By Jack Dixon, firstname.lastname@example.org
DEDICATION: For Jay, my incredibly wonderful boifriend, who has seen me through the worst times of my life and never wavered. His constant caring, love, and understanding are my support; his faith is a cornerstone in my foundation. I could never lose my faith in him. This paper is also for his mother, who asked me to explain to her how she could be sure Jay is safe from "hellfire".
Please understand that I am a sola scriptura Christian. I believe that the Bible alone is our guide and resource to better know the Trinitarian God, and that the Bible really does explain itself, revealing all we need to know about our Creator. I have never, ever twisted what the Bible says to suit my own personal agenda, for doing so would squelch any growth in Him and would cut off the wonderful Spiritual Gifts He has given me.
I was taught that God says that a man that lay with a man or a woman who lay with a woman will surely die and that they are an abomination unto Him. What I learned from reading the Scriptures more carefully, more prayerfully, and even in their original languages, is that this teaching is simply wrong.
Let me explain what the Bible really says.
First, we must agree on a few basic rules that are common to most Protestant churches:
1. The Scripture must be taken and interpreted line upon line, precept upon precept. This is to say that no single verse stands entirely on its own, but rather is fortified by its surrounding text and by other Scripture within the Bible. Taking any verse out of its context, without considering its surrounding text and supporting Scripture, only twists the meaning of the verse.
2. The Bible is infallible as it was written. This does not preclude mistranslation of ancient languages. The original language keeps the message intact, but human translators, being human, sometimes err. Though many denominations hate to admit this, I will prove that this is a definite problem.
3. We are called to reason together (Is 1:18).
That said, let's look at the common passages that people often consider to be those which condemn homosexuality.
First there is Sodom and Gomorrah, which is a classically held Scripture used most frequently to "prove" how God hates homosexuality. It is a passage that I contend is most often misunderstood. But I will let the Bible interpret itself. It is written in Ezekiel 16:49,50:
Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.
The question I know you will ask is, "What is this about abomination?" Indeed, what is it? Let's look at the account of Sodom again:
The word rendered here as "abomination" comes from tow'ebah (in Strong's, it's # 8441), and is said in Strong's to mean "idolatry" or "idolaters". In the Hebrew it is very clear that it does not mean "homosexuality".
In Luke 10:3-12, Jesus talks to his disciples about what to do if they are not greeted with hospitality, and tells what the consequence will be for such towns. In verse 12, Christ says, "But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable [merciful] in that day for Sodom, than for that city." He said this after a full missive on inhospitality, so we must take verse 12 in that context.
You may also look particularly at Genesis 19:4-5, which reads:
But before they [the men in the house and the angels] lay down [to sleep], the men [Strong's #582, Hebrew word 'enowsh] of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both young and old, all the people from every quarter:
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 [Strong's # 3045, Hebrew yada] them.
The Hebrew word 'enowsh is most accurately translated as mortals, and includes all genders and all ages. Even in the context provided in the story, it is clear in the Hebrew that it is the majority of the town population, male and female, that is represented here.
The Hebrew word yada has no sexual context, and means to become acquainted with socially. By no means is yada translated elsewhere with a sexual context, either. If sexual interaction were intended, the word shakab (Strong's # 7901) would be used instead, which means to know sexually. It is fascinating to note on the side that the NIV mistranslates yada here as "we want to have sex with them".
That said, the notion that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for homosexuality does not hold up. The Hebrew is clear, and nowhere is homosexuality made an issue.
Of very interesting note is that historically it is the Roman Catholic Church that is guilty of the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the Middle Ages, and even after, the Church was always full of riches, with gold and rich foods, and yet allowed thousands upon thousands of its own subjects to starve and be subjected to slavery as paupers in the papal reign. To escape being exposed for the hypocrite it was, the Roman Catholic Church very likely chose to mistranslate and misconstrue the truth of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to escape the wrath of the people. What better scapegoats than its own abundance of homosexual priests? By pinning Sodom and Gomorrah on this population, the Roman Catholic Church blackmailed its own priesthood into silence, threatening excommunication if anyone spoke against her.
In Leviticus 18:22 it is written, "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." (NIV) In and of itself, it seems very clear. But look at the surrounding context, and something more comes to bear on this verse. Leviticus 18:6-18 tackle having sexual relations with relatives. Verse 19 says a man shall not have sexual relations with a woman during the "uncleanness of her monthly period". (How many of today's Christians actually obey this?) Verse 20 condemns having sexual relations with another man's wife.
