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Matthew Vines on "anti-gay" passages in the Bible


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Notablesquid posted this in the Bexrani thread (thank you -- you are a truly notable squid!).

I think it deserves its own thread -- heck, I think it deserves to be shouted from the rooftops.

I am sitting here in tears because it is so moving and so scholarly. And, keep in mind that I am an atheist who was raised a Jew, who really doesn't care about following the Bible.

But this young man's calm, organized exegesis, and his gentle but deep emotion, is so amazing that it both moved me to tears and gave me some real "aha!" insights into why "the Bible says being gay is bad" arguments are crap.

Lots of it I'd heard before, but never in such detail, from someone who really seems to know not only his Bible, but linguistic and historical context.

http://matthewvines.com/transcript

edited to put in link that has the video and transcript in one place.

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This was very moving, and so intelligent. Even though I think "because the Bible says so" is a crap argument, hopefully this will give some insight to what the Bible really says to people who feel that's important. Crazy how some people focus so much on six verses, when they ignore the thousands of others about helping the poor, or you know, all that stuff Jesus actually said that they don't do.

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I wish I had time to watch. I recently watched For the Bible Tells Me So on Netflix...yes, historical context matters! I hope HIS message is heard, but yanno...you can lead a fundie to correct exegesis...

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I read the transcript.

He makes the obvious argument that Sodom and Gomorrah was about hostile gang rape, and that Leviticus needs to be read in context as part of a list of ritual prohibitions, most of which are not considered to be sinful at all by Christians. I agree with that, and it's a valid argument for his audience.

On a personal level, though, I found his argument less helpful. He doesn't really challenge the reading of the prohibition in Leviticus, but just dismisses the idea that Leviticus has relevance today. I agree that the prohibition against men lying with men can and should be seen as just another ritual prohibition that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with morality and which shouldn't be treated any differently by society than eating bacon-wrapped shrimp. That said, his argument doesn't really offer any help to people who do follow the Leviticus prohibitions.

I've found that Rabbi Steven Greenberg has a different interpretation of Leviticus 18:22. It's certainly not the common, traditional interpretation, but it does make some sense, and it can offer those who observe Leviticus a way to reconcile same-sex relations with their religious observance. He states that:

“While the common understanding of the verse ‘Thou shall not lie with a male as one lies with a woman’ [Leviticus 18:22] has been taken to refer to both active and passive partners ... it would appear that the verse directly refers only to the active partner engulfing his penis in the body of another man. According to this analysis the verse prohibits one, and only one, sexual practice between men, namely, anal intercourse, and speaks specifically to the active partner. There is no mention of any other behavior that this verse would prohibit.â€[17] In Greenberg′s interpretation “the verse prohibits the kind of sex between men that is designed to effect the power and mastery of the penetrator. Sex for the conquest, for shoring up the ego, for selfaggrandizement, or worse, for the perverse pleasure of demeaning another man is prohibited,†and he adds that reading Leviticus 18:22 “as a law against sexual domination and appropriation ... offers gay people a way to reconnect to God, Torah, and the Jewish peopleâ€.[18]

All quotes are from his 2004 book "Wrestling with God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition".

I was also surprised that Vines didn't mention positive references to loving, although not explicitly sexual, relationships between persons of the same sex in the Bible. King David had a ton of wives, but he's a bit of a metrosexual who is beautiful and plays music and dances around. Prior to becoming king, there's a very close relationship between him and Jonathan, and clearly indicates a very committed, loving bond which includes embracing. Similarly, in the Book of Ruth, Ruth has a very loving, committed relationship with her mother-in-law Naomi.

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I read the transcript.

He makes the obvious argument that Sodom and Gomorrah was about hostile gang rape, and that Leviticus needs to be read in context as part of a list of ritual prohibitions, most of which are not considered to be sinful at all by Christians. I agree with that, and it's a valid argument for his audience.

On a personal level, though, I found his argument less helpful. He doesn't really challenge the reading of the prohibition in Leviticus, but just dismisses the idea that Leviticus has relevance today.

