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Due to the controversial nature of this subject I need to say that while I am absolutely certain that there is nothing in the bible that condemns those that are Transgendered, I am a bit less certain about this. My personal feeling based on thisstudy is that there is nothing inherently sinful in being H*, but as with anything else what you do with it can be. I am an advocate of Gay marriage which is a hot button issue with most Christians, my thinking is that I would rather see a long term committed relationship rather than cruising the bars.

What I did with this study was start with John Boswell's work and look at every verse and passage, and every verse and passage that refers to the passage. Some of what John wrote I felt was taken out of context and could not be used. The one truly troubling passage is the one in Romans 1:26 which depends on basically one word, "Natural" and the modern interpretation versus the ancient.


A Biblical look at Homosexuality

No where in the Bible is there a word equivalent to homosexual. Neither Hebrew, Greek, Syric, or Arimaic. Hebrew, Arabic, and Modern Greek still do not.  No language did until the 19th. Century. Obviously there are ways of alluding to things with out actually giving them a specific name. But can a concept exist with out a name and in this particular case it is doubtful if the concept of homosexual behavior as a class existed.

The idea that homosexual behavior is condemned in the Old Testament stems form several passages. The most well known and influential is the account in,

Gen 19:1-6

19:1 And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground;

2 And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night.

3 And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.

4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter:

5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.


yada‘ (yaw-dah’); a primitive root; to know (properly, to ascertain by seeing); used in a great variety of senses, figuratively, literally, euphemistically and inferentially (including observation, care, recognition; and causatively, instruction, designation, punishment, etc.) New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew

Yada the Hebrew verb appears 943 times in the OT and in only ten of its occurrences does it have any carnal connotations.

Here I run into a problem, my computer does not have the Hebrew fonts and I can not express the differences between words suffice it to say that the word Know in the context of the guests is not the same as that used concerning the offer of the Daughters. This is not even reflected in Strongs.

There are numerous references to Sodom in the OT

Deut 29:22-28

23The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in fierce anger. 24All the nations will ask: “Why has the LORD done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger? 25And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. 26They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them. 27Therefore the Lord’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. 28In furious anger and in great wrath the LORD uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.”


Deut 32:32-34

32Their vine comes from the vine of Sodom and from the fields of Gomorrah. Their grapes are filled with poison, and their clusters with bitterness. 33Their wine is the venom of serpents, the deadly poison of cobras.


 Jer 23:14

14And among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible: They commit adultery and live a lie. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness. They are all like Sodom to me; the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah.”



Jer 49:18

18As Sodom and Gomorrah were overthrown, along with their neighboring towns,”  says the LORD, “so no one will live there; no man will dwell in it.



Jer 50:40

40As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah along with their neighboring towns,” declares the LORD, “so no one will live there; no man will dwell in it.



Lam 4:6

6The punishment of my people is greater than that of Sodom, which was overthrown in a moment

without a hand turned to help her.


Ezek 16:46-49

46Your older sister was Samaria, who lived to the north of you with her daughters; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you with her daughters, was Sodom. 47You not only walked in their ways and copied their detestable practices, but in all your ways you soon became more depraved than they. 48As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done.



Amos 4:11-12

11”I overthrew some of you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD.



Zeph 2:9

9Therefore, as surely as I live,” declares the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, “surely Moab will become like Sodom, the Ammonites like Gomorrah a place of weeds and salt pits, a wasteland forever. The remnant of my people will plunder them; the survivors of my nation will inherit their land.”



Matt 10:11-17

11”Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. 12As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. 15I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. 16I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.



Luke 17:28-29

28”It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. 29But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.



Rom 9:29-33

29It is just as Isaiah said previously: “Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.”


30What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” 33As it is written:



2 Peter 2:5-9

6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8(for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men.



Jude 7

7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.



Nowhere is there any reference to (even obliquely) to homosexuality? And considering the numerous references to the “wickedness” of Sodom it is highly unlikely that the wickedness would not be placed in a homosexual context if that was the understanding of it. The most telling passage Matt10:14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. 15I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the Day of Judgment than for that town. Even more striking is a passage in Judges 19:22

Judg 19:13-30

13And he said unto his servant, Come, and let us draw near to one of these places to lodge all night, in Gibeah, or in Ramah.

