of them?

        • avalpert

          Because when one of the arguments is easily addressed it can provide someone an out from confronting the stronger argument – kind of like a corollary to the gish gallop.

      • swbarnes2

        BobS is offering an alternative to rabid, fundamentalist christianity,

        The much simpler, and healthier alternative is to admit that homophobia is wrong, no matter what the “correct” interpretation of any ancient religious text says. Arguing about what the “correct” interpretation is to tacitly agree that the “correct” interpretation is a good and proper moral authority. This is counterproductive.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Many Christians can’t see that.

          My hope is to undercut their own arguments–that is, show how the Bible, correctly interpreted, doesn’t support homophobia.

        • swbarnes2

          “Correctly” interpreted? Why is it that so many people are so sure that a 2000 year old text is “correctly” interpreted to lead to 21st century Western liberal morality? How is that at all plausible? If the “correct” reading of the Bible leads to something morally appalling, like slavery, would you be arguing that Christians ought to be okay with that? Or would you be arguing that the Bible is in fact a crappy moral guide?

          By engaging in this line of argument, you are confirming that picking apart a 4000 year old religious text is the right way to work out moral problems. You don’t believe that’s actually true, do you? Do you even think the people you are arguing think it’s true? Isn’t it more likely that they are just picking bits to rationalize their prior conclusions on these matters?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Why is it that so many people are so sure that a 2000 year old text is “correctly” interpreted to lead to 21st century Western liberal morality?

          I think we’re talking about several different things here. First, I argue that letting the Bible speak for itself gives a very weak argument against homosexuality. Second, most Christians are content with today’s morality (no rape, no genocide, no slavery, etc.), which puts them in conflict with OT morality. I’m happy to make that comparison and show the hypocrisy.

          If the “correct” reading of the Bible leads to something morally appalling, like slavery, would you be arguing that Christians ought to be okay with that?

          Obviously. Do they use the book or not?

          Or would you be arguing that the Bible is in fact a crappy moral guide?

          Obviously. But they have to pick—either use the Bible or not. Picking and choosing the bits they like as if in a cafeteria line means that they admit defeat.

        • swbarnes2

          First, I argue that letting the Bible speak for itself gives a very weak argument against homosexuality.

          But it gives a very good argument for the acceptability of slavery, yes? Isn’t that the conclusive argument that the Bible is a sh*tty moral guide, and therefore, no one should care what it says when deciding moral issues?

          Second, most Christians are content with today’s morality (no rape, no
          genocide, no slavery, etc.), which puts them in conflict with OT

          Then why not keep making that argument? “You already think the bible is malarky on moral issues like slavery and genocide, why rely on it for anything else moral?” rather than “We agree that everyone ought to be following the Bible, but you are doing it wrong”?

          If the “correct” reading of the Bible leads to something
          morally appalling, like slavery, would you be arguing that Christians
          ought to be okay with that?

          Obviously. Do they use the book or not?

          I don’t understand you at all. You want to live in a world where Christians follow the Biblical teachings on slavery? I’m sorry, the end goal here is not a world where a huge segment of the population slavishly follows the moral dictates of 4000 year old texts, while strangely believing those texts dictate a 21st century Western liberal morality. It’s one where people don’t bother with 2000 year old texts for anything but academic questions. Talking about what the Bible means when “correctly” understood is tacitly agreeing that the Bible is a good moral authority. Why yield that premise when you don’t have to?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          But it gives a very good argument for the acceptability of slavery, yes?


          Isn’t that the conclusive argument that the Bible is a sh*tty moral guide, and therefore, no one should care what it says when deciding moral issues?

          That’s what I’d argue, and yet that clearly isn’t enough. You still have Christians in the 21st century who want to go back to a book that gives two thumbs up to genocide and slavery and sift through for stuff that they like.

          Then why not keep making that argument?

          I make that argument, too.

          “You already think the bible is malarky on moral issues like slavery and genocide, why rely on it for anything else moral?” rather than “We agree that everyone ought to be following the Bible, but you are doing it wrong”?

          I don’t make that second argument. I’m saying, “Even if you’re confused enough to go back to this ridiculous Iron Age book of nonsense, you’re not even doing that right, because the Bible doesn’t even argue against the gay relationships under debate today.”