Of course, and I know you prefaced this by saying it isn't a helpful argument to you personally. He isn't talking to you or me, though, but to conservative Christians.

I think that's part of the reason I was surprised by the strength of my reaction to it. I think he's got some "gotcha" items I had not heard before (YMMV).

I agree that the prohibition against men lying with men can and should be seen as just another ritual prohibition that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with morality and which shouldn't be treated any differently by society than eating bacon-wrapped shrimp. That said, his argument doesn't really offer any help to people who do follow the Leviticus prohibitions.

True. His intended audience would be the people who say they are free from "the Law" simply by virtue of being Christians, and those who zero in on this "abomination," but happily eat pork and shrimp and wear poly-cotton blends.

Again, much of that I'd heard before, but some of his details seemed as if they'd be useful in one of those circular "you are not arguing with me, you are arguing with the Bible" debates.

I've found that Rabbi Steven Greenberg has a different interpretation of Leviticus 18:22. It's certainly not the common, traditional interpretation, but it does make some sense, and it can offer those who observe Leviticus a way to reconcile same-sex relations with their religious observance. He states that:

“While the common understanding of the verse ‘Thou shall not lie with a male as one lies with a woman’ [Leviticus 18:22] has been taken to refer to both active and passive partners ... it would appear that the verse directly refers only to the active partner engulfing his penis in the body of another man. According to this analysis the verse prohibits one, and only one, sexual practice between men, namely, anal intercourse, and speaks specifically to the active partner. There is no mention of any other behavior that this verse would prohibit.â€[17] In Greenberg′s interpretation “the verse prohibits the kind of sex between men that is designed to effect the power and mastery of the penetrator. Sex for the conquest, for shoring up the ego, for selfaggrandizement, or worse, for the perverse pleasure of demeaning another man is prohibited,†and he adds that reading Leviticus 18:22 “as a law against sexual domination and appropriation ... offers gay people a way to reconnect to God, Torah, and the Jewish peopleâ€.[18]

All quotes are from his 2004 book "Wrestling with God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition".

That's interesting -- I think it does tie in with what Vines said about the condemned activities being those of domination (humiliating an enemy, not a loving relationship).

And, it makes me even happier that I have no need to reconcile with Leviticus, since I think anything both adult parties consent to is just fine.

I was also surprised that Vines didn't mention positive references to loving, although not explicitly sexual, relationships between persons of the same sex in the Bible. King David had a ton of wives, but he's a bit of a metrosexual who is beautiful and plays music and dances around. Prior to becoming king, there's a very close relationship between him and Jonathan, and clearly indicates a very committed, loving bond which includes embracing. Similarly, in the Book of Ruth, Ruth has a very loving, committed relationship with her mother-in-law Naomi.

I can't speak for him, but my first thought is that he wanted to go into considerable detail about the specific verses that most anti-gay Christians cite at "proof," and left that out for length and possibly tone.

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I'm only part way through it, and I do admit to skimming it, but I think his arguments are rather weak (to conservative Christians. The only argument I present on the subject is "I don't give a damn what the bible says"). I don't think any conservative Christian is going to be swayed or even given pause to think about his "if you force me to be alone that means I have to go without the thing that God declared 'good': a helper" argument. Likewise, I'm not sure they would be convinced by the "Paul was only talking about people who turned away from heterosexuality and engaged in same-sex activities against their inborn nature" argument. I think both of these points hinge on the assumption that god made people gay as part of his plan, and I don't think conservative Christians believe that.

The part about not following much of what is in Leviticus was more persuasive, though.

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I'm only part way through it, and I do admit to skimming it, but I think his arguments are rather weak (to conservative Christians. The only argument I present on the subject is "I don't give a damn what the bible says"). I don't think any conservative Christian is going to be swayed or even given pause to think about his "if you force me to be alone that means I have to go without the thing that God declared 'good': a helper" argument. Likewise, I'm not sure they would be convinced by the "Paul was only talking about people who turned away from heterosexuality and engaged in same-sex activities against their inborn nature" argument. I think both of these points hinge on the assumption that god made people gay as part of his plan, and I don't think conservative Christians believe that.

