Part of a series of essays on the Bible and homosexuality.
The Bible and homosexuality
In biblical times, same-gender sexual interactions could take many forms. For example:
- Kings of conquered tribes were sometimes raped by the invading army as the ultimate symbol of defeat and humiliation.
- 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.
- 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 consensual, committed, loving relationships.
Many versions of the Bible exist in the English language. Each reflects the world view, beliefs and mindsets 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.
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Whosoever founder and Editor Emeritus Rev. Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians. She earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She serves as the spiritual director of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C., and blogs at Motley Mystic.