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The Bible refers to sexual practices that may be called "homosexual" in today's world, but the original language texts of the Bible do not refer explicitly to homosexuality as a sexual orientation. The Bible is interpreted by officials in some denominations as condemning the practice. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, however, the extent to which the Bible mentions the subject and whether or not it is condemned, has become the subject of debate.

Passages in the Old Testament book Leviticus that prohibit "lying with mankind as with womankind" and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah have historically been interpreted as condemning homosexuality, as have several Pauline passages. Other interpreters, however, maintain that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality, saying that historical context suggests other interpretations or that rare or unusual words in the passages may not be referring to homosexuality.

Hebrew Bible Edit

Leviticus 18 and 20 Edit

Chapters 18 and 20 of Leviticus, which form part of the Holiness code, contain the following verses:

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.[1](Leviticus 18:22 KJV)
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.[2](Leviticus 20:13 KJV)

The two verses have historically been interpreted by Jews and Christians as blanket prohibitions against homosexual acts.[3]

References to Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible Edit

See also: Sodom and Gomorrah

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Book of Genesis does not explicitly identify homosexuality as the sin for which Sodom was destroyed, but the passage has historically been interpreted within Judaism and Christianity as a punishment for homosexuality due to the statement that the men of Sodom wished to rape the angels sent to retrieve Lot. In fact, this interpretation became so prevalent that the name Sodom became the basis of the word sodomy, still a legal synonym for homosexual and non-procreative sexual acts, particularly anal or oral sex.[4]

On the other hand, in the Book of Ezekiel 16:49-50 the specific sin for which Sodom was destroyed is identified as arrogance, apathy towards the poor, and "detestable things",[5] and this interpretation may be alluded to by Jesus in Matthew 10:14-15 when he tells his disciples that the punishment for houses or towns that will not welcome them will be worse than that of Sodom and Gomorrah.[6]

In Jude 1:7 the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah are stated to have given themselves "up to sexual immorality and perversion."[7]

David and Jonathan and Ruth and Naomi Edit

The account of the friendship between David and Jonathan in the Books of Samuel has been interpreted by traditional and mainstream Christians as a relationship of platonic love, but has been interpreted by some liberal authors as being of a sexual nature.[8][9] The story of Ruth and Naomi is also occasionally interpreted in this way.[10]

New Testament Edit

Romans 1 Edit

(26) Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. (27) In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

This passage has been debated by some twentieth and twenty-first century interpreters both in terms of its relevance today and in terms of its actual prohibition.[11] While Christians of all denominations have historically maintained that this verse is a complete prohibition of all forms of homosexuality,[12][13][14][15][16] some twentieth and twenty-first century authors contend the passage is not a blanket condemnation of homosexuality at all.[17][18][19]

Still others have argued that Paul's writings must be considered fallible, due in part to the positions (or lack thereof) that he takes on slavery and women.[20][21][22][23][24]

Other EpistlesEdit

In the context of the broader immorality of his audience, Paul of Tarsus wrote in the First Epistle to the Corinthians,

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, malakoi, arsenokoitai, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers, none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)[25]

The word arsenokoitai (ἀρσενοκοῖται) has challenged scholars for centuries, and has been variously rendered as "abusers of themselves with mankind" (KJV), "sodomites" (YLT), or "men who practice homosexuality." Greek ἄῤῥην / ἄρσην [arrhēn / arsēn] means "male", and κοίτην [koitēn] "bed," with a sexual connotation:[25] Paul's use of the word in 1 Corinthians is the earliest example of the term; its only other use is in a similar list of wrongdoers given (probably by the same author) in 1 Timothy 1:9–10:

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, fornicators, arsenokoitai, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. (1 Timothy 1:8–10)

Later Christian literature used the word to mean variously prostitution, incest or rape without any single clear meaning – Patriarch John IV of Constantinople, in a passage dealing with coercive and non-procreative sex, speaks of "...many men who commit the sin of arsenokoitia with their wives".[26] Other scholars have interpreted malakoi and arsenokoitai as referring to weakness and effeminacy, or to the practice of exploitative pederasty.[27][28]

Matthew 8; Luke 7 Edit

In Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10, Jesus heals a centurion's servant who is dying. The Greek term "pais",[29] which often had a sexual connotation, used for the servant,[30] and the fact that he is described[31] as "valued highly" by the centurion, have led some modern commentators to suggest a homosexual relationship between the two, while others interpret "pais" merely as a boy servant rather than a male lover and read nothing else into "valued highly".