It's a valid argument, but the counter-argument is that there are clear examples of people who are simply destined not to have a satisfying relationship, or who have been created with urges that don't seem to have any permissible outlet.

I am NOT saying that homosexuality is a mental illness or that it is socially harmful, which some other urges are.

I am saying, though, that there are people who have overwhelming urges to other things, which are harmful, and the "God made me this way so it must be good" argument falls flat there.

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... it both moved me to tears and gave me some real "aha!" insights into why "the Bible says being gay is bad" arguments are crap.

Yes, "the Bible says being gay is bad" arguments are crap, because even Biblically & scientifically literate conservative Christians would generally agree that the Bible does not state that. Rather they would say being gay is a temptation which is not inherently sinful, and that the sinful aspect is primarily gay lust and gay sex, as per a straight-forward reading of those 6 Bible passages.

... scholarly ...

Why do you reckon it's scholarly? Is it because he uses a big word here and there and speaks confidently? Many of the points he makes are done so by only giving one side of the story, eg citing obscure definitions of Greek words that most people are unfamiliar with, without noting that most Kione Greek experts disagree with him. Presenting one side but implying balance, does not seem scholarly to me.

Crazy how some people focus so much on six verses, when they ignore the thousands of others about helping the poor, or you know, all that stuff Jesus actually said that they don't do.

Maybe I havent read widely enough, but in my experience it's the gay theologians who focus on six verses, while others have a broader focus and refer to Adam and Eve, Christ and his bride etc etc. Jesus affirmed heterosexual relationships as the Christian standard in Matthew chapter 19, when he quoted "... a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife ..."

Google lists over a dozen critiques of the video, which are worth reading to obtain a more balanced perspective on the debate, eg http://stasisonline.wordpress.com/2012/ ... -marriage/ ‎

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Yes, "the Bible says being gay is bad" arguments are crap, because even Biblically & scientifically literate conservative Christians would generally agree that the Bible does not state that. Rather they would say being gay is a temptation which is not inherently sinful, and that the sinful aspect is primarily gay lust and gay sex, as per a straight-forward reading of those 6 Bible passages.

Why do you reckon it's scholarly? Is it because he uses a big word here and there and speaks confidently? Many of the points he makes are done so by only giving one side of the story, eg citing obscure definitions of Greek words that most people are unfamiliar with, without noting that most Kione Greek experts disagree with him. Presenting one side but implying balance, does not seem scholarly to me.

Maybe I havent read widely enough, but in my experience it's the gay theologians who focus on six verses, while others have a broader focus and refer to Adam and Eve, Christ and his bride etc etc. Jesus affirmed heterosexual relationships as the Christian standard in Matthew chapter 19, when he quoted "... a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife ..."

Google lists over a dozen critiques of the video, which are worth reading to obtain a more balanced perspective on the debate, eg http://stasisonline.wordpress.com/2012/ ... -marriage/ ‎

The only people who have ever told me I'm going to Hell for being gay have only ever used those 6 verses. You obviously don't have very much experience with people who say being gay is bad because the Bible says so, and I don't need to read anything to know that.

Of course, I think using the Bible as justification for trying to control what goes on between consenting adults is absolutely ridiculous, but I also think that if you're going to place so much importance in the Bible, and you ignore the things the Bible says a lot more about specifically, like helping the poor, then you're a hypocrite. The other things you quoted don't actually mention gay relationships (just because something is the standard, doesn't automatically mean everything else is wrong, after all)

The biggest problem I have with the site with a "balanced" debate that you mentioned is this: "Opening comments incorrect about homosexuality matching heterosexuality". Because the author makes a lot of false analyses of the proof he's presented, and that Vines is speaking from personal experience. How can you know what it's like to be gay unless you are gay yourself? The answer is you can't, and you have to do what normal people do and take people at their word about their personal experiences that you have no reference for.

