The sin of Sodom? That’s obvious, isn’t it?
No, it’s not.
The Bible does tell us what the sin of Sodom was . . . and it’s not what you’re thinking!
In the book of Ezekiel, God says:
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. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. (Ezekiel 16:49–50)
There you have it. The Bible says that the sin of Sodom was arrogance, overindulgence, indifference, lack of charity for the poor and needy, and haughtiness. It’s all about self-centeredness and lack of love for the neighbor. Not a word about homosexuality.
Oh, yes. It also says that they “did detestable things.” And though Old Testament law does say that sex between two men is detestable (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13), it says that dozens of other things are detestable too, such as:
- Making an idol (Deuteronomy 27:15)
- Sacrificing an imperfect ox or sheep (Deuteronomy 17:1)
- Eating the meat of camels, rabbits, hyraxes, pigs, or any other mammal that does not have cloven hooves and chew the cud (Deuteronomy 14:3–8)
If the sin of Sodom were homosexuality, the Bible would have been more specific about it! In fact, the Bible never mentions homosexuality in relation to Sodom. (Though Jude 1:7 is sometimes translated as if it did, there is much controversy over exactly what the original Greek word means in this context.)
You can think whatever you want about homosexuality. But it’s sloppy Biblical scholarship to claim that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 is about the evils of same-gender sex. Such claims also display an ignorance of Biblical and Middle Eastern culture.
Let’s take a closer look at the story, and see what it’s really about. Though many people avoid the shocking story in Genesis 19, it does offer powerful insights for our everyday life.
A sordid tale
First, please be aware that Genesis 19 is not pleasant reading—and we’re not going to whitewash it.
In Genesis 18:16–33, God, in the form of an angel messenger, tells Abraham about God’s plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham’s eloquent plea after hearing this news does elicit a promise from God that Sodom will not be destroyed if there are at least ten righteous people in the city. Abraham, you see, is concerned about the destruction Sodom because his nephew Lot lives there.
As it turns out, the only righteous people in Sodom are Lot, his wife, and his two daughters. You can read the whole story in Genesis 19:1–29. Here is a brief outline:
- Two angels arrive at the gates of Sodom.
- Lot prevails upon them to stay at his house for the night, and provides hospitality.
- All the men of the city, young and old, surround the house.
- They demand that Lot bring out the men who are visiting him so that they can “know them”—a Hebrew euphemism for having sex with them.
- Lot begs them not to do it, and offers them his two virgin daughters instead.
- The men of the city threaten to do to Lot what they were going to do to his visitors.
- The angels pull Lot back into the house and close the door.
- The angels then strike the men of the city with blindness so that they cannot find the door.
- Lot attempts to convince his prospective sons-in-law to flee the city with him because the city is going to be destroyed; but they don’t take him seriously.
- The angels lead Lot and his wife and two daughters out of the city.
- Once they are safely out, God rains down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah, completely destroying those cities and their inhabitants.
There are several more interesting details—such as Lot’s wife looking back and turning into a pillar of salt, which is discussed in the article “Don’t Look Back! Press Onwards and Upwards!” However, this outline covers what we need to know in order to understand the sin of Sodom. The rest of Genesis 19 contains another sordid tale of Lot’s daughters committing incest with their father. But we’ll pass over that for now.
How can a story like this have any redeeming social value at all? Let’s just say that the Bible is a book by adults, for adults. It does not ignore the sordid and horrific side of human life on earth. In Genesis 19, even God comes out looking bad—violently wiping out entire cities with all their human, animal, and plant life. But that, too, is a topic we’ll take up at another time.
For now, let’s focus on exactly what happened in Sodom, and what was so detestable about it.
The crime of Sodom was not homosexuality, but attempted gang rape
There’s a reason that superficial modern readers of the Sodom and Gomorrah story think it’s about homosexuality. In the story, the angel visitors are described as men. And the men of the city want to have sex with them.
But let’s be honest. This story has exactly as much to do with homosexuality as the 2009 Richmond (California) High School gang rape of a fifteen year old girl by multiple boys and men aged 15 to 43 has to do with heterosexuality.
Rape is not a sexual orientation. Gang rape is not a “lifestyle.”
No matter what form it takes, rape is a crime.
From a modern perspective, the men of Sodom were guilty of attempted gang rape. The fact that it was attempted homosexual gang rape is a side issue. If their intended victims had been female, would the crime they intended to commit have been any less abhorrent?
In fact, in a similar story in Judges 19:11–30 the men of the Israelite city of Gibeah in the tribal region of Benjamin did accept the substitution of a female visitor for a male visitor. They brutally gang raped her all night, resulting in her death. This was considered so abhorrent that it led to an all-out war of the remaining eleven Israelite tribes against the Benjamites—a war that almost obliterated the tribe of Benjamin (Judges 20–21).
If we’re going to trot out the attempted gang rape in Genesis 19 to condemn “the homosexual lifestyle” as so many Christians do, we might as well trot out the Richmond High School gang rape or the gang rape in Judges 19 to condemn “the heterosexual lifestyle.”
Of course, projecting modern moral and legal codes back onto the ancient cultures of the Bible is an error in itself. But if we’re going to do it, let’s at least do it accurately and fairly. Once again, you can think whatever you want about homosexuality. But even by the most conservative modern moral and legal standards, using the story of Sodom to condemn consensual homosexual sex is baseless and illogical.
The sacred duty to provide hospitality for travelers
A basic understanding of ancient Middle Eastern culture gives a whole new perspective on the sin of Sodom, and ties together all of the Biblical condemnations of Sodom and Gomorrah.
In the ancient Middle East, travelers were at the mercy of the forbidding, arid landscape. Their very survival depended on access to water. However, the oases that dotted that desert were inevitably surrounded by local settlements, whose inhabitants claimed the water. Therefore, providing travelers and their animals with food, water, and overnight accommodations was considered a sacred duty.
The custom of taking in and caring for traveling strangers is illustrated in many stories in the Bible. For example:
- Abraham provided generous hospitality for three visiting strangers. (Genesis 18:1–7)
- Lot provided food and shelter for two visitors to Sodom. (Genesis 19:1–3)
- An old Ephraimite living in Gibeah took in a Levite and his concubine for the night, and provided for them and their animals. (Judges 19:11–21).
- When Jesus sent out his twelve apostles to preach the good news in the towns of Israel, they depended on the locals’ hospitality wherever they went. (Matthew 10:9–15; Mark 6:7–11; Luke 9:1–5)
The Israelites were also commanded by God not to mistreat foreigners among them, but to treat them as if they were their own kin (Exodus 22:21, 23:9; Leviticus 19:33–34).
Since this custom of providing hospitality to travelers and strangers was so vital and so deeply ingrained in the culture, violating it was considered a heinous crime. The incident in Gibeah was not the only time such a violation became a cause for war:
- Gideon killed all the men in the town of Sukkoth because they refused him provisions as he passed through in pursuit of the enemies of Israel. (Judges 8:1–17)
- David planned to kill all the males in the household of a wealthy man named Nabal because Nabal refused provisions to his troops who were stationed nearby. Only the wise intervention of Nabal’s wife Abigail saved them. (1 Samuel 25)
From the perspective of the ancient cultures of the Bible, the crime of the men of Sodom was a flagrant violation of their sacred duty to take in, shelter, and protect the visitors who were traveling through their city.
This is why, when Jesus sent his apostles out to the towns of Israel, he said to them:
If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. (Matthew 10:14–15)
Here, Jesus affirms by his words that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah involved refusing to welcome visitors, and not listening to those whom God has sent to them—which, by extension, means ignoring God’s commandments and guidance.
For the ancient Israelites who recorded the story, the sin of Sodom was that of violently abusing travelers who were sheltering among them.
What is the sin of Sodom for us?
If we put this insight about the culture of the ancient Middle East together with the events of the story in Genesis 19 and the references to it elsewhere in the Bible, we can gain a clear picture of what Sodom means for us today.
What sort of people disregard the most sacred obligations of their society, and participate (or attempt to participate) in the brutal gang rape of defenseless visitors to their city?
Only people who are completely wrapped up in their own power and pleasure could possibly participate in such an act.
In other words, spiritually speaking, the sin of Sodom is a desire to dominate, hurt, and oppress others out of purely self-centered love.
This is not to be confused with a healthy self-love that is balanced with love for the neighbor (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39). The self-centered love displayed by the inhabitants of Sodom is loving ourselves to the exclusion of all others, and taking pleasure in putting others down in order to jack ourselves up.
