References in the Old Testament Law
In Leviticus, chapter 18, you will find prohibitions against a man “laying with a man the laying of a woman,” and against a woman or man having sex with an animal, or “approaching an animal to have sex with it.” There are no eyewitness accounts of what sexual activities went on in the temple of Baal. But the idea that these passages in the law are referring to anything other than idolatrous practices within fertility temples does not make sense. These passages are surrounded by references that speak to the fertility mythology. In Leviticus 19:28 it says, “do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.” These references are clearly referring to the Myth of EL cutting his skin to mourn the annual death of Baal. Baal worshippers are said to do this during their “showdown” with Elijah in 1 Kings 18:28.
You need to notice also that there are no prohibitions against women laying with women here. This is not a prohibition against homosexuality in general. The authors did feel the need to include prohibitions against male and female bestiality, however.
God is warning His people in these verses not to be anything like their Canaanite neighbors. From their writings, we do know that the Canaanites held public orgies on stage in their fertility temples. Syphilis and other bacteria-based venereal diseases were so common among them, that they had names for the different types of sores they had. However, they did not have any name for “gay” or “lesbian.”
Did God Ever Reverse any Prohibitions Made in the Law? 
Let’s just say for a minute that the Old Testament is speaking about homosexuality in general. Today we know that sexual orientation is not a “choice.”  So, if the authors of the Bible had had this knowledge, would they have created an exception to the laws concerning sexual behavior, given the fact that gays and lesbians seem to be naturally attracted to the same sex? No one will ever be able to say for sure. Another question to ask, is ≠ “Did God ever change His mind about a point of the law in the Bible because some of His children wound up finding themselves in direct transgression of the law through no fault of their own? The answer is “yes.” Look at Deuteronomy Chap23:1:
“No one whose testicles are crushed or whose penis is cut off shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.”
That is, eunuchs, castrated for any reason, were considered unclean and were not allowed in the house of the Lord.
Then, look at a later scripture, Isaiah 56:3-5:
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. 
Why did God change His mind about His law? What was going on here? Well, it helps to know historically that at the time Isaiah was written, the nation of Israel had been taken captive to Babylon, where the King of Babylon had taken the sons of the king of Israel, had them castrated and made them serve as eunuchs in his house. Now some of God’s own children were made “unclean” by no fault of their own. Would God then exclude them from His house and leave them without hope? No. He speaks a new word of hope, and one of mercy, because He is God. God can free those who are captive to His own law out of mercy. We understand from this change that God is merciful and is not without understanding about human states of being. This liberty is in keeping with the spirit of Jesus Christ, who freed captives every day of His ministry on earth.
References in Paul’s Letters
Paul is referring to both male and female same-sex activity in Romans Chapter 1. We know that there was homosexual activity in temples in Rome. There are authors who wrote of “unnatural” and promiscuous activities going on, particularly concerning the Temple of Aphrodite/Venus. This was a fertility temple. The status of women had changed somewhat from the time of the Canaanites. Women were now more likely to be active “worshippers,” and not just temple prostitutes. In addition, the mystical sex act of the fertility cult was not the only motivation for sex in worship. In the name of their deities, Pleasure was now a motivator as well. For whatever reason, and whatever the practice, there were idol worshippers involved in sexual activity in Roman times, and this activity including same-sex activity, both male and female. Paul says essentially that their involvement in same-sex activity was a consequence of their idolatry. He is right. Outside of these fertility temples, most heterosexuals would have no motivation to engage in homosexual activity. 
In the well-known passages from 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, the issues involving translations from the Greek requires some background knowledge to understand the context Paul has in mind in these texts. Robin Scroggs  is a biblical scholar, who has familiarized himself enough with the secular Greek language of the time that he has been able to find some connections between Paul’s use and the secular use of several of these words.  A complete discussion of the New Testament passages can be found in “Pastoral Care of Gays and Lesbians and Their Families,” by Larry K. Switzer. 
In some popular versions of the Bible, such as the New International Version, and New American Standard, the word “homosexual” has been used to render the meaning of two obscure Greek Words in these passages. In the passage from 1 Corinthians 6:9, the two words are arsenokoites and malakos. Literally translated, these words mean “men bed-layers” and the “soft ones.” The first term does imply same-sex activity. It is a direct translation into Greek of an older Hebrew term Rabbinical scholars came up with as a noun-form to talk about the kind of people referred to in Leviticus 18:22, which states “You Shall not lie with a male as with a woman.” This noun form is not a word that appears in the Old Testament and Paul, as far as we know, “coined” the Greek form. The second is a term used in Roman culture to refer to “effeminate call boys.” In the world of Roman pederasty there was a particular kind of prostitute ≠some male youth would dress up in feminine clothes and make up and hire themselves out as the “mistress” of an adult male. These two words are best translated as “effeminate call boys and their clients.” 
