Romans 1:26-27: A Clobber Passage That Should Lose Its Wallop

Romans 1:26-27: A Clobber Passage That Should Lose Its Wallop October 1, 2013
Romans 1 from Codex Vaticanus, c. 300-325, Public Domain.
Romans 1 from Codex Vaticanus, c. 300-325, Public Domain.

Whenever I’m debating with someone who authoritatively declares that the Bible condemns homosexuality, and who cites the infamous Romans 1:26-27 as proof, I almost always offer this rejoinder: “What do you make of the vocative at the beginning of Romans 2?”

The question is admittedly pretentious on my part but I’ve found it effective, because those often most eager to wield the Bible as an authoritative weapon are also often those who have read it only in translation, and not very closely at that.

But it’s not an idle question.

Anyone who has engaged the issue of sexuality and the Bible has at some point contended with Romans 1:26-27: “For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.” (NRSV)

Sounds pretty bad, and indeed, so does the entire last half of the first chapter of Romans. Who, broadly, is being described here? Most agree it’s the Gentiles, and most agree that what is being represented here is boilerplate, Hellenistic Jewish material that attacks the Gentiles. But the condemnatory nature of the verses from 1:18-32 also fits awkwardly, if at all, with the spirit of the rest of the epistle, which goes from talking about the “uprightness of God” in the early verses to suddenly referring to the “anger of God” here, an anger that God uses to “hand over” these people to all manner of horrible behaviors.

But then, they’re Gentiles. They’re rotten, horrible individuals. Did you hear the sorts of things they do? In fact, as pointed out by scholar Calvin Porter, “they” recurs in this section with striking concentration, with repetition of the third-person pronoun αὐτός thirteen times, the reflexive (“themselves”) once, and third-person plural verbs over and over: “No other section of Romans contains such a concentration,” he observes.

What’s even more striking, notes Porter, is what comes next: an abrupt change to the second person in Romans 2:1:

“Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.”

Here, then, is the vocative in the Greek, “Oh man,” a grammatical case used for direct address: ὦ ἄνθρωπε. And this takes us to the question I have posed to those who repeat 1:26-27 in condemnation. Who’s the ἄνθρωπος that Paul’s addressing here?

It’s actually a very big question.

Scholarship has been preoccupied often with the content of verses 1:26-27 to the distraction of its context. Scholars such as James Miller and Mark D. Smith have gone back and forth as to whether the behavior described in those verses can be considered “homosexual” from our culture’s standpoint, or whether they refer to something else entirely. But an even more interesting angle surfaced in Roy Bowen Ward’s entry into the fray: “It is still open to question whether these two verses represent Paul’s voice or the voice of a rhetorical spokesperson in Rom 1:18-32, whom the apostle criticizes beginning in Rom 2:1.”

That’s right. Some scholarship of late, of which Porter’s article is the most thorough example, has noted that Romans 1:18-32 does not represent Paul’s view, but the prevailing view of Gentiles among many Jews at the time, which this apostle to the Gentiles feels compelled to refute. Building off of the scholarship of J.C. O’Neill (who calls it “a traditional tract which belongs essentially to the missionary literature of Hellenistic Judaism”) and E.P. Sanders (who explains that “Paul takes over to an unusual degree homiletical material from Diaspora Judaism”), Porter ultimately concludes that “in 2:1-16, as well as through Romans as a whole, Paul, as part of his Gentile mission, challenges, argues against, and refutes both the content of the discourse and the practice of using such discourses. If that is the case then the ideas in Rom. 1.18-32 are not Paul’s. They are ideas which obstruct Paul’s Gentile mission theology and practice.”

Other explanations of what ὦ ἄνθρωπε is doing here are less satisfactory. Some have suggested that Paul is sincerely making these condemnations, stressing here (but only here) God’s anger instead of his kindness (as in 2:4), and then he imagines some onlooker applauding what he’s saying and turns to address him, condemning him for judging but somehow still agreeing with the content of what was just said.

Porter’s argument (which he thoroughly supports with rhetorical models from antiquity) makes much more sense: that the arguments present in the last half of Romans 1 were typical of those made by Hellenistic Jews to distinguish themselves from the Gentiles (thus the repeated use of “they” as noted before), and Paul, as an apostle to the Gentiles, finds this condemnation problematic and thus seeks to refute it, leading up ultimately to his similar conclusion in Romans 14:13, using strikingly similar language to that in 2:1: “Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.”

Paul goes on to offer advice on healing the rifts between Jew and Gentile, so Porter’s reading is compelling, and certainly the best I’ve seen for answering the question of who’s being addressed in 2:1: “The shift to the direct address, the second person singular, along with the coordinating conjunction, διό, indicates that the reader who agrees with or is responsible for 1.18-32 is now the person addressed.”

Of course, there will be all sorts of arguments apologizing for the words of 2:1 so that one can keep the words of 1:26-27 as a straight-up, unambiguous condemnation, which one can then rely upon to rationalize all manner of discrimination against gays and lesbians. But the flurry of scholarship on this score, not to mention all of that preoccupied with the words of 1:26-27 themselves, should in the very least make it clear that it’s not all that clear.

It’s yet another example of how close study of the Bible – in this case, the function of a single word – raises far more questions than it does answers.


Don M. BurrowsAbout Don M. Burrows
Don M. Burrows is a former journalist and current college preparatory school teacher. Don holds a Ph.D. in Classical Studies from the University of Minnesota. A former Christian fundamentalist, Don is now a member of the United Church of Christ and contends most firmly that the Bible cannot be read or explored without appreciating its ancient, historical context. Don lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two young children. Don blogs at Nota Bene and can also be found on Facebook.

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  • Wow! I never noticed this before in Romans!

  • Carl Badgley

    would you mind referencing Porter’s article for us. i’d love to see if i can get my hands on a copy of it.

  • ScienceJoe

    So how is Paul not simply condemning the hypocrisy of someone (whoever you are) who condemns the actions in Romans 1:18-32 and then practicing them (and judging them) as stated in Romans 2:1?

  • Drea Walker-Skye

    I find myself wishing they’d used italics in ancient documents to indicate something quoted from someone else like you find today. Modern punctuation would clear up so many things! Sadly, we don’t have that, but this is a very compelling argument. Romans 2:1 fits with so much more of the treatise from Paul – how can you speak condemnation and then condemn being judgmental? Not logical and Paul is always logical.

  • AviJacobson

    The vocative particle in English is spelled “O,” not “Oh.” “ὦ ἄνθρωπε” is “O Man,” not “Oh, man.”

    • Eric Weiss

      I mentioned this to a sort-of-Greek scholar re: another passage he had translated and written about, and what ensued was an interesting look at “O” vs. “Oh” as the English vocative via various Internet articles – I had argued that it should be “O” – and if I recall correctly, it turned out that “Oh” isn’t necessarily as incorrect as I had thought.

      • Don M. Burrows

        Yes, thank you both. Someone pointed this out to me as well when the post was first published. The O of both Latin and Greek is indeed traditionally translated as “O” in English, but who uses that anymore? So sometimes you’re seeing “Oh” now instead.

  • RevBeth127

    As I understand it, not speaking Greek, Greek had no punctuation, no paragraphing, none of the clarifications that would help us get the tone of the author. It makes a lot of sense to consider the turn in the comments beginning at chapter 2. WOW, and thanks.

  • Keith DeRose

    Calvin L. Porter, “Romans 1.18-32: Its Role in the Developing Argument,” NTS 40 (1994): pp. 210-228.

  • playforme

    Amen and amen

  • Matt Kuiper

    It is fairly clear in the text that Romans 1:18-3:20 covers the announcement of God’s wrath and the reality of the knowledge of God. Paul’s argument is that yes these are the known Gentile sins that cause them to be under the wrath of sin, but let me tell you something, you are not safe from God’s wrath, in fact you also are under God’s wrath. Also the vocative used in the beginning of the chapter looks like it is the beginning of diatribe. This style can also be seen in Romans 3:1-8. This is a literary device of setting up an imaginary dialogue with a student or an opponent. I would think a more accurate reading of this text would be that “because God’s wrath is revealed against all people, and because all people have been given knowledge of God, therefore even the person who judges is without excuse before God.”

  • William Colburn

    The context of these verses (1:18-2:1) is what is ‘natural’ vs ‘unnatural’ as evidenced in ‘nature’. From his cultural perspective, it was ‘natural’ for men and women to marry and have children. It was therefore ‘unnatural’ not to get married and to raise a family. When women preferred to remain single and men preferred to act out in ‘gangs of other males’ – all that was unnatural. This seems to have less to do with sex and more to do with ‘abandoning the natural course’ of mating. Additionally, within their worldview, Paul wrote that everyone had to know that God existed (1:19,20). Other options, as we have today, did not really exist. When folks when against their convictions, their minds became ‘depraved’ (1:28) which then led to wicked acts. Note, none of the acts of a depraved mind had to do with sex (1:28b-31). Finally Paul claims that those he was writing (those who know the Law) do practice the same things (2:1). Was he therefore suggesting that the Jews were all homosexuals and lesbians? Most likely not, which begs the question, were the ‘unnatural’ acts (1:26,27) referring to homosexuality or to the ‘unnatural’ choices to actually deny their sexuality and to hang out in same sex rebellious ‘gangs’ with murderous thoughts?

  • Carol A Ranney

    Why is this passage always quoted beginning with, “For this reason…” Back a few verses it seems to say that the people referred to knew about salvation through Christ but they instead chose pagan worship (images of men, birds, animals etc.) Then it says, “For THIS REASON…” How can any passage make sense if the prior verses aren’t taken into account when the passage refers to them?

    • Eric Boersma

      How can any passage make sense if the prior verses aren’t taken into account when the passage refers to them?

      They can’t. They also don’t make sense if the following verses aren’t taken into account. This is the core problem with proof texting as a way of attempting to discover God’s will.

      Edit: wow, just realized this post was months old. Your post is still a good one!

  • Makes sense that Paul is not condemning homosexuality in Romans 1:26-27. But that does not mean he approves it either. What he is condemning is a judgmental spirit–condemning the person rather than the sin–which is only God’s prerogative. Speaking of context, what Scripture as a whole, including especially the Old Testament (the most complete statement of God’s Law/Torah), e.g., Leviticus 18:22, states about homosexuality must be taken into account

    • ZaCloud

      Just as we must also take Leviticus 11:9-12 into account. And Leviticus 19:19. And 19:27 and 19:28. And 20:10 ;P

      Sorry, but that guy really can’t be taken seriously, otherwise we’re ALL going to Hell.

      • “That guy” is our Creator who wants to be our Heavenly Father. And no one who understands His mercy and grace, who accepts His forgiveness, and who allows Him to change them into His likeness of goodness and love is going to Hell.

        • Paul is our creator? The writers of Leviticus are also our creators? You sure you want to run with that?

          • Don M. Burrows

            Unfortunately, many people privilege their doctrine of inspiration above any and all Biblical scholarship or external knowledge to the contrary. They claim they are privileging the Bible, but they’re not, merely the doctrine about how we’re supposed to treat the Bible. This doctrine has become their god.

          • Don,
            You make this judgment of what my god is without even asking for evidence? What evidence do you have to support your doctrine that the Bible is not inspired? If you have none, then aren’t you guilty of what you are accusing me?

          • Watchman, this seems similar to asking what evidence we have that Mere Christianity is not inspired, or that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is not inspired.
            If a person thinks a document is inspired, it seems to me that it is up to them to provide evidence. At that point, others can consider the evidence and perhaps demonstrate that the evidence is valid or is not.
            What is your evidence that the Bible is inspired? I am happy to interact with your evidence.

          • That is a fair question, Tim. But it is beyond the scope of this thread started by Don. If you really want a reply, please contact me through my website at

          • I read your article (skimmed some of it). It sounds interesting, but it seems like a modified dispensationalism. I never did find out who Babylon is.