It is the sort of self-centered love described in the passage quoted earlier from Ezekiel:
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. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. (Ezekiel 16:49–50)
Rape is a crime of supreme selfishness
All of these characteristics of pride, arrogance, and utter disregard for the needs, wants, and wellbeing of others are expressed in the ultimate evil of the attempted rape of foreigners visiting the city of Sodom.
Yes, rape does have a sexual element. But it is primarily a crime of forcible dominance over other human beings with complete disregard for their wellbeing.
And yes, ordinary adultery and promiscuity do violate God’s commandments. But at least all parties involved participate of their own free will. Rape is the worst form of adultery—both in the Biblical sense of adulterating God’s commandments to love God above all and love our neighbor as ourselves, and in the conventional sense of violating the God-given sacredness of sexuality and marriage.
In other words, the sin of Sodom involves a flagrant violation of the ancient law of hospitality—which is simply another form of the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. God commands us to offer love, understanding, and support (represented by food, water, and lodgings) to our fellow human beings, who can be seen as foreigners and visitors in the “city” of our own mind and our daily activities.
If instead we mistreat our neighbors and physically or psychologically rape the people God sends our way, we are committing the sin of Sodom.
The sin of Sodom is unrestrained self-love and a desire to dominate others
We commit the sin of Sodom whenever we:
- Are proud and arrogant
- Overindulge in our own pleasures
- Don’t care about others
- Refuse to help people who are in need
- Look down on others in comparison to ourselves, and
- Engage in “detestable” actions that forcibly violate and destroy others’ lives
If, instead of a superficial reading of Genesis 19, we read the story deeply, we will find that it is not about pointing the finger at a particular group of people whose behavior we disapprove of.
Rather, the story of Sodom is about identifying in our own souls the evils of selfishness, pride, lack of charity, and a desire to dominate, control, and abuse others. If we allow these evil impulses to run rampant in our lives as the inhabitants of ancient Sodom did, we will bring about our own spiritual destruction.
The fire that consumes us will not be literal fire and sulfur. It will be the psychological fire and sulfur of intense selfishness and hatred, together with a desire to overpower, break, and destroy anyone who does not serve our will and pleasure. This spiritual hellfire is what will burn out our souls just as Sodom and Gomorrah were burned to cinders by a fire that represented their own unrestrained selfishness and rampaging maltreatment of visitors to their city.
Salvation from Sodom
However, none of us is wholly evil. As long as we are still living on this earth, even those of us who are the worst criminals, jerks, and idiots do have some remnant of good within us. As long as we are still drawing breath, there is still hope for our souls.
That remnant of good—that hope for our souls—is represented by Lot.
Lot, the nephew of Abraham (originally named Abram), was a decent sort who had chosen to live among the dregs of society (Genesis 13:8–13). This makes him a striking picture of the heart of gold that still beats—even if only faintly—within the lowest and worst sorts of people.
Some of us may think that we ourselves are the worst sort of people.
But God has not given up on us.
If, instead of identifying with our own selfishness, arrogance, lack of charity, and desire to dominate and control others, we can find and identify with those few remaining “socially valuable” parts of ourselves represented by Lot and his family, we can be redeemed.
That was the job of the two angels who visited Sodom. It was to salvage what could be salvaged from the wreck of character that was Sodom before it burned itself out.
Even if we find ourselves seething in the spiritual sin of Sodom—if we find ourselves burning with anger and hatred toward the world or even burning with self-loathing and a desire to destroy ourselves—there is still hope.
Our very self-awareness and willingness to recognize that our life has become a wreck offers God a way to reach into our hearts and pull us out of that wreckage before it is too late.
Like Lot, we can start a new life. It may not be a great new life. But we will survive spiritually, and go on to live another day under the light and warmth of God’s sun.
This is one in a series of articles on the theme “The Bible Re-Viewed.” Each article takes a new look at a particular selection or story in the Bible, and explores how it relates to our lives today. For more on this spiritual way of interpreting the Bible, see “Can We Really Believe the Bible? Some Thoughts for Those who Wish they Could.”
I think that this was well thought out and well said. Homosexual acts are only part of the sins of Sodom. One the one hand, it is wrong to say that homosexual activity is THE sin of Sodom. You are right, the citizens of Sodom were caught up in themselves; self indulgent and evil. On the other hand, it’s also wrong to deny that, in the Bible homosexuality is only abhorred and is the “clincher”, if you will, regarding the fallenness of Sodom. It is the specific example given in the text.
That being said, you are right that there is way more to the story than that and we fall far short of understanding God’s message when we get stuck on that one issue. Getting stuck on that issue demonstrates our own selfish arrogance even. We each need to read this story and ask how it applies to us and where we are in our walk with God.
Thanks for stopping by, and for your thoughtful comments.
I would say that homosexuality is more of a sidelight than a clincher in the Sodom story. I agree that homosexuality was considered evil and a sin. But if homosexuality were the capstone in the sin of Sodom, wouldn’t that have been emphasized and pointed out in the Bible? Instead, we find that the sexual aspects of the sin of Sodom are rarely even mentioned in the many references to Sodom and Gomorrah elsewhere in the Bible. The focus is on the sins of arrogance, oppression, self-indulgence, and lack of justice for the poor and needy.
In the similar story in Judges 19-20, when the Levite who was the intended victim recounts the incident, he says nothing about homosexuality. Rather, he says that the men of Gibeah intended to kill him, and that they raped his concubine to death (Judges 20:3-7). This suggests that the men of Sodom may also have had murderous intent toward the angel visitors.
I do completely agree with you that getting stuck on that aspect of the story–which is so common these days–diverts attention away from the real intent of the Bible and all of its teachings and stories, which is to induce us to examine our own life and repent of our own evils in the light of God’s Word.
I appreciate you taking the time and effort to study these things from the Bible, for I don not have the knowledge, and therefore the ability to do so. This was a great article filled with many insights, but I am commenting to address one thing.
You say that the Bible later put a focus is on the sins of arrogance, oppression, self-indulgence, and lack of justice for the poor and needy in Sodom. When I look at those Sins, and I begin to think about what happens when we have a lack of Justice for the poor and needy, and we give into oppression, when we have arrogance and self-indulgence, I have to ask you this question: Don’t these sins lead to other sins? For example, the homosexuality that the people of Sodom suffered from, or even the Murderous things people do today? Simple things even, like lying and cheating if all leads back to our ultimate dance with the devil, and it usually ends without demise.
You see, I think the Bible was simply highlighting the underlined causes of why Dickson’s sin. Because if God can keep us from commuting those sins, then we won’t commit the other son’s Sodom experienced after these.
the Bible was underlining the the causes of Wooden sin (not Dickson, whoever that is?) 🙂
Sodoms sin! Nor wooden, or Dickson’s, Sodoms. Sometimes I hate spell check…
Yes, the inner sins of arrogance, self-centeredness, and lack of concern for our fellow human beings do lead to the outer sins that we commit with our body. Some of those sins are sexual, but most of them are simply mean, thoughtless, destructive, or criminal things that we say and do to others in the course of our daily activities. The sins we commit with our hands flow out of our hearts. That’s why Jesus said, “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean” (Matthew 23:26). The residents of Sodom were just plain mean people, who had absolutely no concern for their neighbor, and therefore committed many different crimes and offenses. That is really why, in the story, their city was destroyed.
Reblogged this on God is not a bully and commented:
Lee’s biblical insights are always challenging and inspiring. This one is the best explanation of the Sodom episode in the Bible I have ever read.
Thanks for the reblog, jambulee!
(I was writing this yesterday morning)
I’m following your posts, for later. I don’t react yet because I have no time at the time, 🙂 to really read them with full attention and in all the quietness that they require.
Thank you for your publishings and holy work Lee.
At this special moment, of the Bilderberg meeting, I wish these harsh words would be addressed to these great men who are now meeting in England, and others who sell the most of the most unbelievable violent, cruel, unthinkable deadly and evil weapons, of which the Earth is not able to free itself, nor humanity, for indefinite generations to come. A period on the Earth, called the Iron Age (not for nothing so called) Have you seen the official statistics of who is selling, and of course also slowly also pushing others to sell? And the ones who participate in it’s making, thinking, building and selling, decide so much of the world to the issues relating with war.
The ones who engineer the fall of Europe which was in full development, with insane long planned politics, disrupting with absurdities each of its country and morals, and the minds of each of its citizens whit a false history and insight, Monsanto and its world wide terror and world wide poisoning…
Yes yesterday God by inspiration reminded me the passage I should address when “talking”. It’s really one of the points I am intending to record in a video for them, yes, is that each of these persons and group of persons, has such a chance of really changing… it would be so wonderful.
