The New Testament: Uninterested in Homosexuality?

I have found myself blogging on the topic of same-sex marriage and related subjects a lot lately. Perhaps I should try to take a more Biblical approach to the matter in the future – in other words, not talk about it much, if at all. :-)

But perhaps I can use this opportunity to share one more thought on the subject. Among the Greeks and Romans, same-sex relationships between men were common, so much so that the entire Greek culture has been described as “bisexual,” while authors like Plato looked down upon “barbarians” who did not appreciate such relationships the way the Greeks did.

The question that does not get asked often enough is, if Paul, for instance, really had strong views on this subject, then why in his letters do we not have clear references, ones that actually use the unambiguous terminology current in the Greek language?

I also need to add an apology. I was, in a comment on John Byron’s blog, dismissive of a claim made in a recent article at The Huffington Post, which suggested that the Centurion’s “servant” (Matthew 8:6) was in fact his “lover” because that is what pais meant in ancient Greek. It turns out, according to Dover’s classic study, Greek Homosexuality, that the term pais was indeed widely used for the younger, passive partner in a same-sex relationship. Hopefully that will teach me to pronounce so quickly on a matter without looking into it adequately.

At any rate, the point is this: If Jesus cared about whether people were engaged in such activities, given how common they were among Greeks and Romans, he really missed a good opportunity to ask, and potentially offer a rebuke. I wonder how those who think the answer to “WWJD?” is “condemn homosexuals” will explain the fact that Jesus did not even bother to ask or address the issue, apparently missing an opportunity that his conservative followers today would not have passed up.

So too Paul. In his letters, he wrote to Gentile churches where it would be safe to assume that such relationships were a common part of their collective cultural experience and for many their personal experience, as part of a widely-accepted norm. Is it not to be expected that he would address this topic frequently and unambiguously if it were important to him? Are we really to believe that, in the time period that Paul interacted with Christians in Corinth, someone marrying his stepmother came up, but someone engaging in a same-sex relationship of a much more common sort never did? It is possible, to be sure – but is it likely? One could assume that Paul had “pray away the gay” sessions every time he planted a church among Gentiles, and thus he assumed that he had no need to mention the topic ever again. But is that a safe assumption?

And if Paul was genuinely concerned about the issue, why did he eschew all the terminology familiar to Greek speakers to denote those involved in such relationships in the various forms that they existed in ancient Greek culture? Why, in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, did he choose a term that did not have a clear meaning, if he was referring to something familiar and about which clarity was possible?

This is not to say that Paul did not have a viewpoint on the subject. In the first chapter of Romans, perhaps the only unambiguous reference to same-sex relationships in the New Testament, it becomes clear that Paul assumed, as did many of his contemporaries, that there was something “unnatural” and “shameful” in at least certain same-sex relations. But what made them seem “unnatural” and “shameful” in that cultural context was the fact that men and women were assumed to be inherently different in status, one superior and one inferior, one by nature active and one by nature passive. For a man or a woman to transgress this supposedly natural gender role was considered unnatural and shameful. But we who do not share these assumptions about men and women cannot simply accept a view of same-sex relations built upon those assumptions.

Same-sex relationships in ancient Hellenistic society often involved a teacher and pupil or some other distance of status and power. They were not viewed as mutually exclusive to marrying someone of the opposite sex in order to produce legitimate heirs. And so they may have objected to them not least because they viewed them merely as forms of fornication and adultery. Their comments on same-sex relations in their time are not about the forms of relationships we are talking about in our time, any more than the Bible’s discussions of marriage envisage precisely the institution most of us are familiar with.

Be that as it may, it remains noteworthy that the one place where Paul seems to be explicitly referring to same-sex sexual relations, he brings it up in the service of luring conservative Jewish Christian readers into condemning such stereotypical Gentile practices, so that he can then turn their accusing fingers back on them. And so even if one were to conclude that Paul would have condemned today’s gays and lesbians, it would still remain the case that the conservative Christians of our time who read Romans have, for the most part, missed its point entirely.

That Paul and other NT authors say little about the subject in a world where it was more taken for granted than it is in our time tells us a great deal. This simply was not as important an issue for the NT authors as it is for contemporary conservative Christians. And in those few places where the subject seems to come up, what is said and what is not said both serve to remind us that the sorts of relationships that are in view are not those being discussed by advocates of same-sex marriage today.