          • brmckay

            Inspiration to a crustacean, or to a humming bird?

            We go with what we know.

            There is only God.

          • Don M. Burrows

            jesuswithoutbaggage summed it up nicely below, re: “What evidence do you have to support your doctrine that the Bible is not inspired?” But I would just add this, building off of what I said above. That the Bible contains clear discrepancies depending on which book we are reading and what its author wished to convey is old news — more than a century old (actually, it goes back as far as at least Origen, further still in the Jewish tradition, but I’ll stick with the issue of higher criticism as it originated in the 19th century). At the heart of this is in many ways a disagreement about what the Bible is: one text or a library of texts? Most (non-fundamentalist) scholars would say the latter.
            These long-known discrepancies are usually explained away with tortured apologetics — like the kind that tries to make sense of the very different genealogies given by Matthew and Luke. Many Christians have had no problem reconciling a general doctrine of inspiration (the Bible is a received, sacred text nonetheless written by men who were subject to error) with the findings of higher criticism since the 1800s. These Christians embraced modernism 150 years ago and basically gave us mainline Protestantism today (generalizing, but the general outlines are correct). Another group set themselves up in direct opposition to higher criticism (fundamentalists) and still do today, because for them, inspiration means inerrancy — every word of every passage is not only “true” in the nebulous way “truth” works, but also “factual” in the scientific, rational sense of (in this case, pseudo) modernist thought. So of course for these folks any two passages must be read through a modernist, fact-based lens as “historical,” as opposed to a reading that might concede its lack of historicity but instead ferret out what the author is trying to convey, and hence if they appear to disagree, great lengths must be taken to explain some way in which the two can be reconciled. This doctrine of inspiration is intellectually bankrupt, and goes against all the tenets of my professional discipline (because classical and Biblical philology are sibling disciplines and follow much the same methodologies). So yes, I (and most other mainline Protestants, or at least the seminaries that inform their theologies) reject that view of inspiration.
            This might make a fun (new) post. Stay tuned.

          • I see that you don’t believe that Paul and the writer(s?)of Leviticus were inspired by the Creator in what they wrote.

        • Michael

          This complete and utter devotion to a creator that exists only in a book that has been translated countless times throughout history is the reason that I run far, far away from Christian fundamentalists. @watchmanbob:disqus, I sincerely hope that when you leave this earth, you find the Heavenly fantasy that you believe exists. I hope that you don’t close your eyes and cease to exist, or worse, condemn yourself to an eternity of “Hell” for making moral judgements on those around you. You, sir, sicken me. Your self-righteous, bible-thumping arrogance makes me sick.

          The ant whose complete destiny lies in my hands, could equally view me as God. Was he a good ant? Did he “sin”? If he did, will I rule him to death and send him to an eternity of burning hell?

          Speaking of which, here is a bit from my under-educated mind regarding this topic: What a horrible God this must be. If I have been placed here for no other purpose than to exist out of fear, then what a dark, dismal hell-like quality this lifetime has. Ugh!

          • Michael,

            We simply have different views of what the truth is.

            I believe in a loving, merciful, forgiving Creator who loves His creation so much that He allowed His only Son to come into this wretched, hostile, deteriorating world to redeem it by voluntarily suffering and sacrificing His life for it.

            I am sorry that you have such a misinformed concept of who Scripture states that Yahuah (“God”) is. In fact, it seems that you are confusing the attributes – sadistic, merciless death and destruction – of Satan with those of the one, true God. Whatever suffering in this life or after it we have to endure, we have brought on ourselves by rejecting the Lord and His sacrificial love for us and by giving ourselves over to the Evil One and our self-destructive impulses.

            By the way, the concept of an “eternal” hell is not Biblical. That’s a false construct that orginated with the Catholic Church (but, sadly, has been perpetuated by virtually all Christiandom). The purpose of Hell, as I understand it, is to purify those who have rejected the Lord’s grace and mercy in this life. But, in the ultimate end (true eternity), ALL of His creation (including Satan and the fallen angels) will be restored to its original perfect, glorious state. For a complete, detailed, Scriptural exegesis of the concept of “eternity” in the Bible, please visit this page:

            So again, we just have different concepts of reality. I am simply stating what my understanding is – not trying to force my views on anyone. Nor do I think that I am any more “righteous” than you or anyone else. I am basically a disgusting, rotten, reprehensible sinner who can do no good, apart from the saving mercy and grace of my Heavenly Father.

            Actually, it seems that you are the one making “self-righteous,” “moral judgments” here – imputing motives and concepts of “God” to me that are not true. May He open your eyes to the Truth, before it is too late.

          • brmckay

            Where does this shadow of Evil arise from?

            What sustains it?

            Is God All? or not?

            What parts of this millennia long Abrahamic melodrama are keeping us distracted from the singular truth, that “I and the Father are One.”?

            Not Two.

  • Becci Himes

    Mr Burrows, would you say that this can also be applied to Paul’s passage which have often been used to suppress women in the church?

    • Don M. Burrows

      Hi Becci, which passage? 1 Cor 11?

  • Susan

    Thank you, Don. My own study of Paul has led me to similar conclusions about other passages (such as the first half of 1 Corinthians 11). That study made me wonder just how much misunderstanding of the Bible can be traced simply to dividing the texts into pericopes of more-or-less uniform length for convenient public reading. Rhetorically, the Greek text of 1 Corinthians 11 is clearly a single pericope, with the real point coming in the second half. Here in Romans, we not only have a pericope division, but a chapter division as well. The rhetorical purpose of the “clobber passage” is easily lost by not seeing its relationship with what follows.

  • I’ve been searching on this issue for a while. I’m willing to examine evidence with an open mind, but I need solid exegesis to consider. I do see your point that chapter 2, “Oh man” is beginning a new narrative and perspective; however I can’t see that it is therefore necessarily condoning those things in 1:18-31. Rather, it seems to be saying, “We Jews condemn people without the Law who do all these things, but we can’t pass judgement on them just because we have the Law and they don’t; we are condemned too for such things, even though we have the Law. Sin without the Law and perish, sin with the Law and perish.”

    Regardless, you can’t really pick homosexuality out of a line-up that names envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful and say that it’s the only one that’s not sinful. If one pays attention to context, as you say you are doing, the immediate context must be of even more interest than the extended context.

    However, though I don’t believe you’ve made a compelling case, I do not believe that these or any verses “rationalize all manner of discrimination against gays and lesbians” any more than they rationalize discrimination against gossips or other sinners.

    • Don M. Burrows

      It may not be condoning what’s happening in Romans 1:18-31. It does, however, color what those verses say quite a bit, don’t you think? If Paul were responding to a typical diatribe by saying “knock it off”? Seems like something our contemporary discourse should take into consideration.
      On comparing “homosexuality” with a list of other ills, several problems present themselves: 1) Antiquity’s definition of “homosexuality” was not precisely the same as ours; in fact, it was complicated in far different ways from our own. 2) When Paul chooses to refer to it, he uses a word he appears to have invented (in 1 Cor. 6:9) which raises the question of why he didn’t grapple with the terms already in place that refer to same-sex attraction and sex. Is he familiar with it, or not? If he is, why does he fail to use the available terminology? 3) all modern scientific, psychological, medical, and psychiatric professional associations agree that same-sex attraction and intercourse is a normative part of human sexuality, so you’re setting yourself up for boxing the Bible into a conflict with what not only modern science, but common sense and everyday experiences tell us. We didn’t do that with slavery, even though the Bible either outright condones it or (in a more charitable view) fails to condemn it. Why now? Why with this?

      • (1) I have heard that the ancient definition is different than ours; if you could point me to something I can study on that matter I’d appreciate it. (2) I have not heard that Paul was coining a new word, can you also point me to that reference please? (3) While that is a consideration, even a powerful one, simply saying something is scientifically and psychologically normative is NOT the same as saying it is not sin. There are recent studies showing that the more “masculine” a man is (wider face, bigger muscles, higher testosterone), the more likely he is to be unfaithful in sexual relationships; therefore it is natural and psychologically normative for him to cheat on his wife … and yet it is still a sinful breaking of the marriage vow.

        It’s an interesting and compelling discussion, and as I said I’m willing to examine the evidence with an open mind (despite my fundamental upbringing). 🙂

        • Richard W. Fitch

          You can find an extended discussion of Romans and sexuality at the GRB web site:

        • Don M. Burrows

          So again, you’re boxing God into declaring something a sin that is proven to be normative and healthy, in the same way people devoted to slavery boxed him into being OK with that by citing the verses that condone it. Comparing it to adultery is problematic, since there we have a third party acting in concert with a second party to harm the first. The analogy thus fails.
          Lots of resources on “homosexuality” in antiquity, though almost all of them will exercise caution when using that term, if they do at all. The oldest (and now much outdated) is Dover. Halperin has built from his work. On the other side of the issue (more essentialist), the work of Amy Richlin and Tom Hubbard to name just two. I’m sure I’m leaving people out, but those would at least point you in that direction.
          The word Paul uses is ἀρσενοκοίτης, which appears to be derived from the Greek translation of the Hebrew of Leviticus (so even originally, we’re dealing with translation issues!). This appears nowhere else in the vast Greek corpus before Paul. Again, the authors I cite above will explore the other categories and names used for same-sex acts and attraction in antiquity, but they vary and are complex. Hence any declaration that the Bible’s authors have in mind what we do when speaking of “homosexuality” — laden with the psychological and medical professional consensus and modern views of sexuality — is problematic. In some ways they were the same; in many, not.
          I explore the issue in more depth, with some helpful links, in this post:

          • Thanks for the links, I’m interested to look them over. But it’s interesting that you keep making out that I’m saying more than I actually said. I wasn’t comparing homosexuality to adultery per se, but rather merely using it illustratively to show that just because something is “normative” does not necessarily mean it’s okay. Especially considering that “normative” means nothing more than taking a reading of the society at large, so that it changes from one generation to the next, as with normative grammar. (Please note, I’m not comparing homosexuality to grammar in any other way by the use of this illustration.) So what is normative in one culture is not normative to the next, which means “normative” itself is pretty much useless in a discussion such as this one. I’m looking for truth, and I’m willing to search for it even if it means taking God out of a box, but “normative” (aka “fluctuating”) standards don’t count as truth.

          • Don M. Burrows

            I’m not talking about a poll of the population. I’m talking about what modern science, psychology, and a host of other scholarly disciplines have determined to be a normative part of the human condition based on years and decades of research into the matter. So again, you’re setting the Bible up in contradiction with the tenets of empirical research. And i (and many others) find that problematic. That’s why so many have simply jettisoned Christianity in general, though they need not. Modernist Christianity has made room for such scientific understandings for centuries now.

          • Anne

            Isn’t all human behaviour “normative”? This to me is why scripture appears problematic. Unless we have a “Job experience” (before I was only a hearer of the word, but now I see (God) face to face), we can only act out of our own human understanding, which to me cannot be judged by other human beings, whether they are citing scripture rightly, wrongly or anything in between.

        • AtalantaBethulia

          Re: “While that is a consideration, even a powerful one, simply saying something is scientifically and psychologically normative is NOT the same as saying it is not sin. There are recent studies showing that the more “masculine” a man is (wider face, bigger muscles, higher testosterone), the more likely he is to be unfaithful in sexual relationships; therefore it is natural and psychologically normative for him to cheat on his wife … and yet it is still a sinful breaking of the marriage vow.”

          This draws an incorrect conclusion from the given data: that it is normative for him to cheat on his wife.

          A logical conclusion would be that given X character traits a person may be more inclined to be tempted to cheat and or to cheat OR there is a correlation between cheaters and certain physical traits.

          That doesn’t make it “normative”: based on what is considered to be the usual or correct way of doing something.

          It might make it a common corollary, but that doesn’t indicate causation. One relates to objective data (trends): under this set of circumstances this is what tends to happen OR when X happens (cheating) this trend in physical/character traits tends to appear.