And the argument that the old law should be "respected" when it comes to the wrongness of homosexuality, but not when it comes to the wrongness of shrimp or clothing of mixed fibers makes no sense. Funny the article accuses Vines of cherry picking when it does the same thing.

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I'm only part way through it, and I do admit to skimming it, but I think his arguments are rather weak (to conservative Christians. The only argument I present on the subject is "I don't give a damn what the bible says"). I don't think any conservative Christian is going to be swayed or even given pause to think about his "if you force me to be alone that means I have to go without the thing that God declared 'good': a helper" argument. Likewise, I'm not sure they would be convinced by the "Paul was only talking about people who turned away from heterosexuality and engaged in same-sex activities against their inborn nature" argument. I think both of these points hinge on the assumption that god made people gay as part of his plan, and I don't think conservative Christians believe that.

The part about not following much of what is in Leviticus was more persuasive, though.

I freely admit naivete in several areas here.

I never expect dyed-in-the-wool anti-gay bigots to be swayed by any argument. But I don't know if any or all conservative Christians are also confirmed anti-gay bigots. Sounds like you know more about that population than I do, so I'm not going to argue with that possibility.

And, I am no Biblical scholar (heck, I'd never heard the word "exegesis" until I started reading FJ, and had to look it up!).

But, over the past few years, I've read a lot about the typical Biblical arguments against LGBT people. it seems to me that he made a few points, based on history and language usage, that I hadn't heard before. Maybe that's part of my naivete, too.

And, as I say here all the time, I'm thinking of the lurkers. People who read or overhear arguments, people who haven't thought about it much, but trust "biblical experts" who tell them that "the Bible says it's evil, and I can quote chapter and verse."

Maybe there's something in what he said that might reach them.

Like you, I don't give a damn what the Bible says, when it comes to making my own decisions. But I'm always happy to see something that might sway those who haven't thought through the issue, and could be a danger to others if their prejudice solidifies.

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Yes, "the Bible says being gay is bad" arguments are crap, because even Biblically & scientifically literate conservative Christians would generally agree that the Bible does not state that. Rather they would say being gay is a temptation which is not inherently sinful, and that the sinful aspect is primarily gay lust and gay sex, as per a straight-forward reading of those 6 Bible passages.

That's still condemning people - the "love the sinner, hate the sin" stuff is also crap. Having a loving relationship is not a sin.

I am not gay, but I would imagine that "we're OK with your feelings, as long as you never act on them" is no comfort at all to someone who is.

Why do you reckon it's scholarly? Is it because he uses a big word here and there and speaks confidently?

Boy, have you got the wrong person. I'm never impressed by 64-dollar words, and try to avoid them myself.

Many of the points he makes are done so by only giving one side of the story, eg citing obscure definitions of Greek words that most people are unfamiliar with, without noting that most Kione Greek experts disagree with him. Presenting one side but implying balance, does not seem scholarly to me.

I am not a Biblical scholar or a student of Kione Greek. Please post these other translations of the Greek, so I can learn.

If he doesn't have a leg to stand on with these arguments, I'll be disappointed, but I'd rather be educated than in the dark.

There was nothing in there that specifically refuted what he had to say, other than brief "that's not what I think the Bible says" opinions.

edited to fix quotes

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Nope, no comfort at all. It is essentially saying that "we actually think your feelings are making you want to do something that's wrong. It's okay that you have these feelings, even though they're wrong. And we don't want you to ever be in a loving relationship or ever get married even to someone you love very much and intend to remain faithful to the rest of your life. But we still love you!" It's actually worse, IMO. I'd rather people hate me outright. Anyone who thinks having a loving relationship is a sin I cannot get behind. Also, I think Jesus would have been a big supporter of gay marriage. Judging by the things Jesus actually said anyways, not the things anyone else supposedly said.