14And they passed on and went their way; and the sun went down upon them when they were by Gibeah, which belongeth to Benjamin.

15And they turned aside thither, to go in and to lodge in Gibeah: and when he went in, he sat him down in a street of the city: for there was no man that took them into his house to lodging.

16And, behold, there came an old man from his work out of the field at even, which was also of mount Ephraim; and he sojourned in Gibeah: but the men of the place were Benjamites.

17And when he had lifted up his eyes, he saw a wayfaring man in the street of the city: and the old man said, Whither goest thou? and whence comest thou?

18And he said unto him, We are passing from Bethlehemjudah toward the side of mount Ephraim; from thence am I: and I went to Bethlehemjudah, but I am now going to the house of the LORD; and there is no man that receiveth me to house.

19Yet there is both straw and provender for our asses; and there is bread and wine also for me, and for thy handmaid, and for the young man which is with thy servants: there is no want of any thing.

20And the old man said, Peace be with thee; howsoever let all thy wants lie upon me; only lodge not in the street.

21So he brought him into his house, and gave provender unto the asses: and they washed their feet, and did eat and drink.

22Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him.

23And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly.

24Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing.

25But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go.

26Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man's house where her lord was, till it was light.

27And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold.

28And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place.

29And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel.



Hospitality was taken very seriously; both Lot and the “old man” of judges who were both foreign residents violate the custom of the city by entertaining unknown guests in the city. At night with out the permission of the elders. Sodom was already out side of God’s good graces and the angels were there on a fact-finding mission. The lack of hospitality could have been the deciding factor. Jesus words in Matt 10:14 would seem to bear this out. Moreover, it is anachronistic to imagine that the sexual preoccupations of later ages were major issues in such Old Testament stories as that of Sodom. The parallel story in Joshua 6, is eloquent testimony to the paramount importance of hospitality in relation to sexual offenses: the city of Jericho, like Sodom, was completely destroyed by the Lord, and the one person spared was a prostitute though prostitution is prohibited in both Leviticus (19:29) and Deuteronomy (23: 17) because she offered hospitality to the messengers of Joshua. Some readers may have difficulty imagining that a breach of hospitality could be so serious an offense as to warrant the destruction of a city.

According to Genesis, of course, the Lord was already inclined to punish the Sodomites before the angels arrived there (which is why they were sent). It should be remembered, moreover, that in the ancient world inns were rare outside of urban centers, and travelers were dependent on the hospitality and goodwill of strangers not just for comfort but for physical survival. Ethical codes almost invariably enjoined hospitality on their adherents as a sacred obligation.

Stories of divine testing of human piety by dispatching beggars or way farers to demand the sacred right of hospitality are a commonplace in the folklore of many cultures and occur elsewhere in the Old Testament as well (e.g., immediately before the Sodom story in Gen. I8; cf. Deut. 93:3-4

“An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord: even to their tenth generation they shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord for ever: because they met you not with bread and water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt ). In nearly all such stories evil persons appear either as neighbors or other townsfolk who do not fulfill their obligation and are punished, violently or by exclusion from some divine benefice, while the solitary upright family is rewarded with a gift or a prophecy of misfortunes to come. Genesis 19 obviously belongs in this context.  

Part 2  

The only place in the Old Testament where homosexual acts per se are mentioned is Leviticus:

 Lev 18:22 and 20:13

22Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

Lev 20:13

13If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.


tow‘ ebah (to-ay-baw’); or to‘ ebah (to-ay-baw’); feminine active participle of; properly, something disgusting (morally), i.e. (as noun) an abhorrence; especially idolatry or (concretely) an idol:  

The Hebrew word “ tow‘ebah “ here translated “abomination,” does not usually signify something intrinsically evil, like rape or theft (discussed elsewhere in Leviticus), but something which is ritually unclean for Jews, like eating pork or engaging in intercourse during menstruation, both of which are prohibited in these same chapters. It is used throughout the Old Testament to designate those Jewish sins which involve ethnic contamination or idolatry and very frequently occurs as part of the stock phrase “toevah ha-goyim,” “the uncleanness of the Gentiles” 2 Kings

Isa 44:19

19And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?