          The other (“normative”) puts a value judgement on it – something the field of science doesn’t do. Ethics does. But not science.

          Comparing the willful breaking of a marriage contract/ vow/trust/confidence/established relationship with its opposite: falling in love with another human being who is not otherwise committed to someone else, fulfilling a normative, inborn human need for companionship and love is, as John Shore says: Unfair and UnChristian.

          It’s never intellectually honest to compare chainsaws and apples.

      • billioscopy .

        Instead of trying to justify your own temptations you should be praying for strength to overcome them. I suppose the fire that came down from heaven upon Sodom (sodomy) and Gomorrah wasn’t enough of a hint what God thinks about this. I didn’t see the word “God” or “Jesus Christ” in anything you wrote…….intestering! What ever happened to simple spiritual insight. You can flip words around all day long but the truth is in the Spirit. You know you’re wrong. Why would you want to work for the enemy? What has he promissed you? A little fame and fortune?

        • Instead of trying to justify your own temptations you should be praying for strength to overcome them.

          Typical blaming and shaming behavior. “You just haven’t prayed hard enough.” My response to that kind of garbage isn’t fit to be left in a comment here.

          • billioscopy .

            Acts 5:29

          • Acts 5:27-32 (verse 29 is bolded):

            The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

            Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

            I’d like to suggest that if you respect the Bible as much as you claim to, you might want to demonstrate it by not ripping single verses completely out of context to score debate points.

        • lrfcowper

          If the threats made on the angels in the Sodom and Gomorrah story are even about sex (“know” used in a sexual context is not used to refer to coerced sex anywhere else in scripture), they are threatening RAPE, not a pleasant, consensual getting-to-know-you date with some hanky-panky after. People who confuse rape with consensual adult sex really shouldn’t be trusted to dictate morality.

          • Heroic Hal

            Indeed, lrfcowper. Even ignoring billioscopy’s reversal of the chronology (God had decided to destroy Sodom *before* the episode with the angels), to conclude from the episode with the angels that homosexuality was the source of God’s wrath is to presume that if the angels had taken the form of women and the locals had come by and demanded to have forcible sex with them, God would have been OK with that.

        • Heroic Hal

          Ezekiel 16:49: “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” Sorry, what was the relevance of this to the discussion?

  • S3r3nity

    “Scholarship has been preoccupied often with the content of verses 1:26-27 to the distraction of its context.” It’s relevant to remember that the big ol’ 2 at the end of these verses wasn’t added until the 13th Century and is therefore an editorial addition rather than being superintended. Unfortunately that big typographic insertion often triggers a page break as well as a paragraph break further disassociating these verses from their context.

  • Richard W. Fitch

    Michael Woods has done nearly a decade of study on the koine Greek papyri discovered in cave #4 at Qumran and has begun a new translation of the NT based on his analysis of the vocabulary found inn these scrolls. His major contention is that we have lost the everyday language of the NT after years of translations through multiple languages and thru the distorting lenses of various church doctrine, some of which are foreign and indeed antithetical to the original. With respect to Rom. 1, he emphases the that 1st century Jewish schools of interpretation divided Torah into two distinct sections: commandments between God and man, and commandments between man and his fellow man. [ I usually try to use gender neutral terms but in this incident will stay consistent with the original language used.] On this basis verse 1:26, 27 speak to the issues of ritual piety and religious purity. Verses 1:28-32 are addressed to the sins of man against his fellow man. Also in the first verses, he ends by saying that the ‘crime is its own punishment’, alluding to a Stoic tenet that excess passions cause confusion in the doer. Although most in conservative religious groups who wish to condemn homosexuality and/or homosexual behavior as ‘worthy of death’, it is only the second verses, 28-32, to which Paul attaches this condemnation.

  • Adam Wilson

    ZaCloud said, “Sorry, but that guy really can’t be taken seriously, otherwise we’re ALL going to Hell.”

    If by this you mean “If all the passages mentioned are true and apply to our lives, we’re ALL going to Hell,” then you have hit the nail on the head.

    This is the heartbeat of Scripture. We are broken, evil, depraved creatures that cannot live up to the Glory and Holiness of God. We are dead men. But as the Apostle John says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”

    IF we ignore the gravity of sin, proclaiming it to be natural or a normal and proper part of human life, as our culture is now doing, then we undermine the very need for grace and the Sacrifice that God has made on our behalf. Without sin, without brokenness, there is no Gospel.

    This is Satan’s oldest trick. “Surely God will not condemn you for satisfying your natural desires; surely you will not die.” And we so eagerly believe him, we convince ourselves that God didn’t really mean what he said, seeing that the fruit is good for food and a delight to the eyes. And in partaking, we die.

    But (thanks be to God!), it says in the same passage:

    “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for fall have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” – Romans 3:21-26

    • No one is going to burn in hell. The Bible doesn’t teach it and it is against the character of the Father.

      • Scripture? Or are you just blowing smoke about what you have no understanding?

        • Don M. Burrows

          Interestingly condescending reply. What you are practicing is not in fact Biblical criticism but theology or apologetics. So demanding “Scripture” while accusing someone else of not knowing what they’re talking about is the height of irony.

          • Christian Vagabond

            Any argument a person makes about interpreting scripture is rooted in theology. Complaining about theology or apologetics in a discussion about scriptural interpretation is like saying that equations are off limits when discussing calculus.

            I disagree with Adam and Watchman Bob’s take on homosexuality, but their theological argument about sin and Hell are rock solid.

          • CV,
            I’m thankful for your help here. I don’t claim to be a scholar or expert on the distinctions between Biblical criticism, theology, apologetics, exegesis, and so forth … nor am I interested in getting into that hair-splitting, academic discussion. I just want to share the life-changing, life-saving Truth the best I can with whomever will respond in the same spirit.

          • Don M. Burrows

            “Any argument a person makes about interpreting scripture is rooted in theology.” Not necessarily true. There is such a discipline as Biblical Studies, which is (usually and supposedly) secular and peer-reviewed. Some people are more open than others to having their Christianity informed by such scholarship; others set their Christianity in diametric opposition to such scholarship in general (for example, referring to it as “hair-splitting,” because they deny the complexity that Biblical criticism often exposes). So while I agree that any time Christians argue about God we’re talking about theology, some are more open to secular, peer-reviewed information (what this post attempts to make use of) than are others — so when the latter group decides to engage in a conversation about real, actual, Biblical scholarship, even though they reject the very foundations of it (again, the notion that Biblical criticism should be a “thing” to begin with) while simultaneously demanding “scripture” — this is the height of irony. Why demand “Scripture” if you are in essence not willing to have the conversation about the Bible to begin with? What will “Scripture” solve if you think any academic analysis of it is hair-splitting? Not to mention dismissing someone as not knowing what they’re talking about is just rude. Make sense now?

          • Theodore A. Jones

            “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13 Which law?

          • Don,
            Maybe we need to back up to your first reply to me, which, the same as this one, was based on the false accusation that I accused Tim of not knowing what he was talking about.
            I admit that I phrased my question to him bluntly, but that was not inappropriate (certainly not “rude” and “condescending”), because his statement that there is no hell was a likewise blunt statement that appeared to blatantly contradict Scripture. But it was a question–I was not accusing him of anything. I really did want to know why, based on Scripture, he thinks there is no hell.
            I have since read Tim’s essay about hell, as he (more graciously than you) suggested. And I can see that he has put a lot of thought and study into his view. I disagree with some of his conclusions (e.g., that hell is just the grave and is not the place of punishment of the wicked), but I respect the manner in which he arrived at his conclusions. And I have invited him to correspond with me further on the subject.
            Also, I don’t think that my reply about not wanting to be dragged into a “hair-splitting” academic discussion when I was simply asking Tim for Scriptural support for his view of hell was inappropriate. It seems to me that it is your jumping in there and beating me over the head with your “higher criticism” stick, rather than waiting for my dialogue with Tim to run its course, that is inappropriate and, in fact, condescending. Don’t you agree?

          • Don M. Burrows

            No, obviously, I don’t agree. You implied he was “blowing smoke” about something which he didn’t understand. Putting a question mark on it doesn’t absolve you of that implication. I’m glad you’re walking it back now, however, and that your discussion with him has proven fruitful.
            I’m sorry if I come across as condescending. Do you, in fact, accept the precepts of higher criticism? If not, then we’re having two different and irreconcilable conversations, and wasting each other’s time. That’s what I’m trying to get across.

          • No, Don, you are still reading into my reply what was not there. I was accusing, either directly or by implication, Tim of nothing. The question mark means exactly what it was – a question. What “blowing smoke” implied was that it seemed to me that he was blowing smoke, not that I was accusing him of that without considering his Scriptural support for his view, if he had any.
            As to “the precepts of higher criticism,” I neither accept nor reject them, because I am not familiar with them. The “two different and irreconcilable conversations” to which you refer do not exist, because, again, I was simply asking Tim a question and was responding to his suggestion that I check out his blog on hell when you condescendingly and rudely, with false accusations, tried to impose an irrelevant conversation about higher criticism versus theology and apologetics on the dialogue.

          • Don M. Burrows

            This is getting absurd (no, wait — it passed that already). It seemed to you he was “blowing smoke,” so you asked him that, and you “just asked” if he had no understanding of the matter. Sure. I’ll let everyone else decide if what you wrote was condescending or not.
            As to higher criticism, this isn’t the only comment of yours I’ve responded to. Below you also appear to chastise people for assuming a human authorship of the Bible. So again, you appear to be operating under a version of inspiration that many people here simply don’t share. You then appear to be affronted when people talk about the Bible outside of those assumptions, and have responded thus accordingly. I’m simply pointing out that there’s that fundamental disconnect, making conversation on the matters we’re discussing somewhat futile.

          • For once, we agree, Don. This is getting absurd. I’ll go where I can get a straight answer (without attacking my motives or trying to drag me into an irrelevant conversation) to a simple request for Scriptural support. I’ll leave the apparently spiritually unenlightened morass of “higher criticism” up to you.

          • Watchman Bob, you said: “As to ‘the precepts of higher criticism,’ I neither accept nor reject them, because I am not familiar with them.”
            I haven’t read enough of your writing to determine your framework of belief, but I assume, for the moment, that it includes a conservative view of the Bible.
            If you are not familiar with higher criticism, you might benefit from doing a little reading on it in order to factor it into the background of discussion. I think an hour or two of Google searching could help a lot.
            I would suggest searches for ‘biblical criticism’ and ‘literary criticism’ for starters. Keep in mind that biblical criticism does not mean criticizing the Bible. Instead it considers the background of the Bible, how it was written, the time and situation in which it was written and understood, and similar issues.
            If, indeed, this is something you are not familiar with, I think you will enjoy the research.

          • Theodore A. Jones

            And the life-changing, life-saving Truth in your opinion is?

          • What I have been sharing. Please see my other responses.

        • Hi Watchman Bob,

          If you are interested in scripture, I devoted a few blog posts on the subject of hell in the Bible. They link together and begin with:

      • Theodore A. Jones

        Well. Hold your breath and put your idea to the test.

        • Theo, what do you mean by ‘hold my breath’? Anxiety? Or fear? I do not have anxieties over superstitions, and belief in an eternal burning hell is a superstition.

          • Theodore A. Jones

            “No one is going to burn in hell”? Yeah right! Hold your breath and put your fallacious conjecture to the test. What have you got to loose? Clear?

    • Excellent reply, Adam. I said the same more succinctly in my reply to ZaCloud.

    • Theodore A. Jones

      RE “apart from the law” law is referencing the OT written code. However, “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13, the word law is not referencing the written code.

