Hi everyone, how has your month been?
I have been really busy finishing up the school year and I haven't had a lot of time on my hands. Right now I'm writing this when I'm supposed to be writing an English paper on John Dryden. I seem to find just about anything to do to procrastinate. Oh well, it all gets done in the end.
To continue with last month's discussion on references to homosexuality in the Bible, I am going to continue with the New Testament this month. There are some things one should know about the New Testament which is important in order to understand the message of the book. It is the collection of Christian scripture, the only sacred scripture that is distinctly Christian. The Christian New Testament was not written to be a unified text. In this I mean that each text was intended to be read independent of each other and the message of each writer was not intended to be read in conjunction with another's. This is important because when this is realized one can see that there are in fact many different viewpoints represented in the New Testament writings. The only writer in the New Testament who speaks out specifically against homosexuality is Paul of Tarsus, or St. Paul.
In one case, Paul writes in a letter to Christians in Rome,
"Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another, Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion." Romans 1:26-27
This is one of the most difficult passages in the Bible as the true meaning of the text is not clear. It is clear that Paul is talking about the Romans in the passage. In the previous verses, 18-25, Paul describes the people as idol worshipers and people who have rejected God. It is clear that Paul is speaking about the Romans who followed in the traditional Roman religions. It seems that the connection to the unusual sexual practices seems here to only be in reference to the Romans. Roman culture was known for not considering homosexuality or bisexuality as being abnormal. It was not as open as the Greeks before them, but it was nonetheless more readily seen then, probably today. I believe that Paul is speaking about homosexuality here. There are some debates over the translation from the Greek though. It is apparent though that Paul is talking about something undesirable whatever it was originally supposed to mean.
Another passage occurs in another of Paul's letter, this time to a church in Corinth. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NRSV
"Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers-none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God."
The two words in question here are of course, male prostitute and sodomite. The two Greek words are malakos and arsenokoita. Malakos literally means one who is soft to the touch. Arsenokoita is a compound word between "a man" and "a bed" most likely meaning a homosexual though. It is interesting to note that Paul says that some who are in the Corinthian church used to be like this however now that they have accepted his message they no longer do these things.
I believe that Paul does speak out against homosexuality, at least how he knew of it in the ancient world. It is not surprising as Paul came from a very devout Jewish background and would have considered any practice like this to be unclean and not proper. It could be that Paul has a personal bias against homosexual practices and does not want them to occur in his churches. Paul would believe that the Christian God is the same one as he used to worship as a Jew and that God's commandments would not have changed. None of the other many New Testament writers mention this issue at all, and it could be that it was only of concern to Paul. We don't know for sure as there is very little evidence for either point of view in the New Testament. Any other scripture that could be used to condemn homosexuals I would consider to be invalid as it would be an obscure interpretation as the issue is not confronted specifically.
Now that I have finished going through these Biblical passages I would still like to know what issues are of concern to people who are reading this. I would specifically like to know, if you are religious, why you are so? and if you're not religious at all, why you're not. I'm sure that anyone can answer this question. It might be difficult, but do try. I await your responses and next month I will write to you why I believe in God and why I find religion to be an essential part of my life.
Until next month,