Those seven passages: The Bible and homosexuality
By TIM MANNELLO
There may well be some incontrovertible arguments that prove the immorality of homosexuality. But the arguments most frequently used to condemn it—arguments from the Scriptures-aren’t among them. Scriptural arguments about homosexuality usually center on seven passages. There is even a book called “Those Seven Passages” by John F. Dwyer. The meaning of these passages from Scripture, including Romans 1:26-27, are widely debated by reputable scripture scholars. In books readily found on the Internet under “Bible and Homosexuality,” respected modern biblical scholars dispassionately debate the merits of the differing interpretations of these passages and come out on different sides of the argument.
In Uganda, this discussion is not just an academic argument. There where the practice of homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment, Christian legislators, cheered on by Christian ministers, have on their legislative agenda the so-called “Kill the Gays” bill, once heralded as “a Christmas gift to Ugandans.” In Uganda, the arguments of those who condemn homosexuality need to be taken DEAD seriously. There the argument that wins the day is a matter of life and death. Ugandans who want to kill gays appeal to the Scriptures: “If a man has sexual relations with another male as he would with a woman, both have committed a repulsive act. They are certainly to be put to death. (Leviticus 20:13 and 18:22) Those who argue that these passages do not condemn homosexuality say that , when the cited passages are understood correctly in light of the authors’ purposes, audiences and cultural backgrounds, they do not condemn homosexuality at all.
Take the famous story in Genesis 9:1-13 where the men of Sodom demand sex with Lot’s house guests. Lots’ reason for refusing their demands: “Do nothing with these men BECAUSE THEY HAVE COME UNDER THE SHELTER OF MY ROOF.” The story does not explicitly condemn homosexuality. All of the prophets who refer to the sin of Sodom (except Ezeckiel who considers the sin to be the intent of homosexual rape) took the demands for relations with the visiting angels as acts of outrageously gross inhospitality not of homosexuality. In Mathew 10:14-15, Jesus alludes to Sodom’s inhospitality when he says that the towns which failed to welcome Him would receive a punishment worse than the punishment meted out to Sodom and Gomorrah. What a great opportunity for Jesus to launch into a tirade against homosexuality? Matthew does not record itnor is Jesus pictured condemning homosexuality in any of the Gospels.
Early Talmudic tradition also considered the Sodom incident as a sinful act of inhospitality. But in Christian tradition and later Judaic thought, an anti-homosexual interpretation became so prevalent that the word sodomy was derived from Sodom. And to this day, Genesis 9:1-13 is a favorite passage cited most often to condemn homosexuality as proof the Scriptures condemn the practice. Oddly none of those who use this passage of Genesis to condemn homosexuality or homosexual acts ever goes on to quote the offer Lot made to the men of the city of Sodom: “Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like.” I for one have never heard the passage used to justify the sexual trafficking of one’s own daughters or to condemn Lot as the worst pimp of all ages. Whatever the moral status of homosexuality, I think Genesis 1:9:1-13 has more to say about African Americans like Jackie Robinson being turned away from hotels, restaurants and towns than it does about the sinfulness of gay couples. I don’t expect to hear that kind of citation in any Christian Church I’ll eve attend.
Many Christian preachers read a whole lot into Scriptural passages like “Those Seven Passages” which seem to support beliefs they already hold and ignore or explain away many other passages which no one in their right mind can take seriously: for example, Deuteronomy 22: 28-29.: “If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.” I think reading the Bible is a wonderful idea, that is reading ALL of the Bible. And the best way to do so on first reading, is within the context of the Biblical author’s intent, culture and circumstances, and not merely within our own agendas, culture and times. In my view, that is the best way of reading the meaning out of the texts (exegesis) instead reading our own meaning into them (eisegesis).
Mannello is a Williamsport consultant specializing in customer service and management training, retreat facilitation and keynote speaking.