  • Tim Bicklesby

    Read in context, it seems like Romans 2 says that Jews will face God’s wrath for committing the sins in Romans 1 just as surely as Gentiles. Put another way, Jews cannot judge Gentiles if Jews are going to commit the same sins. The two chapters amount to a clear condemnation of all of those “sins”, including — especially even! — homosexual acts, and a condemnation of Jews who believe that they can sin and yet judge Gentiles as beneath them.

    That, to my mind is the clearest reading of those passages. But, just to bolster my position, I looked online and found Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, which contains four interpretations of the passage that reach much the same conclusion. So, this straightforward reading could be the prevailing reading. What’s worse, is that you haven’t referred to or cited this obvious reading, which is bad scholarship on your part.

    Today there is a new revisionist Christian scholarship that seeks to reinterpret the Bible consistent with modern acceptance of gay people. It is well meaning, in that it seeks to ground acceptance of gay people in the words of the Bible; but it is ultimately misguided and destructive.

    Your interpretation amounts to a denial of the historical persecution of gay people. This denial is a sin. Gay people in western society (and other societies) have long been oppressed, including in Biblical times. It is best to accept that the Bible is historical evidence of the oppression of gay people, and to simply conclude that those teachings are out of date.

    Further, your line of argument is bound to fail because there is plenty of authoritative scholarship for the interpretation for the Romans passages as a condemnation of homosexuality. Therefore, people who use the Bible as a basis for their prejudices can point to legitimate scholarship on the Bible to bolster their position. In other words, you open the door for legitimate disagreement in a debate that is ultimately about whether homosexuality is valid. This is a huge mistake.

    It is best to direct your intellectual energies to a theory that says that the Bible allows for views to change and for people to become more tolerant and accepting.

    In fact, what’s even worse, is that whatever view you take, Romans portrays the Jews as a haughty, superior people, who believe that their mere status as Jews exempts them from standards of decency, which is clearly consistent with modern anti-semitism. Unfortunately, the Bible provides a basis for a lot of hate — hatred which is entirely consistent with its meaning. Best to accept that the Bible was written by imperfect people with political biases, prejudices, and outdated views.

    • Don M. Burrows

      I can sympathize with a lot of what you say here, and generally it has been my take as well. In response to “What’s worse, is that you haven’t referred to or cited this obvious reading, which is bad scholarship on your part.” I would simply point out that the reading of Romans 1 as a straightforward condemnation of homosexuality really needs no repeating.

      You are correct that a lot of apologetics on this score “amounts to a denial of the historical persecution of gay people.” You will note that I never suggest that this might not ultimately be the case; what I have said here is that this passage is complicated; that the rhetorical aspects of it have been parsed and teased and debated, and that it remains an open question who is speaking in Romans 1. You may be right at the end of the day that Paul was anti-gay (though I would caution against using “gay” or “homosexual” within ancient contexts, because the fact remains that their sexual paradigms and sexual categories were different from ours). What you have said about scholarship of the Bible seeking to absolve its authors of homophobia has also been said of some scholarship of antiquity (see Richlin’s review of Halperin’s book: “The only reason that I can see for this strained reading of the cinaedus is a desire to see in Greece and Rome a better time, when there was no homophobia.”). You may also see on this thread, or on the UC facebook post of this article, where I correct people who suggest that the Greeks and Romans “had no problem with homosexuality.” This is also false, as many of the terms within that semantic range (nothing lines up perfectly) are pejorative (see Richlin’s comments on cinaedus). I agree that it is important not to whitewash the prejudices of antiquity.
      Generally, my take (and you can see this elsewhere on this thread) has been that the Bible is an ancient document that reveals ancient prejudices, such that even if one accepts that it condemns same-sex relationships, that condemnation is not necessarily reflective of the modern world, any more so than its approval of slavery was. Paul was OK with that, to the extent that he returned a runaway slave to its owner, so it would not bother me if at the end of the day he was homophobic. But to cite this passage with all its complexity as an unambiguous proof text of one’s own, modern homophobia is problematic at best.

  • Martin

    As has been mentioned before, to use the words of bedouin wanderers as the complete basis for society as an end all and complete by law is sort of shall we say Archaic. These societal strictures were put in place when life was very different and harder than anyone excepting those starving on the plains of Africa can even imagine. If we take the Bible itself as a reference and example we can grow as a society. The Bible changed…No? Well, let’s put aside the facts of the various colleges through history that have decided for reasons of their own to change it. It has changed from the Old Testament to the New. From an earlier version of the truth of Our GOD(s) to the newer version. So, can we now go from Middle as it has come to us from old to a modern version more up to date with the societal norms of today? Or do we still need to cling to the past and not find grace in that which our world is today? IN the Parable of the GOOD Samaritan and others…?

    • Christian Vagabond

      If one accepts the premise that God has the capacity to communicate directly with people, then squabbling over which culture he chose to communicate with is pointless. He can choose any individual or any culture he wants to. If you accept the idea that God is all-knowing, then human history is just a blink of an eye to him. Comparing the intellectual awareness of ancient Hebrews to modern society would be like splitting hairs compared to God’s knowledge.

      Even if you believe Bible should only be used as a reference, repeatedly modernizing it to fit with the norms of a given century will eventually cause the original meaning to be lost. Even the Good Samaritan parable would end up meaning something radically different to future readers.

      The original post is rooted in the argument that the intended meaning of Romans 1 has been lost, and we should embrace its original meaning. Your argument that we should adapt scriptural interpretation without regard to past understanding is an argument in favor of the modern belief that Romans 1 is an anti-gay clobber passage. If we take your approach, then we lose any grounds to reject any interpretation of scripture.

      • Theodore A. Jones

        You’re right about that.

  • Seraphim Hamilton

    I’m highly critical of the view that Romans 1:18-32 is basically a quotation of Jewish diatribes against Gentiles. It is undoubtedly true that the form of 1:18-32 is similar to that of Jewish arguments against Gentiles, especially as found in the Wisdom of Solomon, but Paul modifies it at key points. Furthermore, there is no indication that Paul disagreed with the fundamental contention of Judaism at that time: the Gentiles worshiped idols. Paul’s vocation as an Israelite whose mission it was to bring about the “obedience of faith” among the Gentile world, in fact required Gentile idolatry for consistency. Even if Paul were quoting and critiquing a Jewish diatribe, his critique would not be that he disagreed with their moral teaching, but rather that he found the Jewish person to be hypocritical in making these arguments.

    But more importantly, there are two phrases in Romans 1 which mitigate against this view. First, Paul says that the Greeks “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images…” This is an allusion to a passage in the Psalms where the Israelites exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the golden calf. Second, Paul describes God “giving them over” which is also a passage from the Psalms criticizing Israel. In Romans 3, likewise, Paul takes Psalms criticizing Gentiles and applies them to Israel. This pattern on Paul’s part is intended to establish a very important point: Israel and the Nations have the same problem. They both are in Adam. That Paul reconfigures the texts in similar ways indicates that 1:18-32 are his thoughts.

    Furthermore, Romans 1 is not a criticism of Gentiles in general. It is more specifically a criticism of Greeks. Though this is often missed, Paul does not use the terms interchangeably. 1:13-14 describes two categories of Gentiles: Greeks and barbarians. The Greeks were the highly cultured ones. Romans 1 criticizes their claim to wisdom. The Greeks claim to have true wisdom, but they do not, says the apostle.

    Then, beginning in 2:16, Paul addresses the Jew. The Jew says “indeed, the Greeks do not have true wisdom, for wisdom is embodied in Torah. Our role is to be the light of the world, and we will heal the Greeks through Torah.” But, Paul says, Israel’s exile has definitively refuted this. Israel as a whole has disobeyed the Torah, and instead of serving as the light of the world, “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Romans 3 then goes on to establish that God’s through-Israel-for-the-world plan goes forward through Israel-in-person, Jesus the Messiah, who, being the eternal wisdom of God, is the way in which we genuinely do the Torah.

    So, I see Romans 1-3 as an argument about who has true wisdom. The Greeks claim wisdom, but they don’t have it. The Jews might have wisdom in Torah, but they don’t do it. Jesus is the true disclosure of the wisdom of God, and when we are “in Christ”, only then do we receive wisdom.

    • Theodore A. Jones

      To understand the soteriological argument of Romans, Rom. 2:9-16 is the key. “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13 Is he referencing Torah? Not hardly. The law was changed by and after Jesus’ crucifixion. One’s been added and this one must be obeyed to escape from serving the penalty of eternal death. Now about this issue of sexual perversion. There is the good tree whose seed is that law and the bad tree whose seed is the lie of “Jesus died in your place”. All contemporary churches that are built upon this lie have the display of homosexuals, lesbians, pedophiles and every other kind of sexual deviate in the make up of their hierarchies. There is no contemporary church Jesus Christ is head of. The good tree cannot bear bad fruit.

      • Most churches that proclaim substitutionary atonement believe homosexuality is a sin and most liberal/progressive churches don’t believe in substitutionary atonement.

        • Theodore A. Jones

          There is no contemporary church that is not built upon the doctrine of substitutionary atonement or a variant of this concept. But the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was the sin of murder therefore cannot be a direct benefit to anyone.
          Besides there are only a very few that ever figure what the small narrow gate into God’s kingdom actually is and this truth is not understated.

          • Seraphim Hamilton

            Theodore, as you should have seen by my thumbnail, I am Orthodox, therefore I’m not going to affirm the forensic gloss on substitution which you have elaborated. The death of Jesus is of benefit for man because it constitutes God’s free participation in death. Because God is the source of life, His participation in death undoes death through the resurrection. This is why the embodiment of the cross of Jesus means the reception of His risen life.

            (2 Corinthians 4:7-12) But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

            Concerning Romans 2:9-16, St. Paul actually is referring to the “Torah” because Torah is not abolished in the Messiah, but fulfilled and brought to deeper meaning. The argument in Romans 2 is against the Jew who invokes Israel’s status as “light of the world” (2:19.) The Jew agrees with Paul that the Greeks do not possess wisdom, but the Jew argues that Israel is the solution to this problem, being the light of the world through strict obedience to the Torah.

            For Paul, however, Israel’s national disobedience has led to exile, which has caused the name of God to be blasphemed among the nations (2:24.) 2:13-14 points to the reality of Gentiles who actually “do the Torah” because it is “written on their heart.” This refers to Gentile Christians, given the allusion to the new covenant prophecy in Jeremiah 31:33. This argument is expounded more fully in 2:25-29, where it is explained that the uncircumcised Gentile with a circumcised heart (see Deuteronomy 30:1-6 for background) is more truly an Israelite than a circumcised Jew with an uncircumcised heart.

            The question of Torah is answered in 3:27- the Torah that the Gentile Christians “do” is not the written Torah, rather, it is the “Torah of Pistis”, that is, the Torah defined by the “faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah” (3:25-26, I’m using the subjective genitive translation based on the work of Richard Hays, N.T. Wright, and Michael Gorman), which means His faithfulness in going to death leading to resurrection. To “do the Torah” means to embody the crucified and risen Messiah. Hence, the “circumcision of the heart” means that the shape of the cross is cut into the heart through suffering. This is why Paul, in Galatians 6:16-17 identifies the Church as the Israel of God and notes that he bears the “marks of Jesus” (as opposed to the mark of circumcision) on his body.

            The reason that “embodying the life of Jesus” constitutes “doing the Torah” is because the Torah was seen as the imprint of Divine Wisdom. For Paul, Jesus is the personal incarnation of divine wisdom (see 1 Cor. 1:30), so that to be “in the Messiah” means “doing the Torah.” Paul’s theology is incomprehensibly rich.

          • Theodore A. Jones

            Orthodox or polkadox is irrelevant and immaterial and is no defense.
            “For it is not those who (just) hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13 The man is NOT referencing Torah. You cannot get into God’s kingdom without obeying what this law requires. There are no exceptions buddy and there are only a few that ever find the gate. Comprenda?