Ezek 7:20

20As for the beauty of his ornament, he set it in majesty: but they made the images of their abominations and of their detestable things therein: therefore have I set it far from them.


Ezek 16:36

36Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thy filthiness was poured out, and thy nakedness discovered through thy whoredoms with thy lovers, and with all the idols of thy abominations, and by the blood of thy children, which thou didst give unto them;


Jer 16:18

18And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double; because they have defiled my land, they have filled mine inheritance with the carcasses of their detestable and abominable things.


Deut 7:25-26

25The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the LORD thy God.

26Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing.



3He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites.


For example, in condemnations of temple prostitution involving idolatry, “ tow‘ebah “ is employed.

qadesh (kaw-dashe’); from; a (quasi) sacred person, i.e. (technically) a (male) devotee

(by prostitution) to licentious idolatry:  

1 Kings 14:23-24

24There were even male shrine prostitutes in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites.


While in prohibitions of prostitution in general a different word, “ zanah,” appears  

zanah (zaw-naw’); a primitive root [highly-fed and therefore wanton]; to commit adultery (usually of the female, and less often of simple fornication, rarely of involuntary ravishment); figuratively, to commit idolatry (the Jewish people being regarded as the spouse of Jehovah):  

Lev 19:29

29”‘Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness.


Often “ tow‘ebah “ specifically means “idol,” and its connection with idolatry is apparent   even within the context of the passages regarding homosexual acts. Leviticus ‘18 is specifically designed to distinguish the Jews from the pagans among whom they had been living, or would live, as its opening remarks make clear”.   After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I shall bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances”. And the prohibition of homosexual acts follows immediately upon a prohibition of idolatrous sexuality (also “ tow‘ebah“):

“And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God”.  

Chapter 20 begins with a prohibition of sexual idolatry almost identical with this, and like 18, its manifest, (and stated: 20: 3-4) purpose is to elaborate a system of ritual “cleanliness” whereby the Jews will be distinguished from neighboring peoples. Although both chapters also contain prohibitions against incest and adultery, which might seem to stem from moral absolutes, their function in the context of Leviticus 18 and 20 seems to be as symbols of Jewish distinctiveness.

The argument that the invocation of the death penalty for the acts in question is significant of their enormity is ethnocentric. Jewish law is based on a different system. Our view presupposes that the relation of the penalty to severity of the crime in OT strictures may be determined with sufficient consistency to outweigh the obvious import of the distinction between tow‘ebah and other sorts of crimes. The tradition of Jewish critical explanation of text argues against this: the Mishnah generally ignores the occurrence or nonoccurrence of specific penalties in the OT and comments on the gravity of offenses according to their similarity to other forbidden activities. Thus incest, bestiality, blasphemy, soothsaying, violation of the Sabbath laws, intercourse with a betrothed virgin, cursing one’s parents, sorcery, and filial disobedience are all listed in the Talmud, Sanhedrin as deserving the death penalty, although only two or three specifically incur such punishment in the OT. Obviously the Jewish commentary did not regard the stated punishment (or lack thereof) as an index of moral gravity. Although Philo, and other Hellenized Jews regarded homosexual acts as singularly reprehensible, the general exegetical tradition is much better exemplified by the Mishnah’s attitude, which regarded male homosexuality as punishable along with all other idolatrous or ritually impure behavior.  And by such later authorities as Maimonides, who specifically and repeatedly equated homosexual acts with matters like the hybridization of cattle, which had long since become morally indifferent in the Christian tradition.

This was certainly the interpretation given them by later Jewish commentaries, for example, that of Maimonides.  As moral imperatives the same matters are taken up elsewhere in the Old Testament (e.g., in Exod.20 or Deut. 4 and l0) without the ritualistic concerns which appear to underlie these chapters, . It might also be observed that there is considerable room for doubt about precisely what is being prohibited. The Hebrew reads literally, “You shall not sleep the sleep of a woman with a man.” Jewish moralists have debated for a millennium about exactly what constitutes “the sleep of a woman” and who is technically a “man”: see, e.g., in theTalmud, Sanhedrin 7.4.53A; and Maimonides’ commentary in the Code 5.I-~4.