          You want to live in a world where Christians follow the Biblical teachings on slavery?

          No. I want Christians to realize their hypocrisy and stop using the Bible for moral teaching.

          Why yield that premise when you don’t have to?

          If you imagine I yield anything then you’ve misinterpreted my goal.

  • RichardSRussell

    Not only are we lefties not considered agents of Satan any more, our insidious plot to take over the world is bearing fruit, as we’ve managed by stealth campaigns to get one of our own in the White House 5 of the last 7 times. And you dopey northpaws (our sneering slur for you at meetings of our secret cabal) don’t even notice that it’s happening. Bwahahahahahaha!

    • smrnda

      I’m surprised by how many people don’t notice handedness. I’m ambidextrous (well, mostly left-handed, I can write with both hands but for some things I’m clearly better with the left) so I always pay attention to catch the other ambidextrous folks out there.

      • Greg G.

        I’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous.

  • Greg G.

    FWIW, Paul’s rants in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Romans 1:29-31, and Galatians 5:19-21 probably come from Wisdom of Solomon 14:24-29

    24 they no longer keep either their lives or their marriages pure, but they either treacherously kill one another, or grieve one another by adultery,
    25 and all is a raging riot of blood and murder, theft and deceit, corruption, faithlessness, tumult, perjury,
    26 confusion over what is good, forgetfulness of favors, defiling of souls, sexual perversion, disorder in marriages, adultery, and debauchery.
    27 For the worship of idols not to be named is the beginning and cause and end of every evil.
    28 For their worshipers either rave in exultation, or prophesy lies, or live unrighteously, or readily commit perjury;
    29 for because they trust in lifeless idols they swear wicked oaths and expect to suffer no harm.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Interesting. If that were true, idol worship is given as the root of all evil here.

      • Greg G.

        Wisdom of Solomon chapters 13 through 15 go on like that on idols. Without looking it up, I would guess it comes from the Maccabean era when the Greeks were upsetting the Jews by putting up idols.

        I stumbled on this passage on my own. Our friend Guest, nee radicalrevolution, was down on the NT Apocrypha so I wanted to learn more. Google kept suggesting I look at OT Apocrypha. A Catholic website pointed out that the Protestant had to eliminate part of the Bible to support their theology which I thought is a fair point.

        I also found a list of more than 600 correspondences between the OT Apocrypha and the NT. I’ve automated the collection of the verses to put them in side by side order in HTML.

        Many are very apparent. Some have typos in the chapter or verse numbers but I have only found them by varying the apocrypha digits, so the NT digits could be wrong in some cases. Some were puzzling as why they were thought to correspond. I discovered one was because they contained the same Greek word that was only used in that one Apocrypha verse and in Mark and the Matthean parallel but nowhere else in the Judeo-Christian literature. But Mark appears to be quoting a Psalm so I don’t think it’s a true correspondence.

  • wtfwjtd

    Bob, I enjoy your exegesis of biblical texts. I find them very compelling, and well-researched. Nearly as much fun as David Fitzgerald’s Bible Story Time at Skepticon. Great stuff!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Thanks! Are Myers’ Bible Story Time lectures available online?

      • wtfwjtd

        Sorry Bob, I goofed, I was thinking of David Fitzgerald’s lecture on Biblical morality; PZ Meyers did a nice lecture on evolution science. Anyway, here is David’s lecture that I saw, “weird ass morality of the Bible”. I think my favorite is the one where Yahweh tries to jump Moses, botches the hit, and… by the time the story is done, knives, dust,and foreskins are flying everywhere. Enjoy!


        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So many videos, so little time! Thanks for the tip.

  • Bruno

    It looks like you need to do a bit more research:

    Arsenokoites in Leviticus

    More important for us is to see how the word was being used in an Old Testament Jewish context, which probably would have been the greater influence on Paul and his understanding of the word. So let us consider those passages in Leviticus that prohibit a man from lying with a male as with a woman.