          • One’s broader theological framework is extraordinarily important and highly relevant when discussing specific interpretive issues. To simply dismiss all of Orthodox theology by saying “Orthodox or polkadox is irrelevant and immaterial and is no defense,” is arrogant and disrespectful and makes it quite clear that you’re not interested in irenic and productive discussion. If that is indeed the case, then I suggest you move along and don’t waste any more of our time.

          • Theodore A. Jones

            Friend, there is no contemporary church that Jesus Christ is head of. As for moving along practice what you preach.

          • Continuing to make intentionally opaque, divisive, off-topic and repetitive remarks is a sure-fire way for me to remove you from the conversation.

          • Theo, I think Dan’s threat to delete your comments was based more on your attitude and improper argumentation than whether you disagree.

          • Exactly. Which is why Mr. Jones won’t be joining us here any longer.

          • G’bye Theo. I hardly knew ye!

          • Seraphim Hamilton

            Actually, it is, given that your criticism was against a particular view on substitution that Orthodox Christians do not hold to.

            Re-asserting your contention about Romans 2:13 is irrelevant. Of course it’s talking about the Torah. The statement that there are Gentiles who “do the law” because it is written on their heart is an allusion to Jeremiah 31:33, which says, literally “I will write my Torah on their hearts.” Of course, Paul is not imagining Gentiles abstaining from pork and wearing fringes. What he is doing is piqueing our interest as he paints a fuller picture of his teaching through the rest of the letter. 2:25-29 starts that process: there are uncircumcised Gentiles who are circumcised in the heart. This means that the “Torah” does not necessarily include circumcision. 3:25-27 makes it clear: these Gentiles do the Torah of Pistis that is, they embody the faithfulness of the Messiah, who is the incarnation of divine wisdom and therefore the true definition of the “Torah.”

          • DonnaE

            No, it would only be murder if His life was taken without His consent. He went willingly = sacrifice

  • Seraphim Hamilton

    Concerning the vocative in 2:1, it is addressed to the Greek who claims true wisdom through his identity as a cultured Hellenist. Most people, including scholars, often fail to realize that Paul was in very conscious dialogue with claims to Greek privilege in addition to claims to Jewish privilege. He was well versed in the philosophers and his mode of speech reflects formal training in rhetoric. His aim was to establish unity between Jews, Greeks, and barbarians in the one God disclosed in Jesus Christ.

  • Heroic Hal

    It seems to me that Romans 1:26-27 is explaining that homosexuality isn’t even the sin that angered God to begin with, but that God forced heterosexuals to engage in behavior that disgusted them, themselves, even while they were doing it as punishment for the sins they *had* been committing.

  • John Gray

    Very nicely done! I also highly recommend “The New Testament and Homosexuality” by Robin Scroggs

  • Michael Zimmerman

    Reason #214,745 Why It’s Great To Be Catholic and Reason #274,094 Why Sola Scriptura Fails Miserably

    • Oswald Carnes

      Wow. You’ll admit to being catholic in public? Have you no sense of shame?

      • Michael Zimmerman

        Excuse me? I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes. If you wish to spit upon me for my faith, I welcome it. They spat on Jesus too. And while I’m a far cry from reaching His level of holiness, it still means I get to look a little bit more like Him 🙂

  • Eric

    Ha! That highly difficult to distinguish case, the Vocative, strikes again! Eph 5’s vocative for “wives” and “husbands” also makes a huge difference; namely, that one cannot use what’s addressed to the addressee against them (which, of course, a lot of men/husbands do to women/wives). Leaving room not only for the conviction and enabling of the Spirit, but also – and, arguably more important – for the freedom of the person addressed to see themselves in the totality that God sees them – warts and radiance – and act in their freedom to love, show mercy and walk humbly with their God….

  • EMatthaei

    Let’s assume that Porter is right about the last half of Romans 1 being a representation or quotation of Hellenistic Jewish opinion. What difference does it make? If Paul is turning from a quotation to directly address his own audience in Romans 2:1, pay attention to what he says. He does not say, “This is vile and dishonest hate speech, because God approves sodomy.” No. Paul condemns the Jewish audience for judging the Gentiles as if they themselves were pure. Paul says, “The judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things…” and Jews are just as guilty of them as Gentiles.

    Porter may want his students to believe that Romans does not condemn homosexual conduct, but his argument (as presented here) does not take us to that conclusion. It only says that the real condemnation is found in Romans 2 instead of Romans 1.

    • Joshua Steiner

      I completely agree here. Even if the book of Romans hinges around chapter 2 [it actually hinges around Romans 1:3-4], it still wouldn’t make sense of the actual reading of the text [regardless of the Greek here]. The argument is NOT that Paul is refuting this view of the Gentiles, but like you said, refuting the view that the Jews have a special place to judge them while they themselves are also failing to live up to their calling [see Romans 2:17-20]. Paul is not going to go back on idolatry as being evil; idolatry is at the very heart of his critique. If we understand idolatry as being the main focus of Romans 1, then we will realize, regardless of whether homosexuality is a sin or not in Paul’s eyes, that the things he lists are in fact what he believes to be true of the Gentiles as well, and not merely an argument that he is setting up to refute later.

    • tkdcoach

      Actually, your view is probably a misapprehension. It is not a presumption made based on either the passage or its wider cultural context.

      It is not homoeroticism vs. heteroerotocism that is under scrutiny here, but rather ‘out-of-context’ power; including sexuality in admixture with power _and_ worship. This is also true of Genesis 19, of which Melville’s character Mortmain (“Clarel”) says aptly:

      “‘Twas not all carnal harlotry,
      but Sins refined, Crimes of the Spirit.”

      If you can move yourself to discern the distinction between loving, sexuality-in-context (e.g. a loving, mutual, consensual adult context) you may still get there. Genesis 19 is about violent brutal rule and exploitation (which naturally doesn’t fail to exploit the sexual aspects of violence (violent rape, abuse, and ultimately murder) and so is the revivalist passage here (the context being bizarre temple worship and exploitation).

      The spiritual fact is that bonds of love are no less available to those of the same sex than they are to the majority heteroerotic context.

      The New Testament already makes this distinction between in/out context and its impact on faithfulness (godliness; a worthiness to God)–the one between “pais” (Matthew 8) and other slaves in Matthew 8; and “arsenokoites” in Paul, are striking. The preponderance, vast preponderance of the meaning of “pais” in Greek mean that Luke was very much aware of the meaning of using that word in the context of a Roman centurion and his “servant” (as I already noted, another word for slave is also used in Matthew 8).

      This is before the additional distinction between the compliance level of one group or individual versus another even needs to be made.

  • Daniel Lee Fee

    Well, I for one, wish that every time the proof texted Romans passages had been wielded against me from every imaginable angle, …. first aimed at me implicitly when I already knew (secretly) that I was a boy with variant feelings about other boys, then sharpened up to whack me as a teen boy who knew he still dreamed of being a husband with a husband, and then innovatively used to carpet bomb me as as an adult gay guy ….. that warrior in Jesus’ name had been directed to deposit ten bucks into a trust fund for my old age retirement.

    It is distorted and empty-hearted to claim that such children, then such adolescents, are same sex attracted because at some prior crisis point in time, they turned their backs on God. It is also meaningless in terms of childhood sexuality/embodiment, to claim that such children were heterosexually active, then became involved in out of bounds same sex sexuality as a result of having turned their backs on God.

    No matter, however. If the goal was to read scriptures in a rational, informed manner, these crazy hermeneutics would have gotten short shrift in the first place.
    From a certain point of view, once might think that the current culture wars about LGBTQ folks have long, deep, awkwardly coded roots in an unfinished ancient age when Paul first felt persuaded to carry the gospel message to Gentiles without making observance of Jewish Law mandatory. Then add in non-Greek barbarian cultures from which believers might arrive, and the unfinished Pauline missionary business seems even more vexed with ancient prejudices?

    Alas. Lord have mercy. drdanfee

  • Kay

    And asking where was the writer’s minds eye when thinking this? I am told the Temple of Aphrodite where “HETEROsexuals” had sex in that worship against “their” nature. Idolatry being the primary theme in the chapter.

  • xnlover

    People taking the verses in Leviticus 18 and 20 out of context to condemn homosexuality also results in a misinterpretation of those passages. The context makes clear that what is being addressed is the abuse of power by a head of household/tribal leader, who seeks to use sexual abuse of other household members as a means of shaming and control in a way, says God, similar to that practiced by the Egyptians and Canaanites, both of whom, by the way, were descended from the accursed Ham, whose offspring were meant to serve the descendants of Shem, who were the children of the covenant with God. Such a reading also makes it clear that the problem with Sodom in Genesis 19 was attempts at control through perpetrating (homo)sexual abuse on Lot’s visitors, not homosexuality per se. But, sadly, too many people have as their mantra, “I know what I believe; don’t confuse me with the facts.”

  • disqus_7wWyVBLcfS

    I’ve always wonder whether a consideration of who the pronoun “they” in 24-27 refers to changes the analysis.

    It seems to refer to “18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” IOW non-believers.

    Since at least some homosexuals are believers, then 24-27 doesn’t refer to them, it seems to me.

  • tkdcoach

    Interesting, I have often thought that about this passage (e.g. that it is “They say [all these horrible things about the Gentiles] but that view is a …”[stumbling block].” But I rarely, if ever, found anyone else reading it that way. At any rate, I used to use the older Boswell (as in John Boswell, author of 1983’s “Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality”) which outlines the diff between the use of “beloved boy/pais” in the case of the Roman Centurion and this abrasive non-classical-Greek word used in this passage. I’d be happy to know that is not necessary.

  • Joshua Steiner

    Interesting… But I don’t think Paul is actually refuting this view of the Gentiles, when clearly, in other letters, Paul regards the Gentiles as idolaters and sinners [see 1 Thessalonians 1]. Paul is trying to say that “the Jew” is no better than the Gentile in their position. In a sense, Paul is refuting Jewish sectarianism and separatism [which is a common theme in other letters where the so-called “Judaizers” are attempting to impose the Jewish Torah on to new Gentile converts]. God does not show favoritism is one of Paul’s oft-repeated lines throughout this section of the letter to the Romans, and would seem to indicate that Paul isn’t trying to refute a certain view of the Gentiles [like I said before, Paul certainly saw idolatry as the greatest threat to Jewish monotheism], but rather refute the view that “the Jew” has a special place away from everyone else; that the Jew is actually “less sinful” than the Gentiles are and that they deserve special favor from God because of their status as the covenant people. Paul goes on to refute this in Romans 2-3 in that although the Jews have a certain vocation to be a light to the world, the failure of the Jew to do this has resulted in a conundrum. Because Paul, at this time, believes that through Jesus’ death and resurrection that a new humanity has been constructed, one composed of both Jews AND Gentiles. He therefore believes that both groups are in the same conundrum, and the very same problem of evil and sin. Both need to be redeemed.

    However, I have little knowledge of the Greek, so I can’t really say much beyond that. Just an observation.

    • Joshua Steiner

      Whether that has any bearing on whether Paul believed homosexuality to be a sin or not is another question, given that the main point of Romans 1 is the standard Jewish critique of idolatry, leading to sin.

  • paulboizot

    Is this debate anything to do with Christianity? Because it does not seem to mention Yeshua son of Joseph, or his views on anything. It seems to be about what a guy who had never met Yeshua may or may not have meant when he wrote a letter, which was then preserved and added to an “official” collection of writings a couple of hundred years later. Doesn’t seem to me like much to base your views on.

    • anonymous

      and this is why I refer to myself as a follower of Rabbi Yeshua bar Yosef.

  • Good study. Another rejoinder I sometimes use, cruder, but–I think–legitimate in light of the proof-texting approach being taken, is to point out that Leviticus says we should just kill them (along with any adulterers), not to mention rebellious youth who won’t listen to their parents (Deuteronomy 21). “Why,” I ask, “are you not citing those verses?” (Like all proof-texters, they will simply interpret these passages away.)