Then verse 21 changes gears a bit and begins a discourse on sexual relations that are associated with Molech's worship. Molech, like many false gods of the day, had temple prostitutes, and Molech's followers believed that having sex of ANY kind in the temple would please Molech and increase the fertility of themselves, their spouses, their livestock, and their fields. Verse 21 mentions the sacrifice of children to Molech. Verse 22 should more accurately read "Do not have sex with the male temple prostitutes," which would continue the admonition in idolatry. In fact, the entire Chapter is about idolatry. Consider Chapters 17 and 19, which both speak of idolatry. Why would a missive about sex be inserted nonsensically in between two chapters on idolatry unless it also is meant to address idolatry? If we look at Chapter 18 as a whole, and verse 22 as part of that whole, then that verse must speak of idolatry and false worship in some manner, or else it is a line and precept out of place. Therefore, (come, let us reason together!), it is not a blanket condemnation of homosexuality, but rather a condemnation of the sexual promiscuity of the many idol-worshipping sects in the land the Israelites were coming into.
If we hold to Leviticus' statements as being a blanket condemnation of homosexuality, do we then also obey the rest of the old law? It is written: For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it [all of the law]. (James 2:10). So a person who adheres to the law must adhere to the whole law, which is contained in the whole of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. Those three books contain the core of God's laws.
So let's look at some of those laws:
If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married. (Deut. 24:5)
Does ANYONE keep this law? Could you manage a whole year without a paycheck? How would the military react in the middle of a war when a soldier comes up to his commander and says, "Sorry, sir, but my wife is pregnant and the book of Deuteronomy demands that I go home for a whole year now"? Any man whose wife becomes pregnant is here told that he must stay home for a year without working or else he is guilty of breaking the law!
Do not hate your brother in your heart. (Lev. 19:17)
Don't hate your siblings, even while growing up, or else you have broken the entirety of the law.
Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. (Lev 19:27)
Don't shave! Ever!
Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD. (Lev 19:32)
If you do not stand in the presence of your elders, or get snippy with someone older than you, you have broken the law.
No one born of a forbidden marriage nor any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation. (Deut. 23:2)
So no one who has been born out of wedlock or born from a marriage that was not approved of may enter a church, nor may any of his or her descendants for ten whole generations after. Who checks this? Who would know? How could this one EVER be kept?
This is where it becomes more interesting:
If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or mother, and his blood will be on his own head. If a man commits adultery with another man's wife -- with the wife of his neighbor -- both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death. (Lev. 20:9-10)
Anyone who talks back to their parents must be killed for it according to the law!
Anyone caught in adultery must be put to death also! It is in the law!
But in John 8:3-11 we see Jesus show what law we are truly under:
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Him.
But Jesus bent over and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
"No one, sir," she said.
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
In this Jesus shows us that the law saves no one; all are guilty of breaking the law of Moses. The fact of the matter is simple: no where does Christ Himself say anything against homosexuality. He reiterates nine of the Ten Commandments, lifting the Sabbath commandment, as it had become a yoke upon the people. Consider Matthew 22:36-40:
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus replied, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
So the sum of the law is in loving God and each other. How does this balance with the Mosaic law we looked at only a page back? Again, according to James, if we break even one law under the Mosaic laws, we break them all.
Another commonly used Scripture that is often mistreated to condemn homosexuality comes from Romans 1:26-27:
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 one for another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. (NIV)
Again, on its surface, it seems very straight-forward, but notice how this fragment begins: "Because of this..." Because of what? This passage really begins with Romans 1:18.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness...
It goes on in verses 22 and 23:
Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
This passage, taken in context and read for what it says ("exchanged the glory of... God for images made to look like mortal man... and animals...") is clearly about idolatry and pagan worship. To strengthen this point of view, the Scriptures go on to say:
They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator... (Romans 1:25)
Then it goes on regarding the passage we first looked at, Romans 1:26-27). Taken in context, and translated properly, this passage is clearly about the pagan practices surrounding fertility worship and the sexual acts associated with that worship, performed with the priest of that false god, a "created" god. (Romans 1:25) There is simply no other accurate way to construe this passage.
Now that we have covered the major passages commonly misinterpreted as condemning homosexuality, let's look at what the Bible says about eunuchs. Before doing so, we must define the term eunuch so that we are in agreement as to what a eunuch is.
According to Thayer (New Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1981), 260), a eunuch is not only someone who has been castrated, but is also "one naturally incapacitated, either for marriage or for begetting children." Thayer further defines the word eunuch as "one who abstains from marriage". In his book Openly Gay, Openly Christian (San Francisco, CA: Leyland Publications, 1999), Reverend Samuel Kader writes:
By no means did the term eunuch have to be merely a castrated male. It was a broad term, and since a chamberlain for a harem could be promoted, and was a person trusted with the king's intimate things, the term often got generalized to mean an official in the court. Ancient Judah's king Hezekiah was told his sons would be eunuchs in Babylon. He didn't think this was bad news. [2 Kings 20:16-19] He thinks this is good news. He apparently is not worried that the royal line will be ended. Eunuch here, in king Hezekiah's estimate, probably means his children will be officials in the court of the Babylonians."