ETA...Tried to fix the quotes many times, but it confused me.

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  • 1 month later...

That's still condemning people - the "love the sinner, hate the sin" stuff is also crap. Having a loving relationship is not a sin.

I am not gay, but I would imagine that "we're OK with your feelings, as long as you never act on them" is no comfort at all to someone who is.

Yea Im still saying that those who engage in gay sex or gay lust are sinning. Youre right that having a loving relationship is not a sin. There is nothing sinful about love. But the sex within that relationship could be sin. Youre also right that "we're OK with your feelings, as long as you never act on them" is of little comfort at all to someone who is same-sex attracted. But if the Bible teaches that gay sex is sinful, then that's the way it is. In the context of Christianity, its generally agreed that it's the Bible that defines what is - and what is not - sin.

I am not a Biblical scholar or a student of Kione Greek. Please post these other translations of the Greek, so I can learn.

If he doesn't have a leg to stand on with these arguments, I'll be disappointed, but I'd rather be educated than in the dark.

Well I havent read the following webpages carefully, but I suspect they are a good start:

http://leesomniac.wordpress.com/2012/08 ... nt-part-2/

http://www.blogos.org/compellingtruth/h ... -bible.php

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And the argument that the old law should be "respected" when it comes to the wrongness of homosexuality, but not when it comes to the wrongness of shrimp or clothing of mixed fibers makes no sense. Funny the article accuses Vines of cherry picking when it does the same thing.

Well, basically all Christians consider eating shrimp to be fine. Why? Because Jesus said (EG in Matthew chapter 15) that no particular types of food are sinful to eat. There are some Christians who say that the old law against mixed fibres remains in place (EG http://www.eternalgod.org/qapdf/7246) and there are other Christians who say it no longer applies (EG http://bible.org/article/homosexual-theology). But many commentators note that mixing animal-based and plant-based fibres offers little practical benefit and isnt something that producers of quality clothing tend to do anyway.

The overall question of which Old Testament laws remain valid for Christians, doesnt seem to be entirely clear cut. But the question of homosexuality doesnt hang on this. Although people often quote Leviticus in regards to homosexuality, the reason they choose that verse is because it presents the topic in a concise way. But the New Testament also portrays homosexual lust and sex as sinful, eg in Romans 1, and 1 Corinthians 6 etc. So all together the Bible presents a repeated and consistent portrayal of homosexual sex as sinful for Christians.

[edited to state the intended chapter of 1 Corinthians]

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Decided to poke through your "sources" for a laugh, australian. I think this is my favorite quote so far:

Since some of those he identified as "heterosexual" died of AIDS, critics raised doubts about the accuracy of his study.

Goodness knows heterosexual men can't die from AIDS (or, really AIDS-related complications)!

I wish I had the time to bother with you but I'll be sitting back with my popcorn when someone finally does.

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The overall question of which Old Testament laws remain valid for Christians, doesnt seem to be entirely clear cut. But the question of homosexuality doesnt hang on this. Although people often quote Leviticus in regards to homosexuality, the reason they choose that verse is because it presents the topic in a concise way. But the New Testament also portrays homosexual lust and sex as sinful, eg in Romans 1, and 1 Corinthians 1 etc. So all together the Bible presents a repeated and consistent portrayal of homosexual sex as sinful for Christians.

OH NO you didn't...

Another sexual ethics statute can be found in 3 Gen. 18:19, where sexual intercourse with a woman during her menstrual period is prohibited. Both for this and for homosexual acts decreed the death penalty. Anyone who consistently wants to follow the sexual ethics provisions in the Old Testament should therefore insist on death penalty for both homosexual acts and sexual intercourse during menstruation. This occurs rarely, and then one should ask why. Do you put different values on different statements in the Bible?

