Daniel Kirk has been offering a fantastic survey of what the Bible says about homosexuality, contextualizing it in the context of ancient patriarchy, which considered it shameful for a man to take on characteristics of weak, passive females. In his latest post, he notes the modern tendency to read Romans 1:27 as a reference to sexually-transmitted diseases. And yet that is very unlikely in its ancient context. And so he comes up with a better interpretation:
The idea that men “receive in themselves the due penalty” is a rather literal and graphic depiction of what a first century Roman would consider to be “shameful” in a same-sex encounter. The “due penalty” is the shame that comes from being penetrated itself.
In an honor/shame culture the shame arises from having one’s position undermined through one’s own actions or the actions of another. In this case, being the passive partner in a same-sex encounter makes a man play the part of a woman, a degrading of his standing–because women were thought to be inferior to men.
Click through to read the entire post, and indeed the whole series.
Of related interest, see Jeremy Smith’s post interacting with me and others on the idea that Paul, in Romans 1, is quoting or mimicking a viewpoint that others hold which is not his own.