Of course I understand that this addresses any of us.
Please although you are far away, let me know if you think and know how I could do better… ! Apart from the little things I know myself.
Take into account if you wish, that it is my most deep wish to be able to transmit Swedenborg in a sacred way, as a source of wisdom. love, and yes, I believe, of a great life.
There’s so much beauty possible, and you can do so much, for the role america plays in it.
God Bless you
R / Natya
It kinda makes me think about the narcissistic society we often find ourselves confronted with in this day and age.
Thank you so much sir for this site and your insights on the Bible and Emanuel Swedenborg’s writings. However,I want to be sure I get you perfectly,in 1 of your comments,you said homosexuality WAS thought to be a sin. Are you implying sir that it’s no longer a sin. Thanks once again for your insights and all of your articles.
Thanks for your kudos and for your question.
First, it’s important to understand that sin is not the same as evil. Evil is anything that is harmful, destructive, and contrary to divine law. Sin involves knowing and believing that something is evil, and being willing to do it anyway.
That is why Jesus said to a group of Pharisees, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains” (John 9:41). In other words, those who do not know or believe that something is evil are not sinners if they do it.
This is a matter of divine mercy and justice. God holds us responsible only for what we know and believe, not for what we don’t know or didn’t realize.
Another way of saying this is that sin is acting contrary to our own conscience, which is God’s presence in our spirit.
Today, at least in the West, the vast majority of homosexuals do not believe that homosexuality is wrong or evil. Rather, they believe that it is good, and even God-given. The general population is also moving more and more toward believing that homosexuality is good rather than evil, as attested by the growing number of U.S. states and European countries that are legalizing gay and lesbian marriage.
Since sin involves intentionally doing something that we know is wrong, this means that for a growing number of people today, homosexuality is not a sin.
When it comes to the question of sin, it doesn’t matter what you or I or anyone else thinks about whether homosexuality is good or evil. It only matters what the person engaged in it thinks and believes. God judges each of us by our own conscience (see, for example, Romans 2:14-16).
So I don’t need forgiveness of sin I just need to get to the point where I no longer believe anything is sin? Hmm…
Hi Holy Terror,
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.
No, it doesn’t work that way.
If you ever get to the point where you no longer believe anything is sin, then you would indeed be a Holy Terror! 😛
This article was positively brilliant! I have been saying this for years. It’s very sad when believers view the stories literally. They are all filled with subtext and a much deeper meaning. I think it says a lot about ourselves when we only look at the surface and not take the much deeper dive into the Word. I’d love to read more of your writings on the Bible. Please add me to your email list. Thanks!
Thanks for stopping by, and for your kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the article! There are a lot more articles here offering a deeper view of various stories and themes in the Bible. Feel free to look around using the search box or by clicking “The Bible Re-Viewed” in the menu bar at the top of the page.
To receive email notices of newly posted articles, just enter your email address in the box provided on the right side of every page.
I make these comments in the spirit of trying to interpret fairly and objectively what the New Testament has to say about homosexuality. Both Peter and Paul had writings on this subject, e.g. Romans 1:26-27, which according to one source states:
“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons due penalty for their error.”
I believe that the New Testament leaves little doubt that homosexuality is not a legitimate lifestyle for Christians. I also believe that fornication among heterosexuals is not an approved lifestyle based on the teachings of Jesus, who reportedly taught that a believer should shun fornication. Many Christians forget that. It seems to me that Jesus and the Apostles taught that there is a higher state of being that excludes what might be called “carnal acts of the flesh.” I believe he did all he could to convince people that they should embark on a spiritual path and follow him, and It seems clear to me that he meant to say that if one does not do so, he or she will not end up in the place from which he came. Some people might say that they do not want to go there or that they do not believe what he said. I believe his response would be the same as he made to those who did not believe him in his days on earth, which basically amounted to saying that the decision was in their hands. He did not try to force them to believe him. He was not going to stone the woman caught in adultery but told her to go and sin no more. Why would he not say much the same to the fornicator and homosexual, which amounts to saying that if you continue in that lifestyle, you will not end up in the realm from which I came. He warned people that they would die in their sins if they did not try to grow spiritually.
I make these comments not to condemn anyone but to say this is what I believe the New Testament writings say and mean. If I have accurately understood the teachings, I would say that it is up to the individual to determine whether they believe those teachings.
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.
I do not believe you have accurately understood those teachings. But rather than take that up here, I’ll refer you to my extensive article on the subject: “Homosexuality, the Bible, and Christianity.”
Here I’ll deal only with one specific point:
Homosexuality is not a “lifestyle.”
Saying that it is a “lifestyle” implies that it’s something people adopt or choose in preference to some other “lifestyle.” But the vast and growing weight of scientific, psychological, and practical evidence demonstrates that homosexuality is not something that people adopt or choose, but something that is inherent in their character.
Homosexuality is not like fornication or adultery. We can choose to commit adultery, or we can choose not to commit adultery. We can choose to engage in fornication, or we can choose not to engage in fornication. But gays and lesbians cannot choose not to be gay or lesbian. They just are gay or lesbian.
If homosexuality were something that homosexuals could repent from, and choose not to be, then your reasoning might make sense. But it’s not something they can repent from and change about themselves. And requiring people to repent from and change something that is a core, unchangeable part of their character as a requirement for eternal life is contrary to the love and mercy of God, who does not cause people to be consigned to hell for things over which they have no control.
There is much more about this, and about your other points, in the article linked above.
On second thought I should add that I found statements in the New Testament that leave open questions about fornication and homosexuality. Somewhere Jesus is reported to have taught that whatever his disciples (apostles?) loosed earth would be loosed in heaven. Some modern Christian churches accept lesbian and homosexual priests, so is that within the scope of the statement by Jesus. Also, somewhere he is reported to have told the people close to him that he had many things to tell them but that they could not bear to hear them, or something to that effect. Was it that alternative lifestyles are OK that would be hard for them to bear? Also, with respect to belief in Jesus, Paul taught that if Jesus was a fake, Christians should be the most pitied people on earth, or something to that effect.
Interesting questions, for which, I’m sure, different churches will have different answers.
Thx for the reference to the other article. Although I used the term lifestyle, I would say that if I should have said that homosexuality is inherent in their character, as I might say that heterosexuality is inherent in mine, I would still make the point that it seems that the beliefs of the early Christians was that engaging in fornication or homosexual acts was sinful, meaning that one who does such acts would not be on the spiritual path recommended by Jesus.
To be clear, Jesus did not recommend or say anything at all about homosexuality, positive or negative. Homosexuality is not mentioned in the Gospels. About Paul’s statements, please see the article I linked you to.
I read most of the article you recommended and would say that in view of the way you see things and interpret the Bible verses, Jesus and the early Christian writers did not condemn homosexuality as you define it, that is, as something someone is born with inherent in their character. Whether Jesus would agree with your definition I don’t know. Since he told heterosexuals to shun fornication, I think he would tell homosexuals to shun sodomy, even if born with a propensity to commit such. I still believe that Christ and the Apostles condemned the acts of fornication and sodomy and went so far as to condemn that kind of “love,” calling it lust etc. But none of that, including your understanding of homosexuality, meets the point I was trying to make, which is that Jesus seems to have been speaking of a higher state of being that rises above fornication, sodomy as well as the acts of lust described in the Commandments. I also believe that he taught that those who believe in his teachings and sincerely try to follow them are able to grow spiritually into the state that he described. Again, if he was a fake, shame on him, Otherwise, I believe that those who try to pattern their lives after him will receive the benefits he promised. Homosexuals and lesbians can read what he taught in the Gospels and decide how they should pattern their lives. If what you say is true about their being born gay, it would seem that they would be in the same position as one who is born as a heterosexual. I still take the position that they would be wrong in saying that Christ and the Apostles did not condemn homosexual acts, which I think clearly they did, despite the inventive interpretations you give their words.
Of course, you’re free to believe as you wish and to interpret the Bible as you wish. I believe and interpret the Bible differently than you do. But I’ve already covered that in great detail in my article on the subject. I would simply repeat that Christ and the Gospels say nothing at all about homosexuality. And of the Apostles, only Paul does. So it’s not Christ and the Apostles. It’s Paul. And I’ve already explained in the article what I believe Paul’s concern was with homosexual sex.
When the early Christian writers spoke of “passions” that defile, I believe that they were thinking much like Gospel writer who, in Mark 7:21-23, quoted a saying of Jesus as:
“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness,
envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these things come from within, and they defile a man.”
