|In biblical times, same-gender sexual interactions could take many forms.
1. kings of conquered tribes were sometimes raped by the invading army as the ultimate symbol of defeat and humiliation.
2. some non-Jewish tribes in the area had male prostitutes in their temples that may have engaged in same-sex activities; this horrified the ancient Israelites.
3. it is reasonable to assume that many loving gay and lesbian relationships existed, but these would normally have been conducted in secret.
Only the third type would have any similarity to today's gay and lesbian consentual, committed, loving relationships.
Many versions of the Bible exist in the English language. Each reflects the world view, beliefs and mind sets of its translators. Their personal biases distort their work. There is an additional complexity facing translators: today's society is very different from that of Biblical times. It is sometimes difficult to find a current English word that matches a Hebrew or Greek term.
Many words have been translated from the original Hebrew and Greek texts as "homosexual", "sodomite", "homosexuality". However, most (perhaps all) of the references bear no similarity to today's lesbian and gay partnerships.
By carefully reading the original texts and considering the societies in which they were written, one comes to surprising conclusions:
* The Bible has a lot to say about temple prostitution.
* It talks about being kind to strangers in a way that has been incorrectly interpreted as referring to homosexual acts
* It says almost nothing about homosexual feelings;
* It says nothing about sexual orientation. The writers of the Bible assumed that everyone was heterosexual (or "straight"); the concept of sexual orientation was not developed until the late 19th century.
The Bible does make occasional references to activities which have been translated as homosexuality:
* Genesis 19 describes how two angels visited Sodom and were welcomed into Lot's house. The men of the city gathered around the house and demanded that Lot send the visitors to the mob so that they might know the angels. [The Hebrew verb yada (to know) is ambiguous. It appears 943 times in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). In only about a dozen of these cases does it refers to sexual activity; it is not clear whether the mob wanted to rape the angels or to meet with them, and perhaps attack them physically. From the context, it is obvious that their mood was not friendly]. Lot refused, but offered his two virgin daughters to be heterosexually raped if that would appease the mob. The offer was declined. God decided to destroy the city because of the wickedness of its inhabitants. The angels urged Lot and his family to flee and to not look back. Unfortunately, Lot's wife looked the wrong way, so God killed her because of her curiosity.
God was apparently not critical of Lot for offering his two daughters to be raped. However, God was angry at the other inhabitants of the town. He destroyed Sodom with fire and brimstone (sulfur). He presumably killed all of the men in the mob, their wives and other adults, as well as children, infants, newborns, etc. It is unclear from these few verses whether God demolished the city because the citizens: were uncharitable and abusive to strangers wanted to rape people engaged in homosexual acts whether the punishment was for this single act involving Lot, or because of long lasting sinful behaviour
The Church has traditionally accepted the third explanation, and believed that the sexual activity was habitual. In fact, the term sodomy which means anal intercourse was derived from the name of the city, Sodom. But the first explanation is clearly the correct one. As recorded in Matthew 10:14-15 and Luke 10:7-16, Jesus implied that the sin of the people of Sodom was to be inhospitable to strangers. In Ezekeiel 16:48-50, God states clearly that he destroyed Sodom's sins because of their pride, their excess of food while the poor and needy suffered, and their worship of many idols; sexual activity is not even mentioned. Jude disagreed with God; he wrote that Sodom's sins were sexual in nature. Various biblical translations describe the sin as fornication, going after strange flesh, sexual immorality, perverted sensuality, homosexuality, lust of every kind, immoral acts and unnatural lust; you can take your pick.
[Note: God had already planned to destroy the city, and Abraham, Lot's uncle, was already trying to find Godly people in the city so that it might be spared. By the time that the incident at Lot's house had occurred, it was too late. God saw that there was no Godliness in the citizens of Sodom, and He doomed it to destruction.]
We are faced with the inescapable and rather amusing conclusion that the condemned activities in Sodom had nothing to do with sodomy. Leviticus 18:22 states: "Thou shall not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination." The term abomination (to'ebah) is a religious term, usually reserved for use against idolatry; it does not mean a moral evil. The verse seems to refer to temple prostitution, which was a common practice in the rest of the Middle East at that time. Qadesh referred to male religious prostitutes. (See the discussion of Deuteronomy below). Leviticus 20:13 states: "If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they should surely be put to death....". The passage is surrounded by prohibitions against incest, bestiality, adultery and intercourse during a woman's period. But this verse is the only one in the series which uses the religious term abomination; it seems also to be directed against temple prostitution.