And so perhaps the important question to be asked, which often fails to be asked explicitly, much less answered, is this: Given how little the Bible has to say about same-sex relationships of any sort, why is so much attention given to the issue by contemporary conservative Christians?

I think the answer, if I had to venture a guess, is this: Focusing on condemning gays and lesbians is just one more form of today’s conservative Christians condemning what seem like easy targets, so that they can persuade themselves that they are doing the Lord’s will and fighting evil, even though for the most part, they have little to say about and do little to address the most pernicious forms of evil and injustice in our time, subjects about which the Bible has much more to say, and much more explicitly and directly.

And so the heart of the matter, from a Christian and Biblical perspective, seems to be this: Today’s conservative Christians condemn and persecute gays and lesbians to make themselves feel better about their own serious shortcomings, leading to a self-righteousness that is thoroughly unbiblical, and according to the clearest New Testament passage mentioning homosexuality, in heaping such condemnation on gays and lesbians, they are really condemning themselves.

  • jonathanrobinson

    You need to rephrase “why . . . did he choose a term that did not have a clear meaning” to ” why did he choose a term without clear meaning to 21st century biblical scholars.” Presumably Paul did not choose a word which he expected no one to understand. The silence on homosexuality is comparable to the silence on premarital sex or bestiality, they don’t get mentioned because they are taken for granted within the assumed moral framework of early Christianity, if they had been making a radical departure from Judaism in this regard they would have mentioned it a great deal, just like Paul has to with regard to circumcision.

    On the other hand it is a fair point to ask why so much emphasis is put on sexual behaviour by some Christians when Jesus is far more interested in money as a subject for moral reflection and religiously motivated extremism.

    • Jason

      I understand the point you are making when it comes to bestiality and premarital sex but I think the point he is making is the fact that homosexual relationships were normal, every day occurrences in Greek society. If they were as wrong as any other “sin” of the time then surely there would be more to be said about it in Pauls teachings given the commonality of it as opposed to bestiality and premarital sex.

      • andom

        Alll we could agree that Paul was against premarital sex.
        If we understand what is marriage for Paul we could know his stand on homosexual relations (that is: sex between two men or two women and not two men or two women loving each other).

        • jonathanrobinson

          it is pretty straight forward, in 1 Cor 7:2 Paul gives his solution to sexual immorality as being marriage between a man and a woman. everything that fell outside those bounds would presumably be considered, by Paul, to be immoral. Every time he mentions sexual immorality we can be pretty sure he would consider himself to be including homosexuality as well. Yes homosexual relationships (of a sort) were normal in Greek society but it was also normal (and far more consistently so) for Jews (of which Paul was one) to consider that behaviour immoral. That may or may not be determinative for your own beliefs and practice, but suggesting that Paul was really “ok with it” doesn’t wash.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            I don’t think that is what I was saying. On the contrary, same-sex relations in Paul’s time were, for the most part, practiced alongside heterosexual marriage for the purpose of procreation. And so same-sex relations might have seemed inseparable in Paul’s mind from marital infidelity. And so I think the key question for Christians to ask to today relate to Paul’s underlying principles and how they might apply to the significantly different questions many are asking today.

  • Gary

    So the reference in Corinthians also includes “nor covetous, nor drunkards”. So they are all put into the same group? Covet? Drunk? So who hasn’t coveted (without action)? I covet Romney’s garage elevated and sea view in La Jolla. I bet Romney covets Swiss bank accounts. So who hasn’t been drunk? And who decides if a person is a drunkard? One time, two times, or put someone on a breathilizer? See you all in hell. :-) or sheol. Experts can’t even agree on what sheol is. I think all right wing Christians should take the lead from one of the church fathers, Origen, and castrate themselves. Then they will not covet. Then they will go directly to the Kingdom of Heaven.

    • BillE

      Sounds like hate speech to me

  • aaronpxian

    Hey Dr. Mcgrath, I’m just curious about how much younger these sexual partners were in ancient greek and roman times… I can see this argument potentially backfiring into having the fundies comparing gay with pedophiles again.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      It varied, but I think that if it serves their argument, it also backfires on them. If Paul was talking about same-sex relations as they existed in his time, then these were more often than not instances of pederasty, and so one can make the case that Paul took a negative view of same sex relations precisely because they were of that sort, and that was all he was familiar with. If he had seen same-sex couples among Christians today pledging to be faithful to one another, he would not necessarily have taken the same stance as he did to ancient Greek same-sex relationships.