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Guest Anonymous
Second is the chicken and egg problem. When there is a difference in brain structure, is the difference the result of sexual orientation or is it the cause of sexual orientation? Researchers, for example, have found that when people who become blind begin to learn Braille, the area of the brain controlling the reading finger actual grows larger. Third, Simon LeVay later had to admit that he didn't know the sexual orientation of some of the cadavers in the study. He acknowledged that he wasn't sure if the heterosexual males in the study were actually heterosexual. Since some of those he identified as "heterosexual" died of AIDS, critics raised doubts about the accuracy of his study.

This is the context for the quote that Gil posted. I don't really have anything to say about the study, I just wanted to point out that it's 'egg'. Which came first the chicken or the egg? Egg. That "problem" has always bothered me.

Edited: Wording

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Maybe I havent read widely enough, but in my experience it's the gay theologians who focus on six verses, while others have a broader focus and refer to Adam and Eve, Christ and his bride etc etc. Jesus affirmed heterosexual relationships as the Christian standard in Matthew chapter 19, when he quoted "... a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife ..."

Let's talk about Adam and Eve! (1 Gen. 1-2): Man is created to crave for togetherness. (You can find that the correct translation of togetherness is not the same as procreation in any absolute way. Other combinations than man-woman can be possible in this section.) The biologically essential twosomeness is between a man and a woman, and due to this combination humankind has been able to fulfill God's commandment to multiply and replenish the earth (1 Gen. 1:28). But that commandment is now fulfilled. It is indeed the only one of all the commandments that God has given us that we humans have met - and that to overdo.

You can't deny the fact that many people have very poor living conditions today. Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes. Poor people's lack of resources is a big problem today. In 2010 we had 925 million hungry people.

In Luke 12:41-48 you can find that God tells us to be good stewards of the Earth. “When a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him (Luke 12:48-49)". I understand these verses as God telling us to use our resources wisely, while knowing the limits of the earth. Our freedom to use the earth is restricted by our responsibility for it.

Slavery: (2 Gen. 21:20-32, etc.). Higher biblical principles of charity, and the idea that all people are equal before God have superseded the literal reading of the Bible on this point. Why can you not see that the same should apply to homosexuality? Homosexual acts are condemned in a few places in the Bible - but in far fewer places than those who take slavery for granted as a God-given order. Here too, we should see to the higher principles that apply to us as Christians, don’t you think? Thus, if you refer to the Bible to condemn or prohibit homosexuality, logically you should be an advocate of slavery. If you are not, you should explain this discrepancy.

Purity Laws (3 Gen. 18:22, 20:13):

In the so-called "Holiness Code" (3 Gen. 18:22, 20:13) there are verses which forbid homosexuality. However, these verses are not about stable homosexual couples, such as we encounter today, but about a form of idolatry; namely temple prostitution. Homo- and for that matter, heterosexual acts were part of a fertility-rite in the Israelis' neighbors' idolatry/worshiping. Those acts were therefore forbidden, as were a whole host of other forms of idolatry, so that the Israelis would not be led into the wrong paths. In the same context we can also find that witchcraft and human sacrifices were prohibited.

3 Gen. 18:22, 20:13:

"And with a male thou shalt not lie down in a woman's bed; it is an abomination (18:22)."

"And a man who will lie down with a male in a woman’s bed, both of them have made an abomination; surely they will be put to death, their blood is on them (20:13)".

An interesting interpretation is done by Hope Remains:

It can be seen that, rather than forbidding male homosexuality, it simply forbids two males to lie down in a woman’s bed, for whatever reason. Culturally, a woman's bed was her own. Other than the woman herself, only her husband was permitted in her bed, and there were even restrictions on when he was allowed in there. Any other use of her bed would have been considered defilement. Other verses in the Law will help clarify the acceptable use of the woman's bed (Lev. 15).

Since you mentioned 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:

In these verses there are two controversial Greek words: malakos and arsenokoites/arsenokoitai. It should be noted that you can't find the word arsenokoites in the Greek translation Septuaginta of the Bible, 300 BCE. Not before a century later, various church fathers (including Polykarpus, Origenes och Johannes Chrysostomos) use the word to describe what is forbidden in 3 Gen. 18:22 and 20:13.