These passages are part of the Jewish Holiness Code which also: permits polygamy prohibits sexual intercourse when a woman has her period, bans tattoos prohibits eating rare meat bans wearing clothes that are made from a blend of textiles prohibits cross-breeding livestock bans sowing a field with mixed seed prohibits eating pigs, rabbits, or some forms of seafood requires Saturday to be reserved as the Sabbath
Churches have abandoned the Holiness Code; it is no longer binding on modern-day Christians. They can wear tattoos, eat shrimp, wear polyester-cotton blends and engage in temple prostitution without violating this particular section of the Bible. Although this code is obsolete for Christians, many clergy still focus on those passages which deal with homosexuality. Deuteronomy 23:17 states (in the King James Version) "There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel." This is an "error" by the authors of the KJV. The word qadesh in the original text was mistranslated as sodomite. Quadesh means "holy one" and is here used to refer to a man who engages in ritual prostitution in the temple. There is little evidence that the prostitutes engaged in sexual activities with men. Other Bible translations use accurate terms such as shrine prostitute, temple prostitute, prostitute and cult prostitute. Judges 19 describes an event much like that at Sodom. This time, an unnamed Levite visited the town of Gibeah with his slaves and concubine. He met an old farmer and was made welcome. A gang of men appeared and demanded that the old man send out the Levite that they might homosexually rape or assault him. (It is again not clear what the precise meaning of the verb to know was). The old man argued that they should not abuse the visitor. He offered to give them both the Levite's concubine and his own virgin daughter to be heterosexually raped. The mob accepted the former, raped her all night and finally killed her. The Levite sliced up her body into 12 pieces and sent one to each of the tribes of Israel. This triggered a war between the inhabitants of Gibeah and the Israelites during which tens of thousands died. There was no condemnation against the Levite for sacrificing his concubine, or for committing an indignity to a body. Judges 20:5 emphasizes that the aim of the mob was to kill the stranger - the ultimate act of inhospitality. It appears that these passages condemn abusive treatment of visitors. If they actually refer to homosexual activity, then they condemn homosexual rape; they have nothing at all to say about consentual homosexual relationships. I Kings 14:24 and 15:12 again refer to temple prostitution. The original word qadesh is mistranslated as sodomite (homosexual) in the King James Version, but as male prostitute, male cult prostitutes, and male shrine prostitutes in more accurate versions. As mentioned before, there is little evidence that homosexuality was involved. Again, the text has nothing to say about consentual homosexual relationships. Romans 1:26 and 27, according to most Biblical scholars, condemns all gay and lesbian activity. Paul criticizes sexual activity which is against a person's nature or disposition. But a minority of scholars interpret the passage differently: in Greek society of the time, homosexuality and bisexuality was regarded as a natural activity for some people. Thus Paul might have been criticizing heterosexuals who were engaged in homosexual activities against their nature. He might not be referring to homosexuals or bisexuals at all. The verses preceding 26 might indicate that he was referring to sexual acts associated with idol worship. The verse is too vague to be interpreted as a blanket prohibition of all same-sex activities. I Cor 6:9 Paul lists a many activities that will prevent people from inheriting the Kingdom of God. One has been variously translated as effeminate, homosexuals, or sexual perverts. The original Greek text reads malakoi arsenokoitai. The first word means soft; the meaning of the second word has been lost. It was once used to refer to a male temple prostitute (as in the verses from the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament described above). The early Church interpreted the phrase as referring to people of soft morals; i.e. unethical. From the time of Martin Luther, it was interpreted as referring to masturbation . More recently, it has been translated as referring to homosexuals . Each Translator seem to take whatever activity that their society particularly disapproves of and use it in this verse. 1 Tim 1:9 again refers to malakoi arsenokoitai which has been variously translated as homosexuals, sexual perverts etc. Again, the original meaning of the text as been lost. Jude 7 refers to the people of Sodom as "giving themselves over to fornication and going after strange flesh". Strange flesh has been variously translated as perverted sensuality, unnatural lust, lust of men for other men, and perversion. Again, it is unclear what is being referred to here. Some biblical scholars interpret this as referring to an ancient Jewish legend that the women of Sodom engaged in sexual intercourse with angels.
In summary: homosexual activity in the temple by male prostitutes is clearly prohibited by the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). homosexual activity in general may have been prohibited at the time bythe Holiness Code, but that code is no longer binding on Christians today. St. Paul considered at least some male and female homosexual acts to be forbidden, but it is unclear precisely which acts are included. He may have been referring to temple prostitution, or to people who are notinnately gay, lesbian or bisexual engaging in homosexual acts. One should note that Paul also condemned women preaching (1 Cor 14:34) orwearing gold or pearls (1 Tim 2:11). He also accepted and did notcondemn the institution of slavery. Some Christians feel that his writings are not a useful guide for ethics and morals in the 20th Century. Jesus made many hundreds of statements regarding belief and behaviour. However He never mentioned homosexuality. There are two Biblical same-sex relationships (one between two women, the other two men) reported in the Bible in a positive light. They appear to have progressed well beyond friendship. They were likely homosexual affairs, although not necessarily sexually active relationships: Ruth 1:16, 2:10-11 between Ruth and Naomi 1 Samuel 18:1-4, 1 Samuel 20:41-42 and 2 Samuel 1:25-26 betweenDavid and Jonathan. (Some translations of the Bible distort the original Hebrew text, particularly of 1 Samuel 20) It is the subject of endless debate whether St. Paul's prohibition of at least some homosexual acts was: for the people in the vicinity of the Mediterranean during the 1st Century CE, or for all people, forever.
One can argue that the ancient Israelites were surrounded by warlike tribes. Their fertility was very important if the group was to survive. The early Christian church was also surrounded by enemies. Homosexuals tend to have few children; thus their presence would be met with opposition. At the end of the 20th Century, conditions are the exact opposite; we are threatened by our excessive fertility. Perhaps Paul's criticism of homosexuality is no longer valid, like his various prohibitions against women's behaviour. God Loves Fags - 2nd August 2001