      • joe

        So homosexual relationships were so very common, as you mention above, but you mention here they were most often pederastic. And Paul would condemn those, but he either did, or said little, depending on which argument you’re making now. huh? And you seriously think Paul would take on the gay rights views of the 21st century? Why not mention that pais had several meanings, not just the one that fits your very weak argument. An argument that seems to presume that if Jesus healed someone it means he endorsed them as sinless? But wait, you don’t believe in miracles if I recall correctly, so how could such a thing have even happened at all?

    • Jason

      Jesus did state that if anyone harms a little child, it would be better for that person if they had a mill stone hung about their neck and thrown into the sea, so pedophila is definitely hit against in the bible.

    • arcseconds

      Didn’t men commonly marry much younger women, too? Usually teenagers, and often young teenagers, at that.

  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

    It breaks my heart to read a post like this.

    Because the New Testament does not go into repeated gory detail about all the specific ways that we can violate the Lord Jesus’ standard of sexual purity, does this mean that He favors licentiousness?

    “It is disgraceful even to speak of the things that are done by them in secret” tells us the discomfort Paul felt when he wrote what he did write on such subjects – which, by the way, is more than enough to confirm the sense of a good conscience on the subject. That is, sex is an issue for a man and a woman in marriage. Period. To say that the Lord Jesus thought any other way on the subject is to violate His Spirit.

    Because the New Testament uses the language of modesty appropriate to graceful speech, are we to take advantage of that, let loose our lusts, and say that any despicable thing we can think of which is not specifically described and condemned can be pursued without guilt?

    The obsession with homosexuality does not come from those who oppose it, but rather from those who seek to legitimize it. Even if that obsession prevails, however, and this activity becomes sanctioned by society as equivalent to marriage, its stain upon us will not be removed in the Lord’s sight. You can get an entire society to approve of what you’re doing, but if the Lord doesn’t approve, it won’t matter.

    My heart grieves for the precipitous moral slide we are in. I pray we repent and live as Jesus taught us to live.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Buchholz/1203282337 Christopher Buchholz

      so “wanting to end heart breaking pain from abuse and hate every single day of your life” is what you call “obsession”?

      • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

        If the way you want to end “heart-breaking pain and abuse and hate” is to cause it for others, then, yes, I would call it an obsession.

        • brandonb70

          How would stopping it cause “Heart-breaking pain and abuse” for others? And isn’t freedom of religion right in this country? Just because a someone is Christian and being gay is against your religion doesn’t make you right. I am Asatru, we have nothing against gay marriage, so why should your views overwrite mine?

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            As far as democracy is concerned, it’s one person, one vote. A person doesn’t get more votes for being biblical; neither should he get fewer because he’s biblical. The majority will prevail. Whether the majority is right or not, is another question.

            As far as who is right, that’s something God decides. If homosexuality is right, then those who oppose it are wrong. If homosexuality is wrong, then those who support it are wrong. I’ve made my position clear. If I am not truly speaking for God then He will make me to suffer for it, and rightly so. He cannot do wrong.

    • Rob

      I understand that you do not understand what it is like to be gay. I was born this way. For you to call homosexuality, something you cannot ever understand, illegitimate and an obsession shows that you do not understand the spirit that is Christ. I know that Christ loves me, who I am and does not condem how I live my life.

      I also understand that you want to keep my life as illegitimate, thereby forcing me into a secret closeted life. We gay people simply want what you have, the ability to have the same LEGAL rights that all other classes of Americans have. Marriage is a legal issue between the Government and two people. Marriage is not a religious matter.

      I recently got divorced, after trying my hardest to live a straight life for 20 years. At no point in the divorce did the church get involved. The marriage was a legal entity between two people that required a judge and trial to dissolve. You want to make it a religious matter, but in our country it is a legal union, afforded my our laws, not the bible or any other religious text. To deny a class of people this legal right is a direct denial of a civil right. In our country all men are created equal.

      I am a Christian, I love my Savior. But the savior did not discriminate. He did not deny a class of people a blessing. Even the adulteress woman who was brought to him to be stoned to death was blessed and told to go and sin no more. Christ NEVER tried to marginalize anybody. And that is what you are saying. That gays are a different class of people, that should not be afforded the same legal rights and any other class of people.

      • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

        Rob,

        Your reference to Jesus and the adulterous woman is puzzling. You rightly note that He told her to “go and sin no more.” Yet wouldn’t that mean that she should be faithful to her husband and stop committing adultery? And didn’t Jesus say that whoever divorces to marry another is committing adultery, so wouldn’t that apply to your own situation? If Jesus says adultery is a sin don’t we need to treat it as a sin? He obviously doesn’t want us to stone people over it, but He doesn’t seem to want us to keep practicing it either.

        I do not condemn you, Rob. You sound like a sincere person. It is clear to me that Christ commands us to be sexually pure, which I understand to mean sex confined to marriage between a man and a woman. You understand Christ to be telling you something quite different – that homosexuality is not a sin and that it qualifies for marriage as much as a man and a woman do. And there we are, two sincere people who hear Christ differently. What are we to do? We much each continue to listen and obey Christ as we understand him. Obviously one of us – and perhaps both of us – is hearing Him inadequately. May His will be done.

        Thanks for engaging with me.

        • Stephen

          This response seems more measured than your first. To become so worried about the general moral malaise of a culture that would admit that some people are different and allow them to do what they want (legally) in the first place, seems ridiculous to me. We do not have motions on the table to outlaw second marriages or adultery or premarital sex, though your reading of the Bible would keep you away from these activities. Why should our society all be required to follow your religious moral code?

          I just think many conservatives make a big issue out of something that doesn’t affect them. You’re not gay, and don’t want to be married to a man. You probably don’t have that many gay friends. This doesn’t affect what moral code you are able to set forth in your church, bible study, and Sunday school class and what you try to promote through non-legal means. Allowing marriage equality will not produce a nation of gay people. That’s still going to be a small minority, say 3-10%, as it has been throughout history. People will still want heterosexual nuclear family units. That small minority population already has the option to make homosexual nuclear family units, this would just allow them to have more legal protection and stability.

          And equality. Most of all, they just don’t want to feel like second class citizens.

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            “Why should our
            society all be required to follow your religious moral code?”

            This is your question to me. Why should I not be able to ask it of you as well? That is, why should our society all be required to follow your moral code?

            • Angela Peene

              He is not asking you to FOLLOW his moral code. He is saying that YOUR religion may not be someone else’s religion and this country was initially colonized by those escaping religious beliefs they did not want to be forced to follow. And our forefathers wrote and signed documents stating that everyone has the right to freedom of religion. It has already been pointed out to you, Mr. Gantt, that marriage in the United States is a legal document, not a religious one, just like divorce. It is unconstitutional to deny gay & lesbian people to have a legal marriage.

              • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                I am an American and I have an allegiance to American values. However, my allegiance to God is greater.

                • Beau Quilter

                  Here’s the point Mike:

                  You may believe that the worship Buddha or Allah, working on the Sabbath, taking God’s name in vain, interracial marriage, or gay marriage – are “sins”.

                  You are free to refrain from these practices.

                  But please do not impose your beliefs on others. Preach your beliefs to others as much as you like. But please don’t impose them, especially not legally.

                  American Muslims don’t prevent you from reading the Bible, American Jews don’t prevent you from mowing the lawn on Saturday, and American gays don’t prevent you from marrying the person you love.

                  They only ask that you grant them the same consideration.

                  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                    Jesus tells me to love my neighbor as myself. I am not loving my neighbor if I cast my vote for something that I am convinced is against his best interests as well as against the best interests of all concerned.

                    • Beau Quilter

                      So you would cast your vote to make Buddhism, Islam, miscegeny, and gay marriage illegal?

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Marriage is between a man and a woman. It always has been. “Gay marriage” is therefore an oxymoron. I would not vote for a law that sought to criminalize homosexual behavior, but neither would I vote for a law to sanction it by calling it marriage.

                      A nation’s laws are a reflection of its morality. The world rightly condemned Nazi Germany for its laws regarding Jews. For a nation to agree to call something good which obviously is not good, is to invite God’s judgment.

                    • rmwilliamsjr

                      re:
                      Marriage is between a man and a woman. It always has been.

                      nonsense. even in western culture there have been different patterns:
                      1.dynastic marriages between two families. most common pattern for powerful
                      2.polygamy.
                      3.marriage for legitimate offspring, girlfriends for sex. most common pattern for those with property
                      4.serial polygamy, which is what we have for significant part of population.
                      5.living together, most common for poor throughout history
                      6. clandestine, for priests and others unable to marry publicly
                      7.how many stable monogamous homosexual relationships have been ignored in the statistics, or shame marriages to hide it?

                      read
                      Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage
                      &
                      A History Of Marriageby Elizabeth Abbott

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Marriage has been from the beginning. So has sin.