I do not believe that this is an exclusive listing of acts that defile a person in the sense intended – are drug and alcohol abuse, child molestation, gambling, arson, animal cruelty, bribery and a host of other acts covered by this statement of Jesus? My point in this discussion is to say that I believe that fornication and homosexual acts would be taken to be spiritually defiling acts by early Christian writers. In making that point, I was trying to make a case for the position that Jesus was urging people to embark on a higer spiritual path that would enable them to ascend to the place from which he came, warning them that it would not be good for them to die in their sins. Since he listed fornication, I believe that homosexual acts would also be included, meaning that one who commits such acts would not seem to be fully on the spiritual path he spoke of. One may choose to follow Jesus or not in this regard. The writings of Peter and John seem to support the view that Jesus was trying to persuade people to take a deeper spiritual walk, e.g.
2 Peter 1:4 “escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion and become partakers of the divine nature.”
1 Peter 2:11 “I beseech you … to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against your soul”
1 Peter 4:3 “let the time that is past suffice for doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drukenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry.”
2 Peter 2:18 “they entice with licentious passions of the flesh men who have barely escaped from those who live in error”
1 John 2:16 “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world.”
My reading of the writings of the New Testament indicate to me that the story of Sodom might also be a condemnation of homosexual acts and fornication, in some cases taken to the extreme (e.g gang rape).
Paul (previously cited)
2 Peter 2:10 “especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion ….”
Jude 5:7 “… just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust,….”
As a student of philosophy I thought I might interject my thoughts into this discussion. I realize this is a sensitive subject, and my comments are respectfully submitted and focus on fornication and homosexual acts, which is what I meant originally by that “homosexuality is not a legitimate lifestyle.” Lee responded that homosexuality is not a lifestyle but is something inherent in the character of a homosexual. I am not accustomed to thinking of a “lifestyle” with no accompanying acts, whether it be a luxurious, military, promiscuous, heterosexual or homosexual lifestyle, but I don’t want to quibble about that, so I focused on homosexual and heterosexual acts. Lee previously included a citation to an article he wrote that takes issue with whether these writers were condemning homosexual acts, so the reader can access that information. I accept the Bible teaching on faith because they seem righteous, but I acknowledge that I was not present when the reported teachings and incidences occurred, which is why I accept the reports in faith. If I seem to be condemning people for their beliefs etc, rest assured that is not so – my points are made in belief that the higher spiritual walk spoken of by Jesus is a reality and that he was simply revealing a better way for people to live and believe.
I must add that I have homosexual friends and have worked alongside homosexual people for years without any problem. That is because what I believe is my business. I have about all I can handle dealing with my spirituality. What others believe is up to them. Consequently, my beliefs do not interfere with my friendships or business relationships. The only time I would have objections to the beliefs of another person would be if there was an attempt to force me to adopt those beliefs against my will. Otherwise I would say let us learn to tolerate the beliefs of one another and to live together in peace.
My main objection is your assuming some equivalency between “fornication” and “homosexual acts” such that you commonly lump them together as if they were equivalent, and as if every time the Bible speaks of “fornication” that can be extended to include “homosexual acts” as well.
But the idea that “homosexual acts” constitutes a form of “fornication” is your interpretation of the text, not something the text itself says.
Consider that many early Christians, apparently including Paul himself, considered heterosexual acts to be rather less than spiritual, and thought that celibacy was a state preferable to marriage. This view can still be seen in the practice of some Christian denominations, most notably the Catholic Church, of requiring celibacy for anyone who devotes his or her life to religious orders. So we could just as easily speak of “fornication and heterosexual acts” if we were to adopt the interpretation that heterosexual sex, even among married partners, is a lesser, more physical-minded, and dirtier state than the “chastity” of celibacy.
“Fornication” in the Bible generally refers to promiscuous extramarital sex, or to extramarital sex generally. The Bible does not consider sexual relations within marriage to be “fornication.”
In the modern world, a significant percentage of homosexual sex is not extramarital. In most Western countries today gays and lesbians have gained the right to be married, and to have their marriages legally and socially accepted as equal to heterosexual marriages. If a gay or lesbian couple engages in sexual relations within a monogamous marriage that has been recognized by the state and even solemnized by their church, they are not engaging in “fornication” as that word is used in the Bible. They are having sex within a socially and even religiously sanctioned monogamous marriage.
It is therefore inaccurate in today’s world to casually link “fornication” and “homosexual sex” in the way you are doing. Homosexual sex within a legally, socially, and religiously sanctioned marriage is no more “fornication” as the Bible uses that term than is heterosexual sex within a legally, socially, and religiously sanctioned marriage. By the biblical definition, only extramarital homosexual sex can be called “fornication,” just as only extramarital heterosexual sex can be called “fornication.”
Further, Christ and the other Apostles besides Paul could have mentioned homosexual acts if they wanted to. But they didn’t. So it’s simply not accurate to say that Christ, the Gospels, and the Apostles condemned or disallowed homosexual sex. Other than Paul, none of them said anything about it. If you want to say that Paul condemned or disallowed it, that would be a supportable statement. But not that Christ, the Apostles, and the Gospels did.
It’s important to read exactly what the various books of the Bible say, and not read into them things that they don’t say. And as long as you continue to be sloppy in your attribution of various sayings to Christ, the Apostles, and the Gospels, I will continue to point out that that’s simply not what Christ, the Apostles generally, and the Gospels say.
Now about Sodom, I’m well aware that many Christians for many centuries have read it as being about homosexuality. But that is not how the Bible itself presents and reflects upon the story, as you can see in my article, “What is the Sin of Sodom?”
Traditional and conservative Christians have made a huge issue out of homosexuality that is all out of proportion to its scant mention in the text of the Bible. Homosexual sex is mentioned explicitly in only two verses in the entire Old Testament, and is at most a side issue in the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is mentioned only three times in the New Testament, all of those mentions being in the letters of Paul, and none of them being particularly clear or descriptive. And yet, from the hullabaloo over homosexuality among conservative Christians today, you would think that it was railed upon by priests and prophets throughout the Bible, and soundly condemned by Jesus Christ. But the fact of the matter is that Jesus Christ says nothing at all about it, nor does any priest or prophet rail against it. It barely even figures in the text of the Bible.
I believe we should pay attention to the fact that homosexual sex is a very minor issue in the Bible compared to adultery, stealing, lying, and other sins that are forbidden in the Ten Commandments and continually condemned throughout the Bible story. The huge focus on homosexuality among conservative Christians strongly suggests that their concern about it is driven largely by cultural and personal distaste for homosexuality, and not by their supposed faithfulness to the Bible—which they often feel free to ignore when they themselves wish to indulge in something that is forbidden by the Bible, such as cheating on their wives.
OK, the issues have crystalized, and I can see that it might be useless to press further with this. I was questioning Lee’s interpretation of the views that early Christian writers had on the story of Sodom. I believe both Peter and Jude condemned the defiling passions in the form of unnatural sexual relations that were taking place there as well as the other sins that were being committed. I read their comments on the story in light of other New Testament writings on “defiling passions” and “unnatural sex.” I feel comfortable with my interpretation that they condemned sexual acts outside of marriage, and that homosexual sexual acts (meaning sex between people of the same sex) was condemned. Peter condemned “lust of defiling passion” in his comment on the Sodom story. Jude stated that Sodom acted acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust. What is unnatural lust if not homosexual lust? Paul wrote: “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons due penalty for their error.” So Peter uses the term “defiling” passion. Paul uses the term “dishonorable” passions. Jude uses the term “unnatural” lust. Paul states that women exchanged natural relations for “unnatural.” I find it astonishing that a person would interpret these writing as not covering sex between people of the same sex, which I have been referring to as homosexual acts. I leave it to the readers to decide whether I am misusing terms AS UNDERSTOOD BY THESE WRITERS. Note that by saying that these acts were condemned means that the acts hamper the spiritual progress of being born again above these passions, and then growing spiritually as described by all the New Testament writers who speak of things like holiness, purity and righteousness.I also believe that Jesus taught that it was up to the individual whether to believe him and then act on his teachings.
As to my lumping homosexual acts and fornication together, I took the term “fornication” to mean sex outside of marriage.So if Jesus taught that people should shun fornication (sex outside of marriage), I am comfortable with the interpretation that his teaching covers sex outside of marriage between people of the same sex as well as sex between people of the opposite sex, even though he did not specifically say that same-sex sexual relations was covered. I note that he did not say sex between humans and animals was covered, nor that women would be defiled by these things he listed, but I have little doubt that all that would be covered by his statement. The statement reads:
“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these things come from within, and they defile a man.”