Moreover, since the actions of the kadesh were specifically labeled as tow‘ebah (e.g., in 1 Kings I4:24), one might well infer that the condemnations in Leviticus were in fact aimed at curbing temple prostitution in particular rather than homosexual behavior in general. The distinction between intrinsic wrong and ritual impurity is even more finely drawn by the Greek translation, which distinguishes in “ tow‘ebah “ itself the separate categories of violations of law or justice (avouia) and infringements of ritual purity or monotheistic worship (Boeyua). [ this is as close as I can get to the Hebrew]  The Levitical proscriptions of homosexual behavior fall in the latter category? In the Greek, then, the Levitical enactments against homosexual behavior characterize it unequivocally as ceremonially unclean rather than inherently evil. This was not lost on Greek-speaking theologians, many of whom considered that such behavior had been forbidden the Jews as part of their distinctive ethical heritage or because it was associated with idolatry, not as part of the law regarding sexuality and marriage, which was thought to be of wider application. The irrelevance of the verses was further emphasized by the teaching of both Jesus and Paul that under the new dispensation it was not the physical violation of Levitical precepts which constituted “abomination” but the interior infidelity of the soul. Even where such subtleties were not well understood, however, the Levitical proscriptions were not likely to have much effect on early Christian morality. Within a few generations of the first disciples, the majority of converts to Christianity were not Jews, and their attitude toward Jewish law was to say the least ambivalent. Most Christians regarded the Old Testament as an elaborate metaphor for Christian revelation; extremely few considered it morally binding in particular details. Romans and Greeks found Jewish dietary customs distasteful and squalid and had so profound an aversion to circumcision; the cornerstone of Mosaic law, that large and often bloody conflicts resulted from their efforts to eliminate it. It would have been difficult to justify the imposition of only those portions of Leviticus which supported personal prejudices,  and even without circumcision it is difficult to imagine the wholesale adoption by the Greco-Roman world of Levitical laws which prohibited the consumption of pork, shellfish, rabbit—all staples of Mediterranean diet—or of meats containing blood or fat. Thorough reaping and gleaning of fields, hybridization, clothing of more than one type of fabric, cutting of the beard or hair, all were condemned under Jewish law, and all were integral parts of life under the Empire. 

Viewed in light of modern taboos on the subject, the prohibition of homosexual relations may seem to have been of a different order: to those conditioned by social prejudice to regard homosexual behavior as uniquely enormous.  The Levitical comments on this subject may seem to be of far greater weight, than the other prohibitions surrounding them. But the ancient world knew no such hostility to homosexuality. The Old Testament strictures against same-sex behavior would have seemed to most Roman citizens as arbitrary as the prohibition of cutting the beard, and they would have had no reason to assume that it should receive any more attention than the latter.

In fact non-Jewish converts to Christianity found most of the provisions of Jewish law extremely burdensome, if not intolerable, and a fierce dispute racked the early church over whether Christians should be bound by it or not. The issue was finally resolved at the Council of Jerusalem (ca. A.D.49; )  

Acts 15

15:1Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”

 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.

3 The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the brothers very glad. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.

5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.”6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”


After long and bitter debate within the highest ranks of the Christian community, it was decided that,  pagan converts to the Christian faith would not be bound by any requirements of the Mosaic law, including circumcision, with four exceptions: they were to “abstain from pollutions of idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from fornication.” An apostolic letter was sent to Gentile Christians informing them of this decision and specifically censuring efforts of Jewish Christians to impose Jewish law on them beyond these matters.

Neither “pollutions of idols” nor “fornication” was or could be interpreted as referring to homosexuality. The former alluded to food, which had been sacrificed to idols and was afterward often served at meals in pagan homes, as is made clear in the apostolic letter itself (v. 29)

Acts 15:27-29

28It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.


It can be argued, moreover, that even the four exceptions listed in Acts were imposed upon new Christians not by way of moral judgment on the acts involved but simply to facilitate interaction between pagan-born and Jewish members of Christian communities,   (by encouraging the former to avoid behavior whose profanity might particularly offend Jews adhering to Levitical precepts).  This point of view is supported by scriptural evidence  (e.g., 1 Cor. 10:32), as well as by the almost complete silence on the issue of strangled meat and blood in subsequent Christian moral teaching a silence which would be perplexing if the church had considered the exceptions mentioned at the Council of Jerusalem to be binding moral judgments. 

