Part of a series of essays on the Bible and homosexuality.
Condemnation of the Sodomites
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.
Moreover, some people assume that this verse refers to the account of what happened in Genesis 18 and 19. However, this verse says that people in Sodom and Gomorrah went after “strange flesh.” It does not say that they are talking about the account in Genesis 18-19. Again, some scholars believe that this passage actually refers to the Jewish legend, as contained in the apocryphal Naphtali 3.3.4-5 in The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, that the women of Sodom had intercourse with angels. (Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century, p. 97, Professor John Boswell and Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition, Derrick Sherwin Bailey, pp 11-16)
It would not be unprecedented to believe that the author of Jude would refer to extrabiblical stories as he does so in Jude 6 (referring to a passage in the apocryphal Enoch 1:6-8) and in Jude 9 (referring to a Jewish tradition that the archangel Michael argued with Satan over the body of Moses).
Even if one chooses to believe that this passage does refer to Genesis 18-19 one can not assume that “strange flesh” means a “man going after a man” — after all, Lot’s guests were not men but angels — “strange flesh” indeed. The context of this passage is condemning a new teaching which did not honor angels (see Jude 8); an example of people attempting to dishonor angels is simply brought up here to illustrate the point.
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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.