All of these comments I am making refer to interpretations of New testament writings. Lee claims that I am linking “fornication” and “homosexual sex” inaccurately, but my comments are merely addressing the interpretations of early Christian writings, and I clearly stated in the beginning that I was commenting on “what I believe the New Testament writings say and mean.” (see my original comments) I have not commented on the state of affairs in modern times other than to say that I believe that Jesus was urging people to embark on the spiritual path that he recommended, which I understand to include not engaging in defiling passions such as fornication. If one’s interpretation of what he meant is that people of the same sex are not covered by his teaching because he did not specifically mention homosexuality, that is simply an interpretation with which I disagree. I find no reason to exempt anyone from what Jesus said would defile a person, whether the person be be gay or not.
Lee would say, as he did:
But the idea that “homosexual acts” constitutes a form of “fornication” is your interpretation of the text, not something the text itself says.
I am not aware that marriage between persons of the same sex were allowed when the New Testament writings were penned, so it would seem that sex between homosexuals would be fornication within the definition of that term. What would it be if not that? A separate question is whether or not homosexual acts between people born with inherent gay characters would be fornication. I believe Lee would argue that, because this was not specifically forbidden, such conduct would not be fornication. I believe that the New Testament writers as well as the people in general at the time would consider same-sex sexual relations as forbidden without regard to whether a homosexuality is inherent in the character of some people.
If they believed that homosexuality was inherent in the character of a homosexual, what would their position be? Perhaps it would be what Lee is now claiming their original position to have been. I believe that they would have expressly exempted homosexual sex from being a defiling passion if they had believed that and there would be no references to “unnatural lust/passions” and the like without clarification that those expressions does not cover lusts of homosexuals, especially when talking about Sodom as did Peter and Jude for example.
My general conclusion is that a full reading of the New Testament writings condemns sex outside of marriage, whether between heterosexual or homosexual people, and that adultery is condemned along with whatever might fall within the scope of terms such as defiling passions/unnatural sex. I will let Lee live with his statement: “So it’s simply not accurate to say that Christ, the Gospels, and the Apostles condemned or disallowed homosexual sex.” I believe that it is clear that they would condemn those acts unless they would have approved of homosexual marriage, in which case the acts between married homosexuals would not be condemned as being fornication or a defiling act, but where does it say that they approved of homosexual marriage? Lee seems to take the position that if they did not expressly mention it, then it was approved. I would ask Lee – Did Christ expressly mention bestiality? If not, does that mean that he approved of it? Although some jurisdictions are making bestiality legal today does not mean that it would not have been condemned in the time of Christ. How about child molestation? Where does Christ expressly condemn that? There are many immoral acts that are not expressly condemned by name in the New Testament but would be condemned by means of falling within the scope of a more general term like “wickedness.” I have little doubt that there are many unnamed acts that would have been condemned by Christ and the Apostles. In a nutshell, I don’t think it is right for a person who has a particular belief with regard to something, say approval of gambling, to attribute that same approval to Christ and the Apostles simply because their disapproval was not specifically expressed.
I was happy to see that Lee at least saw some basis for considering homosexual acts as being condemned by the Apostle Paul. Personally, I consider Paul as a leading Apostle, who with the authority and approval of the Apostles of the Jerusalem church, was sent to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles, so what he wrote has great weight with me. I believe that Paul’s comments in e.g. Romans 1:26-27 leave little doubt that he condemned homosexual sex acts.
So what does that mean? If one does not believe the claims of Jesus or that his described spiritual path to enlightenment exists or is possible, the fact that acts such as fornication are condemned by Christ would have little meaning to such a person. I keep trying to make a distinction between what was the case in the time of Christ and the Apostles as opposed to what the situation might be now. I wrote that some churches are allowing homosexuals and lesbians to marry and to become priests and ministers, and that if those churches have the passed-on authority given by Christ to the Apostles to loose what they will on earth and it would be loosed in heaven, I believe that those marriages and pronouncements would be honored by Christ and the Apostles, including homosexual sex within the marriages. It is up to the individual to determine whether a church or other organization, state or person has that authority. I recall a split in one church whose leaders were going to allow consenting sex outside of marriage. Since I am not aware that any limits were placed on the authority to loose what they will, a technical reading of the statement by Christ would mean that they could loose anything if they had the authority. However, I question whether the original authority was unlimited and whether those to whom it was given by Christ could pass it on to someone else.
All of which I read as you recognizing that this is simply your interpretation of the text, but that others might interpret it differently.
And I note that you recognize that you are talking about what the situation was at the time the books of the New Testament were written, but that the situation today may be different.
And if you read my full article on homosexuality, “Homosexuality, the Bible, and Christianity,” you will see that:
To take the second first, as covered in the article, in Bible times both marriage and sexual relations were considered inherently unequal relationships. Man was seen as superior to woman, and the one who penetrates in the sexual act was seen as superior to the one who was penetrated.
Yes, Paul condemned homosexual acts. But we have to consider exactly which homosexual acts Paul was condemning. Homosexuality of the type that exists in homosexual marriages today did not exist in Paul’s time, or in Bible times generally. Homosexual marriage as recognized in most Western countries today is a faithful, monogamous relationship between two men or two women who are considered to be equal to one another legally, socially, and spiritually. But that sort of homosexual relationship did not exist in Bible times. In New Testament times in particular, even cultures that practiced homosexual sex, such as Greek and Roman culture, generally forbade homosexual relations between men of equal status. Sometimes that prohibition was merely social, other times it was actually codified into law.
As covered in the article, the usual homosexual relationship in ancient Greece and Rome—which were the homosexual relationships Paul would have known and wrote about—was between a middle-aged or older, usually well-to-do and powerful, man, and a young man or teenage boy. It was an inherently unequal relationship. The older man penetrated the younger man, and not the other way around. The one penetrated was considered socially inferior to the one who did the penetrating. There was no long-term commitment or relationship. It was not engaged in between equals. It was a purely physical relationship to satisfy sexual desires, with no spiritual component to it. And it would come to an end when the young man got too old. If he became wealthy and powerful himself, he, in turn, would choose a young man or teenage boy to have a sexual relationship with. The whole arrangement was entirely extramarital, and had all the earmarks of “fornication” as that word is used in the Bible.
This was the sort of homosexual relationship that Paul condemned, because this was the sort of homosexual relationship that existed in the surrounding cultures at the time Paul wrote his letters. And if you see a connection between “homosexual acts” and “fornication” in the Bible, that’s because every homosexual relationship in Bible times involved having extramarital sex.
That simply isn’t the case today.
Today, we view marriage in general very differently than did the cultures of Bible times.
Today, in the West, marriage is seen and legally recognized as a monogamous relationship between two equal partners. The one who penetrates is not seen as superior to the one who is penetrated, nor is the one who is penetrated seen as inferior to the one who penetrates. The woman is not seen as inferior to the man. In a heterosexual relationship, he woman has rights equal to the man legally and socially. In a homosexual relationship, the two partners also are fully equal in their legal and social standing.
Paul could not possibly have talked about this type of homosexual—or heterosexual—relationship because this type of relationship simply did not exist in his day.
So the idea that Paul was condemning homosexual sex within a committed, monogamous marriage between two equal men, or two equal women, simply can’t stand scrutiny. The Bible does not condemn things that didn’t exist in Bible times. Any conclusions we may make about what the Bible says about things that didn’t exist in Bible times are simply our extension and interpretation of principles we find in the Bible. They are not something the Bible itself says.
The same is true of the Bible’s statements about homosexual sex. They applied to the type of homosexual sex that existed in Bible times, which was an inherently unequal and extramarital sexual relationship that violated the ancient Jewish and developing Christian principle that all men are equal, and that no man is superior to or inferior to any other man in the eyes of God. All of this is covered in the article.
In short—as you admit as a possibility in your final paragraph above—the homosexual acts that Paul condemned as disallowed and as a form of fornication are not the homosexual acts that faithful, married homosexuals today engage in. The homosexual acts that Paul condemned are, in fact, acts that today’s Western societies also condemn as promiscuous sex, and in the case of men having sex with teenage boys, as illegal under the statutory rape provisions of all decent societies in today’s world.
In other words, today Western society as a whole still condemns the types of homosexual sex that Paul condemns. But there is an entirely new class of homosexual relationship today that didn’t exist in Paul’s day, or during any of the time periods in which the Bible was written. That relationship is a faithful, committed monogamous marriage between two equal men or two equal women.
