This article was published on December 29th, 2016
There is an ageing rhetoric that homosexuality is wrong and expressly forbidden because it says so in the bible. The same bit where it also says its wrong to cut your hair, wear blended fabrics, and eat shellfish or hoofed animals. But in reality, how much of religious homophobia is actually biblically justifiable, and what exactly does the bible say about homosexuality? Essentially there are seven passages that are used to refer to homosexuality in the bible, which is significantly less than the impressive 250 on wealth.
In the Old Testament there are two passages that refer to homosexuality (Genesis 19:1-11, Judges 19:16-30) as are part of a wider narrative, so they are included in a story rather than comprise outward biblical instruction. This really leaves them open to broad interpretation. What’s interesting about them is that, morally, the focus of both of these narrative are overwhelmingly about hospitality and justice rather than homosexuality. They deal with the threat of homosexual rape but there is no outward condemnation of it.
The most famous passages are in those found in Leviticus;
“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (18:22)”
“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them” (20:13)”
On the face of it, these would seem to hold a fairly clear message; however, digging deeper and the same passages also forbids other things Christians do today including charging interest on loans, eating pork, wearing make up and wearing mixed blend fabrics. If Christianity can ignore these rules, why then are the anti-homosexuality ones held in such high regard? Taking things further, the laws were created at a time when the context was different and so taking them out of context makes little to no sense. For example at a time when sex was supposed to be only procreative, not for pleasure, so semen outside of the body and that purpose was considered unclean (Genesis 38). If anyone is to take these rules seriously they should cease to have sex for any purpose other than pure procreation, never masturbate and live their lives based on the other 613 restrictive rules found in Leviticus.
The New Testament holds the final three, Romans 1:18-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and 1 Timothy 1:8-11.
The speculation of the homosexuality sentiments in both Corinthians 6:9-10 and Timothy 1:8-11 are simple to understand when you understand the difficulty of translations. The problem with creating accurate translations is that words and phrases can be steeped in contextual cultural inference and meaning. For example, the Danish word ‘Hygge’ is used to describe a whole cultural concept of atmosphere, indulgence, togetherness and social behaviours encompassing lifestyle, design and cultural aspects. It is a big word with a lot of meaning; translated into English it means ‘cosy’ and nothing more. Translations can lose a lot of their original meaning and cause misconceptions, especially over time when contexts change. Scholars have long since argued over the mistranslation and original intention of the words in these passages that many have come to believe refer to homosexuality so it’s highly possible that homosexuality isn’t even referred to at all in either of these passages.
Finally, in Romans 1:18-32, there is the cultural context and the core moral of the passage. Although condemning homosexual relations, it is likely it was referring to the practice, which was common at the time, of married adult males having sex with adolescent boys. Thus this could be interpreted as condemning pedophilia and adultery as immoral practices rather than homosexuality.
Nowhere in the bible does the issue of committed, loving, consensual relationships between homosexual partners arise, nor does the question of same sex marriage. Faith and biblical interpretations are personal and something to come to terms with individually, but don’t let those who shout the loudest scare off religion because of sexual and gender orientation. A true church is open to everyone.