    Although originally written in Hebrew, we look to see how these OT passages were rendered in Greek. In the Septuagint (a third-century B.C. Greek translation of the OT), we find that Lev 18:22 and 20:13 both use the two Greek words arsenos and koiten together (the root words for arsenokoites). The phrase from Lev 20:13 is rendered in Greek: kai os an koimaythay meta arsenos koiten gunaikos bdelugma etoiesan amphoteroi (“and if a man might lie with a male as with a female, abomination/desecration they both have done”). Notice that arsenos and koiten not only both appear in this sentence, but arsenos immediately precedes koiten. Thus, it is no stretch to see how Paul, who undoubtedly would have been familiar with these verses from the Septuagint, could have from their influence put the two words together to form a new word, arsenokoites, and as he did so, clearly had in mind “a man bedding a male as a female” (Lev 20:13).

    This conclusion is not based on arsenokoites appearing in unrelated lists from a century or two after Paul and then speculating on what might have been the intended meaning. It is based directly on analysis of a text Paul would have been familiar with and whose meaning was and is clear. Even though at the time the Septuagint was written the two words had not previously (so far as we know) been joined together to make the single word arsenokoites, the essential meaning had already been established in the Septuagint’s rendering of these verses. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that Paul would have been referring to and proscribing male homosexuality in general in the sense of a male lying with a male as with a woman as did Leviticus.

    From: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Dale+Martin's+%22arsenokoites+and+malakos%22+tried+and+found+wanting.-a0153025991

    • Gregory Peterson

      Since a Gay man usually doesn’t sleep with a man as with a woman (why would he want to?), what would Leviticus. and therefore 1 Corinthians, have to do with Gay people?

      Why does Lev. use “as with a woman” if it’s just about sex? What are the contexts of Lev. 18 &20 etc? Why would you think that the ancients would have the same modern era social constructs, such as “homosexuality,” that we have?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’m missing the point. So then the Septuagint didn’t use the word. Apparently this source agrees that Paul was the first to coin the term?

      If you’re saying that we can guess at what Paul meant, I agree. Problem is, we have different guesses. Or perhaps I’m missing the point of your comment.

      • Bruno

        Paul coined quite a lot of words not just this one. Given Paul’s background training in what we call the OT now, then it becomes clear how derived the term.

        Your use of the term “guess” is misleading rhetoric. Of course on such a controversial topic people have suggested different meanings.

        The question is which meaning fits the evidence best.

    • Greg G.

      But isn’t “reasonable to assume” in the article you quote close enough to “And it’s not even clear what Paul was referring to” in Bob’s article?

      I would agree that euphemisms in the Hebrew text probably is referring to homosexuality and that the Greek translators were trying to be more explicit. So Paul was probably following that understanding. But I am aware that my judgement could be tainted by 22 centuries of that sort of interpretation.

      The article mentions that Martin claims that it is included in economic crimes. One example the author questions is a list that includes poisoners and sorcerers along with economic crimes. The list ends with arsenokoites. But poisoners and sorcerers would be professional trades so the use of arsenokoites may well be about homosexual prostitution.

      • Bruno

        The phrase in context is “Therefore it is reasonable to assume..” which follows these sentences which give good reasons for why it is “reasonable to assume” so do it can’t mean “And it’s not even clear what Paul was referring to”

        “This conclusion is not based on arsenokoites appearing in unrelated lists from a century or two after Paul and then speculating on what might have been the intended meaning. It is based directly on analysis of a text Paul would have been familiar with and whose meaning was and is clear. Even though at the time the Septuagint was written the two words had not previously (so far as we know) been joined together to make the single word arsenokoites, the essential meaning had already been established in the Septuagint’s rendering of these verses.”

        Furthermore given the historical context it’s only interpretation that makes sense. Dunn (not a conservative NT scholar) notes that in the “Greco-Roman world homosexuality was quite common and even highly regarded as is evident from Plato’s symposium and Plutarch’s Lycergus” but that was not the case in Judaism. He goes on to say:

        “In the period of early Judaism, abhorrence of homosexuality is not just part of the reaction against Greek mores, since we find it also in those most influenced by Greek thought (XVis Sol 14:26; Ep. Arist. 152; Philo, Abr. 135—37; Spec. Leg. 3.37-
        42; Sib. Or. 3:184-86, 764; Ps. Phoc. 3, 190—92, 213—14; Josephus, Ap. 2.273-75); note also the sustained polemic against homosexual promiscuity and homosexuality in T. 12 Patr. (particularly T. Lev. 14.6; 17:11; T. Naph. 4.1) and in Sib. Or. (e.g., 3:185-87, 594-600, 763). .. .