    • Andy

      Because they’re obviously qualified to judge what should and shouldn’t apply anymore. I imagine the following conversation has probably happened before.

      A: “The bible says we should kill adulterers and sorcerers, and talks about keeping slaves and selling your daughters.”
      B: “Well obviously nobody does that anymore!”
      A: “So it’s okay to ignore that part?”
      B: “Yes. It doesn’t apply anymore.”
      A: “And in the same book in which it talks about man lying with man, it prohibits things like shaving your beard, wearing clothes of certain mixed fabrics, planting multiple kinds of seeds in your field, and not paying your employees on the day they worked.”
      B: “Well obviously people do those now!”
      A: “So it’s okay to ignore that part?”
      B: “Yes. It doesn’t apply anymore.”
      A: “I’m starting to see a pattern here.”
      B: “Yes. We have to realize that some of these old laws are no longer relevant.”
      A: “But a man lying with another man is wrong?”
      B: “Of course it’s wrong!”

      • apieceofthat

        Jesus came to fulfill the law.

        • Andy

          Would you please explain how that is relevant to my comment? I can’t tell if you’re agreeing or dissenting.

          • Richard Willmer

            For me, it would seem like agreement!

            Jesus told us what the Law was really all about: “Always treat others as you would want them to treat you; this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7 : 12 NJB)

            Actually the Law was truly fulfilled at the Crucifixion. The Law had failed in its purpose of uniting God with humankind (and attempts to return to it will fail in our day); the efficacy of Christ’s Passion was the fulfilment of, and successor to, the Law. This is why we can move beyond the Law ‘as written’. All of it.

          • apieceofthat

            I agree that Jesus wants us to love one another. I have homosexual friends. I love them just as I love my straight friends. Because guess what…they’re sinners too. Some of my straight friends are adulterers, liars, cheaters, thieves, coveters, prideful, etc. If I treated my homosexual friends differently than my other friends because I believe their sin is worse, that would be wrong. But just as I do not condone my straight friends’ sins, I do not condone my gay friends lifestyle choice.

          • Looking at everyone as sinners, is so limiting to a healthy friendship. Seperating your friends into two complete different categories, the straight and the gays, shows that you qualify them differently not equally. That is tragic, and I don’t doubt that your gay aquaintences know that they are in a seperate “sinner” group than everyone else.

          • apieceofthat

            “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” It’s not just me that sees everyone as sinners. Seriously…these are pretty basic scripture references.

          • Andy

            You’re doing that buzzword thing again. And besides that, you seem to be stuck in the mindset — as plenty of Christians are — of focusing on sin too much, IMHO.

            The number of prohibitions in the bible is staggering. If you followed all of them, you would live the most boring, stoic life ever. And if you don’t, and if you stopped to confess for every time you broke one of them, you’d never get to work or school or whatever.

            Everybody sins. We get it. And we should get over it. Life is too hard already without worrying about whether or not you’re following a bunch of rules put together by numerous authors across several centuries that were all later deemed to be canon. Kind of arbitrarily, too.

            I try to live by the greatest commandment, and everything else is just details to me. I try not to focus too much on sinning. When I screw up big, I know it, and I ask for forgiveness. But I’m also pretty skeptical about hell, so I’m not sure it really matters all that much. I’m guessing it’s more of a concern for you than it is for me.

            Love your fellow men and women, and don’t tolerate it when other people don’t do likewise. Seriously, try it.

          • Andy

            Sounds like Animal Farm (all are equal, but some are more equal…)

          • It does, doesn’t it? I do need to reread that book.

          • It’s not looking at everyone as sinners but looking at everyone else as sinners, that does what you say. There is a really big difference.

          • Richard Willmer

            Did I mention ‘condoning’ anything?

            Should you really be confusing ‘being gay’ with adultery, lying, cheating and thieving (all of which involve dishonesty and/or ‘betrayal’ – which is not necessary true with ‘being gay’)?

            What do you mean by ‘lifestyle choice’?

            What, in any case, do you mean by ‘being gay’?

            What do you mean by ‘wrong’?

            Some questions to think about …

          • Everytime I see the phrase “lifestyle choice” I think of that initial insight into over indulgence and way too much opulance..the tv show “Lifestyles of the rich and famous”
            So to me a lifestyle is a way of life…everything about that life, the habits, the way people carry on their days, who their friends are, what stores they prefer, etc.

  • Martin

    This passage and sermon delivered to the Christians of the time clearly states. Do not judge others of other cultures and beliefs as you will be judged by god for doing so. It is God’s decision as to who enters heaven not your’s … So get over yourself and be loving to one another and help others… What part of that is missed by any one who has an even partial grasp of any lanuguage.. Oh the bigots who want excuses…

  • Context always trumps in interpreting any passage. Rom. 1:18-32 Paul is condemning the gentile. in Romans 2:1-12 he is condemning the moralist and Romans 2:17-3:8 he condemns the Jew. In the first 3 chapters he is showing that all of humanity is in need of God’s righteousness.

    ie Romans 3:9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;

    He then goes into the the way that God provides righteousness for mankind:

    Romans 3:21-25
    21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.

    Romans 4 goes on to show how faith is the vehicle that the provide righteousness is activated.

    Romans 5 we see the results of that righteousness or justification

    Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

    Key being we receive the Holy Spirit

    Who starts the process of sanctification in the born again believers lives. The question I have to ask myself is am I growing more and more holy? Am I dying to the sin that is in my life?

    Romans 6:4-7
    Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.

    If one is dead to sin then:

    Romans 6:12-14
    Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

    He goes on to show us that who we obey is who we are slaves to:

    Romans 6:16
    Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?

    So therefore:

    Romans 6:19 b
    For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

    I am I a slave to righteousness am i growing in sanctification?

  • Alexis

    Here’s a crazy idea! How about we all just get along??

  • apieceofthat

    So your pretentious question is based on an “if.” That’s basically what you’re saying. And it’s a big if. Paul addresses different audiences throughout his text. It’s not uncommon in Scripture.

    Anyone who thinks homosexuality is natural doesn’t have a basic understanding of the design of the human body. However, one could make the argument that sin is natural, so therefore homosexuality is natural. In my eyes, it’s a sin just like stealing, lying, killing, coveting, etc. We are all born with a sin nature. For some, the sin to be wrestled with is homosexuality. Others struggle with envy, greed, pride and so on.

    I’ve yet to find a gay rights advocate who can find a Scripture passage that promotes or okays homosexual behavior. Have your battles over Old Testament/New Testament and what writers really meant about homosexuality but find me one passage that supports/promotes it.

    • Andy

      So if there isn’t a passage that promotes it, it shouldn’t be allowed? There are lots of things not explicitly endorsed by the bible that people do all the time.

      • True, like sitting and posting on an internet forum, or coffee (can’t believe coffee ain’t in the Bible!), or making snow men, bubble baths, socks, playing earworm wars with your kids via text messaging, bacon. Ok, maybe bacon was a no no, but Moses obviously had never had any before.

        • apieceofthat

          The point is that God ONLY says homosexuality is wrong in the Bible. He NEVER says it’s ok. No God doesn’t say Starbucks or bubble baths is okay…but He also never says they are wrong. He DOES say homosexuality is wrong. Find me a scripture where he changes His point of view on homosexuality, and says it’s okay, then you have an argument.

          • And as John has pointed out in this piece and numerous others, God does not say that. There are reams of data that say that the Bible doesn’t say that. But go ahead and believe what you will. You are convincing no one.

          • apieceofthat

            Really? Which Bible are you reading?
            Leviticus 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”

            Leviticus 20:13 “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act;”
            1 Corinthians 6:9-10 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
            I think He as pretty clear.

          • and you have proven your skills at copy/pasting.
            I do wonder what you fear so

          • ViewFromDaNorth

            apieceofthat, I have a rebuttal to all of these comments I have read. Your position is that homosexuality is a sin. Let’s assume for a moment that we are in agreement on that. Here’s my question to you: why would that matter to anyone except Christians? I think the majority of people who are pro-gay in North America (I am a Canadian where it’s already legal across the entire country) simply want equal rights under the law. The fact that it may or may not be a sin has absolutely nothing to do with that. If you’re a Christian and you feel that it’s a sin, that’s a personal choice that nobody can deny you. But it also has no bearing on anything or anyone beyond your own brain.

            Also, if you’re going to quote verses from Leviticus that should have relevance to our way of living today, can you rebut all of these as well?

        • Connor Macgregor

          There are a lot of rules in the bible, like stabbing out your eye if you look in lust, or chopping off a limb here or there for whatever reason, or even women leading in churches. all of which we don’t do. Maybe homosexuality is in a similar position? thoughts?

          • Homosexuality is such a non-issue in the Bible that its amazing that there is such vehemence against it. Seven possible verses that may or may not have anything to do with the topic out of 31000 verses. A woman’s menstral cycle gets more coverage.

          • apieceofthat

            Yet every single one of those verses condemns it.

          • IF that the topic was male homosexuality, which is of course debatable. Interesting, it doesn’t mention female homosexuality at all, not a word.

          • apieceofthat

            The very fact that you’re trying so desperately to use scripture to justify a lifestyle choice shows that you know the truth deep down. You just don’t want to accept it. God was not unclear about homosexuality. He never says it’s ok. Only that it’s wrong, unnatural, degrading, an abomination, and sin. Those words are hardly “debatable” as to their meaning.

          • Why does this bother you so that you just can’t let it go? Why the continued trying to convice others…or is others you are trying to convince?

          • apieceofthat

            I cannot let it go when someone bastardizes scripture to suit their own lifestyle. The thing I don’t understand about homosexuals is their insistence on trying to use scripture to justify their sin. As well as their insistence on everyone knowing about it. We don’t have “straight parades.” You don’t see people going around proudly telling everyone “I’m a liar!” “I lust!” Why must the gay agenda constantly be shoving their lifestyle choice down our throats? The answer: Because they crave acceptance. Because if they can be accepted, then they can feel good/better about their sin. If we can just change the definition of sin to make it acceptable, then we no longer have to wrestle with our guilt.
            Why can’t you just say, “I don’t believe in the bible? I don’t believe it’s God’s word.” Why, instead, must you try to make it say something it doesn’t and ignore the things it does? Because you crave acceptance.

          • apieceofthat

            Truth is, I’m a sinner. I have some serious sins in my life that I struggle with. But I don’t celebrate them. I don’t try to justify them. I don’t try to change what the Bible says to make them acceptable. And I certainly don’t start movements, websites, blogs, etc…to justify them.

          • But yet you have no problem railing, at length about other people’s percieved sins. Don’t you have a bridge to extract?

          • apieceofthat

            Were this a conversation about how murder is okay and “does God really say killing someone is wrong?” then I’d gladly engage in that conversation as well. The poster chose the topic, not me.

          • The Bible states Thou shalt not murder….except…if you are at war, if you conquered a city and want to make sure the residents don’t retaliate at a later date, if you want to execute someone for a supposed crime, if you are trying to win the hand of a princess, if you are trying to win a bet, if you feel you need to avenge a sister who found herself a boyfriend and they got caught getting busy, if a new religious sect crops up.

          • apieceofthat

            and your point is…?
            Those are reasons for taking a life. And many of those references are citing historical laws. Taking a life isn’t always unjustified.
            Murder is an unjustifiable act and has always been wrong.

          • But the Bible condemned NONE of those acts I mentioned nor several of the ones I didn’t, Every one of those acts of murder, and in David’s and Samson’s cases, mass murder, were for personal gain, personal revenge.
            You see, scripture is ambiguous, its up to personal interpretation, its not black and white, and its often quite contradictory. Which is why you insisting something is a certain way in the Bible just has no teeth to it. Just concentrate on your own bridge, and let everyone else deal with the dust mites you see….or our own bridges

          • apieceofthat

            But the Bible DOES condemn homosexuality. Every mention of homosexuality is also condemning it. There’s no ambiguity there. So yes, I insist that something is a certain way in the Bible…because…well…it is.
            Now. Good night. Perhaps I’ll come back on tomorrow to see what fresh new ways you have come up with to debunk scripture in my absence.
            To be honest, I actually have enjoyed the conversation.