Matthew 19:12 Edit

In Matthew 19:12, Jesus speaks of eunuchs who were born as such, eunuchs who were made so by others, and eunuchs who choose to live as such for the kingdom of heaven.[32] This passage has been interpreted as having to do with homosexual orientation; Clement of Alexandria, for instance, wrote in his commentary on it that some men, from birth, are naturally averse to women and should not marry.[33]

Acts 8 Edit

The Ethiopian eunuch, an early gentile convert encountered in Acts 8, has been described as an early gay Christian, based on the fact that the word "eunuch" in the Bible was not always used literally, as in Matthew 19:12.[34][35] Commentators generally suggest that the combination of "eunuch" together with the title "court official" indicates a literal eunuch - not a homosexual - who would have been excluded from the Temple by the restriction in Deuteronomy 23:1.[36][37]

Does the Bible condemn homosexuality? Edit

Some interpreters maintain that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality, arguing any of several points:

  1. That the passages yield different meanings if placed in historical context, for instance the historical interpretation of Sodom's sins as being other than homosexuality;
  2. That there may be questions surrounding the translation of rare or unusual words in the passages that some interpret as referring to homosexuals;
  3. That both the Old Testament and New Testament contain passages that describe same-sex relationships;
  4. That loving and committed relationships are not condemned in the passages;[38]
  5. That the New Covenant renders the Old Testament obsolete, and the golden rule asserts that condemning one for their sexual practices is unethical, as one would not want to be condemned for one's sexual orientation.

All of these statements are disputed by more conservative scholars, however.

See also Edit


  1. Leviticus 18:22 KJV
  2. Leviticus 20:13 KJV
  3. John Gill, Lev. 18:22
  4. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved on 2012-11-22.
  5. Ezekiel 16:49-50
  6. Matthew 10:14-15
  7. Jude 1:7
  8. Boswell, John. Same-sex Unions in Premodern Europe. New York: Vintage, 1994. (pp. 135–137)
  9. Halperin, David M. One Hundred Years of Homosexuality. New York: Routledge, 1990. (p. 83)
  10. Soliciting Interpretation
  11. Interpretations of Romans 1:26-27 by Religious Liberals, Religious Tolerance
  12. Mark Hertzog (1996). The lavender vote: Lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals in American electoral politics. NYU Press, 58. ISBN 0-8147-3530-4. 
  13. Homosexuality: The Christian Perspective
  16. Orthodox Statement on Homosexuality
  17. Mentioning the Unmentionable. Nelson, Eugene Jr. (Rev.), 12 Oct 1997, Community Church of Sebastopol
  18. Romans: Exposing The Lie That Paul Condemns Homosexuality
  19. Romans 1: Read the Whole Chapter Kiddo. Cadonau-Huseby, Anita
  20. Way, Ron. "The Bible and homosexuality: Selectively plucking passages looks like seeking divine cover for denying basic human rights", MinnPost, 2011-05-13. Retrieved on 2011-05-14. 
  21. (2009) Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church. ISBN 978-0-664-23397-6. Retrieved on 2011-05-14. 
  22. Farrell, Ph.D. (Rev.), John T.. On Biblical Authority. Retrieved on 2011-05-14.
  23. Cauthen, Kenneth. Homosexuality and Religion. Retrieved on 2011-05-14.
  24. White (Rev.), Mel. What the Bible Says - And Doesn't Say - About Homosexuality. Retrieved on 2011-05-14.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Russell Pregeant (2008). in Stefan Koenemann & Ronald A. Jenner: Knowing truth, doing good: engaging New Testament ethics. Fortress Press, 252. ISBN 978-0-8006-3846-7. 
  26. Boswell, John (1981). Christianity, social tolerance, and homosexuality: gay people in Western Europe from the beginning of the Christian era to the fourteenth century. University of Chicago Press, 364. ISBN 978-0-226-06711-7. 
  27. Scroggs, Robin (1983). The New Testament and homosexuality: contextual background for contemporary debate. Fortress Press, 62–65; 106–109. ISBN 978-0-8006-1854-4. 
  28. Berlinerblau, Jacques (2005). The secular Bible: why nonbelievers must take religion seriously. Cambridge University Press, 108. ISBN 978-0-521-85314-9. 
  29. The Greek-English Lexicon of Liddell and Scott registers three meanings of the word παῖς (pais): a child in relation to descent (son or daughter); a child in relation to age (boy or girl); a slave or servant (male or female). In this case the word is accompanied by the masculine article.
  30. By Matthew, throughout; by Luke, once
  31. Template:Bibleverse
  32. Matthew 19:12
  33. [1] "Those who are naturally so constituted do well not to marry."
  34. McNeill, John J. (2010). Freedom, Glorious Freedom: The Spiritual Journey to the Fullness of Life for Gays, Lesbians, and Everybody Else. Lethe, 211. 
  35. McNeill, John J. (1993). The Church and the homosexual, 4, Beacon Press, 63–65. 
  36. MacArthur, John (1994). Newstament Commentary, Volume 6: Acts 1-12. Moody, 254. ISBN 0-8024-0759-5. 
  37. (1992) The Acts of the Apostles. Liturgical Press, 155. ISBN 0-8146-5807-5. 
  38. Religion Dispatches magazine, Candace Chellew-Hodge

Literature Edit

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