Before we get started, it would probably be a good idea to define just what homosexuality is, at least how the dictionary defines it.
A homosexual is a person who is sexually or romantically attracted to a person of his or her own sex. That’s it. Period. So, what does that mean in real life?
A lot of people stop right at the sexually attracted part and all they see is a bunch of guys in leather chaps and spandex having disgusting sex1 and being outrageous at a Gay Pride Parade. They never consider the romantic part.
We might all have our own notion of what romance is but the dictionary describes it as, “a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love”; love being the operative word.
So, to be fair, a homosexual relationship is exactly the same as a heterosexual relationship, except the gender of both parties is the same. In fact, all lasting romantic relationships are more about love than sex, regardless of whether they’re gay or straight. Most married couples, if they last any time at all, figure that out early on.
So, when I’m talking about a homosexual, I’m talking about a person with all the same commitment issues, image issues, sexual issues, insecurities, phobias, hopes, dreams and goals as any straight person. I’m saying the vast majority of homosexuals are just like any straight person except they happen to be attracted to someone of their own sex.
Invariably, people who have a problem with homosexuality site some sort of religious belief and, at least in the Western world, that belief is deeply rooted in the Christian Bible.
That being said, and since the Bible is what we’re talking about here, I’m going to approach the subject of homosexuality from two completely different angles, but both rooted firmly in the Bible..
The first issue is regarding health. The first time I read the Bible I was bowled over. It was so obvious to me I was amazed I’d never heard anyone even breach the subject before.
OLD TESTAMENT HEALTH ISSUES
People who use the Bible to condemn homosexuality often say the Bible prohibits sexual relations between people of the same sex. Well, that’s simply just NOT true.
Without fail, they will point to two ‘go-to’ verses; Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13.
Most English Bibles interpret Leviticus 18:22 as, “A man shall not lie with another man as one lies with a woman; it is an abomination.” Leviticus 20:13 says essentially the same thing. That’s usually good enough for most people. “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that’s that.” The problem is this interpretation is actually not accurate but we’ll get more into that later.
First off, let’s point out that no interpretation even hints at anything like, “A man shall not love another man as he would a woman.” Again, the operative word being ‘love’.
You’ll also notice nowhere does it say anything about a woman lying with a woman..
Many people like to hedge on this point saying when the Bible says ‘man’, it’s inherently referring to women as well. Well, if you’re going to take it literally, you can’t have it both ways; either it says it or it doesn’t. And in this case, it doesn’t.
A bit further along verse 18:23 it says, “And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it; it is perversion.”
Now we’ve got the woman specifically involved in the narrative. And since these verses literally follow one another we can be reasonably assured the writer made these references and omissions on purpose.
So, literally speaking, these verses say guys shouldn’t be buggering each other and nobody should be having sex with the animals. That’s it. There is literally NOTHING about homosexuality, per se.
Now let’s see if we can take this in a bit of context to see why Moses found it necessary to ban these particular acts.2
First of all, let’s remember these statutes were written as the Israelites were wandering around the desert for 40 years3 after escaping Egypt. If we’re going to take this literally, conservative estimates put the number of ‘wanderers’ at over two and a half million people. That’s right, million.
It’s a rare believer who has ever even considered this number. Just as a point of reference, two and a half 4 million people is approximately the population of Louisville, Kentucky; Detroit, Michigan; and Dallas, Texas combined! By any stretch of the imagination, that’s a lot of people.
There’s plenty of room for argument about whether this number is accurate but again, we’re not playing that game; we’re taking the Bible literally at its word. If you need to know how I come up with that number read the footnote and do the math.
Without beating a dead horse, we can surmise there were a whole lot of people wandering around the desert for a long time. And these were very primitive people, nomads who knew nothing of basic hygiene and only took a bath when they crossed a river.
Suffice it to say, under these circumstances, anal sex and bestiality could be extremely unhealthy and even deadly. This was back when even a minor infection would kill you.
Without getting into the who, what and why of it, the fact is, people have been buggering each and having sex with animals since time immemorial. You can do your own research as to why that is, but the fact is, it’s a fact. And obviously, if Moses needed to address it, it was a problem for his merry band of wanderers.
What jumped out at me the first time I read this was it was never about whether a man or woman loved someone of the same sex. It was a health issue and Moses was taking care of it the way he took care of everything; he kept it simple and invoked the fear of God.
This second part might make you a bit squeamish but hang in there with me. The health issue, although it makes sense, is still complete conjecture on my part. But this second part is rooted directly in language interpretation and isn’t really theoretical. It’s pretty much cut and dried. It’s what the Bible says. Just depends on what Bible you’re reading.
The fact that Jesus never said a thing about homosexuality one way or the other is telling. In fact, when we look at what Jesus actually taught, it’s easy to come to a different conclusion5. Jesus was a tolerant dude.
But we’re not talking about Jesus now, we’re talking about the Apostle Paul who, by the way, was not one of Jesus’ original followers. In fact, there is no evidence the two ever met.
All the New Testament verses people site regarding homosexuality were taken from Paul’s writings to his Greek converts. And they truly were ‘converts’ in every sense of the word. Paul was doing his level best to get them to conform to his teaching which, in many ways, was diametrically opposed to what the Grecian culture was living.
Paul went out of his way to convince his converts to not give themselves up to ‘the ways of the flesh,’ but to live a more moral, spiritually pure life. Likewise, each verse lists several examples of promiscuous and unprincipled behavior.