Today, homosexual sex within such a marriage is not fornication as the Bible uses that term, regardless of whether the Bible is speaking of heterosexual fornication or homosexual fornication.
And today, the types of extramarital sex, whether heterosexual or homosexual, that the Bible forbade as fornication are still generally considered less than ideal, or are outright illegal—as in the case of the most common homosexual relations of Paul’s day, which was sex between an adult man and a teenage boy.
All of this is what you are missing in your analysis of the Bible and its statements about homosexual relations.
I will deal more specifically with the Bible passages you mention in a separate response.
Now to take up some of the Bible’s statements about Sodom that you mention.
Most of this is already covered in the above article: “What is the Sin of Sodom?” If you have not yet read it carefully, I recommend that you do so, because I will not repeat here everything I wrote in it.
But here is a somewhat shorter version of some of it:
Believing that the sin of Sodom was homosexuality makes no more sense than believing that the sin of the men of Gibeah in Judges 19:22—30, who did accept the substitution of a woman (the Levite’s concubine), and gang raped her to death, was heterosexuality. It makes no more sense than saying that if a group of men gang rapes a woman, their crime is engaging in heterosexual sex.
Neither the men of Sodom nor the men of Gibeah were homosexuals. They had wives and children. When they wanted to have sex with the men who were the guests of Lot and of the man of Gibeah who took in the Levite and his concubine, that wasn’t because they were homosexuals but because they were horrendously wicked men in their culture, who wanted to use, abuse, and humiliate men who were guests in their town. When a man penetrated another man in the Middle Eastern culture of those days, it was an act of humiliating the man who was so penetrated. It is somewhat similar to male prisoners in today’s prisons who are heterosexuals, but since no women are available in the prison, they have sex with younger male inmates instead. Except that in the ancient Middle East this was seen as far more humiliating to the man penetrated than it is even among the criminal element in today’s society.
So the sin of Sodom was not homosexuality, because the men who desired to perpetrate that sin were not homosexuals. They were evil men who wanted to humiliate a visitor in their town, contrary to the sacred law of hospitality that existed throughout the Middle East both then and now. This is reflected in the clearest statement in the entire Bible about the sin of Sodom:
All of this is covered much more fully in the article on the Sin of Sodom linked above.
Those Christians who read the Sodom story as being about homosexuality are merely showing their ignorance of ancient Middle Eastern society, and also of homosexuality.
In modern terms, the crimes of Sodom would be listed as attempted breaking and entering, harassment and intimidation, and attempted gang rape. The fact that it was attempted homosexual gang rape would be seen as secondary, just as it was in Bible times. The primary crime in Bible times was a shocking violation and disregard for the wellbeing of honored guests staying within the city walls.
Christians who focus on the “homosexual” nature of the attempted gang rape in Sodom are completely missing the point of the Bible story.
Yes, the sexual act that the men of Sodom wanted to commit was horrendously evil, and would be considered a horribly flagrant case of adultery and fornication in the societies of the day. Adultery because many of the ones who desired to commit it were married men, with families of their own. Otherwise Sodom could not have survived. It says, “The men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house” (Genesis 19:4, italics added). Fornication because it was extramarital sex. But mostly, it would have been considered horrendously evil because it was an act of attacking, violating, and humiliating an honored guest in their town, contrary to the most sacred honor codes of the ancient Middle East.
All of the commentary in the Bible condemning Sodom, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, is based on this horrible violation of guests that we today would prosecute as attempted gang rape—or in the case of Judges 19, as actual gang rape. The sex of the perpetrators and the victim really doesn’t matter. It is an act of physical and sexual violence and humiliation. That is why it is condemned throughout the Bible. Anyone who would participate in such an act is a heinous criminal, both in ancient Middle Eastern society and in today’s Western society.
And that is what Jesus, Peter, and Jude were referring to when they condemned the wickedness of Sodom. Homosexuality had nothing to do with it, because once again, the men who attempted to perpetrate the crime and sin of Sodom were not homosexuals.
If you don’t understand that, you simply don’t understand the Bible.
I have already discussed Paul’s statements about homosexual sex in my previous comment.
Jesus mentioned Sodom and Gomorrah as wicked cities, without detailing the nature of their wickedness (see Matthew 10:14–16, 11:23–24; Luke 10:10–12, 17:28–30).
Peter, in 2 Peter 2:6–10, also refers to Sodom and Gomorrah as wicked cities, stressing their licentiousness and lawlessness. And I have explained the nature of that licentiousness and lawlessness above. It has nothing to do with homosexuality, and everything to do with horribly violating the integrity of visitors within their gates, not to mention the integrity of Lot and his family. The “depraved lust” that Peter mentions is not homosexuality, but the lust of violating—or in today’s terms, raping—Lot’s two guests, and the intention of breaking down Lot’s door and violating the sanctity of his home in order to do it.
Similarly, Jude 7 refers primarily to the desire of the men of Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding cities to engage in prohibited extramarital sex (“indulged in sexual immorality”), and to attack and sexually violate Lot’s guests (“pursued unnatural lust,” or more literally, “went after other flesh”). Once again, their “unnatural lust” was not homosexuality, but a desire to rape, or sexually violate, honored guests in their town.
In short, conservative Christian interpretations of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19, and of later mentions of it in the Bible, are completely fallacious and wrong because those interpretations are based mostly on their own fixation on homosexuality, and not on what the Bible itself says. They are based on utter ignorance of the cultures of the ancient Middle East in Old Testament and New Testament times. And they are based on an utter ignorance of cultural realities about the nature of sex, and of forced sex—specifically, the idea that any man who penetrates or attempts to penetrate another man is a homosexual. That is simply not true. The actions of the men of Sodom and of Gibeah were not the acts of homosexuals. They were the acts of men seeking to attack and humiliate other men. That, and not homosexuality, is the sin of Sodom from today’s perspective, as well as from the Bible’s perspective.
You are very wrong in your interpretation of the Sodom story, and of the various mentions of it in the New Testament. Not to put too fine a point on it, but your interpretation is based on sheer ignorance. But it is an ignorance that exists and is perpetuated throughout conservative Christianity, so I don’t blame you for it.
I would strongly suggest that you educate yourself on these matters, starting with a full, careful reading of both of the articles I have linked for you above, so that you don’t continue to perpetuate these ignorant, false, and highly destructive misinterpretations of the Bible.
Below are the verses in the New Testament that lead me to believe that what the New Testament writers were talking about covered same-sex sexual relations.
Romans 1:26-27 “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons due penalty for their error.”
2 Peter 2:7-10 Lot “was greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the wicked (for by what that righteous man saw and heard as he lived among them, he was vexed in his righteous heart day after day with their lawless deeds) … especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion ….”
Jude 5:7 “… just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust,….”
Peter uses the term “defiling” passion. Paul uses the term “dishonorable” passions.” Jude uses the term “unnatural” lust. Paul states that women exchanged natural relations for “unnatural.” I find it astonishing that a person would interpret these writing as not including
sex between people of the same sex, which I referred to as homosexual acts. If I understand Lee’s position, people of the same sex who engage in sex with one another may not be homosexuals under his definition, citing heterosexuals in prison who have sex, for instance.
If in New Testament times there happened to be a city of people who freely chose to do the same, and one of the writers had come upon that city, I find it hard to believe the writer would not have condemned that activity in view of their writings at the time.
Again, I leave it to the readers to decide whether the claims of Lee are fair and accurate when he states that the my interpretation of the pertinent Bible verses and those of conservative Christians are based on “sheer ignorance.” I should mention that a reading of Lee’s
comments left me with the impression that science had confirmed that homosexuality was something homosexuals are born with inherent in their character. I readily admit that I have not kept up with the science of biology, genetics and the like, but I was curious about the theory, so I went to the internet to confirm what Lee has said but found that Lee’s view is far from universal among scientists. I somehow get the feeling that if his view were to be conclusively disproved that his position might not change very much.
