All this hullaballoo about homosexuality and the Bible. Doesn’t anyone understand that most of the Bible was written anywhere from 3,200 to 1,700 years ago — the Bronze Age and the Iron Age? Doesn’t anyone understand that they didn’t think out of anywhere NEAR the same terms, concepts, or zeitgeist as we moderns do? For heaven’s sake, the very WORD “homosexual” wasn’t invented until the 19th century!
The fact of the matter is, homosexuality was not a sin in Bible times. When the books of the Bible were laboriously inscribed onto tanned animal skins (the Hebrew Scriptures) or mashed river reeds (the Christian Testament), there were only a few million people in the entire world, and they took with utmost seriousness the commandment to “Be fruitful and multiply.” If Jesus had been a lifelong bachelor when he began his public ministry, the first question anyone would have asked him would have been, “And why should we listen to a single word you have to say, Commandment-Breaker?” Men who felt homosexual stirrings would have married, had children, and sought their jollies in the public world, from which women were excluded anyway. In Jesus’s era, it was taken for granted that successful men deserved to have their own catamites, so teenaged boys who wanted to become successful someday would pay their dues as a “silverback’s” catamite. It was the ancient equivalent of starting out in a big corporation by working in the mail-room.
In the world as it was when BOTH testaments were written, women were excluded from virtually every part of the public life. Then as now, men thought about sex on average every four minutes. With no women available, whom could a successful man slip off to have a “quickie” with, if not his catamite?
There are 31,174 verses in the Bible. Exactly SIX of those verses can be misinterpreted as condemning homosexuality.
(1) GENESIS 19:1-26. In this passage, our hero, Lot, is visited by two messengers from God, and according to the ancient code of hospitality, Lot welcomes his visitors into his home. Then EVERY MAN IN SODOM surrounds the house and demands that the messengers come out for a little gang rape. Lot offers the crowd his virgin daughters to be gang-raped, but no deal; the crowd wants only the messengers from God. Then as now, homosexuals made up a maximum of 10 percent of the population, so this passage is NOT about homosexuality; it’s about inhospitality and gang rape by a gang that is at least 90 percent heterosexual. (And why would a “righteous” man think that gang rape of his virgin daughters was perfectly okay, so long as his male visitors were left alone?)
(2) LEVITICUS 18:22 and (3) LEVITICUS 20:13. Both of these verses prohibit a physical impossibility, a man lying with a male as if with a woman. Presumably the priests of roughly 1200 BCE who wrote down these laws were forbidding anal sex, but this is not what the Hebrew words actually say.
There are three important points to keep in mind here. First, both verses say that man-on-man action is “toQebhah” (the Q pronounced like the “ch” in “Bach”). This word is usually translated “abomination,” and ordinary, sensible modern readers find that the dictionary says an abomination is something that’s nasty, disgusting, loathsome, despicable. BUT roughly 3,000 years ago, that’s not what “toQebhah” meant. Three thousand years ago, the word meant, “something that’s SERIOUSLY against our religion.” For Roman Catholics, eating meat on Fridays was “toQebhah” until just a few decades ago, and recognizing that God created women in God’s image (Gen. 1:27, 5:1-2) is STILL “toQebhah” when it comes to allowing women to serve God at the altar. Genesis 46:34 says that the Egyptians wouldn’t share meals with Hebrews because to the Egyptians, the Hebrews were “toQebhah” — the Hebrews were shepherds, and everyone knew what shepherds did with sheep when no one was looking. (“Wyoming: Where the men are men, the women are scarce, and the sheep are nervous.”)