        In other words, antipathy to homosexuality remains a consistent
        and distinctive feature of Jewish understanding of what man’s createdness involves and requires.” (Dunn, Romans 1-8, 65 -66)

  • http://pandarogue.blogspot.com/ Yǒuhǎo Huǒ Māo

    I read an article suggesting that the Roman Centurion in one of the gospels was a gay man, and that the “servant” of the Centurion that Jesus healed was more along the lines of his personal lover. Can’t remember the context, nor where I read it, but it gave a lot of credence to the possibility that 1st Century Jews didn’t much care about sexual orientation.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I also heard that hypothesis on a recent Bible Geek podcast. Interesting.

      He did point out, however, that a servant/slave might be like family, so it might be a father/son kind of relationship, which would also explain the deep love.

      • smrnda

        I also wouldn’t be surprised for a Roman Centurion (a kind of high status Roman) to be engaging in sex with a slave or servant. Roman men of high status could kind of do what they felt like in terms of sex.

    • John

      In 2003 while attending the Society of Biblical Literature convention in Toronto CA, I heard a scholarly paper read by a professor of NT giving linguistic and background evidence to support this interpretation of the “boy” and the Centurion. The SBL is THE international gathering of biblical scholars.

  • Ron

    “But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the kingdom of God.”

    ~Secret Gospel of Mark

    “I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. [Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.]”
    ~Luke 17:34-35, [36]

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      My understanding is that Secret Mark is a hoax.

      That’s a spooky passage from Luke. Almost sounds like the Rapture.

  • Otis Graf

    The core issue is this: What sexual activity among consenting adults is to be considered immoral and wrong?

    The Bible makes it clear that ANY sexual activity outside the confines of marriage is a sin and is a willful act of disobedience to God. That covers both hetero and homosexual acts. Notice the condemnation of “sexually immoral” in the passages that you cited. It is the sexually promiscuous actions that are condemned. Because of this, there is no way to conclude that the Bible would exclude homosexual activity from the list of sins.

    Would same gender marriage make homosexual acts acceptable to God? I challenge you to make that case. (If you are not a theist, you may not want to attempt that.)

    My question to you is: What sort of sexual activity among consenting adults would you consider to be immoral and why?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      The Bible makes it clear that ANY sexual activity outside the confines of marriage is a sin and is a willful act of disobedience to God.

      What verses do you have in mind?

      As you suggest, like the solution to that problem seems to be allowing homosexuals to get married.

      What sort of sexual activity among consenting adults would you consider to be immoral and why?

      The kind that hurts someone. Rape and adultery come to mind. Premarital sex is OK in my book (I wrote more here).

  • John

    The single best source I’ve discovered dealing with the meaning of the Greek words in question is: Dale Martin, “Sex and the Single Savior.” Martin is professor of biblical studies at Yale University. He goes beyond what you have written in this article. It is worth the read. Btw, he concludes Paul did in fact condemn homosexuality as he knew it. However, the Bible teaches many things we no longer hold to be true: the sun revolving around the earth (Joshua), slavery is acceptable (both Old and New Testaments), vast reservoirs of water both above the solid dome of the heavens on which the stars revolve around the earth, and vast reservoirs of water under the earth, inferiority of women, and on and on. I write this as a clergy person who has wrestled with epistemological issues for a long time. I am sympathetic to non-theistic perspectives. If nothing else, they keep us more honest – IF we religious folk truly listen.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Helpful input, thanks.

  • The Man With The Name Too Long

    I’ve always heard about how the death penalty for breaking any commandments was revoked by Jesus, many Christians citing verses that show Jesus ignoring some of them. But Jesus straight up says in Matthew 15:4 that the punishment of death for disrespecting one’s parents is still in effect! This was in response to some Pharisees outcry at Jesus’ disciples breaking a tradition Jesus to believed not to be from God: washing hands before eating.

    And yes, Jesus apparently doesn’t deem it important to wash one’s hands before eating. The more important point being that Jesus believed that it’s okay for someone to be put to death for disrespecting their parents. It’s not inconceivable that being put to death for homosexuality was also still in effect (and still is). Not to mention the nonsense about looking lustfully at a woman to be as bad as adultery.