The struggle over the issue of Gentile Christians and the Mosaic law was such a profound trauma for the early church that once it was resolved there was no thought of trying to bind new Christians, even converts from Judaism, by its proscriptions. Saint Paul urged Christians not to be “entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5: 1-2) or to give “heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth,” for “unto the pure all things are pure” (Titus 1: 14-I5). In fact he went so far as to assert that “if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing” (Gal. 5:2). Almost no early Christian writers appealed to Leviticus as authority against homosexual acts? A few patristic sources invoked Levitical precedents about eating certain animals.  

  Part 3  

Saint Paul, whose commitment to Jewish law had taken up most of his life, never suggested that there was any historical or legal reason to oppose homosexual behavior: if he did in fact object to it, it was purely on the basis of functional, contemporary moral standards. There are three passages in the writings of Paul which have been supposed to deal with homosexual relations. Two words in I Corinthians 6:9 and one in 1Timothy 1: 10,  have been taken at least since the early twentieth century To indicate that “homosexuals” will be excluded from the kingdom of heaven?

The first of the two, “malakos” (basically, “soft”), is an extremely common Greek word; it occurs elsewhere in the New Testament and in patristic writings with senses as varied as “liquid,” cowardly,” “refined,” “weak willed,” “delicate,” “gentle,” and “debauched.” Dio Chrysostom, e.g., applies it to the demoralizing effect wrongly presumed to attend learning (66.25); in Venius Valens (II3.22) it refers to general licentiousness; Epictetus, a contemporary of Paul, used it to describe those too “softheaded” to absorb true philosophy (Discourses 3.9). In a specifically  moral context it very frequently means “licentious,” “loose,” or “wanting in self-control.” Note that Aristotle explains exactly what he understands to be the moral significance;

Vicomachean Ethics 7-4.4--“ unrestraint” in respect to bodily pleasures, a moral defect hardly peculiar to gay people in the eyes of Aristotle or anyone else in the ancient world At a broad level, it might be translated as either “unrestrained” or “wanton,” but to assume that either of these concepts necessarily applies to gay people is wholly gratuitous. The word is never used in Greek to designate gay people as a group or even in reference to homosexual acts generically, and it often occurs in writings contemporary with the Pauline epistles in reference to heterosexual persons or activity.

What is more to the point, the unanimous tradition of the church through the Reformation, and of Catholicism until well into the twentieth century, has been that this word applied to masturbation. This was the interpretation not only of native Greek speakers in the early Middle Ages but of the very theologians who most contributed to the stigmatization of homosexuality? No new textual data effected the twentieth-century change in translation of this word: only a shift in popular morality. Since few people any longer regard masturbation as the sort of activity, which would preclude entrance to heaven, the condemnation has simply been transferred to a group still so widely despised that their exclusion does not trouble translators or theologians. 

The second word, “arsenokoites” is quite rare, and its application to homosexuality in particular is more understandable. Arsenokoite is a word that appears only THREE times in all ancient Greek texts.  Here, in a companion list of sins in 1 Timothty 1:10, and by a later Greek Father who was commenting upon 1 Corinthians 6:9.  This word appears to be a made up word by Paul who stuck together two other Greek words, “Arsen” - male and “Koitos”-sexual intercourse.”  As you can see, the term could either then mean “men who have sex” or “those men who have sex with men The best evidence, however, suggests very strongly that it did not connote homosexuality to Paul or his contemporaries but meant “male prostitute” until well into the fourth century, after which it became confused with a variety of words for disapproved sexual activity and was often equated with homosexuality.

Part 4

Rom 1:26-27

26For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:27And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.


It is sometimes argued that the significance of the passage lies in its connection with idolatry: i.e., that Paul censures the sexual behavior of the Romans because he associates such behavior with orgiastic pagan rites in honor of false gods. This might seem to be suggested by the Old Testament condemnations of temple prostitution. Paul may have been familiar with temple prostitution, both homosexual and heterosexual.