The second important point is that three thousand years ago, the Hebrews were NOT monotheists; they were henotheists. Monotheists believe there is only one God in the Universe. But monotheism wasn’t invented until around 500 BCE. Henotheists believe there are lots of gods and goddesses in the Universe, but only one is important — “You shall have no other god who is more important to you than I am” (Ex. 20:3, Deut. 5:7) (Today, Mormons are henotheists.) Three thousand years ago, the Hebrews were surrounded by worshipers of Asherah, Chemosh, Astarte, Osiris, Eloah, Milcom, Shaddai, Molech, Ningal, and other gods and goddesses. Many of these religions regarded sex as a sacrament. (And really, when you think about it, if you do it right, sex IS a sacrament!) In so-called “fertility cults,” priestesses would “channel” the goddess being worshiped and create a “hieros gamos,” or holy marriage, with male worshipers. Similarly, priests would “channel” the god being worshiped and create a “hieros gamos” with whoever wanted one. The priests who inscribed Leviticus onto tanned animal skins were probably disgusted by the idea of a man having sex with another man (it sure doesn’t tickle MY imagination!). But it was participating in the worship of any god other than Yahweh that was “toQebhah.” Homosexuality per se wasn’t even on their radar.
Finally, it’s important to remember that you’re not allowed to cherry-pick the Bible for only the verses YOU want to pay attention to. If you’re going to attack a gay man on the grounds that Leviticus calls him “toQebhah,” you have to live by ALL the rules in Leviticus. No rare steak; no lobsters, clams, oysters, or shrimp; no tuna casserole; no calamari; no cotton-polyester blends, or any other kind of blended fabrics; if an insect crawls across your cookpot, you have to smash it into pieces and throw it away; no cross-breeding of animals; no tangeloes; no tattoos; you must stone Lance Armstrong and all other magicians to death; you must stone to death anyone who has sex outside of marriage; you must be exiled if you see a close relative naked, even accidentally; it’s perfectly all right to own slaves, as long as they’re not from the same nation you are.
(4) ROMANS 1:18-22. According to this passage, hardened idolaters are given up to lust and impurity. Heterosexual female idolaters commit “unnatural” acts; so do heterosexual men. These idolaters are full of every kind of wickedness and evil, from murder to teenaged sassiness — but the crime is idolatry, NOT homosexuality.
(5) 1 COR. 6:9-10 and (6) 1 TIM. 1:8-11. The first passage says, and this is an exact translation into modern colloquial English, “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit God’s Perfect World? Do not be deceived! Fornicaters, idolaters, adulterers, softies, manf—kers, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers — none of these will inherit God’s Perfect World.” The second passage says, in modern English: The Law is not for the innocent, but rather for the lawless, the ungodly, and unholy, for “those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, fornicaters, manf—kers, slave traders, liars, perjurers,” etc.
St. Paul probably coined the word “manf—kers” (arsenokoitai); it only appears in these two verses. The fact that these people are lumped in with serious criminals — murderers, slave traders, perjurers, etc. — shows that St. Paul did NOT mean to include all heterosexual women among the “manf—kers.” Nor did St. Paul include as serious criminals people who ingest a little marijuana (a common weed in his part of the world and era), sass their parents, or steal grapes from the supermarket. “Softies” was probably meant to refer to the receiving partner in anal sex, but Paul apparently had no problem with fellatio, cunnilingus, or other ways to exchange pleasure. I believe that with the word “manf—kers,” St. Paul was once again invoking rape — the first-century equivalent of the abuses that go on in men’s prisons, NOT the first-century equivalent of mutual love and commitment.
So there we have it — a condemnation of gang rape; two prohibitions of Milcom-worship; a scare-tactics announcement of what happens to HETEROSEXUAL men and women who engage in idolatry; and two condemnations of homosexual rape. Six verses out of 31,174, which in case you’re interested is 0.000192468 percent. The Bible also contains 321 verses that condone slavery (1.03 percent).
Anyone who claims to be a Christian, however, is compelled to ignore these verses altogether, since they are superseded by the two Great Commandments: to love God with all one’s heart and mind and soul and strength, and to love the rest of God’s creation as much as you love yourself. Period. No exceptions. Jesus did NOT say, “except black people, except women, except homosexuals, except left-handed people, except children, except Romans (or Roman Catholics), except feminists, except liberals.” Jesus said EVERYONE.
If you just said, “Yes, but—”, stop right there. “Yes, but” is NOT Christian.