Again I would like to close out by saying that I get along fine with gay people and others who might not share my views on world matters, whether they are conservative, liberal, military-persons, police-people, rappers, hillbillies, Blacks, Jews, Asian, Latinos, commune-people, professors, business people, priests, ministers, non-Christian religious people, atheists, agnostics, politicians, politicians …. I cannot be pigeon-holed into any particular category or view of the world that i know of (e.g. some of my views are quite liberal and some quite conservative), and I do not carry hidden agendas that cause me to use deceptive practices when taking positions when I interact with people. I have tried to be clear about the bases of my comments and to define the limits of their scope, which in this case pertained to the
intent of the New Testament writers when they wrote the quoted verses, and which in the last analysis in my case gets down to what is a reasonable interpretation of the verses from an objective point of view. My participation in this thread was an objective, philosophical exercise involving a somewhat narrow matter of interpretation of given texts, none of which bears on how I relate to heterosexual or homosexual people with whom I interact. I must say, however, that I did not feel welcome and that I guess I should be happy that Lee did not sharpen his point any further than “sheer ignorance.”
Your relationships with gays, lesbians, and anyone else are not the issue here. Your character as a person is not the issue here.
The issue is your understanding of the Bible in relation to homosexuality.
Quoting the Bible passages once again does not change their meaning. You interpret them one way, I interpret them a different way, and I believe that your interpretation is wrong, and yes, based on sheer ignorance. Once again, please read carefully the two articles I have mentioned—the one above on the sin of Sodom and my general article on homosexuality, the Bible, and Christianity.
I have already dealt with the passages in Paul. Contrary to what you are saying, I have stated that these passages do refer to homosexual sex. But they refer to a type of homosexual sex that is still condemned by decent people in Western society today. They do not refer to faithful, monogamous homosexual marriages between equal partners because such relationships did not exist in Paul’s day and culture. Paul condemned the same sorts of homosexual relationships that even most homosexuals today condemn: unequal relationships based on dominance and submission. Those were the kind of homosexual relationships, and that was the kind of homosexual sex, that existed in Paul’s day, and that Paul condemned.
Meanwhile, as I said, Peter and Jude do not use words that refer specifically to homosexual sex, but rather words that refer to wrong and forbidden desires of a sexual nature. The idea that this must mean homosexuality is based, not on good biblical scholarship, but on a pre-existing bias against homosexuality in the readers who interpret them that way. The story of Sodom is one of attempted homosexual gang rape. That is an “unnatural lust” and a “defiling passion” regardless of the fact that it would have involved homosexual sex. The desire to rape another person is an “unnatural lust” and a “defiling passion” in itself. It is an “unnatural lust” and a “defiling passion” even if the victim is of the opposite sex, so that the sex would be heterosexual sex. Rape is a terrible, unnatural, disgusting evil, whether heterosexual or homosexual.
Further, you are still thinking of these stories from present-day cultural norms rather than from the culture and practices of the ancient Middle East. As I have shown in the above article, and as is clear from statements made throughout the Bible in reference to Sodom and Gomorrah, the primary evils of the people of those cities were arrogance, unconcern for the wellbeing of others, and a horribly wrong (by Middle Eastern cultural standards) intention and desire to attack and violate guests visiting in their town. The fact that the people engaged in that lust and desire were male, and their intended victims were also male, is so unimportant in the Bible story that it is nowhere mentioned in the Bible as the sin of Sodom.
The idea that the issue in Sodom is homosexuality is a later misunderstanding of the text based on a complete misunderstanding of the cultures of the ancient Middle East, and of the nature of homosexuality. If you continue to cling to that false view of the Sodom story, then yes, your interpretation of it is based on sheer ignorance. And now that I have done my best to explain it to you, if you continue to misinterpret the text in this way, then it is based on willful ignorance. And while we can be excused for ignorance when we couldn’t have known better, when we could very well know better and choose to remain ignorant, that is a serious matter.
And yes, scientists don’t all agree on the cause and genesis of homosexuality—whether it is genetic, or due to factors in the womb, or due to factors in early childhood, or due to some combination of these and other causes. And of course, conservative Christians continue to cling to false “science” that supports the idea that homosexuality is a “lifestyle” and a choice for gays and lesbians.
What has become overwhelmingly clear, though, over decades of efforts to change homosexuals into heterosexuals, is that when a person is gay or lesbian, that is not something that can be changed. Parents commonly become aware that their child is gay or lesbian when the child is still very young. When those children “come out” to their parents, it’s not unusual for the parents to tell them that they already knew, and have known since they were little. Meanwhile, many Christian and secular organizations over the years have attempted to change the sexual orientation of gays and lesbians and make them into heterosexuals. As covered in my main article on homosexuality, those efforts have been an almost universal failure, and most of the organizations that have attempted to do this have disbanded or ceased those efforts, sometimes with an admission that they were wrong and that it doesn’t work.
So regardless of how and why people become homosexual, it is not something that can be changed. It is a core element of the character and identity of the person, just as heterosexuality is a core element of the character and identity of a person who is heterosexual.
Of course, there are also bisexual and transgendered people, and other categories of sexuality, some of which are more fluid. But for someone who is gay or lesbian, not bisexual or fluid in their sexuality, being gay or lesbian is simply a core fact of their character. It cannot be changed. That is the evidence of overwhelming experience and experimentation over a period of many decades, and in fact, many centuries. If you deny this, then once again your denial is based on sheer ignorance of the realities of homosexuality as it exists in the real world. And if you continue to deny this having been apprised of it, then once again, your ignorance is willful ignorance, which is a very serious thing.
If you also continue to believe that the men of Sodom were homosexuals, then you are also engaged in a matter of sheer, and probably willful, ignorance.
I have already explained that this is not so, and why it is not so. Men in prison who have sex with other men in prison are, for the most part, heterosexuals, not homosexuals. (Yes, of course, there are gay men in prison also.) The men of Sodom and Gomorrah, likewise, were not homosexuals. Statistically, perhaps 1.5% to 3.5% of them were homosexuals. That’s the rough percentage of the population today that is homosexual. But statistically, the remaining 96+% of them were heterosexuals. And the story clearly states that the attempted gang rape involved all of the men of the city. Those who were adults were most likely married with children. They had normal sex with their wives like heterosexual men throughout the ages.
What they were was not homosexuals, but rapists and murderers. As the parallel story in Judges 19 shows, if the men of Sodom had had their way with Lot’s two angel guests, they would most likely have raped them to death. Their desire was to attack, violate, and kill visitors in their town. The sexual nature of the attack is simply part of their desire to violate and humiliate Lot’s visitors. It has nothing at all to do with homosexuality as a sexual orientation.
If you don’t understand this, then you simply don’t understand the culture of the times, nor do you understand the nature of rape and sexual violation, nor do you understand the nature of homosexuality.
Once again, I strongly urge you to educate yourself on these things. You are currently steeped in the same ignorance on these issues that is rampant throughout conservative Christianity. If you refuse to move out of that ignorance, but willfully cling to it, then you will be judged all the more harshly when it comes your time to stand in before God’s throne in heaven.
Lee wrote (with respect to the passages I cited that are attributed to the Apostle Paul):
“Contrary to what you are saying, I have stated that these passages do refer to homosexual sex. But they refer to a type of homosexual sex that is still condemned by decent people in Western society today. They do not refer to faithful, monogamous homosexual marriages between equal partners because such relationships did not exist in Paul’s day and culture.”
If the NT writers would have come upon a city in which the persons of the same-sex
were engaged in sex with one another, and the same-sex people claimed that it was OK because they were born with inherent propensities for such, do you believe that the writers would have responded something to the effect, “OK, carry on?” What I have been saying over and over is that I believe they would have condemned the acts since I do not find anywhere in their writings that they contemplated people being born gay. Further, I am not aware that same-sex marriage was allowed. I have been trying to interpret the writings as they intended. So if they did not contemplate people being born gay, what did they intend? I believe that Lee is saying that IF they had believed that if a person was born-gay, they would not have condemned the acts. I just don’t see that their writings show that they believed the born-gay theory of even knew about it.
Lee speaks as if it is only conservative Christians who would question his views on this subject. I know many Christian conservatives who are intelligent, moral people, and I believe that to try to cast them into some sort of inferior category would reveal some sort of unjustified bias. I hope Lee is not being guilty of this. I think he should consider that there might be liberal Christians who would question his position on these specific issues. In fact I encountered some dope-smoking, free-living people who called themselves Christians, yet who strictly forbid same-sex relations within their group, for example.
When I saw Lee’s statement:
“And of course, conservative Christians continue to cling to false “science” that supports the idea that homosexuality is a “lifestyle” and a choice for gays and lesbians.”
I decided to check into this a bit. First I found that some of the scientists who dispute the “born gay” theory do not identify themselves as Christian or conservative, and if their findings are correct, Lee may be the one who is clinging to false science.