                      Your source is Elizabeth Abbott. My source is Jesus Christ.

                    • rmwilliamsjr

                      if Jesus spoke directly to me, i’d ignore historians as well and display absolute confidence and certainty of correctness. good luck with those visions and voices but since Jesus doesn’t talk to me about european history i’ll have to read historians. i know you consider that a secondary source but it’s all i have access to, sorry.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      I appreciate the work of historians and depend much on their work. However, when Jesus Christ has expressed a moral view on a subject, such as this one (Matthew 19:1-12), it’s foolish to suggest that a historian’s view trumps it.

                    • rmwilliamsjr

                      explaining that modern western ideals of marriage evolve out of property laws assuring legitimate heirs among the rich and powerful property owners, is not an expression of a moral view but a careful analysis of recent history. you are confusing description with prescription.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      I’m glad you see the difference. She is giving description; Christ is giving prescription. Prescription is what we need.

                    • Beau Quilter

                      You are using your ancient scriptures inconsistently. You choose to support legal sanctions of other religions, but not of gay marriage, when there are far more scriptures in the bible prohibiting idolatry. Can’t you see that you are selective in your persecutions. For that matter, why aren’t you pushing legislation to make divorce illegal, except in “scriptural” instances?

                      One has to wonder why. What do you have against gay men and women more than other “sinners” ?

                    • Beau Quilter

                      And please consider the offensive irony of your reference to the Nazis. The Nazis progressively denied more and more of the rights of Jews in Germany, until they finally deprived them of the right to live.

                      You think depriving the gay community of rights makes us LESS like Nazi’s!

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      I live in a democracy of over 200 million eligible voters, All I can cast is one vote. If I choose not to cast it for “gay marriage” how is that persecuting anyone?

                      Laws reflect the morality of a nation. The loosening of restrictions against divorce were a sign of declining morals in the U.S. Same goes for the desire to sanction homosexuals as “married.” Licentiousness is on the rise. So far as I am aware, “gay marriage” has not been approved in any jurisdiction in the U.S. It is currently allowed only where it has been ordered legal by judicial fiat. While I hope the moral decline in this country will be reversed, I see no sign that this is currently taking place. But even if “gay marriage” becomes voter-approved, that will not make it right.

                      You don’t understand the Scriptures. They point to Christ. He is their interpretation for us. He taught the sanctity of marriage.
                      One has to wonder why you think I hold animus against any sinners, whether the sins be of a sexual nature or not.

        • Angela Peene

          Perhaps neither of you is hearing Him wrong and He is speaking to you each as the individuals you are.

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            God does speak to us individually, but He doesn’t have more than one moral code.

    • Angela Peene

      Can you tell me what “dispicable” things you are referring to? Loving another human being is not dispicable. Being born as the homosexual that God made you to be, is not dispicable. If you are referring to specific sexual acts, I can assure you, heterosexual couples are doing all of the same acts that homosexuals are doing.
      On another topic, since it seems that you are a conservative Christian, what do you, or what does God or the Bible have to say about hermaphrodites and/or people born with ambiguous genitalia? Should they ask the local clergy who they are allowed to love, marry and have sexual relations with? It is not as rare as you might think. One in 426 babies is born with sex chromosome abnormalities and one in 100 are born with ambiguous genitalia. (Bruce King, Human Sexuality Today). Not one single person to whom I have asked this question has been able to give me an answer. Please feel free to send to my personal email APeene@gmail.com I would love to have further discussion.
      Thank you.

      • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

        Because some babies are born with abnormalities, that means sexually anything goes between anyone and anyone else?

        • APeene

          No, what it really means is that human biology is very complicated, and it is not your right to tell someone else how THEY feel and who they are attracted to, because YOU don’t know.

      • Mark Petersen

        You were not born homosexual. You were born a sinner as the rest of us. Sin is always a choice.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          So you have the choice to be attracted to other men rather than to women?

          • Mark Petersen

            Its not a decision on being hetero or homosexual. Its broader than that. You can either choose the wide path or the narrow path. One leads to life everlasting (narrow) and one leads to death (wide) but one thing is for certain. We are all leaders.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              You didn’t answer my question. And arguably the way that embraces people who are different than ourselves and esteems them as human beings is a narrower and more difficult (not to mention more Christlike) way than the way of hatred and misrepresentation.