To further clarify the term eunuch, we can look at what Jesus said of them:
The disciples said to him. "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry."
Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept t his word, but only those to whom it has been given..
"For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it." (Matthew 19:10-12)
In this context, Paul is therefore a eunuch, for he remained single and celibate so that he could fully concentrate on his mission for Christ, for the kingdom of heaven. Reverend Kader writes regarding Matthew 19:10-12:
"In this situation, Jesus and His disciples are discussing marriage and divorce, and the conditions under which it is permissible to divorce[...] But then Jesus goes on to say not everyone can receive His teaching on divorce and marriage, because not everyone can get married.
"His reasons for this are lumped under the category of being a eunuch. From the ensuing description it is obvious more people are eunuchs than castrated males. In the King James Version, Jesus says and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. No one was ever required to castrate themselves for the sake of getting into Heaven." (Ibid., pg 90)
Kader goes on to write:
So the Lord Himself has expanded the meaning of eunuch to include the unmarried for a variety of situations. Some were made this way by others. Some are born this way. They are unable to get married because they have no natural inclination to have sexual relations with a mate of the opposite sex because of sexual traumas (abuse, etc.) in their past. For some it is not an anticipated option. For others it is not an options at all. The hurt and scars are too deep. For whatever reason, and there are many, eunuch means anyone not likely to get heterosexually involved. At any rate, this list expanded by Jesus certainly includes gay people and others of either sex. (Ibid, pgs 91-92)
Understanding that gays fall into the eunuch definition given by Christ, let's look further at what Scripture says about eunuchs. Isaiah holds several prophetic scriptures for eunuchs:
Now that a clear and stable definition has been established for what a eunuch is, we can see clearly that homosexuals are, by God's Own definition, eunuchs. With that fact established, let's look further at what God Himself says about eunuchs and their place in Heaven.
Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the Lord say, "The Lord will surely exclude me from his people." And let not any eunuch complain, "I am only a dry tree." For this is what the Lord says: To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant-- to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off. And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship Him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant-- these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer, Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, The Sovereign Lord declares-- he who gathers the exiles of Israel:
I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered (Isaiah 56:3-8)
Eunuchs are foreigners to God's temple when this was penned, due to Deuteronomy 23:1 ("No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord."). Isaiah here marks an illustration of how the law of Moses cannot be kept by anyone, and how God Himself wipes away the bonds of the Mosaic Law through His love, mercy, and grace. The promise for eunuchs in this passage is not for all eunuchs, however, but only for those who will observe and uphold God's way through His Son Jesus Christ.
It is important to note that wherever the conditions of salvation are discussed, sexuality is never mentioned. (Acts 4:12, Acts 16:30-31, Romans 10:9, Ephesians 2:8-9, John 3:16-17)
It is therefore very clear that eunuchs, a population in which God Himself includes homosexuals, have a place in heaven, and are given "a name better than sons and daughters". It gets no better than that!
Consider what Christ says in Matthew 5:22...
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there remembers that thy brother hath ought against thee... (KJV)
The word to pay attention to here is Raca. According to Professor Halsall (http://www.bway.net/~has all/lgbh/lgbh-matt5.html), the word Raca is not the same as moros (fool), as it is sometimes mistranslated. According to Halsall, a renowned language scholar, the word Raca is common in many Semitic languages and loosely means soft, but with an effeminate connotation. The Akkadian word raq is used to indicate a woman's name or occupation, and its symbol in Akkadian derives from a Sumerian symbol for woman. It can be argued securely that Raca is an accusation of sissy or catamite.
This argument works better if the word moros is considered. The word can mean fool, but it also has the amply used connotation of sexual aggressor, or even homosexual aggressor. LSJ19 confirms this, although Johannssen makes much more of it. It could reasonably be argued then that Jesus' words here condemn those who abuse others about their homosexuality. (Ibid.)
If this is, in fact, Christ's intention, as it appears to be, then those who are critical of homosexuals are, in fact, to be criticized for their stand against them.
Now it is made clear. God made all people as they are innately. Sexuality is innate; the Salk Institute has proven this by mapping the sexuality gene. The Creator made genetics, and is therefore ultimately responsible for how each one of us turns out via those traits that are genetic. It is also very safe to say that God does not make junk, nor does He make people just so He can hate them. After all, God is Love. The real truth is that God not only loves His gay children just as much as He does His heterosexual children, but He has seen the persecution we must endure, and has set for us "a name better than sons and daughters" because of it when we walk with Jesus Christ.