According to Dr. Ann Nyland, a Greek lexicographer, arsenokoites has been assumed to mean "homosexual" (2007, p. 11). However, the word does not mean "homosexual", and its range of meaning includes one who anally penetrates another (male or female), a rapist, a murderer, or an extortionist. When used in the meaning "anal penetrator", it does not apply exclusively to males as the receptors, as it was also used for female receptors. The word does not appear in any Greek literary source until the poets of the Imperial period. This late occurrence is most significant as the Greeks wrote at length on male-male sexual relationships (ibid.).

Nyland (2007) is critical to other translations for not taking into account recent (i.e. less than 150 years ago) discoveries of Greek text materials (including papyri and inscriptions) that shed new light on Greek vocabulary.

What Paul is in fact addressing, is certainly not clear. Here are [link=http://hbt-bibeln.blogspot.se/2007/07/four-options-in-reading-paul.html]four[/link]different options in reading Paul.

It is unreasonable and impious to generalize from Paul's words (Rome 1:26 f, 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Tim 1:10 f) to be the Word of God concerning all kinds of sexuality between people of the same sex in all kinds of relationships in all times and in all social and cultural context. You should not abuse the words of the Bible from a wishful thinking to get simple, clear rules of complex moral issues. You might become liable to Biblicism which at worst can become a form of idolatry, which is a serious crime against the First Commandment. It is God alone that you must worship and serve, not the Bible literally. And it is the living Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, which is the Word itself - in its deepest and clearest sense.

We can conclude that homosexuality was not a central question either for Jesus or for the first Christians, since homosexuality was not even mentioned in the teachings of Jesus. How should we interpret Jesus' silence on the issue? Well, I think that Jesus' public teaching that we should behave lovingly toward each other (Luke 10:27) should be applied also in the meeting with homosexuality (whether this meeting is "internal" or "external").

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Yea Im still saying that those who engage in gay sex or gay lust are sinning. Youre right that having a loving relationship is not a sin. There is nothing sinful about love. But the sex within that relationship could be sin. Youre also right that "we're OK with your feelings, as long as you never act on them" is of little comfort at all to someone who is same-sex attracted. But if the Bible teaches that gay sex is sinful, then that's the way it is. In the context of Christianity, its generally agreed that it's the Bible that defines what is - and what is not - sin.

As someone who seems to have read a good bit about this issue, can you tell me why we should care what the bible says or what is/not a sin? Are you just having an intellectual wank about the beliefs of conservative christians or do you actually believe biblical laws should have relevance in a modern secular society?

I would be particularly hesitant to give credence to anything the bible has to say about sex and sexuality. It's not like homosexual lust is the only sin...all lust is a sin. Many forms of sex between consenting adults are considered forbidden, while non-consensual sex is often given a pass. There is a lot of irrelevant crap in the bible, both OT and NT.

I'm also wondering about the justification for tossing out some of the OT laws based on the words of Jesus. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus claims that he has not come to change the old laws, not even one letter or stroke of a pen. When the bible contradicts itself, how do you decide which account to believe?

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I would be particularly hesitant to give credence to anything the bible has to say about sex and sexuality.

This! The Bible is a book about God. The Bible is not a book about human sexuality.

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I can tell you the word "arsenokoitos" that Paul uses ONCE was not the traditional way to refer to male homosexuality as we understand it today in Koine Greek. Frankly, most Koine Greek scholars admit the word is ambiguous, refers only to men, and use the surrounding text for interpretation. Effie writes about this much more eloquently earlier in this thread.

I will leave this discussion with a parting shot to australian-First you'd better be able to back up your Greek if your going to use it in an arguement, and second-Jesus said absolutely NOTHING about relations between two men or two women. In this Christian's religious hierarchy, the words of Jesus outweigh the words of Paul.

thoughtful-much gratitude for digging this out and posting it on its own thread.