              • Mark Petersen

                Where’s the hatred?

        • APeene

          Actually, you are right, I was not born homosexual, because I was born heterosexual. You made a judgment that I was homosexual just because I know they did not choose their sexuality anymore than you did.
          Perhaps you can share with me when you made the choice to be heterosexual. Were you 5, 10, 15 years old? How did you decide? I mean, girls are all soft skin and silky hair, and smell good, but boys are muscular and strong with deep voices… it’s a tough one.
          You didn’t CHOOSE because nobody chooses! Biology chooses for you.

  • arcseconds

    I had the impression from reading that article is the only thing it demonstrates is that it’s *possible* that it’s talking about the centurion’s beloved.

    It struck me is that it’s not so dissimilar from our use of ‘boy’, if you fold in the thankfully deprecated use of it to refer to a black slave (or even just some black guy in the street), and the slightly cutesy way some people refer to their male partner.

  • andom

    D. B. Saddington, “The Centurion in Matthew 8:5-13: Consideration of the Proposal of Theodore W. Jennings, Jr., and Tat-Siong Benny Liew”
    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/27638351?uid=3738296&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=2110113539052

    I must admit that the interpretation of Mt 8:8 by Jennings and Liew is one of the funniest thing I have read in a scholarly journal.

  • andom

    “Given how little the Bible has to say about same-sex relationships of
    any sort, why is so much attention given to the issue by contemporary
    conservative Christians?”

    As I can see are not contemporary
    conservative Christians who have put in the political agenda this issue.

  • T. Webb

    Dr. McGrath,

    Why don’t we just say, “Who cares what Paul said about homosexuality? If he condemns it, then Paul is wrong! We know better!” After all, Paul believed that Jesus rose bodily from the dead, and your book (“Burial of Jesus”) proves that Jesus didn’t.

    I guess I don’t understand why people waste time writing long posts like this. Paul was wrong. Deal with it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joshcgould Josh Gould

    i like where you went with this article, however, the problem i have is that it uses the assumption that paul was actually talking about homosexuality. my argument is that he wasn’t and here’s an article i wrote on the subject.

    http://www.thegodarticle.com/15/post/2012/07/who-says-homosexuality-is-a-sin1.html

    • andom

      you are right pointing out that Paul was writing about non-procreative sex;
      you are wrong stating that he was referring only to the temple worship.

  • Tyler

    Dr. McGrath, had the church in Corinth not had issues about the Lord’s Supper, we would know virtually nothing of the Eucharist in Pauline writings. So can we therefore make a parallel argument to the one concerning homosexuality, saying that Paul is therefore uninterested in the sacrament?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Your point is an important one. I can’t remember which NT scholar it was who suggested that we should assume that what Paul does say in his letters is a response to the situation in the church he is writing to, and not something that he would normally emphasize simply for its own sake. It is always hard to tell what to make of both silence and of statements, because of the occasional nature of epistles.

  • Lucian

    Christ didn’t live in Greece and Rome: He lived in Israel. Paul, who did extend the ministry to Gentiles, did have some things to say on the subject.

  • SeekTruthFromFacts

    “Given how little the Bible has to say about same-sex relationships of
    any sort, why is so much attention given to the issue by contemporary
    conservative Christians?”

    Surely it’s not entirely unrelated to the fact that iin the past generation-and-a-half most Western countries have changed from treating homosexual relations as illegal to giving them preferential legal status?!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I’ll leave to one side the phrase “preferential legal status” even though it is not clear to me how letting gays and lesbians marry in some places, and repealing laws making same sex intercourse illegal in some places, is “preferential.”

      But I do find myself skeptical that it is the change in laws about homosexuality that is the explanation. We have freedom in the United States which allows people to worship other gods and multiple gods, which are at odds with the first or first two of the ten commandments. Yet that is not the focus of attention among religious conservatives to the extent that homosexuality is. That state of affairs doesn’t seem to fit well with your explanation, in my opinion.

      • SeekTruthFromFacts

        I should have written that more carefully, to make clear my point is about homosexual *relations*, not about the people. I mean that homosexual partnerships are now given the same preferential treatment in law that marriages are, in many Western countries. For example, if someone dies, it is often their spouse or homosexual partner who inherits, not their mother, father, roommate, clan chief, etc. That is preferential legal status.