          • The bible makes for a puny deity.

          • adam

            Worse than that, a diety with the emotional development of a 5 year old child.

          • When you do come back, then maybe you’ll be ready to answer the questions you kept ignoring, like why does this bother you so, why does it frighten you, why the obsession with other people’s sexual behaviors, why the insistence that we are “debunking” scripture, writings that can be interepeted from a variety of perspectives and intent? Are you experiencing the “thou dost protest too much” syndrome? Is this more about you than you are willing to admit? Are you afraid of that harsh judgement you so willingly assign to others, because it just may be what you fear the most for yourself?

          • Connor Macgregor

            Just out of curiosity, do you know what it’s like to be gay? or have you ever felt those feelings before?
            I’ve known SO many people that try very hard to convince the world that it’s wrong, that it’s a sin, etc., all the while they don’t even know that their pushing away from christ the very people they’re supposed to be reaching out to.
            is it that important that you preach against being gay, that it causes all the gays to be pushed away from Jesus? Even if you’re right?
            What if you dropped the argument, no matter how convinced you are that you’re right (and maybe you are), and simply tried to reach out to gay people? integrate them into your own life. Without the agenda of conversion. what would happen then? would they argue back at you, as many already do? would they start listening? perhaps even BOTH sides may develop a more open mind. and that’s ALWAYS a good thing, am i right?

          • Andy


          • So you are afraid of gay people? You feel threatened by them? You are jealous because they are getting some well deserved attention?

          • apieceofthat

            One could argue whether their attention is “well-deserved.” Less than 4% of the population identifies itself as homosexual. I’d say their 15 minutes should be about up.
            But I’ll simply answer your question: I do not fear homosexuality. But I do fear when any group tries to twist scripture to justify their sinful choices. An attack on scripture is an attack on my religion.

          • Ah, so you fear any interpretation of scripture that doesn’t fit yours. You view such a thing as a threat to your beliefs, and heaven forbid they be altered in anyway. What I don’t understand is the fear. What on earth is so frightening about people who are different then you, or people who see God, faith, scripture from a different perspective?

          • apieceofthat

            There is seeing things from a different perspective and then there’s lying. The bible says homosexuality is a sin. Period. You can try to call it “seeing things differently” but at the end of the day, that’s what scripture says. But you know that already. You don’t disagree with that. You just wish it wasn’t true. So you think if you click your heels and say it over and over again, it will become true. Scripture isn’t going to change to meet your desires.

          • Guess you are still ignoring that bridge.

          • apieceofthat

            Nope. Just thought it was a rhetorical question based on a misguided foundation. You said I’m railing at length about other people’s perceived sins. I am not. I am simply defending scripture. I don’t care what your sin is. Just don’t try to tell me that scripture doesn’t call it a sin when it very clearly does.
            The same tactic was used by Satan I believe. “Did God REALLY say…?”
            It’s as old as sin itself. As a person who believes all scripture is God-breathed and His message to us, I will stand up to anyone who tries to cheapen it.

          • apieceofthat

            And with that. I’m calling it a night. I think we both know that I’m not going to convince you to stop lying about what the bible says about homosexuality, just as much as you’re not going to convince me that the bible says something it doesn’t.
            And I honestly don’t want to spend my evening on this blog post. It was one guys opinion, based on a very big “IF.” And it’s a flimsy premise at best. But well-written. I’ll give him that much.

          • Andy

            I disagree with everything you wrote in this comment.

          • Andy

            Wow. This is terrible on so many levels. The hatred is palpable.

          • Its hatred or fear, and the two are often closely linked.

          • Guy Norred

            Because you don’t need straight parades. Everyday is a straight parade. Also, scripture is absolutely not clear on this subject. Anyone who has studied it with any intensity at all, even those who would in the end agree with you, can see that. People who are absolutely completely certain have either never considered that they could be wrong (and taken into account the centuries of baggage that is tied to this subject and informs you whether you realize it or not–as someone recently wisely put it “So I don’t hate you because you are homophobic. I actually admire you. I admire you because most of you are only a bit homophobic.”), or if they try to imagine homosexuality as not being immoral get caught up in some visceral ickiness factor and quickly decide to not go down that road because they themselves find it disturbing and therefore it is easier to not think about it.

    • jetteye

      Well, dang, there goes McDonald’s. Not a thing in Scripture that okays Big Macs.

    • Andrew

      Debatable, but I feel like Jonathan and David had a thing going on. Just saying. Would you passionately, tearfully kiss your “best friend” goodbye? Would you tell everyone that you preferred his love over a woman’s (2 Samuel 1:26)?

      • I remember the first time I head that theory. I thought it was crazy, until I read their story again. I realized that then that their friendship could have been more than just a doomed buddy tale. David grieves for three people, his infant son by Bathsheba, which have been more a guilt matter than a true grief matter, his son Absolem, and Jonathan.

      • apieceofthat

        Ha! I actually laughed out loud at this one. Interesting belief but I don’t see how it justifies homosexuality at all. We already know David was a sinner. An adulterer, a murderer, a liar. Just because something is mentioned in Scripture doesn’t mean it’s condoned.
        And as for telling everyone you preferred a male friend’s love over a woman’s…ha! Well, I have been screwed over by a few women in my life so yeah, I can see how a person could say that.

    • You do realize that homosexuality is not limited to humans? There are even a couple of species that…wait for it….are capable of switching from one gender to another!! So if its natural in other species, then why not in humans as well?

      And the human body is not this thing were all its parts serve only one function, and cannot work outside that one function. Take a finger. Name one oriface where a finger cannot access, and that’s just one of the very many things that a finger can do with the body it is attached to, or to the body of another, much less all the other things a finger can do. It’s natural. The human anatomy is a beautiful work, multi-functional and able to do so many creative things with the various parts of that anatomy.

      You may think being gay is a sin. You may think we are born with a “sin nature” whatever that is. Just don’t expect everyone to agree with you or to play “lets dazzle one another with scripture verses” with you.

      • apieceofthat

        Yes, by all means let’s base our lifestyle choices on animals and rare species. The human body cannot procreate homosexually. Last I heard, you cannot create life by sticking your finger in an orafice.
        Yes, the human body is a beautiful work, multi-functional and able to do many creative things…but it cannot procreate homosexually. It was not designed to do so.

        • If all sex is about is procreation, then I’m so doing it wrong, because I don’t have it for that purpose. But then I only procreated three times, and used a hell of a lot of protection to keep from a fourth, then had the plumbing yanked out. Procreation is a possible by-product of sex, it is not the main or only purpose. If it were, then trust me, the population of this planet would be infinitely smaller.

          • apieceofthat

            didn’t say that. Don’t put words in my mouth. Sure sex is for joy as well. I believe Solomon makes that pretty clear. But procreation is not a by-product of sex. Sex is the primary mechanism for procreation. God didn’t create sex solely for our enjoyment and “Ooops, look at that…it also makes babies.” He designed us this way for a purpose.

          • Andrew

            So, since sex is the primary mechanism for procreation, that’s the only reason humans should have sex? Is that the purpose of marriage as well?

          • apieceofthat

            Not even close to what I said. Read it again.

          • Andrew

            It is, but I digress. I’ll start quoting then.

            “Sex is the primary mechanism for procreation.”
            “He designed us this way for a purpose.”

            So, infertile people were “designed” to not be able to procreate. So what purpose do they have? Are they barred from sex since it would serve no purpose? Did God not intend for them to have sex? Furthermore, are they sinning by having sex, since, by your definition, they were not made for that purpose?

          • apieceofthat

            Again, you find it difficult to not infer your own parameters on my statements. I said He designed us this way for a purpose. Not He designed us this way solely for this purpose. These really aren’t difficult concepts to grasp. Or so I thought…

          • Andrew

            You establish the premises for your argument, and people like me are here to poke holes because it reeks with doubt. You don’t seem to be very consistent, or you just aren’t being clear enough. Or maybe it’s me. I have a penis, so my purpose is to find a woman and impregnate her with my seed? Got it. I guess I will grit my teeth and bare it…

          • apieceofthat

            Ok, then I’ll try to make this as simple as possible.
            If sex wasn’t the mechanism for procreation, then what is?God did not invent another way. (Well, once…but that was relegated solely to God coming to earth in human form.)
            None of us would be around today, if we only had to wait for someone to figure out how to do it in a test tube. the human race would not have made it this far. God’s plan was sex…between a man and a woman…to create life.

            Did I say sex is ONLY for procreation? No.
            Did I say procreation is the only reason God designed the human body in the way He did? No.
            Did I say your sole purpose as a male is to impregnate a woman? No.
            Did I say the sole purpose of a woman is to bear children? No.
            But I did say He designed us this way for a reason. He could’ve chosen any means possible for procreation but He chose sex. Between a male and a female. He did not design us in a way such that sex between two men or two women would produce offspring. The male and female reproductive systems need each other to procreate.

          • So because homosexual sex can’t produce offsprings, then its not of “god’s plan” and therefore evil. That is the crux of the argument.

            What a bucket of bovine offal.

          • Andrew

            If you two can’t have a civil discussion with apieceofthat without twisting what he said or resorting to insults maybe you should refrain from replying to his post. Regardless who is right, what you’re doing isn’t right. You believe homosexuality is not a sin and he believes it is a sin. He presented his arguments and you two responded by repackaging his points and everyone is down voting him because they don’t agree with his views. This is ridiculous. He is entitled to his views. Just say you disagree and leave it at that.

          • Oh honey, I’ve been around the internet forum block many times, and the conversation has been quite civil. I’ve seen some where the moment some one says “wait a minute, I think this way instead” and that person is called every ugly name imaginable and then quickly banned, and then gossiped about…all by supposed grownups.

            Here’s the thing, people who come to a forum with the sole purpose of trying to ram home their views in a place that clearly displays a different view IS going to get pushback. Some forums do not allow pushback, we do, until someone crosses the civility line. If one of us mods were to do so, one of the others would quickly haul us to the bench to cool our heels awhile.

          • Andy

            I want to like this comment, but even though you didn’t say it, I know that you mean “…therefore, ixnay on gay” so I won’t.

          • The consistency lies in the oft repeated statements, not with consideration of there being more to the story.

            Save the wear and tear on your teeth Andrew, and just have sex as it was intended, for the sheer delight of it, with someone with whom you are delighted to have sex with, and them with you.

            All this sex talk makes me sad that my darling and I are a county apart, working rare night shifts all thanks to all that frozen white stuff all over the roads and stuff…Its the south dammit, not Iceland.

          • Guy Norred

            Your whole argument is inferring your own parameters on the meaning of others’ lives.

          • So sex without the possiblity of procreation is not fitting into God’s purpose of the activity? Is that why you have issues with homosexual sexual activity, that it doesn’t have a chance of leading to the pitter patter of little feet? If so….seriously?

          • apieceofthat

            Didn’t say that. Again, you’re trying to change the subject. I silly said sex is the primary mechanism for procreation. God wants us to enjoy sex. Otherwise, I imagine He would have made it burdensome. But, as with many things, we take what God intended for good and destroy it to fit our own whims and desires…heterosexually as well as homosexually.

          • You started down this happy little rabbit trail, we just decided to tag along to see if it lead anywhere interesting.

          • T.j. Thomas

            Wearing clothes and flying in airplanes aren’t natural either, but the next time I go cross-country I’m not walking across the continent naked.

          • Jared Grillot

            Umm… no. Procreation IS the main point of sex. It is the crossing and combining of chromosomes from haploid egg and sperm cells. It is not a by-product, it is the purpose. It is an evolutionary response to issues that arise from mutations in DNA of species that reproduce asexually, by giving greater available genetic diversity to offspring. However, yes, to humans, it is not the ONLY purpose. Regardless of how you feel about homosexuality, though, your statement is inherently wrong, biologically.