If the “born-gay” theory is wrong, perhaps those who choose to engage in same-sex acts on a regular basis would indeed be making a choice, which could properly be called a lifestyle. I myself called it a lifestyle since I do not know whether people are born gay. My thought was that since some people who believe that they have been born gay choose not engage in same-sex relations, my conclusion was that the choice is not about how a person is born but about what choice the person makes with respect to engaging in same-sex acts. I clarified that point by saying that I was referring to people who engage in same-sex acts, focusing on the acts not on how they were born. In my research regarding conservative positions on this I found one site that claimed that many people who thought they had been born gay changed their minds when their circumstances changed, which caused them to believe otherwise. I noted that some of the scientists who reject the born-gay idea cited environmental factors, including how people are raised, as the apparent major causal factors that contribute to whether a person believes he or she is gay or born that way. I do not know whether these scientists are Christian or conservative.
“…being gay or lesbian is simply a core fact of their character. It cannot be changed. That is the evidence of overwhelming experience and experimentation over a period of many decades, and in fact, many centuries. If you deny this, then once again your denial is based on sheer ignorance of the realities of homosexuality as it exists in the real world. And if you continue to deny this having been apprised of it, then once again, your ignorance is willful ignorance, which is a very serious thing.”
So what would Lee say if one of the scientists who rejected the “born-gay” theory wrote the following to him?
“… being gay or lesbian is NOT simply a core fact of their character. It CAN be changed. That is the evidence of overwhelming experience and experimentation over a period of many decades, and in fact, many centuries. If you deny this, then once again your denial is based on sheer ignorance of the realities of homosexuality as it exists in the real world. And if you continue to deny this having been apprised of it, then once again, your ignorance is willful ignorance, which is a very serious thing.”
In summary, I confess that I have read the NT passages that I quoted as I would normally read textual material, and based on a consideration of them as a whole, I have drawn the conclusion that the writers would have used different language when commenting on matters that involved what they call “defiling passions,” “unnatural lust,” etc. if they did not intend to include same-sex sexual relations, whether in the form of gang rape or otherwise. I originally intended to limit my comments to that alone, but Lee kept raising the point about people being born gay and that they have no choice in the matter but to engage in same-sex relations. He speaks as if the scientific evidence is overwhelming in favor of his view, but when I checked I did not find the evidence to be as he described. My objection pertains to his criticism of those who do not accept his view of the evidence. He seems to think conservative Christians as somehow being more taken in by fake evidence than others. Why else does he attach “conservative” to the label “Christian” when speaking of what he considers “ignorance” with respect to disputed issues? If it turns out that people are not born gay, will Lee elevate the conservative Christians to an “in the know status?”
I have stated throughout this thread that I do not know whether people are born gay and. Whether or not the born-gay theory is valid, there are churches who call themselves Christian who accept gay people into their clergy and are happy to celebrate marriage ceremonies for gay couples. So I am not sure what the problem is that being the case. My not knowing whether people are born gay does not affect my relations with them, whether gay or not since I would treat them the same either way, and I do not see that what I believe the NT writers intended has anything to do with my life in the world of today since I reserve the right weigh the issues in view of all the evidence. I would have a problem with a person telling me that I must believe that he or she was born gay since, first, that would not make any difference in the way I would relate to that person in the world, and, second, I believe that generally speaking people are entitled to believe what they choose. There are many different Christian denominations, some with sharp disagreements over how they interpret the Bible, yet they seem to be able to live together in peace without demanding of one another that they accept their church doctrines.
Lee believes strongly in what he has written, and if he is right about people being born gay or having no choice in the matter, he should be commended for his efforts to try to bring the issue up for consideration before religious people and others. I don’t know whether the best way to do that is by way of challenge to traditional interpretations of the Bible, as I believe he is doing. It might be better to lend hand to the churches that are trying to the same. I say this because I believe the issue is not conclusively resolved, and I wrote that if a church has the power and authority to “loose what it will on earth and it will be loosed in heaven,” it would seem that it could pronounce born-gay homosexuality acceptance as part of its doctrine. I do not know whether any one or more modern churches have such power and authority, which is one of the reasons I consider the questions unresolved.
Despite all that I have written in these threads, I feel compelled to say that if God agrees with Lee‘s teaching on this subject, then my plea is for God to bless Lee in his work in this area.
It appears, from what you say, that you are well aware that you do not actually know the answers to the questions on which your decision about homosexuality would be made. Particularly, you say you do not know whether people are “born gay.”
This is why I strongly urge you to educate yourself on these issues. As long as you don’t know the answers to these very basic questions, you are just as likely to be believing and repeating falsehoods as truths.
In particular, if you have gay and lesbian friends, as you say you do, I would encourage you to talk directly to them, and ask them about their own experience of realizing they were gay. I can tell you right now that most, if not all of them will tell you that it was not a choice on their part, but a fact about themselves that they came to realize at some point. As I said in the main article, I once had a gay man who had been subject to much discrimination ask me with tears in his eyes, “Do you really think I would choose this? Don’t you think I would be straight if I could?”
It’s easy to spin theories about homosexuality based on preconceived notions of what their experience must be. It’s a whole different thing to learn the stories of actual gays and lesbians—which you evidently have not done, hence your ignorance about the nature of their sexual orientation.
Further, you keep speaking of “born gay” when I already said there are various theories about that, but that by the time people realize that they are gay or lesbian, that aspect of their character has already crystallized, whether it was genetic, or in the womb, or in early childhood that this happened. The fact that not all scientists and psychologists are agreed about how and why some people are homosexual while others are heterosexual does not change the fact that gays and lesbians themselves do not experience it as a choice, but as something they discovered about themselves along the way, and are unable to change even if they wanted to. And some have tried very hard to do so.
I would encourage you to read about the various “ex-gay” organizations that have existed over the past century or so. You will find that most of them no longer exist, or no longer claim that homosexuals can become heterosexual. And they came to that conclusion through long and fruitless efforts to make gays and lesbians into straights. Some of their “patients” actually committed suicide because the “therapy” had been so disruptive to their psyche that they could no longer live with themselves. And several of the leaders of these groups were themselves found to be engaging in homosexual sex, sometimes with their own “patients.” And research following up on those who had been “cured” of homosexuality found that most returned fairly quickly to their same-sex orientation in the years following the “therapy.”
Once again, I would strongly encourage you to educate yourself about these things. Or at least, as long as you know that your beliefs are based on things you don’t know the answers to, stop making these uninformed statements about homosexuality.
One more thing. It’s fruitless to speculate about what people in the past, such as the biblical writers would have said or thought or wrote if they had encountered some circumstance. The reality is that they didn’t encounter those circumstances, and they didn’t write about them. They lived in the world they lived in, and experienced what they experienced, and wrote based on that.
OK thx for your comments – I’ve said what I said and have nothing to add at this time. I wish you well in your search for truth. Cary
Godspeed on your spiritual journey.
DId you intentionally leave out Genesis 19 verse 8? Really?
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and question. Genesis 19:6–8 reads:
And the next verse, verse 9, reads:
Perhaps your point is that the men of Sodom were not interested in women. That is obviously not true, since verse 14 says:
Not to put too fine a point on it, but if all the men of Sodom were homosexuals who had no interest in women, the population of that city would drop to zero in a single generation. The whole idea is absurd.
Lot’s “sons-in-law” (in today’s terms they would be considered his daughters’ fiances), were among the men who wanted to beat down Lot’s door to get to his angel visitors. It says in verse 4:
And yet two of them were engaged to Lot’s daughters. That would be very odd for a couple of homosexual men.
The planned attack on Lot’s angel visitors had nothing to do with homosexuality. Men who rape other men in prison are not homosexuals. They are violent criminals who enjoy attacking and degrading other men. Male-on-male rape has been a means of degrading other men for thousands of years. In some cultures, the soldiers of victorious armies routinely raped the male warriors they had defeated as a means of humiliating them and showing their dominance over them. Needless to say, those victorious armies were not battalions of specially selected gay men.
Preachers who preach that all the men of Sodom were homosexuals because they wanted to rape Lot’s angel visitors and wouldn’t take his virgin daughters as a substitute are ignorant of even the most basic realities of human behavior.
Incidentally, if the men of the city had taken Lot’s daughters and raped them, then under the laws of that culture, they would have been committing a crime against their fiances, who were right there in the crowd with them. This is not something they would have done to two of their own brothers, who were not “aliens” (foreigners) among them as Lot was.
The idea that Genesis 19:8 means that the men of Sodom were not interested in women is based both on ignorance of ancient Middle Eastern culture and on not paying attention to what the rest of Genesis 19 itself says.
If your point is something different, please let me know.