        On your second point, the key word here is ‘change’. Native-born Americans have always lived in a country that allows people to choose which god they worship. Some of them may have moved to the country for that very reason, and most conservative American Christians support this policy. Baptist theology, in particular, emphasizes the inappropriateness of state intervention in religious affairs. It’s hardly surprising that they don’t try to overturn a policy that they support! By contrast, the laws about homosexual relations have changed radically and quickly.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          And based on Baptist principles, it makes sense to oppose the attempt to force people to adopt any particular religion’s definition of marriage, or prohibit those religious groups who wish to perform same sex marriages from doing so.

          • SeekTruthFromFacts

            Baptists oppose state intervention in religious affairs. That isn’t the same as opposing religious intervention in state affairs!* Nor is that irrational or unfair. Libertarians don’t want the state to intervene in their lives, but they do intervene in state affairs (through advocacy and voting) so that their policies are adopted.

            You claim there is an attempt to force people to adopt a particular religion’s definition of marriage. To return to the original topic, that’s not the historical sequence, though, is it? Conservative Christians did not choose to focus attention on the issue of homosexual relations. There was a definition of marriage that was legally and socially accepted, and some people decided to change it. It is the people trying to change the definition of marriage who decided to focus on the issue, and to implement (through advocacy and voting) their views with state power.

            *While Anabaptist groups often condemn political involvement, I’m not
            aware that it has a strong heritage in the magisterial Baptists that seem to
            make the running in today’s US.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              The Baptists historically had a very strong conviction that using the state to compel religious assent or conformity was bad for religion, not just in the sense that it had been bad for Baptists in places like England, but also in the sense that true devotion and faith are undermined in the religious body that is so wedded to the state and its power.

              There are still many today who view the country as historically a Christian nation founded on Christian principles. As a result, it still becomes a topic of debate at times as to whether our country’s founding documents and principles will be interpreted in a way that provides liberty and justice for all. We recognized, eventually, that even though the spirit of the Constitution was egalitarian, we had to change laws to extend it fairly, to eliminate slavery, to allow women to vote, and so on. That the process of social change is ongoing is not the point. The question is whether the change is in keeping with our core beliefs and principles.

        • rmwilliamsjr

          re:
          Native-born Americans have always lived in a country that allows people to choose which god they worship.

          nonsense.
          from the beginning outliers have been “disciplined”
          from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Hutchinson to Robinson & Stevenson http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/quakers-executed-for-religious-beliefs to the burning of convents by the nativists, you need to read a bit more history, from the beginning the dominant religious groups established themselves and persecuted the others.

          • SeekTruthFromFacts

            Re the original post, I’m writing about “the past generation-and-a-half”

    • Beau Quilter

      “preferential legal status”

      Gay men and women are not given “preferential legal status”, any country that I have ever heard of. But they are abused, discriminated against, and sometimes killed outright (even legally) in many countries that I’ve heard of.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thomas-Ross/566122633 Thomas Ross

    I did a short trilogy of three blogs touching on some subject matter contained in this article. The series is called “The Homosexuality Question”. The first one, “Answered, Not A Sin”, responded to all six of the passages of the Bible that relate to homosexual behaviors, including the N.T. passages in Romans and Corinthians mentioned here. The second, “Jesus DID Say Something” was about “racha” and “pais”. The third is “Pro-Marriage Equality…Because the Bible Tells Me So?”, which covers the lack of negatives against same-sex LOVE, “it is not good for man to be alone” from Genesis, “it is better to marry than to burn” from Corinthians and the born eunuch controversy from Matthew, and uses those to come to a biblically-approved pro-Marriage Equality position. The third blog is the longest at just over 1,500 words, so the three of them are barely longer than this article. They are all cross-linked, so here is the first:

    http://evolequals.com/2012/08/04/the-homosexuality-question-answered-not-a-sin-2/

    The one thing I DIDN’T cover, was the main point of this article! If homosexual sexuality was so rampant in the ancient world (and there is no question that it was), then why is the Bible and most particularly the New Testament so silent on it? I love that point, and wish I had thought to include it in my series.

  • Bill E

    “And so the heart of the matter, from a Christian and Biblical perspective, is this: Biblical marriage is between a man and a women. Sex outside of marriage is condemned in the scriptures and those that practice it will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.


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