It’s been awhile since part 1 of my study was written. I’ve spent the weeks in between these posts really thinking about what Matthew Vines presents in his book, as well as what is conveyed through study of the Word. For the second part of the three part study I want to examine the New Testament scriptures that address the issue of same-sex relationships.
Here is a link to the first part of the study, which dealt mostly with Old Testament scriptures that addressed the issue of same-sex relationships, and went into a bit of depth to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.
This may turn out to be a quite lengthy post because I plan on addressing each passage in the New Testament that addresses or seems to address the issues that Christians have in forming opinions about their beliefs on same-sex relationships. The passages I will examine are:
- Romans 1:26
- 1 Corinthians 6:9
- Jude 1:7
- 1 Timothy 1:10
In addition to study of the scriptures we will look at the historical factors that were in play during this era, and also review early translations of the bible to identify possible explanations of commonly promoted ideas within the Body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 6:9:
9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind (King James Version KJV).
For this passage it is important to take a look at the original translations which have led us to follow this passage as is. The Greek word Malakoi or Malakos (The Greek word used for the translation effeminate ). This term (Malakoi) was a commonly used in the writings of ancient Greek. In Matthew 11:8 this word was to describe fine clothing. The original meaning in ancient Greek writings was “soft”. Women during the preceding time period had been viewed as inferior to men, and that culture still dictated that for a man to be compared to woman was a deep insult. The term malakoi was often used in ancient writings to describe men who were lazy, who lacked self control, weak and cowardice (which was the widely believed opinion of women during this era). As Vine states malakoi was “an all-purpose insult for anything considered to be feminine.” Many times use of this word was not in regard to sexual behaviors but more often than not, when the word was used in early writings, it was referring to men who “succumbed to the charms of women more than those engaging in same sex behaviors”. It seems likely that the early writings were to address a gluttonous person- not one who was in a committed same sex relationahip.
This is how the term was translated in earlier biblical works:
- Weaklings- (1525 Tyndale New Testament)
- Wantons- (1587, Geneva Bible)
- Licentious- (1904 Ernest Malan Translation)
- Sensual (1923, Edgar Goodspeed Translation)
The second reference… “abusers of themselves with mankind” or translated to Greek arsenokoitai. This word is more commonly agreed among scholars to be referencing same sex behavior. At the time this was written many forms of same-sex behavior were common place and socially accepted. Briefly I will describe some of the practices that were common place during the time period.
Pedestary: In ancient Rome many believed that a rite of passage for a young man was to be the passive partner of an older man in a same-sex relationship. Mostly the older men were married to women. The younger boys were considered the “beloved” of their older lover. As the young men grew up most of them married women. However, while these men showed a greater interest in women, many of them had sexual relationships with younger men in an effort to satisfy their sexual appetites.
Prostitution: Many men during this era practiced prostitution and Roman men paid male prostitutes at a very high rate. According to Cato the elder in second century BC “Pretty boys fetched more on the market than fields”.
Masters and slaves: It is commonly regarded as fact for those who study history that male masters often had sex with their male slaves with or without their consent. These men had wives and some had many concubines…. some of which were actually male concubines. This behavior was culturally accepted during ancient times.
These are all examples of the most common methods of the practice of same-sex relationships in ancient times that this scripture was likely addressing. These practices were still in place and predominant during the time of Jesus and afterward while his disciples were sent out to preach the gospel. Each example shows how men in the culture were allowed to engage in abusive relationships for the sole purpose of seeking sexual satisfaction. I believe the scripture here is addressing the predominant sexual violence that was common and socially accepted in the ancient Roman culture, not emotionally healthy relationships of members of the same sex who had equal balances of power in the relationship.
Further, in Samuel there is reference to a relationship that David had with Jonathan, that would fit the description of what was socially acceptable for a young man before marriage:
1 Samuel 18New International Version (NIV)
18 After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. 2 From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. 3 And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.
I have not examined this passage with early Greek translations. However, it seems very likely that this was a same-sex relationship that occurred prior to David’s marriage to Saul’s daughter Michal. It is also possible that these men loved each other deeply as friends, and this passage is referencing the fact that men were “allowed” to love each other to a depth that they could not love women. Don’t forget that men were widely known as superior to women. The purpose of women in ancient times was to be a vessel for the offspring of men.
26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (New International Version NIV)
This scripture has given many Christians reason to not look further on this topic and caused many people in the LGBT community to fall into despair as they realize their sexual orientation. Many families have been broken and lives lost over this passage of scripture.
We can’t examine this passage without looking at the preceding passage that deals with idolatry.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
It was for the reason of idolatry that God allowed already sinful people to have darkened hearts and give themselves over to excessive sexuality. By studying ancient Rome, it is possible that this is in reference to the high rates of pedestary, prostitution, and excessive sexual desires of the men. These men typically engaged in sexual activity with women, but they could not be satisfied sexually and therefore looked further for satisfaction that could not be quenched. This is not what I consider to be the common theme for those who are gay or lesbian, and also follow the teachings of Jesus.
It has been my observation that those with same-sex orientations,who are also followers of Christ, have reached a level of spirituality that many non affirming (those who do not accept same-sex relationships as a lifestyle) have not yet acquired. In an effort to follow Christ, many of the people I know who are of the LGBT community, have had to reach a level of forgiveness that is often not tested for many Christians. I have found this group of individuals to be most empathetic and compassionate, especially to those who are vulnerable to religious abuse.
7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire (NIV)
For the cause of brevity I’m going to ask that you reference my first post for this passage. There is not much I can add that was not already addressed.
1 Timothy 1:10
10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine (KJV)
This passage of scripture is translated from the same origins of the passage in Corinthians that I previously discussed. It is in reference to men who are over indulging sexually while in committed relationships with women. In this passage some of the sins being committed are not of a sexual nature. The objective of the passage seems to be to bring attention to those who are behaving in ways that are contrary to the teachings of Jesus.
For my last post on the topic, that is what the focus will be. The teachings of Jesus.