For example Romans 13:13 says “…let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy…”
Another one is Romans 1:24 where he says, “God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies…”
It’s important to remember Paul is imploring his converts to remain pure and not go crazy like some of the people they see around them. The Greece of that day was well known for its hedonism and debauchery. There is nothing here to specifically condemn homosexuality, it’s more about excess and promiscuity.
But like the Old Testament, the New Testament has its own ‘Big 2’ verses that purportedly put an end to the homosexual debate.
The first is 1 Corinthians, 6:9 – “…neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves….etc.”
The second is 1 Timothy, 1:10 which says, “ …for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine.”.
So now homosexuals are lumped in there with thieves and slave traders. They must be horrible people. But there’s an interesting history about the word these modern Bibles now interpreted to mean ‘homosexual’. The King James version interprets the word as ‘effeminate’’ 6 or ‘whore-monger, whereas the New International version calls them‘male prostitutes’, or ‘perverts’.7 The Revised standard version uses ‘sodomites’. There seems to have been a lot of latitude in the translation of this particular word over time.
But the truly telling thing is that the actual Greek word they are interpreting is ‘arsenokoitai’ 8 which translates literally to ‘paederast’9
Pederasty is a custom where adult men have sex with pre-pubescent boys. In many ancient cultures this was perfectly acceptable and commonplace10. Nowadays we’d call it pedophilia and you’d go to jail for it.
Interestingly, the Greek word, arsenokoitai, was not translated to mean homosexual until 194611.
So, you can see the original Greek word for pedophile slowly morphed to ‘effeminate’, to ‘pervert’, to ‘sodomite’, to ‘homosexual’. I don’t know about you but it’s a pretty big jump to automatically label all homosexuals as child molesters or vise versa. I personally know plenty of homosexual men and women and not one of them has sex with children.
In ancient Greece the practice of grown men having sex with young boys was not only common, but condoned and even encouraged1213. It seems obvious Paul was carrying over the Hebrew belief that pederasty was morally reprehensible and doing his best to instill this belief into his converts.
And where do we find evidence that pederasty was morally reprehensible in the Hebrew culture?
We need look no further than the Old Testament ‘Big 2’ verses on homosexuality.
When you take a look at the German, Luther Bible 191214 translation of Leviticus 18:22, it reads, “Du sollst nicht beim Knaben liegen wie beim Weibe; denn es ist ein Greuel.”
When I break out my trusty Google search translator15 this verse literally translates to, “Thou shalt not lie with a boy as with the woman, because it is an abomination.”:
Martin Luther’s original German translation from 153416 uses the word ‘knabenschänder’ which literally translates to, ‘Knaben’, boy, ‘schänder’, molester.
Similarly, Luther Bible 191217 version of Leviticus 20:13 reads, “Wenn jemand beim Knaben schläft wie beim Weibe, die haben einen Greuel getan und sollen beide des Todes sterben; ihr Blut sei auf ihnen,” which translates literally to, “If a man sleeps with a boy as with a woman, they have done an abomination, and both shall die of death: her blood is on them.” Where the ‘her blood’ part comes in I have no idea but there it is. Lost in translation I guess.
So it turns out Paul’s New Testament teachings are actually based on ancient Old Testament Mosaic statutes prohibiting paedersry. Homosexuality, or rather consensentual sex between two adults of the same sex is never mentioned, not once. Let me repeat, NOT ONCE!.
It’s abundantly clear pederasty was not an uncommon practice in ancient times.18 As much as I hate to say it, it’s not really so uncommon in modern times either.19 20
But sticking to the Bible, It’s not too much of a jump to assume the Hebrews picked up the practice during their time in Egypt. Just the fact that Moses found it necessary to address the issue shows, at the very least, it was present in his camp. It could have been another Egyptian custom he wanted to eradicate or he could have been making a moral judgement. We’ll never know. But his admonition was very specific and had nothing to do with same sex couples.
You may think my health issue theory is a bunch of baloney. You may think the whole translation thing was just a natural misunderstanding or you may think it was some insidious plot against homosexuals, it doesn’t really matter. The fact is, the Bible never, ever, not once, condemns homosexuality itself.
Whether it be a health issue, a cultural issue, moral issue, or all of the above, it was never a same sex intimacy and love issue. Nowhere in the Bible is same sex intimacy prohibited except in the case of pederasty.
1Depending on your proclivity
2Most literalists hate taking things in context
3Forty years is an Aramaic idiom meaning ‘a long time’. References to ‘forty’ does not literally refer to a specific number.
4Exodus 12:37 says about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children came up out of Egypt. According to most scholars we can assume each of these men had at least a mother and/or father, a wife and/or children, etc. So we can conservatively estimate each of these guys represent four people.
5See ‘Teachings of Jesus – Chapter 10’
6The Zondervan Parallel New Testament in Greek and English
7The Zondervan Parallel New Testament in Greek and English
8The Zondervan Parallel New Testament in Greek and English
9Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words
11 Forgeonline.org March 21, 2019 Ed Oxford “Has ‘Homosexual’ Always Been In The Bible?”
12Forgeonline.org – March 21, 2019 Ed Oxford “Has ‘Homosexual’ Always Been In The Bible?”
16 Forgeonline.org – March 21, 2019 Ed Oxford “Has ‘Homosexual’ Always Been In The Bible?”
18https://allthatsinteresting.com/pederasty By Katie Serena Published Dec 7, 2017 Updated Feb 12, 2018
20Google NAMBLA or Gabriel Matzneff for starters