As in the passage from 1 Corinthians, the word arsenokoites appears in 1 Timothy 1:9-10 in a list of “vices” – a format used by authors of the time to help them make a point. Here, arsenokoites appears next to a different word that can also have a connotation of prostitute – the word porne. It is often translated as fornication, adultery or lewdness.  The fact that it occupies the same position next to arsenokoites under the same authorship as in 1 Corinthians suggests that here too, these two words are referring to “male prostitutes and those that lie with them.”  The word that follows these two, andrapodistais, means kidnapper, or slave dealer. This adds a twist to these two preceding words, as the slave trade in prostitution of youth (both male and female) involved kidnapping young, attractive boys and girls, not adult males. The position of this word adds a connotation of “youth” to the male prostitution suggested by arsenokoites and porne. Overall these three words come across strongly as “youthful male prostitutes (again as part of pederasty), those that use them, and the kidnappers and slave dealers that provide them.” 
Again, the original Hebrew and Greek of the Bible have a handful of words for sexual acts, but no word for “homosexual.” The word arsenokoites is a term first used in the Greek form by Paul. The Hebrew form was probably coined earlier to help the Jews put language to the concept of people involved in pederasty as Roman culture was thrust upon them. Although the references in the OT law (e.g.Lev.18:22) are probably referring to same-sex activity in fertility cults, the Jews of Roman times made a connection (although inaccurate) between the same-sex activity they saw in the culture around them and the only same-sex references they found in the OT scriptures. Many fundamentalists today do the same thing. Because homosexuality appears to many heterosexuals as simply a “practice” and not a state of being, they feel justified in judging gays and lesbians as they try to connect scripture to what they see in our world today.
Summary of Problem Scriptures:
Why is it that this information has only recently come to light? The welfare of gays and lesbians has become a moral and ethical issue since we have learned only recently that gays and lesbians do not choose to be who they are. This has brought theologians and scholars of all faiths to bear the scriptures closer scrutiny. Theologians and those who prepare our pastors and leaders for work in the field have also come to become more interdisciplinary in their research, leading them to draw from archeology, anthropology, archeology, psychology, literature and history to give them a more complete understanding of the background of these passages in the Bible. As you probably already know, many fundamentalists reject any intellectual approach to the scriptures as “foolishness.” Jesus Christ is described as “him in whom are hid all treasures of wisdom and knowledge”(Colossians 2:3). This knowledge frees many who are oppressed by those who are unable to step out in faith and receive their brothers and sisters with open arms. This knowledge is His gift for you.
Hopefully, you can see how God has never spoken against gays, lesbians and bisexuals through His word, but rather against rapists, idolaters involved in fertility cults, and pederasts and their activities. The prevailing attitude of our culture against gays, lesbians and bisexuals is not God’s attitude; it is the result of human traditions that have arisen out of fear and ignorance surrounding sexual orientation.
The Word of God has a lot to say about who you are in Christ Jesus. Look to it to provide words of affirmation about who you are, because everything you are, God created. He loves everything about you. If you are effeminate, it is because God made you that way. If you are “butch,” God calls you to be so. If your heart desires companionship and love (yes, even physical love) of someone of the same sex, it is because He has put it upon your heart. Your desires for love and companionship are as real as those of any straight person. God’s creation is far more diverse and awesome than any of us imagined.
Psalm 139 is an excellent starting point. Here are some excerpts:
v.1. O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD…
v.13. For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
Truly, God knows you better than you know yourself. There is comfort in that fact. It is true that for many gays and lesbians, self-acceptance is difficult. It is at times like this that we have to dig deeply into God’s Grace and become “fundamentalists” about the basic truths of the Gospel. We have to take at “face value” scriptures like: He who hears my word and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and does not enter into judgment, but has passed from death into life. John 5:24 
Now that you have some information to help you determine what God does not say about you in His word, it is now time for you explore what God does say about you. If you find the freedom to love the way your heart leads you, remember God’s love is always the greater: This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. 1 John 5:10-12 
May the Lord make your paths true and sure. Amen.
- Larry Switzer makes the same point as I do in his book Pastoral Care.
- American Psychological Association Website: Answers to Your Questions About Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality.
- Excerpted from Compton’s Interactive Bible NIV. Copyright (c) 1994, 1995, 1996 SoftKey Multimedia Inc. All Rights Reserved
- One particular quote from writings of the time says that some people became “mad after man” in imitation of their Gods. Some deities in the Greco-Roman Pantheon behaved like the pederasts of the time (e.g. Zeus, with Ganymede). The Greeks and Romans modeled the relationships between their Gods after human relationships. This comes from the Apology of Aristides (see note 29 from Chapter 2 of McNeill).
- See Scroggs, Robin. The New Testament and Homosexuality. Philadelphia: Fortress press, 1983. Robin has taught at both Union Theological Seminary and Chicago Theological Seminary. He is Methodist by background.
- Remember that in Roman times, much learning and writing was done in Greek.
- See Bibliography. Larry K. Switzer is Emeritus Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling, Perkins School of theology, Southern Methodist University.
- Larry K. Switzer. Pastoral Care, p.51
- Switzer, p.54
- Switzer, p.54
- Switzer, p.54 I cite heavily from Switzer’s work here because he has done a remarkable job of explaining these contextual issues.
- Excerpted from Compton’s Interactive Bible NIV. Copyright (c) 1994, 1995, 1996 SoftKey Multimedia Inc. All Rights Reserved
- Excerpted from Compton’s Interactive Bible NIV. Copyright (c) 1994, 1995, 1996 SoftKey Multimedia Inc. All Rights Reserved.