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I can tell you the word "arsenokoitos" that Paul uses ONCE was not the traditional way to refer to male homosexuality as we understand it today in Koine Greek. Frankly, most Koine Greek scholars admit the word is ambiguous, refers only to men, and use the surrounding text for interpretation. Effie writes about this much more eloquently earlier in this thread.

This is interesting. Is there a specific word in Greek that *does* refer to male homosexuality?

Signed,

the one who failed NT Greek :oops:

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I've read quite a few pieces with various positions on the Bible's stance on homosexuality, though I really have studied it enough to offer any detailed interpretations of my own. I tend to think it's somewhere between the two extremes, but honestly I do think that the people who claim that the Bible approves of homosexuality are really stretching things. It does seem clear to me that the Bible is against two men having sex. Now that I'm an atheist, it's a huge relief to be able to say that "yes, that is what the Bible says, and the Bible is wrong" instead of trying to justify all the homophobia and misogyny in the Bible and trying to turn it into something more progressive.

On the other hand, there's the question of why many Christians put so much focus on the anti-gay bits of the Bible when they're perfectly happy to ignore other things the Bible condemns. The NT is very anti-greed, but conservatives have done an amazing job at ignoring that and even twisting it the other way around.

I am, however, incredibly grateful to the Biblical scholars who attempt to show ways the Bible can be interpreted to not condemn homosexuality. It made an enormous difference to me when I was 15 and wondering if liking girls meant I was going to hell. I honestly think that it can save lives to show people that it is very possible to be both Christian and gay.

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This is interesting. Is there a specific word in Greek that *does* refer to male homosexuality?

Signed,

the one who failed NT Greek :oops:

Excuse the phonetics, I don't have the keyboard set up right now for Greek letters.

So, in ancient Greece, the most signifigant type of relationship two males had was called pederastia. Yes, it means exactly what you think it does, in this case the relationship between an adult man and a boy who had just hit puberty (teenager). This was done in the upper classes of society and the men acted as both mentors and lovers. Women were basically considered only for breeding purposes, and true friendship-love could only be achieved between two men. Ancient Greeks did not have a concept of sexual orientation, only sexual behavior. Two adult men could also form a relationship, and this was refered to as homofilofilia, "love of the same friend". These two terms do not apply to womens' relationship at all in Ancient Greece.

The big difference with our understanding of homosexuality vs homofilfilia is that Greeks actually thought the second was strictly carnal, was counterproductive to reaching the higher understandings of love (agape), and put a lot of emphasis on the dominant/submissive. An ancient Greek man did NOT want a reputation as a submissive. It was the equivalent of being a woman or a teenage boy, not an equal. Ancient Greek men believed that the highest forms of love (platonic) could only be between men, and the highest platonic love (agape) was completely divorced from sex. Sexual bonding was called eros.

It was into this culture that Paul was trying to introduce the concepts of sexual purity and faithfulness/sexual relations only within the context of marriage. To the ancient Greek's ear, the concept that there was...no Greek nor Jew, male nor female, and all are equal before God , was revolutionary.

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Rachel, Leviticus can definitely be said to forbid two men having sex, and Paul may have been alluding to it, but as other people have pointed out, these positions were not developed in a vacuum. If you are living in the ancient world, anal sex was used to humiliate soldiers and fighters who lost battles. Of course it would have disgusted the writer of Leviticus. Paul is trying to introduce the concepts of a one true God and sexual purity as a tool to better commune with the holy spirit. He's not going to be crazy about same sex relations in the ancient world either. The were writing to address specific problems and practices in their time and place.

Today we understand homosexuality as an orientation. People express their love and bond this way. There is no reason to still apply these verses as if homosexuality was equal to battlefied humiliation in modern society. It's not a question of the Bible being right or wrong, it's a question (if you are religious) of whether these relationships TODAY block you from communion with the holy spirit. These new interpretations are important for that understanding. It doesn't matter what secular people think, they aren't causing the spiritual rifts between people.

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