 Under closer examination, however, this argument proves to be inadequate. First of all, there is no reason to believe that homosexual temple prostitution was more prevalent than heterosexual or that Paul, had he been addressing himself to such practices, would have limited his comments to the former. Second, it is clear that the sexual behavior itself is objectionable to Paul, not merely its associations. Third, and possibly most important, Paul is not describing cold-blooded, dispassionate acts performed in the interest of ritual or ceremony: he states very clearly that the parties involved “burned in their lust one toward another. It is unreasonable to infer from the passage that there was any motive for the behavior other than sexual desire. What is even more important, the persons Paul condemns are not homosexual: what he denigrates are homosexual acts committed by apparently heterosexual persons. The whole point of Romans I, in fact, is to stigmatize persons who have rejected their calling, gotten off the true path they were once on. It would completely undermine the thrust of the argument if the persons in question were not “naturally” inclined to the opposite sex in the same way they were “naturally” inclined to monotheism. 

What caused the Romans to sin was not that they lacked what Paul considered proper inclinations but that they had them: This aspect of the verses, overlooked by modern scholarship, did not escape the attention of early Christian writers. Noting that Paul carefully characterized the persons in question as having abandoned the “natural use,” Saint John Chrysostom commented that Paul thus deprives them of any excuse. observing of their women that they “did change the natural use.” No one can claim, he points out, that she came to this because she was precluded from lawful intercourse or that because she was unable to satisfy her desire she fell into this monstrous depravity. Only those possessing something can change it. Again, he points out the same thing about the men, in a different way, saying they “left the natural use of the woman.” Likewise he casts aside with these words every excuse, charging that they not only had [legitimate] enjoyment and abandoned it, going after a different one, but that spurning the natural they pursued the unnatural?

Although the idea that homosexuality represented a congenital physical characteristic was  widespread in the Hellenistic world, and undoubtedly well known to Chrysostom, it is not clear that Paul distinguished in his thoughts or writings between gay persons,  (in the sense of permanent sexual preference) and heterosexuals who simply engaged in periodic homosexual behavior. It is in fact unlikely that many Jews of his day recognized such a distinction, but it is quite apparent that whether or not he was aware of their existence, Paul did not discuss gay persons but only homosexual acts committed by heterosexual persons. Plato and Aristotle had both suggested variations on this idea, and it was a commonplace of Roman medicine. There is, however, no clear condemnation of homosexual acts in the verses in question. The expression “against nature” is the standard English equivalent of Paul’s Greek phrase

para (par-ah’); a primary preposition; properly, near; i.e. (with genitive case) from beside (literally or figuratively), (with dative case) at (or in) the vicinity of (objectively or subjectively), (with accusative case) to the proximity with (local [especially beyond or opposed to] or causal [on account of]:

phusis (foo’-sis); from ; growth (by germination or expansion), i.e. (by implication) natural production (lineal descent); by extension, a genus or sort; figuratively, native disposition, constitution or usage: Which was first used in this context by Plato. Its original sense has been almost wholly obscured by 2,000 years of repetition in stock phrases and by linguistic drift. The concept of “natural law” was not fully developed until more than a millennium after Paul’s death, and it is anachronistic to read it into his words. For Paul, “nature” was not a question of universal law or truth but, rather, a matter of the character of some person or group of persons, a character which was largely ethnic and entirely human: Jews are Jews “by nature,” just as Gentiles are Gentiles “by nature.” “Nature” is not a moral force for Paul: men may be evil or good “by nature,” depending on their own disposition? A possessive is always understood with “nature”. “Nature” in Romans 1:26, then, should be understood as the personal nature of the pagans in question. “Against” is, moreover, a somewhat misleading translation of the preposition “para.” In New Testament usage “para” connotes not “in opposition to”, but, rather, “more than,” “in excess of”; immediately before the passage in question, for example, what the King James renders as “more than” (the creator) is the same preposition. 

Paul believed that the Gentiles knew of the truth of God but rejected it and likewise rejected their true “nature” as regarded their sexual appetites, going beyond what was “natural” for them and what was approved for the Jews.

It cannot be inferred from this that Paul considered mere homoerotic attraction or practice morally reprehensible, since the passage strongly implies that he was not discussing persons who were by inclination gay and since he carefully observed, in regard to both the women and the men, that they changed or abandoned the “natural use” to engage in homosexual activities.



Last modified: 12/24/13