          • Sure it is the combination of egg and sperm, UNLESS one is absent, because of biological condition, timing of ovulation, or contraception, age, or medical procedure to block or remove parts of that anatomy. Also we are one of several species who do not engage in sex for the sole purpose of procreation, We do not go into heat that being the only time sex enters the picture, AND we don’t get pregnant as easily as other species, and if we do spontaneous abortion rates are fairly high.

            I stand by my original statement.

          • Jared Grillot

            Yes, we have some interesting individual sexual characteristics, but you didn’t say “human sex”, you said “sex”. Additionally, that would imply that somehow sex for humans is fundamentally biologically different than sex for other species, as if somehow we have particularly special sex because we have hidden estrus, unlike other great apes. Or perhaps these special cases you speak of (infertility, etc.) somehow strips the biology of sexual reproduction of its purpose. in this vein, one child born with no legs means that bipedalism is no longer an identifying trait of biological humans. What you refer to is the purpose of a particular individual sex act, to which yes, timing affects whether or not procreation does, indeed, occur. Your previous statement, however, says sex, by its nature, is not primarily for procreation. Since, however, sex evolved & existed long before humans did, laying a particularly human claim to it, and suddenly removing its evolutionary function, is arrogant. Feel free to make your individual sex acts “mean” whatever you’d like. Science says your statement is incorrect.

          • “Since, however, sex evolved & existed long before humans did, laying a particularly human claim to it, and suddenly removing its evolutionary function, is arrogant.”

            I don’t deny the biological aspect of sex and one of its primary functions. I am just stating that it is not its only primary function. If it were, then we’d have a lot less of it.

          • Jared Grillot

            No one denies it has other functions, but your use of the term “byproduct” calling procreation “not the main… purpose” denies scientific truth, that the main purpose of sex is, in fact, procreation and has been for, well, since the first organisms did it. Evolutionarily, all other “functions” are generally referred to as “social” functions, and are behaviors (pleasure, leads to mutual sharing, mutual protection,etc.). Some species have them (us, chimpanzees, etc.), some don’t (worms, orangutans, etc.). Fact is you countered someone who stated a simple scientific fact (we can’t procreate homosexually) with fundamentally flawed science (procreation isn’t the main point of sex).

          • We will just see things differently then

    • Guy Norred

      Anyone who thinks our sexuality is all a matter of anatomy doesn’t have a basic understanding of the human heart.

    • Carol A Ranney

      Do some research on the current studies on sexual orientation (and do not say, those are just rationalizations. Find a researcher you trust). “Choice” has very little to do with sexual orientation. Could you decide to go out and fall in love with a person of the same sex? Could you do it if it was your only alternative–if a relationship with someone of the opposite sex would land you in prison or worse? People are born with a built in orientation. People don’t come to a point of thinking, okay, I’m going to be heterosexual. At 14 or 15 the hormones kick in and they get a crush on a girl or a guy, as the case may be. For gay kids it’s the same–for reasons little understood, the opposite reaction occurs. All the things listed by Paul are choices, and in that day, maybe homosexual behavior must have been a choice, to have little “servant” boys or as part of a pagan temple ritual. Homosexuality as we know it, however, CANNOT be referred to here, because it is not a choice. It is an unalterable condition that those who experience it have to make the best of. Just like we no longer believe that the earth is flat with “four corners” or that the sun rotates around the earth because “the earth is fixed, it shall not move,” we have learned from science and adjusted without doing violence to the scriptures. That’s where we are now–needing to understand the scriptures in light of science.

  • Graeme_Sharrock

    Questions to ask about this interpretation of Romans 1-2 is, 1) What are the discourse markers which Paul uses to indicate the status of a sentence? (Is it a quotation?) and 2) Does Paul do this kind of thing in other places in his letters? Now for the first, we note that the Greek has neither sentence punctuation not quotation marks nor paragraph indentations which might signal to readers his intentions. For the second, we must answer “Yes” it is a marker of Paul’s dialogical style, and can be found in many Pauline passages, such as 1 Cor 19:23, “‘All things are lawful to me,’ but not all things re helpful; ‘All things are lawful to me,’ but not all things edify.'”

    • The discourse markers, verses, punctuations, have been added by later translators. We have no idea how Paul originally laid out his letters, because there isn’t a single original copy in existence. All we have are copies of copies of copies, that don’t always agree completely with one another.

      • Graeme_Sharrock

        Yes, of course. But did Paul use any other markers? I think the word alla (but) is often indication of a change of voice.

        • We simply do not know, lacking any of his actual writings.

  • Phil

    Great article. Reading through the posts is gut wrenching though….

    I can’t help but hear the quote from Gandhi echoing here. “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ”

    To think so many people would troll their hate through their “faith” in the name of their God. Shame.

    • Hopefully one day, such hate filled faith will be in the dust heap of history.

  • T.j. Thomas

    I also point out the passages in Romans that say you should obey the authorities because they’re placed in authority by God, and that if you owe taxes you should pay your taxes. Those tend not to be very popular with the same people condemning homosexuality.

  • Caryn LeMur

    Well written, and well said. Thank you for pointing out the ‘argument of context and conclusion’ that should be given far more weight.

    Paul appears in Chapter 1, to be providing snapshots/cameos of Roman culture, to the very proud Romans that also happened to be believers. Then, he addresses the point of all those polaroid images – you have done the same thing, stop condemning the rest of the word, for every time you condemn them, you tempt God to measure the same condemnation to you.

    We, who are Americans, should get this rhetoric with ease and quickly… because we are the modern ‘Romans’ of the current times… we have conquered with sword and then with purchasing power. We think, proudly, that American views of the Bible are the only views that could possibly be correct.

    • I remember reading Colleen McCullough’s excellent historical novels on the closing decades of the Roman republic and the transition to a emporer state. I found some interesting parallels in political and social thought and mindset in that culture and in our quite modern one. You’d think we’d learn from our ancsestors.

  • Erick Pederson

    Can I just say how much I appreciate most of the people in this comment section? You are all so incredibly open minded and rational it brings a tear to my eye.

    While I am personally an atheist (grew up Catholic, left a bad taste in my mouth), it is so refreshing finding people of faith who can still recognize the need to be civil and respectful towards one another, and to realize at the same time that we live in a different time than when the bible was written, and taking anything at face value will inevitably lead you to the wrong conclusion.

    • paulalovescats

      Left a bad….so sorry. 😉

    • Carol A Ranney

      I’m so sorry that Christians aren’t known for their love of others…how many times does the Bible tell us to love and do not judge? Why have we made the “gay issue” such an overpowering, negative theme? Why is it “rationalizing” to look at the historical background and the context of verses? I’m very sorry that people of faith left you cold–I hope someday you might modify your views of God and faith if enough of us start acting like Jesus, who we claim to follow.

  • paulboizot

    Someone below challenged commenters to find one passage in the Christian book (aka the bible) that approved of homosexuality. A quick skim of the thread found nobody taking up that challenge.

    So how about this, if one is in favour, as I am, of gay right/equality? Proposition1; I am in favour of gay rights. Proposition 2. The Old and New testaments nowhere approve of homosexuality, and there are passages which look to many as if they condemn it. Logical conclusion 1. therefore Christianity is not the religion for me.

    Other possible logical conclusion 2. Christians who support gay rights (and, even more so, gay Christians) should not base their faith on the bible. Not sure what else that leaves you, mind. Or 3. (perhaps more in line with this website’s approach) such Christians should be clear that they only accept those bits of the bible that suit them.

    I know most Christians do conclusion 3 anyway, but one might as well be up front about it.

    • An honest assessment.

    • I haven’t read down far enough to see the challenge, but there are two:

      1. The whole story of David and Jonathan.

      2. Jesus’ mention of “eunuchs”, using a word that has a broader meaning than the English word, and which may include people we would not consider having alternative sexualities.

      And then I want to point out a good reason that no one will find a clear mention of sexual orientation at all in the Bible:

      3. The Bible of course does not address sexual orientation at all, for the same reason it doesn’t address enzymes – neither were named and even slightly understood until the 1800s.

  • I would like to clarify something. Is the main thrust of your argument that because Ch 2 contains a vocative, therefore, the “sin” of homosexuality in Ch 1 is not a sin at all, but a false judgement used by the Jews against the Gentiles?

    • I will take silence as confirmation of my question… just as I thought.

  • Guest

    I prefer to simply say that Paul is not the Christ and seemd to have had many bad hair days.

  • Thomas B Robson

    I prefer to say that Paul is not the Christ and seems to have had many bad hair days.

  • paulalovescats

    “Those people over there are committing a horrible sin. You can’t judge them because you also are committing this same horrible sin.”
    Doesn’t seem to be anything but condemning it.
    That’s why the bible needs to be outgrown.

  • Matt Kellon Robinson

    Verse 18 establishes the subject: “men (ἀνθρώπων), who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Also, the subject includes all people, since their knowledge is from “the creation of the world.” Thus, the condemnation of the homosexual behavior is normative for all people. Besides this, one should consider Paul’s knowledge and use of the Torah which describes homosexual behavior as an abomination, Jewish ethos, as well as other passages that condemn homosexuality outright (1Corinthians 6:9, 1 Tim 1). I would recommend reading Dr. Richard Hays’s book Moral Vision of the New Testament in which he skillfully exegetes this passage. Hays is Dean of Duke University Divinity School.

  • JT

    One thing that has always bothered me is calling these passages “clobber passages.” Are the Ten Commandments also “clobber passages” for adulterers, murderers, thieves, idolaters, and others? Or are they just a picture that describes for us the difference between sin and righteousness?

    Paul describes in both Romans 1 AND 2 the kinds of sins that were present in the people he was ministering to. He states the kinds of things that were happening among the Gentiles, and then says “YOU (people claiming to follow Christ) are doing the same things!” Whether that’s homosexual behavior or not, I’m sure we can agree that God doesn’t want His children living in sinful ways – He wants us to grow up into the image of Christ. The fact that homosexual behavior is included here does call it sin, but no worse a sin than other sexual behavior, or even items included in other “sin lists” like greed, gluttony, etc. God doesn’t want us involved in ANY of those things, but too often Christians focus on homosexuality as if it is worse or simply the main point of these passages. It is not. Nor would it be correct then to say that it is not sin.

    I happen to believe (because of Scripture) that homosexuality is not what God intended for our sexuality as human beings. However, it is ludicrous to say that homosexuality is the thing that sends a person to hell, rather it is the heart of the person who wants to do things his way instead of God’s way – and there are countless areas in life where we can struggle with that, not just in sexuality.

    My own story is a good example: For years I did sexuality my own way, and it wasn’t God’s way. I’ve been set free from that, which doesn’t mean I am never tempted, but it does mean that sin doesn’t have to control me. God is my focus and my strength. Because I trust in Him and rely on Him, I grow in relationship with Him and I am confident that I will spend eternity with Him. If I had continued in my own way, it would have led to hell.

    I understand that homosexuality is a “hot button” for many evangelicals and that it overrides other things (including an understanding of love and grace) to an extent that it should not. I therefore understand why people feel the need to run to the opposite extreme. But neither is appropriate. My goal is to love people without exception, at the same time seeking God and encouraging others to seek God for what He wants us to be and become. Every person falls short (Romans 3:23) so we all need to ask, what does God want me to change? It’s part of the great mystery of belonging to Christ that He loves us perfectly just as we are, and also motivates and necessitates change in us for our good – again, in any area of our lives where it is needed.

    • jeff_jos72

      You speak as do! Good words my friend! The bible clearly states that It is a sin, no matter how you cut it. The problem is not the lifestyle I am condemning, for we all have sinned, but the fact that they try to change the word of God.